Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mama Bean fills her soul with whole sky

As a prairie girl, my eyes are used to seeing a lot of sky. When everything around you is flat for miles and miles, you get a pretty good sense of what the word horizon means. The horizon is the straight line between the Blue and the Green and Yellow. These are the primary colours of the prairie: Sky, Grass and Grain.

I need the big sky. My eyes don't merely drink in the blue, they swallow it and digest it and fill my soul with the light (or the dark, or the hazy dusk or foggy dawn...)

I grew up an hour away from the Rocky Mountains, with a half hour of foothills in between, but there is still plenty of sky to be seen on the fields around Cowtown. Still, the land of my youth has major terrain compared to the ironing board that is the Prairie Valley. I didn't know big sky like the Big Blue Sky I know now.

When I lived somewhere low, in a true valley carved by the Mississippi, on the southeast border between Iowa and Illinois, I missed the sky. I didn't know that's what I missed - consciously, I missed my then-boyfriend (not-yet-a-)Papa Bean, my family, my friends, my house (the only one I had ever lived in to that point), my stuff, and having a car (though not necessarily the Jeep I left behind. I just really missed having a car. My automobile is like my third leg. My third super-horse-powered leg.) But subconsciously, I was weighed down by lack of sky. In retrospect, as my mind wanders the streets of my college town, the buildings seem to press down, the leaves on the great big oaks seem laden and heavy. Of course, I'm remembering the streets in the muggy days of summer, which were the heaviest days in every climatological and psychological way. And what I don't remember is much sky - I don't have a clear sense of what it looked like, it's character, it's friendliness. I just didn't see enough of it, over the hills and houses and river and trees to really get a Soul Meal out of it.

(This is all framed, naturally, by the depression I was going through at the time. That being said, it's not like I was miserable in Iowa, I had a truly excellent three years there. And it's not that Davenport was ugly or anything. There was plenty of other beauty to be seen, the Mississippi for one thing. Incredible. And if I'd never lived there, I'd maybe never have seen Chicago, and that would be a travesty. Let me tell you one day about what happens to my soul in Chicago...)

When I'd visit Cowtown in the summers, I didn't understand why the place seemed suddenly so damn sunny. Now I know it's because I was under the sky again, the true blue sky of my youth, and it was weightless and freeing and full of sun like no day could ever be in the Quad Cities. (On the Iowa plain is another story. The sun is plenty bright, and the sky plenty big out there, I know.)

But now I live in on a frying pan. A very large, very shallow, very flat flat flat pan of mud and flood and Flat. Flaaaaaaaaaat. The sky here, my friends, goes on for days.

Here is what prompts my waxing on poetically about the sky: on my drive home I travel due west on a sideway that widens out with open fields on both sides, just before I turn north onto the highway, and I can see the Whole Western Front for two or three minutes (longer if I slow down, which I am often moved to do.) Every Tuesday and Thursday evening, I drive into the sunset. For one or two glorious weeks of the Spring and Fall I am driving when the sun actually sets, and it is so fricking beautiful I don't even have words.

This Spring, it has rained almost every day of May. It is depressing and maddening for so many reasons, most related to the garden. I look at that post about what we were planning to grow, and I get angry at the sky. Yes, my beloved prairie sky. Because it won't shut it's trap and stop spitting on me! And then I want to give up gardening altogether, because before I worked the earth, I didn't give a crap about the weather beyond an interruption to my outdoor plans for the day. I didn't have anything invested in whether it rained four weeks or four days. Now, I care with my hands and my feet and my stomach. My stomach! Oh, and my wallet, which is going to have to pay for all those vegetables I planned on eating for free.

But the sky apologized the other night. Underneath this big prairie expanse, I really see the rain, instead of just hearing and feeling it. As I drove home under a melting pot of grays, I looked out at that Western Front and saw The Rain. Like an errant stroke of slate coloured paint just dredged straight down to the horizon, the perpendicular straight edge of soggy green. And because I could see so much sky, I could see this isolated downpour in the grand tableau of grey and blue and purple. I could see the fluffy cotton balls of cumulus* clouds, white bodied with silver fluff shadows, right next to the rain paint-stroke, like some cosmic force-field was keeping the storm from spreading between cloud banks. And just behind the storm, the sun was still shining. I know this because those cumulus clouds were glowing, lit from behind, and flaming with the palest gold on the edges. And I could see layers of stratus clouds stretching out in different directions to the south, where the rain had already been spent. I swallowed that rainy sky and let it settle deep behind my eyes, tired from work, tired from Bean waking up too many times at night, tired from artificial light at home at work at the computer. And my soul felt full.

Apology accepted, Sky. I love you forever.

*(yes, I had to look that up, because I missed the climate unit in high school science, because I was too busy taking IB science that ignores the weather unit. The actually useful to my daily lie weather unit)

**(yes, I need to start carrying a camera in my car for these evenings. I also get a pretty good glimpse of the Eastern sky on my way too work Monday and Friday mornings, although my sleepy fuzzy brain doesn't always fully comprehend how pretty it is.)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mama Bean can't be bothered to be completely crunchy granola

For the first eight months of Bean's life, we didn't have to buy any wipes. We were given a bunch of refill packages at our baby showers, and we already had a box of two from before he was born. Why? Apparently wipes (alcohol-free, scent-free, every-gosh-darn-thing-free) are useful when you're hunting, so Papa Bean bought some for his single excursion of 2009, but only used a few of them.

In addition to using cloth diapers, we also wanted to make our own washcloth wipes that we could wash and reuse. When the refill packs ran out, I carefully prepared the Internet's recommended mixture of baby wash, calendula oil, and tea tree oil. They smelled really good, and washcloths wipe up poop so much better than disposable wipes. They just grip or absorb or something - we find wipes tend to smear everything around before finally getting things cleaned up. I think it's because wipes have more fluid and soapy stuff. I made the washcloth wipes damp but not soaking.

So we like using the washcloths, but I don't like making them. I fold them to fit into a normal wipes container, which will hold about 25 of them. So every 25 wipes I have to make a new box. At anywhere from 1 to 5 poops a day, that's a box every 5 or so days. It's more work than I expected. So was cloth diapering, but I can handle the diaper work. I don't want to handle the wipes work. With diapering, I can tell myself it's cheaper for us, and it's good for the environment, and that makes it worth it. Washcloth wipes are good for the environment, especially since we just add them to the diaper laundry, but it's not necessarily saving us that much money. I was using up our baby wash, and essential oils really quickly - just lucky that I happened to have both calendula and tea tree oil on hand, but it would be expensive to get new bottles when they ran out, which was going to be pretty darn quick.

Rather than get defeatist about it, I had the best intentions to brainstorm ways to make it less work. For example, I could make a big batch of the wipe solution (like, two liters at a time) and then it'd be easier to just pour out 2 cups for each new box. Another important factor (impediment?) is only having 30 appropriate washcloths on hand (You know, the cheap, thin dollar store variety. They are the perfect texture.) If I stocked up to like 50 or 75 cloths, I could have three boxes folded and ready to just moisten and be ready. But then I'm wrangling 50 or 75 tiny pieces of flimsy terry cloth in my laundry. And that just don't appeal!

Okay, so I am defeated after all. We bought a package of refills (We buy in bulk because we is cheapos!) because we're headed to Cowtown for a visit and wedding, and we're going All Disposable while traveling. And then the box of washcloths petered out today, during big smelly dumps of Epic Stank-times, and that was just so exceedingly frustrating. (I know, I know, if that's the least of my problems...) So I think we're gonna give up on the washcloth experiment for now.

The other important lesson of the day: don't loosen Bean's poopy diaper, and then go looking for a washcloth. Have the wipe In Hand and Prepared For Duty. Because otherwise, little Bean hands are going directly into giant, stank-fest Bean poop, and then - well, then it's bathtime in the middle of the day. Yippee!!

Not that I can stay frustrated for long. Did I mention the giggles? OMG, the GIGGLES. Seriously, I'm almost sad to put him to bed, because then there's no more giggles until the next morning. How do I survive?!? I know, I know, if that's the least of my problems... yeah, life's pretty sweet :)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mama Bean has clearly been absent

Good. Grief.

(As a too-early-in-a-post-to-have-an-aside aside, this is my newest speech idiom. I say it more often than is humanly possible. And I don't even feel like breaking the habit, because it's so much better than saying for EFF's sake (without the 'eff' y'know?) all the time. I guess I have to start watching the potty mouth around the Bean, so eventually I'll be saying things like Crikey! and Drat! or something...joy.)

For the first few weeks, I was keeping this mental list of all the things keeping me from posting, but now I don't really have a great handle on it. I know there were a series of visitors - my parents, Papa Bean's youngest brother and his girlfriend, then Papa Bean's parents. During the visits I started to lag on my RSS feeds entries - I used to clear it by bedtime every day which, in hindsight, is so totally ridiculous I don't know what was wrong with me. I had upwards of 500 new items to peruse before I finally started clearing some feeds that I just know I'll never be bothered to actually read. It's not so much that I don't still really enjoy or care about all the sites I've subscribed to. I think it was more a lesson in how much excess time I was spending trying to stick to an arbitrary standard (clearing my feed) that really doesn't change anything meaningful in my life's function or purpose.

Then I had a wicked low back spasm that just completely laid me up for three or four days. I couldn't sit, I couldn't stand up, I could barely lay down comfortably. I was cuddling up to ice so hard I got freezer burn patches that are still tender and bruised (oddly enough.) I took a Monday off from work. I didn't even turn on my computer for at least two days, and then only to clean up my email. And that was another good lesson. As internettingly connected as Papa Bean and I may be, I think I'd lost some perspective on the difference between my on- and off-line lives. I will always contend that online life is every bit as real as my offline one but offline has that important distinction of being physically and temporally Immediate and Present to my physical and temporal circumstances. Online everything is removed in both space and time, that's just the facts.

I needed to remember this now, because with every day, Bean gets bigger, smarter, and more Immediate and Present in his own ways. I want to spend all his waking hours making him smile and giggle in that impossibly adorable way that I didn't even know existed before him. His waking hours are longer now, and that's just going to keep me away from the computer for now. After experiencing how much a physical problem kept me away from fulfilling his most basic needs (I could barely nurse him, let alone bend to change his diapers, or lift him from the crib) I know I can't let online issues keep me from him anymore. It's not good for either of us. I go through giggle withdrawal.

Finally, our life tippled through another wave of change, as Papa Bean started a new job. He has been on parental leave for the past six months, and would have stayed stay-at-home-daddying if a supreme job opportunity to work at the college where he's taking his pastor schooling hadn't come up - with an ASAP sort of start date. He's still an IT guy, and as an employee, his tuition will be paid. How awesome is that?! We have arranged for child care to start in August, when his parental leave would have been exhausted, and that is when he will start full-time. For now, he works part-time around my clinic schedule. Part-time, he makes essentially the same amount as he was making from parental EI, and with an excellent new benefits package (plus the tuition thing, did I mention the tuition thing?) which is good.

Since I went back to work, I haven't really been with Bean alone on a regular kind of basis. At work, I was away from them both, and when I was home, Papa Bean was generally always around. He was the one on parental leave at Home With The Baby, see. So this part-time working thing is a new world for me - it's just me and Bean when PB's at work, and just PB & Bean when I'm at work. It's like we're both part-time stay-at-home parents lol. This is now the primary factor in my decreased 'puter time. I don't know what that means for blogging right now. I definitely have missed it, and regularly have post ideas float around during my long commute or night-time nursing. With each new day sans posting, the unreasonable pressure I put on myself to Get On With It Already weighed down my motivation somehow, and I'd just go randomly wander through my RSS instead. But I'm back now. I'll try not to disappear again... (Thanks to everyone who encouraged me that I've been missed. I truly appreciate you!)