Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Here's what I answer when someone asks me why

I've been a part of several conversations where the question "Yeah, but is organic food really worth it?" has inevitably popped up.  I've heard people respond negatively--"It doesn't; it just makes people feel better."  To some extent, yeah, I think I agree with that mentality.  But here's some organic food for thought, free of pesticides, growth hormones, and GMOs (genetically modified organisms). 

I fully agree with this article, which reiterates my point that I've made before on here that it's not as much about me as it is about my girls.  Right now, Audrey is crawling up a little chubby-legged storm, and crayons that are scattered throughout the house are a favorite target.  To me, allowing or even encouraging her to eat crayons, which admittedly aren't toxic and won't make her sick in small quantities is the same thing as purposefully giving her potatoes that are like sponges and soak up all of the pesticides that proliferate the soil in which they are grown.  (And for what it's worth, organic potatoes are one of those that I feel more than justifies the cost.  I bought a 5-pound bag of potatoes the last time I went to the store for $2.50.  Check the price of "regular" potatoes.  Similar?  Yep.)  And there is a lot of inconclusive, but increasingly convincing, information circulating about the probably link between artificial growth hormones and increasingly early puberty, especially among girls.  This stuff doesn't just start when kids are 10 or 11 years old, I'm convinced. 

Organic food doesn't have to be more nutritionally dense for it to be noticeably impactful in a person's well-being.  And if nothing else, purchasing organic foods also supports Earth-healthy growing practices.  That also seems like a pretty big plus for me cause while I love girls to the ubiquitous moon and back, I also love my Earth.  I think it's a pretty good place for my girls to live, matter of fact.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Decisions, decisions...

I find myself with a do-over at my adult life.  I have a blank canvas of opportunities to create something new for myself and my family.  I'm faced with a specific task, though.  I have to find the right job this time.  I have to figure out where I'm supposed to be and what my career is supposed to be.  It feels daunting, to say the least. 

I had an interesting chat with Ben tonight.  It boiled down to... 
1.  Ben thinks (and I believe he really does think this) that "you're not happy unless you have something to worry about."
2.  I'm too qualified for many jobs and not qualified for the rest of them. 

I feel like the green college first-year student (that's the terminology we roll with at Manchester--"freshman" is sexist and unnecessarily so) who wants to do everything and can't decide what to really do.  I feel like I'm signed up for a general studies program that doesn't lead anywhere concrete.  I want to do everything and dabble in everything.  But that, surprise surprise, costs money.  For example, to complete a masters degree (which, what do you know...I already have one of those) in school counseling, which I almost pursued 5 years ago, at a university within 1 hour of me (my range), it would cost $22,000 and change just for tuition.  That's a serious commitment.  Argh.

I guess I'll just have to chill out and relax a little, which has never been especially high on my list of attributes.  That's the part of job interviews I hate the worst: "Tell me why you're awesome..."  Blah.

My faith is being tested in a time when I have little support that I am readily in contact with.  Audrey is still a good listener, but Abby sometimes changes the topic.  Simply put, I'm geographically misplaced, and that makes me anxious.  I don't know how to interact with the changing professional landscape.  Ben's right, though: I am a professional worrier sometimes.  Bleck.

With this in mind, I leave you with 2 things.  First, if you read my previous post, bless you.  It stunk.  And it also took me something like an hour and a half to write it because I was watching The West Wing (which I recently discovered is streaming on Netflix now and is even more readily accessible than popping my DVD in ye olde DVD player) and lost my mojo relatively early in the post but was bound and determined to write something about it.  So I did.  Second, the Bard is going to put this post to bed with a quote from Othello

"How poor are they that have not patience! / What wound did ever heal but by degrees?" 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Who Knew?

Anyone who follows the news in even the slightest capacity undoubtedly heard about this story last year.  It generated a new round of debates about attachment parenting and breastfeeding.  For a general topic that is pretty much innocuous insofar as it doesn't physically hurt anyone (indeed, those who truly practice Dr. Sears' guidelines would undoubtedly argue that it strengthens or even heals people rather than hurts anyone), there is a whole lot of emotionally laden commentary hanging around about it.  Forgive me if I meander far into the emotional realm; I'm going to try not to do so.  Indeed, my purpose here is to stick more or less to the straight and narrow because what is going to come out is something of a shocker to me.  And I've been thinking about it of late, so I'll throw my thoughts down here for few to read.

Forgive me for resorting to a definition here, but just in case, let's be clear (quoted from Attachment Parenting International's official website):

"The long-range vision of Attachment Parenting is to raise children who will become adults with a highly developed capacity for empathy and connection. It eliminates violence as a means for raising children, and ultimately helps to prevent violence in society as a whole.
The essence of Attachment Parenting is about forming and nurturing strong connections between parents and their children. Attachment Parenting challenges us as parents to treat our children with kindness, respect and dignity, and to model in our interactions with them the way we'd like them to interact with others."

My perceptions are two-fold.
1.  The term "attachment parenting" is generally associated with negative qualities such as being "weird," "unnatural," or "wrong."
2.  I/we practice attachment parenting more than I/we realized prior to becoming familiar with the term.  WHO KNEW?

Per the API website, there are 8 "principles of parenting" that attachment parenting promotes.
1. Prepare for pregnancy, birth & parenting: Really...this just about covers everyone.  C'mon.  Unfortunately, it doesn't cover everyone.  Emotional meandering, I know, but this has to improve to everyone if many, many (MANY) societal issues have any hope of improvement.  EDUCATION in particular (an issue that most of the media & many politicians beat to death with little if any ability to truly understand how to "fix" because of utter lack of training or experience...I digress) must have this "principle" improve to 100%. 
2. Feed with love & respect:  The API doesn't really acknowledge anything other than breastfeeding.  While I'm a pretty huge fan of breastfeeding, I'm also pretty thankful for the good of many children worldwide who do not have access to breastfeeding.  Either way, each brand of baby juice can be given to an infant with love and respect
3. Respond with sensitivity:  This one is a toughie.  I think that we all realize that this is true, that children cannot inherently self-soothe, but the degree to which we can put the child's needs above our own frustrations is a whole 'nother issue.  I like this one in theory.  I strive to be better at this one everyday.  I fail in some way...everyday.
4. Use nurturing touch: This is the one that clued me in that I might be, dare I say, practicing attachment parenting.  I sure love my Moby wrap.  I wish that I had purchased one when Abby was born.  I'm ever so glad that I went ahead and splurged on this prior to Audrey's birth!  We have sported the wrap at the zoo...on a 2-mile walk at the park...at my Bible study...at our story time group at the library...at Meijer...at my parents' house and my in-laws' house.  And inevitably, I get a smile and/or an approving comment.  Why oh why do more mothers and dare I say fathers?!? not sport these more often in public?  My husband wears it without shame or question.  It always soothes her.  It always puts her in a zen state of being.  It epitomizes calm, and I find that to be nurturing. 
5. Ensure safe sleep, physically & emotionally:  I differ here with API.  We're not co-sleepers.  We never will co-sleep.  Just within the past month or so has Abby begun climbing into bed with us for a few minutes when she inevitably gets up because "I waited until there's a 6 on the left."  I also want to find fault with the API believing that "Sleep training techniques can have detrimental physiological and psychological effects."  But I can't because they use the word can.  I do believe that.  But I firmly believe that sleep training is inevitable and healthy sleep training is possible.  Isn't co-sleeping another form of sleep training?  Isn't "sleep training" simply teaching your child what is or is not acceptable as far as sleep habits?  The practice of co-sleeping is also training a child to sleep a certain way just as the "cry it out" method does (or any other method for that matter). 
6. Provide consistent & loving care:  This one also seems like a no-brainer to me, one that I firmly believe should be so for every parent.  But the wording here is tricky again.  API states that babies need the love and intense care of a "responsive caregiver: ideally a parent" and that "If it becomes necessary, choose an alternative caregiver who..." as if one or both parents should always be with the child.  Should it become necessary is a pretty guilt-loaded thought there.  The implication seems to be that a child being without the care of a parent for any reason is a pretty serious deal.  We like going on dates once in a great while.  I don't feel all that guilty for leaving our children in the care of a grandparent to do so.  This wording rather implies to me that I should.  But other than that, yeah, I'm pretty much in agreement.  Loving, responsive parents are inevitably going to be better caregivers for their own children than an alternative caregiver, right?  It seems to me like this is so.
7. Practice positive discipline:  Another hard one!  API is all about the respect for child and parents alike, emphasizing dignity here as well.  I readily admit to my many failings in this department, and I challenge any parent to say that they don't.  Yet the ideology of this principle are what we strive to follow and attempt to practice.
8. Strive for balance in personal & family life: (Can we refer back to #6 and feeling guilty about going on a date with your spouse?)  Following this principle fosters healthy relationships with all members of the family.  It's a given. 

I haven't ended a post with a quote for quite a while.  Today, I'll use some words by Mark Twain to sum up this mash of thoughts for me: "My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it."  Indeed.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Wasteland

This past weekend, I was able to get together with a sweet, college friend, and it was lovely!  But it also made me realize how isolated I currently am from what I dearly love.  Specifically,

I miss learning in community. 

I miss talking about English and English-y things. 

I miss reading heavy books, and I miss the presence of such tomes scattered around my house. 

I miss people who know the difference between D. H. Lawrence and e e cummings.

I miss phrases like "What can we infer about the character on page 68?" "Ecriture feminine is inherently non-linear," and "This validates the argument..."

I miss referring to a book as a "text."

I miss debating about whether a text should or should not be considered part of the canon.  

I miss telling other people about what I'm working on or reading and watching their eyes react to what I'm saying.

I miss talking about my research.

I miss sifting through databases.

I miss having Ben proof my writing only for him to say "I don't understand what you're talking about, but it seems like you know what you're saying."

I miss the thrill moments when I feel something percolating into a coherent idea.

I miss being in dialogue with friends who use intelligent, interesting, varying language.

Despite all of the arduous work that goes into formal education, I rather miss it.   

(Props to anyone who caught my literature reference in all of this blather!)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Our blue footed booby


...is a blue footed booby.

...(the one on the left) is our blue footed booby.

Two of my college besties spent the fall semester of my Junior year traveling abroad in Ecuador.  One of my favorite stories from their pirate adventures was hearing about the blue footed boobies.  (And as I'm sure that you're wondering, my other favorite story was about Lonesome George, RIP my tortoise friend.)

What is the point, you ask?  It is this.  Yesterday, Audrey woke up from a lengthy morning nap with BLUE feet.  This was one of the (mercifully) small handful of times since I've begun this parenting experience (which, now that I think about it, is something like a pirate's adventure, too...eh?) where I've had an adrenaline rushing, gasping, WHAT DO I DO?!?! moments.  It's not good to see that your child has two blue feet.  Understatement.

The thing is, just this past week, a teacher friend of mine and his wife began bringing their 16-month old daughter over to our house for a few hours in the afternoons, a couple of times a week.  Her mom had just left, and I had three car-seat-riding children in my house with two car seats.  The odds aren't good on that one.  I couldn't just load up my dynamic duo and scoot on over to the doctor's office.

A couple of calls and an office visit later, all is well.  A blue footed booby no more, Audrey's pudgy peds are pink again.  This mama is still a bit on the worried side, admittedly, so there are lots of piggy checks.  And we're hoping that she discontinues the resemblance to that bird, as cutey and precocious as it looks.   

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Pass the carbs, please

Today is a gross day: cold, rainy and gloomy.  Just about my least favorite kind of day.  And by the time I wrangled two girls into their respective rooms for the afternoon, I felt crabby.  And the only thing I wanted was to veg out with food for no other reason than my mood.  I got to thinking about 2 things while I purposefully gave in to my mild craving: days like today make me feel like I'm not mentally engaged in or challenged by anything and what a serious pull food has on our emotions.  Humor me a little while I attempt to satiate a little of both thoughts here and work out some mental food/emotion thoughts.  After downing some unnecessary carbs, my brain could use a workout.  (Actually, all of me could...bleck.)

Food relationships
These are so pivotal and some of the first true relationships that are formed in our lives.  Parents definitively begin how their children engage with and feel about food.  We also have so many studies and reports and articles out there to (theoretically) teach us what to do about how to foster a healthy food relationship in our children as they begin their food adventures.  DO expose your child to a variety of tastes and textures.  DON'T  force your child to eat.  DO wait a couple of days in between introducing new foods.  DON'T worry so much and let your child explore as he wishes.  DO let your child dictate their eating.  DON'T let your child play at the table.  It's bewildering!  And for me, this developmental process has always been more challenging than the dreaded potty training (psshhh...easy peasy). 

Organic was unknown to me when I was a kid.  I didn't ask if I was allowed to eat a cookie (I just did, a lot!) when I was a kid.  "Turkey roll combination" was my favorite lunch meat when I was a kid.  And meat at every lunch and dinner was expected when I was a kid.  Dare I say, I grew up in a pretty typical middle-class American household as far as food expectations are concerned.  Genetics aside, I didn't have to be as chubby, so to speak, as I was.  Now, I've maintained my own eating schedule for over a decade, and I continue to fall back to childhood habits.  Still!  And my margarined toast was exactly what I wanted this afternoon, probably because it's exactly what I used to eat 15 years ago when I was bored, lonely, cold, moody, etc.

As a parent, I believe that this is the second most important way that I have and will mold my daughters.  What will their food habits and pitfalls be when they are 30?  I'm hoping that their mindsets will be something like "Ugh, another cold, rainy day...I need a clementine!"  But I also acknowledge that I can only lead them to the water; that being said, it's my job to ensure that the water is good.

Food and Mood

I felt like reading up on it a bit, so a quick Google search later, I came across this article from the renowned Mayo Clinic.  Even the term "comfort food" gives me warm fuzzies.  But in the back of my mind, I also have this niggling thought that keeps surfacing.  What if I grew up scrambling for food every day as a part of existing?  What if the term "comfort food" meant nothing to me because it was non-existent?  How does this skew the food-mood correlation?  Isn't it definitively a luxury?  And then ultimately, how do rationalize the gluttonous amount of comfort food to which I willingly fall victim? 

I try to maintain a standard of if-I'm-eating-dessert-than-you-can-have-dessert with Abby, and eventually Audrey, I'm sure.  But inevitably, that means that I sneak chocolate or what-have-you on the side.  After wallowing in the holiday sweet fest, I'm ready to work towards a healthier semblance of satiety and balance.  Unfortunately, the need is pressing now, at the height of comfort food season when I'm ever so convinced that some carbs and a little sugar will do the trick to sooth my crabby soul that feels deprived of sunshine.

Yesterday, I had a little bit of time by myself to fun a few errands and ended the trip with french fries and a big ol' piece of chocolate cake (oh, free goodies for my birthday...you ensnare me!).  And that accidentally ended up being my lunch.  What an imbalanced food-mood relationship that illustrates.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.     

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Pledge

This post has been running through my mind in various permutations for something close to a month now.  And I very much want to write it for the sake of some mental catharsis, though it's uber-unpleasant for me.

I resigned from my job.  

I've never missed so much sleep over something.  I've never had so many imaginary conversations about something.  I've never felt so personally crummy about anything.

I asked for maternity leave without being at my job for a full year.  I asked to extend my leave when it became inherently obvious that I needed to.  I taught one night class as an adjunct while on leave.  And all of that together supposedly suggested that I was not committed to my job and would not want to return.  It was rough having my character called into question in the same breath where I was explicitly told that I haven't broken any laws or violated my contract.  It was ROUGH. 

And ultimately, I decided that I needed to not be committed to a job that I wholeheartedly believe repeatedly violated something that I signed when I graduated with my undergrad degree: the Manchester Graduation Pledge, which states that

I pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organizations for which I work.
    Things did change because I worked there.  People were willing to step up and fight for me throughout what has been a year long ordeal.  Language has been changed.  And no one should go through what I did while there again. 

BUT...the blessings are many that come from being forced into this decision.  And I do not mean this to be in any way complaining or whining about what I think was getting the seriously short end of the stick.  I'm at peace with what has happened because I have also never experienced something where I have received so many clear signs affirming my choice.  And it continues still, a few weeks after this whole debacle came out.  Songs, people, and words surround me whenever I find myself mentally teetering.  Advice is readily available, support has been tremendous, and I have the time to lick the bitterness out of my mental wounds.

Manchester trained me for this job, and it also trained me why I shouldn't hold it any longer.  

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

How embrassing

I'm the odd one out amongst my siblings, who are both guys' guys, up to date on all things modern, all-American beer & pizza as they come.  Fancy words they are not.  I chose sushi for my birthday dinner; if they knew, I would get made fun of.  I'd rather use money given to me as a gift for something like chocolate or ice cream; if they knew, I'd get made fun of.  I vote differently pretty regularly than they do; if they knew, I'd get made fun of.  In other words, I get made fun of a lot, at least that's the way it seems to me.  And to be totally fair, it's pretty universal through my family.  Ben and I generally have a different mindset and focus than others.  They're just generally nice to Ben and don't skewer him for it. 

This time, however, I downright deserved it.  I have a certain personality rather assigned to me, mostly by my siblings & dad: the stickler-English-teacher-bookworm-nerdy-nerd persona.  This means that anything written has to be double & triple checked for mistakes otherwise, let the lambasting begin.  It's a good thing I did that when I created Christmas cards online this year and mailed them without actually seeing them in person first.  It would definitely be a bad thing if there were glaring errors in them. 

How embrassing.  Next year, I knoew that I'll be more careful.  Blergh. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Anyone want to join in?

Odd...I haven't heard much at all about New Year's Resolutions these past 4 days.  Either no one that I know is making them this year or else no one seems to be publishing them.  And in this hyper-tell-all to-everyone world that we are part of right now, it seems to me that I would have heard of a few by this point. 

Let it be known, I have a resolution this year.  Also let it be known, I totally blew mine last year (which had nothing to do with losing weight mind you...good thing too since I gained about 20 pounds in the first 5 months).  So here it is: each month perform a unique service project as a family.  We might bring some cookies to a local nursing home or volunteer making buddy bags at the local outreach center.  I don't know yet, but we'll decide each month together what we will do.  And I, for one, am looking forward to it!

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Here comes my honest-to-goodness confession.  I'm turning 30 soon (like counting-down-the-hours-soon), I don't know how to feel about that.  It just still seems weird.  I'm pretty comfortable being in my twenties, and there's a new level of social expectations that I have to assume once that number is attached to my name.  And there's another reason why it makes me a little apprehensive, but that is going to be another post for another day.  Probably January 9th (assuming naps happen and I have a moment to write).

But then again, I'm pretty much made to be in my thirties.  We have certain expectations about behavior for people in their thirties--wanting to be committed, wanting to stay at home, wanting a family, settling down.  I'm all over all of that.  I wasn't a social butterfly in high school or college or my twenties, and I'm certainly not wanting to change that now.  I just really like being warm and snuggly at home rather than cold and pretend somewhere else.  And of course, this isn't to say that I never do anything, but, seriously...that's my preference.  I also dislike the babysitting coordination.  Kids provide me a lovely excuse to not try.  That also sounds like another post for another day. 

Writing of kids...love them.  Audrey is amazing.  She helps me tolerate the snarky three-year old.  Her gummy smiles are ear-to-ear and 100% honest.  I was watching her interact with Abby yesterday and I realized that one of my absolute favorite things about young people are their transparent expressions.  There's no guile at her age.  When she smiles at you, she means it.  But then again, when she pokes out her little bottom lip and starts the tears, she means it as well.  Why do we stress about knowing what a baby means?  Often, they are so easy.  

As we have been shifting the house around for decorating and then re-shifting it back, I'm packing things up with a specific purpose now: packing away certain baby things.  And I'm never going to (have to) use them again.  I am thrilled.  Finally, something in my life is certain.  It doesn't matter where we live, what my job is, whether Abby goes to this school or that, whether I'm done with grad school or not...it doesn't matter.  We're done producing Cox babies, and we couldn't be more certain.  Even better, I feel even more joyful about each individual stage of Audrey's development during this time that can be stressful.  Her first few months were not long & arduous simply because there seemed to be a recurring chant in her wailing--the last time! the last time! the last time!  Now, I'm no longer storing a baby tub, a Bumbo, and a baby swing.  My house will slowly revert to being our house rather than a storage unit for the time when or if we would have another baby.  It's a glorious feeling for me and deliciously refreshing. 

Now that I'm at the end of what I wanted to write, I realized something: bring on 30; it's already more decided than my twenties ever were.