Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 Book Review

This year I participated in a reading challenge on a message board I frequent. Our challenge this year was to read 20,100 pages. I don’t think anyone actually completed the challenge, which seemed totally do-able to me back in March but right now seems like a slightly insane goal for someone with a small child, a job, and a sewing gig on the side. I’m just past 17,000 pages so far, but I don’t think there’s any way I’ll catch up before the year is over. *shrug* Eh, there’s always next year!

Anyhow, as a result of participating in the challenge I actually kept pretty good track of what I read this year, and I’ve pulled out my favorite ten to give short reviews on. These aren’t listed in any particular order, so the ones at the bottom are as good ast he ones at the top!

My 10 Best Reads of 2010

Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity From a Consumer Culture
By: Shannon Hayes
I loved this book so much I bought 3 copies to pass around. Radical Homemakers is divided into two sections, one about (for lack of a better term), the fall and rise of homemaking, and one that details the lives of several radical homemakers. Hayes does an excellent job of describing the shift from American households as units of production to that of consumption and states her case for why she believes that reclaiming our homes as units of production is key to helping us straighten out the modern mess we’ve found ourselves in (Obesity, anyone? Environmental destruction? Maybe a little consumerism?).

While I personally don’t think I’ll go to some of the lengths she describes in this book, it was very affirming to find that I’m not the only weirdo out there, doing things like making yogurt in my crockpot, canning from my garden, sewing my own diapers, or bartering for goods and services. Overall, a fantastic and inspiring read.

The Book Thief
By: Markus Zusak
“I guess humans like to watch a little destruction. Sand castles, houses of cards, that’s where they begin. Their great skill is their capacity to escalate.”

I am still trying to figure out who recommended this book to me! Either way, it was excellent. The Book Thief is narrated by Death (as a character) during Nazi Germany. While collecting souls, Death continually sees one particular little girl, a book thief, whose story we learn throughout the book. This is the kind of book that has both deep subtexts and a can’t-put-it-down-cause-I-gotta-know-what-happens plot with characters you can’t help but love. One of my favorite reads of the year.

Bodies In Motion And At Rest
By: Thomas Lynch
“The hypochondriac is therefore a hopeless case, whose illness (the fear of sickness and of death) is most often cured by sickness and death. ‘I told you so’ seems the haunting subtext of their funerals.”

I simply adore Thomas Lynch. As a poet and undertaker who isn’t actually all that far away (Michigan, I believe), he always makes the most unique and interesting observations about the human condition. His writing style is witty and humorous, which makes some of the topics he deals with every day much more bearable. Bodies In Motion And At Rest is a series of essays including observations about life, death, religion, the funeral industry, divorce, raising children, and, quite possibly my favorite, a hilarious poem about his fuming hatred for his son’s beloved cat, which begins, “One of these days she will lie there and be dead”.

In addition to this book, I also highly recommend Lynch’s other collection of essays, titled “The Undertaking”.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter
By: Seth Grahame-Smith
This book is hilarious! It reads as a biography of Abraham Lincoln, written after Lincoln’s “secret diaries” were bestowed on the author, and details the turn his life made toward vampire hunting after his mother’s death was caused by a vampire bite. The book follows the remainder of Lincoln’s life, describing factual events but attributing them to things related to vampire hunting. Loved it!

Juliet, Naked
By: Nick Hornby
I was surprised by how good this book was. I’ve always enjoyed Nick Hornby, but never like this. An aging former rock star, a devoted fan, and his inwardly lonely girlfriend all must sort out how to cope when the album Juliet, Naked is released. The album is essentially a demo version of Juliet, a prior album that an online community of fans have idolized. I love the way Hornby used the internet to fuel the events that take place in this book. There’s something about it that makes it feel like it is ours – our generation’s book, that is taking place in our generation’s world, and in our generation’s reality. The characters are lovable and all desperately flawed – which I suspect makes them all the more lovable. The story is meaningful in small ways - it isn’t going to change your life, but it does give you some things to think about and was also overall a pretty feel-good book.

The Twilight Series
By: Stephanie Meyer
So, not exactly one book, but a very good series. I initially started reading Twilight when I was pregnant with Norah and was put off by how ‘young adult’ it seemed (Erm... maybe because its a young adult book?). I, incidentally, went into labor the day I started the book and never picked it back up until late this year. But once I got started again, I couldn’t stop reading. I think once I accepted that it was going to be light reading and what I would call ‘fluff’, I got over myself and was able to just enjoy it. The romance in the story is nearly ridiculous and sickly-sweet at times, but still fun to read. It was also fun to see what vampire/werewolf ‘rules’ and legends came about in the story. A super quick and easy read, and it’s pretty fun.

The Things That Keep Us Here
By: Carla Buckley
This novel is the story of one family’s struggle for survival when bird flu becomes a pandemic of massive proportions. When I picked this up, I was prepared for disaster, The Stand style. This is not The Stand. By concentrating heavily on one family and their struggle for survival, the story became real in ways that were truly distressing. Imagine your dying neighbor leaving her baby at your doorstop and fighting amongst yourselves about whether to bring him in because you don’t know if he’s sick… and if he is, at least half of you will likely die with him. This is not a fun read, but it is a good read, if you can dig the difference. It’s a powerful look at humanity and what comes out in us when we’re forced into dire circumstances.

Fast Food Nation
By: Eric Schlosser
I don’t think I will ever eat at McDonald’s again. Even if I could stomach what I now know is in the food, my conscious won’t let me give them my money after Schlosser detailed the unethical business practices designed to oppress both employees and franchise owners. Fast Food Nation examines a variety of fast food chain practices, as well as food processing practices in America. This book particularly focused on the meat packing industry and the potato industry. Schlosser’s witty writing style made the grim news easier to read, but not necessarily easier to digest (pun definitely intended). A must read for anyone concerned about the food industry. Paired with Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma (which closely examines the corn processing industry, among others), you will learn everything you ever wanted to know about fast food and processed food (except what the food companies refused to tell the authors, which is interesting in itself).

Water For Elephants
By: Sara Gruen
After his parents are killed in an auto accident one week before he’s scheduled to sit for his veterinary exam, Jacob Jankowski finds himself quite accidentally running away to join the circus. He eventually finds himself in charge of treating the animals in the circus, and in the middle of a love affair destined for disaster. It’s written mostly as a period circus piece, which I loved, and has an intriguing plot with characters that you’re rooting for desperately right up until the end. I don’t know that there was anything particularly deep or meaningful, but I really enjoyed this novel.

Full Dark, No Stars
By: Stephen King
Un-put-down-able. I finished this book in a day and a half, which for the pre-child me may not have said much, but for the mommy-Heather, is saying quite a lot. Four novellas show ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances and leave you wondering…. now, what would I have done? In typical King fashion, he captures what is truly scary…. us.

And there you have it - my ten best reads of 2010.  I hope you enjoy!  And if you should happen to read any of these, please let me know what you thought!

Monday, December 20, 2010

2010 Quote Review

It’s that time again… time for our annual quote review! For those of you who aren’t familiar, every year I gather up the things I have heard and read and then sort out the very best quotes. This year they’re divided up into two categories – things my friends and family have said and things I read this year.

My understanding is that there’s a small competition going on within the Tuesday Night community as to who can get the most quotes on the 2010 quote review. I haven’t tallied them up, but I’m sure someone will take advantage of their bragging rights soon!


From the Mouths of Friends

*I must say, this is the first time in my life I’ve experienced a spontaneous Sister Act moment. ~ Curt

*I have a theory that denim is a giant napkin. ~ Heather

*My cat peed on the census forms. She’s an anarchist, I’m just a spineless liberal. ~ Meghan
 - This is, hands down, my favorite quote of the year

*I’m looking at you and I see a problem. ~ Mallory
- Mallory was actually trying to comfort me when this one popped out, but it sounded much more like she thought there was something very wrong with me. It’s since become a Tuesday Night staple.

*My goal today is not to be a dick… so, like, ten minutes later I was being a dick. ~ Curt

*I wish apartments were as easy to steal as purses. ~ Meghan

*He was, like, really, really touchy, but with his pelvis. ~ Heather

*Punching might be a love language for Jason. ~ Curt

*I asked him what cologne he wears and he was like, ‘Man Sweat!’ ~ Meghan

*Heather: I never did anything mean to a pastor before….
  Curt: It’s surprising how quickly you get used to it.

*Is that the sound of toenails being clipped… or a gun? ~Carissa

*They don’t have whiskey in space. That’s what I don’t wanna be an astronaut. ~ Curt

*Shimmy like your rent’s due! ~ Mallory

*5,000 year PMS = The Old Testament ~ Curt

*I’m so excited because my yoga ass is coming in! – Bex

*There’s always gonna be this beautiful, bitchy undertone. ~ Curt
- Why thank you, Curtis. That’s the nicest thing anyone’s said about me all year!

*That’s the night I was my father’s Japanese son. ~ Mallory

*There’s not a word in the English language that conveys the magnitude of my “ewwww”. ~ Curt

*I’ve actually won two dance contests with the sprinkler. ~ Meghan

*That was my Tuesday Night before I had them. ~ Bex

*Curt: Was he hot?
  Bex: He was in a I-might-have-just-killed-my-parents-and-put-em-in-the-freezer kind of way

Things I Read This Year

*Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. ~ Marianne Williamson

*The hypochondriac is therefore a hopeless case, whose illness (the fear of sickness and of death) is most often cured by sickness and death. ‘I told you so’ seems the haunting subtext of their funerals. ~ Thomas Lynch; Bodies in Motion and at Rest

*I don’t drink. I did of course, and plenty of it, but had to quit for the usual reasons. It got to where I was spilling so much of it. ~ Thomas Lynch; Bodies in Motion and at Rest

*What is said and unsaid are both instructive. ~ Thomas Lynch; Bodies in Motion and at Rest

*Among the few consolation of what has been called writer’s block is the assurance that, so long as one has it, one is, indeed, a writer ~ Thomas Lynch; Bodies in Motion and at Rest

*I guess humans like to watch a little destruction. Sand castles, houses of cards, that’s where they begin. Their great skill is their capacity to escalate. ~ Markus Zusak; The Book Thief

*It’s a fundamental human need to pass music around. ~ Rob Sheffield; Love Is a Mix Tape

*You’re fighting a battle of good and evil with your dog pimp! Your only weapon is the shimmy! There is power in the shimmy! Make him fear your shimmy! Now, goddamnit show me your war shimmy! ~ Laurie Notaro; There’s a (Slight) Chance I Might be Going to Hell

*If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more or become more, you are a leader. ~ John Quincy Adams

*All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. ~ I have no idea who said this; I saw it on someone’s facebook

And there we have it, 2010 in summary!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Trainers for the little bug!

If you recall this post about my diaper sewing, and then this post about potty learning, you my have concluded that Norah decided she wanted to potty learn right after I made her a nice, new, squishy batch of diapers.  And if you came to that conclusion, you are correct.

However, we are still having our share of 'oops'es, espeically now that the potty is no longer a new, cool concept she is intent on mastering.  To help out with the oopses I've sewed her up a nice new batch of training pants.  And hey, who knows!  Maybe the production of a giant batch of trainers is just what she needs to keep her nice and dry. ;)

For your viewing pleasure, here they are:

I made her two of each design except for the owl pair - she has 3 owl pairs - for a total of 13.  What can I say, blue eyes looking up at you saying, "Owl undies, peeeese" cannot be ignored.  Here are a couple closer-ups of my favorites.



The inners and outers of these trainers are plain 'ole cotton knit.  I've used a rib knit with some spandex content for the legs and waist bands, so they will fit nice and snug and retain their stretchiness.  They all have soaker pads consisting of three layers of cotton flannel, which is (I hope) enough padding to keep a small accident from being catastrophic (pee running down the leg and into the shoe, anyone?), but not enough to feel padded like a diaper.

Now, the very best thing about these trainers... they unsnap.  This may not mean much to someone who doesn't have a small child in underwear or trainers, but to those that do, it means a whole lot - namely that you will never wrestle with your conscious over wanting to cut a nasty pair of undies off of a child rather than attempt to slide them off.  No worries, here.  Just unsnap, clean up, and go about your day.

Once I finished these up, I started wondering if these could be made with a waterproof material.  And so, I made up one last pair.  These last ones have a layer of PUL on the outside, which is a waterproof material.  I don't know how much it will actually help, as the leg ribbing is sewn right in between the inner layer and the PUL and will therefore likely wick like mad.  But, being trainers, they're intended to be taken off as soon as you know there's an accident, so maybe they won't wick too badly if I get them off her quick enough?  I'll be testing them out to find out.  I espeically like the star snaps on this pair:


These are all made from the Tinkle Time Trainers pattern.  It comes in sizes 18mo - 7 years, and also includes pattern pieces to make big kid undies as well as the trainers.  The pattern includes instructions for a pull up style trainer (no snaps - boo!), and a snap on trainer with one or two rows of snaps on each side.  I've made these with just one row.  These are relatively easy to put together, but did take me more time than I had anticipated.  The pattern is available for purchase here.  The pattern maker also has an overnight trainer pattern that's similar, but I haven't tried it out yet.

Now to see if these help the little bug stay dray!

Monday, October 18, 2010

My first custom diaper order!

I've just completed my first custom diaper order and I just had to post!

This order is 5 one size diaper covers - 2 dark blue, 2 dark lime green, and 1 aqua.  The mama who ordered it wanted something she could wipe clean between changes and didn't want FOE.  The result?  Two layers PUL with the shiny side of one layer facing in toward baby and the 'right' side of one layer facing the outside.  These have rise snaps to adjust the, erm, rise (that's why they're called rise snaps, right?), and snap closures.

Take a look!

There they are, all together.

Here's a comparison - the pic on the left is on the setting that fits Norah right now (21 months, 27ish lbs).  The pic on the right is the smallest setting

Here you can see the outside and the inside - see how the inside is shiny and wipeable?  Mission accomplished!

And last but not least, a stack of diaper yumminess.

I'm guessing most of you didn't know I was taking custom orders.  Guess what!  I am currently taking limited custom orders for whatever you might want sewn.  That includes diapers and diapering accessories, stuff for around your house, bags, baby and children's items, or whatever else you might want to throw my way.  While I'd be happy to make any style baby carrier you might want, if you're looking for a ring sling or wrap, I'd reccomend that you get in touch with Beth at Babyette first - she makes these things day in and and day out, and is more of an expert on them than me.

I'll be posting more on taking custom orders at the beginning of 2011, when I'll hopefully have more time.  For now, I'm taking a few here and there.  Feel free to message me if you're interested.

I think that's all for now.  Thanks for looking!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

You know you want one.... (Calling All Babywearers!)

Calling all babywearers!

Remember that lovely SweetPod Soft Structured Carrier I made awhile back?  You know, the one with the adorable print on the outside panel, comfy and convenient internal panel, and hidden sleeping hood?  The one that left you wondering where you could get something like it?

Well, you're in luck!

This Saturday, October 2nd, there will be a SweetPod for auction at the Safe Infant Sleep Symposium.  I finished this up this week and can't wait for it to find a good, loving home and a sweet, squishy baby to carry around!

Humor me as I post these pictures - I still haven't acquired a dress form and am making due with my dining room chairs.

Here it is, in all its glory!

You can see the internal panel here.  This panel makes it so you can put baby on and move him/her to your back easily if you want.  The contoured shape of the panel also still allows access for nursing.

And here's the sleeping hood.  An invisible zippered pouch hides it when not in use.

This handmade carrier can be yours for the low, low price of... well, whatever it auctions for.

There's only one way to get this carrier, and that's to come bid on it at the Safe Infant Sleep Sympsoium Saturday.

See you there!

*The SweetPod Soft Structured Carrier is made from this pattern.  Carrying instructions can be found here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Safe Infant Sleep ~ Symposium coming soon!

This is another one of those H got herself into something and now she's going to endorse it posts.  You are officially forewarned. 

So, what are you doing next Saturday?  You know, October 2nd?  Around 12ish?

Nothing?  Great!

Oh, you're doing something?  Well, you're still not off the hook.  The laundry can wait, the grass can be mowed this weekend (it won't grow much next week, I don't think), and the kids can visit with grandma (tell her I said so).

'Cause this is important.

On October 2, 2010 Birth Matters will host Fort Wayne's first Safe Infant Sleep Symposium.  The Symposium is free to the public and will provide evidence-based, up-to-date information and guidelines for safe infant sleep in cribs, bassinets, co-sleepers, and parents' beds.

In addition to the three speakers who will present, the Symposium will feature free giveaway bags to the first 100 families/individuals in the door, as well as giveaway items (Arm's Reach Co-sleeper, anyone?), and a silent auction featuring family friendly products such as Halo Sleep Sacks, co-sleepers, and baby carriers.

Speakers for this event will include Dr. Christopher Tallo, a Fort Wayne Pediatrician; Dr. Robert White, an Indiana Neonatologist; and Dr. James McKenna, Director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame, Chair of Notre Dame's Department of Anthropology, member of the SIDS Global Task Force, and consultant to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Safe Infant Sleep.  Whoo!  That's a mouthful!

You're probably asking yourself, What's this all about?  Or Why is H so worked up about this event?

You are in luck: I'm going to tell you.

What's this all about?
In case you weren't aware, Allen County has a ridiculously high infant mortality rate.  Like, crazy high.  For example, among the African American population in Allen County, the infant mortality rate is comparable to several third-world countries.  Last I checked, Allen County was located in a developed nation where people have access to food, shelter, health care, etc., regardless of whether they have any money.  Even if Allen County was far more underpriviledged than the rest of the country, which it isn't, social service programs should fill in a lot of the gaps that contribute to infant mortality.

And yet, we have all these babies dying what are apparently preventable deaths.

Indiana Department of Child Services and an enormous chunk of Indiana officials have decided that a large number of these deaths are occuring because babies are sleeping in unsafe sleep conditions.  I have no idea how they came to that conclusion, but after working with Birth Matters on the symposium and hearing about conversations with local officials, I've no doubt that a lot of babies are dying because they aren't sleeping safely.  And that is a shame, mostly because these babies are so precious and because unsafe sleep deaths are so preventable.

There's a definate, documented need for families in our county to learn more about safe infant sleep.  Birth Matters is stepping up to educate and empower families about their safe sleep options.

Why is H so worked up about this event?
Here's where it gets a little tricky.

You see, when the Indiana Department of Child Services decided to get concerned about unsafe sleep deaths, their approach to preventing these deaths was to tell parents to never, ever, ever sleep with their babies.

Which makes absolutely no sense in light of the fact that in cultures where cosleeping is the norm, SIDS rates are minimal or non-existant.  Did you know, for example, that in China, where cosleeping is taken for granted, SIDS is so rare that they don't even have a name for it.

Now, a lot of babies are dying in Allen County while sleeping with another person.  But these deaths are taking place outside of safe bedsharing guidelines.  For example, of the 13 unsafe-sleep deaths in Allen County last year, one infant was sleeping in a bed with five other children, despite safe bedsharing guidelines that specify that infants should not sleep next to older children.  One infant was sleeping in a bed with nine other children.  Nine.  Multiple infants were sleeping with parents on sofas, which also goes against safe bedsharing guidelines.  Drugs and alcohol were involved in several other deaths, the use of which is advised against in safe bedsharing guidelines.  One of these babies died improperly strapped into a carseat, which isn't even related to bedsharing.  And so on, and so forth.  So it isn't that people should never, ever, ever sleep with their babies - it's that if they want to sleep with their babies, they need to do so in a safe way.

Unfortunately, most people don't know what safe bedsharing guidelines are - if they even know such things exist.  The Department of Child Services campaign last summer did nothing to help with that problem - in fact, they may have made it worse.  A lot of people in this county have no idea that sleeping with a baby on a sofa is much, much more dangerous than sleeping with a baby on a firm mattress, so they just plop down on the couch with baby.  Which is not good at all, for anyone involved.

Birth Matters believes (and I concur) that families have the right to full information about safe infant sleep so that parents can make informed safe sleep choices for their children.  And so, in addition to crib and bassinet safety guidelines (which are completely legitimate sleep spaces, by the way - we utilize a crib as well, so this isn't a crazy, cosleeping elitist thing), this symposium will provide guidelines for safe cosleeping and bedsharing.

H is worked up about this whole thing because she doesn't like to hear that someone's baby died, and because she believes that unless people are educated about their options, they can't make safe sleep choices.  And because she believes that the state is limiting that education and that is hurting babies, and the Symposium is doing something about trying to make that right.

But I'm also worked up about this whole thing because I value my right to choose how and where my child sleeps safely, and because I know that if I don't step up and make a big fuss about it, there's a decent likelihood that I (and parents like me) will lose that right.

Maybe that's way too much information just to promote this Symposium.  But this isn't just something I'm endorsing because I like it or because it seems cool or because it is going to help people or give me the chance to love people better (although those are all true).  I'm endorsing this because it affects my rights as a citizen and because I believe it is my responsibility as a member of this community.  I'm endorsing it because it hits me in a place that you can't hit a parent without getting a reaction - it hits me in the spot where I strive with all of my heart and with all of my very being to care for Norah and raise her up in the best possible way I can - which means she needs to be safe when she sleeps, no matter where she sleeps.

So, if you're not busy Saturday (and we've already established that you're not, right?), come along for the ride.  Hear the guidelines for all kinds of safe infant sleep, empower yourself to make safe sleep choices, get a goody bag (come early!), win a giveaway, bid on an auction item!  Or if nothing on that list interests you in the slightest, just pop in to say hi to me - I'll be there all day!

For more information about the Symposium, visit

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My Baby, My Bed, My Business

Does anyone remember those shockingly disturbing commercials last summer depicting a father walking through the house with a hand-held video camera intent on videoing his wife and new baby girl sleeping on the couch, only to find that the baby wasn’t breathing?

Anyone remember how at the end of that extraordinarily disturbing PSA was a message telling people to never ever sleep with their babies?

Anyone remember spending a complete 10 seconds in silent shock and disgust before throwing shoes at the television and screaming, That’s bullshit! They aren’t even following safe sleep guidelines! Everyone knows you can’t sleep with a baby on a couch! Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit!! while your husband contemplated whether to physically restrain you before you found something heavier to lob at his television?

Anyone? Or was that just me?

I’m a bedsharing parent. What that means is that Norah has spent a decent chunk of her nights nuzzled into our bed, sleeping right beside me. Despite the indications of the Indiana Department of Child Services’ disturbing and extremely misleading PSA last summer, Norah has never gotten wedged between the cushions of my couch, smothered under a pillow, overheated by heavy blanets, rolled over on, or fallen to her death from my bed. No one has squished her, smothered her, tangled her up in the sheets, or forgotten she was there. She has been quite safe, sleeping in my bed.

Norah has never once been in anything that even remotely resembled danger in my bed, in large part because D and I religiously follow established safe bedsharing guidelines. This might seem like a no-brainer, but safe bedsharing guidelines basically outline all the things you should/shouldn’t do before you bring your baby to bed with you, so that hazards to your baby can be eliminated and your baby can be safe in bed with you.

They aren’t crazy requirements, either. No one is asking you to sleep on a bamboo mat on the floor of a bomb shelter, with the building facing east and a voodoo priestess safety spell firmly in place. It’s normal, common sense stuff – don’t sleep with your baby on a waterbed or couch, don’t put a bunch of squishy pillows by your baby’s head, don’t sleep with your baby stone cold drunk.

It’s possible these might be paraphrased.

There are more guidelines, and they are all reasonable, normal sounding, achievable things.  And generally, they keep babies safe. I personally have never heard of a case where a bedsharing infant died and parents were following all of the safe sleep guidelines. Which is not to say it doesn’t happen, but that it seems to me that if it happened very frequently, I would have heard of one. Every infant death I’ve ever heard of that was related to parent/infant sleep sharing involved infractions on safe bedsharing guidelines.

So when DCS aired their ever-so-misleading campaign against parent/infant sleep sharing, that did not fly with me. At all.

It is difficult enough being a bedsharing parent in a culture where bedsharing isn’t the norm.

It is difficult listening to people suggest to you that you might be stunting your child’s emotional growth, or that you sleep with your baby because there’s something psychologically wrong with you, or to hear people tell you you’re “asking for (your baby) to die”.

It is difficult to be put on trial over and over for parenting the best way you know how, just because it’s different from other people.

It is difficult to repeatedly clench your jaw, close your eyes, count to 5, force a smile, and non-confrontationally explain the benefits of bedsharing and the safe bedsharing guidelines to people who have more-or-less accused you of child endangerment.

All of that is already difficult. But when the state steps in and tells everyone that you’re parenting the wrong way, and, what’s more, they’ve used an outrageously unsafe example that not even the most hard-core bedsharing advocate would ever consider, that’s just enraging. Completely enraging.

I have to be honest here, I’m slightly pissed off about the whole thing.

Here’s the thing: I didn’t set out to bedshare. I bought a crib and set it up. I borrowed my grandmother’s bassinet – the one my mother slept in as a baby and borrowed from her mother for me to sleep in as a baby. I got swaddle blankets and a crib aquarium and borrowed “The Happiest Baby on the Block” video from the library. I got sleeping wedges to make baby feel snug. I was set.

But that didn’t really work out for me. My baby turned out to be higher needs than I anticipated. If you set her down awake she screamed bloody murder. If you set her down asleep, she slept… for 15 minutes. Literally. 15 minutes. I could set my watch by her. No amount of swaddling, heating up the bassinet sheets, gentle, gradual transfers to the bassinet, or white noise would keep this baby asleep for more than 15 minutes. I read every book I could find, scoured the internet, implemented every solution that seemed safe to me, and still she would not sleep. It was pure hell.

And so, I did what any desperate parent would do – I called someone who knows more stuff than me and asked for advice. Hallie from Birth Matters showed up at my door with 2 books, a giant list of resources, and advice to look through everything and make a decision that would work best for my family.

We started bedsharing that night.

Once Norah started sleeping next to me, she slept for hours. Hours. And when she woke it barely disturbed me – I’d just cuddle her, nurse her and drift back to sleep. It was like I’d traded my newborn in for an entirely different baby. People would ask me how she was sleeping and I’d open my mouth to respond that she was sleeping through the night, and then realize that she wasn’t actually sleeping all the way through – it just felt like it because we were so seldom awake for more than just a few moments here and there.

Bedsharing was a lifesaver for me. We slept, we nursed more happily and easily at night, we got to cuddle more, Norah cried less. Despite the claims of DCS, I felt better about her safety once she started sleeping with me, having read about the causes of SIDS and the ways that mothers’ and babies’ bodies react to one another during sleep. Norah wouldn’t forget to breathe and never wake up; she would be prompted by my breathing to start up again. She wouldn’t get into a deep sleep where she couldn’t rouse herself; she would stay in a lighter, safer stage of sleep and rouse simultaneously with me. Call it God or call it evolution – babies seem to have been designed to sleep next to their mommas.

I was happier. Norah was happier. Norah was safer. And, the thing that I think ties this all together for me, it felt right. Human intuition is a powerful thing.

Once we started bedsharing, I was so happy about how sleep was going for us. But on the flip side, I was also so incredibly angry that for 3 weeks I’d struggled and cried and fretted when I could have cuddled and napped and spent sweet time getting to know my baby better.

Nothing feels very good or works very well when you’re getting 15 minute stretches of sleep, and that includes new mommyhood. I was absolutely furious that those first 3 weeks had been so unnecessarily difficult. I didn’t even know who exactly I was furious at – the hospital that had signs up on the walls instructing me not to sleep with my baby?; the media that said I’d kill her if I snuggled up with her at night?; the baby sleep products supposedly designed to keep baby safe, which seem more likely designed to turn a profit? I was just furious that all these powers-that-be imposed themselves on the initial weeks of motherhood and made it so hard for me.

The subsequent campaign by DCS when Norah was 6 months old did not make me any happier. It would be safe to say it made me even more angry than I already was. And it continues to make me angry that people do not have ready access to information about safe bedsharing.

The problem is, if you don’t know what the safe bedsharing guidelines are – or if you don’t even know safe bedsharing guidelines exist – it makes it awful hard to follow them. This is what really irks me about DCS and their campaign – that families who could otherwise safely bedshare are now engaging in unsafe sleep practices because they don’t know safe bedsharing is an option.

Did you know, for example, that there are people I am related to who believe it is safer to put a baby to sleep on their stomach than to sleep with the baby in bed? And so their babies are sleeping alone on their stomachs; the single greatest SIDS risk factor that I’m aware of, while they remain blissfully unaware that in cultures where bedsharing is the norm, SIDS rates are miniscule or non-existent.

In essence, DCS is putting babies at risk by demonizing parent/infant sleep sharing and refusing to acknowledge safe bedsharing guidelines.

Correction: DCS is putting babies in my family at risk.

I am not currently a fan of DCS. I rather like the babies in my family, and very badly want to see them stay safe.

I’m not advocating for people to sleep with their babies at any time, in any place, under any condition. Clearly, there are situations that aren’t conducive to safe infant sleep.

I’m not advocating for people to sleep with their babies at all, actually. If people want to, and can safely do so, I’m happy to lend advice or talk about my experiences. But bedsharing isn’t for everybody. Some people don’t want to bedshare; some can’t implement the safety guidelines. Whatever. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. Some babies like bassinets. Some babies hate them. Some parents can’t stand being away from their babies all night. Some parents can’t stand being touched all night. It’s an individual thing.

I’m not advocating for any particular sleep solution for any particular family, except to say that whatever families choose they should implement safely.

I don’t want to make every family sleep the way my family sleeps. What I do want is for safe bedsharing guidelines to be readily available to the public, the same way that safe crib sleeping guidelines are.

What I want is for the wide base of research supporting safe bedsharing to be acknowledged and accepted, the same way crib safety research is acknowledged and accepted.

What I want is for our officials to recognize the difference between safe and unsafe bedsharing, the same way they recognize the difference between safe and unsafe crib sleeping.

What I want is for our officials to believe that families are intelligent enough to make safe sleep choices when given full information.

What I want is for my researched, deeply thought out choices to be validated as the legitimate choices that they actually are.

Is that too much to ask?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

How to Potty Train Your Toddler

1. When she is but a little baby, think to yourself that elimination communication (EC) makes some sort of bizarre sense and attempt to implement it part time. Ignore snickers behind your back and people telling you that you are abusing your child for holding her over a toilet.

2. Buy a pink potty. Because pink potties are all the rage.

3. Use a diaper/EC combo for a long time. Occasionally fight the urge to punch people in the face when they comment that your ‘potty training’ must not be working. Instead, kindly explain that EC is not potty training, it’s just trying to meet your baby’s elimination needs the best you can. Sigh on the inside when said explanation results in slack-jawed, vacant-eyed stares.

4. Utilize your pink potty.

5. Use more diapers.

6. Hide your pink potty when company comes over to avoid having the EC/potty training/child abuse via toilet conversation EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. you see anyone.

7. Witness your 12-month-old suddenly refuse to use the potty on account of her newfound ability to get up and walk away from it.

8. Attempt to put her on the ‘big potty’ since she can’t get down from it by herself.

9. Listen to terrified shrieks as your toddler reaches for you with what can only be described as horror.

10. Wonder what’s so scary about a big potty and take her off of it.

11. Watch with a bit of sadness as diapers become your full-time routine.

12. Give up on EC completely and totally. Use diapers full time, without even bothering with the stupid potty anymore.

13. Hide the pink potty after your toddler attempts to use it as a hat, shoe, and saddle for the dog.

14. Realize your toddler is going to grow out of her diapers pretty soon if she continues to grow at a normal rate.

15. Sew new diapers.

16. Realize the prefolds you bought for a newborn do not make good inserts for the diapers you sewed for a toddler because they are, well, newborn prefolds. And toddlers pee more than newborns.

17. Sew a bunch of toddler-sized inserts for your diapers.

18. 4 days later, listen to your 18-month-old beg you for underwear (i.e. screams of “Undies! Undies!” when you attempt to diaper her)

19. Shrug your shoulders and put the undies on her.

20. Take her to the bathroom every hour.  Or when she squirms like she has to pee.  Or when she looks at anything even remotely near her undies.  Or when she's "too quiet".  Or when your 'mommy instinct' tells you to.  Or anytime you feel paranoid at all.

21. Listen to Muse to help feel justified about being a paranoid person.

22. Realize your toddler has been dry all day.

23. Spend the next two weeks wondering when your toddler will regress back to peeing herself all the time and need diapers again, and dread the smug looks from people who have seen her in undies this week as they see her back in diapers, look at you, and think to themselves, "See, I knew that kid wasn't potty training.  For God's sake, she's only a year and a half old.  What was H thinking?!"

24. Think up good comeback lines in case anyone is rude enough to actually vocalize all that.

25. After a decent 2 weeks, realize this is the real thing; she is potty training.

26. Wonder what the hell to do with the new diapers and inserts.

Moral of the story – if you want to potty train your toddler, give up on any potty usage and sew a bunch of diapers.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

More Things That Make Me Happy (i.e. More Sappy Stuff)

*When Cuthbert and I say the same thing at the same time and it doesn’t even phase us because it happens so often

*When someone asks me for help with something and it reassures me that, yes, I am actually good at the thing they want help with.

*Velma and Norah talking to each other in their own crazy language – “Dude! Cool! Shell!”

*J stopping whatever he’s doing to walk us ladies to our cars when we leave the party

*When awkward, one-off quotes somehow become regular conversation pieces – “I’m looking at you and I see a problem”

*Norah reaching up to hold my hand.

*Being identified by someone else as something I secretly want to be, but that I don’t feel successful at actually being – i.e. Velma casually mentioning she’d like to be more of an urban homesteader – like me, or that she’d like to become known for throwing great parties, so she’ll have me plan all of them.

*Playing Rock Band

*When something prompts me to realize I’ve gone a bit off the grid on something (sew your own diapers, anyone?) and I realize I feel pretty good about it rather than feeling like I’m weird.

*The Dark Tower books

*Norah shouting people’s names that she sees in photographs around the house (Shell! Beep beep! Papa!)

*Making good progress at a cohousing meeting

*When friends-of-a-friend become, simply, friends

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Now I'm Just Showing Off (Diaper Sewing)

Today we're going to talk about diapers.

Why?, you're asking, Oh, why, oh, why would I want to listen to you pratter on about diapers?

Because they're cloth and they're pretty.

And because I have pictures.

And because I sewed them myself and you, being the kind and sweet friend you are, want to validate me.

So here we go!

First off, I know a lot of my friends don't have kids, let alone any idea what a cloth diaper looks like. There are all kinds, but I mostly use fitted diapers with waterproof covers and prefolds with waterproof covers. A lot of people like pocket diapers, but I don't care for them so I've never sewn any... so I don't have any pictures of any to even show you what they are. Sorry. *shrug*

I do have some pictures of my fitted diapers and waterproof covers, though.

Diaper 2
This is a fitted diaper I made. See how the legs are all elastic-y, and it has closures at the top? It goes on just like a disposable diaper, but it's silky cloth - bamboo velour to be exact. Yummy! They have some extra fabric in the crotch for absorbency, and generally work out not to result in leaks, which is a plus. Come to think of it, I have never had a diaper blowout in a cloth diaper - only in a disposable.

Here's the same diaper, just unfolded.

Fitted diapers are not waterproof, so they require a cover. So here are some covers:
A rainbow of covers!
Aren't they pretty? They just go on right over the top of the fitted diaper or prefold, and they are waterproof. The outer layer is a fabric called polyurethane laminate (PUL), which provides the waterproof-ness. The inner is a fleece that is nice and soft. You can re-use covers when you change the fitted diapers or prefolds, provided the cover isn't soiled. For that reason, those 6 covers you see are all I need to get through 3 days of diapering, while I need roughly 2 dozen fitteds or prefolds.

I made the fitteds and covers pictured with the Darling Diapers Unlimited pattern.

I do not have any prefolds to show you because I haven't made any of those either. They're so ridiculously inexpensive that it simply isn't worth my time to make them rather than buy. They're basically rectangles of fabric with extra absorbency in the middle. You can pin or snappi (which is like a pin, but less dangerous) them on baby, or you can fold them in thirds and sit them inside the cover. I do use these covers with prefolds I've bought.


Now for some of my more recent diaper sewing!

I recently got really curious about gdiapers cloth diapers and how they work. The gdiapers covers are not completely waterproof - only a small portion that holds an insert is waterproof. I found a nice tutorial on how to make something resembling this and went to town. The result is wonderful!

Cloth Revolution/Snail Shell
Here is the first beautiful diaper I made. It is from the Cloth Revolution free pattern. I modified it a little to make it front snapping instead of side snapping because I don't like side-snapping diapers and that's what the pattern called for. It's cute, no? But it doesn't look terribly waterproof, seeing as how it's made of flannel.

Top view
Open it up, and there's a waterproof liner! Whoo hoo! The liner is comprised of a small rectangle of PUL (I think 17in x 9in on this diaper) bound in fold over elastic. A prefold fits into it perfectly for the diaper's absorbency. So far this hasn't been leaking, either. Bonus!

The liner is sewn right into the diaper. So long as nothing is soiled, you can just switch wet prefolds out for dry ones when you need to change a diaper.

I liked it so much I made 3 more!
3 'lil dipes, all in a row


And a couple close-ups:
Music notes

Skulls, baby!

twinkle, twinkle little stars

That's all for now; thanks for looking!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What Would You Do With $250,000?

I can think of a whole slew of useful things I could do with $250,000. Want to see a list? Ah, of course you do. Who doesn’t want to know what kind of random things accumulate in H’s head? Narcissism, schmarcissism .

Well, there’s that cohousing project we’re working on, for starters. $250,000 would get us off the ground and enable us to buy property and probably get a nice start on renovations.

And while we’re talking about money, there’s always the issue of paying off the house. I think we owe around $63,000 on it still. Norah could certainly use a college fund… hmm, what else? Maybe a vacation, a trip to the shop for my wobbly car, and a nice sum for investment.

Point being, there’s a lot you can do with $250,000.

Now what if you were, say, an agency with access to an extra $250,000? Let’s say you’re a social service agency and that among the things of utmost important to your founders were things like, for example:

  • Remembering the widows and the fatherless

  • Protecting the weak

  • Feeding, clothing, and housing the poor

  • Showing hospitality to strangers and the homeless

  • Healing the sick

  • Visiting those in prison

  • Freeing the oppressed

  • Loving people on the fringes of society

  • Working for social justice

then what could you do with $250,000?

Quite a lot, I’d imagine.

Why, just off the top of my head I can think of:

  • Providing meals for the hungry

  • Providing shelter for the homeless

  • Giving pregnant, scared, young women the resources and support to have their babies and raise them or find good adoptive parents (which, in my opinion, seems like a more effective option than telling them they’re going to hell for abortion)

  • Giving clothing to the poor

  • Helping poor families keep their utilities on and their rent paid

  • Helping poor families work toward educational and career-oriented goals

  • Working to help people on the fringes of society – such as people with stigmatized diseases, mental health issues, etc.

  • Providing transportation and/or child care for disadvantaged parents to participate in classes/programs that will help them get out of poverty.

  • Forming a group to lobby for social justice issues

  • Sending people to visit those in prison

And so on, and so on, and so on. This is just the list right off the top of my head. Imagine if your whole agency thought about it for a week or so! There’s a lot you could do with $250,000 if you were charity minded.

Or, you could build a
giant statue of the figurehead of your religion by the side of the road with his arms raised like someone just scored a touchdown. Like so:

Cause, you know, that’s probably more in line with your mission than all those things ‘lil ‘ole H just typed up there.

Needless to say, I have an issue with the priorities of this church.

Interestingly enough (and that's all I'll say on the matter), the statue was struck by lightening and burned to the ground last night. You can read the story here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Things That Make Me Happy ~ 2010

*Waking up in the morning with Norah snuggled into me

*Getting a call from Lisey every week and remembering how lucky I am to have someone who always remembers to call, even though I never call anyone.

*Thigh-high panty hose

*Looking at patterns with Mabel, or looking at things we like and figuring out how they were made

*Riding my bike downtown

*Coming home and opening the door and hearing Norah’s little feet running to me, and her shouting “ah-meee! Aaah-meee!”

*Finally getting up the nerve to use that *perfect* fabric I’ve been hoarding

*Making homemade bread for the people I love

*Norah laughing hysterically when I hold her upside down and tickle her belly

*Going back and reading something old I wrote and realizing, “wow, that’s actually pretty good!”

*Tiny Norah shoes sitting next to giant daddy shoes

*When Mia tells me a story from work and I see her heart and the realization that she claims me as her friend honors and pleases me so much it physically hurts

*Norah kisses

*Friends asking me to hem/repair/sew for them

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sweet Pod Soft Structured Carrier

Hello all! I've just completed a Sweet Pod soft structured carrier and I'm popping in to show off this beautiful carrier and my equally beautiful model, miss Norah.

I have been wanting to make some sort of soft structured carrier for awhile now, because I am apparently wrap impaired when it comes to back carries and because I hate the crazy long straps flying everywhere when I use my Mei Tai (which I mostly only use for back carries). But because I am wrap impaired and because back carries are sometimes simply life savers, I have been dealing with the flying straps. Well, here's my new Sweet Pod; I shall deal with flying straps no more!

I bought the pattern here on the recommendation of the lovely ladies at Diaper Sewing Divas.

Here is the result:

That's Norah and I showing off our lovely carrier. She's almost 16 months and nearly 23 lbs in that photo. And we're showing off my lovely skirt, too (just had to throw that in there since I finished that this week, too!) Garage sale pants 4 sizes too big + scissors + thread + needle = comfy, comfy skirt.

Here's a picture of us from the side. Not a terribly flattering photo of me, but it allows you to see how the webbing holds the carrier together and allows for the buckles and buckle adjustments.

And a back carry! Finally! The very purpose for which I made this thing! Also, as you can see, Elmo has become a very important participant in this particular photo shoot.

Here are some photos of just the carrier. Since I've not yet acquired a dress form, I attempted to model this on one of my dining room chairs. Humor me.

Close up of the front

Here's how it all hooks together.

This is the inside of the carrier, the place where Norah sits. You'll notice there is a panel that sits between her and I (which is why I took this photo). This is great for back carries. This panel allows you to put your child on your front then rotate them to your back without dropping them. I have gotten pretty good at hoisting Norah up onto my back, but I think this feature would be really helpful for mamas (and papas!) who are nervous about the 'getting the kid on my back' part of back carries. On the other hand, the panel will get in the way of nursing. I don't have a nursling at the moment and I'd probably be using a wrap for or a ringsling for a front carry anyways, but it's something to consider.

This is the sleeping hood. There is an invisible zipper at the top of the carrier where the hood lives inside a pocket. It's pretty clever, actually. I don't really get the whole sleeping hood thing as I never had any trouble with Norah being stable while sleeping in a carrier. But then, I never tried one, either. I seriously doubt Norah's going to be sleeping in this carrier, so I probably won't be able to let you know how this works until we have more babies. So, not for awhile anyways.

As far as actually sewing this, it wasn't bad. It looks daunting up front, but it really isn't. There are a lot of steps to follow and it takes a lot of time, but none of the steps are actually very difficult - its just taking the time to follow the instructions well. I have no idea how long it took me to put this together as I did it in bits and pieces here and there (with a 2 week gap while I ordered my hardware and waited for a backordered piece). I would say an intermediate sewer, or even a determined beginner, should be able to do this without a problem.

Cost wise, I believe I have $35-$40 in materials invested plus the price of the pattern ($14). It seems like a lot, but I'll definately use the pattern again for showers for friends and family, so I'm pretending the price of the pattern falls into my 'gifts' budget instead of my 'I really want this carrier' budget. And really, $40 + pattern isn't much at all compared to buying a new SSC. Most of what I have seen are easily double that. I got to pick out my fabric as well, which is another bonus. I bought plenty extra to make a matching bag, wet bag, and changing pad, which will be very nice (and, incidentlly, much less expensive than a purchased bag, wet bag, or changing pad). A purchased pre-made SSC wouldn't give me that option.

The carrier is very comfortable to wear, espeically compared to my Mei Tai. There are no crazy straps flying everywhere, and there is lots of padding. The shoulder straps are nicely padded and the hip belt is padded with a closed-cell foam which is stiffer than normal foam and prevents the hip straps from digging into my sides like they do with my Mei Tai. It took me a bit to get the buckles and straps adjusted so they were comfortable, but once I got them right it has been very cozy. It's also been easy to get Norah in and out of.

What else is there to tell you? I bought my hardware from Outdoor Wilderness Fabrics. They were lovely to work with and I'm happy with what I received. Try to order with a friend if you can, though. Hardware for one carrier ran $11 and some change, but there is also a $2.50 handling charge if your order is under $20, plus it was $10 shipping. I doubled my order and got rid of the $2.50 handling charge plus my shipping didn't go up at all. Waaaaay better deal to buy hardware for 2.

I will likely use this carrier mostly for back carries in place of my Mei Tai. There is free buckle carrier pattern out there I'm considering trying out mostly because it doesn't have an internal panel and would therefore be better for nursing. But I won't be considering it probably until we start thinking about more babies, so it'll be awhile. That one is here. If anyone makes it, let me know what you think.

I think that's about all I have to report. I will leave you with two last photos of my gorgeous model, for your viewing pleasure. Thanks for looking!

Photobucket Photobucket

Monday, April 12, 2010

When I Grow Up: Why I am Not a Loser

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to read the book A Million Miles In A Thousand Years by Donald Miller. I loved the general idea of this book. In summary, Miller tells us that it is our responsibility to make our lives good stories – stories worth telling – stories with meaning and direction, with love in action, with fear and overcoming, and maybe – if you’re me, anyways – a good deal of drama.

While I’m not entirely in agreement with his idea that I have a responsibility to God to live a good story, I agree that as a human I have a responsibility to myself, my community, and my family to live a good story. Plus I want to. I mean, how incredibly boring would it be to just hang out in front of the TV, never taking risks, never moving forward, never engaging yourself in the practice of just living? It would be nice and safe, but I think I’d claw off my face out of boredom.

However, there were some things about the book that pulled at me and made me wonder if maybe Miller wasn’t missing part of what I think makes my story a good one. For example, he didn’t seem to take into account the way the inbetween places just have to happen sometimes – how sometimes we’re inbetween things and paralyzed and we just can’t move forward, but these things ultimately somehow grow us in our story. I don’t think this is anything to apologize for. There are times when our souls have to rest and have to get bored and worked up and restless before we can be any good again. It is what it is. It doesn’t mean those times make your story a poor one.

There were a few other things I felt the book didn’t account for, not because Donald Miller would think I’m living a horrifically stupid story, but just because he’s not living the story I’m living and he was writing his own story – you know, like he should have been. No biggie, I still liked the book and I still like Donald Miller.

At any rate, we discussed this on a Tuesday night, and while I was talking about these thoughts on this book, my friend Audra said something to the effect of, “I’m so glad you went this way with it. I thought I was just about to get stuck thinking about how I don’t live a good story. I work in a day care and sometimes I feel so lame”. Or, she said something to that effect. It was two weeks and ten drinks ago, so I’m going with the paraphrase here.


Cuthbert has a theory that our lives can’t impact the world the way they would have able to 50 years ago. It sounds like pure cynicism up front, but then he keeps talking and you realize he really means it and he isn’t trying to be cynical. Cuthbert says that the world is so much bigger than it was 50 years ago. Technology has opened up the world in a way it has never been open before. We don’t just live in a local community – we live in a global community. And because everybody in the world has access to everybody else in the world, each person’s impact is smaller.

If you press Cuthbert, he will give you an example. He will tell you that his grandmother has memories to this day of one night when she hosted one specific party in her community and she was a star for one evening. These memories are a big deal to her – they represent something she did within her community that was something great, not only to her but to the entire community. People talked about it, people remembered it, people passed it on to their children and their grandchildren. It was one night - one party.

We can’t do this. Oh, we can throw parties – I do that all the time. But I can’t throw a party that’s going to enthrall my entire community and be the talk of the town for generations to come. The world is too big. My party is one party amongst a thousand other parties happening in town amongst 10,000 concerts in the US that people found on the web and flew to, amongst a zillion youtube videos being downloaded around the world at the same time I’m passing out marshmallows and graham crackers. The idea that I can do something great, at least in the way the world defines greatness, is a flawed idea. The world is too big; my backyard is too small. This is why I believe that the greatest thing I can do is to live my life in a way that inspires others to live their lives well – to live good stories. That’s all I’ve got. I’m too small for anything else, so I’m going to go with what I have, which is the capacity to publically live my life in a way that reflects my values. That’s it.


My generation was told when we were all small children that we could be anything we wanted to be when we grew up. We could do anything if we wanted it badly enough and if we worked hard enough at it.

Then we grew up.

And we are not what we wanted to be.

To quote Marilyn Manson (as it is clearly appropriate for 28 year-old women to do) we didn’t grow up to be big rock stars, celebrated victims of our fame.

And most of us didn’t grow up to be professional athletes. Or singers or astronauts or the President of the United States.

We did not grow up to be anything we wanted to be, and a good chunk of us are fairly disillusioned, disappointed, and chomping on SSRIs to help us deal with the perceived reality that we failed. We did not grow up to be anything we wanted to be. We either didn’t want it badly enough or we didn’t work hard enough and now we’re tracking flight luggage and typing grant proposals and making the rounds of the hospital halls doing whatever work we’ve found – the work that is not the anything we wanted to be – and we are depressed.

When I was a kid, I had a series of things I wanted to be. For awhile, I wanted to be a famous singer (inspired by Debbie Gibson, no doubt). When I got to high school I wanted to be a psychologist. Then I wanted to be an actor in a theatre. Then I wanted to be a social worker.

These are all fine and dandy. There’s nothing wrong with any of them, and I was told all my life I could be anything I wanted to be, so they were, in theory, all attainable. Except for the fact that I have a so-so singing voice, a personality so unbalanced I can barely allow myself to depend on me, moderate acting skills, and no patience whatsoever for the attitudes of generational poverty or the bureaucracy involved in social services. Basically, I would suck horribly at everything I thought I wanted to be.

I cannot be anything I wanted to be. I never had a chance. No amount of hard work or unbridled desire is going to make it possible for me to be a famous singer. No matter how badly I wanted it, I could not be a good psychologist. I just can’t. It isn’t going to happen.

Let me repeat this: I cannot be anything I want to be.

I can be a lot of things, many of which I would probably enjoy. I’m a grant proposal writer and I’m good at it and I like it – which all makes sense in light of the fact that my natural inclination has always been to write things. I’m a mom and I think I’m damn good at that, but then I’ve always been nurturing to the people I love. I think I’d be a decent public speaker, and probably not a horrible cook. There are a lot of things I can be.

But there are a lot of things I can’t be. Period.

While we were talking about this on a Tuesday, Audra told me, “I’m 26 years old and I work in a day care. I always feel like a loser when people want to know what I do.”

Audra is sweet and funny. She is responsible, considerate almost to a fault, open-minded, and demonstrates a child-like playfulness even in the light of things like $40 tequilla and the question of whether god exists. She’s a delight. She is not a loser. I would trust her with my child any day, because she is someone I can trust and a good person for children to be around. I’m betting Audra rocks it as a day care provider.

But Audra’s generation was told they could be anything they wanted to be, which raised the bar for them. Being able to be anything brings with it an expectation to be something great – and why not? If you can be anything in the world, surely you can be something great. But the world is too big, and Audra’s daycare is too small.

So Audra feels like a loser because she wipes tears and reads stories and gives morning snacks. She feels like a loser because she nurtures people’s children and keeps them safe and shows them love and provides a service that allows other women to enter the workforce if they so choose and work toward gender equality.

Are you hearing this? Audra feels like a loser.

This makes me very sad. Audra is not a loser.


Norah doesn’t talk much. I mean, she’s 14 months old. Her language skills are pretty limited. Unless you want to talk about Elmo or Cookie (Monster) or doggies or cheese, you’re out of luck. But one day Norah is going to be a better talker and someone is going to say to her, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And when she furrows her brow to think about it, they’re going to follow up with “You can be anything, you know, if you want it badly enough and you work hard enough”

And I will say, “No, you can’t Norah. You can’t be anything. You can be a lot of wonderful things, and you can do a great job at them, but you can’t be anything.”

And hopefully she will keep listening instead of thinking “Yowza, my mom is mean!” and disengaging.

Because then I will say, “Pay attention to the things you’re good at and that you love to do. Those are the things you’ll have the best chance at making a living with. Pay attention to those things when you decide what you want to be, because those are going to point you to the things you can do and that you can do well – the things you can be if you want them badly and if you work hard.”

And then no matter what she chooses to pursue, I will support her, even if she's horrific at it and all she gains is the knowledge that it's not really her thing. But I will not tell her the lie that she can be anything because I refuse to set her up for failure in that way. I refuse to make her feel like a loser for being unable to do things she shouldn’t be able to do anyways. I will not saddle her with that.

I didn’t grow up to be anything I wanted to be. I didn’t grow up to do something great. But I don’t feel like a loser. I shouldn’t have had those expectations in the first place. There are so many things I just can’t do, and the world is too big for me to be something great in the way the world defines greatness. I am what I am. I’m a writer, a mother, a person who desperately wants to inspire change and has nothing to work with but her own life. I’m a woman who desires community and works to make it happen - a person who tries her best to love on the hurting and broken. I am what I am. And I am not a loser.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Cult Leaders of the World, Unite! (Cohousing, part II)

Wow, it’s been awhile! Sorry about my absence as of late. I have all the best intentions of keeping up with this blog and then crazy things happen. Since I’ve written last, somebody went on maternity leave at work, your dear little H got bombarded with extra tasks, and a large federal grant opportunity came up that had to be completed within 2 weeks and involved getting 8 churches/agencies together multiple times, and, oh, here’s a random one… some preachers wanted to re-baptize me. In a pond. ‘Cause, you know, the first baptism didn’t stick. Or something. I’m thinking of petitioning Jonas for hazard pay.

Needless to say, it’s been crazy lately and I’ve been spending most of my down time trying to make sure I don’t miss anything with Norah as she grows ever so quickly into a curious, high-energy little girl.

Anyway, I wanted to finish up with the cohousing piece I started… erm, two months ago. Sorry about that. So, here we go with part two of your cohousing primer!

Okay, are you still with me on this cohousing thing? Do you need a refresher?
Here’s part one of my cohousing piece. Read it over…. do you have a picture of what cohousing looks like – or what it could look like for a community you could be involved in? Good.

Now you might be wondering to yourself, “Dear Lord, why in the world would I want to get involved with something like cohousing?” Or, more likely, you might be thinking to yourself, “Wow. H really is crazy. I’ve been suspecting it all these years, but now…”

Rest assured, I am not crazy. Or, well, rest partially assured. I may be slightly crazy, but not in regards to cohousing. There are a host of benefits to be had by living in cohousing:

Relationships and Support
Anyone who knows me well knows that I believe people are not meant to live in alone. And by ‘alone’ I don’t necessarily mean hiding out in an old shack in the middle of the woods shooting squirrels and drinking your own pee when it doesn’t rain enough. That could mean ‘alone’, too, I suppose, but that’s not what I’m getting at here. What I’m getting at is that I don’t think it is good for each individual or household in a given neighborhood to feel that they’ve got just themselves to rely on. I’ve got D and Norah at my house, and while I love them dearly, in the words of Kurt Vonnegut, they are not enough people. They simply aren’t. They can’t take care of everything for me. They can’t understand my momma or nursing struggles like Lisey or Mabel can. They can’t understand my need for an arts outlet – or the way I struggle with everyone expecting me to be so fucking balanced - the way Cuthbert can. They don’t bake with me: J does. They can’t photograph a wedding with me: Jack and Mateo can.

They just aren’t enough people. I believe people were made to live in community in a state of interdependence, and when that doesn’t happen things get out of whack. People get depressed. They feel lonely. They don’t feel important to other people and they don’t have the chance to make other people feel important. They often forget how to serve, and almost always forget how to let others serve them. They can’t get help with the things they aren’t good at and they have no one to offer help to with the things they are gifted at. It sucks.

Cohousing offers built-in community. You know most of your neighbors; you actually talk to most of them and have meaningful conversations on a regular basis. You find out who you can depend on for what, and you find the places where your skill set fits in. You get to talk, and you get to listen. You, in short, finally have a chance to get all those needs fulfilled that don’t get taken care of at home – not because your family isn’t good enough or doesn’t love you enough, but because they are simply not enough people. Cohousing is enough people.

Sharing of knowledge and skill base
Going along with the relationships and support idea, cohousing provides the opportunity to share knowledge and skills. Graham Meltzer, Ph D. and Cohousing Scholar, says, “In a conventional society, specialists tend to guard their expertise and protect the status and financial reward their position incurs. In cohousing, knowledge and skills are more readily shared. They become diffused throughout the community and contribute to the welfare and personal development of all.”

Don’t know how to grow a garden? The lady 3 houses down knows how and is more than happy to help you plant the community tomatoes (which she will also be more than happy to help you eat, come summer). Don’t know how to start your lawnmower? (wink, wink, you know who you are) Pop over and D will help. And at times it’s the other way around – you know something and you help others out. Either way, the sharing of knowledge and skills amongst a community is beneficial to everyone involved.

Also going along with the relationships and support idea, the very structure of cohousing provides a sort of accountability. Community, when done well, nearly always provides accountability. Accountability to what? That depends on your community. My friends and I work to keep each other accountable for living out good stories that reflect who we really are and how we want to live. This works for us, because we live closely enough in community to know what is in each others’ hearts, and therefore, whether we are living out the stories that are important to us individually.

Cohousing offers accountability like this, but also much more tangible accountability. Cohousing requires that you fulfill the commitments you make to your community and that you give of yourself in order to meet community goals. For example, if you don’t pay your dues and you never volunteer for work on site improvements, and you never help prepare common meals, and you never…. well, participate, that will get noticed. And it will prompt important conversations – conversations about why you aren’t participating, what the community can do to help you get connected, what kind of growth you might be looking for, etc.

Accountability is great for the group – it gets things done and creates a cohesiveness that is important when living so closely with other people. But accountability in itself is a benefit to each individual. Holding oneself accountable to something bigger helps develop responsibility, further personal growth, and enhance relationship skills.

Cohousing is great for kids
While I haven’t seen any studies to support this, the general consensus seems to be that children who grow up in cohousing are typically smarter, more socially adept, and better problem solvers than most other kids. Which makes sense, if you think about the amount of community support provided to them, the vast number of opportunities to practice a wide array of social skills, and exposure to consensus-based decision making they experience in cohousing. And think of all the knowledge and skill sets they have available to them! Why, little Norah can learn martial arts from J, painting from Cuthbert, videography from Jack…. etc. Regardless of whether any studies eventually validate the merit of cohousing for kids, I can’t imagine it not being good for them.

And on that note, I would suppose it’s nice for the parents, too. Built in playmates! Child care tradeoffs! Common room space on rainy days! Perhaps I should tone down the enthusiasm a bit – the slightly frazzled momma beast is showing through.

Sustainable living
Cohousing communities create opportunities for sustainable living in a variety of different ways:
• Most cohousing communities create an atmosphere of sustainable living simply in their design. Individual homes are often smaller than typical homes due to the availability of the common house – who needs a huge dining room when you can throw your dinner parties in the common house? A community kitchen, dining area, playroom, library, etc, all eliminate the need for excessive space in individual homes.
• Many cohousing communities are designed to discourage excessive use of cars.
• Many cohousing communities design their homes and buildings to use green/renewable energy sources, and to reduce energy consumption.
• Most cohousing communities use sustainable and/or recycled building materials in construction and/or renovation.

I’m sure there are roughly a bazillion more great benefits of cohousing, but I’m just going to leave you with these big ones that stuck out to me. This is not to say that cohousing doesn’t have its challenges. Virginia Lore, a resident of Duwamish Cohousing in Seattle Washington says, “The truest thing I know about living in cohousing is that it’s tough. The next truest thing is that it’s worth it. The tough-to-worth-it ratio changes daily”.

I think anything worth doing is going to have a tough-to-worth-it ratio that’s in constant flux, but I can see where cohousing might have some challenges that are, um, unique. It is hard for me to imagine coming to consensus on EVERY. SINGLE. THING. with a group of other people. And I’m sure conflicts arise when people are living such close and interconnected lives – and I’m also sure people have different ways of dealing with conflicts, which can cause more conflicts….. and so on, and so on. People have differing parenting styles, political views, and opinions about what kind of mulch the common house shrubbery is going to need. There are big differences and little differences, but I’m sure they are all significant. I’m sure there are challenges.

Despite that, I strongly suspect that the tough-to-worth-it ratio leans heavily toward worth-it a good chunk of the time. At any rate, I’d like to find out first hand.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Once Upon a More Embarrassing Time

It’s time for a fun story, wouldn’t you say? Here we go!

Now before I get started with my story, I feel the need to give a little background, lest you think I’m a total dumbass by the time I wrap this up. I do actually have some fairly decent reading comprehension skills, despite what you’re about to read.

Really, I do.

I swear.

I love to read. I’ve been reading since I was roughly 2 (so I’ve been told) and since then I’ve never slowed down. This year a message board I participate in is having a reading challenge. The challenge is to read 20,100 pages in 2010. At the rate I’m going, I should be done by September. And I’m a working momma. With a one year old who refuses to sleep. I just like to read a lot, and I’m lucky in that I’m a pretty quick reader and that reading comprehension comes pretty easy to me.

Honestly, I know how to read.


Okay, that’s enough background. Let the story commence!

Once upon a time (maybe 5-ish years ago?) I got into a reading rut and was looking for a new author to try. Why? you ask. Why not? Something new can be fun, right? You’ll never know unless you try. And so I went about my search for the perfect new author.

It occurred to me that in his writings, Stephen King had often praised the work of Peter Straub. I’d never read anything by Peter Straub, but I really enjoyed King’s stuff, so I figured, hey, maybe if Stephen King likes it, it’s pretty good. I decided to give it a go. I went out and bought my very first Peter Straub book – Ghost Story. I thought this would be a good one since it was very popular and well known, which tells me that a lot of other people have liked it. Lots of people liking a book = the book being pretty decent, most of the time.

I read it. It bored me stupid. It was a serious struggle to finish.

Now most of the rest of the world liked this, so I wasn’t sure exactly what was wrong with me. Maybe I was having a bad week? I didn’t know. I decided that I should give Straub another try, just in case I was having an off week or the book hit me wrong, or some other similar misunderstanding had occurred. I picked up another Peter Straub book, this one titled Floating Dragon. It wasn’t nearly as bad as Ghost Story. Not horrible, but nothing spectacular either, as far as I could see. Plus (and I’m sure this didn’t help things at all) it reminded me of the story line of another book that I’d read but that I had liked a lot better. *shrug* These things happen.

At this point I started to think that maybe I just didn’t like Peter Straub. Unfortunate, but it does happen. Doesn’t mean he’s a horrible author or that I’m a horrible reader. Sometimes things just don’t mesh, know what I mean? I gave up on him and moved right along to something else, giving myself lots of credit and pats on the back for at least trying, and for not giving up after just one book. Yay me! said the little cheerleader in my head, feeling quite relieved that I would never have to open another Peter Straub book, ever again.

Life continued, quite happily.

Then, one day, I went out during my neighborhood’s annual association garage sale. While picking through all of my neighbors’ books (what else are garage sales good for if not cheap books?), I found a hardback Peter Straub book for $.50. I figured, what the hell?, and decided to give it another go. If I didn’t like it I was just out $.50, and I’d sell the book next year at my own garage sale. That little cheerleader in my head was jumping up and down like I’d just discovered a cure for cancer. Whoo hoo! You’re trying again! You don’t have to, but you’re going to anyways! What a sport! said the little cheerleader. Rah, rah, sis boom bah! shouted the little cheerleader, while doing a snazzy little scissor kick.

I felt quite good about the whole thing.

I took the book home and commenced reading it. Here’s where things get complicated. You know how some books start off one chapter with one character and set of circumstances, then start the next chapter off with another character and set of circumstances, then somehow put them together further on down the line? This is what I was encountering.

Chapter 1: random characters with random circumstances.

Chapter 2: whole different set of characters with whole different set of random circumstances.

Chapter 3: yet another whole different set of characters with a whole different set of circumstances.

At this point I started to get a little worried. I could not, for the life of me, understand how he was going to get all these sets of characters together. I couldn’t figure out what they could possibly have in common or how they could be tied together. I was also having a hard time just following each individual story line – they seemed to be getting wrapped up at the end of each chapter and I couldn’t understand how they were going to keep going. I thought to myself, oh, dear god, is this a weird Peter Straub thing, or am I just too dumb to follow this? Then I thought to myself, he’d better start putting these people together pretty soon, or he’s going to lose me on this book too.

Then I thought to myself, this is so incredibly stupid. I am done.

Right at that moment, the little cheerleader we have come to know and love stepped in and told me, in no uncertain terms, that if I didn’t keep reading I’d never know how all these characters got together and then I’d be the stupid one for not even giving the character meeting a chance to work. Since she is not normally so firm or demanding, I listened carefully. I kept reading.

Chapter 4; new set of random characters, new set of random circumstances.

I finished the chapter. I looked at my book and thought, Seriously? WTF? I commenced reading chapter 5. You guessed it, new set of random characters, blah, blah blah. I did not finish this chapter. About 2 pages into the chapter I looked very seriously at my book, thinking, something is sooo not right here. Not wanting to disappoint my little cheerleader, I was determined to figure out why things seemed so off.

I examined the back cover very carefully.

And discovered that I was reading a book of short stories.

Which, looking back, pretty succinctly explained why each “chapter” was getting wrapped up at the end, and why none of the stories seemed like they were going to fit together.

*bangs head on desk* I don’t think I have ever felt stupider in my entire life, not even after telling the butter story and admitting that I kept dating the guy after that.

To this day, I have not read another Peter Straub book. This probably sounds stupid, but I’m too embarrassed to attempt it. Silly, I know. Peter Straub isn’t going to pop out of his book, pointing and laughing at me, and the librarian at the checkout probably isn’t a mind reader….. but still, I’m too embarrassed. I know what happened, and that’s been enough to scare me off. Not even my little cheerleader has encouraged the reading of more Peter Straub.

My cheeks are a little flushed just writing this right now.


I honestly can read, I swear.