Friday, May 31, 2013

Simple Pleasures of May

Family

I'm really enjoying Baby O's little developing quirks, like how he randomly scratches everything with his left hand. He's suddenly take an interest in crawling, standing, walking, and climbing all at once, so it's like a whole new world over here. And of course May is an exciting time of year to be married to a teacher, with so much summer togetherness to look forward to.


Community 

We have so many dear friends getting married this year and I am just delighted for all of them and looking forward to the weddings to come this summer. I've also loved seeing O beginning to take so much joy in our close-knit church family here. I think Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights are his new favorite times of the week. So much entertainment. 

Watching

The Office. After the series finale, we started back at the beginning because Andy had never seen the first (and best) few seasons. I'm looking forward to reliving the Jim and Pam excitement all over again.

Arrested Development. Sooooo excited about this. It was a slow start and Lindsay's new face :( is kind of distracting, but I'm enjoying it more as it goes along. I think it might even improve upon a second viewing when you have a better idea of what's going on.

Call the Midwife. This show gives me the feeling of having read a good memoir after I watch it. It's not flashy or suspenseful or hilarious, but I always go away having subtly learned something good about how to live and care for others.

Somewhere Between. This documentary follows four teenage adoptees from China as they process their similar experiences and struggles with identity. I loved how much respect this film had for the opinions and experiences of each person involved in the adoptions, especially the girls themselves.

P.S. We don't have a TV in our home, so our shows and movies can (nearly) always be found easily online (and thanks to some local unprotected Wifi, my parents' Netflix account, and the internet age, cost us a total of 0 cents!).

Reading

Simple Blogging. Great quick read if you are interested in blogging without it completely taking over your life. My biggest take away was to write first and read second when I sit down to the computer, which has helped me immensely.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking. As an introvert married to an introvert and (so far it seems) producing more introverts, I found this book fascinating the whole way through. There's even an interesting bit on why bloggers tend to be introverts.

The Cloister Walk. I've yet to get really into it, but I'm taking my sweet time. I really want to like it, but I think I may not be in the right season for a slow read. If I'm not more interested by the time it's due back at the library, I may save it for later.

Common Prayer. I've been picking this up on and off using a mixture of the pocket edition and the online version. The liturgy is beautiful, but I'm just not very motivated or patient these days.

And in case you're wondering, Baby O's favorites from the library this month were Snuggle Puppy and Peekaboo Morning, both of which I now have memorized, obviously.

Doing

Getting out in the warm weather to the library and parks and lunch with friends, with weekends traveling for weddings and family visits. Most of our time outside of that has been spent at home just settling into a rhythm as a family of three, which feels really nice.


Loving

Picking up our beautiful bucket full of surprise produce at the market every other week, Baby O's (mostly) improving sleep habits, and even though I'm not sure how I feel about Mother's Day, I'm loving all the honest conversations that it has started online this year. This stands out.

What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh

Monday, May 20, 2013

Tales from the NICU: Breastfeeding Excuses

In September 2012, my full-term newborn son spent the first three weeks of his life in the neonatal intensive care unit. "Tales from the NICU" are stories from our unexpected stay there. 

Warning: This story discusses breastfeeding, so if you're  uncomfortable with that topic, look elsewhere, but please do remember that humanity as we know it is has long been dependent of the life-giving work of breastfeeding mothers. 

***

I did it again today. Felt the need to explain the whole darn thing to a nearly complete stranger. Now that my son is nearly nine months old, I find I am able to keep my mouth shut most of the time, as long as no reference, direct or indirect, is made to the way I am feeding him. But given even the slightest comment, or a glance that I perceive as judgmental, and all bets are off. That's when you get the full story, or at least my carefully rehearsed abbrew`viated version of it. This isn't that version:

When I was pregnant, heck even before, breastfeeding was assumed. I never even really made a decision about it because, duh. Why wouldn't I breastfeed? I knew I would breastfeed exclusively for at least six months and not quit until at least a year. I read the books, I did the research, I bought the stuff, I even wrote it into my birth plan. I was ready.


And then, this happened. And there I was, a brand new mama, with a brand new baby, stuck in the hospital. Struggling, o struggling, to make things work. To this day, I don't know if it was me or him or the situation or all of it. It seemed like the whole world was conspiring against me, even my own body, because there was never very much milk, despite the tea and the pills and the pumping and the food and the "rest" and the "help."

Very little milk, but o the tears. So many tears. I feel them coming on just thinking about it. They were constantly boiling to the surface, day and night. But I didn't quit. I fought. I fought the nurses and the doctors and myself and my baby because this was Important and there was no Plan B in my birthing plan, not for this. And how often had I heard that it was his birthright, this milk of mine, every drop. So I had no choice but to get it to him, even if he fought me, because if I gave up, if I gave him formula? Game over. The whole thing, new motherhood itself, would fall apart, I was sure. This was not how it was supposed to go and I would. not. let it. end like this.

I looked high and low for a solution, but all I got was guilt trips or nonchalance. The end of the world or no big deal or, worst of all, denial that a true problem even existed. So I just kept fighting and fighting and fighting until they said it had gone on long enough and that if I wanted him to go home he needed to gain some weight. So I gave him that $#!*ing bottle of formula and I sobbed my eyes out for the disaster of it all, for the way I had failed him right from the start, and for the the pain I had to watch him endure day after day, and for the sleep deprivation. The nurses said it would get better once we got out of there, that it would all be normal soon, but it never was. It was no easy task to make it here even, to nine months of at least some nursing, but exclusivity was never within our grasp.


I have no idea what nursing would have been like in a normal situation, completely easy or still really hard or somewhere in between, but when I look back on those weeks, it makes me angry to realize how sabotaged we were by the environment. Almost every single time I nursed by baby, there was someone not far away, asking how long he had nursed, how much I had pumped, commenting on his weight that day, or his position, or my tension, or how I needed to relax more or pump more or eat more, or some other helpful piece of advice that contradicted another piece of advice from a nurse the day before. They mostly all had good intentions, really they did, but what I really needed more than anything was uninterrupted time with my baby in bed with me, where we could both rest and eat as much as we needed.

But those are not the cards we were dealt.

And despite the fact that I have (mostly) come to terms with it all and am just so immensely grateful for this goofy, healthy, formula-loving baby of mine, I still sometimes feel the need to explain why I'm not the nursing mother you and I both think I should be. But I usually don't say all that. I usually just say, "He was in the NICU for a few weeks when he was born, and we had some trouble with breastfeeding."

Saturday, May 11, 2013

On Motherhood: A Typical Day

I've only been a mother for about nine months, longer if you count those days I was pregnant, or my big sister mothering, or my nanny mothering. But I've been a mom in the traditional sense for about nine months, and I've learned a few things in that time.

I've learned that everyday mothering, especially this full-time gig that I've got, is a lot of mundane and never ending tasks. It is dishes in the sink and ants on the counters and toys on the floor and cheerios in the high chair and spit up on the couch and pee on the sheets and laundry in the washer and vinegar in the bucket and oatmeal. all. over. It is screams during diapers changes and fights at bed time and protests in the car and fussing in the grocery store. It is midnight wakings and not enough sleep and up with the sun and somedays down with it too. It is loneliness and frustration and exhaustion. It is all these things and more. Really and truly. But it is also other things, too.

It is first smiles and first teeth and goofy sounds and crazy faces. It is open-mouthed kisses and books before bed and drifting off in my arms. It is grins upon waking and excitement at lunch time and the joys and preferences and ticks and personality of a person developing before my eyes.

It is beauty and disaster all in one day. All in one hour. All in one moment.


And it is the snippets of joy in the mess that keep me loving it, keep me waking up wanting more, keep me choosing to be here day after day. At least, that's what motherhood is in the nine short months I've been doing it so far. Tedious and delightful.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Comfort

I didn't expect to wind up here, in this dirty southern city that is made up of so much that I tried to run away from. I thought I'd be somewhere exotic, somewhere harder, where the rebels gather.


But instead, I am here, in this slow-motion blur of front porches and hospitality and comfort food, o the comfort food: mac 'n cheese, collard greens, cheesy grits, and desserts galore. I have to take it slowly of course, but I embrace it, because it is part of the beauty that this place offers, part of it's "welcome, come on in, we'll take care of you." and I am comforted by more than the food. I am comforted by the people, by their warmness and their vulnerability, by the dirty rawness of this place.

Five Minute Friday

This post is part of Five Minute Friday: One word. Five Minutes. No Editing. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Adventures in Simplicity: Beginnings, or My Second Trip to Mexico

These are the stories of our family's adventures in living simply. We've had our share of highs and lows in the few short years we've been on this path, but we're loving just figuring it out together as we go along. And now with a new baby in the mix, things are sure to get even more adventuresome! 
***

I've been to Mexico twice in my life and each trip changed my life profoundly. The second trip was as a youth leader with my home church, the summer after my first year in college. During the day, we served at a small church and orphanage in a rural village, and each morning and evening we spent with our host families there. It is these before and after times that I remember most, the warm egg and bean tortillas for breakfast and dinner, the cold glasses of Tang, the dirt floors, and the fading and tattered depictions of Mary pinned to the walls. We could barely communicate with our kind hosts, but their sweet hospitality spoke so loudly and graciously to us.


The part that changed my life though, was a story I heard on our last day there, as we were preparing to leave. The pastor of the local church told us about a donation of household goods he had received that week and about how he and his wife, looking around their community and seeing so much need, didn't feel like those items were theirs to keep. So, they gave them to our host family, a middle-aged couple barely making ends meet and caring for several grandchildren, while also being loyal members of the church and regular hosts for visiting volunteers. But they too, looked around at their community, and were reminded of the elderly woman that lived nearby, alone in a small shack, who depended on them for many of her meals. They saw that her need was even greater than theirs, so they gifted every single one of the items that they were given on to her.

Both the church and our host family could have used these items, and would have been completely justified in keeping them, but they lived their lives with such open hands, that they were ever ready and willing to gladly give up all they could to those with the most need.


It's been nearly 7 years now, since I first heard that story, but I still share it regularly. When I came home from that trip and read my Bible, it began saying things that I had never heard before, things about justice and community and poverty, things about flowers and birds and fog. So, I changed the way I was living and what I lived for according to these truths that had been hidden in plain sight and my life has never been the same. I stopped buying so much stuff and started living with what I had. I spent more money at thrift stores and way less overall. Like so many of my generation, I read Shane Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution and said, "Yes. Yes. Amen." the whole way through because this guy was reading the same Bible that I had just read for the hundredth yet first time.

What I meant to explain was part of why this little family of ours strives to live simply, but what I am also explaining is how so many things came to be. It is what called me to downtown Nashville and Durham's Waltown and the Pine Ridge Reservation and home. It is also a huge part of what drew me to my husband (ok, that and his good looks), because I could see that he was as committed, if not more so, to a lifetime of living with less to put people first.

Beautiful Pine Ridge. O, my heart. 
So at the core, this is why we are striving to live simply, not because it is more affordable, or easier, or healthier, or better for the environment, though wonderfully it is all of those things, but because it frees up so much space in our lives to love people well, including each other and this little boy of ours. We don't always do this well, in fact some days we stray veeerrry far off the path we intended to trod, and we are forever traipsing through the bushes to find it again, but I guess that's part of what makes it such an adventure. We intermittently fail and succeed, we figure out when to stand firm and when to give, and we are learning to live life with open hands, knowing nothing we are given is ever ours to keep.

Monday, May 6, 2013

senses: strawberries and baby teeth





Hearing: baba dada mamama *raspberry* waaaAAAHHHhhh! // the creaking of the rocker as baby drifts off // a few much-needed kind words from friends
Touching: little fingers always finding my hair and necklaces // bare feet under a thin sheet as the weather warms up
Seeing: a little white speck popping through baby's gums // playful evening reunions between my two favorites
Tasting: farm fresh eggs, juicy ripe strawberries, and too many dark chocolate chips
Smelling: everything I've missed after three weeks of stuffiness  

Inspired by Katie's Pencil Box.