Saturday, November 29, 2008

I could have sworn there were supposed to be 24 hours in a day

It seems simple. 24 hours in a day. I work for 5, sleep for 8, and have 11 remaining hours to do other things. But for some reason, it never seems to work out that way.

I get up at 3:30 am to feed the baby. I work from 5-10 am, then I come home, and the baby eats for a very very long time. Then I have to eat. Then I need a nap. Then I need to eat. Then it's bedtime again. Interspersed, of course, with more feedings and diaper changes and laundry.

So, if you come to my house, and see my sink full of dishes, and wonder, like I do, why I can't get to them during the 11 free hours I have every day, please be gracious. Those 11 hours don't exist.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Let's get controversial

I tend to avoid discussing controversial topics on this blog. But lately, I haven't been blogging much at all, so I thought, why not go all out and talk about something really controversial? I've had this post bouncing around in my head for a really long time, and I think it will do me some good to get it out. And, maybe, just maybe, it will do someone some good to read it.

Let's start with marriage. Marriage is an ecclesiastical concept. In most Christian denominations, marriage is a sacrament, like baptism and communion. I believe in marriage. I believe that it is a sacred bond, not to be entered lightly. I believe in staying married for life, and I believe in saving sex for marriage. In this day and age, very few people share my definition of marriage.

My church does share my definition of marriage. That is part of why I attend my church. My church also shares my definition of communion and baptism. This matters to me, because I am part of this church body, and I care about how it administers the sacraments.

I believe in separation of church and state. I don't want the government to tell my church who we can baptize or how to serve communion. There are many different Christian denominations, as well as many different religions, all of whom have different ideas about things like baptism and communion. And marriage.

Here's where this leads me: I don't think the government should marry ANYONE. To me, this is just like the government trying to baptize people. It's not their place to baptize or marry people; it's the church's place to administer sacraments.

But the government does marry people. It started marrying people, because there were legal implications to being married, and they wanted atheists to have access to those rights and responsibilities. I wish they had used a different word. Called it a "civil union" from the get-go. Because that's what most marriages in this country are. A legal arrangement with certain rights and responsibilities, based on a love relationship. Not a contract with their god of choice, and definitely not a covenant with my God. Most "marriages" in this country are not "marriages" by my definition of marriage. We're using the same word to mean different things, just as Catholics and Baptists use the word "baptism" to mean two different things.

But I'm okay with that. My decision to be a Christian is my decision. My decision to embrace Christian morality is based on my relationship with Jesus Christ. I don't expect the rest of the world to choose that morality any more than I expect everyone else in the world to do my husband's laundry. I do it because I love him, not because I think I'm supposed to. The same goes for my morality. I choose it because I love Him, not because I think I'm supposed to.

I don't think the government should be marrying anyone, but since they are offering a civil union contract and calling it marriage, I don't think they have the right to deny that contract to anyone. It baffles me that the Christian right clings to the issue of gender, and wants to deny government-issued marriage to same-sex couples, when so few of the other "Christian" requirements for marriage are being met. How is a heterosexual celebrity marriage that lasts four days any more "Christian" than a homosexual marriage performed in an Episcopal church?

If I lived in California, I would have voted "No" on Prop 8. I believe in freedom of choice, equality, and the right to embrace whatever morality you choose, for whatever reasons you choose (barring, of course, choices that directly injure others). I believe that a homosexual couple has as much of a right to be married in this country as an atheist couple. My church's doctrine should not define the government's actions.

When I attend a Catholic church, I am not allowed to partake in Holy Communion, because I was not baptized Catholic and confirmed in the Catholic church. They have the right to exclude me, because that is their doctrine. I don't think the government should force them to include me. I don't think they ever will, because it's none of their business who the Catholic church serves communion to. Likewise, I hope that the government will stay out of churches' administration of the sacrament of marriage. Many churches require engaged couples to go through premarital counseling, won't marry couples who are living together, won't marry divorced couples, won't marry couples who don't regularly attend their church, etc. They have the right to do that. What they don't have the right to do is deprive those engaged couples of their rights, under law, to all of the legal ramifications of being married. When a church refuses to marry a couple, they can always go to another church, or to City Hall. If the government refuses to marry people, they can't go anywhere (except maybe Canada).

I am interested to hear your comments on this, because in all of the arguments I have heard on both sides of this issue, I have heard very little that fits what I believe. You may disagree with me, but please keep it civil. This is my blog, and I don't want any mudslinging here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Pocketful of Partial Posts

Some stuff that's on my mind that didn't make it into my monthly letter...

Valerie is asleep on my legs right now. It's cozy and warm. She doesn't sleep as much as she used to, though.

Sometimes, Valerie laughs in her sleep. It's adorable. Sometimes she cries in her sleep. It's heart-wrenching.

Typing on my desktop/couch configuration is awkward and annoying. This is a big part of the reason I have not been updating lately. But my brother-in-law is awesome, and is sending me his old laptop. Can't wait!

Valerie turns her head to the right more than the left. I think it's because that's the side she has to turn to when she nurses lying beside me on the bed. Coincidentally, my left breast makes more milk than the right. Jer and I have traded sides of the bed to test my theory.

Because of stupid, annoying insurance issues, Valerie didn't have her two-month check-up until she was three months old. We ended up getting her three of the vaccines on the schedule, skipping two, and delaying one. Which, some of you will read, and wonder how I dare skip any, and some of you will read, and wonder why I dare gave her any. Suffice it to say, I did my research, weighed the pros and cons, calculated the risks, and came to this conclusion. I appreciate the good discussions I have had with people in trying to decide what to do about vaccinations.

I cried when the nurse gave her the shots. Fortunately, they let me nurse her while they did it, which calmed her down quickly. It was hard, though. And then she didn't feel well for two days. And by the end of the second day, I felt so drained, because she was eating so often, and I was fighting her sickness through my milk. Which is an awesome thing, when you think about it, to literally be able to take on your child's suffering. But still exhausting.

You know, I'm a semi-. Partial vaccinations. Partial co-sleeping. We feed Valerie breastmilk exclusively, but I do pump, and we give her bottles when I am at work, or want a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. I babywear when we are out walking, but we do own a stroller, and it comes in handy on occasion. We use cloth diapers, but we used disposables for the first six weeks. Parenting is not religion, you CAN pick and choose what works for you.

Speaking of which, here is a cute picture of me wearing Valerie:

Valerie Jeanne 201

My house is a total mess. I was just starting to sortof get the hang of having a baby and taking care of the house, and then I went back to work. Yesterday, I was feeling so exhausted and overwhelmed, it felt like the first weeks all over again. I guess you can never really stay on top of life; it changes too often.

Please click on my ads! It honestly makes a difference. And this Christmas is going to be tight. My sister suggested that we all make things this year, which is a great idea, except for that whole not having time/energy to clean the kitchen, let alone engage in creative activities. I'm hoping that, once I get into the swing of working, I will rediscover time and energy for nice things like making my own jelly. I really want to make apple cider jelly.

A few things I do manage to regularly have time for: church every Sunday (I'm back to drumming again!), games group every Wednesday evening (my character just promised to join the pirates for a short-term contract!), and once- or twice-weekly walks with a group of new moms whose kids are all only a few months older than Valerie. All of these things are much more interesting than cleaning my kitchen.

There was frost on my windshield this morning.

Three Months Old!


Dear Valerie,

Today Yesterday Almost a week ago, you turned three months old. There are many reasons that this month's birthday letter is late, most of which have to do with too much to say and not enough time to sit down and do justice to saying it. Then I had to remind myself that I am doing this for you and for me and not for a Pulitzer Prize. So, here is a fumbling attempt at sorting out an extremely momentous month.

First, we took a trip to Canada, and you got to meet your cousins, April and Nicholas, for the first time. You barely notice your cousins at this age - you are much more interested in the funny faces that adults make at you. But in your interactions are glimpses of the future. Even though we live so far apart geographically, I am glad that your aunts and uncles and your daddy and I all conspired to have kids so close together in age. I'm looking forward to watching how the three of you develop the unique, cousiny, long-distance friendship that I can already see forming in your baby-love. Founded, at least in part, in a shared embarrassment of what huge geeks your parents are.


You get to see your cousin, Trevor, slightly more often, and I hope you will have a great relationship with him, too, as the two of you grow closer in size and mobility. Trevor is an active kid, and I would love to see you kicking a ball around with him, but I will understand if you inherit your mother's sports-ineptness. He loves you to pieces, even if you won't play with him yet, and he can just about say your name (although it comes out "Allery"). You're a lucky girl to have three awesome cousins, so close to your age.

Trevor is proud of his cousin

Oh, and I would be delinquent if I didn't post at least one picture of you with your dog-cousin, Reggie (Nana and PopPop's dachshund). Your dad loves forcing the two of you into many a photograph, and maybe if I post one, he will stop torturing the poor dog into posing with you.


Your biggest developmental milestone this month has been holding your head up. It happened all of a sudden, after our trip to Canada. You had been lifting your head before that, but now you just keep it up most of the time. I hardly have to support your neck at all anymore, unless you're feeling sleepy. But then you usually get snuggly, too, and I don't mind a little bit of regression when it gives me such a cuddly baby in return.

Valerie Jeanne 029

I'm slowly realizing that you're starting to grow up. Sometimes it takes a milestone like that to make me notice. Sometimes, it takes a doctor telling me that you have suddenly jumped to the 75th percentile, when you used to be in the 15-25th. And sometimes, it takes opening up my wallet to show someone a picture of you, and nearly dropping my wallet because I am stunned by how little you look like the picture in my wallet anymore.

This month, as I mentioned, has been ridiculously eventful, in our house, our city, and our country. It started with your father losing his job, which threw all of my plans for us, and my naive ideas about how our family was going to function, into a tailspin. The bottom line was that I ended up having to go back to work.

I work for Starbucks. It's a good, honest job, and I enjoy it immensely. And we needed health insurance, and me going back to work was the easiest, most logical way for us to get it. But I am a worrier. It's one of my biggest flaws. And I worry that I am sending you the wrong message. I don't want you to think that I value money over spending time with my family. I don't want you to think that being a mommy isn't a fulfilling or valuable job on its own. And I worry, on the other hand, about sending the message that mothers can't work or shouldn't work. And I worry about sending the message that mothers can't be lawyers, because I stepped down from that career. I worry about a lot of things, and I don't suppose you think about any of those things. You probably wonder where mommy's boobs are, and why you have to drink from that weird bottle thing instead. But one day, you'll have questions about all of those other things. I hope I have answers.

For now, you are enjoying the quality time you are getting to spend with your daddy. And, when mommy and her boobs get home from work, smelling like coffee, you giggle and grin and smile at me for several minutes, then you latch on and nurse for two straight hours. Seriously. You eat like a maniac lately. It's a good thing that you're a breastfed baby so you're allowed to pig out all you want. And it's a good thing you're too young to stop me from posting photographs of your adorable pudginess. Just look at those rolls!


This month was also your first Hallowe'en, which during a less eventful month would have merited its own post. But alas, I still have a lot of things to get around to in this letter, so here are two pictures from Hallowe'en to tip the cuteness scale of this post.

Valerie Jeanne 175

Valerie Jeanne 144

This month was the World Series, too. And, although I don't normally care much for baseball, your father does, and it's easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of rooting for the home team. This was the first championship a Philadelphia team won in 25 years, or something like that. It was thrilling to watch them win, and to hear our quiet little suburb go wild with horn-honking and fireworks. I think they won because you were wearing your Phillies booties.

But the most exciting thing of all came on the very last day of your third month of life, when America voted for their new president. Even though I'm 30 years old, this was the first time I was living in the United States during an election, and it was the first time I was able to vote in a presidential election. Near the end of the campaigning, I was almost ready to lose hope. I had never seen such an outpouring of hatred as I did coming from supporters of both candidates leading up to election day. I deliberately avoided political discussions because, although I knew I had given my choice a lot of thought, just mentioning my political affiliation brought all kinds of false accusations down on my head. This was doubly hard because, for the first time in my memory, there was a candidate that I genuinely wanted to support. A candidate that I genuinely believed could carry America through this financial crisis and into better days. And I'm a little ashamed that I kept my mouth shut during the campaign, but I saw so much anger and hatred being thrown around, I didn't think it would have been productive.

I voted for Obama. Twice, because I voted for him in the primaries, too. And I am proud of my choice. I am proud of my country for choosing him as their president, not because democrats are better than republicans, but because he is the right man for the job. McCain's dignified concession speech made me cry. Obama's inspiring acceptance speech made me cry. And, as excited as the city of Philadelphia was in the days following the Phillies' World Series victory, the mood was even more celebratory the morning after the election. I am optimistic about this country for the first time in years, and am finally starting to think of it as my home, rather than just "that place I live that's not Canada." And I'm excited for you, that you were born in the same year that America elected Barack Obama president. And I'm hopeful that maybe some of those difficult questions that I worry about having to answer someday will be a little easier to answer, because when you ask me about what you want to be when you grow up, I will be able to answer, truthfully, "Yes, you can even be president."


Your Mommy.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Road Trip: the Miniseries (5,6,7)

The network has unceremoniously dropped the miniseries currently in progress, and will be playing all of the remaining episodes back-to-back during the night of the basketball finals. They figure no one was watching anyhow, so no one will miss it.

Episode Five:

Sunday night, we had our big, family Thanksgiving dinner. I can't remember exactly how we managed it, but we somehow actually played the game of Settlers we had set up the night before, and finished it in time to set the table for dinner. Unfortunately, we did not finish in time for me to make my salt-free white sauce for the green bean casserole, so we ended up just having plain green beans with dinner. Which was just as well, because we had picked up fresh green beans the day before at the farmer's market, and they were delicious without being smothered in sauce. Dinner was incredible, although my mother dubbed it "simple" because of the lack of green bean casserole, even though it had all of the other beloved Thanksgiving fixings. (And yes, for all my American friends, we eat pretty much all of the same things you do at a Canadian Thanksgiving, we just do it six weeks sooner without any pilgrims.) I have a photograph of the set table after Benjie opened the can of cranberry sauce and left it in the can-shape on the serving dish, but before Alana was a party-pooper and sliced it up. Unfortunately, that photo is still on my laptop, which theoretically still works, but has no screen to confirm that fact to me.

So, we woke up on Monday morning, and decided not to go home just yet. I wanted to go shopping at Bulk Barn, my favorite store in the world, of which there is no equal where I live in the United States. And I had a gift card to Value Village, but neither store was open on Monday, because it was a holiday. So we decided that we would leave on Tuesday after I made those two, quick, shopping trips. I was glad we ended up staying, though, because it gave Valerie some quality one-on-one Grandma time.


We said goodbye to Alana and Eric and Nick on Monday, then spent the rest of the day recovering a bit. It was nice.

Episode Six:

Tuesday morning, I went shopping. I have been a thrift store shopper for most of my life, and I have mastered the art of finding things on a rack that will fit my size and style. Then I got pregnant, and I grew a belly, but I still did pretty well at finding things that I liked, and fit, at thrift stores. Then I had a baby, and my weight returned mostly to normal, and my belly returned mostly to normal, but other, um, bits of me did not return to normal. And I can't seem to find things that fit me at thrift stores anymore. I tried on 30 or 40 shirts that morning, and anything that looked like it might fit me was either too tight in the chest, too short to cover my belly, or baggy and hideous all over. I had been hoping to find five t-shirts, but I only managed to find one. I finally gave up and headed over to the long-sleeved shirts, where I had a little more luck, but I really prefer short-sleeved shirts, and left more than a little disappointed. I have a large collection of clothing, an eclectic mish-mash obtained over the years through a shopping theory that basically consists of, "Hey, this fits me and is unique/fun/silly/nice, I should get it," and then never getting rid of anything. And now, I am slowly realizing that 90% of that stuff will probably never fit me again. But I'm not quite ready to purge my wardrobe just yet. I'm in clothing limbo.

I had better luck at Bulk Barn, because other than still not liking coffee, my tastes in munchies have not changed. I bought all of my favorite snacks, and a whole bunch of spices that I was running low on. (Seriously, if you can ever find a bulk store to buy spices, it's the best. I can refill my jar of bay leaves about 5 times over for 19 cents.) But my lengthy shopping trip, and our continued putting off of packing, and one last stop to say goodbye to Benjie and Trish and April, and we weren't on the road until dinnertime. Which, for those of you keeping score, is awfully late to start an eight hour trip.

We stopped for dinner just over the border, at a diner chosen in part because I have stopped there in the past and know it's good, and in part because of its proximity to the town where two of our college friends, Ben and Michelle, had recently moved. After ordering, I called 411 and managed to get a phone number for them. Michelle was ecstatic to hear from us. She said that she'd be right over and would let Ben know to meet us there when he was done work. We had a really nice visit over dinner, and sat talking afterward for far longer than we should have. Ben mentioned that their guest room was still full of boxes from moving, but that we were more than welcome to stay with them if we wanted to. We were relieved to not have to finish the trip at that late hour, and happy to be able to spend some more time visiting with friends that we had not seen in far too long.

Episode Seven:

After a leisurely morning, we hit the road again, and the trip home went significantly better than the trip up. I stopped trying to use bottles while we were on the road, and stopping to nurse her when she needed it made for a much less stressful trip home. Lesson learned. (Although we have since switched bottles to Dr. Brown's, which she seems to take a whole lot better than the Medela ones we had been using, so I might try again on another trip in the future.)

So, we were home again on Wednesday evening, just in time for our Wednesday night game night. We had a nice relaxing evening with friends, although we found that we were a little too tired to actually play in the end. It was a nice way to round out a nice almost-week-long trip, and it was really nice to come home to a mostly clean house. (I love when I clean up before leaving, it's such a nice treat when I get home, and I've forgotten by then how frazzled and stressed I was trying to get it all done.)

The end.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Station Break

We interrupt the miniseries currently in progress to bring you this special announcement.

The management apologizes for any delays you may have experienced in the delivery of the Road Trip story. It's just like when there was that writer's strike, except in this case, there's only one writer, and the laptop that she always used to write while nursing her baby comfortably on her couch went on permanent strike. We are seeking creative resolutions to this problem, which currently involve pretending that a desktop computer is a laptop and setting it up in the living room. Unless anyone wants to give me a laptop. Anyone?

Hopefully, the couch/desktop configuration will be up and running soon. Until then, you can always cheat and peek at Flickr to see what I am hoping to eventually blog about.