Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Thirteenth Tale

Okay, so soon after Harry Potter, I didn't really expect to read a Really Good Book. I've had a string of luck recently; Special Topics in Calamity Physics was a) very entertaining, b) Clever and c) well written, despite a few failings. You can't go wrong with Harry Potter. Plus, I even found another decent mystery writer! (Ruth Rendell).
So when my friend Shoshana gave me The Thirteenth Tale, which she loved, and basically demanded that I read it, I wondered if it was too much to ask to read another good book.
People, it's really good. Especially if you're a reader.
Again, there were some overly gothic/'ugh, I didn't really want to know that' sort of passages, but much of the book is given to contemplating books and love of books (the main character grows up with a father that owns an antique bookstore! And she learns to read from these Old Books! And their day consists of going to the bookstore and reading! (For reasons I won't go into here, they don't actually sell many books, and thus don't have many customers! And thus don't have to actually talk to people--they just read! This is an ideal childhood, really. Sure, she's socially inept, but she had unlimited access to books!)
Anyway, the novel combined good qualities of mystery, Bronte-type novel, family drama, and book lovers book. Dyami pointed out that writing a book about book lovers is a pretty good marketing decision. Surprise! Book lovers want to buy your book.
Ah, but see, the thing is, the book is also about a wonderful novelist--a contemporary Dickens, and if you're going to write about a really, really good novelist, you've got to write, well, a pretty darn fine novel.
And I don't know if this author (Diane Somebodyorother) is a Dickens, but she wrote a very good book.
PS. Those of you on my Christmas list, don't read this book! Because I need ideas for Christmas presents! So no fair poaching my ideas! You know who you are!

for posterity

I have to share a funny and cute thing one of our friends' daughter does when she sees Lucy. Petra is about a year older. And she adores Lucy.
Anyway, Petra is learning various signals for animals. One of them is for a horse: she makes a little nickering sound with her tongue. When she sees Lucy. And then she tries to sit on Lucy, because she wants Lucy to be her horsie. Petra plays horsie all the time with the rest of the family, so why not with Lucy?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

the no dairy sleep solution

For several weeks, my sleep went down the crapper. Not just nighttime, either--but naps. For some reason I wasn't getting any. She would thrash, and then not sleep long enough for me to fall asleep anyway.
This was disheartening since I gave up wheat (again) to try to remedy bad sleep. And it seemed to be working...for about three days. Then we had several more weeks of crappy sleep.
Then I did a little a little thinking/triangulation and realized this particular bout of sleep deprivation and realized that it started round about when I decided to sample a pint of goats' milk vanilla yogurt.
MMMMMmmmmm. Creamy vanilla goodness (for those of you who are thinking, Goat milk yogurt? Ugh, may I remind you that I haven't had any dairy for eleven months?). I bought another pint. And another. I was on my fourth in about three weeks.
Anything that tasted that good just had to be giving Lucy problems, right?
Two days of no yogurt, and she's been sleeping much much much better. And taking actual naps!
Much as I love creamy vanilla goodness, I love sleep more.
I wonder: you can make ice cream from breastmilk? Perhaps I should try pumping again.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

paradigm shift

Okay, people, I know I can be annoying and slightly smug about the environmental stuff lately. Reuse, recycle, yada yada yada. And yet it has been made very clear to me lately that a lot of the stuff we throw away doesn't even make our lives easier.

I was talking to a friend of mine who is a pro mommy (2 kids, still sane). She was explaining how she has to go to several stores every week because they need groceries from Henry's and paper goods from Ralphs. No storage space=weekly trips for paper towels=Hours of Shopping!
I've always hated buying paper goods--especially because I, too, shop at your crunchy Henry's/TJ's/Jimbos locales, where the paper goods are "green" (bringing to mind Frost: "Nature's first green is gold", ie expensive). So they required an Extra Trip to Target.
Then I decided a while ago to only use cloth napkins. We have some that I treat super badly and decided I didn't care if they got stained.
Then, a few months ago, I decided not to buy paper towels, either, and just use rags. (Don't worry, we're still using toilet paper. No plans to switch just yet).
It means I don't have to go to Target very often at all.
And it occurred to me, with all the time my poor friend was spending shopping for paper goods (with two kids, it's got to be considerable) and the lack of storage space, it might make more sense for her to cut out the paper and just use cloth. When I mentioned it, she blinked, and started to agree. Even if it means an extra load of laundry a week (not having two kids, or kids that eat, I know I'm unacquainted with true Mess), it's probably still easier than a trip to the store.
I wonder whether some of these time-saving things we use really save time, after all. Even if you leave the environmental angle out, perhaps sometimes it's worth not buying stuff, if it means you don't have to shop as much.

On a similar note, I made the switch to cloth grocery bags a while ago.
I did this with much hesitation, since I have a tendency to do the idealistic thing and drive myself (and everyone else crazy).
But I hated plastic grocery bags. I knew throwing them away was BAD, but I did it anyway. There were just too many! At the grocery store, they put about one item in each bag. So you have six zillion bags. And then they have babies when you take them home! I tried to get paper, which I could at least drop in our recycling can, but it's still using trees (and I've heard, even recycled, they're not much better than plastic)
But surprise! I love my cloth grocery bags. I use them all the time, for:
  1. Grocery shopping, obviously. It took a while to get used to putting them back in the car afterwards, but only a few weeks. I keep them in the back seat, next to Lucy, so I don't forget to bring them in. Every so often I forget anyway, which is a pain, but it's becoming more automatic. Big bonus: they don't fall apart, and you can sling them over your shoulder, making them easier to carry. They're a lot more comfortable to carry than paper or plastic, too.
  2. Picking up the veggies from the CSA. I always had to remember to bring bags before. Now I don't.
  3. Beach/park. Now we have easy-wash, easy-carry bags that are right there for toting whatever.
  4. Library. God, it's lovely having bags at the library. I use one to bring in the books to drop off, while I'm browsing to hold my purse, and then to hold my books before I check out (since I get way too many).
  5. Bringing junk in from the car. I just stuff trash into the bag and have an easy way to clean out the car in one trip.
  6. Getting the mail while holding Lucy.
  7. Generally any time I need an extra hand. Which is all the time.
Plus I get kind of a laugh bringing cloth bags into Target. Perhaps I should be embarrassed, bringing competitor-logoed bags (mine are from TJ's) into a store, but hey, I'm saving them money, too, right?
Anyway, I wish I had switched years ago and saved the environment all that plastic.

It sort of reminds me of our penchant for super-toxic, expensive, 'targeted' cleaning products (one product for bathroom glass! Another for kitchen windows! Another for cleaning your computer screen!). A while ago, I realized plain vinegar and water works pretty much just as well. And doesn't worry me if Lucy gets hold of the bottle. Or using a little shampoo or hand soap in my toilet to clean it, instead of trying to burninate the bacteria into oblivion. Or regular soap to clean the bathtub, while I'm sitting in it, rather than spending an hour on a Saturday with a gas mask on, trying to nuke off soap scum.

I guess sometimes "convenient" isn't really.

what I've been reading:

A lot.
I think I've been reading instead of posting. Whether that's good or bad, I don't know, but I have been reading some good books.
Here's a roundup.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Okay, I'm not going to say much because I don't want to give anything away. But I will say that I cried unashamedly a few times during the book, and at one point didn't want to continue because it was just too traumatic.
It's kind of an honor having participated in this cultural experience. Usually, I'm not into mass cultural sheepherding, but this was one trend I quite enjoyed while it lasted. I am convinced these books will endure, so being able to read them as they emerged is kind of special. How often do we get to experience classics? It's like getting to read Dickens in the newspaper when he was writing his books in episodes.

The American Way of Death: No, not planning on dying any time soon, but I'd heard this was a classic muckraking book (I love muckrakers, for some reason) and it's quite good. I want to be buried in our backyard! Wrapped in muslin!
Okay, not quite. But: the whole funeral industry is pretty strange. Being a cheapskate, an elaborate funeral isn't really on my to-do list.
Incidentally, my grandfather was an undertaker (or mortician or funeral director) and I wonder what he'd think of this book. Love it? Hate it? It's not super kind to the 'industry'. Dad? Aunt Barb? I know you're lurking out there. You ever heard of this book? What do you think about "hermetically sealed coffins" and "cremains" and embalming and the like?

Special Topics in Calamity Physics: This book has little or nothing to do with science. It's a cleverly titled novel about a high-school girl with a professor father. She's an obsessive reader (hmmm, wonder why I identified) and she writes the tale of her calamitous last year of high school using a few items often found in college courses (Required Reading=Table of Contents, Glossary of terms, attributions and footnotes, visual aids, and a Final Exam)
The book was unashamedly gothic. There were drownings! Hangings! Drug use! Alcohol! A wee bit of sex! Disappearances! Political intrigue! False identities! Lies! Horror!
It was also entertaining, in a slightly overwritten way. The author's style is brash, and her use of simile spot-on, but after page 200 I started skimming long paragraphs.

Okay, enough of the book roundup. Happy reading!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

new toes

I got a pedicure! (And a manicure, too, but also a pedicure!) My toes are bright pink! They're like party toes!
Can you tell it has been a while since I've gotten a pedicure? It involved bubbles and a foot massage. What more can you ask for?
Sorry I haven't been posting much. I haven't been emailing much, either. Eventually my inspiration will come back. Maybe with the sleep.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

shirking scripture

So I haven't been doing my homework.
"Homework?" you ask. "What homework, pray tell?"
The homework for church. See, this summer our church is doing a manuscript study of the book of Philippians, in the New Testament. A manuscript study is a really in-depth study, looking at the book as a whole, then in sections, observing words, sentence structure, repetition, themes, etc.
"But Heather," you say, "This sounds right up your alley! You were an English major and did this stuff all the time! You are a total manuscript nerd! So why aren't you enjoying this?"

Before I go into those reasons, I want to point out that I think the sermon series is, in general a good idea. I think it's great for Christians to actually read the Bible and study it in depth--especially so they understand the context behind certain favorite passages that are oft-quoted. Last year our church read the Bible (yes, the whole Bible. Well, I did the Old Testament) together--I participated happily. And I like the way our church is doing it. I don't feel peer pressure to do homework--they give you space during the service to do catchup if you didn't have time during the week. And our speakers are good.

But when I sat down to actually try to participate, I felt as though I were forcing myself to eat some very unpalatable vegetables. Mixed with some sawdust.
I've been feeling mildly guilty about it for a few weeks now. It's not just that I'm avoiding the reading/study--I've also kind of not enjoyed the sermons so far. Like the whole experience turns me off for some reason.
Rather than feeling guilty/bad (my usual modus operandi) I decided to come clean! And examine why this sermon series isn't sitting well with me, personally.
Here are a few reasons I've come up with:
  • I did a little too much of this kind of study in college. My college church experience was a little extreme in some ways, and bible study was huge. Two examples: I used to do personal devotions each day, examining bible passages with this same method, and filled notebooks with Observations, Interpretations, and Life Applications (OIL for short! Isn't that clever?). I got just slightly burned out. To this day it's hard for me to do daily prayer/study and not feel like I'm forcing myself to do something unpleasant.
  • Another bad vestige of college: at one point I took a weekend theology class with my college fellowship. Our teacher told us that with the Bible, there were many "Applications" but only one "Interpretation." Being my then-meek self, I said nothing, but inside, I was aghast. A book in translation from 2000 years ago only has one interpretation? You've got to be kidding me. The Great Gatsby doesn't have frickin' one interpretation.
  • I think I have some problems with reading the Bible this way. Or, maybe, more accurately, reading it only this way. I felt great relief reading A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren, where he points out that the Bible is not a great big answer book: not every passage lends itself to Life Application. Some of it is poetry, some law, some prophecy, some history. It isn't always "applicable" in the same way that, say McLaren is. Philippians as a book is really more readable this way--it's meant to instruct. But still, something in me rankles.
  • Something about this way of reading, for me personally (surely not for everyone), takes a lot of the joy out of the Scripture. Maybe it's like dissecting a cadaver instead of sitting down with a person and talking. I found our quick read-through of the Bible refreshing--I got so much context and felt no pressure to "get" everything.
  • Sometimes, having been in Bible studies since ninth grade, and doing this OIL thing on and off since then, I feel like I've heard every possible angle on the heaviest-travelled verses. The surprise is gone. The words have become cliched and fail to surprise me. "Take up your cross." (Yawn.) "Love your enemies" (Sigh). "For God so loved the world" (Next). I say this not to be sacrilegious, but I think reading the same words, the same way, for that many years gets reductive. I want to be taken aback by the glorious grace and openness of the Scriptures. Not bored because I'm hearing them the same old way.
  • Maybe because I am an English major, this kind of reading is maybe too easy--or too head-based for me. I love to dissect text and squeeze out the OILs. So much so that I almost forget what it is I'm squeezing. I'd love to have a love affair with Scripture--I read authors like Phyllis Tickle or Kathleen Norris and am amazed at how they describe this book that seems so standoffish to me. I'd love to see its words with fresh eyes. But when I do my same old same old Interpretations and Applications I find it more an intellectual exercise than anything relating to my heart.
When I sing Scripture, it goes straight to my heart. When I pray Scripture, it does too, to a lesser extent. What I'd really love in a sermon series is a way to read scripture that is also in depth, also takes seriously the richness that is in the Bible, but is not the old Evangelical bugaboo of OIL. MacLaren says that sometimes the Evangelical church makes Scripture into an idol: we worship it, rather than God. Yet Jesus was also the "Word made flesh". Made flesh though--living and active. Breathing and running and jumping and dancing.

If anyone has suggestions for me about how to find new eyes for the Bible, I'm all ears. (or eyes?) I've looked into stuff like Lectio Divina (not terribly substantially) in hopes I'd come up with ideas, but beginning and actual practice of something new has seemed too hard. I'd love to have company.
So there you go. Now that I've read all my reasons, I feel better about shirking. I pray these reasons aren't excuses, but help me figure out how I can find joy in the Bible for myself.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


So we recently realized we had a few fugitive toys in our cooler. We were out at the park with a few families, and I think someone left them behind. We stuck them in our cooler, and just re-found them today.
Lucy is happily playing with one, an Etch-A-Sketch. It's unabashedly girly: it is pink and has little cartoon drawings of non-Disney fairy princesses on it.
Dyami just walked over a minute ago. "Did you notice that the pen for that Etch-A-Sketch is a little, well, phallic?"
I looked and started cracking up.
Is this design ironic? Planned? Unintentional? (Sort of like the Teletubby with a purse?)
Now that I see it, I can't exactly let Lucy play with it, can I?

The question: do we tell the owner when we return it? (Maybe she reads this and the question is moot). Hmmmmm.


The other day Lucy fell. It was a bad bonk.
Dyami was home, and we both rushed over. I picked her up and went over to the couch. I tried to latch her on. Usually, nursing is the fastest way of getting her calmed down.
But she wouldn't latch on.
Dyami stepped over. "Let me have her," he said. Surprised, I watched as he scooped her up and went outside.
She was screaming. I half got up the couch. "Honey--" I started to say: what are you doing? You know that won't do any good! She needs milk, dammit!
I started to say these things, because Lucy's cry cut off abruptly as soon as they were outside. She still fussed for a few minutes more, but the urgency was gone.

I stood there for a minute, boob hanging out, wondering what had just happened. Was I happy or sad that she hadn't needed me?
Then I laughed. Was I hallucinating? My whole life is a fantasy about how eventually Lucy won't need me.

Dyami is a superstar.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


I was talking with a friend of mine who doesn't have kids (but would like a couple). She has some mixed feelings about motherhood, and was sharing them with me--very tentatively. She kept saying, "I feel like a bad person for saying this..." and then she'd be surprised that I wasn't offended or shocked.
She's afraid of losing herself when she becomes a mother; of becoming someone sloppy and depressed, hanging around in her nightgown all day; and especially, of not being able to give and give and give without resentment.
I didn't so much struggle with #2 (Thanks, Flylady!) but #s 1 and 3 I'm well familiar with. As are any woman that decides to go for the whole motherhood thing.
She said, "Kids just seem like so much work, and they take so much out of you. Why do people do it?
That's a very good question, friend. If I were being cynical, I would say that societal expectations play a part; having just turned 30, I felt pretty good about myself for not feeling bad. Dyami pointed out it might have something to do with me achieving certain mandated milestones (husband, house, kid). But also, if you want one of the great joys of life, you either have to go through birth pangs or adoption pangs, and then suffer through discipline, sleeplessness, and the assorted life-changes that accompany kids. Luckily, God intends us to be able to cope. And he grows us through it. (See my post about spiritual discipline).

I told her her questions were good, and that she will lose herself, to some extent, and that it will be more than she can handle, and that she will, on occasion, resent how much effort she has to expend, given our society's helpful division of labor (men: go earn money! women: give and give and give all day! And then get up in the middle of the night!) *

I remember when Lucy was about four weeks old, I'd vibrate with anger any time Dyami went out to get coffee or to see a friend, or to just get a break. Not because I needed his help, but just because I hated that I didn't get a break, and I wanted him to suffer with me.
I remember feeling terribly guilty when he started making up little games to play with Lucy because I hadn't made up games; I didn't want to play games with her because that would be one more thing I had to do (now that she doesn't have to held every frickin' minute of the day, I happily play games. Our new favorite is the song "The Wheels of the Bus".
I remember feeling guilty because I didn't want to use my sling more than I had to. It would have solved many problems: she was fussy, if I put her in the sling, I had some mobility, and she was happy. But I didn't want to carry her any more than I absolutely had to. My back hurt, and limited mobility is, well, limited. Was I a bad mommy for not wanting her on me every minute of the day?

Looking back, I realize how much more Lucy demanded of me back then, and I feel gentle towards my former self. It's okay to be overwhelmed, I want to tell her. It will get better soon. You're doing all you can. And It's okay that you don't like this very much. You'll like it more later. To be honest, there are days where I still don't like babyhood very much. It has it's moments, but I'm ready for Lucy to learn how to dress herself and cook falafel. Oh, and talk. Oh, and sleep! Learn to sleep!
But having been through periods of more and less work in the last ten months, and realizing that each period of more work is still less work than the previous difficult period, I realize things continue to get easier. And that all this will end.
Last night, at a dinner for Dyami's company, a coworker of his said there was a turning point at about eighteen months where his son went from being kind of fun to 90% fun. I appreciated his candor.
And I appreciate that I'm more than halfway there.

*I'm not a Mormon, but I can see that there might be something to polygamy. Not that I'd want to be part of it: for one, being one of many wives wouldn't do much for your status/freedom. But it would be nice to have some company in the middle of the night. So we're going to join a commune!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

why do I do this?

Recently, I've noticed I have a weird conversational tic. I tend to announce that something has gone wrong, or that I've made a mistake or jerry-rigged something at the last minute.
Example 1: I get my mom a birthday present. As she's walking up to the house, I'm busily stuffing it into a gift sack and tying on a bow. When she comes in, she says, "Oh, what nice wrapping."
Do I say, "Thank you?"
No. I say, "Oh, I was wrapping that as you were opening our garden gate."

Example 2: Friends who haven't seen us since before L was born greet us at a party. "How are you doing? How has the transition been?" they ask.
"Oh, okay," I said. "But Dyami and I did fight on the way over." Not, "Fine, thanks." or "Mixed results," or "We're hanging in there!" like a normal person.

I know where I get this habit from (also my habit of organizing Tupperware lids). My mom!

Example 3: Anytime my mom cooks something (and she's a great cook) she announces what she did wrong/differently this time that will probably ruin the whole dish (usually this involves substituting healthy things like non-trans-fat shortening or flaxseed for the bacon bits or whatever). "I don't know how it will turn out this time," she says. The warnings are usually not justified.

Actually, now that I mention it, my mother in law does exactly the same thing (ingredient substitution, and the resultant apology/warning).
What is up with this habit, anyway?

Part of me kind of feels like I'm getting away with something if I get compliments on something that took little effort. Like you're only allowed to do things well if it involved bloodletting. Also, I don't like false fronts! So I have to announce when Dyami and I bicker, so people won't think we're faking our happiness. And the ingredient thing (which I do too, but a bit less, since I'm not as much of an experimenter as my mom and MIL)...well, maybe it's just the slightest bit of pride that they can substitute flaxseeds for bacon? And are worried that people won't notice otherwise? Or maybe it is fair warning, since just occasionally the substitutions don't go so well (famously, our Christmas morning coffee cake is now made by my father, because he doesn't tinker quite so much).

Is this just a Hawley thing? Or a me thing? Or is this...a woman thing?
Someone let me know, okay?
And I hope you like this post! I just really threw it together at the last moment, you see, and I didn't use my usual mix of mothering anecdotes and black humor and God might not have turned out so well...

Monday, July 9, 2007


There have been some exciting developments around here.
  • We bought a new fridge. We'd been talking about it a while (after seeing An Inconvenient Truth and learning that our charmingly ancient fridge was an electricity guzzler), and on Saturday we just went out and bought one. Just like that. Sometimes it feels like you should need a license or a class or legal counsel to buy things like fridges, but you don't. All it takes is a trip to Sears and a charge card. Oh, and maybe money in the savings account to pay off the card.
  • My hair turned fabulous last night. Well, fabulous might be overstating it, but it was day two of no washing (my goal was last three days with no shampoo) and I looked in the mirror and it looked tousled and slightly wavy, and fine, and I was completely fine not washing it that night. Before, it had been a grit my teeth kind of ascetic not-washing. Then this morning I woke up and ran to the mirror and it still looked fine, and I squeezed a little water into it and then it even might have qualified as fabulous. The excitement! I had to wet it while taking a shower later on and I was a little disappointed. So my experiment has been a sucess, and I might not even wash it tonight. So there. (Note: my idea of fabulous is more than okay to go out in public with absolutely zero effort. I think I have low standards.)
  • We are now in a period of nap transition. We are a little shocked that Lucy seems to be ready for one nap (yes, she is advanced for her age) but she seems to be ready. Actually, what I want to write is too complicated to put into one bullet, so I am transitioning out of bullets:
Ahhhh. Anyway, I think there are three phases of naps. Okay, four. And this is for new moms, because I don't know anything about more than one kid.
1. The Chaos. This is when you're first starting out, and the baby has stopped sleeping magically wherever they land, and no one sent you the memo that naps are actually work and take effort and so you're wondering why the baby is yelling at you all day, because if she were tired wouldn't she sleep?
2. The Schedule. This is the somewhat militant phase, but the also charmingly predictable phase. She naps at 9:30 am and 1:30 pm, you say, with military precision. Then you add, (less charmingly), So why the hell are you inviting us over at 2 pm? You know that's just not feasible. This is especially true when the baby is still taking three naps. Three naps require the coordination skills of Martha Stewart, and about the same amount of bitchiness. You have to protect those naps, dammit.
3. The Schedule That Doesn't Work Anymore. Phase 2 devolves into Phase 3 as soon as the baby is ready for a new nap Schedule. The problem is that the baby does not send you a memo (nor does she page Martha Stewart). And since you've gotten bitchy and inflexible about the Schedule, you persist with the old Schedule for days, and wonder what is wrong with the baby that is no longer falling asleep according to her contractual obligations.
4. The Jerryrigged schedule. This is a schedule that is turning into a Schedule. This is where we are right now. It may involve alternating days (one day two naps, the next one nap). It may involve experimenting with longer and longer periods before the nap so the baby only takes one nap on a day she might probably do better with two, so that you can put her to bed early and watch Law and Order with your husband instead of commenting about how adorable your baby is at night. For the fifth time. Somewhat bitterly. The great thing about this schedule is the possibility of one nap! (or two, from last time we were in this phase). This means a lot less work and more flexibility!) The problem is this nap schedule is exciting which is code for stressful. You put them to sleep hoping they'll sleep 2 hours like they did yesterday, in which case they'll be charming the rest of the day. Instead they wake after 45 minutes and act like Pol Pot. You have more riding on success with this schedule, whereas with Schedule 1, you just stick to the hourly chart and if they wake up early or late, it's not so big of a deal.

So there you go. There's my nap theory. I know, brilliant.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

the oil slick

So my friend Sarah (of Nature's Mother) has always said her hair was her own personal Golgatha. It's super thick and wavy in an uncontrollable way. Except recently, she stopped complaining, and her hair started looking fabulous. You could call her hair "tresses"--it looks that good.
I asked what happened, and she said she stopped washing and combing it.
No joke. Apparently, this makes her hair much more manageable.
My hair, in contrast is completely manageable. Somewhat too manageable, in fact. Wash it and comb it, and it gives no resistance, and lies completely flat and lifeless against my scalp. It's thin! And super-fine! Luckily, it has some waviness, because otherwise I'd look like a holdout from the sixties (middle part, flat, stick-straight hair).
Before Lucy was born, I managed to get a short, "easy-care" haircut (that sounds so bad, like polyester pants). My hairstylist sold me very expensive, exploitative product, and told me to wet and scrunch. This makes the waves in my hair slightly wavier and makes the whole thing look tousled. (Or maybe that's just the midafternoon naptimes with Lucy).
Anyway, I kind of miss having hair long enough to put into a ponytail. Hack Mommy has long lustrous hair (You do, Melissa!) that she casually whips back into ponytails (that look chic! and stay out of the grabby hands of her toddler!). I'm a little covetous.
Except when I have grown my hair long, it has about as much life/luster as a broomstick handle. I always feel great about it, until I see pictures, where my hair looks like it has given up the ghost.
But the same "easy-care" hairdresser told me that if I were to stop washing my hair every day, I too might begin having fabulous hair. Even if I grow it longer.
The only catch, she said, is that your hair feels kind of gross for the first month.
A month of gross hair is a high hurdle.
But I decided to experiment anyway.

The first couple of weeks I was too chicken to actually not wash it. So I just used a tiny bit of this shampoo that has a bunch of organic ingredients and no surfacents, meaning when you lather, it produces almost no bubbles. And doesn't feel like it's stripping off much oil.
Except apparently it does, because my hair felt suspiciously clean, even after a few very cursory washes.
So three days ago I decided to start only washing my hair every three days. (One aadded benefit is that I only use a third as much shampoo. That's got to be sort of green, right?)

However, my hair, as promised, felt like an oil slick.
Yestrday was day three, and I felt kind of self-conscious, because my hair looked like I was using Pam as hair spray. I pinned it all back so it might look like I wanted it slick. I actually got a compliment on my hair yesterday (from my friendly neighborhood midwife, who was, admittedly, distracted by her kids), so that made me feel a little better.
Last night, after much anticipation, I washed the hair. With the super-expensive, chemical-laden, exploitative shampoo.

Today my hair feels normal (ie, somewhat meek, but also soft and oil-free!). We'll see how long I can stand the oil slick this time.
If I can put my hair back in ponytails again without looking like a flower-child, it will be worth it.
If I can call my hair fabulous, and environmentally friendly, I might just win a medal.

Friday, July 6, 2007


So I've been (nail clawingly, fist thumpingly) frustrated with sleep lately.
Let's start with the most obvious problem. Lucy is waking up a lot at night. Last night it was every hour until one am. It was a pleasant surprise that she actually slept decently until 6 am. The problem is, when she wakes up every hour, I start not falling asleep afterwards. Which makes me cranky.
I know I have posted about this problem a few times. And then we have a reprieve of a few days, and I think "It's overrrr!" And then it starts again.
I would very much like to know why this is happening. I know, no one can really tell me. Here are three obvious possibilities:
A) she's teething.
B) I'm sneaking wheat/soy every few days.
C) she's gotten into a bad sleep habit.
If it's A, then there's not a whole heck of a lot I can do to change it. (No, no obvious signs, like red gums. Yes, she drools. She's been droolling for seven months now, so it's nothing unusual)
However, if it's B or C, one would think i could do something about it, and I would very much like to do that thing.
What I hate about sleeping badly is that it makes everything else about motherhood so much crappier. I feel bad about myself, discouraged, and irritable at Dyami. I question every parenting decision I've made. I agree, generally, that the world is going down the crapper, and that I'm doing nothing (NOthing!) to stop it.
Then when I get a few nights of good sleep I get all cheerful and start feeding small birds.

But the thing that was also frustrating me the last few days is that Lucy's naps have been crappy, too. Short, for one. Also hard to get her to fall asleep. Very hard. Like pulling hair hard. (No the italics are not a mistake).
When one is sleep deprived, one wants the baby to just fall the heck asleep already!
I decided last night (brilliant!) that perhaps the schedule that was working for a few months no longer works. That she needs more time between naps (and is possibly moving to one nap? Please, sweet Jesus?)
I immediately felt better. I hate being in nap limbo, but it's worth it if we settle down into a discernable pattern in the next few days. Plus, it's just so tiring and impossible to fight a baby's sleep schedule. Or lack thereof. She will win. Every time.

Maybe pray that we will start getting some better sleep, soon.
She's sleeping now, by the way. Glory, halleluia.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

fat is a feminist issue

A friend just posted about how she despises her body right now, because she is more than 20 pounds up from her weight last year.
I want to affirm my friend: 20 pounds is serious. And excess weight is a big health problem. And I can understand feeling frustrated and sad that clothes don't fit. I don't think God desires her to be that much overweight; I hope she's able to get back to a healthier equilibrium.
And yet: I just saw her yesterday and thought (she's a bit older than me): God, I hope I look that young when I'm older.
Reading her post made me sad. And a bit angry (not at her).

I have three people close to me in my life that have struggled with serious eating disorders. I studied ballet for 15 years, so I was surrounded by weird body images (Once I asked if anyone had feminine hygene products in the dressing room and got a few weird laughs and: "Oh, I haven't used any for years."). Plus just years of SoCal lifestyle, spent listening to attractive, otherwise confident women express disgust with themselves.
I know for some women (and men) no matter what they do, their bodies add weight easily. For whatever reason, mine does not, so I know I can't understand how difficult this issue is for people. I really believe that bodies have their own equilibrium, a weight that is natural, healthy, and unique. Some people, (given the same healthy lifestyle) will settle at 100 pounds. SOme at 120. Some at 150. Some at 180. And I wouldn't be surprised if that weight creeps up as we get older. Yet our culture has a one-size-fits all approach to weight: 100 is wonderful! 120 is acceptable! 150 is shameful!

Though I got lucky with body type, I've had my own issues. It was kind of a point of pride in high school that I didn't have to worry about weight--and I remember (cringing, now) that I thought, when other girls were less than nice to me, well, at least I'm thinner.
Then I went to college. My weight crept up (probably by 10-15 pounds, like most people). My clothes didn't fit. I was embarrassed when I went to the store and tried on my old size, and it didn't fit. Even the new size didn't fit sometimes. I had to wear my mom's size (She's not fat, so I am not quite sure what the problem was). I remember going to the beach with a friend of mine and wearing shorts the whole time while she gamboled about in a bikini. I was embarrassed of my body.
It bears mentioning that the friend in the bikini was then struggling with anorexia, quite seriously. She was emaciated, and looks so much more beautiful now that she's gained weight. Her eyes were out of whack. But mine were too.
I'm lucky that I decided not to diet then. I'm so thankful that not dieting was a point of pride (wrong reasons, but it protected me from the rollercoaaster). I decided that my body was at a new equilibrium b/c I wasn't dancing, and that I would accept it. I bought new pants and gave away the old ones.
After I got married, I stopped drinking Coke. And started following my husband's eating patterns (he stops eating before he's full, and takes small portions). And ate less and less junk. And started noticing more and more that bad food made me feel like crap. Now, when I drink a Coke (once a week or so) I notice how terrible I feel for the rest of the day. And I'm breastfeeding. And on a restricted diet because of Lucy. And so I don't weight much.
I'ts funny, being pregnant and then not pregnant really makes people notice your weight. Nearly everyone comments "how good I look". Meaning thin. Women talk about how they want to look like I did when they're pregnant (because you couldn't really tell I was pregnant if you saw me from the back). I thought the same thing, ten years ago, when someone close to me was pregnant: she looked like herself plus a basketball. But she struggles with bulemia.
There's something wrong with all of us when being thin means you "look good". When we look at someone who's sick or outside the realm of normal (most models, some ballerinas, etc) and think "that's healthy or attractive". When we're (I include myself here) concentrating more on weight in pregnancy and after than fetal health or milk supply.

The thought has occurred to me: my weight will go up when Lucy's not breastfeeding anymore, and when I can eat bread and ice cream to my heart's desire. This thought has troubled me. I don't want it to. But it does. Will I be able to enjoy the freedom to eat and not think about how I'll almost certainly go back up to my weight pre-Lucy? When I stop fitting into my old clothes will I cringe? Or shrug?

I think women are crippled by this self-loathing and competitiveness. And by the other side: the excess weight from poor diet or lack of exercise that keeps us from being our true energetic selves. I think all of American culture has an eating disorder. We eat crappy food that makes us feel lousy, both inside and out. We don't enjoy our bodies--have awe for the marvelous machines they are. I really beleive that God desires to free us all from these obsessions.

So, my friend, I'm sorry you've been feeling bad about yourself. I hope you can find ways to lose the weight without sacrificing your health. I hope that both of us can see ourselves through God's eyes: the dear fingernails, growing on their own. The eyes that focus to different distances, without us even thinking. The friendly wrinkles on our knuckles, that have been there since birth. The heart and mind and lungs that keep us alive, so mysteriously. The moles and spots and scars that are our own private constellations.

Truly, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Monday, July 2, 2007

it's simple

I'm not quite sure how this whole kick started. (The kick being my slightly obsessive hunt for information on living more simply.)
First, I've been reading a bit too much Michael Pollan and Wendell Berry. Especially Wendell. Pollan makes you feel kind of warm and giggly; Wendell makes you look around at our society and your own sick part in it and feel like you should be selling your tract house to go work on a kibbutz-type commune in Tennessee.
Plus I think I clicked a link on some web page or another (ABORT! Do not click on random web links!). Which sent me off on articles about voluntary simplicity, and some books that Wikipedia linked to. One of which was written by Mennonites, (I think they're like Amish that party). It's called Living More with Less.
Somewhere in there I read an article called "Not Buying It" on the NY Times (I'd link, but it's in their archives now and you'd have to pay to read it). It was about "Freegans", people who get almost everything they own/eat/use out of the trash.
You know that I'm a bit of a nutcase when I was reading along, nodding, going, hmmm, dumpster diving. They've really got something there.
I swear, it's Wendell's fault.
Plus maybe the fact that we gave up our cable, then our TV. When you're not watching beer and SUV commercials anymore, anything can happen.

In all seriousness, though, we've been thinking about trying to live more simply a lot. And some of the decisions are pretty easy--ie, they don't cause too much inconvenience and don't make us out of step with our neighbors. The CSA, the TV. The using cloth napkins and avoiding paper towels. Bringing grocery bags to the store. Trying to dry clothes outside, using fluorescents.
But once you get past the easy stuff, and when you really start thinking about the difference between our SoCal coastal lifestyle and the rest of the world, it makes you uncomfortable in your comfort. And wondering what else you can do.
I really respect the Mennonites that wrote the book I'm reading. They ground all of the suggestions in five core values:
  • do justice
  • learn from the world community
  • nurture people
  • cherish the natural order
  • nonconform freely
And many of the suggestions are great, like praying before shopping (they point out that Jesus talked a lot more about money than he did about prayer...perhaps because he knew human nature?). And not using shopping as entertainment--not hanging out in stores (which is hard, considering that real public spaces are few in this land of big boxes). Trying to combine car trips. Choosing to spend time, rather than money.
Some of the suggestions, however, I'm not planning on implementing: such as used-tire sandals. Or giving up a car in favor of a horse-and-buggy. Or (yes, they suggested it!) going through trash from grocery stores for foodstuffs.
All this reading leads me to two fears: am I turning into the crazy dumpster-diving tire-sandal wearing person?
And, perhaps more pointedly: am I too worried about turning into that crazy person? About not being stylish, or "normal?" When our normal is, well, not really sustainable environmentally, and may well be supporting injustice and poverty around the world?
Maybe I should start wearing one of those bracelets: WWWD? (What Would Wendell Do?) Knowing him, he'd have an opionion.