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Archive for April, 2008

No more excuses

I haven’t written about the food situation, mostly because I don’t entirely grasp what is going on beyond actual food shortages, perceived food shortages, and speculation on food markets, which is so thoroughly disgusting that I have trouble thinking about it without clenching fists and gritting teeth.  I know there is a mess of nuance in between these major facts, and I  know it goes beyond limits on rice at the Costco, and I know it’s dire.  Honestly, my biggest issue with it has been not knowing what to do and feeling rather helpless.  Greenpa at Little Blog in the Big Woods has a great guide for action, but with the kids sick I haven’t been reading as intently as I should have and I certainly do need to go back and start taking the steps he recommends.  But as of today, with my head cloudy and Lucy’s cousin in town for the next few days, I’m taking the one step I know I can that will keep us fed and not through big business.  I am going to the farmer’s market.

See, I woke up this morning and I felt sort of icky.  I’ve finally gotten the cold that led to the ear infections for the kids.  Pickle did the butt scoot on the Baby Bjorn (she has IBS).   The last thing I feel like doing is hauling the baby anywhere, especially after doing so yesterday.  The thing is, though, these are just excuses.  It’s inconvenient for me, sure.  I’d rather not.  I’d rather plop myself in bed and read with the baby.   It isn’t peak season, it’s tough to carry a bag and a baby, is it really that big a deal?  And it is.  Not because local produce is going to stop the food shortage, or because it’s going to keep people in Haiti from starving.  It matters because I can get non-industrial food within a short subway ride.  It’s worth the trip for local milk alone.  In a month, the CSA starts up and it will be more non-industrial food.  Money goes to the farmers, not a corporation.  It ain’t much, but it’s a start.  And after that I have to get to work with the letter-writing.

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Down with Ears!

I assure you I am not kidding when I report that Lucy has an infected right ear and Chico has an infected both ears.  They are both on antibiotics, Lucy more successfully than Chico because C isn’t home and it is far easier to give the medicine in my head than it is in reality.

At the drugstore I let Lucy pick out a cheap plastic doll and bought her pocket-sized hand sanitizer and tissues.  Because having ears sucks.  Except for that whole hearing thing.

I took both kids on the subway all by myself, like a big girl.

I am hungry again.

If I’m not around for the next couple of days it’s because I’ve declared war on all things otic.  Except that whole hearing thing,

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Ugh

Kids sick.  Apartment trashed.  Mommy hungry.  We’re hitting the doctor today so fingers are crossed that it’s nothing big.  I am nothing if not twitchy since our last sick experience landed me in the hospital.  Meanwhile, my pouch is saving my sanity.

If everyone is healthy, I get to go to the Greenmarket tomorrow!

The old computer monitor has been taken to its new home!

I’m excited to be getting a 2nd worm bin.  No more trashing food scraps because the bin is too small.

I am otherwise thoroughly spent.

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Buy Nothing: Ordinarily on a day like this–rainy Sunday where I was up before the sun with calamity and chaos, that is–I would do my damnedest to justify buying something.  And the temptation is here, trust me.  I have gotten thisclose to ordering some used books for Lucy.  The thing is, as soon as the house emerges from the pall of sick, I’m getting us signed up for a library card (I signed up online last year but managed to not activate the card within the, what, 90 day window I had) and it is totally ludicrous to buy books when it will be quicker to check them out of the library.

I don’t even need to analyze why I have such a strong desire to shop–it’s a gray day, I was up early with poop and nosebleeds and coughing children, the apartment is trashed from focusing on the kids yesterday and sitting on my butt with C watching The Departed last night and I’d rather feel like I’m doing something nice for my family by buying something for us than by getting back on track with the clutter, I kept Chico home from the museum on Friday and I feel like I missed out on my weekly treat.  If I don’t get myself into a project and off of the computer, my wonderful brain will come up with some justification for making a purchase.

Decluttering:  It looks like the Cut the Crap challenge is ending this week.  Which means I have fallen quite short of my personal goals, mostly because my efforts totally petered out last week.  I’ve gotten a lot done, though, and in the areas I used to dread the most.  I have sent out 2 boxes of books, 4-5 of toys, 2 bags of clothes, a huge box of cloth diapering stuff and baby stuff, 2 boxes of gifts that sat in my foyer from before Christmas, the baby swing.  Going later in May will be the co-sleeper and bouncy chair, infant car seat and car seat carrier plus likely another bag of kids clothes, a bag of curtains that are barely used, and all of my size 5 shoes since I my feet grew while pregnant.  There is a box (half full, I’m still working on it) of random picture frames and throw pillows and other ‘decorative objects.’  I have sorted through all of our spice racks and moved them off of the counter.  Lucy’s desk is sorted into inboxes–drawings to finish, blank paper, notebooks, and drawings to give away.  Markers are with markers, crayons with crayons, and pencils with pencils.  There is a workspace.  I went through my file drawer and took everything out of envelopes, unfolded it so it takes up less space, and got rid of all unnecessary paperwork, including sorting through the warranty/manual folder and removing anything we don’t need or no longer own.  And most remarkably, I cleared an entire shelf in Lucy’s closet, unpacking toys Chico will use in the next 6 months and putting them in a basket where we can reach them.  Lucy bagged up some of her stuffed animals to donate.  And I threw in some of my old ones as well.  I ate through some of our less practical and older stored food–a little can of mixed veggies, another of peaches and the boil-in-bag rice we got when Lucy was Chico’s age.  We mixed 2 half-empty boxes of pasta together for dinner one night and discovered 2 opened bags of dried lentils which we fit into the lentil canister.  Now I need to make a pot of soup to use up some of the tomato paste and  the little carton of veggie stock.  Then we’ll have room to store some more practical foods.

There is a lot still to do, most notably my closet, C’s and the hall closet.  I’m hoping to get to my closet tomorrow, though.  It’s a big PITA to empty everything out when so much is going back in, but I need to get it back to keepsies on one side, givesies on the other 🙂

I’m about half of the way through the box of crap from the final junk drawer and would like to have it finished today so that I can get Lucy’s living room toys separated from Chico’s.  Blah blah blah laundry, dishes, trash, recycling, water seedlings, water more seedlings, there are more seedlings  to water.

Growing Challenge: Sometimes I look at the table and wonder why the hell I thought it would be a good idea to grow so many things.  Mostly I’m excited, but it’s a lot of stuff.  Only the chives, parsley, onions and lavender haven’t germinated.  I remember last year being somewhere between freaked out and excited at the prospect of growing food on the balcony; this is a similar feeling but not nearly as dire.  I think it helped that we grew marigolds from seed last year so I knew I could do it.  I have this total fear of getting the seedlings planted and having them all die.  I try to tell myself it’s all about learning how to be more self-sufficient and I can always buy plants if these fail, but I hate when things don’t work out.  Honestly, the goal really is to grow some of our own food, not to become a master gardener person.  Still I have this fantasy of a balcony full of pots overflowing with veggies.  And seed saving.  I’m really into the idea of seed saving.

Riot For Austerity: I have been bad and haven’t tracked anything but spending and I can estimate food.  I’m going to use March’s numbers for everything else, and then May will be the big push to have a 90% reduction month in as many areas as possible.  I’ll even guesstimate water usage and we’ll use our old natural gas bills from the old apartment to estimate that just for accuracy’s sake.  I’m still hoping to get to the greenmarket in May.  If nothing else, I’d love to get us switched from plastic milk bottles to refillable glass.  It’s just tough carrying a full bag while wearing Chico, but I think I can do it once a week.  We’ve also finally cut out almost all packaged frozen foods, and since finding Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese, I can honestly say I can live without dairy.  I’m not ready to give up poultry or fish yet, though.  Also, I still need Fresh Direct for laundry detergent for now, but this week’s order is the last for a while.  That’s several fewer cardboard boxes a week, which translates to 3-4 lbs if they aren’t reused.  After the big changes of last year, we’re back to baby steps.  I’d like to cut out paper towels even though most end up in the worm bin.  I’m toying with the idea of a second worm bin because we’ve so many worms and so many food scraps–we could have one fallow while the other was in use.  I air dried sheets last week for the first time, proving it can be done pretty easily.  Mostly I want to get our food to mostly local and bulk, because it’s getting more important than ever.  The other ‘mostly’ is consumer spending, but I’m working on that.  The thing I’ve enjoyed most about Rioting is how much it has made me think, whether it’s as simple as doing dishes and hanging laundry making me take time to slow down or as complex as isolating the ways in which I convince myself to buy things I could do without or get used.

And so we come full circle.  Don’t buy things you don’t need; get rid of the things you already bought that you don’t need; if you don’t buy things you don’t need, you won’t throw as much away.  Know where your things come from, be it food or goods, and know why they’ve come to you.  The key word for me when I started last year was ‘mindful.’  I think I have become more mindful in the past year, and I think I have also been able to let myself shut off my  mind a little bit more than before.  This is the best part.

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I got Snappi-ed

I shopped again.  Much like the Sigg fiasco, I went to put a diaper on Chico yesterday morning and realized we had lost another Snappi.  This is an emergency.  Should we lose the last one, half of our diapers are out of commission.  And so my hand was forced.  Also like the Sigg fiasco, there were other things I needed from the same place, and I am an absolute stickler about getting everything at the same time so…

Swim diapers, diaper covers, and fleece to try at night.  Because I have tried not to complain about it, but Chico suddenly wakes up soaked through every morning and I can’t deal with washing sheets daily.  I’m still going to get my sewing machine fixed to make fleece covers, so this way I have one to check out before making that attempt.

The Buy Nothing challenge has made me reassess a lot of the areas of consumption in which I do poorly.  I have not made a single impulse purchase since the challenge started.  I have been able to get out of the house without going shopping (this seems easy but I live within walking distance of, well, basically a mall.  The purchases I’ve made help me avoid purchasing less environmentally friendly goods.  In other words, I consider them little sins.  I can do better, though.  And more importantly, I want to do better.  On the other hand, even without using the discount matrix for the Riot (50% for Riot expenses and 10% for used goods) my spending for this month is 79% less than last month.  That is pretty huge.  Needs to be better, but still a marked improvement.  In the next week, I hope to go entirely without another purchase so that it ends on a high note!

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My darling Francis, you are 6 months old today!  Your hair gets thicker, your eyes hover between blue and brown, and your sweet grinning face next to me every morning is the best way to start the day, even though it’s usually accompanied by a leaking diaper or a big clump of spit-up.

You like to sit on my lap while I type, drool dripping on my left hand and your right hand swatting at the control key.  You are       fascinated by anything I eat or drink, and you get mad when  I eat without you next to me or on my lap.  Last night you tried to steal my sandwich.  Tonight we’re giving you rice cereal for the first time.  And you just discovered the space bar!  What a big boy you are.

Your favorite artist is Clyfford Still and you are bored by impressionism.  You also like Greco-Roman statuary and Jasper Johns.  You like hanging out in the kitchen with me, listening to music, while we wash dishes and you like when Daddy takes you into Big Beddy and tickles your tummy or pretends to eat your ear.  When Grandma P talks to you on the phone, you try to figure out where she’s hiding, and Grandma L has a nice, comfy lap for you to sit on.

Your favorite person in the whole world, though, is your big sister.  Whether she’s singing silly songs to you or reading you a book, or throwing herself around the floor to make you laugh, your eyes light up at the sight of her, and the sound of her voice would wake you from a dead slumber.  When she gets home from school, your little body shakes with excitement while she washes her hands and by the time she comes to say hi to you, you have no choice but to let out a shriek of delight.  And the best part is, she is excited to see you too.

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Six months ago today I went in for a routine exam with my midwife.  The train was packed and I rode for about ten minutes, sweating profusely and taking huge swigs from my bottle of water.  By the time I got a seat, I had snapped at a man who looked for all the world like he was going to take it and leave me standing.  I sat down too hard and immediately felt a searing pain in my head and neck.  They called me a cab at the midwife’s office and sent me straight to the emergency room, who in turn sent me to maternity, where they hooked me up to a fetal monitor and gave me some Tylenol.  I tried to sleep and Chris sat next to the bed and people filed in and out trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with me.

A few hours after I got there, the ob on call came to check me and I had dilated 2 cm and was fully effaced.  I was admitted, and C and I entertained each other with parthenogenesis jokes and how my labor was all in my head (har har.)  C was sent to fill out paperwork while I danced around the labor and delivery room, iPod stuck in the pocket of my gown, to Siouxsie and the Banshees (Monitor), Shriekback (Nemesis), Bauhaus (Spirit) and Dead Can Dance (Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove) most of which were old favorites from my club days. I wrote a blog entry while I danced, because I’m that big of a geek.

And then my labor stalled.  After an hour, I allowed them to break my water.  I hadn’t wanted any interventions, and I’m not sure why I let them do it, but I think part was because i was afraid of being sent home and then having to stress out all over again about getting there, especially since the dilation and effacement happened so quickly the first time.  Still nothing.  I wasn’t even feeling contractions yet.  Hadn’t been all day, just the interminable headache which seemed to be how I was laboring.  Waves of head pain.  It was so surreal.

Finally I agreed to pitocin.  I was dehydrated and on an iv, nothing was progressing, and I could see from my midwife’s face that she was getting concerned.  I didn’t ask why; I was worried about the pitocin but I reminded myself that she hadn’t pushed anything on me with Lucy and wouldn’t do it now if there wasn’t some concern.

Pitocin.  Sucks.  Oh my god, I can still remember how panicked I was, contractions right on top of each other, feeling like I had to push almost immediately.  I didn’t think I could make it this time, and I had a relatively easy birth with Lucy.  I liked the waves of contractions leading up to transition and agony.  This was straight into the fire.  I felt like I was being a big baby.  I tried to maneuver myself into more comfortable positions, but the urge to push was getting too strong to ignore and then it was push-push-push-push-baby.  With more pushes, of course, but not many.  It was less than an hour total.

And then there was baby.  And everyone gasped at the sight of him, because he had been predicted at no more than 7.5 lbs and he was over 8.  And this time there was no whisking away or being alone because he was flopped onto my chest, all warm and big and I cried onto his head and told him I loved him.  And it was so wonderful.

I apologized to C and my midwife and the L & D nurse for being such a baby because I wanted so badly to be all grrrr this is no big deal.  They all told me I was nuts, I had not been a baby at all.  I didn’t believe them, but it was nice to hear.

And as he was weighed and measured, I talked Yankees with the nurse because, well, the work was done.

It was after midnight when I got a place to sleep.  There were no real rooms so I was stuck in a triage room, and all night I listened to women screaming and doctors yelling and the like, and felt like maybe I had been pretty chill about the whole experience.

I’ll write about the asshole roommate and her asshole family, as well as how Joe Lieberman was right outside the room and I didn’t go yell at him for being a turncoat, something which I have regretted ever since because wouldn’t it drive the point home to have a woman who had just given birth get up out of her bed to come yell at you?

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Aside from the two weeks I spent in the hospital, we have had a wonderful nursing relationship.  We have nursed in restaurants, doctor’s offices, at a funeral, at Gymboree, and in several exhibits at the Met.  I was afraid I’d fail at nursing.  I was afraid I’d never leave the house for fear of having to nurse in public.  When I got home from the hospital, I was afraid you’d prefer the bottle.  I love to nurse you.  Even when you want to do it constantly, I love holding you close and making you feel better.  And I am secretly so proud that you are getting so big just with my milk.  It makes me feel powerful.

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My favorite thing about having a second child is how much I love both of my kids together.  I worried, like a lot of people, that I couldn’t possibly have as much love for a child as I did for Lucy.  The thing is, I love both of my children individually, but I also love each one reflected in the eyes of the other.  To see how much your kids can love each other is such a magical experience.

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Yesterday I was a party to shopping. I had nothing but good intentions yesterday, but as always, life doesn’t stop for good intentions.  See, Lucy had a chest x-ray yesterday, precautionary, because of her heart defect.  Chico and I hit the health food store across the street, loading up on bulk cereal and snacks, probiotics, bulk chamomile flowers, and vegan cheese and cream cheese.  We hauled the canvas bag back to the imaging center, only to find Lucy and her dad still waiting to go in.  We waited for another hour.  And then we were taken to a second waiting room.  Lucy had just settled into my lap, a baby switch, when it was her turn.  Apparently as soon as they got into the room she began to cry.  C promised to take her to pick out a book when it was over, and so we did.

The upside is that I did not do my usual browse and grab.  The downside is that I still like to buy books.  Lucy picked out several, and I did pick out two books for us to do together, environmental activity books.  And then on the way home I started to beat myself up a little bit.  I felt pretty grim about not being able to make it 8 more days without shopping until C reminded me that whenever we have talked about curbing spending, the one thing we promised not to cut was purchasing books for the kids.  And so I’ll confess the books I picked out, but I’m not going to feel guilty about it anymore.  It would have been better had they been used, but what the hell.  I still have a library of books from my childhood, my mother has a library from hers, so I’m certain we’ll have Lucy’s for a good long time.

C was laid out by allergy crap by the time we got home and stayed home from class.  Lucy, Chico and I ate dinner on the balcony, which was lovely.  There was no electricity-free hour or anything grand like that, but the outdoor dinner was a big enough hit that Lucy wants to do it every Earth Day, which I think is fantastic.  Our sprouts are coming on like gangbusters and it’s just about time to move our established plants outside, so we will probably try to have dinner outside on a regular basis.  Our balcony isn’t much in the way of nature, but it does offer a breeze and a nice view of some trees, and once our plants are out there it should be pretty nice.

I don’t know what to count as my one more thing from yesterday.  The trip to the bulk store was the first since having Chico so that could count.  We stopped off at the Coinstar with a baggie of change and donated it to World Wildlife Fund ($80!) so that could count.  A chat with a man at the store about millet encouraged me to give up my instant hot cereals, which will be one more thing.  I am going to hang sheets to dry today for the first time.  And I’ve decided we’re going to join the Botanical Garden here in Queens, which will also be one more thing.  I had hoped for some grand, symbolic gesture to come to me in between scooping flax cereal and steaming local clams for dinner, but I guess really the grandest gesture anyone can make is to follow through on all of the things planned but never tried.

The nice thing is that I am inspired again.  Elements in Time has a lovely post about moving from Earth Day to Earth Lifestyle, and she’s done a far better job than I could in laying out the many ways to make a difference.  This is important, and has got to go further than buying things.  In America?  Check out the League of Conservation Voters and sign up for their mailing list.  Check out EarthjusticeCare 2 consolidates causes and gives you actions to take every day.  Sign up for the Union of Concerned Scientists action network.  Being informed is as crucial as taking action, and there’s a ton of information out there that goes beyond being ‘green.’

I’ll hop off my soapbox now, but be assured I’m not trying to lecture.  Just a year ago, not even a year ago, I was just starting to think about eating local foods.  I balked at cloth diapering, and if you’d told me I’d be hanging my toilet cloth to dry in the foyer, I would have thought you were nuts.  I was a staunch meat-and-dairy gal, and the closest I got to cooking anything was mac and cheese from a box.  I had 3 edible plants–basil, parsley and chives grown from a Chia herb kit.  I may have been ‘green’ but I wasn’t really thinking about anything beyond the basics.  I know it’s easier for me than for many because I have more time, more resources, live in a place more conducive to some of the changes. But I’ve done this through pregnancy, with a newborn, recovering from hospitalization, and under pressure to give it up by some who thought we were pretty out there a year ago.  I’ve done it with a spouse who is incredibly supportive of some big changes like giving up air travel but not so into the little ones like remembering plastic bags or taking shorter showers.  The things that are a pain in the butt are the first to go, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how easy a lot of the stuff we’ve done has been.  I would have never known what I was capable of without trying it though.

Last year I was introduced to a Gandhi quote by Thordora— You must be the change you wish to see in the world.  Since then, I have tried to remember to match my actions to my beliefs.  There are a million others that remind me that what I do is important even if it seems to be merely a drop in the ocean.  I’ll leave you with this one:

The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.

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