Friday, April 18, 2008

Daycare Rush

Well, I would love to tell you that this time away has been fruitful and glorious, but that would be a lie. Well, that is not exactly true. Ladybug has been doing better with the extra attention. We went to a wonderful birthday party today and we have had fun with friends this week.
But unfortunately, this fun was had with a big cloud of gloom and doom hanging over my head.

I remember back when I went through sorority rush. You go to all the parties, listen to the spiel, endure the endless skits and songs and sappy sisterhood talk. After each round, you make your selections and hope that those houses select you too. Then, at the end of the week, you cross your fingers, check Tri Delta and hope to God they pick you. On Bid Day you tear open your bid envelope and read your fate. Kappa Kappa Gamma, Tri Delta, or Chi Omega? Whose letters will soon be emblazoned on everything you own?

For some unlucky girls, there is no bid envelope. The houses they picked did not pick them. The have "fallen through" rush.

Well, we have fallen through daycare selection. Back in August, we did the tours and put the kids' names on the three most outstanding places in town, hoping for a spot in August 2008. Back in Nashville, you have to sign up at birth, but here, we've been told, there is not that much of a wait. We did our homework and asked around and even the centers told us it should not be a problem.

Well, wrong-o. Apparently we should have put their names on the list when we filled out their birth certificate registration, because all three childcare centers told me this week that they do not have spots for Ladybug and Sweet Pea. They have made their fall lists and are full. We can keep checking back and hope someone moves, but as of now, we have no childcare for August.

I have a job offer, but no child care. Immediately after hearing all this, I started calling everywhere else in town. Of course all the other acceptable centers are equally full and we would be put at the bottom of their lists. We are now faced with hiring a nanny, enrolling in some home-run center, or me staying home. The nanny is a possibility but logistically very difficult because at anytime one of the centers could call and say we have a spot and then we'll take it and we won't know for sure we need a nanny until mid-July, two weeks before I go back to work. The home-run center is out. I will stay home before putting them in a less than ideal situation but since I assumed we would have the kids in full-time care, I did not register them for Mother's Day Out/Preschool and now of course those spots are full as well. Hopefully our MDO can work something out, but if not my son has no preschool the year before kindergarten.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Vacation Time

Sometimes you just can't do everything you would like. I am taking a little blog vacation for a few days. My house is a huge mess and I have a garden to plant. More importantly though, I need to devote some undivided attention to my daughter, Ladybug. Ladybug is what some would call a "challenging child." She has always had quite a temper but she has become very aggressive in the past few months, pinching, hitting and biting. We have been doing some reading about ways to deal with this and right now, I need to give her some one-on-one heavy duty playtime and love. I often get distracted by chores and blogging and I believe she feels left out. So, since my primary duty is to her, I am stepping back from the blog for a few days to see what happens.

Check back in a few and I'll let you know how things are going.

Friday, April 11, 2008

I am Crazy and Chivalry is Dead

It would seem that the universe is pointing me in a certain direction. Either that or I've lost my freaking mind!

At preschool on Wednesday, the day after I started Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, my son planted a bean seed. He was so excited. He came right home and started looking through the pantry because he wanted to plant one here. I found some dried red beans, we wrapped them in wet paper towels, stuck them in a baggie and taped them to the window. That evening, Sweet Pea could not stop talking about planting things. He is a frequent visitor to his great-grandmother's vegetable garden and his grandmother's flower garden and now wants to start his own. At bedtime that evening, I told Sweet Pea that we would stop at Lowe's on the way to the library and buy some seeds so he could grow a plant or two. Operative words here would be "a plant or two."

Later that evening, I got well into Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and made the decision that not only would we plant a plant for Sweet Pea, we would also attempt to grow some vegetables this summer. I was inspired. I was on my high-horse. We'll fight "the man" and give my son a lesson in agriculture!

So, yesterday on the way to the library, the kids and I selected a plethora of vegetable seed packets, some starting soil, and some little starter cups. I let Sweet Pea pick most of the veggies. He selected carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, several pepper varieties, green beans, and three types of tomatoes. I added my usual summer herb collection of chives, oregano, dill, thyme, rosemary, cilantro, and basil.

I have two small children. I have a dog who runs rampant in the backyard. I have no gardening experience. I just bought a gazillion packages of seeds to plant in my backyard, in a part of the country currently in a drought. I have lost my mind. This will be a learning experience, I am sure of that.

Now for the chivalry. The two bags of garden soil that I bought were humongous. Really large. I could barely lift them into the cart, and I am not that weak. I lift weights. I do push ups. I guess I need to do more, though, because these were too heavy for me. Of course there were no employees around and there never are. I managed to get them balanced at least on top of the cart, fairly evenly balanced I thought. Ladybug was in the cart seat, the bags balanced on top of the cart and Sweet Pea was walking beside us.

I made it to the checkout. The old guy at the checkout scanned everything and when I asked if anyone could help me get the bags into my car, he said there was no one available. OK, you jerks, I thought. I can manage.

We headed out into the parking lot. We were walking down the main lane in front of the store when we went over a speed bump and the cart tipped over. It was one of those slow motion things. I could see it all happen but could do nothing to prevent it. The momentum of the cart and the bags was too much for me to resist and the cart fell on its side, right on top of Sweet Pea, spilling Ladybug in a heap on the ground. Sweet Pea was screaming because he landed on his elbow. Ladybug was crying and trying to run away. I was trying to tend to them, right the cart, and pick up the 300 lb bags of soil.

Directly across the lane were two Lowe's employees, men, looking at the grill selection and talking to a customer, also a man of able body. All three saw the accident. Did any of the gentlemen come to assist? Nope. They just kept on flapping their jaws about the features of the grills, while I tried to keep my 18 month old out of traffic, calm my three year old and lift two giant bags of soil into the cart.

Who came to my rescue? You can probably guess it....two other mothers with babies. That's right, one mom held the babies while the other mom and I lifted the bags of soil into the cart.
And they say we're the weaker sex.

What a pathetic example of the male species these guys were. And Lowe's is lucky my kids were not seriously hurt.

More on the seed planting tomorrow.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

In a nonthinking moment last week, I submitted requests to my branch library for nine books. I figured that some of them already had holds and I would receive the books in a trickle rather than a flood. Well, call me Noah and build an ark, because I now have two weeks to read nine books. I just finished Bringing Down the House, the story of a group of MIT students who make millions counting cards in Vegas. It was a fascinating and quick read. I can only say that I wish I were that smart.
Yesterday, I began book 2, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. The author has written numerous works of fiction, but this book chronicles her family's decision to eat locally for one year. Her family of four moves to a Virginia farm and resolves to only eat what they or others in their region grow or produce. I am only about 100 pages in, but already the book has sparked a lot of thought about how we eat.

For dinner last night, I made Moo Shu chicken. I used Tyson chicken, raised somewhere in Arkansas probably. I used wheat flour from somewhere in the grain belt. I used carrots and mushrooms, which were probably grown somewhere in the US. And I used bok choy and water chestnuts from who knows where. None of these vegetables are in season, yet I was able to purchase them in my neighborhood grocery. My fridge is full of out of season, mass produced items. Apples, cantaloupe, blueberries. I think the only things in season are lettuce and asparagus.

We in the US are now used to having whatever we want when we want it. I try to always buy more of stuff when it is in season, but I still buy the majority of my produce out of season and think nothing of it. Nothing I buy is produced locally. It is all grown somewhere else, usually far, far away.

Kingsolver argues that this type of food consumption is tragic for our environment, our world economy, our bodies, and for nature. Our food today is largely grown on huge, industrial farms and then shipped thousands of miles across the country. A very small group of companies controls something like 90% of our food production. The small farmer is no more. It is almost impossible for a small farmer to eek out a living anymore. And much of our food is imported. Those berries and fruits you eat all winter are often grown in countries to our south. And do you think those farmers are making much profit? They should at the price of $5.00 a pint of raspberries, right? Wrong. They make less than $10 a day, while their boss at Dole makes multimillions.

Our produce is genetically engineered to withstand pests and disease and the rigors of cross -country travel. In all our modifying of crops and choosing crops for sustainability, we have managed to narrow down the variety of plant species that we eat to minuscule levels. Humans have eaten 80,000 species in course of history. Now we eat 8.

Those large companies that control our agriculture have managed to require that farmers buy new seed each year. Farmers can no longer save seeds. They must buy the latest genetically modified seed. This is resulting in plants that have lost the evolutionary ability to adapt. The plant species is not naturally evolving along with the pests because the plants are tinkered with and not left to nature. Because these large corporations also control seed catalogs, they have even squeezed out the availability of "heirloom" seeds to the average gardener. You used to have thousands of seeds to choose from when you opened up the seed catalog. Now you have only a few hundred. Plant geneticists warn that we are setting ourselves up for mass starvation because we have limited and controlled our food options to such drastic extremes. In Europe, there has been some effort to force these companies to lift their ban on farmers using last year's seeds, but so far this has not happened here in the US.

We also spend billions of dollars on transport costs and packaging in order to get these products to the supermarkets. Gas prices are skyrocketing. We have seen the results in the price of goods in our grocery stores. Those products have to be shipped thousands of miles and that takes gas. The packaging materials have to be shipped from maker to the food plant. The grain the animals are fed has to be shipped to the animals' location. And think of the emissions that all this transport spews into the air. And all the waste that packaging manufacturers pour into the water supply.

When you resolve to only buy locally, you are not supporting this giant food industry. You are putting money in the pockets of local farmers. You are supporting your local economy. You are not adding to energy consumption. You are not supporting companies who are restricting the natural evolution of plants and animals. You are hopefully putting fewer chemicals and hormones into your body. And as a personal reward, the food you buy tastes better. When you buy locally, you must buy in season and in season food is worlds better than out of season food. You already know this. Those supermarket tomatoes seem a distant and homely cousin to red, ripe juicy homegrown beauties.

When you look at it all laid out, it makes a lot of sense to buy locally. Unfortunately, it is easier said than done. I don't even know where to go in my city to buy locally grown food. There is a farmer's market downtown in the summer, but what about the rest of the year? My Kroger doesn't have a local food section. I will have to actively search out local food sources. And it may cost more. The prices may be higher, as there is no Sam Walton keeping them down by mass purchasing. And it could be more time consuming, requiring me to forgo convenience foods and make more myself. And, perhaps most difficult of all, it will require willpower. When I get a hankering for strawberries in December, I can't have them. I have to wait until summer. I can't have asparagus year round. It will require a total change in thinking and planning meals and ultimately, sacrifice.

So, will I do it? I think I probably will to some extent. I may try to ease into it, find some local sources and buy what I can. We'll see. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Shine a Light

In Webster's Dictionary 3008 Edition, instead of a definition for Rock 'n' Roll [rok-uhn-rohl] noun, they will just have this:

I have had the good fortune to have seen The Rolling Stones in concert twice. Friday night, I felt like I had seen them a third time. Big B and I went to see Scorsese's Shine a Light and it was so good. We left the theatre feeling like we had been at a concert. I danced in my seat the whole time and had to hold myself back from making a fool of myself by getting up and letting lose in the aisle.

The movie was shot during a Stones concert at Beacon Theater in NYC and is basically a concert film interspersed with a little historical footage. It was shot using 18 cameras and the resulting effect is an up close and personal perspective. You see their wrinkles, the sweat on their clothes, the ash on Keith's cigarette, everything. You get to watch their interactions on stage, the way Mick and Keith look at each other, Charlie Watt's expression of tiredness after one song, their cues, all that. The music is, of course, great and there are appearances by other musicians, my favorite being Buddy Guy. Some reviews said the film did not measure up to the standard set by the recent 3D U2 film, but I didn't see it and can't compare. I thought Shine a Light was a great time.

Throughout the film, I was struck by how old and yet young Mick Jagger and Keith Richards look. Their faces are a map of their living. Every wrinkle and crag probably points to the thousands of drinks, groupies, tokes, bong hits, snorts, and needles in their lives. These guys are about the age of my parents, but their skin is much, much worse. On the other hand, the guys are in amazing shape. Mick Jagger has more energy than my three year old. He is a whirlwind of motion the entire time. And while the other guys are more sedate on stage, it still must take an enormous amount of energy to put on the show that they do. Big B and I often like to joke that Richards has pickled himself and will probably outlive us all.

And despite their AARP membership, they have not lost their sex appeal. Rock and roll is largely about sex and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards may be the perfect match of sexual appeal in a band. Jagger is the world's best front man, full of himself and his ego. He exudes confidence and that's pretty sexy. He also has that ugly but strangely sexy thing going. He is not a necessarily good looking guy, though in his younger years he had a languorous sensuality about him. I have always seen him as somewhat androgynous. And yet, when he starts prancing across the stage and moving his hips in that manner that is all his, I can see the appeal.

And Keith Richards, what can you say? Back in my groupie days, he would have been my rock 'n' roll dream come true. He's the consummate bad guy with a sensitive side. He makes a comment in the movie about how he feels the music when he is onstage and in several moments, you see that. He closes his eyes and almost makes love to the guitar. That devotion and introspection, matched with the devil may care, rebellious attitude and the pirate accessories makes for a powerful good combo. I wouldn't kick him out of my bed, that's for sure.

It will be a sad, sad day when The Rolling Stones is no more. I hope I will get to see them at least one more time, but until then, Shine a Light will do nicely.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

All We Need is Love

This is going to be a rambling hodge-podge of a post and it is not the promised movie review, but I only have a few moments so here goes.

First of all, thank you to everyone for the comments on my friend's situation with her husband. You guys are so, so wise. I will give an update tomorrow or Tuesday when I talk to her.

Today is a gloriously warm and sunny day here in east Tennessee. The kind of day where you are magnetically drawn to the outdoors and the feel of the sun on your face. I am eagerly awaiting the end of the kids' nap time, so we can all head to the park and soak in some vitamin D. I wouldn't call Spring my favorite of seasons, but it's definitely up there. I love the smell of fresh cut grass and I love the vibrant, almost neon green that everything turns if we are lucky to have enough rain. I also love daffodils and tulips and eagerly await their bright faces. And I can't complain about breaking out the short sleeves and flip flops. Allergies do bother me a little and I am counting down the days to swimsuit season with dread, but all in all, Spring is a good thing.

This morning we made our third visit to a Presbyterian church in town. In the three years we have lived here, we have visited just about every Presbyterian and Methodist church in a 15 mile radius but have found none that really suit us. It seems we are in the minority of 30-somethings who don't like contemporary services and music. We have had difficulty finding a church that has traditional services but also has a large number of families with young children in attendance. Back in Nashville we belonged to a huge traditional church of around 4,000 members with a superstar preacher and every program under the sun. There just isn't anything like that here, in part because Knoxville is so much smaller and because it seems to be more religiously conservative here.

Thankfully, though, it looks like this church might be the one for us. It is small compared to our old church, but actually is probably a better fit. There are enough kids, the music program is excellent, and the people are friendly. It is progressive and is very focused on social justice issues, so I feel right at home. It probably has the highest concentration of Democrats under one roof than anywhere else in the city and I am looking forward to not feeling as isolated in my interests. And most importantly, we have very much enjoyed the services and have come away feeling like we have learned something each Sunday.

This morning the sermon was given by a guest minister who was in the region at a poverty and hunger conference. One of the focuses of her sermon was how we often fail to see God right in front of us. She told a story of being lost looking for a restaurant in Seoul, Korea and how a man came up to her and said, "I am a Christian. Are you lost and do you need help?" The man led her to a McDonald's (of course!) and they ate Big Macs together. The story was much more detailed and insightful and it made me think about my conception of God and God's influence in our lives.

I am not super, super religious really, but I am pretty spiritual. I am not the best church-goer and I have difficulty with literal interpretations of the Bible. I don't see God as some supreme being who answers prayers and is always interceding in our lives. I don't agree that God causes people to die or suffer a disease for some particular reason. I am not sure there is a reason to everything or that God tries to teach us things through troubles in our lives. I don't think of God as a being who is capable of those things.

Rather, I think God is within us all and is simply goodness and love and energy. God is the love and goodness that makes us give the homeless guy on the corner a sandwich. I don't think of God as a being who directs me to give the guy a sandwich, but rather as the feeling of love and mercy I have in my soul that encourages me to make the decision myself to give the man a sandwich.

During the minister's sermon, I tried to think of all the moments in my life when the love and goodness inside someone else affected me in a profound way. I am sure there have been many times throughout my life, but the ones that came to mind were recent.

Some of you were readers of my previous blog and know that I had a very serious battle with postpartum psychosis last year. There were two people in my life whose help I could not have done without: my mother and my friend, Shannon. My mother gave up her life and job in Nashville to come live with us for four months and care for me and my children. My friend Shannon was a source of constant support and understanding. Both of these women acted from the love in their hearts. Obviously my mother loves me, but Shannon and I had only been friends for a year or so. It would have been easy for her to kind of stand back and not want to get involved in such a personal battle. But instead, she offered me all the support she had, calling, emailing, bringing little gifts and sources of guidance. She did this because her heart is so good and she has so much love for other people.

These are bright and shining examples, but there are other folks as well who have offered much needed and crucial love during times of crisis. And I bet there are folks who have helped me and I don't even know it!

Who has been a force of love and goodness in your life?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

I Am Not a Slacker--Just Busy and Tired!

I know I haven't posted in a few days and promise a new post tomorrow. I had to work at my MOMS Club consignment sale all day today and am tired in more ways than one. Let's just say that some organizations outlive their worthiness in your life and when that happens, it is time to move on.
Last night was date night with Big B--check back tomorrow for a rockin' movie review! Here's a hint:

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Thumb, Sweet Thumb

My son is a thumb sucker. Not an occasional thumb sucker, but a full-time thumb sucker. His sucking is not limited to sleepy time. No, he sucks in the car and while watching TV. In the middle of playing, he often will retire to the couch for a quiet suck. The thumbnail on his preferred thumb never grows. I suppose any growth is sucked right off. It is often puckered and pruney. He loves his thumb.

It was no surprise to us that Sweet Pea took to thumb sucking. One of his ultrasounds showed him sucking his thumb in utero. For the first three months of life, he had a paci. We were never without a paci. We had pacis in the crib, in every room of the house, in the diaper bag, in the car, buried under the couch cushions, in the laundry basket. Everywhere. He loved them.

Then, at three months, he found his thumb and he never looked back. I would try to give him his paci, but he spit it out with a snarl, look at it with disgust, and shove his thumb back in his mouth.

I allowed the thumb sucking because, well, I was a thumb sucker. Until the age of 9. Really. I distinctly remember the feeling of comfort and peace that would wash over me as I sucked my thumb with my sock doll Polly in hand. I would hold her leg in my sucking hand and rub her softness against my nose as I sucked. All was right with the world. How cruel would I be to deprive my son of that pleasure?

Now, however, my leniency has come back to bite me in the ass. At 3 1/2 Sweet Pea is sucking as much as ever and it is affecting his speech. We had his speech evaluated and it is still within the normal range, but just barely. He has a frontal tongue protrusion caused by sucking and can not pronounce words correctly. There are times that we can not understand what he is saying because of the mispronunciation.

We need to limit the thumb sucking, but how? I can't make him totally quit. I have no control over what he does at nap time and nighttime. I can remind him during car rides and TV time to take his thumb out of his mouth, but what else can I do?