Saturday, December 22, 2012

This is feminist parenting

I wrote the following in the middle of a three-hour flight from Washington D.C. to Minneapolis on Thursday, December 20th. I would like to report that Felicity was a complete angel for Ian their entire time together.

This morning, I stepped onto a plane, waving goodbye to my husband, who had our 12-month baby strapped to his chest. This was to be the longest separation yet between myself and the baby, a whole seven hours and a half hours. I felt guiltily liberated. 

Our small family is going to Minnesota for the holidays. My husband has a conference in Atlanta immediately after Christmas, and I’m staying a week longer with my family before joining him back in New York City. We scheduled our flights separately, finding that the best price for my round-trip was to fly an hour to Washington D.C., enjoy a two and a half hour layover, and then sit on a three hour flight to Minneapolis. I booked my ticket with a lap infant, planning to have Felicity fly with me.

Ian, on the other hand, was able to purchase all direct flights. So despite lifting off thirty minutes before he would, I would arrive three and half hours later.

Two mornings ago, talking about our trip and upcoming flights as we prepared for the day, we realized how crazy it was for me to have two flights with the baby and an overall longer time waiting in airports and in the air. Ian suggested taking her. I readily agreed, knowing that I would have her on my lonesome on the journey from Minneapolis to New York City after the New Year. I recalled flying alone with her when she was a sleepy three months old and how challenging that seemed at the time. I felt happy to share the burden of parenting with my spouse.

Last night, thinking about the logistics, I started to panic. The maximum Ian and the baby have spent alone (without me easily accessible) is about four and half hours. It isn’t that he is never home or isn’t a good caretaker; he does much of the parenting when he is home, sharing in the diaper changes, feedings, baths, is in charge of bedtime, and is a really excellent and involved father. It is more the case that I am still breastfeeding. So even if I have appointments, am working, or am ill, I pop in every two to three hours, check on everyone, see if the baby needs to nurse, and generally offer an over-abundance of unnecessary ‘advice’ to my husband about baby-related things he already accomplishes with finesse.

I am in the process of weaning the baby down to one or two nursing sessions a day, and so was not so worried about an extended amount of time without breastfeeding her. Instead, I had a serious case of the maternal “what ifs”: what if her ears bother her on the flight and she screams for hours, and I’m not there to comfort her? What if she desperately decides she must nurse, adamantly giving my husband her nursing sign, refusing the soy milk, peanut butter, and fruit packets we carefully tucked into her diaper bag, and then refuses to be comforted? (This is her latest – and quite effective – tactic to get middle of the night feedings). 

As I write this, I realize our division of labor is good. This is feminist parenting. To say, I desperately would love some time to myself and would like to enjoy (as much as one can enjoy) my day in airports and in the air in solitude, with my book and my writing and my research project. To say, it makes more logistical sense for the baby to be in airports and in planes for less time, and to only have one descent, which can be so painful for little ears. To you, now that we are down to fewer nursing sessions, there is no reason why my very capable and nurturing husband can’t be the sole caretaker for the great challenge of taking a very active, newly willful, almost-toddler across the country. To say that he can handle it, no matter what the day brings. To say that even if she does get upset and cries for their entire three hour flight, it will not permanently damage her and she will be fine, and he will be fine as well. 

They were supposed to be landing about the same time my last flight was taking off. I kept my phone on as long as possible, holding it nervously in my hand, desperately wanting to know how everything went. Alas, I had to turn it off before he texted to say that they’d landed. 

Although it has been nice to be able to think about other things besides the baby, to read and not be juggling a baby on my lap, and work on editing my current research project instead of singing endless renditions of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, the desire to know what is happening is overwhelming. I am accustomed to being in control (or at least feeling that I am in control). 

I find myself counting down the minutes until I see them: ninety minutes left in the air, another thirty or so until I can hug the baby, kiss my husband, and know that being a mother doesn’t always equate to sacrificing what I need and want.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Plant Matters: The Recipes

Some of you remember that I used to post recipes on this blog. When Ian and I became vegans over the summer, I moved my recipe-posting over to Plant Matters (I understand that not everyone following this blog, which is mostly concerned with feminism, writing, and mothering, will also be interested in veganism).

I took the time in the last day to copy all of the vegan (or easily veganizable) recipes from This, That, and the Other over to Plant Matters, and all are posted in our handy-dandy Recipe Index! I have also take the time to put some nutritional information with most of the recipes.

Have a relaxing Sunday, friendly reader(s).

Saturday, December 15, 2012

How to have a (somewhat) lazy Saturday morning with a baby

  1. Stage sleeping in:
    •  Awaken before 6:00 am to strange noises/smells, and realize your baby is awake
    • Argue about who spent more time up with the baby during the night.
    • Realize the mom is almost always the "winner" here.
    •  Kiss to show no serious hard feelings, and hand baby off to partner for one hour, more tired parent sleeps in.
    • Swap places with baby and bed, second partner naps for an hour.
  2. Baby naps:
    •  Everyone snuggle in bed and get baby ready for nap.
    •  Baby feels so loved and wonderful, baby inevitably goes down for long, wonderful nap.*
    • Enjoy what you would've normally done on a Saturday morning before you had an infant that woke up at the crack of dawn, demanding your near-constant attention, but be aware that your napping child is really a ticking time bomb, so hustle through your relaxing activities. 
  3. High-five each other - you are awesome. Pretend that having a child really hasn't completely wrecked every weekend.
*Note: This doesn't always work. Baby may be on to your plan...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Review: Flight Behavior

Flight Behavior
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have a lot of respect for Barbara Kingsolver as a writer and as an activist. I really wanted to read this book despite not knowing what it was about, and perhaps that was for the best.

I live in New York City and would consider myself a fervent liberal, and the setting (Bible Belt) and characters (for the most part, under-educated conservatives who misquote the Bible)immediately put me off. But I trusted Kingsolver and kept reading. I'm so glad.

Dellarobia is in her late twenties, stuck in an unhappy marriage with two kids, and not much to look forward to. In an attempt to escape her reality through an affair, she encounters a forest filled with monarch butterflies, which Kingsolver compares to Moses seeing the burning bush in the Old Testament. She is moved and determines to try making her marriage and life work.

This book follows Dellarobia as she starts to navigate who she really is and what she really wants in a community that doesn't like to ask a lot of questions. Dellarobia finds that, much like the misplaced butterflies who ought to have been in Mexico, not Tennessee, she is out of tune and dying in an unsuitable environment.

This was a beautifully written story in so many ways. The parallels are exceptional, and Kingsolver has such a strong voice. Did I connect with the characters and setting? No, but that isn't what makes a good book a good book, is it? Kingsolver effectively writes about global warming, consumerism, and what it is to be stuck in poverty.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Discussing Abortion

I read an article today about a woman's experience of getting pregnant unexpectedly (while using an IUD), and her decision to have an abortion to terminate her pregnancy.

Abortion is typically talked about in the terms 'pro-life' or 'pro-choice,' and we forget about the stories of women, those who decide to go through with the pregnancy, and those that don't. I've never personally heard anyone talk about an abortion that they, or even a friend, went through, and I appreciated this personal account.

Like many women, I'm pro-choice (and support Planned Parenthood), but I would have a difficult time going through with an abortion myself. At this point that's probably because I'm pretty okay with having another baby (though don't want one right now), and know that I would get a tubal immediately after the birth.

But there was a time, when I was pregnant with Felicity and was suffering from PUPPPs (pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy, fun name, right?), that Ian and I talked about it. I'm not sure if I wrote much about this experience, so I'll do it now:

When I was three months pregnant, my body broke out in an unbelievably itchy, awful rash, that supposedly occurs in about about 0.05% of pregnancies (1 in 200). It's also supposed to only be bad for about a week (not true), occur in the last few weeks of pregnancy (SO NOT TRUE), and will persist until after the birth of your child (this is true).

The itching is akin to nothing I've ever experienced before, and I'm a Minnesota girl that has had her fair share of misquito bites and was susceptible to impetigo as child. The itching of PUPPPs drives you insane. You can't do anything - you can't concentrate, can't complete your sentences, and can't sleep. I went the emergency room at one point because the itching was so awful, we didn't know what else to do. I was put on oral steroids, a dermatology student with poor stitching skills gave me a skin biopsy in my hip, which will forever have a crazy scar, and then I was put on topical steroids. I had to take benedryl to try to sleep at all. When I was able to sleep, I'd wake up repeatedly in the night, having scratched myself to bleeding on my arms, legs, belly, and hips.

We tried all sorts of things. We heard that something called Grandpa's Pine Tar Soap helped, so I started using that (it smells like a wood fire with a hint of... tar). I was taking cool oatmeal baths several times a day, taking cold showers several times in the night when the itching got bad, slathering on pure aloe vera (which smells exactly like a hardware store), and doing a lot of crying.

So we talked about terminating, because both Ian and I felt that I would not physically be able to handle the insane itching for six months (or more, if it continued into nursing, as it does in rare cases). At this point, both Ian and I were barely sleeping, and I had to basically be drugged every night (it got much worse at night), and he would have to hold me, spooning me tightly, while watching the trashiest TV possible we could find online.

Then I found something online called nettle leaf tea, something pregnant women have been drinking for centuries to help with allergies and itching during pregnancy. I was strongly urged by the University of Michigan medical staff not to drink it (not tested by the FDA, anything could happen, they apparently would prefer it if I was taking category-C drugs instead during two-thirds of the pregnancy). I didn't listen. And I'm glad.

I started drinking this grassy-tasting tea 3+ times a day. Within several days the itching had improved, and within a week that actual rash itself was almost gone. I still had flare ups when the weather was hot and humid, and admittedly spent many nights in the sixth and seventh months of pregnancy splayed naked on my bed with a giant fan blowing cold air on my giant belly, slathered in cooling aloe vera, but this amazing tea eliminated about 95% of my symptoms and made pregnancy doable for me.

I'm glad that we didn't have to talk very long about whether or not to keep our baby - she was wanted, and now that we have her, we're so glad we do. But I also don't know if I could have possibly gone through an entire 6+ months of that insane, awful itching - a couple of weeks of it felt suffocating and infuriating, unbearable. I would not have been able to do my graduate work, excel at my job (earn money), interact with Ian in a loving manner, and focus on doing what I needed to do to grow a healthy baby.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Review: Life's Work: Confessions of an Unbalanced Mom

Life's Work: Confessions of an Unbalanced Mom
Life's Work: Confessions of an Unbalanced Mom by Lisa Belkin

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I picked this up in the feminist-mothering section of the library at Columbia. I gave it a good shot of about fifty pages, but there just isn't anything great here. I feel like maybe I should read more, but I'm bored and I don't feel like I'm going to read anything that will speak to me or enhance my understanding of the challenges and moments of grace in mothering.

I'm annoyed that there doesn't seem to be any depth here. It's like I'm reading small blog posts, and the themes are loose at best. Yes, the writing is clear, but it just isn't interesting. I probably would keep reading if I didn't have all of these other amazing books on mothering at home right now (go thesis project!).

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The Baby is One

Two days ago, Felicity turned one. I loved it, I hated it.

I adore birthdays. I will even try to celebrate your half-birthday, if you let me (with a half of a cake, naturally!). I want Flick's birthdays to be special, full of tradition, and memorable, even if she isn't the one keeping the memories at first.

I made lots of trial cupcakes, and settled on two recipes for her party. I took time thoughtfully selecting gifts that her little baby self would love, bought a bouquet of flowers for her (mixed in variety and color, because I don't know her favorite flower or color(s) yet), and found a very sweet card for her. She even got a balloon, though she's not really into balloons yet, we found out. My mom and I made a birthday banner for her during Hurricane Sandy, which Ian and I hung with great care, using a ruler and everything.

We went out for breakfast on her birthday. I took a picture and avoided crying. Then Ian left for an all-day conference an hour and half out of the city, and Felicity's babysitter came and took her for five hours so I could clean the house for her party the next day.

I tried really hard not to feel guilty about this (like I try really hard not to feel guilty about so many things): Ian had had a crazy week at work and did not have time to contribute to the housework during that week, I have been prioritizing my own research and writing (yay), and the party was scheduled for the next day, and the apartment needed a little TLC. Plus I had to buy groceries and start cooking. Also, Felicity is too young to understand the concept of a birthday, and what the day is.

I was able to accomplish an amazing lot in the five hours, and Felicity loves E., her sitter. Afterwards, I took her on a long walk, and ate bits of dried fruit and animal crackers with her at the cafe in Whole Foods. She napped in her stroller, and we did an extra-long story time before bed, with lots of cuddles and kisses. She fell into a really good, deep sleep. The sleep of a baby that has been active, laughing, reading, and interacting with someone else almost the whole day, the restful sleep of a baby that has a relaxed mother, a happy mother.

I am increasingly aware of my need to be accepted and to live up to the expectations I perceive others have for me. This whole birthday experience further highlighted this. Maybe it's because birthdays were treated a certain way in our household, with a certain sort of reverence and tradition, and that is what I want to pass on. Maybe it is because I feel the "perfect mother" would have had the house clean in the first place and would be able to handle getting ready for a party while taking care of and pleasing a baby, and that this wouldn't upset her child and exhaust her beyond her limits. I'm not sure who this perfect mother is, but she sure isn't me.

So I didn't let myself feel guilty. At the end of the day, the baby was happy, and I was happy, and she had a really lovely party yesterday afternoon.

I do believe I achieved some sort of balance. A feat, ladies and gentlemen, a feat!

Now I just have to come to grips with my baby not really being a baby anymore. 

Review: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule
Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let me first admit that I have held on to my library copy of VCTOTW for far too long. In fact, the library doesn't even seem to think that I have it, despite not accruing any fines. I feel equal amounts of shame and glee, and do plan on returning it. Soon, I swear. As soon as I try every single recipe... (of my husband buys this for me for Christmas because he is ashamed of my dishonest ways, and wants the cupcakes to keep coming).

This is a goldmine for the vegan that bakes, even if that vegan has never baked before. The ingredients aren't strange and use things out of your vegan pantry (I spent $75 purchasing crazy ingredients at Whole Foods for one recipe in Babycakes that was mediocre at best), the instructions are easy to follow, and, best of all, these cook up into amazing cupcakes - and I am freaking FUSSY about my cupcakes (and other baked goods).

My two favorite recipes are for the chocolate cupcakes (Your Basic Chocolate Cupcake), with a little extra vanilla extract, and some coconut extract for good measure, with the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (ditto with the vanilla and coconut here too), and the Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting. So. Amazing.

I made both of these recipes in mini form for my daughter's first birthday party, and they were a hit with all of my non-vegan friends (I kept hearing, "And can you believe they're vegan?!" around the room).

The only thing I've made so far that I haven't cared for was the batch of Thick Chocolate Fudgey Frostin'. I suspect this has more to do with my lack of good-quality soy milk powder that the actual recipe.

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Is PMS a Hoax?

Ever follow a link of a link of a link in an interesting story? I did today. I started at Nursing Clio and ended up at an article that cites a recent study by the University of Toronto that found PMS may not be related to any lady mood swings.

As a teenager, I was convinced that I became actually depressed a week or two before my period, a condition called PMDD. Looking back, I think maybe I was just in a mild depression during my teens and into my last year of college, and I think the science is a bit shaky on PMDD being an actual thing or not.

I am in the camp that believes that there is a whole lot more attributed to PMS than there should be. I think that some women use it as an excuse for bad behavior, and men often use it to write off women's valid concerns/feelings as crazy and illogical.

Food for thought on a Sunday. What do you think? 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Review: Bender: New and Selected Poems

Bender: New and Selected Poems
Bender: New and Selected Poems by Dean Young

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I rarely give one stars, and maybe I should've given these poems more of a chance, but ugh.

Let me explain: I like to read my baby poetry while I nurse her; relaxing to her, relaxing to me. I saw this book in my local library's featured new books and picked it up, seemed promising. I read five or six of the gazillion poems. Thinking maybe things got better towards the middle, I randomly flipped to a page and started reading. My husband walked in and literally though I was stringing random words together. He flipped to another page, had me read that, and by the end we were in hysterics, it was so bad.

Maybe this guy is genius and it's just not my kind of poetry, and maybe it's meant to be digested slowly. In any case, I'd much rather read Anne Carson any day.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

On a Thursday Night

I can't believe it's been over a month since I've written, especially when I used to make a point of posting daily. But you don't really want to hear about that, and I really don't want to write about it.

Today Ian and I hired someone to watch Felicity for 10+ hours a week, at least until the end of the semester. My work has been spotty at best (seems to be a theme), but I'm happy to report I've actually started writing (yay!). It's been a long time of trudging through books and taking a ridiculous amount of notes. Ian, in his wisdom, sat me down a couple of weeks ago and told me that I'm taking too many notes and spending way too much time in the research phase, not enough time writing. He was right, of course.

During Hurricane Sandy
So there's that. I'm excited to be making forward progress.

Other than the thesis/research, we've had a couple of things happen. Of course, Hurricane Sandy happened. It didn't seem like much as the storm was actually taking place, and we were all bundled in the apartment, safe and warm. We even went and took a picture outside, and this was during the worst storm surge.  It was only until we started looking online the next day, watching news reports and seeing pictures, that we really understood the horrific nature of the storm.

We were impacted in three ways from the storm.

First, my mom, who was supposed to be visiting for four days, had an extended visit of ten days. Thankfully we all have a wonderful relationship. Ian and I have offered to let her move in with us multiple times(she can sleep on the pull-out couch in the living room!), but she never takes us up on the offer...

Second, there was some local damage in Riverside Park, as you can see in the picture below. Mom and I went on a walk the day after and took some pictures - what was most striking were all of the leaves on the ground. So many colors and textures, all mixed together. The park staff has done an amazing job cleaning up, although much of this downed tree is still there, weeks later.

Third, the subways were, of course, closed for several days, and then re-opened with limited service. This wasn't too big of a deal for us as we don't depend on the MTA on a regular basis to get where we need to go. but it was a reminder that our family was priveleged and lucky to have suffered so little, while millions were without power for days (many over a week), clean water, or cell phone service.

Save the storm, my mom's visit was an incredible amount of fun. We did some jigsaw puzzles (I'm not embarrassed to say that I do love a good puzzle), made some wonderful cupcakes (which I'll blog about on Plant Matters in the next day or two), spent lots of time playing with Felicity, cooked, drank lots of tea, and played some Scrabble and Bananagrams. My mom also took some great photos of Felicity (thank you Mom!), which of course I feel obligated to share with anyone who will look. I mean, she's adorable, isn't she?

Below are some of my favorites.

 I can't believe small Flick-a-Dee is almost one! Here she is, in all of her splendor, on the once-white chaise in our living room, dressed of course in some very cute clothes. This child may only speak in raspberries, but she will be dressed well while doing so!

Felicity was dressed a monarch butterfly for her first Halloween. Apparently one of Mitt Romney's grandchildren also wore the same costume, or so I'm told. 

The last two pictures are of us looking at the dog run in Riverside Park the day after Hurricane Sandy. Felicity is incessantly fond of looking at dogs, and talking about/to dogs. And this is what I mean about the crazy leaves. It's a small detail, but it is probably what I will remember most about Hurricane Sandy, how the green leaves looked on the ground next to the brown, red, and gold leaves, and what it felt like trying to walk through the park, pushing a stroller after the storm.

Review: Broken Harbor

Broken Harbor
Broken Harbor by Tana French

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't have a lot to say, so I'll make it brief:

Tana French is an amazing author.
I couldn't put this book down.
Most enjoyable thing I've read since The Hunger Games series.

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Review: Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, And Hope In A Mumbai Undercity

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, And Hope In A Mumbai Undercity
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, And Hope In A Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn't terribly excited when my book club chose Behind the Beautiful Forevers and, truth be told, I hated the first two-thirds of it. I felt that Boo was being dishonest - it read too much like fiction to be real - how could one woman account for so much happening at the same time, report what multiple peoples' thoughts were at one moment?

My journalist neighbor and friend gently rebuffed me in our building's laundry room as being a bit ungracious. She gave me some background on Katherine Boo, and what actually went into writing the book. I decided to keep reading it and gave her another chance. That said, when picking this up (and you should!), read the afterward first. It will enhance your reading experience, I promise!

This is not an enjoyable read. It is depressing and will make you feel terrible. Reading it reminded me of going on "missions trips" to Mexico in the junior high - you see and hear such terrible things, make absolutely no difference in the lives of people you are supposed to be helping, and the whole experience makes you incessantly grateful for what you have that for a week or two that you stumble around, not being bothered by minor inconveniences that would normally irritate, happy to have the possibility of being happy.

The very fact that slums still exist is awful, and Behind the Beautiful Forevers truly takes it to another level. Boo spent years with her subjects. The accounts of squalor are astounding, and even more troubling is the complete and absolute corruption in India. Reading about this corruption made me feel hopeless; what can possibly be done?

This is journalism at its best, raw and true and awful. I wish there had been some analysis at the end, perhaps some recommendations for further research or reading.

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Review: The Marriage Plot

The Marriage Plot
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It feels strange to only give The Marriage Plot three stars - I had a difficult time putting it down, especially the last half, which I finished in the last 24 hours. It was a good read, but I didn't actually enjoy the story itself.

Eugenides is a wonderful writer. I have yet to read The Virgin Suicides, but I recall Middlesex with fondness. Eugenides has a particular way of planting the reader in an environment with his subjects, letting the reader feel and think with his characters. His books are carefully and thoughtfully plotted. Yet The Marriage Plot was too raw, too vivid, too personal, and too intense. The characters were deeply unlikeable and did not develop as much as they could have, should have. It felt like I was watching three fish splash around each other in a too-small bucket while the water slowly drained out, and for what purpose?

I suppose this book is timely, what with the current recession and this generation's (my generation's) lack of direction and perceived ability to successfully and intentionally work hard. There is real anguish here - that even if we do our very best, it may not, will not bring us what we want, perhaps what we need.

My husband also made a humorous point. After over-exposure to my current obsession with the Gilmore Girls, he said he couldn't help but see and hear Phyllida and Alton as Emily and Richard Gilmore. Of course once he told me though, I did the same.

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Monday, October 8, 2012

This, That, and the Other

Your mind is totally blown right now, because the title of this post is the same as my blog. I mean, you noticed, right? Right!?!

When I started this blog almost three years ago (wow!), I originally intended it to be a blog of lists. I don't have anything in particular to write about right now, but there are several things going on. It's a listy sort of Monday evening, so I give you a bit of this, that, and the other:

  1. Ian was out of town for the weekend and my lovely friend A. came to stay with Felicity and me, mostly to distract me and keep me sane, and also to have fun, and do girly things, like watch Jane Austen movies while work on an impossibly hard jigsaw puzzle (that nearly brought us to tears), make yummy food, and bake. 
  2. New glasses! Ian and I went to Warby Parker the weekend before last and found glasses that we liked, and we ordered them. They came on Saturday. I am growing to love mine (they need to get adjusted, they're a bit loose on my head), although my family is not a fan - apparently they look huge on me. But I like them. They're kind of masculine. Ian looks plain FOXY in his new glasses. Seriously, how did I land myself such an attractive partner?
  3. I do here solemnly swear to put pictures of us in our new glasses up as soon as I can find our camera.
  4. Cupcake Adventures: The Quest for the Perfect Chocolate Cupcake! Current installations Part I and Part II.
  5. I have to brag a little, I've dropped two pants sizes in the past two months. I've lost 12 pounds since we've been home (six weeks), and 7 pounds in the past three weeks. I'm sure my weight loss will halt briefly during the Cupcake Adventures, but I'm really proud of myself

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Why I Need to Take Pictures with the Baby Too

This is a stunning article by Allison Tate on Huffington Post, give it a read.
...we really need to make an effort to get in the picture. Our sons need to see how young and beautiful and human their mamas were. Our daughters need to see us vulnerable and open and just being ourselves -- women, mamas, people living lives. Avoiding the camera because we don't like to see our own pictures? How can that be okay?

Someday, I want them to see me, documented, sitting right there beside them: me, the woman who gave birth to them, whom they can thank for their ample thighs and their pretty hair; me, the woman who nursed them all for the first years of their lives, enduring porn star-sized boobs and leaking through her shirts for months on end; me, who ran around gathering snacks to be the week's parent reader or planning the class Valentine's Day party; me, who cried when I dropped them off at preschool, breathed in the smell of their post-bath hair when I read them bedtime stories, and defied speeding laws when I had to rush them to the pediatric ER in the middle of the night for fill-in-the-blank (ear infections, croup, rotavirus).

Monday, October 1, 2012

Review: All About Love: New Visions

All About Love: New Visions
All About Love: New Visions by Bell Hooks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Our book club chose to read bell hook's All About Love: New Visions. Ever the procrastinator, I finished the last two chapters this afternoon, hours before our first meeting.

I have mixed emotions about All About Love. I've been meaning to read this book forever, have even started reading it once or twice in the past before getting distracted with something else. I admire hook's overall project, which is to look at what love is apart from out societal expectations, and to investigate how we can truly live with love. Of course, love does not merely refer to romantic, partnered relationships. Rather, hook's applies love to all areas and spaces of life: love is crucial to how we see and relate to ourselves, to our families, friends, communities, partners, and even those we do not know. Her concept of love is much broader, calling for larger, grander societal changes.

bell hooks uses M. Scott Peck's definition of love, as found in The Road Less Traveled: Love is the "will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth... Love is as love does. Love is an act of will - namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love."

I really appreciate hook's cultural analysis, how love is often not present in relationships where people use power and dishonesty to control and subjugate others (whites to non-whites, men to women, adults to children, etc.), how our ideas of what love is and what love does is not truly loving but self-serving and destructive. hooks does have some great ideas and some powerful words.

That said, this book was unexpectedly difficult to get through. Although hooks is probably the easiest feminist theorist to read (I LOVE LOVE LOVE so much of her work), this book felt muddled and somewhat disorganized. hook's analysis and good ideas seemed to drown in quotes from self-help books and lack of clarity and cohesiveness.

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Green Chile Stew (recipe link!), Croup, and Times to Avoid Reading Anything by Suzanne Collins

//Check out my recipe for Green Chile Stew here. Approved by 100% of New Mexicans that have tried it (that is, just Ian).//

Ian was born and raised in New Mexico, the only state that has its own question: "Red or Green?" Yes, those from The Land of Enchantment are a little fanatical about their chiles.

I'll come back to the chiles, I promise.

Ten days ago, Felicity and I both fell ill on the same evening. I developed some sort of horrible flu, despite having recently obtained my annual flu shot, which involved a terrible sore throat, throbbing headache, body aches, shivering, and a highish fever. As a note, if you're coming down with the flu, for the sweet love of god, stay away from The Hunger Games series and pick up some Jane Austen. Seriously, worst and possibly the most terrifying night of sleep I've ever had.

My symptoms improved the next day, although I've had some sort of lingering cold since. It's the kind of cold that seems to have new symptoms every day; every morning I wake up, and it feels like the first day of a cold. So strange.

But Felicity fared even worse. Overnight, her poor little body decided to attack itself, and she developed croup. I hadn't heard of anyone getting croup. When I hear 'croup,' I think about Anne of Green Gables and ipecac,* no lie. But yes, Felicity sounded like a dying seal, was diagnosed with croup by a kindly working pediatrican on a Saturday morning, and was promptly treated with a course of steroids to try to avoid death.

Poor Felicity also still has a cold.

Any good New Mexican will tell you to stuff your face with green chile stew before flu season, during flu season, and if you feel a twinge in your throat or nose. I am married to such a New Mexican, and my mother-in-law is such a New Mexican. She, in her goodness, mailed us a care package with a good five pounds of green chiles, with some red and green chile powder in addition. (I must take a moment to brag: I seriously have the best mother-in-law; she skypes with Felicity and me almost every day, is always encouraging and thoughtful, raised one really fine son that treats his two ladies like gold, and she knows when it's time for some chile love).

Ian and I roasted the chiles in the oven yesterday morning. Ian took the time to peel and chop about half of them, and we froze the other half. And I made my very first green chile stew. And then we stuffed our faces with it.

*I can't remember if Anne used ipecac to save Diana's little sister from death of croup; it's been a good 15+ years since I've read the books (do I sniff a literary trip down memory lane approaching?), and even my memories of the movies are vague, but my brain has tied these two things together. So no badgering if ipecac doesn't treat croup; it seems like it might actually make it worse?

"The Myth of the Male Decline"

Check out this interesting article in today's New York Times regarding the recent buzz about "the male decline." It's a great article, and well worth your time. Here is one particularly discouraging quote that discusses the motherhood penalty as part of the larger sexist hegemony:
Once they have children, wives usually fall further behind their husbands in earnings, partly because they are more likely to temporarily quit work or cut back when workplace policies make it hard for both parents to work full time and still meet family obligations.But this also reflects prejudice against working mothers. A few years ago, researchers at Cornell constructed fake résumés, identical in all respects except parental status. They asked college students to evaluate the fitness of candidates for employment or promotion. Mothers were much less likely to be hired. If hired, they were offered, on average, $11,000 less in starting salary and were much less likely to be deemed deserving of promotion. The researchers also submitted similar résumés in response to more than 600 actual job advertisements. Applicants identified as childless received twice as many callbacks as the supposed mothers.
This infographic was found alongside the article linked to above, and can be found here.

The article wraps up discussing the "male mystique," that is, how men are bound within their sex to particular roles and expectations:
Just as women who display “masculine” ambitions or behaviors on the job are often penalized, so are men who engage in traditionally female behaviors, like prioritizing family involvement. Men who take an active role in child care and housework at home are more likely than other men to be harassed at work. Men who request family leave are often viewed as weak or uncompetitive and face a greater risk of being demoted or downsized. And men who have ever quit work for family reasons end up earning significantly less than other male employees, even when controlling for the effects of age, race, education, occupation, seniority and work hours. Now men need to liberate themselves from the pressure to prove their masculinity. Contrary to the fears of some pundits, the ascent of women does not portend the end of men. It offers a new beginning for both. But women’s progress by itself is not a panacea for America’s inequities. The closer we get to achieving equality of opportunity between the sexes, the more clearly we can see that the next major obstacle to improving the well-being of most men and women is the growing socioeconomic inequality within each sex.
What do you think?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

People have been telling me for years to read The Hunger Games, and I seriously should have listened much earlier. I was finally able to get a copy at the library two days ago, and of course stayed up until almost 3:00 am reading last night. The last time I remember staying up late because I couldn't put a book down? College.

YA literature is always going to have a certain feel to it, especially sci-fi, but this was possibly the most enjoyable book I've read all year. I think it helped that I went into the book fairly blind. For once, my disinterest in the general media and inability to find time to listen to NPR have served me well!

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Maternal Thinking vs. Maternal Instinct

I read through Motherhood and Feminism by Amber E. Kinser two weeks ago. I was reviewing my notes this afternoon and came across this quote, which I absolutely love:

Understanding women’s mothering knowledge to be grounded in ‘maternal thinking’ rather than maternal instinct positions us to consider the concentrated effort that women put into mothering, rather than to assume that it comes to them as quickly and effortlessly as, say, as instinctive ‘fight or flight’ response to danger. The concept of maternal thinking also suggests that ‘motherly’ behavior and knowledge of children’s best interests are not merely grounded in biology. Rather than emerging naturally and exclusively between mothers and biological children, such behavior and knowledge emerge from purposeful thought and the engaged practice of caring for children… Mothering is not, then, the exclusive domain of biological mothers; it is a product one’s disciplined, focused, and persistent effort.
Next to the copied quote, I wrote "Yes!" I think that sums up my feelings nicely.

Monday, September 3, 2012


I know I've been quiet lately. I've been busy changing what seems like millions of sticky, poopy diapers, cooking, and reading.

I haven't officially written about my updated thesis topic, but here's what's on my reading list right now:

Is Breast Best?: Taking on the Breastfeeding Experts and the New High Stakes of Motherhood by Joan B. Wolf

The Time Use of Mothers in the United States at the Beginning of the 21st Century by Rachel Connelly and Jean Kimmel

Feminist Mothering edited by Andrea O'Reilly

Motherhood and Feminism by Amber E. Kinser

The Paradox of Natural Mothering by Chris Bobel

Anyone want to guess at what I'm writing about and what my hypothesis might be? I'll mail you cookies if you're right!

Thursday, August 30, 2012


  1. Ian on parenting: "If you'd told me seven years ago that I'd someday be storing vials of baby poop in the fridge, I never would have believed you."
  2. I had a fifteen minute breakdown today prompted by the inability to find a clean baby spoon (or a dirty one to clean) and accidentally pinching Felicity's leg in her chair buckle. I went to the bathroom to cry, and in a blind rage, upon finding it a disaster and thus an unsuitable place to cry, cleaned it furiously. So now we have a really clean bathroom, and I'm feeling better. I so hope this is how I deal with my anger from now on.

Monday, August 27, 2012

I've Been Doing Things

You've certainly noticed a lack of posts; I usually make an effort to post daily, yet there has been an almost two-week silence!

It's really all been quite a bit of readjusting and re-prioritizing. That and packing, and cleaning, then a three-day roadtrip, cleaning some more, and unpacking and organizing.

Ian and I decided we really weren't pleased with many of our choices and use of our time over the summer. Yes, I wrote a lot and started a few new projects, and we made steps in the right direction for revamping our budget to save more, and improve our eating habits, but the whole time in Ann Arbor felt very unfocused and confused. We spent several days talking and planning when we got back, and committed ourselves to a schedule that prioritizes my work as well as his. What this means, however, is that we're spending less time together in the evening, waking up earlier, and have less free time in general. We're getting serious, yo.

I love to blog, I love to write. I love working on my projects. But realistically, I need to focus on doing my part in keeping the family in order, then my research, then my physical goals, and then fun things like reading and blogging and watching videos of adorable kittens online (there is actually very little of this, but who am I to say that it doesn't occupy more time than it actually should?)/

We've also committed to not eating out at all, except for once a month on our lunaversary. This is actually pretty easy to do now; there are absolutely no restaurants within walking distance (or even a short train ride!) that are both affordable and cater to a vegan diet. Ditto with baked goods.

And so we are very intentional in planning out all of our meals, even our snacks. It means we are spending more on groceries (though about the same overall as when we were eating out 2-4 times a week and eating meat and dairy products), and that we are both spending more time in the kitchen. I'm the lucky one - I get to spend most of my kitchen time cooking! And then Ian cleans up my messes, which is a really big job. So when I say that a large chunk of time is going to "keeping my family in order," what I really mean is that I spend lots of time in the kitchen. Making delicious things. And lots of messes. But I'd like to focus on the delicious things.

I'm also taking my research much more seriously, prioritizing it above all else during my allotted 'Rachel' time. I haven't done this since the baby was born. Before, if Felicity was cranky, or I was tired, or the house was a mess (one of these three things was almost always the case!), I would choose to stay home. Now, save for a medical emergency and/or natural disaster (they often come hand in hand, no?), I'm out the door when I'm supposed to be. I'm started actually leaving my computer at home to avoid distractions when I'm out. And guess what? I'm working at about 3x the speed. I have to write out my notes by hand, but that's fine.

And exercising. I'm exercising now at night if I'm not working or cleaning. This instead of watching Gilmore Girls (maybe I can do both at once!?!). 

Add on to all of this a poor, sweet little thing about twenty-two pounds in weight that has her two front, top teeth coming in (ouch!), and has had a terrible case of the loose-poos for the past four days straight. As she has no other symptoms, we're pretty sure it's because of the teething and the pediatrician isn't worried... yet. But seriously, Felicity goes through about 15+ diapers a day now, and, despite our best efforts, has a diaper rash that only a forgetful and easily-distracted infant can endure. I'm pretty sure I would not be as patient with such a red, angry booty.

And her sleep schedule is all messed up due to the above. It's super not cool.

So yeah. I've been doing things.

I do plan on starting back with the Meditation Project very soon. We haven't done any sitting or walking meditation in the week we've been back, and I must admit that my daily mindfulness practice has also almost disappeared. Isn't it funny how a change in location can throw off your groove? I need to take some time to plan out how to be intentional with the project and work it into our grand schedule. Personally, I think this will involve leaving hand-written gathas around the house on note cards.

For example:
As I take off your steaming diaper,
I am reminded of the ebb and flow of life.
May your diaper rash heal,
As we heal ourselves and others.

I'm kidding. Sort of...

Review: Vegan Yum Yum: Decadent (But Doable) Animal-Free Recipes for Entertaining and Everyday

Vegan Yum Yum: Decadent (But Doable) Animal-Free Recipes for Entertaining and Everyday
Vegan Yum Yum: Decadent (But Doable) Animal-Free Recipes for Entertaining and Everyday by Lauren Ulm

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like Vegan Yum Yum more, but everything has been so-so, or the recipe just doesn't work out like it was intended. For example, I tried to make the breakfast sandwiches this morning. The 'egg replacement' was awful, inedible really, and I don't know what I could've possibly done to make it work. The maple-soy tofu was okay, but not anything special (sausage seitan would be much better, if we're going for substitutes), and while the texture of the biscuits was good, the cooking times were five minutes off and they ended up being really salty.

I've been cooking and backing since I was a child and feel like I can follow instructions really well and have a good head on my shoulders for making something better when it's lackluster, but they few recipes I've tried out of this cookbook just aren't worth it.

My other gripes (besides poorly-written recipes) are that the recipes are poorly organized (it's so hard to find anything in here!), and it seems like almost all of the recipes are dependent upon soy products/tofu, or expensive spice combinations.

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