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Wordpress, it’s been real.
Please head over to my new site, www.veryveryfine.com!
Wordpress, it’s been real.
Welcome to the December Carnival of Natural Parenting: Let’s Talk Traditions
Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
A certain newborn may be faulted for our procurement of a 2009 holiday tree at what some might call the last possible second — Christmas Eve — but in actuality I think we could’ve managed a trip to the tree lot if there’d been some kind of pre-set plan. A presumed time with corresponding stop at cute cafe and a swing by the most festive neighborhood lights display before heading home to drink cocoa in our matching Hanna Andersson jammies. Also, you know, two-thirds of us are Jewish, so this may not have been a realistic scenario. But you get the idea.
Since George has been alive, I’ve put my holiday planning into overdrive which, to me, is really intense but, to you, might look significantly…um, less so. Not impressed by that L’Shana Tovah banner I hung in the front window for Rosh Hashanah, eh? Well, I tried.
This year, we’ve persevered despite having a two week-old sapping our energy as one of our thirtieth birthdays passed by and realizing the night before Thanksgiving that we may not have money to buy the makings for the standard Macy’s Parade-watching quiche (we scraped it together). But, do I want George to be a part of a make-it-work-with-a-little-felt-and-a-WIC-check kind of family? Little by little, we’re getting it in gear and I’m pleased to report that Hanukkah has been our best showing yet. Homemade food, homemade gifts, thoughtfulness in the place/face of blatant consumerism and as much family time as we could muster with a papa who works two jobs. That said, our biggest, most tradition-y effort still lies ahead.
I’ve talked a little bit about George’s naming ceremony, or brit shalom, in the past, but it, like his first birthday, always seemed a loooooong ways off. We chose a name to honor a very special lady, picked a date for the party and made the invitations, and even THEN its imminence didn’t sink in. We’re now at T minus about two weeks, and I am staring down the barrel of the first culturally significant milestone of my baby’s life. An event steeped in tradition. And meaning. And I’m a floppy felt banner in the window sort of mom.
This was all giving me a serious case of the worries until one of our dear friends said something that I know resonated with, well… everyone in the room at the time, because it applied to all of us in different ways. Your children won’t remember that you’re poor; they’ll remember that you loved them. Will George look back on photos of his naming ceremony and birthday party and think, “Wow! What a tiny, crappy house! And you couldn’t spring for a real mohel?”? Or will he see all the friends and family? Will he see the homemade food and decorations for the loving contributions they were? I needed to check myself and stop reading so many design blogs.
The facts are these: We aren’t wealthy. We aren’t organized. We aren’t a traditional family. But we’re creative, and as I assembled and addressed the invitations to George’s naming ceremony and birthday party this evening, I took heart in that. Because some years, we might not get a tree until Christmas Eve. We might have fettuccine alfredo for Thanksgiving dinner and make Purim costumes out of the Goodwill bag. But I’d bet money that in the pictures, we’ll be smiling. And that’s a tradition I can get behind.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
One year ago this evening, we were on a snowy freeway, heading home from a day in Anacortes, making jokes about giving birth in a snowbank on the side of the road. When I awoke at nearly 3:00am — fewer than six hours after arriving safely home — I had no idea that I’d be a mother before the sun came up.
That morning, my body’s efficiency — my own innate and unwavering knowledge of what to do (or what to allow my body to continue doing) amazed me. Being so totally powerless to biology, to oneself isn’t something I’d have guessed I’d enjoy, but I got out of that birthing tub feeling like I could do it all again, immediately, and love it just as much. My birth experience was a lucky one: short, comfortable, in the most perfect venue I could imagine (can you think of a hospital that would welcome an already-pushing woman with a warm bath, dim lights and candles? Or a home birth you don’t have to clean up [yes, this heavily influenced my decision; I am lazy]? Didn’t think so.). Of course, the luckiest part of my birth was the result: the tiny, bald grouch we got to take home.
Every day of motherhood, at least so far, is different. Some are so good I feel almost as triumphant as I did when they first plopped George onto my chest and I knew I had done it. But those days wouldn’t be so great without the converse: the sleep-deprived, rainy, shit-on-your-clothes days when you’re begging an infant, please, just tell me what to do. I’ve found, though, that despite the insistence that I’d forget childbirth — the “so the species can go on” half-joke that serves only as one of many sexist scare tactics pregnant women and mothers face — what I’m forgetting instead are those regrettable, difficult why-won’t-you-end days, in favor of the wins.
This year, I’ve gotten to know myself in a different way. I’ve become less self-conscious in order to be present with my child. I’ve made stupid faces and funny noises and sung in public and been (mostly) unconcerned with how I look to all but one little person. I’ve changed my expectations, let my sleep, my free time and my body be temporarily hijacked. And, you know what? I’m doing a good job. He’s a happy, loving, trusting, communicative, confident boy. Not afraid to make friends with strangers, proficient signer who’s finding his words, giver of unsolicited kisses, giggler and enthusiastic try-er of anything.
The way we all begin is common by definition, and in the past I may have been tempted to apologize for parenthood’s inherent cliché, but having a child has given me an appreciation for our individualities, for the fact that we each have a story. George’s started a year ago and I’m a lucky sucker for getting to be a part of it every day. Celebrating birthdays is one of my favorite things to do, and this is the big one. The big One.
Happy birthday, chicken. I love you the most.
(black and white photos by Tiffany Burke. Hire her; she rules.)
Just a little note to say that I have a guest post up at the Natural Parents Network. Head over there and check it out!
This was the first night of Hanukkah last year:
I was about to burst, we kind of half-assed it. My celebratory glass of wine put me right to sleep.
This year, we were (almost) totally ready at sunset. Presents wrapped, food cooking, baby’s new mama-made kippah loosely attached to whatever wispy hairs we could snag.
George helped to light the candles. He ate some of the challah we ran all over town to find this afternoon.
Mama got a new calendar; Papa got a new coat.
We learned that one of us doesn’t like couscous
But really likes paper bags.
This Hanukkah, when we celebrate miracles, I am most thankful that this — my commonplace — feels so miraculous.
With the holidays approaching (and with them, the birthdays of most of George’s little friends), I’ve been waist-deep in production and all the stuff that comes with it. Trying to figure out what to make. Pick fabric. Choose trims. Do it right. And once it’s made, hope the recipient likes what I’ve done. Anyone who handmakes gifts has made something that was poorly received. My own favorite story — the word ‘favorite’ being a relatively recent development, as the multi-level bummer finally wore off — is of making something for someone who probably thought she was being tactful by tasking someone else with the chore of asking me for the gift’s receipt. Whether I should’ve taken the fact that the thing passed for storebought is the only possible positive of the whole deal, because when the middle-woman asked for the receipt, she turned what may have otherwise been a somewhat laughable oh-haha-err-awkward! situation into a fight. “It’s HOMEMADE?! What were you thinking? You should’ve just gotten her NOTHING. Can you at least get her a real present now?” Seriously. If you will, dear reader, please imagine my response and make it as — ahem — colorful as you’d like.
Regardless of how shitty that lady was, the sting of disappointment is harsh when you’ve worked hard on something that isn’t well received. It can feel like a personal affront; your choices and efforts are entrenched much deeper in a handmade present than one bought in a store. And sometimes that fact falls on deaf ears…or into unappreciative hands.
When I was pregnant with George, I told my mother — a longtime smoker — that she could not continue to smoke and have a relationship with my child. As a child myself, my parents’ smoking was a constant embarrassment and nuisance. Like when you give someone a homemade gift (George is, afterall, about as homemade as gifts get), the gift my mom got in her grandson was not customizable after-the-fact or exchangeable for another size or color. But the gift she got was good. The only appropriate reaction, in my book, is akin to mine when I was given my first, beautiful handknitted wool sweater: what do I have to do to keep this gift as perfect as it was the day I got it?
My mother’s reaction was… not that. Over the past year and a half, she has lied about giving up smoking, told me the cigarettes in front of her weren’t hers, insisted the smell on her clothes wasn’t smoke, and snuck away during Thanksgiving festivities to light up in the bathroom, bringing with her upon her return a foul stench that required my entire family to bathe when we got home. Before we could collapse into bed with a tired infant whose sling also reeked of cigarettes, who was exposed to third-hand smoke for an entire day. And that was my last straw.
I love my mother. We have our issues, most of which revolve around situations just like this one, wherein she has sold me out in favor of someone or something more important to her. But there will be no selling out of my kid, and I didn’t hesitate for one hot second when I called to say we’d made it home through the snow to add that until she stops smoking, she will not have the privilege of seeing George. Because she’s setting a bad example. And even if you don’t believe the studies about third-hand smoke, I’m pretty sure we can all agree that a baby should not smell like cigarettes.
I wish I could say that my mom’s reaction was a hearty hey-whatever-it-takes-because-I-love-that-kid. But it wasn’t. And my feeling was similar to the one you get as you watch your friend or family member’s face go from I’m-opening-a-present-this-rules! to ummm, WTF? when they peel back the tissue paper on your homemade table runner and matching napkin rings. But, like I’ve had to do with people who felt my gifts missed the mark, I’m letting go of my mom’s complete lack of appreciation for what she’s been given. If she chooses to throw it out, that’s entirely up to her.
You’re under the weather, lately. Getting some molars, disagreeing with kiwi, sleeping funny and copping major attitudes.
You’ve started pushing me away when I’ve pissed you off, smacking me in the face for taking away whatever it was you wanted to put in your mouth.
Sometimes it drives me crazy. Nobody likes getting slapped in the face. But this newfound will of yours makes the times you reach for me, the unsolicited fly-by kisses, the resting of your head on my knee that much sweeter.
You shake your head yes and no. You greet the cats every morning when we (finally) get up and around with an “at, at, AT!” When you think we’ve missed your emphatic ‘all done’ sign, you garble it — “AHH DAA!” You say ma ma mamamamama. You gag on anything sweet.
You are my favorite and my best and I can’t wait to hear what else you have to say.
Happy eleven months.
One of our little favorites had a birthday party this afternoon. I wanted to make her something that would be useful for longer than most baby toys. Something that could grow with her, not be annoying or take up too much space. Somewhere, a long time ago, I ran across a blog post about making little bean bags, but I think the ones pictured were letters. 26 bags was a project too ambitious for me at the moment, and letter blocks are easy enough to come by, in any case. I decided to make, instead, a set of numbers, zero through nine. Good for tossing around now, practicing math later. I just hope my shoddy stitch-up job holds until she’s ready for addition and subtraction. I hate to sew “in the ditch” so they look very homemade.
Oh well; they are.
To make them, I used felt scraps and freehanded the numbers, used quilting cotton scraps in interesting or pretty patterns for the backs, and white fleece for the fronts. The synthetic fleece isn’t my ideal material, but I wanted something kind of tactile and substantial. Also, I had some lying around. The truth comes out!
I used cheap, nutritionally void white rice for the filling. Lentils would also be nice, or popcorn. They’re not all the same size and they’re admittedly a little wonky, but I think they’ll be fun to play with. Once George gets out of his mouthing phase, I’ll probably make him some, too. For this project, all I had to buy was the rice; if you’re a sewer, you can probably do the same, as these don’t necessitate any particular material other than hole-less (and if you’re mainly sewing with mesh, I’m gonna bet you don’t have children).
Happy birthday, little lady. I hope your bean bags bring you hours of happy play. And happy birthing day, mama. So far, so good.