Monday, December 21, 2009

How Much is that Baby in the Window?

More reasons to stop and think before acting, before speaking, keep rearing their nagging, yet necessary heads. I remember, Before Dory, I did a lot more act and ask questions later, leap then look. Turn ‘em and burn ‘em as people in the restaurant business say. Now, everything merits consideration, everything merits a little thought, a little contemplation.

Money (surprise!) is one of them.

Christmas is almost here- have you heard? I’m thinking about presents, about what to get, wants versus needs, practical or playful, who’s got the sale, one big item or many small? All these questions for a person who will happily play with her shoes for half an hour, if, mister, you'll spare the time to play with her.

That’s the truth of Dory; it’s not about the toys. She is yet to sit with a toy for longer than five minutes and be entirely entertained. She wants interaction. She wants communication. Toys are fun, but if there’s no living, breathing being attached to the other end, there's not much point. Dory enjoys the toys only in as much as they work in the game she and I or she and her dad or she and her grandparents play. Toys are a small part of the experience and toys are certainly not limited to what comes in a brightly colored, shiny cardboard box from Toys ‘R Us. Some of her current favorites are: plastic bowls, a wooden spoon, an empty Christmas tin, and her toothbrush. Christmas could come and go without a single item unwrapped and I suspect she would not miss a thing.

Which, being a great fan of “things," sends me to my thinking chair. How much of the desire for some, for more, for all of it, is the child and how much is what he’s witnessed from older, wiser people? When do things stop being wants and become needs? When do they stop being things and become worth, our own worthiness based on the having or not having? When do they determine who we are and our importance to the world?

There are so many interesting things to get and have. There is joy in picking something out, especially for Dory, and thinking how much fun we could have, the play and imagination this one little item could inspire from each of us. Yet... I see a toy that looks interesting and I say to my daughter: “We need to get you one of those!” But do we? Do we NEED to get her one? Or might it be fun? Would it be interesting? Usually we don’t get the toy I find so fascinating (truthfully I forget it five minutes later), but what kind of seeds have my words sown? My implication she “needs” something, does that tell her she’s not whole in who she is, she's incomplete without that particular item at the sale price of $19.95? Need- such a little word, such big consequences. Just something for me to consider...

I know, I know. I think a little. Maybe a little too much. I do. And if you’re giving your screen a funny look over all these questions, I understand. Yet in these last five years, since having a baby especially, my curiosity knows no bounds. What makes me Me? What makes me better? What makes me who I am? In fact, who am I?

And, as this pertain to the subject of this blog, this person, this whole person, quite small now, but already possessing a great big soul- how do I relate to her on this subject? What do I show her, day-in and day-out? Am I living what I speak? How do I define myself by what I own or don't own, what I have bought, have kept, have thrown away, have left sitting in the store? I have an audience of one and it’s never been more important that I bring my best to the stage. My honest, genuine, real self.

Who, it turns out, has a lot more questions than answers. Son of a gun. But I'm starting to think. And all that thinking leads me to feeling: when in doubt, appreciate. I realize, the more I can appreciate the function and use of money without kneeling at the altar of financial worth and material accumulation, the better service I can be to myself, my daughter, my family, my world. The more I can remember, money comes in and money goes out and we get on with life regardless... the easier my heart, the steadier my hands, the more fun my pocketbook. Money comes in, money goes out, and we go along, mostly merrily, sometimes not, regardless.

And is there benefit for Dory to see these two people, these two parents, who may not always have all the trimmings and yet are happy in the circumstances? To not have access to everything at the moment and yet be peaceful in what-is. To see that money is only as limiting as we choose to make it. Money can be expansive and fun. But it’s not who I am, not who she is. It does not define her self-worth or her well-being. And if I can think a little before I speak, maybe I won't define her either.

Oh- and your daily double answer to the question posed in the title: Absolutely priceless.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ode to the Library

I love the public library. I have loved it as long as I can remember. I love the simple idea that one card (once paper, now a thin piece of plastic), freely given, allows me nearly unlimited access to more books than I will ever be able to read in my entire life. I love the way a library feels and the way a library smells and I love the people who work there. I even stepped into the twenty-first century with my library and I am crazy about the fact I can put books on hold, on line, pick them up at the library of my choice and even renew them from the comfort of my living room sofa. It is a brilliant, brilliant design.

I especially love Knoxville's public library. I can safely say, of the five different cities in which I've lived, Knoxville's is my favorite. Since we've been living in Knoxville again, I've made the best use of the library I can, using a borrowed library card (thank you Mom!) and the calendar of events. We've checked out dozens and dozens of different books for Dory already and even a Pecos Bill movie on VHS her Dad insisted she would love. We go, each week, to Baby Bookworms, the two year old and under story time. And this week- this week my library out did itself.

In a matter of incredible timing and divine coordination, we went to the downtown library for Baby Bookworms this past Wednesday. While I love our little group, at our local library, the downtown Bookworms puts on a show. The librarian played songs and did a puppet board story and led dancing and for the children she passed out shakers and musical instruments and even a cut-out paper star that Dory could take home. Matthew and I were both wide-eyed over the display. Afterwards we stepped across the hall into the actual children's library and discovered Santa, that day, was expected.

What a gift to give. Parents and children- under and over two's- piled into the children's library and waited for Santa. The librarians set out juice and cookies on a little table and a chair for him. The woman who led our Bookworms crew passed out special gingerbread men to all her students, and gave Dory special star-stamps on each of her hand. For the rest of the day, Dory would catch sight of these little designs on her skin and marvel over them. She turned her palms up and down, amazed, her expression the same delighted disbelief that her father and I reserve for those dear, tiny hands.

When Santa entered all the children became kind of quiet and breathy, unsure about this tall (and somewhat gangly) gentleman in the red coat, overwhelming the small, child-size chair. The librarian explained we were responsible for taking our own pictures. (Miracle of miracles, we had our digital camera in the diaper bag- don't tell me Someone's not watching over all of us...) She then said something along the lines of (and this sent me over the edge in the love-affair I have for my library): "We just ask everyone to remember: we have all the time in the world. If your child needs to warm up to Santa first, please take your time. We want everyone to have a good time, to ask Santa for what they want and to have good pictures to show for it."

And, as these things tend to go when there's no hurry or pressure, the line went like clock-work, the children were fairly calm and easy (no wild hysterical screaming as I've heard echoing around the mall), we waited hardly any time at all, and suddenly Dory, in this impromptu experience, met real-life Santa Claus. I introduced the two, asked her if she could sit with Santa for a moment, and, when she didn't disagree, set her on Santa's knee and then crouched next to them, just out of the shot. This lasted about five seconds, and, though the librarian waved her puppet above Dory's head and I whispered words of encouragement, and Matt called her name, Dory would have no more of Santa. But, being the adept family photographer he is, Matt, also sitting in a child-size chair, snapped one shot before Dory was back up, in our arms, and ready to go.

And this unexpected, unplanned photo, somehow the more wonderful for her and St. Nick's solemn expressions, is her first Santa picture.

Thank you, from the bottom of my little literary heart, Knox County Library.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Attachment Parenting International- Live!

Before I launch into how truly amazing last Saturday was, I'd like to give a little background information about our AP beginnings (for those only here for pics of the API pioneers, scroll straight down until you see shots of these gurus with yours truly grinning away next to them- feel free to "ooo" and "ahhh").

When I found out I was pregnant, I did not know how I wanted to parent. I wanted to do it well, that was about as clear as I got. I wanted to be kind. I didn't want to shout too much or need hard drink in the middle of the day to get through it. I wanted, more than anything, to basically still be me, to still be Matthew and I plus one. I followed my typical grand plan these days: a vague query to the Universe. God, could you help me sort this one out? Just some clear, simple, easy to follow guidance that will help me be a parent, while still being me, and, in eighteen years or so, have a child with who I'm still on speaking terms. Something in written form- maybe a pamphlet?- would be great.

Many months went by. We found the birth center. We started our childbirth classes. I decided I wanted to breastfeed and so we took a class on that too. I did prenatal yoga. I kept listening to the thoughts of others.

I found The Baby Book by Dr. Bill and Martha Sears. On the surface, this enormous tome looks like a great book for handling a baby's early years, when to start solids, how to take a temperature, how to baby-proof a house. On the surface. Your basic manual. Being the compulsive Virgo I started on page one. Where Dr. Sears and his wonderful wife, herself an RN, totally rocked my world on the methods and possibilities in parenting. Compassionate, respectful, and sensitive parenting- this was their recommendation. As I read about their ideas on birthing naturally, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, responding to baby's cries, I thought: We are totally doing this. And we're not telling anybody.

I knew enough about current day parenting to realize, this ain't your mama's or your neighbor's or, unless you're like me and start running with other rebellious mothers, your best friend's form of parenting. And hard as it can be for me to fly right in the face of mainstream society, I realized, that was all right. What better time than now to start trusting my instincts?

I say all of that only to give some scope to the experience of being in a room filled with API families and then watching some of the most prominent and outspoken founders walk out onto a stage together- this was a momentous occasion. As the moderator, Lu Hanessian (a former NBC anchor and current AP-practicing mother) pointed out, this was the first time these eight people had ever been on the same stage.

So without further ado, the day in pictures:

Dory and I wrestling before the program began. Of course, API made an effort to make this event as child-friendly as possible, but in the end it's still a small theater, with people who traveled a great distance to hear what the people on stage had to say, and the under-3 crowd can only sit still for so long. Many, many mothers were in and out, giving little ones a chance to crawl around the lobby. Or, better yet, these moms brought reinforcements and took turns.

My mama agreed to be my tag-team partner and she and I, pretty smoothly I think, took turns taking Dory out to play. You'll notice here, Dory couldn't look anymore peaceful, as her Gram calmly reads her program.

Our eight speakers. Starting with the left side of the picture, the woman in the peachy-colored jacket, you have (drum roll please): Ina May Gaskin, internationally known midwife; Barabara Nicholson, co-founder of API; Mary Cahill, one of the seven women to start La Leche League International 53 years ago; Dr. Bill Sears; Dr. James McKenna; Martha Sears, R.N.; Dr. Isabelle Fox; and Lysa Parker, co-founder of API.

Meeting Dr. Sears at the reception afterwards.

And then meeting Martha Sears.

I thought I had calmed down during the program, but as soon as I was standing two feet away I got excited and nervous, a fantastic cocktail for disaster. Luckily, the place was busy, with enough people waiting to speak to them, that I had just enough time to thank them both, several times, express my gratitude over their books, ask for an autograph and then move on. Quite calmly and normally. I wish I had something wittier, a bit more interesting to say, but, even after the fact, nothing came to me. I am simply supremely appreciative of these people.

On a side note, there was a couple standing in front of us, waiting to see Dr. Sears, holding a book. From what I could tell, as the husband introduced his wife, this was a book she had written of natural something (remedies, recipes, I couldn't say exactly) and they wanted to give Dr. Sears a copy. Which he graciously accepted and then pulled a pen from his pocket and asked her to sign it for him. [Insert a girlish sigh of wonder here.]

They were all so wonderfully accessible. I asked for a picture with Barabara and Lysa and they invited me behind their table (where they were signing their book Attached at the Heart- got my copy- it's wonderful) to chat for a few minutes about our local branch of API.

We got a picture with Dr. Fox who insisted Gram Mojo hop into the shot too.

Dr. McKenna was kind and humble and enamored with Dory and her bright blue eyes.

We were able to speak to Ina May and I thanked her for the influence her book, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth had on my birth experience. Unfortunately the camera had frizzled out at this point, so no photo here.

The day was spectacular. In no way is that an exaggeration. I managed, when I was not chasing a 13 month old, to take some notes and hopefully I'll be able to put them into something cohesive to share here.

I'll be first in line at the next celebration be it in a year or ten. I would say this compares to being at Woodstock and meeting Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix, all at once, except, let's be honest, do any of those people, on a day-to-day basis, influence your parenting skills?

Woodstock doesn't have anything on the API Eight...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

And Now for Something Totally Off-Subject

Oh, I'm such a bad blogger! I can't seem to stick with this on a consistent basis, can I? I have more D.C. pictures to post, and pictures from another zoo trip here in town and just everyday pictures on top of those and so what is this post about? Attachment Parenting's 15th Anniversary! Where does this event happen to be taking place? You can look no further than Nasvhille, TN, our friendly sister-city to the west.

That's right, Matthew and I are Attachment Parents. If that's a new term for you, a quick and clear explanation can be found here at Dr. Sears' website. A more in-depth discussion of it can be found here at the Attachment Parenting International site.

The festival lasts all weekend, but we're going only for the day tomorrow and specifically for the Think Tank at 3pm. Check out the list of panelists here. This thing is going to be brilliant! My greatest excitement, I'll say right now, is the opportunity to see the Sears. They have, in my eyes, reached rock star-like status.

That's it for now. It's way too late and I really should be sleeping as peacefully as Little One if I plan to be a bright and brilliant conversationalist tomorrow when I meet Dr. Bill and Martha.* But I will- so help me- I will report back on this as soon as I get home tomorrow night. Or first thing Sunday morning. Promise.

*What are the odds, if I do come face to face with either of the Sears, I end up shrieking and screaming something like, "I love you! You rock! Sign my baby!"? I'm thinking, pretty good.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

On The Road, Part Three

Hello District of Columbia!

Arrived in D.C. around six Saturday night. Had a second Dave concert to get to, with kick-off at eight. Did a hurried check-in. We were all exhausted (there had been lots of traffic- more about that later) and D.C. is sort of a nuts town when it comes to roads (makes no damned sense, would be the other way to say that) so we were in a rush to get our stuff upstairs and then head out.

But make it to the concert we did, where this child, instead of sleeping, stayed up, playing, the entire time. It was another amazing night. We found another empty patch of grass, sort of roped off from the crowd, with two policeman standing in front of it. Matthew politely requested if we could sit back there. They were sweet, jovial young guys and agreed. Through the evening we were joined by a second family with kids and an older foursome trying to stay out of the crowd. It was a festive little spot to be.

The next day- we saw the city! Or, specifically, the Georgetown Farmer's Market, some of the National Zoo, Museum of American History, and the food court of the Museum of American History.

We stumbled across the Farmer's Market. Looking for the subway, about two blocks from our hotel, we came across it.

It was the most delicious peach I've ever eaten. Dory, I think agreed, but then she's only eaten one or two peaches ever. So take it with a grain of salt.

We took the subway. She was intrigued.

And then to the National Zoo!

We went with a specific purpose, to see him:

Butterstick, the Giant Panda, born in D.C. only a few years ago. From what we heard, he's headed back to China before the end of 2009. Seeing him was wonderful. And as the sign reminded us:

Exactly what we said.

After the zoo, a brief nap on the subway,

a quick stop for a picture in front of the Washington Monument,

and then

where we had


Then highlights of the museum! For us, touring with a baby means we did more "oh look, I bet that's cool!" while we zipped by. More drive-by sightseeing then in-depth perusing. Dory did well, in the Beco carrier, but she would hit her limit and this first museum was far less conducive to baby exploration than some of the others. Hence the lack of explanations about the exhibits. Just lots of us standing in front of things, taking pictures. Enjoy.

When Dory hit her limit and needed some Baby Free Play we got her out.

Finally dinner at a little Italian place called Bertucci's down the street from our hotel.

We made it through the salads before Dory was done with high chairs, carriers and basically anything hampering her baby free play, so we had our entrees packed up and carried them back to our hotel. Where we all crashed.

And that was our Day One in D.C.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

On the Road, Part Two

Everyone was in great spirits when we woke up Friday morning....

After leaving the hotel we stopped at the tomb of LeRoi Moore, the saxophonist for Dave Matthews Band. He passed away last August and, while, as a fan, I mourned his death (though I never actually met the man and I do harbor hopeful feelings about the life after this one), I felt so incredibly sad for his parents. There's a line in one of Dave's songs: "You should never have to bury your own baby." I thought about LeRoi's mother and my heart ached for her.

The tomb itself is unmarked, but somehow through DMB's fans, people in the know know this is the spot. Matthew and a buddy came earlier in the year to hear the band play and they came to visit. He said besides flowers, people left sunglasses. LeRoi had terrible stage fright and always played with sunglasses on or his eyes closed.

Today was just a quiet, peaceful day in the cemetery.

We still had plenty of time in the day before we needed to head out for our next destination, so we went to breakfast and then to explore the shops of Charlottesville's Main Street.

Dory at her first ever IHOP:

Random shots of the University of Virginia campus, taken from the car. We didn't stop to look around, as there was a graduation going on and the grounds were thick with people. Matthew and I are both put off by great long lines and huge crowds, which doesn't make us the best tourists in the world (more on that subject later).

Our next destination was Chesapeake, VA, a spot right outside of Virginia Beach. Why Chesapeake, you ask? Because that's where the aforementioned best band in the history of the world happened to be playing.

That's right, Dory has officially been to her first Dave Matthews Band concert.

I was a wee bit unsure about this (in a complete state of panic by the time we got there, might be another way to say it). I wore her in the Beco backpack, so she was high off the ground and snuggled up close to me. That helped. I also like to think I gave off a certain "I will rip off your head if you breathe wrong on my baby. Enjoy the show!" attitude. We planned it out ahead of time, buying tickets for the lawn, taking a blanket and planning to camp out on the back of the lawn, far away from the people. We didn't plan on the show basically being sold out and amok with fans.

We ended up finding a little perch, on the opposite side of the hill that formed the lawn, where the three of us could sit on our own, away from everyone, and listen. We couldn't see the band, but as Matthew pointed out, we've seen them plenty. Once we staked out a spot, away from the crowd, it was incredibly peaceful and we had a ball. Dory, for her part, fell asleep four songs in and slept the entire time. I don't think the band should take that personally.

And that was our night in Virginia Beach.

The next day it was- on to Washington D.C.! And that will leave this blog to be continued...