Joys of the Blueberry Patch

Saturday morning, baby and I met my parents at 7:50 in the morning to pick blueberries. It’s the third year baby has been to this spot to pick berries.
The first year, I was pregnant, getting ready for mat leave, and tired. I was also looking ahead to a winter of smoothies, and couldn’t fathom paying for packaged frozen berries. I pushed myself out there for a few picking sessions, seeing the deep squats as preparation for birth and filling my bucket with super-sized blue bliss.

The second year, I was on leave and had amazing baby with me. I tried it once on my own, chasing after crawling baby, and also went with my parents and husband on various occasions. When she got to the bushes, she would grab whatever she could get – blue, green, purple, didn’t matter. We took turns looking after baby and feeding her berries.

This year, baby has already learned how to pick berries on the three bushes we have in our yard. Husband taught her how to pick purple berries (my preference is for slightly riper berries than hubby!) and to avoid the “neen” ones. I thought she might go crazy, running up and down the aisles, but she stuck right by us. She picked some berries, but also enjoyed creeping between the bushes and visiting with a lovely older woman slightly down the row.

So many great things about berry picking. The gorgeous setting, on the hills looking over the valley. The amazing delicious organic berries. Intergenerational family bonding, as baby, grandparents and I pick, talk and keep track of wandering baby. Knowing that we’re gathering healthy food to nourish us over the next year. The conversations that arise as you’re absorbed in the search for blue dots among the bushes. Overhearing the diversity of other people similarly catching up and connecting about their different lives. Knowing that we’re all together in this elemental task that is linked to survival and transcends work and labour.

Family Love

Today I really appreciate my family.
My parents who are supportive, encouraging, and love to be with us.

My sister and her family, who are sweet and fun and good people.

My brothers, whom I simply love very much and who are amazing people.

My husband, who is loving and sweet and kind and always ready to take on a new project or a new dream.

My baby, whose eyes and soul melt me.

Regime Change

Things are going to change around here.They have to.

We’ve had too many late nights, too frequent crying baby, not enough good food, and insufficient progress towards our goals.

Starting now: My new priorities.
1) Spirituality. Praying morning, evening + obligatory prayer each day. Doesn’t have to be long. Does have to be focused and sincere.
I’m going to add here the routines of connection we’re starting to build. Deep breathing and setting/discussing intentions with our meals; brief times in the evening when husband and I stop and connect. These are the heart of our developing family life.

2) Baby routines. Wake-up, potty, teeth, breakfast, play. Snacks. Lunch. Dinner. Bath at 6:30, teeth, potty, stories, nurse, bed by 7:30. Ab-so-lute-ly essential. Plus, of course, lots of love, cuddle, play, read and fun time.

3) Food. We need to switch to a gluten-free diet. We are also trying to save money. We have a great new cookbook thanks to friends. I will be studying this, making menu plans, buying the right foods and getting rid of the not-right foods.

4) Finances/Family Planning Priorities. I will support us in motoring through the creation of our new family budget, cash envelopes, tracking systems, wills, and the other priorities we’ve established.

5) Everything else??? The course I’m trying to finish teaching. Purging our possessions. Keeping the house clean. Starting new writing projects. Time with friends. On and on!

Hows are a big challenge for me. What does it mean if we make this list of priorities, but we have an entire kitchen of dirty dishes and piles of dirty clothes? Other things still need doing. Here’s how I think this might play out.
a) Spirituality first = getting the energy and focus to do what we need doing.

b) Keeping the vision in mind (Healthy family; happy daughter; moving out of this house and into better accommodations; financial independence; etc.) also helps to streamline my time.

c) No more facebook. At least for a while. SIGH. But, really, time is key and a few minutes here and there adds up.

d) Mainly: this new regime means doing the important things first, AND stopping doing anything else if a higher priority need comes up. I can purge to my heart’s content tomorrow, as long as I run through baby’s morning routine, and have lunch & dinner planned out and going.

Some of you may wonder where my husband – the male sex – fits in with this potentially gendered to-do list. Let me tell you! My husband is amazing. Truly loving, supportive and committed to equality in our family. Just one example: He does the dishes. Almost all the time, unless I sneak in and do them. He actively discourages me from doing them, because it’s something he can do to contribute, and because he wants us to approach chores in a non-gender-stereotypical manner. And yes, he cooks too. In fact, his meals are generally better than mine, in spite of all my talk and cooking effort! He is right now working evenings and weekends (plus weekdays) to finish off the renos on this house that we can’t wait to be rid of. When I say evenings, I mean frequently until 11 or midnight. And yes, dishes too. I can’t do the renos. He does them well and quickly. Maybe in a future fun project we will do this kind of thing together. We want to, and I’m sure we will. Right now? The strategy is divide and conquer, short-term pain for long-term gain. The least I can do is support us in changing our diet over to GF and taking the lead on baby routines and the budget. Which he is fully in support of.

So, that’s that.

It’s 11. I’m going to send a few quick emails and head to bed. Maybe, I might possibly finish reading “Oh the glory of it all” because it’s been consuming me and I”m almost done. Yes, I need to stop reading so many novels, too. At least for a while.

Favourite Sounds

My husband’s feet running up the stairs to our house.
My baby glugging back breastmilk.

A friend’s voice on the phone.

Cellos, double basses and other strings.

Creeks, rivers and babbling brooks.

 

I’m sure there are more, but these are top of my list.

 

In other news: I love this picture. The jaunty menswear-cool hat! The warm, simple, classic coat! Especially the wrist decor: what a great combination of bracelets and watch. Add the bag, ring and camera, and I think this outfit rocks.

I’m feeling kind of into clothes lately, especially with the warmer weather, which likely means I’ll be shopping (though sparingly) again soon. I actually had FUN putting together an outfit earlier this week when what I’d planned ahead of time wasn’t ready (oh ironing – sorry I never get to you!). Red boots, dark blue leggings, royal blue stretchy skirt, green v-neck T-shirt, purple wool cardigan. Added the necklace my husband bought me for a date this past summer, and I loved it! The skirt was a special treat – I bought it last year and liked it but it was too long. What to do? Well, I had the brilliant idea to roll the waistband over more (it’s one of those with the folding stretchy waist – you know), and magically, the skirt got shorter! And I also realized that I’ve been wearing it longer than it’s supposed to be, since this new, higher waist reflects the ACTUAL waistband. Oh, I am a slow learner sometimes.

Well, back to work for me.

Peace in the Here and Now

Baby’s favourite words right now are the names of the people she loves. Especially during quiet moments – lying in bed, nursing – she’ll start listing off the members of her family: “Ai’ya. Mama. Dada.” Repeat, repeat, repeat. She’ll often point to where we sleep in the bed, mama on one side, dada on the other, baby right in the middle. Sometimes I’ll ask her who loves her. She can name “Nana. Wawa.” (always in that order, always together) “Dada.” And, with prompting, “mama.”
I’m learning a lot from her focus on her family. I realize what peace and security our baby gets from being in a stable family and being surrounded by a core of people she spends time with who love her. She knows who we are. She knows who belongs with whom. Mama and Dada are always discussed together. A mention of Nana is incomplete without Wawa. Babies get families, they get relationships, and they derive great comfort from them. Her constant repetition of these names and connections tells me that they matter to her, and that she is reinforcing them in her heart, mind and soul.

Families come in all shapes and sizes. Maybe your family doesn’t have a dada, or you’re physically far from Wawa, or close friends are part of the core. All these variations are part of the unique tapestry that each child inherits. I am learning through the first-hand witnessing of my daughter simply how vital it is that children be surrounded by steady, loving relationships. And a reminder that they will create a sense of the fabric of the world through what they absorb in their early years.

Peace starts in each of us, and is cemented in our families. I wish for my family that we can become more loving and united, and for all people that they can create and build peaceful, loving, stable families to nurture the next generation.

Tonight was a repetition of yesterday’s experience of anticipating baby’s sleep too eagerly. I had plans for a full blog post, about an hour of work (we’re all still sick with this cold so I’ll be staying home tomorrow – but still need to get some work done ’cause it’s a busy time), some prep work for the course, and some reading for fun. Hah. Baby seemed sleepy but in the end it took 2 hours for bedtime to happen. Pre-bed activities included many books, water, bottle, potty-time, changing clothes, up down and all around playing, and lots of time with her art project: star stickers on a sheet of paper. She wanted the stickers moved around and put on things in ways I clearly didn’t understand. “Ai’ya … mama … unh … knee knee knee.” This, it turns out, didn’t mean “please put a sticker on my knee, mama.” After about 15 repetitions of this mantra, with me repeating every word, asking questions, and trying to figure out what she wanted, I had a moment of clarity where I realized that I was truly embedded smack dab in the middle of parenting and learning patience. On and on it went, and I kept myself there and focused and questioning and trying to understand what she so desperately needed from those sticky stars. Very glad I stayed there and am being more and more focused and listening and responsive to my daughter on a moment-to-moment basis.

On to my crusade: I submitted some comment sheets to the local library a few months ago about two books I found very concerning: On becoming babywise, and Healthy sleep habits, happy baby. I found out by email yesterday that after considering my comments and the warnings from the American Pediatric Association, among others, they will be withdrawing at least the first and possibly the second of these from the library holdings. I am thrilled.

The first book – Babywise – is essentially fiction masquerading as science. The recommendations for breastfeeding and sleep training for babies have no basis in research and go against ALL the current science and recommendations for healthy care of newborns. They are also disturbing because they pit parents against babies, treating babies as little manipulators who need to be controlled by their parents rather than humans with legitimate needs which should be respected and listened to.

Healthy sleep habits by Weissbluth does have a basis in some selected research. At the same time, it is, from my perspective, lacking in any moral or common-sense foundation regarding respectful care for newborns. The author is obsessed with the need for young children to sleep through the night, treating any cases of not doing so as abnormal and portending life-long sleep problems. If he actually looked at other scientific and cross-cultural research he would know that 1) there are many emotional and physical reasons why babies continue to wake at night, including well past 1 year old, and 2) a majority of babies start sleeping through the night once they get to a few years old. Not to mention, 3) research has shown that the use of sleep training with young babies actually increases sleep problems as babies get older, partially in the way they make sleep a scary and stressful process for babies. My main concern, however, is the harsh training methods he suggests (they are so disturbing I can’t write about them), which could severely traumatize babies and cause physical and emotional damage. This review of research on infant sleep addresses these and other issues.

I have an inkling that at some stage in my future life I will start working on a “rights of babies” movement. There are the rights of the child, and these form a vital foundation. The needs of babies are particular, and there is no commonly accepted standard for how we treat babies. Of course parents need to make best choices for their families. At the same time, I would like to see this from within a context of better understanding of who babies are, what their needs are, and how best to meet those. If anyone would like to connect me with a movement working on this, please do.

Games

Note: written just after midnight. Once again, I fell asleep with baby and didn’t wake up for a while.
There are lots of fun games to play with a little baby. Here are some we’ve played recently.

Pull-apart-the-foamies. We have a row of foam around our bed for a bit of protection if baby falls. She’s removed the edges which we fit together, like a long foam sword. Then she rips them apart. We re-fit. Repeat.

I continue to attempt to brush her teeth. The latest strategy involves using a cloth and finger brushing. She actually lets me! And then she bites. Hard. Little tooth indents and a throbbing pain in my finger.

Run-away!! It’s time to go, so I chase her and repeatedly go and get her for each stage of the outside-dressing process.

Mama/dada said no. There are a few things in the house that are accessible but we don’t want her to touch. Touching them is great! Baiting mama or dada by standing nearby and looking mischievous is awesome too. Pretending to touch them and then running away is also fun. And doing this a few times in a row – why not?

Food art. After chewing up a piece of food, just open up your mouth and let it drop all over. That’s it! Nice pattern!

Kiss please. When kissing everyone good-bye, make sure you ask mom and dad to kiss. Many times. You like it when your parents kiss! We’ll remind you about this later on in life.

Once again, I’m grateful to have someone else to parent with. And the kissing thing – she literally points to one of us and then the other until we kiss – inspires me and breaks my heart. Kids do notice our relationships and what is going on in their families. When we lie in bed, baby goes through all our names: mama, dada, a’ya. And she points to our different places in the bed. She gets it. We’re her family. Or when we’re hugging and she comes in for a group hug.

Babies. The best.

Weekends

Another one come and gone. I do not intend to mourn its passing, however, but to reflect on the pace of life weekends of late have inspired in our home and what that might mean into the future.
This weekend we got a few things done around here – really, our usual weekend routine:

  • Changed sheets on the bed
  • A few loads of laundry
  • Grocery shopping
  • General house clean, not super detailed but neat

This weekend also contained many delightful things (not to imply that the items above were not delightful in execution):

  • Visits with two friends and some family.
  • Baking cookies (yum, more ginger cookies!! Tastier than before, if stranger looking)
  • Pancake breakfast at home
  • Morning magazine-flipping session
  • Out-time with family – part work (returns), part fun (family)
  • Reading! One.5 novels thus far.
  • Lots of baby time.

That last one is the reason I’d call the weekend a success. I didn’t worry about what got done or try to multi-task or ask husband to look after baby so I had some free time. Okay, I did a little. After all, I had some returns to do, needed a good shower, and had a few tasks I did with baby. But mainly, I slowed down and let myself enjoy my daughter. Boy, it was fun:

  • All the new things she’s doing. Suddenly, instead of throwing off the blankets in bed, asking us to lift them up so she (and her stuffies) can squirm underneath
  • Now willing for us to put clothes on her!
  • Boogeying to music, especially her children’s CD. I tried this weekend to play other world music, but she kept on shaking her head vigorously “no!” at every track until I switched back. Her little bum-bum dance is awesome!
  • New words and more talking! From her multi-syllable ones (gupta; mamoo); to active use of familiar ones (nana – points to the door, requesting a visit from her grandma – A’ya – points to herself); to new ones (up – “hap hap!”); to her noisy “yayaya!”, it’s a thrill listening to her
  • A lovely walk outside today, toddling all over
  • Nurse-o-mania: she couldn’t get enough of my boobs this weekend.
  • She fell asleep in my arms for naps each day this weekend. I held her for good lengths each time. Holding that sweet, sweet girl … heaven.

3 days of shifting my focus from productivity to being and loving. Not sure how I’m getting to acceptance of the priority of experience over completion, but I’m finding it at various points.

There still are things that need doing. Need, as in our family well-being depends on them, my writing (journal articles, ha ha!!! and other writing, like the short story I dreamed this weekend that begins “I came home two weeks early for the wedding.”) which my emotional well-being and potentially future career possibilities depend on. Somehow, I’m not judging me or my husband that things didn’t get done or that we’re behind the ball on certain projects. And I can even write that sentence without freaking out about “the list”! The omnipresent, controlling list. I believe in The List, but it doesn’t have to rule my life. Somehow, this weekend I had the kind of quality time with my family, yes, and particularly my daughter, that I’ve been wanting. Cause to celebrate. And reflect.