Saturday, March 28, 2009

Things to Do During Earth Hour

Tonight, people around the world will be observing Earth Hour from 8:30 to 9:30pm (in whatever time zone you are in). The idea is that turning off your lights and other appliances for that hour will be a symbolic gesture to raise awareness of energy consumption and environmental crises in general. Not just for individual homes, many cities are participating by turning off lights on landmarks and other public buildings. The Broadway honky-tonks in Nashville will be turning off their neon signs, I just heard on the news.

I recycle, and try to be consciencious about turning off lights when I leave a room, but I admit I'm not as aware or as active as I probably should be. Earth Hour is one little thing we can do to reflect on our energy consumption and at the same time reflect on the simple pleasures of life by turning off our TV, computers, phones, etc. Given that the Earth Hour website suggests people blog and twitter about their experiences during the hour, I assume total abstinence from gadgets is not part of the "rules" per se, but I think it would certainly enhance the experience.

So, if you're thinking of participating, but wondering "what on earth would I do for an hour without lights, electricity, or even batteries?" here are a few ideas...
  • play a board game or write a letter by candlelight
  • make s'mores in your fireplace
  • go outside and look at the stars
  • pray
  • sit in the dark and TALK
  • go to bed early
  • get in bed early and... you know
  • draw pictures in the dark and laugh at yourselves when the lights are back on
  • tell funny stories about what you think is happening on your favorite TV shows ("Tonight, on Slutty Doctors..." Okay, that would be Thursday night, but it's still a fun game.)

So, what will YOU do?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Playing House

Before Kate arrived, Matt wagered that it would only take two weeks at home before I said “I’m bored—I want to go back to work!” Kate will be eight weeks old tomorrow, and I have yet to utter those words. I admit, there are moments I’m not exactly sure how to spend my time, but I have really enjoyed being at home during my maternity leave.

I’ve started to get sad and anxious about going back to work. I love my job, and have been doing some work from home during my leave, but the idea of leaving Kate for ten hours at a time is still very upsetting. While there was a time in my life where I envisioned myself as a stay-at-home mom, I’ve discovered a career path in which I excel and find a lot of personal fulfillment, and even if I hadn’t, I don’t think we could afford for me to stay home at this time anyway.

Still, I keep asking myself, “Would I want to stay home if I could?” I’ve enjoyed having my coffee every morning, feeding Kate while watching the Today show, getting Kate and myself dressed for the day, running errands, etc. We take walks, read books, and play on her tummy time mat. Many days we sit on the front porch while she takes her late afternoon bottle and watch the neighbor kids get off the school bus. While, as I’ve said, I’m not much into housecleaning, I have enjoyed certain elements of enhanced domesticity, like multiple loads of laundry per week, folding said laundry while keeping one eye on a sleeping infant, trying new recipes, and planning meals further in advance than the typical 6pm fridge excavation.

The funny thing is, I feel a little like I’m playing house—like being so domestic is a novel game to play for this limited period of time. In many ways, this lifestyle is desirable. I love being here to nurture my daughter all day. My heart aches at the thought of leaving her each morning. Long term, however, I think that I would really miss editing, and that my sense of satisfaction and self-esteem would suffer if I abandoned my career.

I feel selfish saying that, since my own happiness is certainly not the objective of parenthood. Many working moms say that working makes them a better mom, and that a happy mom makes for a happy baby. Matt says that my professional success makes me a great role model for Kate as we raise her to develop her talents and pursue her dreams. Those things are comforting, and help me feel more confident in my decision to keep working outside the home, but I don’t want them to be excuses I use to justify my own ambitions.

If being a working mother is harmful to Kate in some way, I pray we’ll recognize it and alter our course accordingly. Until then, the laundry will get done in the witching hours while I walk, read, talk, and play with my sweet girl in the precious time we have, praying that the whole of who I am contributes positively to the person she will become.

Camo Baby

No, not that kind of camo! (We are pacifists, after all...)

Cute baby polka-dot camouflage, helping Kate evade scary closet monsters by stealthily blending into her crib sheet!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Clergy Spouses

Results of a survey of United Methodist clergy spouses have just been released. I remember taking that survey several months ago and being almost moved to tears that someone (the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women) actually asked how I feel about being a clergy spouse. I let it all out, and was quite eager to read about the findings when UMNS released this article last week.

Overall, “clergy spouses seemed to be pretty happy about what they were doing,” said the Rev. Gail Murphy-Geiss, research consultant. Interestingly, the study found that spouses in ministry over 26 years were the most happy, suggesting that spouses learn over time to take the difficulties of ministry in stride and/or to appreciate certain aspects of ministry. The study also found that “marital satisfaction drops when children enter the home and it goes up again when children leave.” I remember questions on the survey about raising children in clergy families, and I admit I have a lot of concern about it: children being singled out as “the pastor’s kid,” or expected to be better behaved than the other kids, not allowed to just be themselves, etc. More than that, I worry that my own frustration and cynicism about the institutional church today will tarnish their experience of church, or worse, hinder their faith. (I know such an attitude and how I express it is within my control, but I still worry about it.)

The article reported, “Murphy-Geiss said she had expected that spouses who were required to move more often would be less satisfied in their situations, but the data showed that the number of moves does not seem to affect either marital satisfaction or the happiness of the children.” The survey found the average number of moves to be 3.9, though one respondent reported moving 36 times. I wish they had broken that statistic down to number of moves per decade of ministry, or in other words, average length of stay at a congregation, since 3.9 doesn’t tell us much given that it’s averaging the responses of 75-year old respondents and 27-year-olds like me. How many moves is typical for a 40-year career, and how does that number affect spouses’ happiness, I wonder?

One of the most important findings of the survey, I think, pertain to the educational and professional qualifications of clergy spouses. Forty percent have graduate degrees and a majority (59% of women and 87% of men) have full time jobs outside the home. These are not your stereotypical pastors' wives of the mid-20th century, working exclusively in the home or in a secretarial or women's ministry role at the church, but rather these are professionals whose jobs limit their ability to move to the far reaches of the conference. This finding should have a profound impact on the United Methodist itineracy system, as cabinets must take into consideration the spouse’s career and the potentially negative impact certain appointments could have on the pastor’s family.

This is obviously a very sensitive issue to me personally, as a woman married to a pastor appointed to a church (with a parsonage) several counties away from my workplace. The hour-long commute (each way) that was previously an annoyance or inconvenience will now be a hardship that keeps me away from my child two extra hours a day. I hope the United Methodist powers-that-be will come to take the realities of the 21st century family more seriously in the future and make appointments accordingly.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Kate's Scrapbook Debut

It's been so much fun scrapbooking my pregnancy and our early days with Kate, so I wanted to share some of the layouts I've done lately...

Nine Months
My monthly prego-pics. It's neat to see my belly growing each month, from month 1, right after we learned we were pregnant in mid-May, to month 5, when I'm finally wearing a maternity dress, to month 9 on my due date. The May/Aug/Dec elements were cut out of an old calendar I've been saving for just this occasion. The "nine months" letters are Thickers--the first time I used them. They're a very cool product--they add the dimension of chipboard, but are easier to work with.
Making Room for Baby
This spread shows all the little details of Kate's nursery. I carried around those paint chips for a couple months in case I needed to match anything to the bedding. Her nursery features no fewer than eleven monkeys--not something I collect or anything, but I developed a thing for monkeys when it came to Kate's room. They're cute and kind of baby-like. The letters here are also Thickers, in brown felt.
Our Birth Story
I typed up our birth story in as much detail as I could remember during my first week postpartum, so I wouldn't forget anything. I posted it on this blog on Feb. 4, and then edited it down significantly to fit this layout. So, that's all the tiny type on the edges of the spread. The "b" is chipboard, and the "irth" is stamped with the Big Deal Alphabet stamps from Stampin' Up!, where I get most of my scrapbooking papers, stamps, and ink.
Birth Announcement
This page is to preserve Kate's birth announcements, which I designed in Adobe Illustrator and had printed with FedEx/Kinkos online printing service. We also got her hand and footprints at about two weeks old.

Mommy and Me
These photos are from Kate's second day of life--sweet moments just hanging out in our hospital room. All the embellishments (except the letters, which are Thickers) are from gift tags that came on/with baby gifts we've received
Squeaky Clean
Kate's first bath. I just did this layout this morning, featuring all the little squares to look like bathroom tiles. I love the series of photos, all with her hand in her mouth (she didn't cry, but I think the hand-sucking was an anxiety-soothing instinct), and I'm very pleased with how the page turned out.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Sneak Peek

Our friend Kim, a professional photographer, did a session of Kate on Tuesday. We met Kim when her husband, Anthony, was a div student with us at Vandy. He's now doing his Ph.D. at Princeton Theological Seminary, and Kim centers her business on children and families up in the Princeton area. (So if you live up there--book her!!) When I heard they were coming back to Nashville for a visit, I asked her to photograph Kate, and I'm so happy I did.

Here is the "sneak peek" from our session:

I love how in the first one, the shadow is such that you can't even tell Kate's hair has been falling out on her right side! The fifth one totally captures Kate's beautiful, long eyelashes. And those adorable feet!--they won't be small for long, and I'm so glad we'll have these pictures to capture the memories of Kate's early weeks.

Appropriately for today's digital culture, once we select our images to purchase, Kim gives them to us on CD and we can print as many copies as we like and share them electronically. I think this is a great way to do things, and I look forward to sharing the pics we choose on Facebook and on this blog.

Thanks so much, Kim!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Home Alone

I am home. My little girl is not. This is the first time I have experienced such a situation. In the six weeks since Kate was born, I have left her at home with Matt a couple times while I've run an errand or two, but she's always here when I return. Today, I went to the spa, enjoying the package my colleagues gave me as a baby gift--massage, facial, lunch, and pedicure. It was lovely!

Matt decided to take Kate with him to Starbucks for the afternoon to work on the sermon. It's the first time Matt has taken her anywhere by himself. He was excited, and I am excited for him. It's fun to watch strangers stare, ooh, and ahh at your baby, and it's a great accomplishment to get one's self out the door with baby, diaper bag, and computer bag. (Add a purse and breast pump to that if you're really daring.) I thought they would be back by the time I was, but they are not.

So here I am in our kitchen, wiggling my freshly-painted toes in their disposable flip-flops under the table while pumping my breasts, which thankfully did not leak all over my spa robe as I feared they would.

It is very quiet. No grunts or whimpers coming through the baby monitor. No random internet videos projecting the sounds of Will Ferrell or Peter Griffin from Matt's office. Just the rhythmic sound of the Medela Pump in Style on the table next to me, saying "imitate, imitate, imitate" or "lactate, lactate, lactate" or "weloveKate, weloveKate, weloveKate." (It's a strange noise that can sound like just about anything ending in "-ate.")

It's a small taste of the solitude I left Matt in last week. People kept asking him, "Are you enjoying your uninterrupted sleep?" "Screw sleep!" he would respond (whether out loud or in his head probably depending on the person doing the asking) "I miss my wife and daughter!"

The day may come when we crave moments like this, but for the time being...
Hallelujah! I hear the garage door!

A Different Drug Store

"It's funny how some of the biggest, most dramatic changes in our lives happen almost by accident. If we hadn't gone to that particular drug store to buy toothpaste and tissues on that particular day, we might not have met an old friend whom we hadn't seen in years, who invited us to a party where we met somebody's accountant, who walked us over to this schoolteacher whom we fell in love with and married. Go to a different drug store and wind up with a different life."
-- Bernard Goldberg, Bias, p.14

I found this passage written on a scrap of paper as I went through old notebooks and pictures at my parents' house last week. I don't know what that comment was doing in a book about ethics in journalism, but I remember liking it and copying it down.

I still like it. I like thinking about how tiny details, choices, and circumstances work together to build the life we know. For example, I would not have the husband (and thus, the child) or the job I do had I not gone to Vanderbilt for grad school. Had one of my recommenders gotten her letter in on time, I might have gotten in to and ended up at Duke Divinity instead. A year later, had a different recommender gotten his letter in on time, I might have gotten in to and transferred to Duke after my first year at Vandy. Clearly, I was not meant to have gone to Duke! (It seems God is still "blessing me" with people who ignore deadlines, given the trouble I'm having this month with the magazine I edit!)

Had I not joined the church choir in 9th grade, I wouldn't have had the experiences that led me to a deeper faith, which in turn impacted so many other things in my life.

Had I not had such a bad experience at the middle school I attended, I would not have gone to the school I did for 8th through 12th grade, meeting people and learning things that dramatically shaped the person I've become.

Here's a simple one that anyone with kids can identify with (if one considers the complexity of reproductive biology): Had we not had sex when we did, we would not have the particular child we have.

Naturally, the flip side includes bad things that have happened because of seemingly arbitrary decisions. Had I not wanted to go out to eat that particular evening, or chosen a restaurant in that particular neighborhood, we wouldn't have been hit by that girl running a red light. And so on.

Our lives are a web of tiny circumstances--some routine, some random choices, some coordinated by God--that together make us who we are.

Had I not struck up a conversation with...
Had I not taken up that hobby...
Had I waited ten minutes later to...

What decisions in your life had bigger consequences that you imagined?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Kate in Derby City

Kate and I spent this week in Louisville, visiting my parents, grandparents, and other family and friends. Ordinarily, I only get to visit for a day or two at a time, since I work full time Monday through Friday and Matt always has to be back for Sunday morning, so I wanted to take advantage of my maternity leave and visit for a good five days.

It was a great visit, but I was exhausted by the end of it! We went shopping, took walks around the neighborhood, went visiting and had visitors at my parents' house--every day was jam packed! Though our schedule is ruled by our feeding and pumping routine, we managed to get around. I felt like Supermom when I pumped in the car and bottle-fed Kate (safely strapped in her car seat, of course) at the same time!
We also took my grandmother to have a professional four-generation photo taken with my mom, me, and Kate. We have a great photo from 1924 of my paternal grandmother (now deceased) as a toddler with her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother (three of whom are named Emily Barry--thus Kate's middle name), so it was neat to give Kate and her descendants such an heirloom.

Here is Kate with her Nana/Nana Laura/NaLa (name still undecided), and with her Popi.

Here she is with her great-grandfather and great-grandmother (ages 94 and 90, respectively). They really loved meeting her. They have several other great-grandchildren, as I am their youngest grandchild, but it was still very special for them to meet little Kate.

We didn't get a picture of her with every friend and relative we visited with, but here are a few. Everyone agreed she's a beautiful baby, and of course we think so too!

It was a great trip, but Daddy missed his girls SOOO much (and we missed him too!) and it is good to be home again.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Why I'm Hiring a Cleaning Lady

Just saw this poem from 1958 (written by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton and first published in Ladies Home Journal) on someone else's blog. I've never been much for housework, but now that Kate's here, cleaning has fallen to an all-time low on my to-do list (not including laundry, which is somehow getting done more frequently than ever). Once maternity leave is over, I'll be back to working full time, and am not about to waste precious moments with my angel by dusting off knicknacks.

Song for a Fifth Child

Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
Oh, I've grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.

Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo

The shopping's not done and there's nothing for stew
And out in the yard there's a hullabaloo
But I'm playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren't his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.


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