Monday, November 30, 2009

Preparing for Conception

I've been gobbling up the posts at Progressive Pioneer. When I saw this post about preparing for conception, I decided to dig into my pregnancy book basket and start sifting through all the information about pre-conception and how to prepare one's body for conception.

According to our current sense of our life trajectory, Matt and I are thinking about trying to get pregnant next summer. Although I am a planner and like to prepare for things in advance, I promise I did not actually run out and purchase any of the books in my pregnancy book basket. Rather, Matt and I went to the public library book store a while back, and they had an amazing sale going on: Pile as many books into your arms as you can and the total cost will only be $5.

So, I had no choice but to pile pregnancy books into my arms (virtually free!), along with cookbooks, CDs, travel books, etc. After I read Amy's post about her own process for gearing up to birth, I dug out some of my books to find out how early I should start preparing. The recommendations range anywhere from a year to 90 days. Luckily, creating the optimal conditions in one's body for a fetus aren't very difficult. Here's the gist:

  1. Eat balanced meals (break out the food pyramid!)
  2. Drink a lot of water (and limit intake of other liquids that include caffeine or alcohol)
  3. Exercise
  4. De-stress
  5. Take vitamins
  6. Limit medicine intake
These pre-baby goals pretty much align with my general approach to health and wellness. Actually, they align perfectly. The only difference is that I'm being more conscious about nutritionally balancing my meals according to the food pyramid (rather than just "eating healthy"), and I'm taking a prenatal vitaminrather than my regular multivitamin.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Taking the Road Less Traveled

I need books in my life. I really do. I need to be reading a book for fun in order to live a truly rounded, whole existence.

I know this about myself and yet I don't always cooperate with my needs. When I get busy at work, my reading slips quietly off my agenda for the day (or week or month!). It's sad.

But I'm on vacation! And I am reconnecting with my dear friend, Books. I'm reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. (Yes, I know I am behind all the other readers in America...) It's a memoir about living an inauthentic life (in her case, it was in an unhealthy marriage) and then reclaiming that life.

I am touched by this passage:

"Getting out of a marriage is rough, though, and not just for the legal/financial complications or the massive lifestyle upheaval...It's the emotional recoil that kills you, the shock of stepping off the track of a conventional lifestyle and losing all the embracing comforts that keep so many people on that track forever. To create a family with a spouse is one of the most fundamental ways a person can find continuity and meaning in American (or any) society. I rediscover this truth every time I go to a big reunion of my mother's family in Minnesota and I see how everyone is held so reassuringly in their positions over the years. First, you are a child, then you are a teenager, then you are a young married person, then you are a parent, then you are retired, then you are a grandparent--at every stage you know who you are, you know what your destiny is and you know where to sit at the reunion. You sit with the other children, or teenagers, or young parents, or retirees. Until at last you are sitting with the ninety-year-olds in the shade, watching over your progeny with satisfaction. Who are you? No problem--you're the person who created all this. The satisfaction of this knowledge is immediate, and moreover, it's universally recognized. How many people have I heard claim their children as the greatest accomplishment and comfort of their lives? It's the thing they can always lean on during a metaphysical crisis, or a moment of doubt about their relevancy--If I have done nothing else in this life, then at least I have raised my children well.

But what if, either by choice or by reluctant necessity, you end up not participating in this comforting cycle of family and continuity? What if you step out? Where do you sit at the reunion? How do you mark time's passage without the fear that you've just frittered away your time on earth without being relevant? You'll need to find another purpose, another measure by which to judge whether or not you have been a successful human being. I love children, but what if I don't want any? What kind of person does that make me?

Virginia Woolf wrote, 'Across the broad continent of a woman's life falls the shadow of a sword.' On one side of that sword, she said, there lies convention and tradition and order, where 'all is correct.' But on the other side of that sword, if you're crazy enough to cross it and choose a life that does not follow convention, 'all is confusion. Nothing follows a regular course.' Her argument was that the crossing of the shadow of that sword may bring a far more interesting existence to a woman, but you can bet it will also be more perilous."
Hear! Hear! I'm raising my glass (of water) to the notion of finding our authentic paths. For some, that authentic path will look like a house full of children without feeling feminist guilt about succumbing to the "shackles of domesticity." For others, it looks like a life of traveling solo.

In many ways, I tread along a conventional path. I chose marriage for myself because I like the security that comes from a close, certain circle. I have a partner in awesomeness, day in and day out. He rubs my hair when I am in a pouty mood. He listens to me complain about challenges at work and then asks, "So what are you going to do about it?" I take him to the emergency room when he is completely dehydrated from the flu. I leave him little love notes to brighten his day. One of us says, "See you in the morning" and then other one says, "See you in my dreams" each night before bed.

I also choose to become a mother. I am drawn to the opportunity to care for another human being so completely.

But there are other ways in which I deviate from convention. I do not want my child (or children) to be my measure of success or my one big contribution to the world. I want to impact the way we educate children in our country, particularly children from low-income neighborhoods. I want to inspire people to speak the truth and be authentic to themselves and each other.

I also deviated from the conventional path by reclaiming the real purpose of a wedding and resisting the lure of the Wedding Industrial Complex, despite gasps and doubts from my friends and family.

And then there was the act of becoming a vegetarian in a family of carnivores.

And then there was the act of pursuing careers in non-profit, despite my grandparents' notion that I should go into corporate advertising.

It can be uncomfortable and uncertain to step off the path that is so clearly laid out for us by others. And yet the choice is ours. We can choose the conventional path for ourselves, we can choose an entirely different path, or we can spend some time on both paths. Although it is not always clear what choice we should make, it is very clear that the choice is ultimately ours and should choose wisely.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Reusing Security Envelopes

I was clearing out our mail pile yesterday (we have a new and improved place to put it rather than on the dining room table), and I noticed--for pretty much the first time ever--the inside of security envelopes. I'm smitten!

And then I remembered a post that the lovely Kristina did about using security envelopes to make a wedding card. Now I realize what she was talking about! [Yes, I feel like an idiot for catching on so slowly.]

I'm going to start collecting those envelopes (hooray for reusing!) and then make something very similar to Kristina's without feeling any guilt about copying someone else's idea. That's what blogs are for, right?

Photo courtesy of Lovely Morning

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Chicken Update

Ah, chickens.

We picked them up from the acquaintance-of-our-friend's-stepmom who was giving them away. We packed the 5 x 2-feet box into my tiny Honda Fit (which, by the way, has a miraculous amount of space). When we got them home, I wondered, "Um, what were we thinking?" With no chicken coop and little to no knowledge of how to raise chickens, I felt utterly unprepared.

I was scared to touch them, and I couldn't easily envision them playing the role of cute pets in our life. But after about 15 minutes, I was over it. I love them. I adore them. They make the sweetest sounds (think subtle bird chirping CD playing in the background). They are endlessly entertaining as they peck around the backyard and then flop over on their sides to sunbathe. I'm so thankful we just went for it instead of letting our lack of planning stop us.

And Hoss can't get enough of them (see photographic evidence of him standing on a chair to get a better look inside the box).

We went ahead and ordered an Eglu. It's way over-priced, but the alleged ease of cleaning was irresistible. I think it makes sense to simplify our first foray into barnyard animals. I think I'll take on an extra consulting job to cover the cost, or else I'll try to pull together some baby quilts for the Underground Arts Market. Cheers to expanding families!

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Friday, November 20, 2009

And Chickens Make Seven

Finally! We are getting chickens. We've been talking about it for so long (we've had the names picked out forever: more names from Bonanza show to go along with our dog, Hoss).

We're getting them for free through a random connection (friend-->step-mom-->fellow parent at a private school). Matt and I jumped at the chance. We thought there might be a nicer coop involved, but it sounds like we're basically getting chickens in a box (which, in the end, doesn't save us that much money, since chickens are pretty cheap). But oh well. At least it's a little fire under our behinds to follow-up on our chicken-procuring goal.

We'll be raising the chickens for eggs and for pure entertainment (you've got to get creative when you don't have a TV...). I spent the evening reading Chickens in Your Backyard: A Beginner's Guide by Rick and Gail Luttmann as a crass course in chickenology. I learned a lot about how to trick hens into becoming foster moms for random chicks and cannibalism among the bunch. I'm still left with some essential logistical questions (like where to put the dirt that they need to roll around in to prevent mites), but the book was pretty engaging.

Apparently our chickens are about a month old. According to the book, they can spend another two weeks inside the house (hooray!). I want to get them used to us (and our dog).

But we will need a coop, like now. I love the one pieced together from IKEA parts (picture 1), but it seems a bit beyond our DIY prowess. I love this DIY coop, but I can't seem to swallow the idea of paying $30 for instructions. We also considered this one (picture 2). In the end, I think we're going to have to scrape together enough cash to buy an eglu. Honestly, I am smitten with the convenience. The easy-to-clean, slide-out surfaces might just make all the difference in our weekly chore routine.

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