Monday, May 31, 2010

G-Diapers are Awesome

Noah got big enough for G-diapers provided by the generous Dan and Leah and I have to say, they're wonderful!

He looks super cool, and the inserts actually do go down our toilet (Yeah!). They're just as easy as disposables. When he gets bigger and we get used to our laundry in the next little while, we'll transition over to bumgenius.

We've been trying gentle toilet training at the same time, but since I'm not super-hard-core, I've just been giving Noah the opportunity to pee/poop in a tupperware. Since I'm not using any special cues to know if he actually wants to go, sometimes he does go, and sometimes not. Either way, I try not to make a big deal of it. Instead I'll use Concrete Gardener to be excited about my son's toilet adventures!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

In Cheap We Trust, Lauren Weber (and an update)

Jo Hunter Adams

I recently finished this book, which outlines the history of "cheapness" (and consumption) in the USA. The history was great- but not entirely accessible- so I wanted to focus on the concept of "eco-cheapness", which comes up later in the book.

Eco-cheapness is the idea that reusing, recycling and doing without reduces waste and our carbon footprint. For example, using an older car might be more environmentally friendly than buying a new hybrid vehicle. One does NOT have to be wealthy in the U.S. to live [relative to others in North America] sustainably. Weber's comment on Whole Foods is that it has made a certain type of consumption fashionable.

Weber also highlights the tension between two messages Americans (read, westerners) receive: (1) Be frugal and save vs. (2) Be generous, to the point of being willing to take on debt to give. I love the incredible generosity that I've encountered in the U.S., and I'm learning a lot from it. My natural inclination with gift-giving is to identify necessities (according to my standards)-- I really struggle to give an extravagant gift. But generosity is not always about need-- some people feel most loved when they receive gifts. It's a struggle to figure out this tension. But, on a slightly different note, the last couple of weeks I've encountered examples of extraordinary generosity through meals my mother-in-law and friends from church have been bringing over. It's been exactly what Eug and I needed.

Freegans (those who get much of what they need from the waste stream) are a good example of extraordinary frugality and extraordinary generosity. What they find is fair game for anyone, yet they manage with very little actual money. This works particularly well in the U.S., where a huge amount of good stuff goes to landfills every day. Although I'm not close to being a freegan, admiring them from where I am on my journey helps change my consumption-cheapness reference point.

Some concrete things I wanted to re-commit to from this book: (1) The size of our apartment is probably our best example of eco-cheapness, so I'd like to make the best possible use of our space. Often, this means getting rid of unused things quickly, which is in tension with the goal of re-purposing things. For now, I think we just have to live in this tension, and use freecycle as much as possible. The biggest thing I'd like to take care of in our apartment is our stairwell, which is currently filled with junk after Noah's birth. (2) Figuring out ways to give good gifts without going into debt. (3) Using our garden (which we thought belonged to our downstairs neighbors) and (4) remembering that everything is relative-- our place is HUGE in most of the world.

Noah Updates
Noah grew a lot (yeah!) already and so we're ready to move on up to g-diapers and BumGenius 3.0. I'm also reading a book on (gentle) infant potty training and am trying it out (despite feeling a little tentative). The idea is that in most of the world, babies are trained to use a toilet (or equivalent) from a very young age. Why not in the West? The methods describe basically figuring out a baby's rhythm, and taking him to the bathroom at those times. The process is not at all punitive and there aren't specific expectations. I thought we could try it out, and the worst thing that can happen is that it doesn't work. Best case scenario-- fewer poopy diapers to wash!

We've been able to venture outside a couple of times, but unfortunately Noah has had to carried around in the car seat because it's so hot. Tonight it's supposed to cool down.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Noah's Arrival

Jo Hunter Adams

For those of you who would happily do without details of Noah's arrival to the world, skip this [rambling] post! Noah is 9 days old. We're so grateful to God for him, and we're hoping he's going to grow up to be blessed and be a blessing.


We went to a labor class in April to learn about childbirth, and they prepared us for a 20 hour labor, a generally horrifying thought. My parents insisted that in the family, "our" women deliver much more quickly. No pressure. Of course, our family also has a long history of castor oil, which causes incredible indigestion and is said to induce labor. Along those lines, one friend compared labor to really bad indigestion- but her husband could also hear her screams from a block away. Another friend lent me her "Gentle Birthing Choices" book, which encourages women to welcome the contractions. It also has labor poems that were surprisingly helpful to this non-new-agey-non-poet. The chapter on giving birth in the ocean encourages women to consider the ocean current. And the fact that the baltic sea is freezing. Although I didn't have any plans for an ocean birth, I hoped to pray Noah into the world.


The 5-1-1(five minutes apart, one minute long for one hour) rule (and strong enough that you can't talk) just didn't work for me. After my water broke, I was able to pray through the night and welcoming the contractions worked pretty well. It's customary for women whose water has broken to checked into the hospital, but we waited a while before going to the hospital because Lost is supposed to be available on Hulu by 8am EST (for the record, it wasn't). At the hospital at 10am, the midwife felt I was too comfortable to be far along in labor, so I went home again even though my contractions were about 3 minutes apart.

Eug and I then decided to walk to Starbucks (don't judge), but I was in too much pain so we walked back home. We thought we'd try to watch a little hulu instead (the advice in our class had been to use distraction as long as possible), but again I was in way too much pain, and started to feel like pushing. At this point I wasn't welcoming anything, and I couldn't concentrate enough to have a thought about anything other than the possibility that this might go on for 20 more hours. So we went back to the hospital by 11am. In the exam room, they wanted me to lay down and be monitored for 20 minutes (whoever decided to make women lay down during labor?) until the nurse realized that Noah was already on his way out. A bunch of nurses and a midwife came to remind me to breath and push. Eug was busy registering for us, and made it just in time for Noah to be born at 11:26am.

So Noah was born in the exam room and the atmosphere was pretty frantic (no cool music or wood paneled delivery room with a jacuzzi for us!) but my sense from the experience was that my hopes for the birth might have been as important as the actual event. Giving birth was so momentous that my main emotion was gratitude, which likely would have been the case however Noah made his way into the world. That said, to put in a plug for drug-free delivery, I really enjoyed being fully alert and awake after the labor.

Now we're figuring out how to be parents to this whole new person-- we welcome your prayers.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Dusty Foot Philosopher

Check out this Mail and Guardian article about Somali-Canadian rapper K'Naan.

Highlights from the article:
"The album is a capsule of the world, which is to say the American world, viewed through the lens of a socially conscious Somali.

His album is spiced with references to legends such as Fela Kuti, Lucky Dube and others -- he familiarly alludes to them as though they were generous uncles who regularly popped in at the family home when he was a boy. He also samples the continent's rhythms, especially those of Ethiopian jazz artists such as Getatchew Mekurya and Mulatu Astatke."

Here's to K'Naan and the Africa's first soccer world cup!

Saturday, May 8, 2010


The wait is on for Noah. Today's the official due date, and I had a very early ultrasound that estimated yesterday or even Thursday. The due date is based on a pregnancy of 40 weeks, though, and the average non-induced first pregnancy actually lasts 41 weeks and 1 day.

I have a really strong sense of the supernatural at work in the waiting. I'm pretty down-to-earth and I often have trouble connecting with God as supernatural. So I'm loving the sense that the little blob will come when he and I are ready (though I'm sincerely hoping that's going to be soon). It makes the wait a lot easier. It also gives me a sense that Eug and I can expect to be equipped with some of the wisdom we need and don't have at this moment.

One of my not-so-well-kept secrets here at the Concrete Gardener is that I frequent Target (right behind our house) all the time. For the non-Bostonians, Target is a large, not socially responsible store that has us (and about half of America) in it's grip. Sometimes Eug and I go on dates there. We just walk around aimlessly and then see if there's any ice-cream on sale.

And that's where I'm headed right now. It feels like we need a spray bottle to be able to spray the cloth wipes when little blob arrives. Maybe we also need cloth wipes...

Thanks for all your help and support.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Growing Season is Here! Indoor and Outdoors

We've made a 4 X 3.8 foot box downstairs for our seeds! The tomatoes are big enough to go outside already, but it may still be a little early. We're planting lettuce, mesclun, spinach, collard greens and green onion straight into the box, and I'll transfer our peppers, eggplant, squash, tomatoes and basil as soon as they're ready. So growing season is definitely upon us!

Inside our apartment, we are trying to improve our air quality. We only have one window, which is in our bedroom, and our back and front doors (the back door stays open much of the summer). We saw the video below, so we're following his suggestion of plants: