We’ve gone eco-loco.

We’ve always cared about the environment, but lately in the Moody household we’ve really been pushing ourselves to do better.

I think it started when we were at a friend’s house for dinner recently and as she passed out the cloth napkins she said something simple like, “My New Year’s resolution is to waste less.”

Woah. Not that I’m regretting our New Year’s resolution, which was to push ourselves to be kinder and more outgoing with acquaintances and friends and strangers. We’re still working on it. We’re introverts.

But what a concept. Waste less.

It resonated with me, since we’ve been on a slow trek towards that end since before Edmond was born, beginning with our commitment to cloth diaper.

Now we just filed our taxes, and we were stunned to see on paper just how little we earned last year. Edmond was born two weeks before the close of 2013, and in 2014 we were broke, by most anyone’s definition. I don’t think we felt like we were on the verge of destitution, but we were definitely close.

I credit some savvy decisions like cloth diapering with making the difference.

When we were crunching the numbers before Edmond was born, we realized we couldn’t afford not to cloth diaper. So we pooled all our gift cards and checks from our baby shower and bought around 200 dollars worth of cloth diapering supplies. This was supplemented by an incredibly awesome gift from my brother- and sister-in-law  of our niece’s old cloth diapering stash. We even got some super cute ones (which was a bit of a splurge, retrospectively).

And we’ve already made that money back, of course. The first month of Edmond’s life when we were using all disposables I was shocked by how many he went through, and horrified to see the bags of waste we were sending to a landfill forever. When he finally fit into his “one-size” diapers at around 6 weeks old, we were thrilled. SO much extra wiggle room in our budget!

Over the last year, we’ve purchased diapers a handful of times for use at my parents’ house, or to keep a back-up in the car, or for a vacation. But at 14 months, cloth diapers have absolutely paid for themselves. And what we figure is, we’ll use these diapers for all of our children (number of forthcoming children t.b.d. and I’m not planning on getting pregnant any time soon, but I definitely want at least a few little ones). So around 300 dollars for diapers for all of our kids? AMAZING.

And then about two months ago, treating our son’s diaper rash for the umpteenth time and researching all the chemicals found in even “natural” wipes, we spent 20 dollars on reusable wipes, and this too felt like such an AMAZING development. I’ll never go back to disposable wipes. It’s so much simpler when you cloth diaper, anyway.

So when the friend at dinner said she wanted to waste less, it got me thinking about all the paper products still at use in our home. I immediately stocked up on a few extra hand towels and wash towels for the kitchen, and stopped using paper towels. (Which felt like a big leap considering the mess our little toddler is capable of making).

All of this felt so natural. But I cringe to type what I’m about to. Here goes: I then decided to tackle the final disposable stronghold in the house. The behemoth. Toilet Paper.

Shocked? I’m shocked. I’m not a super granola-type. Or. I thought I wasn’t.

But here I am.

I purchased a bidet sprayer (which we needed anyway for diapers), and a scrap yard of navy blue fleece (for 27 cents, no less), which I then cut into 29 6-inch squares. We use the bidet, then the fleece, and then launder them with diapers. (If we weren’t still washing diapers, we could probably go 3-4 days between “family cloth” washes.)

It sounds gross. I’m embarrassed even writing about it. But I am, because I am proud of us. We’re saving money for our family and we’re helping the environment. And if we can inspire anyone else to do the same, that would be wonderful.

Subsequently, Edmond got a horrible cold and after finishing off the one box of tissue paper we had in the house, I borrowed some pinking shears from my mother-in-law and cut up some of his old burp cloths into squares. So now no more tissues either.

I could write out the facts and figures that most convinced me, but there is already a lot of literature out there about this that is more thorough than I feel like being at the moment, so here are a few articles to get you started on your researching, if you’re interested:.

http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6403

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/earth-talks-bidets/

http://www.sustainablebabysteps.com/recycled-toilet-paper.html

P.S. Friday night Jonathan and I watched the documentary No Impact Man, so I think there’s a good chance we’re going to get even more eco-loco. Which is fine by us.

P.P.S. For concerned frequent guests of the Moody household, we’ll have toilet paper on hand for you, if that’s still your bag.

Rebecca’s Reading List: 2014

1. The House of the Spirits – Isabel Allende

2. Stardust – Neil Gaiman

3. The Game – A. S. Byatt

4. Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier

5. Angels and Insects – A. S. Byatt

6. Bread and Wine – Shauna Niequist

7. Animal Farm – George Orwell

8. Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton

9. The Shiva Tide – by my dad, Don Mooradian (you’ll want to read this when it gets published)

10. The Tale of the Rose: The Love Story Behind The Little Prince - Consuelo de Saint-Exupéry

11. Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There - Aldo Leopold

12. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life - Anne Lamott

13. Don’t Tell the Grown-Ups: The Subversive Power of Children’s Literature –  Alison Lurie

14.  Vol de nuit – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

15. The Magician’s Assistant – Ann Patchett

16. How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character - Paul Tough

17. Hard Times - Charles Dickens

18. Persuasion – Jane Austen

19. The Anthologist: A Novel - Nicholson Baker

20. Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children - Sharifa Oppenheimer

21. Mansfield Park – Jane Austen

22. The Victorian Fairy Tale Book – Compiled by Michael Patrick Hearn

 

I was feeling pretty bad about how little I read in 2014 (and knew I’d done worse than 2013), but once compiled it’s not too embarrassing a list, considering I had a baby to contend with all year. Favorite read? Probably Rebecca (not because of the title, I swear). My dad’s book is also tops. Least favorite read? Probably either of the Byatt books, which is a little disappointing since for years her other novel Possession has been my favorite novel. Also, Ethan Frome is a serious bummer, but not a poorly written bummer.

Here’s to hoping I read more in 2015! I’m already off to a great start (currently loving Karen Russell), and I got so many other wonderful books as Christmas presents.

Happy new year, y’all!

Edmond at 1 year old!

Edmond is 1

I cannot believe that my baby boy turned one yesterday. What I find surreal is that someone who has spent so little time on this planet could be so full of life and personality. I also cannot fathom the possibilities of the human heart. Two years ago, Edmond did not exist except in some dreamy world of possibility. One year ago, he was born and slept his way through the next several weeks of his life. And now, he is the person Jonathan and I love more than anything in existence. How beautiful is that?

He has done so much this year: gone to Baltimore, North Carolina, Florida, and Michigan. He has gone on his first plane ride, he “swam” in the ocean and lakes and a river. He has hiked many hikes. He has been loved up on by so many relatives and friends, and has spent hours entertaining with his new skills and antics.

I always wanted to have a son as my first born. I do not know why, except I think I always wanted a big brother (little did I know, Joe would surpass me in height at age 13 and take on nearly all other protective properties of a ‘big’ brother).

My favorite part of my birth video is when Jonathan tells me the gender of our baby, his voice so full of emotion: “Oh, Becca, it’s a boy!”

I love him so much and feel so blessed to have him as my son.

Yesterday,we had a party to celebrate him. It was a pajama brunch complete with a sugarless “smash” cake made by yours truly, a totally sugary cake for adults, mimosas, frittata muffins, lots of presents and adorable babies, and Edmond’s huge, fun, wonderful family. Thank you to all the people who came for making the day special! IMG_9606_Fotor_Collage_Fotor

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Firsts

Names: Mama, Dada, Nana, Deedee (for my dad), Baba, Joe-joe, Lala (Lexie), Nanny (Hanna), Weeow (for Willow)

Words: Hi, Bye-bye, No, Light, On, More, Please, Done, Peep-eye (for peekaboo), Bird, Bear, Kitty-cat, Dog, Puppy, Banana, Tree, Swing, Baby, Nose, Ball, Yummy, Vacuum, Teeth

Makes sounds for the following: Monkey, Elephant, Cow, Cat, Dog, Bear (he sneezes, like in Bear Snores On), Train, Car, Fire truck, owl

“Sings” along: the lullaby “Bye-o Baby,” “Old MacDonald” (just e-i-e-o)

Phrases, completely unprompted: “Light on?” and “No more”

Smile: sometime before 3 weeks

Laugh: around 5 weeks

Roll from belly to back: 2/26/14 (2.5 months)

Roll from back to belly: 4/20/14 (Easter sunday, 4 months)

Pulled to standing: 7/6/14 (6 months 3 weeks)

First belly off the carpet crawl (after weeks of scooting):  7/7/14 (6 months 3 weeks)

First wave: 7/29/14 (7.5 months)

Clapping:  40 weeks

First steps (but too tentative to take more than 2 or 3 at a time): 9/30/14 (9.5 months)

Walked across a room: 11/29/14 (11.5 months)

Paradox and the Advent

The darkest day of the year is coming, but so is the return of light and the lengthening of days.

I love paradoxes, and perhaps at no time of the year are they more present in my thoughts. These rituals of Christmas and the Christmas season – putting lights out to illuminate our dreary neighborhoods, taking a tree inside to render domestic and cheery the natural world, even while it is at its most harsh and barren, celebrating community and family through gatherings at a time when otherwise we might have been solitarily shut indoors – they’re paradoxes, right? They’re truths with nuance, with exceptions, with grey.

And of course, so is the story of the advent itself: that the King of All would come in the form of a small babe, that He would be born to commoners rather than royalty, that a meager stable would become forever a symbol of humility and hospitality too.

But this is perhaps what I love most: that fiction itself so often seems paradoxically fact. That things can be true because they feel true, because they ring true, because we hope them to be true. Or because we have faith. Some of the stories that resonate with me deepest are written, are fables and folk tales. Does that make them untrue?

Certainly not.

I want to raise Edmond with this understanding of the world. That Truth and truth are not the same, and often one has to weigh the two side by side. I hope he finds, like his father and I, that there is Truth in Christmas, the Christ child, St. Nicholas too. I hope he’ll embrace the paradox of the advent.

Judging by this picture though, who knows?

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Thanksgiving 2014

this Thanksgiving season was truly the best ever.

it began with a trip to Black Mountain, North Carolina to hang with Hanna (with wonderful stops to and from at my Nana’s house in East Tennessee), and ended in days of celebration with my family in Nashville. Thanksgiving-eve we had a delicious meal at my Aunt Baba’s house in East Nashville, Thanksgiving Day we baked at home, Jonathan got to take Edmond over to his Gram and Grandy’s for some cousin play time while I was at my parents, and my mom hosted with a feast, parlor games, and a wonderful dance party. I made 3 pies and a loaf of pumpkin bread for the occasion. The next day, family reconvened and the party just repeated itself. It was wonderful.

It is crazy for me to think about how this time last year Edmond still hadn’t been born yet. He was a dream this entire week and is getting to be just so, so much fun. He loved “dancing” and was a complete ham at all the parties, staying up way past his bed time every night but handling it like a champ. Oh yeah, and in 10 days he’ll be 1 year old. WHAT.

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That last shot is my dad “channeling Norman Rockwell.” Nailed it.

Edmond at 11 months.

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Oh my goodness, how could this be my last monthly update before Edmond hits a year (and monthly updates stop)?

At 11 months, Edmond is so, so much fun. I feel like he’s become a kid in the last month. At 11 Months, Edmond sleeps through the night and goes to bed like a champ. In addition to signing for milk, he now signs for ‘more’ and ‘water.’ He claps his hand when he’s excited. He still loves reading, but has also started to be really fascinated by blocks, and he loves peekaboo.

The biggest change though has been in his language. Around a month ago he started using words very purposefully, and now he has so many that he says semi-correctly but absolutely in the right context and with consistency. Favorites include: Mama, Dada, Nana, Dede (his name for my dad), Baba, kittykat, doggie, bye-bye, and no. He also says “choo-choo” when we hear the train go by at our house, says “whoo” if you ask him what noise an owl makes (or if he sees a picture of an owl), and recently if you prompt him for what the bear says, he says “achoo” (which is the climax of his favorite children’s book). It is all just too cute.

I cannot believe in just a wee little month we’ll have a one year old. We are trying to soak-in every second with our baby.

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Sleepy Saturday #1

Today was an important first: it was our first Sleepy Saturday.

Sleepy Saturday is a tradition we just invented, and I think it should catch on. Here’s the gist: when life feels like it is too busy, too hectic, too full, a “Sleepy Saturday” is imposed as a day committed to rest, togetherness, and home-time.

We have been so on the go lately. Every weekend has had several activities per day planned, and as much as we love staying busy, Jonathan and I have lately started to feel overwhelmed with how on-the-go we always are. Today, we had only one outing, going to the celebration of our best baby friend Genevieve’s birthday! (It was so great!)

So Sleepy Saturday #1.

Being the first, today had a few kinks. Imagine this — we’re not good at committing to home-time! I woke up and immediately thought of thirty errands I wanted to run. And once I reminded myself that today was a holiday, a Sleepy Saturday, my brain then jumped to all the chores I could accomplish with a day spent at home. And that’s just not the point of a Sleepy Saturday.

Secondly, Edmond has his first ever bug – it’s a viral rash that had me worried for several hours and on the phone with the nurse from his doctor’s office, and then, per the nurse’s suggestion that it might be a yeast infection, we let Edmond go diaper-less a good hour or so, which resulted in a little mini disaster – I’m sure you can imagine and I’d rather not describe.

All that aside, Sleepy Saturdays are a new Moody thing. Feel free to adopt them into your family too. Our policies? Limited social media. Few chores. No errands. Visitors optional (but they must accept that our house is not in tip-top shape). Our preferences? Lots of snuggling. Lots of reading. Lots of goofing off. Baking and music playing if we feel so inclined.

We’re going to schedule one Sleepy Saturday a month. As our families grow, any family member can request an additional Sleepy Saturday be added to the schedule if they’re feeling we’re getting too busy, too unconnected.

A little documentation of our day. IMG_6103 IMG_6116 IMG_6122 IMG_6124 IMG_6127 IMG_6131 IMG_6132

Happy baby, because it’s sleepy Saturday.

Halloween, a Mountain Drive, and a Baby Shower

We had such a busy Halloweekend. Friday we went trick-or-treating with the Durhams and Reeses, then went to my Aunt’s house for her annual celebration, and Saturday morning we hopped in the car and drove to Knoxville to spend some time with my beautiful Nana and the whole Williams crew for my cousin’s baby shower. It was the prettiest drive I think I’ve ever been on : the snow on the plateau put the beauty of the autumn leaves in such high contrast. It was just beautiful. And then Sunday was the shower and there is just nothing more exciting to me than celebrating a new soul on this planet. It also helps that in true Williams style, the shower was co-ed and was a great party to boot.

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Mamahood.

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So I’m sitting down to write something euphoric about how I love being a mother more than anything (which is true) and how I always wanted to be Mrs. Darling from Peter Pan growing up (also true) when in the kitchen where Jonathan is with Edmond I hear a glass breaking because Edmond is into everything these days, and so he grabbed a mason jar and it fell and broke into a gazillion pieces and chaos ensues as we try to clean it while Edmond cries to be picked up again, and really, that is what parenting is these days: euphoria and chaos and bliss and madness.

This week was rough. Edmond was going through a growth spurt, not napping well, wanting to be right in my arms constantly, and with all that going on I was not on my a-game and did lots of smart things including dumping a whole pint of yogurt on the floor.

Which is to say our lives aren’t perfect. Parenting isn’t easy. Edmond isn’t always in a great mood. I’m not always in a good mood.

Parenting is hard for perfectionists, because there just isn’t a way to do it perfectly. You read everything you can, sort through all of the varying opinions, stake out your position, give something a go, and then – woops – a few weeks later decide you need to make a 180 and start over.

And parenting might be especially hard on goal-oriented perfectionists (me) who feel they need to be constantly at work towards achieving a goal. I am a multi-tasker, and often have dozens of projects in progress at the same time. There’s my poetry and prose and my writerly ambitions, there’s this house and all the improvements we’re still hoping to make, there’s Forest Mountain Hymnal, and then there’s this new role of homemaker I’ve taken on where I’m trying to make homemade dough at least once a week, cook at least 5 family meals a week, economize in whatever way I can, and support my husband at his 50-hour-a-week job.

All this is aside from the fact that I have OCD which often gives me all sorts of little hang ups about these projects as I go along. (Fortunately, my struggles with OCD have significantly lessened the older I’ve gotten, which is an amazing blessing).

Recently, though, I read a wonderful book which has helped to reground me: Sharifa Oppenheimer’s Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children. The book is spiritual though not religious or Christian, and is an overview of how to raise children in a Waldorf-inspired home.  Even if you never go the Waldorf route though, there is a plethora of useful advice within the book, including how to talk to your children about difficult topics like death, how to foster imagination, how to deal with nightmares, how to create a peaceful bedtime routine, etc.

What is most special about this work though is the emphasis it places on peace and calm. Oppenheimer’s main message is that as parents we need to slow down and create a rhythm for our family that focuses on the beauty and magic of the everyday. In life, I think that has long been of upmost importance to me, and this book served as a refresher course on what that looks like in a family with young children.

“Looking inward, I find that when I give myself wholeheartedly, opening into the moment with curiosity and wonder, time elongates and I am surrounded by the deliciousness of Now. Those moments that I can approach with true gratitude and wonder live somehow in the realm of timelessness. Perhaps gratitude is one of the doorways into Eternity. Our young children still have one foot in the Eternal, in Heaven. We can join them there, if we give ourselves enough time.” Sharifa Oppenheimer

I am not perfect at this. Not near. But I feel so blessed to be able to give it a go. To try and learn peace and model it for Edmond.

Because there’s this other way that my son makes me mindful of Eternity: he is the part of Jonathan and I most likely to carry us on into the future. He is likely to be our most lasting achievement. Perhaps I’ve written the next American novel and I’ll be famous for it for centuries; perhaps Forest Mountain Hymnal will take off and Jonathan will be the next Pete Seeger. That would be amazing.

But it would be entirely possible to focus so much on achievement that one forgot to live and to take proper notice of life. To enjoy the pleasure every morning of a slow cup of coffee. To take a walk around the yard and note the progress of trees. To feel the coming of the night and the autumn, to rejoice even at the frost, the wrinkle, because to do so is to be mindful of our mortality and to live moments well.

What novel could I write that would ever compare to the complexity and magic of a baby? What song has ever been written that reaches the perfection of the muscles, cells, framework bones of any human living? What could I ever create that would be better than an entire life – a new being on this planet? a new soul unto itself unique?

I can never quite wrap my head around the existence of us all; we are the result of years of love and families formed. The chance that we are here at all is so minuscule and yet when I look into the face of my child I have no other choice but to think there could never be another world than one with him in it.

And so every day I muster all my strength. I try to model what it is to be patient even when I don’t feel it.  I slow down and play with Edmond, sing to him, cuddle and kiss him even when I have a thousand other things I need to do. Because for me, that is what mamahood is all about. And it is a role I cherish with all my heart.

I’ll close with a poem by Kahlil Gibran, that serves as part of the introduction to Oppenheimer’s book:

On Children
 Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

 

Glory. Amen.