Friday, April 30, 2010

Food for the animals?

Today I went to a zoo I hadn't been to before, and I'm not sure what to think about it. Having yesterday been to the (free) National Zoo -- where signs all over tell you the animals are on a planned diet and please don't feed them -- I was surprised that when I was buying my tickets for this place out in the NoVa 'burbs, I was asked if I wanted to also purchase feed or bottles. Huh?

"All the animals can eat this grain, and the animals in the barn will take these bottles," the cheery cashier explained. I didn't really know what to expect, but I figured that without much rationale other than not wanting to spend more money, I didn't want to put up with what I assumed would be a preschoolers many future requests for feed as we made our way around the farm-ish park.

So my friend and I went in on a $10 bucket of food pellets and bought a bottle for each of the three boys in our charge.

And then we went into the barn.

Those poor animals, was my first thought. They see us humans simply as food sources, but in a frenetic way that had me wondering if the zookeepers slip some kind of special ingredient into those pellets...

Maybe it was just that we were among the first ones there, I thought, but again over an hour later, after several school busloads had descended on the place, the animals were just as greedy. And just as loud. Wow, does my kid never need to hear some fake sheep or goat sound again. I think he's making "maaaa" noises in bed right now.

My son got a kick out of feeding animals, and he sure did get close to the them! But I remain disturbed by the idea of all these animals being fed non-stop, all day long (not very Waldorf, to have no rhythm or pattern to your eating!) And I'm guessing what is going into their bellies is something that is probably not that great for them. Maybe occasionally they get to graze on grass, or the pigs get to forage, but I doubt it.

Even if I'm not going to eat these guys, I'd still like them to be healthy. When I watched the movie King Corn and saw how messed up the stomachs of grain-fed cattle get, I started to understand just how wrong-headed farming practices are. Is this zoo any different?

So, my kid got to see a bunch of animals up close, including camels and goats, sheep and spider monkeys, kangaroos and huge pythons. I'm sure zoo-going helps kids develop an appreciation of the many varied life forms on our planet and a curiosity about the natural world.

I just also feel a little yucky about the fact that it's not very, well, natural.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Nothing is good enough

Oh, how many varied ways there are to disappoint a four-year-old. Or maybe it's just my four-year-old. Time to pull out a parenting book and see just how much I suck as a mom and how much things are going to developmental stage plan.

Here are a few of the gems I heard today between the hours of 3:30 and 5:30, requests that, for various reasons, I was unable to accommodate.

"I want to go play with (neighbor boy)."
"I wanted to watch it all again."
"I wanted to watch Caillou."
"I wanted to go to Frying Pan Farm Park today."
"I want a gluten-free bun, too. A bun is different than toast!"
"I want pellets (homeopathy), not drops (flower essences)."
"I want to make homemade sushi."
"I want the cupcake I didn't finish at (friend's) birthday party." (10 days ago)
"I want to go to the library right now! I want to go today!"

"You said we'd go to the park to fly my new kite! I want to go right now!"
The little cherub had told me when we got home from school, "I don't want to go outside today," which seemed fair since it was so windy and I knew he'd been out plenty at school. Thus we missed my opportunity to hit the park when I 1) had the energy and 2) wasn't cooking dinner. But after that window had closed, the desire came on the boy something fierce. Fortunately his dad returned a pathetic message I left and told me (chopped up on speaker phone because both the boy and I were in tears) that he would be coming home early, so they are at the park right now. But the big guy did not arrive before I heard this next keeper at 5:30, earlier than he hardly ever gets home:

"You said he'd be home early but it's so late!"

Combine all of the above with a whining voice or precede them by an "Aw, Man!" then add a good dose of crying from a 4-year-old and a 37-year-old, and you have the soundtrack of my afternoon.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Poetry and motherhood

Last month I attended an amazing session on the politics of writing motherhood at the Split this Rock Poetry Festival.

Read more about it here in a piece I wrote for

Friday, April 16, 2010

Time to chill

I woke last night around 3 a.m. with that sad feeling of having finished something and, though it was successful, feeling like I could have played it better. Said more thank yous, not left Slow Food DC off the resource list, not been so snappy about having to rearrange the room or not having any help until 5 minutes before doors were scheduled to open.

It was a great panel on Local Food, a huge success for my chapter of Holistic Moms Network. And a lot of work. I hope it is the last big thing we try to pull off before I check out a little to have a baby in August.

My son weathered my stress and busy-ness well, so well that I bought him a virgin plastic toy today and a creme brulee dessert after lunch (when a cafe and pastry shop takes pains to list what is gluten-free, I feel like I should support their efforts even if I don't really want him eating much dairy or sugar either. At least this had eggs so some decent fat and protein, I hope).

The toy succeeded at keeping the peace this afternoon and also giving him something to occupy himself so I could actually take a nap. What a concept. He gave me a solid half-hour and then another 15 minutes, and then we cuddled on the couch for a while playing pretend with his new toy.

I shouldn't fail to mention that the toy in question is a little character and car, a pink daisy Wow! toys thing, the cheapest they had. My son got this same "character" for free at the grand reopening of a toy store and he was happy to get a second one and to go for the flowers when I said the tow trucks and emergency vehicles were too expensive.

So score one for not falling into strict gender roles, and strike one for needless consumerism. We were buying something for a friend's birthday party, and, since, as I wrote a few weeks ago, he was bummed that I didn't let people bring gifts to his birthday party, I felt like today's toy purchase softened the blow a little. I also let him pick the gift -- a turtle gardening bag with plastic shovels instead of the recycled cardboard bug dominoes I suggested. But it's for gardening...

Although I wish I'd slept through the night, my awake hours set me up to just take today as it came, to be glad I didn't have to be anywhere other than 9:30-11:30, to not get on the computer the second we got home after lunch. That two hours I spent not sleeping gave me religion to get off even the decaf and up the water, to find a place to get into my body, which is sorely overdue for this pregnancy and for healthy living.

A friend of mine who is 37 weeks along had a fall today in a parking lot, and, having yesterday been told she had low fluid and high blood pressure, spent a few hours being monitored in the hospital as a precaution. I hope that all is well (as it appears to be) and that she will rebound and have a few more weeks of pregnancy. But I also heard some real calm in her voice, being somewhere with no deadlines or anything to do. She didn't turn on the TV. She decided to just be. I hope it's exactly what she needs.

Sometimes we need a real kick -- or fall, or slap in the face -- to remember just what that is.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Parenting anthology deadline 4/15

I thought I'd posted on this, but I must have just sent people emails about it.

Write for Charity is seeking submissions for a parenting anthology that will benefit charity. Submissions are due Thursday, 4/15/10. I'm still working on mine!

For details, check out

This page says:
"You are welcome to submit any parenting related stories and poems, but we are specifically looking for stories to fit into the following categories:

1. Pregnancy: Stories from Moms, Dads, and Grandparents to Be.
2. The Day You Were Born
3. Baby/Toddler Stories
4. Parent/ Child Bond
5. Growing Up/ Letting Go
6. Things I Learned From My Parents
7. What Being a Parent Has Taught Me

Please contact us at with any questions."

I'll also paste a bit from their guidelines page at

"We are looking for stories that weave powerful lessons about parenting into vividly told tales. They can be fiction or nonfiction stories or poems that read easily and evoke emotion. They are real life or realistic tales that reveal the positive aspects of parents; that inspire, entertain, and enlighten readers; and that bring tears of compassion and joy to our eyes, hope to our hearts, and comfort to our souls. The stories are original, creative, slice-of-life depictions of the most important and influential experiences and relationships in our lives: the ones we have with our children."

Stories have to be uplifting and not exceed 2,000 words. I received this suggestion in an email from one of the anthology organizers: "Lists (10 things I learned from being a mom, etc.) and letters (to your children or to a parent) are welcome (and are my personal favorite!)"

So get writing!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

New book! "Knocked Up, Knocked Down"

I was thrilled today to get an email blast from author Monica Murphy LeMoine that her book is now available on Amazon from Catalyst Book Press. Order your copy of Knocked Up, Knocked Down: Postcards of Miscarriage and Other Misadventures from the Brink of Parenthood today!

Never one to hold back or bullshit, Monica is author of the blog Knocked Up, Knocked Down and has written in Hip Mama and elsewhere about her experiences with -- and after -- stillbirth and miscarriage. I am amazed by her ability to tell stories in such a smart way with honesty and razor sharp humor. (She's also a damn good editor who did a great job trimming down a piece I had in the online magazine she started, Exhale. If only I could learn to cut to the chase with my own material.)

I knew Monica was due to have a baby in March and so was thrilled to see on her blog that Sean was born on March 26. The whole family looks like they could be in a photo shoot for post-birth bliss. (Well, that was before I read her post on stitches, but still.)

Congratulations to Monica on a baby and a book!

Clever title?

My freshman year in college, my Brit Lit I professor expected we would always have a "clever title." I always used this as a space saver until I came up with one (except that on more than one occasion I noticed later that I'd spelled it "cleaver." This was almost 18 years ago, the same quarter I met my husband. Wow. I. Am. Old.)

My age, before I become the mother of two four months or so from now, I am determined to seriously upgrade this blog, move it to Wordpress, and merge my other two blogs into it as secondary pages. I'm looking for a subtitle for Crunchy-Chewy Mama, a tagline that will convey the idea of a having (at least) two identities, straddling different worlds, being a natural-minded mama in a processed world, hippy in the suburbs (wearing cable-knit sweaters)... something like that. I might keep the low-key feet in Birks image; I like the idea of two feet in two different worlds.

New logo or no, this writer mama cannot come up with a snappy (or at least succint) tagline. Can you? Please share any epiphanies that come upon you!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Navigating the birthday present conundrum

Birthday ring I was pretty comfortable with my “No gifts, please”/Birthdays Without Pressure approach until last week when my newly-four-year-old son said of the friends coming to his playdate, “But I want them to bring presents!”

Am I an evil mommy for pushing low consumerism on my kid? Or am I just feeling the sting of letting him rummage through the recycling bin and find catalogs to drool over? And of getting gifts for other kids’ parties? I’m struggling now to find a way to be consistent or just comfortable on this issue of birthday presents.

I haven’t read Annie Leonard’s book yet, but the title says a lot: The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession With Stuff Is Trashing The Planet, Our Communities, And Our Health - And A Vision For Change. I know age four is too young for me to push an agenda on my kid, but I do want to stick to my values.

At our planned birthday playdate, we were going to have a cake (that we’d made together, from scratch) but no gimmicks or giveaways. Just play with friends. As I’ve written before, I just want my son to see birthdays as a time where he feels special and happy, not as something that has to come wrapped in a box with a pricetag.

Read the rest of this post at DC Metro Moms Blog