31 May 2014

A Follow-Up to the Story on FFF

My breastfeeding/formula feeding story is over at Fearless Formula Feeder today. Suzanne Barston's book, Bottled Up, was something I stumbled across during early pregnancy and read. The resources she offers on formula feeding were invaluable as we made the transition from breastmilk to formula, and I was much less distraught about the choice because I'd read a more thorough discussion of some of the studies on breastfeeding vs. formula feeding. My submission to FFF ends shortly after we made the switch to formula and saw the drastic difference 2-3 bottles a day had made in our child. Here's where we are now:

E. is nine months old. Several days ago, she took her first, unaided, unsupported steps. She still definitely prefers help when walking, but she's not far from taking off running on her own. She's still a tiny child, but she was less than six pounds when she popped out, so that's not suprising. She's about fifteen pounds now, and on track to triple her birthweight over the next few months, just like the books say she should.

She loves food. Yesterday she tried eggplant for the first time and was pretty interested in it. The list of solid foods she can eat is growing, and so far, she has no food allergies. We've tried her on a number of the major potential allergens and nothing's been a problem yet.

We're down to one breastfeed a day. Back in February, I learned that I had gallstones and would require surgery to have my gallbladder removed. I started slowly dropping our daytime breastfeeds because I knew it would be easier afterwards if she wasn't as dependent on the breast by then. The "morning snack" feed went easily, but the afternoon one, the one she relied on to propel her into her afternoon nap, took more convincing. In the process, she discovered soothers (Canadian word for pacifiers, for any Americans reading), and now uses those to get to sleep, rather than nursing or a bottle. Once we were down to breastfeeding only in the evenings, night, and early morning, I called it good for the moment. Then she dropped her middle-of-the-night breastfeed, followed by the early morning one. The evening breastfeed is the only one left. She seems to want to make sure the breasts are still there, but isn't as into it as she used to be. The feeds don't last long, and she keeps getting distracted. She isn't quite ready to stop, but I don't yet know how much longer it will be.

My surgery was just over a week ago. The first three evenings after, I didn't nurse E. Between the incisions on my abdomen and the codeine in my pain medication, it just didn't seem like a good idea. Once I'd switched over to normal Tylenol, I put her back on the breast. I'm still making milk, which sort of surprised me. We'll see how much longer she keeps going with it. I don't want to nurse past a year, but I'm willing to keep going until then.

She's pretty happy about formula. She can hold a bottle on her own now, and often, after she finishes it, she lies back on her pillow (handy use for a breastfeeding pillow, by the way), and sings to the empty bottle. She gets grouchy when she sees me mixing it up and she's not getting it fast enough, or when it's too cold for her taste.

We've ended up with the Costco brand of formula. If you just need regular formula, or even sensitive formula, this is definitely a great way to go, pricewise. The stuff they sell at the Costcos here in Canada appears to be fairly similar to Similac, which was the one E. responded to best. Our go with the Nestle samples was not encouraging--she didn't like it and the formula made her extremely gassy. The one time we tried the Costco formula from the States, we discovered it was weirdly frothy and came in smaller canisters than the kind here in Canada (other than that, it was fine).

Formula's been a good fit for us. E. rarely gets sick, and is gaining weight normally. She often ends up being a little skinny around the middle because she'll have a growth spurt and get taller, but her arms and legs have an appropriate amount of baby chubbiness. She's finally willing to sleep most of the night on her own in the crib, though we're still convincing her it's safe to fall asleep on her own. My worries now mostly revolve around whether or not she'll find something on the floor I've missed and eat it or whether she's going to start climbing soon, not about whether or not she's starving.

Our Milk Saga? Not really so much of a saga anymore. Drama gone. Baby happy. Parents sane. Life is good. 

25 May 2014

book musings: Make the Bread, Buy the Butter

I don't remember how I ran across Make the Bread, Buy the Butter. All I know is that the hold list for it at the library was extravagantly long, a waiting list that reminded me of the wait for Downton Abbey, Series One. I got it just after E. was born and spent some of those early days with a newborn reading the book while I nursed her. Those days are very blurred now (thank God), but I did remember the book.

While we were down in Portland for the Christmas holidays, I picked it up during one of our trips to Powell's, since I'd enjoyed it enough to purchase it (current rule for incoming books: re-readability). The conversational style of writing is not for everyone, I realize, but it's one that I rather enjoy. The series of recipes interspersed with Jennifer Reese's adventures into how to save money versus how not to save money on cooking makes for an entertaining read. I don't agree with her assessment on everything, of course, but that's to be expected (Mexican food--if you want decent Mexican food around here, you're usually better off making it, like we do. She lives in California, so it's to be expected that better and cheaper Mexican food can be found there. I'm still working on figuring out corn tortillas--they are deceptively difficult for me while macarons are pretty easy).

The first recipe I attempted was her cured salmon. I'm a convert. We love fish, especially salmon, and we especially love it raw, either sashimi-style, smoked, or cured. The first batch I made was gone in a day and a half. I haven't really tried it since, as good quality salmon is spendy, but we know it's good and easy. My next attempt at it will use a different spice blend, since the coriander mix in the recipe is nice, but I think the coriander is a bit overwhelming.

I've tinkered with a few other things from the book so far. The pancake recipe was a little thinner than we needed it to be, though it was delicious. I plan to try her yogurt recipe. We went through a homemade yogurt phase several years ago when we were making a yogurt-based bread all the time, but I'd never strained out the whey to get thicker yogurt. We always ended up with yogurt the consistency of milk--good for baking, not for plain eating.

And I love the book for the reading and the inspiration. Reese's forays into owning chickens and goats are amusing, and her beekeeper saga is interesting, though ultimately unsuccessful. There are a few recipes in there that I probably won't try (homemade deep-fried potato chips) and a few that I will (cream cheese, once I track down the needed culture), and some that I may or may not give a go. I've tried making my own vanilla extract, to great success (though now I need a few more vanilla beans and another bottle of bourbon to top it off--we're starting to run low), and I've made my own butter just to see what it was like. The spirit of the book is not entirely about frugality--sometimes the homemade is more expensive, but so much better that it doesn't matter. The extra effort is often worth it. Make the Bread, Buy the Butter makes me want to actually get around to making that bread, which I've been doing more and more often, with greater success.

24 May 2014

reading notes: I and Thou - Kaufmann's Prologue

"Reading Notes" is a new series, of sorts. I have a growing collection of academic literature that I keep intending to start reading, and then I don't always get around to reading things, or I start and then don't finish books. To motivate myself, and to collect some of my responses to what I read, I'll write a post on the chapter or article. The format is not unlike what I used in a readings course in grad school. I'll organize my thoughts, and maybe some of my readers will follow along. 

This is not an academic review, per se. This is a mixture of summary and my own thoughts on and responses to this work. As I and Thou is a somewhat religious work in nature, my own faith (Lutheran-ish with some strongly Catholic leanings) will inform my responses and interpretations. You have been warned.

Buber, Martin. (1996). I and thou: A new translation with a prologue "I and you" and notes by Walter Kaufmann. Walter Kaufmann (Trans.). New York: Touchstone.

I started reading Buber's I and Thou a number of years ago, and kept having to return it to the library when I got part-way into it and then found myself caught up with end-of-semester coursework. Eventually, I added it to my "to buy" list and then picked it up at Powell's down in Portland over Christmas. Now I'm actually going to finish it, make some notes and underline things in my very own copy (yes, in pencil, for those who wince at the idea of writing in a book), and hopefully it will go well. I start with Kaufmann's prologue, which requires another citation:

Kaufmann, Walter. (1996). I and you: A prologue. In Buber, Martin, I and thou: A new translation with a prologue "I and you" and notes by Walter Kaufmann (pp. 9-48). Walter Kaufmann (Trans.). New York: Touchstone.

I suppose it's not uncommon to skip the prologue if it's by another author, but I like prologue and introductions, and this one seemed particularly important, as even the best translator will bring their own biases to their work, and it's well to be aware of those biases as one reads. My summary/opinions of/responses to the prologue are followed by a few quotes I particularly liked.

Kaufmann's prologue to I and Thou, originally written in 1970, provides a background to both the book itself and Kaufmann's translation in particular. Kaufmann summarizes some of Buber's background and the context in which Ich und Du was written. He baldly states that, in comparison to his other works, that this one is overwritten to the point where many (if not most) readers will be unable to understand much of the book. To readers, he states, this "seems palpable proof of profundity" (p. 24). He goes so far as to describe I and Thou as more overwritten than Nietzsche's Zarathustra (I find Zarathustra more amusing than illuminating, and Nietzsche's expressed views on women in that work are abhorrent. My fondness for Nietzsche does not override my bemused response to the odd journey that is Zarathustra, which for me is reminiscent of works such as the second half of the book of Daniel and many of the Gnostic gospels). Kaufmann's note is that "Buber's delight in language gets between him and his readers" (p. 19), which may well be true. I love fine writing, even if I cannot always understand it, and my previous attempts at the book have convinced me that I can at least enjoy the book, even if I do not understand it, and Buber is, at least, not as confusing as Homi Bhabha.

Kaufmann strongly emphasizes the Jewishness of Buber's work, something he states is frequently overlooked. He takes time to provide a less familiar reader with some background on the Hebrew concept of God, and contrasts it with the Christian concept of God. He does state that his reading of the Hebrew idea (God as I-You) versus the Christian idea (God as I-It), are his interpretations of those relationships, and should not be attributed to Buber. My own response to his statements here is that we are all prone to see God as I-It, God as object, even if we are not to make a graven image. For me, a Lutheran, the Eucharist is not God as object in the bread and wine, but a profound experience with God as person, with God made flesh, a God who so longed for the people God created to know God as person. Images or representations of God do not have to divide us from God as person; I think they are often meant to help us remember to seek out God as person, rather than God as object. Naturally, it doesn't always work out that way in practice.

One of the most salient discussions in this prologue is Kaufmann's articulation of his philosophy of translation. His own attitudes are inspired by Buber's own work in translation. Kaufmann argues that it is his duty as a translator to suss out the author's intended meaning, and translate that as closely as possible, even if this leads to a less idiomatic translation, or in the case of poetry, a less poetic translation (this, he states, is an argument for reading poetry in the original if possible). I happen to rather like this philosophy. It's a departure from what I would have heard at school, where the translation courses took a slightly different tack. I believe the emphasis was on as idiomatic as possible, but with as much attention paid to getting the author's intent across as well. The courses never fit in with my schedule or interests, so I'm guessing on what classmates said and what occasionally came up in other courses. However, Kaufmann's philosophy of translation dovetails with my own reading instincts. For example, I prefer prose translations of Beowulf, since Old English poetic styles don't work well with modern English, which is structurally quite different. You can sacrifice meaning for poetry or poetry for meaning, and I tend to go for meaning over poetry. At any rate, his philosophy of translation is followed with a discussion of his choices of translation for certain words in the text (so it would behoove the reader to read that section of the prologue at minimum), and he states his intent to be as faithful to Buber's text as possible has affected the style of the book: "The style is not the best part of this book, but it is a part and even an important part of it. Nobody has to chew passage upon passage more slowly than a translator who takes his work seriously and keeps revising his draft. . . . But once he starts making an effort to improve upon his text, keeping only the most brilliant plays on words while leaving out and not calling attention to inferior ones, possibly substituting his own most felicitous plays for ones he could not capture, where is he to stop on the road to falsehood?" (p. 43). This attitude of reverence towards the text and its author is much to be appreciated. It's impossible, I think, for the translator to entirely avoid his own interpretation, but to acknowledge that those are there and to do one's best to not include them is admirable.

And that's the prologue. On to Buber and Part One!

"The straight philosophers tend to celebrate one of the two worlds [e.g. matter and mind] and depreciate the other. The literary tradition is less Manichaean" (p. 18).

"Buber taught me that mysticism need not lead outside the world. Or if mysticism does, by definition, so much the worse for it" (p. 23).

"Buber's most significant ideas are not tied to his extraordinary language. Nor do they depend on any jargon. . . . The sacred is here and now. The only God worth keeping is a God who cannot be kept. The only God worth talking about is a God that cannot be talked about. God is no object of discourse, knowledge, or even experience. He cannot be spoken of, but he can be spoken to; he cannot be seen, but he can be listened to. The only possible relationship with God is to address him and to be addressed by him, here and now - or, as Buber puts it, in the present" (pp. 25-26).

"As a translator, I have no right to use the text confronting me as an object with which I may take liberties. It is not there for me to play with or manipulate. I am not to use it as a point for departure or anything else. It is the voice of a person that needs me. I am there to help him speak" (p. 40).

06 May 2014

A response to Mother's Day

I'm dreading Mother's Day.

A year ago, I was pregnant and sick. I'd just been diagnosed with gestational diabetes and was having a hard time dealing with my body's inability to handle food normally while I was pregnant. I felt like a crap mother. And suddenly everyone was wishing me happy Mother's Day. The words made me flinch. I wanted to punch the next person who said them to me. I wanted to burst into tears. I didn't want to be reminded of what a terrible mother I was.

Photo credit: http://www2.uncp.edu/ip/images/Coffee&News.jpg
Mother's Day is something that my mum has never particularly liked celebrating. As she said one year, all she wanted was for us to let her read the Sunday paper and drink her coffee in peace. She didn't want gifts or flowers or breakfast in bed, just some time to herself. And she didn't want to make a big deal out of it, or guilt-trip us into celebrating the holiday. So it was far from a significant holiday for us, and the only reason it might be emotionally fraught was that she didn't like it.

As an adult, my experience with this particular greeting-card holiday has involved whatever my church happened to be doing on the day. The sermon varies, depending on which pastor is preaching. And the youth group hands out flowers to the mothers in the congregation. Usually I ended up with a leftover flower, with one of the older members of the congregation saying cheerfully that I was a "future mother." I didn't mind the flower, but I did mind the assumption that I would have a child at some point. During those years, I was wildly ambivalent about the idea of having children and half-way convinced that, given how many people seemed to have trouble having children, we would too.

This year is different, of course. My daughter is nearly nine months old, almost walking, babbling away with an assortment of sounds, and curious about everything. I am a mother, though I prefer the words "parent" or "mum." And I am a good parent. Not perfect, naturally, but I've managed to keep her alive, healthy, and happy. I think that means we're doing okay.

And yet, I can't forget the woman last year who wasn't sure whether she would need to hide in the bathroom during the sermon to avoid an overenthusiastic endorsement of mothers and a litany of how great they were. I can't forget her, how she flinched away from a friend who tried to wish her a happy Mother's Day, accompanied by a pat on her pregnant stomach, how she turned away, but couldn't bear to explain why she was hurrying away. I can't forget how she gripped the rose she was handed and how part of her wished it still had its thorns. I can't forget how she cried and cried that weekend. I can't forget, because she is me.

Photo credit: gamespe.com
So I'm dreading Mother's Day. I cringe when I see my favourite sewing blogs talking about gift projects for mums. That video about motherhood being the toughest job ever just made me want to shout at its producers. I'm grateful that my daughter wants to get up and move around during church, because it means that I can hide in the nursery with her if the sermon ends up extolling the virtues of motherhood. All Mother's Day is doing is making me relive the overwhelming guilt and misery I experienced last year. It's soon for me to have let go of it completely, and the fact that it's tied in with being a mum just makes it that much more powerful, and harder to ignore.

I love my daughter. But I can't appreciate this holiday.