Thursday, December 5, 2013


Emotionally, I think I am feeling a little bit better - or at least handling things better - than the last time I wrote.  I'm seeing a counselor, and that is helping. 

I spent three weeks in a boot for a suspected second metatarsal stress fracture/reaction.  I started physical therapy about a week later, but have put the boot back on a few times when things were feeling irritated or weak.

Monday of this week I noted to my physical therapist that a new part of my foot was hurting enough to have forced me off my feet during the day.  She treated it for inflammation and off I went.  Yesterday (Wednesday) I went back in noting yet a different part of my foot was hurting. 

The physical therapist said this could all be things working themselves out - every time something hurts, I subtly change the way I am walk or standing and irritate something else.  So what we need to do is get everything calmed down at the same time.  She also said that if this spot didn't get better after yesterday's treatment, I should probably get an MRI.

Today I have not been on my feet much, but already that spot (my first tarsal-metatarsal joint) is hurting so badly I have put my boot back on for the first time in over a week. 

I'm frustrated.  But I'm coping.  At this point I'm hoping to get that MRI just to confirm whatever is or isn't going on.  I've had varying degrees of foot pain for 6 months now.  I just want to know what is going on so we can appropriately treat it and I can MOVE ON! 

In other health-related news, my new nephrology team is more aggressive than my previous, and I've started back on drug types I was on when I got pregnant with Bean.  I'm currently waiting on test results to make sure the medications aren't killing my liver or any other organ systems.  I'm betting (since I was on similar drugs for a decade) that I'm just fine, in which case we'll follow up in three months to determine whether these drugs have done any good (I'm betting not, since I was on them for a decade before and the protein in my urine never dropped to the point they are aiming for...or at all).

If this combination of drugs doesn't work (and I'm assuming it won't, though I hope it will...), I'll do a six-month course of immunosuppressive therapy.  That drug will have more severe side-effects, but will almost certainly force my kidney numbers down for as long as I am on them.  However, because of the side effects, they will take me off after 6 months and wait to see if my numbers stay low.  The hope is that I will go into remission and stay there.

Because I am so stable, I am very much considering the option of putting off the immunosuppressive for a little while (probably 6 months to a year).  We don't even know where I would finish the course of immunosuppressive therapy.  Though all that would be needed would be blood and urine tests wherever we are located, I have already found getting settled with a new nephrology team to be anxiety-inducing and I'm not sure I want to add months of side-effects and the emotions of finding out whether those side effects were worth it to the process of moving.

And the moving...we are not sure yet whether we are moving again this summer or not.  Everything is up in air.  We will move again eventually, and we actually hope it is this year because of what that means for The Beast professionally.  But who knows. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dark Cloud

Photo Credit

Today I cried twice in a podiatrist's office, once in a dentist's office, and almost continuously for about 20 minutes in the arms of Bean's P.E. teacher.

Today I realized:
1) that I have reached my breaking point (thank goodness I have a counseling appointment already scheduled for tomorrow)
2) how much I miss Bloomington and my friends there.  I feel very alone, isolated, and a little lost here in Albuquerque right now.
3) that Bean's P.E. teacher is even more amazing than I had previously thought (which is saying something, since I was already so impressed with this woman's energy and commitment to her students).  She helped me feel a lot less alone, isolated, and lost and I am grateful for the sense that someone local who sees me on a regular basis will know to check just under my smiling veneer.
4) that nitrous oxide works on more than just physical pain and has fewer side effects than alcohol.

A couple days ago, I had my husband block Facebook from our router.  I was finding myself staring at Facebook and making myself feel bad about all kinds of things, and I needed to step away.  Facebook is such a great tool for connecting with my friends, but I need - at least temporarily - to have a harder time accessing it because I seem to be a glutton for punishment on there, seeking out others' happiness and successes so I can wallow in my current misfortunes, stressors, frustrations, and sadness. And that is neither healthy nor how I choose to face a difficult time in my life. 

I have journalled a little over the past few days and am right this minute pondering whether this writing belongs in my journal rather than my blog - but I do need to reach out.  Cutting myself off from Facebook, my blog, etc while I am a thousand miles from the people who usually give me in-person support in various ways seems a terrible idea. 

Sorry I'm vague, Blogland.  I'm still sorting out what is mine to share on the internet - and what I even want to share on the internet.  Two more months until this year - unlucky '13 - is over.  I don't often pull out the curse words on this blog, but fuck this year.  2013 is an asshole.

I can say that I have yet to really run in 2013.  A year without a runner's high.  Hell, a year without hiking.  A year without going for a walk with my family that didn't end with me icing some part of my body.  A year of being chained to a gym if I wanted any exercise (p.s. my hatred for swimming has grown by leaps and bounds.  A year ago, it was a mere dislike.  Currently, I think I'd rather sit on the couch eating Bon-Bons, and that is totally unlike me!  The stationary bikes are not far behind.).  Add a move across the country, family stress, illness, an unexpected death that I am still trying to wrap my head around and it's a year of needing to cope and lacking one of my greatest coping techniques.

I regularly focus on what is going well, the ways in which I am blessed, and all the things for which I am thankful.  But today that just wasn't enough.  Today apparently required lots of tears in embarrassingly public situations.  And nitrous oxide.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Thank you, Bully

Photo Credit:  Will Clayton on Flickr
The bully on Bean's bus became an issue again.  Yesterday she hit, spit on, and teased my son.  An older boy tried to help; he had Bean and the bully's other target move away from the bully and sit with him.  The bully followed and crawled under the seat to get to Bean as he sat by the window and the older boy sat by the aisle.

On a day he wore clothes entirely from the boys' department (not that it matters) she asked him teasingly why he was wearing girls' clothes.  (To which he responded "first of all, these aren't girls' clothes!  And also, there's no such thing as girl clothes!  Or boy clothes!")

We've already worked with the school to address the behavior, but I'd also like to thank her.

Thank you, Bully, for bringing my family closer together, for showing me just how resilient my son is, and for giving me a chance to learn from him.  Thank you for giving my child the opportunity to witness the awesome example of an older boy who watches out for those who could use a little help.  I hope - I deeply hope - that this is a chance for you and your family to feel closer and for you to figure out a bit more of this socializing thing.  I know it's tough, and it took me a long time to figure out, too!

My son's self-confidence is completely intact, and possibly strengthened.  Thank you.  Thank you for the relief of knowing my son is more secure than I ever was, and that his teachers will protect him from emotional injury and take both words and actions very seriously.  Thank you for giving him a chance to shine brightly and reflect back at me everything I have ever said to him about compassion and empathy - you have him to thank for my remaining calm.

I am breathing a sigh of relief as my heart is filled with love and respect for my son.

Monday, September 9, 2013

BIG yellow butterflies

I came home from a sewing class tonight and Bean asked me to come snuggle him.  As I climbed up into his top bunk he informed me were going to "ask each other questions.  Whatever you'd like to know about the other person."  I got to go first and my question was "what would you like to know about me?"  Apparently that didn't count.

Eventually Grandma Nita came up, and he said "You have a necklace with a picture of you as a kid and a picture of her.  I seem to remember that she has your same hair and your same face, but her hair is black."  I told him that a lot of people say that about Grandma Nita and me, and he seemed offended that other people had gotten to see her and he hadn't. 

I explained that people had known her before she died - people had known her even longer than I had.  And lots of people had seen pictures of her.

So he started imagining her and said, "I see her in a white shirt...and a purple skirt with BIG yellow butterflies.  I haven't decided on her leggings yet."

Then he asked me more about how she died.  I gave the answer I usually give - that her heart stopped working - and he asked "how? How did her heart stop working?"  So I described plaque building up and making the tubes where the blood flows too small and eventually maybe a piece broke off and totally blocked the way for the blood.  He wanted to know more about where this "stuff" came from, and I said it was really hard to know - it might have been something she ate, it might been something her body was making.

"And then her whole body couldn't work anymore because blood couldn't get there?  That's really sad."  Yes, sweetheart.  It was sad.  I really wish you could have met her.

I love that kid so much.  I love that he imagines his late grandma in a purple skirt with BIG yellow butterflies.  She loved butterflies, and I once spent a good portion of my babysitting money buying her a butterfly pendant - it's currently in my jewelry box.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Bean and the Bully

So there is/was a bully on Bean's bus.  He didn't tell me for a few days.  One night at bedtime, we were snuggling up and he'd already shown me his latest and greatest Lego creations so I started asking him questions about his day, his life, and his interests.  During previous bedtime talks, I had asked him how school was, and he raved about it.  I knew from other talks that there had been a couple kids at school who had said something about his Hello Kitty backpack, but it had been a single happening and not a big deal - I had this seconded by the teachers.  He was happy, secure, and confident.

This particular night, I asked how the bus was going, rather than about school.  And he said there was a girl who kept bothering him about his backpack.  He said he'd ignored her, but she just kept bothering him.  That's the word he used - "bother."  Almost in the same breath, he told me "also, the bus is really loud in the morning.  It's so loud that it makes the thoughts go out of the my head."

We talked at length about what was going on.  Bean was not the only kid being bothered.  I told him "she is probably feeling unhappy or out of control, and making people sad makes her feel better.  Like powerful or something."  He grinned and said "well, she doesn't have any power over me because I wasn't sad!"

He was purely annoyed, which wasn't a reaction I had expected...but it was perfect.  He wasn't upset, but he didn't want it to continue.  He showed concern for the other kid being bullied - who did cry.  And then he started thinking of ways we should address it.  At first he wanted his dad to get on the bus and talk to her, but I explained that was probably too confrontational and would likely make things worse.

We talked about going to the teachers, and that he could do that immediately or he could wait and see if it continued.  I offered to talk to his teachers, but he wanted to do it by himself after waiting a few more days.  A few days later, the girl was apparently under a seat on the bus hitting another kid's feet and ended up hitting her own head and crying.  Bean said he tried to make sure she was ok.  (And I decided I needed to talk to the teacher to be sure the little girl was safe.)

These small incidents seem so huge when I think about my 5-year-old navigating all this new territory largely by himself.  But I am so glad I let him go out there feeling confident in his own choices as well as prepared for those who question his taste.  If I'd sent him with a boring backpack, I wouldn't have gotten to see his compassion, his independence, or just how solid his confidence is!  Or I may have even undermined that confidence - if I won't even let him pick out a backpack, what choices can he make?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

School: the first week

After my last post, I gathered a little more information about Bean's school in order to know what to expect.  First, I met Bean's teacher.  She told me she'd had a little boy two years ago who wore princess dresses every day, and used a princess backpack.  She said he had zero issues with the kids in the class - they still don't really care.  I asked her about the bus, since Bean was so excited about riding it, but he'd be on the bus with older kids.  She said the principal really doesn't put up with intolerance.  Part of the school's mission statement is valuing diversity, and the whole school really takes that commitment seriously.  This brought me a lot of relief, knowing that not only was the school walking their mission statement's talk, but that bullying and teasing would be addressed.  And Bean's teacher said it was addressed in a way that built community and relationships.  Perfection.

Then a friend passed along from a local realtor that artsy/hippy families often move into this area so their kids can go to this particular elementary. 

And then I happened to meet a fifth grade teacher from Bean's school who said she would tell her students to watch out for the boy wearing the skirt and the armor.  She also said that bullying was about the only thing kids got suspended for at the school. 

So, for his first day of school, Bean wore his Lego Star Wars shirt, his smooth-and-shiny-like-metal basketball shorts, and carried along his Hello Kitty backpack with rainbows and sparkles.  Both The Beast and I had discussed with him ways to respond (or not respond, which is The Beast's preferred method) if anyone questioned his choice of backpack.  But at that point, we were all feeling pretty relaxed about it.

So off he went.  When I picked him up at the bus stop, he was SO JAZZED.  It was amazing.  He loved school.  He couldn't wait to ride the bus again.  He said it was "SO AWESOME!" He told me about some of the things they did, a story they read, and mentioned that "everyone loved my backpack. Except one person. She thought it was really weird, but she didn't seem very...skilled? Or something?" I have no idea what he was trying to communicate, but clearly the backpack was not an issue for his peers.

One day, Bean wore a tank top over a swim shirt to school.  "Why are you wearing layers, buddy?" I asked, thinking maybe it was to look like something he'd seen in a book or movie...."Because I like the way it looks," came the answer.  Is there a better answer than that?

And yesterday, Bean went to school in a swim shirt, rainbow leggings, Seahawks socks, and running shoes.  As he headed out the door, I told him I was concerned that he would be too hot.  Sure enough, that was his only complaint when he came home.  He even told me about spending time with "some older kids" and that they were nice and it was all really fun. 

Then he sat down and said "can we make a card for my teacher?  I want it to say that I am really glad to be a kindergartener." 

So until we move and switch schools, I am so at ease with my kiddo wearing what he wants and encouraging his flare and creativity.  I am grateful that he will always have this as his first school experience - a positive, affirming, comfortable memory.  If we move somewhere less accepting, at least he might know that he is not the problem.

Friday, August 9, 2013

My 5-year-old is probably more brave than I am.

We're in major get-Bean-excited-for-Kindergarten mode.  With that in mind, a few days ago I told Bean about the tradition of wearing your favorite clothes for the first day of school.  He declared he would wear his Link costume, except with his kilt (a green plaid skirt) instead of leggings.  Because, duh, it is too hot for leggings right now.

To cushion the blow should costumes not be allowed every day at kindergarten, we promised him we would take him shopping for whatever he wanted if he couldn't wear his costume.

And that's essentially how I found myself shopping the girls' departments at Dillard's and Target this evening.

After dinner, we looked around online and found the perfect Lego Star Wars shirt (combining his all-time favorite Legos and his current favorite Star Wars).  We couldn't find shorts he wanted, so off we went to look in town. 

Bean was super excited to be just the two of us.  He chattered the entire way there.  He held my hand and grinned at me as we crossed the parking lot.  As we walked up the steps to the doors of Dillard's he squeezed my hand and said, "You're the best, Mom!"  And I felt like the best right then.  I'm finding having a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old simultaneously to be REALLY difficult.  I don't often get to just sit back and enjoy them, and this was an opportunity to revel in the wonder of my firstborn...who starts kindergarten in just one week. 

Long story short, after a trip through the girls' section on our way to the boys' section, I realized just how boring the boys' section is.  No bright colors unless they were absolutely IN YOUR FACE.  Limited textures.  No glitter or sequins.  In response to Bean's descriptions of what he wanted, I kept saying "I don't think you'll find that in the boys' section."  And "I think we're going to have to look for that in the girls' section."

Even as I said it I was thinking "does he really think it's ok to shop in the girls' section?  I mean, I'm calling it the boys' and girls' section...does he really not care?  Awesome!  Oh wait.  Oh no.  Kindergarten.  Kids can be cruel.  WHAT HAVE I DONE?"

My. mind. was. racing.

Though we didn't find any shorts at Dillard's, he did find a Hello Kitty backpack.  He had spotted her as we came off the escalator into the girls' section (on our way through to the boys' section).  "There's Hello Kitty!" he exclaimed. I was just trying to get us where we needed to go, so I hardly responded even though I wondered how he knew who Hello Kitty was.

After the boys' section, we looked at backpacks and circled back to Kitty (or is her first name Hello?  Do I have to call her by her full name?  Awkward.).  She was shiny and colorful and happy and that was the backpack Bean wanted.  After a trip through the girls' section (still no shorts!) with Bean chit chat chattering non-stop while Hello was perched on his shoulder, I was about to break into a sweat.  I decided this was the time to talk to him point blank about my concerns.

I said, "it is fine with me if you get this backpack.  But I have to tell you that some people may be confused by it, and sometimes when people are confused they are mean.  Some people - I don't know why - but some people think boys can't wear 'girl' things <oh yes, I used scare quotes!>.  They're often ok with girls wearing 'boy' things, but not with boys wearing 'girl' things.  It doesn't even make a lot of sense, because what makes something for girls or for boys, right?  But I have to tell you that people might be mean to you about your backpack."

Bean listened to my entire word vomit, smiling and chuckling over "girl stuff" and "boy stuff" as I wish everybody would.  And when I finished he said, "Oh.  Well then never mind.  I don't want it."

I had just enough time to go from relief to "oh fuck I just broke my kid down and made him 'be a boy'" before he said, "no.  I do want it.  That's the backpack I want."

Phew!  I haven't made my kid do anything but be true to himself!  Yeehaw!

Oh fuck he has a pink backpack with sequins and a rainbow and a cat with a freaking bow on its head. 

So now I am kind of blindly following him around the store and texting The Beast and posting on Facebook (I am 1300 miles from most of my support network, but my goodness did they ever get me through this round of school shopping!).  I posted this: 
The boys dept is boring. Bean wants shiny and shimmery (because FUN!).

So here we are shopping the girls dept for "shiny shorts." And I think we are getting a glitter hello kitty backpack. I have warned him about teasing...

I am so scared for him. 

Remind me I need to let him make his own mistakes. And we are here impermanently. And we could get him a new backpack if it is just too hard to be so awesome at 5.
And so, as we finished our last sweep of the Dillard's backpack selection, I decided I had to lay it all out for Bean one last time.  I found a place to actually sit on the floor so I could really look him in the eye and not just spit words in his general direction.

"I just need to tell you that I am scared.  There is nothing moms fear more than their child being hurt, and I am very afraid of someone hurting your feelings because of this backpack.  It is a silly thing for people to be mean about, but I really am afraid they will be mean."  In a teasing voice, I told him they might say something like "are you a girly girl?  Do you wish you were a girl?"  (He couldn't contain laughter at this.  I hope it was over the ludicrousness of "girl" as insult. It might have been at my "teasing" tone of voice.)

I told him "I am happy to get you this backpack, but if you think that teasing on the bus from older kids might make you not want to ride the bus..."

"Then I won't have to ride the bus?"  he interjected.

"Well...yes.  Actually, if you didn't want to ride the bus because kids were mean, I would be able to drive you...but if you think people being mean to you at school would make you not want to go to school?  Well, you have to go to school.  So then you shouldn't get the backpack."

He just said "ok" in a way that indicated to me he was still getting the backpack.  So I said "but if that happened, Dad and I would always back you up.  Whatever your choice, we'll help you.  I would talk to whoever I need to - kids, parents, teachers - and help you however I can."

He gave me a big hug and a kiss and that was that.  For him, anyway.

Then we went to Target.  Even after finding a few options from the boys' department, he insisted we look in the girls' department.  My first impression:  girls' shorts use approximately half the material as boys'!

I gathered girls' shorts in Bean's sizes and continued to be that mom distractedly typing on her cell phone.  And I will never feel guilty because my son had just picked out tiny purple satin-y gym shorts and told me in no uncertain terms that those were his first choice and he was going to wear them with his pink-and-sequined Hello Kitty backpack.  And a Lego Star Wars shirt.

Imagine my relief when those itsy-bitsy, teeny weeny, purple running shorts in a sateen-y didn't fit.  Instead, he chose baggy royal blue shorts that come down to his knees.  Obviously intended for boys.

I've said a bit about this on my personal Facebook page already, but I'll share it here.  No, I am not sure he can handle negative reactions to this.  But I will never know if I don't let him take this risk.  And I have to let him take risks.  I have to let him fail.  And I have to let him make his own choices - even bad ones.  And I have to hope that he's resilient like me (though I wasn't so resilient at his age) or rather impervious like his father.  This backpack might be a mistake.  Or it might just be a backpack!  (I mean, come on!  It's just a backpack!!!)

Both The Beast and I have talked to him about what kids could say, how he could respond, and our own (very different) experiences with and responses to teasing and bullying.  He laughs nervously about it, but also seems to see it as a challenge he's ready to accept.  Of course, he has never experienced or witnessed anything like cruelty and has no idea what it looks or feels we'll just have to see what happens, be in touch with his teacher, and support him if anything comes up.

I suppose this is 21st century feminism.  I'm proud to raise an apparently feminist son.  But I wish I could be the one to bear the potential brunt of this choice, rather than my 5-year-old who doesn't even realize he might be standing at the vanguard.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Asian Cabbage Salad

Lacking mandarin oranges, but still delicious!
This is one of my favorite dishes to prepare and eat in warmer weather. 
I melt the butter and toast the almonds, noodles, and sesame seeds in my little countertop oven, which really keeps the heat down.

The kids don't eat it, but we are beyond trying to make something every night that the kids will eat.  They survive on breakfast, lunch, and 2-3 snacks.  Dinnertime is when we give them the opportunity to try something new (and we try something new occasionally as well!).

Anyhow, this salad doesn't make great leftovers.  If you're making it as a side for two adults, you should probably cut it in half.  We eat it as our entire meal, and we eat the entire bowl!

Salad ingredients
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 package slivered or sliced almonds (1/2 cup)
  • 2 heads Napa Cabbage, chopped (one large head of regular cabbage works if you can't find Napa)
  •  2 bunches green onions, chopped
  • 2 packages ramen noodles, raw, without seasoning
  • 1 can of Mandarin oranges, drained
Dressing Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I plan to substitute something healthier when I run out...haven't decided with what yet)
  •  1 TBSP sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 TBSP Braggs Amino (or 4TBSP soy sauce)

Combine and chill cabbage and green onion.  Break noodles inside packages, then combine with sesame seeds, almonds, and butter on a baking sheet.  Toast all in broiler.  Cool. 

Mix oils, sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce in pan.  Heat over medium, stirring until mixture boils.  Allow to boil for 1 minute.  Cool for 1/2 hour.

30 minutes before serving:
Combine cabbage, toasted ingredients, mandarin oranges, and dressing.  Chill until serving.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Boycott the Mommy Wars!

The kind of battle I find myself fighting...
 I saw this article from Jezebel (no, I have not read the Time article it references and no, I will not waste my time on it).  The so-called "Mommy Wars" are just another marketing ploy meant to get women all riled up and feel like some company or magazine "gets" them.

Give me a break!

You can dig up someone who strongly objects to anything, and someone who just as strongly advocates it.  For most of us, we've got waaaaaaay more in common that not.  Most of us moms don't have the energy to wage any kind of war, except maybe on diaper stink.  Or tiny Lego clutter (because those things hurt).  Most of us just want someone to get through this motherhood thing with - no matter what our own motherhood experience looks like.

Child-free?  Sweet!  Let's go out last-minute after bedtime.  Or, if you like children but don't want (or yet have) any of your own?  Come have dinner at our place!  (Or not right now, unless you can bring your own table and chairs or are cool with not sitting in the same room...because our new house lacks a real dining area...)

Child-free and dislike kids?  Well, our friendship is going to have to be somewhat on hold for awhile because those little jerks just won't leave me alone!  I totally respect your choice - at times I'm even jealous of it.  I haven't had an uninterrupted conversation that I didn't pay a sitter for in 5 years.  I'm going to start a career in my late 30s, and that's a pretty scary notion.  Do I regret having my children?  Absolutely not.  But do I think it some sort of imperative that I be a mother to be a woman?  Of course not.

My point is, I am not waging a war against other women.  No one I know is waging this war!  Moms or otherwise, this "Mommy War" is a media creation to sell magazines and products.  It might as well be part of A Day in the Life of a Target-Market Female.

The Mommy Wars bear an unfortunate resemblance to the perpetual war in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-FourWe women do not break down into heterogeneous groups along easy-to-spot lines.

And we certainly don't divide into something akin to Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia and wage perpetual war.  Just as in 1984, this is an outside force - one we (implicitly or explicitly) expect to reflect reality and keep us informed - purposely and deceivingly making it look as though we must constantly battle to maintain our values and lifestyle.

In reality, these magazines and so-called journalists are constantly battling to maintain our readership.  I fear that it perpetuates a lack of trust in each other.

Wouldn't it be more interesting and less stressful to read stories that help us understand people who, on the surface, seem to be very different from us?  Shouldn't we be looking for common ground to end these silly wars?  Wouldn't that, perhaps, help end the very real wars in our world?

Thanks to Amanda Field Photography for these great photos she took last spring!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Play a little, work a little

When the work involves getting things off the clothesline, the kids build dragons out of clothes pins and leaves!
As I was recovering from hip surgery last fall, the boys and I played a lot of video games.  It was a way for me to hang out with the kids, have fun, and keep them somewhat active.  They aren't old enough to actually play the games, so they'd act them out together or build items from the games. 

When I was stronger and getting around more, we were having such a great time with the video games that I didn't want to completely stop playing.  Plus, it had become this thing that my kids did with me and only me - The Beast wasn't into the same games, and wasn't a part of this activity. 

I started making agreements with Bean that we would play a section or level, and then do a chore.  This has now morphed into regularly occurring periods (or entire days) of "play a little, work a little."  Sometimes the play is an art project or a game, but usually it's still a video game.  Sometimes the playing part takes an hour and the chore takes 5 minutes.  Other times, it's the reverse.

Usually, Bean will help with the chore (because it gets done faster so we can play sooner, or because we get to hang out together).  If I ask A-Train to do very specific things, he will totally help me out.  Other times, it's just a break from the screen or from me or from negotiating with each other during which both kids go create stuff and do some quality pretend play. 

Sometimes we have disagreements about what constitutes "playing a section" ("you wanted to play a level of Pac Man, dude.  That counts.")  Sometimes Bean loses patience when a chore is taking  Sometimes the two of them climb me or fight over some aspect of what we're doing and I lose patience (my rule is that we can't do "play a little, work a little" if it isn't fun because, dammit, it's supposed to be FUN!).  Sometimes I can't beat Gannon in his beast form and declare we have to take a break and then we can't find the disc months later when I might have the nerve to try again.

I'm hoping to do a lot less screen time - including video games - once we move, but right now it is certainly helping get the house packed up!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Why I need Feminism: Kindergarten concerns

Bean dressed as Link from Legend of Zelda:  Ocarina of Time.  He was dressed this way for the entirety of our college reunion weekend last month. 

I write this from a place of anxiety.  My life is about to change considerably - by mid-August, we will no longer be a student family, we will live in a a different region of the U.S., my husband will officially start his career, and Bean will start kindergarten.  So, as I write this, I also know that my own husband came through school and adolescence with a lot of these traits still intact.  That gives me a bit of comfort, except that Bean is an extrovert and The Beast is an introvert who always kept to himself.  Mostly, I'm just starting to feel the winds of major change picking up.

Also, yesterday this Cambridge Needs Feminism campaign started making the rounds.  Immediately, I thought "I need feminism because...I get congratulated and/or questioned about my son wearing a skirt."

Bean has grown into a compassionate, considerate little boy with clear aesthetic opinions.  He takes pride in caring for his brother and in working out conflicts with his peers (though the flip side of that is immense frustration when his brother or his peers don't want his help or suggestions).

The other night, he was asking what I wanted for my birthday (he asks this frequently for everyone in the family).  His suggestion: "you know that mug you really love that got chipped?  We could get you a new one at our new house."  I was amazed that he has taken note of how much I love this mug (it is, in fact, my favorite mug), remembered the single mention I had made of the chip in it, and then formulated this birthday gift idea on his own!  (Oh, and the "new house?"  Yeah, we're moving.  To New Mexico!)

First thing this morning, as I made him breakfast, we had this exchange:
B: "I like those pajamas, Mom."
Me: "thanks!  They are very comfortable, so I like them too!"
B: "even though I know you don't like purple, I really like those pajamas."
Me: "yeah, I don't think his color looks too good on me, but they're comfortable!"
B: "I think that color looks REALLY nice on you!"

Yesterday A-Train was crying in frustration over Lego building and Lego Pro B ran to him saying "Bean to the rescue!"
Last week at camp, a fellow camper was in trouble every day.  Bean told me every day what a "hard time" the child had had that day, and after one incident said "I think we should invite him over and show him how to shoot a bow and arrow.  Then maybe he will shoot a bow and arrow instead of sunscreen."  I had picked this kiddo out as a challenge from the moment I laid eyes on him, and was sad to hear I was right.  But, wow, was I ever proud of my son thinking about ways to help his peer out.  (We have also talked about there sometimes being people who you simply don't like, and that's ok as long as you aren't mean to them.)

And, of course, there's the fact that Bean loves to wear a skirt to feel tough!

Some of these things are encouraged in boys, but not with the same expression.  Is he someday going to call a girl hot or say he wants to bang her instead of being able to comment on what he likes about her earrings?  Or would a comment about her earrings be heard as him thinking she's hot?  Will his verbal, problem-solving approach to conflict be met with physical aggression down the road?

And the skirt.  Bean is a bit of a people pleaser in school/camp situations.  He loves to show off his new clothes, but I haven't seen him have the confidence/words to explain the skirts himself when asked.  Up until now, I have generally been with him in new situations to answer these questions.  And where we live now, we have only gotten positive responses to the skirts...but I fear the culture shock of a new place and public school.  Kids can be cruel.  My kid can be sensitive. 

I'm reminded of the line in the Jewel song:  "Please be careful with me.  I'm sensitive, and I'd like to stay that way."

My son is sensitive.  He is sweet and caring and compassionate and creative and strong and rough and smart.  Please be careful with him.  I'd like him to stay that way.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Parenting out of context

Stoic Baby questions your parenting.

Last night, my family ate dinner at one of our local co-op's locations.  It turned into a slightly long dinner, so my kids were in and out of the store, running off energy on the sidewalk and climbing a tree.  Toward the end of the meal, Bean came in and he was obviously getting tired.  He was easily frustrated and started yelling about something or other.  We asked him to calm and quiet down a few times, and then I said sternly, "listen, we're about to go to Grandpa's hotel room to see his cat.  But if you can't keep your voice down, we're going straight home.  You understand?"  I feel like there's a tacit understanding between Bean and myself that this isn't punishment, strictly speaking.  This wasn't a threat.  This was acknowledgement that he was having a hard time - the "can't" is really what I meant, not that he was willfully being rude and obnoxious.

Bean took a deep breath, sighed, and said "ok."  As he went outside with The Beast, and I walked a tray of dishes and silverware to the bussing area, I heard "congratulations."  It barely registered - at that point, I didn't realize it was directed at me.

I got back to the table and a woman reading a book kitty-corner from us said to me, "good job." 

I said, "on what?"

"On correcting him.  Letting him know how he should behave."

I smiled awkwardly, just realizing that people were watching that interaction with my son and hoping he had remained oblivious to that fact (he would have been mortified if he had realized!) and said, "well...they certainly need boundaries."

With an immense eyeroll she said, "well I wish my daughter would do that.  She just lets her daughter do whatever she wants.  17 months old and she turns on the gas stove!  Almost lit her dad's arm on fire!"

Ok, now we're evaluating someone else's parenting.  It's quite possible I know this person's daughter, as this is a small town with a tight-knit mothering community.  I know from experience how difficult parenting a preverbal (or barely verbal) toddler can be.  My own younger child climbed up on a step stool and grabbed a hot stove burner when he was just over a year old.  So I'm giving this stranger's daughter the benefit of the doubt - and even feeling defensive of another mother's parenting style - when I say "17 months old!  That's hard.  At that age setting boundaries means repeating yourself over and over."

Looking out the window at my kids, who are now running around with their dad, she says, "well it's good - they respect you!  And look, they're fine!"

I point at Bean and say as I'm heading to the door, "Well, he gets to negotiate quite a bit.  But he does know that it's not appropriate to shout in stores."

As I mention the negotiating, I pass by a woman a couple tables toward the door and she smiles at me and says something like, "that's the way to do it."

I get out the door and think, "what the fuck just happened?" Then I catch Bean as he is running by me and get down to his level. "It seems to me, " I begin, "that you need to yell and get some of that energy out.  The store is not a good place to do it.  How about we get in the car and I turn on some music and we can sing to it SUPER loud?"  He looks relieved (because I wasn't angry?  Because we made a plan?  I'm not sure!) and I start getting him in the car.

At that point, I was facing the distinctive facade of a local restaurant where I experienced an even more open and broad assessment of my parenting almost two years ago.  And that time I was judged entirely negatively!

At the time, I didn't want to blog directly about the incident because I didn't want to fuel the fire as it went viral on the internet.  I know that you can't win an argument on the internet, and felt there was no sense in defending myself.  Anyone who knew me and knew my parenting style - and especially anyone who knew A-Train as the quiet, calm, stoic, super easy baby he was - knew the whole thing had to be overblown.  I didn't feel I needed the approval of The Internet, but it did raise a lot of issues for me to think about and I wrote a blog of questions inspired by it.

Just about two years later, I'll post here what happened.  (Dear Internet, we've already been over this once.  My hope is that I can give my perspective and discuss as it relates to the experience I had last night...not that I will re-start the fire!)

It was June 4, 2011.  I remember that because I went to the Farmer's Market that morning and saw the first of many signs searching for Lauren Spierer and noted she had disappeared just the day before.  My family had a busy day, and it was hot.  The Beast and I had some stupid argument induced by exhaustion and heat, so I called my friend A and planned a last-minute get-together.  I'd already eaten dinner, she hadn't.  She had recently been raving about the desserts at a French cafe, and suggested we go there so she could get dinner and then we could have dessert. 

We both had 3-year-olds and infants - A-Train was 8 months old and her baby was 4 months old.  Our second babies were both remarkably chill, so we didn't even think twice about bringing them with us.  In fact, my family had just been out to eat the day before and A-Train had just sat in a high chair smiling occasionally and hardly making a peep. 

We arrived at the cafe/restaurant to find their two high chairs were already in use by a friend of ours and her family (like I said, it's a small town!).  My friend's baby was young enough that it didn't matter - she wore/held him the whole time, and I don't recall him making any sounds whatsoever.  A-Train definitely preferred to be sitting up, so I tried to make that happen in his stroller (which was his infant carseat in a snap-and-go, so it was rather reclined).  I ended up with him in my lap so he could be closer to the food. 

My friend ordered dinner and we chatted about the argument I had had with my husband.  At some point, her brother and his fiance came in and sat right behind her.  This was totally by coincidence, as it's not that small a town!  I ate a bit of my friend's food, and gave a little to A-Train. 

He was more animated than usual.  He wasn't unhappy or even fussy.  In fact, he was very happy.  I settled him by offering him the breast and pieces of food.  As the entree was finished and we got excited for dessert (the entire reason my friend had been talking about the place for weeks), A-Train found his voice.  You know that squealing older babies do when they're happy?  That.  It's a sound that can be obnoxious or adorable, depending on the context.  He seemed to discover the ability to make this sound right in the middle of the meal.  It was so new that I actually took video of him doing it the next night.

When the owner/waitress came to our table and we asked what the dessert options were, she seemed overwhelmed or put-out.  The restaurant was somewhat busy at that point, and I thought perhaps she was feeling short-staffed (it appeared to be just herself and her husband working).  A-Train squealed at her flirtatiously.  I was holding him and smiled at her awkwardly.  Our dessert and coffee came, and A-Train was clearly not settling down.  He was getting noisier and then started to fuss.  I don't remember dessert because we snarfed it down between me bouncing and nursing, and at one point turning around to apologize to the next table.  I was aware my baby had entered obnoxious territory, and I quickly ate dessert and waited to pay.  Our check - for $37 and change - came and we asked them to split it.  We each then got a check for $20 and I noted the increase but it wasn't worth a hassle - my baby was suddenly entering a freak out and it was time to get the heck out of the restaurant.  Plus, $20 made it easy to do the math and leave a 15% tip.  I signed off on $23 and we went outside.  A-train immediately chilled out, so my friend and I sat at a patio table, nursed our babies, and talked some more.

When I got home, I said to The Beast, "I'm pretty sure that dinner marked the end of my days of taking A-Train with me.  He was a lot of work to keep quiet and then he would not be quiet."  Literally overnight, he had gone from easy peasy dinner companion to no longer welcome!

The following Tuesday, at 8AM, I got a call from A.  I knew something was up with that early a call!  She said, "remember how I told you you should find that restaurant on Facebook, because the owner posts funny little rants and stuff?  Well I looked at Facebook this morning, and she wrote about us!"

My friend read me the post:
Of course we love babies! We particularly love our customers’ new babies. And we do not mind if babies cry; we understand it’s not always easy.

But we do not understand why two friends, each one with her new baby, would choose Le Petit to catch up and spend an entire evening with us sharing one entrée and insisting on having dessert when one of the babies was evidently very uncomfortable and spoiling everyone else's dinner.

Well, at least the moms seemed to have a great time. The unhappy baby’s mother even seemed to find it charming that her little one almost gave me a heart attack, suddenly screaming at the top of her lungs as I was explaining the desserts (in the most unattractive possible way, hoping they’d go for ice-scream somewhere else). But no, they wanted my desserts and were around for another 45 minutes.

Susann and Kent, you were most patient for I am quite sure you had envisioned a quieter dinner when you decided to celebrate your friend’s birthday at Le Petit. “What can you do?” you stoically said, Susann. (But it felt good when they left, didn’t it?)

I must confess I instructed Patrick to charge “a little more” for those two desserts. Ah! My petty revenges…  I should feel ashamed but it made me feel a little better.

What can you do?
We both made apologies for any disruption we might have caused, but also pointed out that a) hello!  we can read this! and b) she was exaggerating the degree to which my baby was noisy or upset and certainly the length of time we stayed after he was upset.  I thought that would be it, and then the thing went viral.  First it went all over Facebook, and then it left Facebook for various parenting-related websites.  People who weren't even there read between the lines of our short responses and asked things like, "why didn't she pick up her baby?  Why did she just let the baby cry?"  My favorite comment was "just nurse the baby!  They can't cry with a boob in their mouth!"  We were even shamed for commenting on the Facebook post and "outing ourselves."  As if we expected it to go viral or even had something to be ashamed of?

If I had a crystal ball and had known my baby was not going to behave as he normally did, I would have done things differently.  If I'd realized the restaurant went for a more upscale feel - or that customers expected that feel - I would have done things differently.  As it stands, the cafe is in a converted garage and has a bit of a bohemian feel.  I remember it as slightly cramped (I have only been there the one time).  It was listed on Yelp as family-friendly and had a breastfeeding-friendly sticker on the window.  They had two high chairs that were both in use when we arrived.  I was almost certainly a bit more laid-back about him being a little noisy than I would have been if I'd been in a place that was not (supposedly) family-friendly; if it weren't perceived as "family-friendly" I wouldn't have taken a baby there at all.

I was publicly castigated and shamed for the way I handled my happily noisy baby. Two years later, and I was right next door being congratulated on parenting my happily noisy child.  I am the same parent.  All that is different is the context. 

When you see a mom (OR DAD) leave an obnoxious behavior seemingly unaddressed, it doesn't mean she's rude or oblivious or not creating or enforcing boundaries.  If you see a mom enforcing boundaries and being stern, it doesn't necessarily mean she doesn't give her kids a lot of leeway and a lot of input about those boundaries...or that she doesn't still have a toddler who runs off into parking lots on a regular basis.  Or that she is always stern or mean.  Or that she won't feel a sisterhood with an unknown mom with a lively toddler who might burn the house down.

I can't control my kids.  And I can't always predict how they're going to behave.  I have influence and I provide guidance.  I do not have control or provide training like I would a dog or a horse.  They have boundaries, but many of them are soft and malleable.  I am often shocked by my children - in good and bad ways.  I have gone out with them expecting the worst, and watched them pull it together and behave wonderfully and be totally pleasant.  And, as evidenced by my experience being dragged all over the internet, I have gone out expecting smooth sailing and hit stormy weather.

Lastly, if you want to comment on a stranger's parenting, compliment them and move on.  Don't do it at the expense of someone else!  I appreciated that a fellow diner thought I handled a disturbance of their meal well.  Too bad the same actions would have been completely ineffective next door two years ago!

Sunday, April 21, 2013


Now available in the Contentedly Crunchy Shop, it's the smooth and creamy Shea Butter Deodorant!

I tried all the commercially-available non-aluminum-containing deodorants I could find, and came up empty-handed, gunky, and smelling awful.  I started trying to make my own a couple years ago.  I ended up loving the original recipe, but not loving keeping it in the fridge.  Plus, it didn't work for The Beast.  For the first problem, I tried adding beeswax.  That made it much firmer out of the fridge, but the beeswax stained my clothes (so watch out for it in other brands of natural deodorant!).

I've tried out a few other recipes, and settled on a slightly modified version of Kimberlily's recipe from here. The result is an all-natural deodorant that works for self-proclaimed stinky women as well as men, in a hot and humid midwest summer and through sweaty exercise.  It really works!

I do personally prefer a stick deodorant, so I am still working on ways to harden this without staining or a loss of effectiveness.  Also, a sensitive skin version is on the way!

Shea Butter Deodorant is available in a 2oz tub as a well as a .5oz sample size.  You can see available essential oils here.  If you are looking for scent ideas, my favorite scents are lavender or tea tree/grapefruit.  The Beast likes sandalwood/lavender.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Money where my mouth is, or simply down the drain?

The Beast and a young toddler Bean visiting a farm with grassfed dairy and free-ranging chickens.  We can't afford to purchase their products except for special occasions.
Awhile ago, I started looking into the myriad of milk options out there.  My kids drink a lot of milk, and with all the hypotheses and occasional research, it seemed something I should educate myself about.

Eventually, we decided we couldn't afford organic or grass-fed milk (no hormones, no pesticides in their diets, being fed what their bodies are meant to digest, and no antibiotics, this is the ideal - or maybe raw milk is, but I can't even entertain the notion right now given the cost and the fact that it is illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption in my state), but we could afford the brands whose farmers "pledge" not to use hormones.

However, I have no doubt that I'm still drinking milk from hormone-treated animals - not to mention animals treated with antibiotics and fed grain treated with pesticides.  I have seen Food, Inc. and am currently reading Fast Food Nation, and I don't put much stock in any aspect of the food industry regulating itself.  My assumption is that the farmers make an effort not to use hormones, but use them all the same when the giant companies they contract with put pressure on them to increase profit margins. Then it's the farmers who are at risk of breaking a (non-legally-binding?) pledge, and not the larger companies.

But I'm putting my money into an idea, right?  I have very little money to vote with, but money seems to be the only thing with a voice in politics.  My hope is that this "step-up" milk will see the same government/legal/litigious attention that step-up ("free range," "cage free," "pasture-raised," but still not organic) eggs are now seeing.  And, of course, we purchase the step-up eggs as well.  Can't win!  Who the heck knows what we're eating?!?

I constantly think about just purchasing the cheapest milk and eggs - I'd know what I was getting, and I'd save my money - but then I worry that if we all do that, there will be less pressure for reform.  Even less.  Because I don't exactly see there being a lot of pressure on Big Agro or Big Food...

But then again, is there a reason to advocate for organic milk with my limited bucks?  I went looking for research, and all I found were blog entries that lacked citations entirely!  I did find a couple articles that lead me to think I should save some of our milk money for additional organic produce,  unless I can go whole hog (whole cow?) and buy milk from grassfed cows.

And then there's this blog by a dairy farmer that - while interesting and seemingly thorough - I happen to know is not entirely accurate.  I know that conventional dairy cows are sometimes fed unsalable processed human foods like sub-par licorice, gumballs, and stuffing.  True story.  I have no idea if organic dairy farms are feeding their cows the organic equivalent of these things, and also no idea if candy and stuffing are any worse for cows or the people who drink their milk than corn is.

What are your thoughts?  Personally, I'm completely confused.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Reasons my son is crying


A cousin of mine sent me a link to this tumblr last night.  It is hilarious.
If I were to add my own reasons my smaller son is often crying:

Reasons why my smaller son is often crying:
  • he woke up
  • he didn't want that, but now that you're eating it he wants all of it but not on his plate -DEFINITELY NOT ON HIS PLATE
  • his brother hit him with a sword
  • he hit his brother with a sword
  • we won't let him have a sword
  • his sword broke
  • his sword cannot be in two places at once
  • his body cannot be in two places at once
  • Mom cannot  be in two places at once
  • toast doesn't come out of a bag warm and have to toast it
  • we won't let him hit when he's angry
  • I can't "take off" the cut on his finger and kissing it doesn't make it disappear
  • I have to rinse the shampoo out of his hair
  • I won't let him run in the road or parking lots
  • I gave him the apple he asked for
  • he was screaming to be put down so I put him down...

I could go on and on...

Why is your son (or daughter) crying?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

What's mine could be yours!

Right now, I have moisturizer and lip balm setting, ready to be labeled and photographed tomorrow!

I have been making my own body products for a few years - deodorant, moisturizer, a salve for cracked skin, lip balm, sugar scrub, body oil, hair product (if plain coconut oil counts), and more.

A few people mentioned to me that they'd be interesting purchasing them, and tomorrow (if all goes according to plan), the first one will be available for purchase on Etsy!  (I'll post links when the shop officially launches!)

I am really excited to share these with friends, family, blog readers, and total strangers. I hope people will love them as much as I do. They are all made with straightforward ingredients so you always know what you are getting! And I will, to at least some degree, be able to tweak things for people's preferences or even allergies.

And, in other news, both of my kids are completely obsessed with weapons, armor, and warriors.  A-Train often says "wet's just have a batt-oh!"  (Let's just have a battle!)  And Bean is constantly  showing off his latest scheme for storing/wearing/drawing/using weapons.  That kid designs armor and sheaths and weapons belts!  Oh, and we totally went out and got him another skirt.  The new one is "a kilt."  It's green plaid!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Balancing on the edge of the Cliffs of Insanity

I'm realizing that I'm walking a fine line between good-crazy-busy and plain ol' insanity.  Not sure where my days are going, only about 80% confident I am completing various non-parenthood-related tasks in a quality way.

But I *am* feeling thoroughly not-insane with my kids, which is new.  They're both verbal-enough and reasonably-enough (though A-Train is going downhill on that score...thankfully I know it's temporary) that they can tell me what they need.  AND they both express gratitude (even if it does sound like A-Train is saying "Spanx.").  And they both want to snuggle and joke with me and talk to me. 

They also both play on their own or together.  At least sometimes.  The Beast and I have had whole conversations!  We've eaten warm meals together while the kids were around. 

My family life feels so in balance.  Can't have it all, but I sure do love what I've got.

photo credit

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Bedtime Talk

Our bedtime routine got slightly messed up, and I think Bean assumed I wasn't going to be in to snuggle him.  So when I opened his door he gasped and said, "yay yay yay!"

Me:  "I'm here to snuggle you."

B:  "And talk to me?!?"

Me:  "Yes.  Snuggle and talk."

B:  "What do you want to talk about?"

Me: "Hm.  I dont know."

B:  "Well we pretty much always talk about what I want to talk about, so what would you like to talk about tonight?"  (How cool is this?!?)

First we talked a little bit about his upcoming birthday, birthday party, and who to invite - this is a little bit sticky.  He has his own opinions, and they aren't necessarily entirely inclusive.

Then later I asked him what he learned about Black History Month and Martin Luther King at school yesterday (they did an "I have a dream" craft, and I was curious as to what stuck.)

He and Matt have been reading a book in which some character (who we'll call A because I'm not sure of the whole name) has a medallion that makes dreams come true...

Me:  "So what do you remember about Martin Luther King?  I saw you did something about 'I have a dream.'"

B:  "Oh yeah.  He had a dream that everyone would get along.  And it came true!  Like with A's medallion!"

Me:  "Oh really?  So that came true?"

B:  "Uh huh!  He had a dream that everyone would get along, and it came true!"

Me:  "Ah."

B:  "...did he have a sword or a shield or anything?"

Me:  "No..."

B:  "Well then...what did he have."

Me:  "A dream."

Secret Weapon

I think the crazy - and crazy-making - part of toddlerhood has arrived for A-Train. The last two days, lunchtime has been a mess. He is crying and tantrumming, and I don't know why half the time. The other half, it is immense frustration with stuff like inability to complete difficult tasks or -even better - inability to complete impossible tasks (do you have any idea how frustrating it is to reach for something 6' off the ground when you are less than 3' tall? And then the nerve of some people to GET IT FOR YOU?!? Punishable by death. Death by ear-shattering screaming tantrum!)

Thankfully, I discovered today that I have a secret weapon at the ready! A-Train was tantrumming around my legs as I made lunch. He was upset because he wanted lunch RIGHT. NOW. and pissed that I wouldn't hold him and comfort him until lunch was ready. Obviously he lacked knowledge of how sandwiches arrive on plates.

So he's wrapped around my leg, screaming, and then there is quiet and no one touching me. I look down and A-Train and Bean are hugging and Bean is stroking A-Train's head.

They separated and A-Train just stared at Bean with a goofy grin on his face, looking brotherly twitterpated. Bean said with a shrug "I guess he just needed a hug and someone to stroke his head."

A-Train then remembered that he had neither sandwich nor snuggles and started crying again. "You want another hug, sweetheart?" asked Bean.

"Mmhmmmm..." Came the grateful reply, as A-Train turned to throw his arms around Bean.

And then I realized I had tears in my eyes!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"I will just skip being a teenager."

Brotherly love.  These boys are so sweet.  At least in this picture...

Bean shows himself to be more like me every day.  That mirror held to my face - remembering how hard it was to be a child, and seeing that I have only adapted and not changed so that child is really still there - it is searingly painful, but somehow so liberating and healing.

On Valentine's Day, we were coming home from a lunch at the boys' school when A-Train grabbed a couple of Bean's Valentines.  Bean started out sweetly saying, "A-Train, give those back," but added a rough and rude "now!"

I repeated the lines The Beast and I have spoken countless times.  "Bean, you've got to start by asking nicely, and staying calm.  Moving straight to a fight just makes it a fight.  He resists more, you fight more..."  I really want to get him a Chinese finger trap so he can maybe see the cycle in action while not freaking out.

But what happened next was the mirror held to my face.  Bean burst into tears and sobbed "I'm horrible!  I'm a horrible boy!  I can't do anything because I'm a horrible boy!"

I was so stunned.  Thankfully we had pulled into the driveway, and I immediately got out and opened his door and wiped his tears and snuggled him and told him "you are absolutely not a horrible boy!  You are a sweet, smart, wonderful boy who is working on really hard things.  Staying calm is hard!  Negotiating is hard!"  Then I calmly said to A-Train, "give Bean back his cards, ok?"

"Otay," was the sweet reply and he handed those things right over!

When Bean was ridiculing himself, all I could think was "who in the hell told my child he is horrible?!?  WHO NEEDS A GOOD TALKING TO?!?"

Me.  It was me, in not so many words.  I said it to myself.  On more than one occasion.  When feeling like I haven't succeeded at anything, haven't met my goals, haven't even been able to keep my kids occupied...I've stormed off and said, "I fail at everything!  I'm just a horrible person!"

It was me who told my child that trying and failing makes you a bad person.  It's me who needs the talking to!

And then tonight.  Tonight Bean was having a hard time a bedtime.  He was tormenting his brother (again), had already been told that reading was done for the night, had already laughed in the face of a stern Beast.  His door was closed and he started banging something against it.  Repeatedly.  Louder.  And louder.

I opened his door expecting to see an angry kiddo bashing fists or feet against the door, but instead I found a grinning knight wearing a helmet and preparing to charge me with cardboard sword and shield at the ready.  I grabbed the shield and the sword, snatched up a Duplo creation that I later learned was a mace, and said "you are supposed to be going to sleep, not fighting your door.  You can have these back in the morning.  It is bedtime.  I love you.  Goodnight."

I walked out, hid the weapons, and returned to sitting on the couch getting some work done.

Bean was in despair.  "I need them!  I can't go to sleep without them!"  He raged and kicked and got in our faces.  I finally carried him back to his bed, tucked him in as best I could, and said, "you are having a hard time tonight.  I would like to help you calm down, but you will not be getting your sword and shield tonight.  You can have them tomorrow."

I left him caterwauling after a warning that more asking would be nagging and would result in a longer-term disappearance of his weaponry. Another minute or so of screaming and he whimpered, "Mom?  Could you come here?"

He asked me if I could please snuggle him.  "Snuggling" these days means he wants to talk.  So I tucked him into his blanket, lay down next to him, told him I love him and he is still my sweet, smart, wonderful kid.  His sniveling gave way to crying again.  "I didn't mean to do it!  I just...I just thought 'I will do this!' and I did it!  I just wanted Dad to read more!  I didn't mean to be loud!  I didn't mean to do it!  I didn't want to do it!"

I hugged him tighter.  "You just didn't even think, huh?  You just thought of it, and you did it.  You were already having a hard time.  You had bullied A-Train, and you had been rude to Dad, and you just wanted everything your way and maybe wanted to make everyone else as angry as you felt."

"No!  I didn't want people to be angry!  I just felt like I had to do it!  I just thought of it...and then I did it!"

All my feelings of not being in control as a kid came flooding back.  Feeling like I didn't have a reason for anything, and everyone always wanted a reason.  They wanted to know what I was thinking...but I hadn't been thinking.  I lacked impulse control!  Instantly I felt so connected to him, like I finally got it.  "Oh sweetheart.  This is part of learning.  This is part of being five years old, and you're not even five yet!  You make bad choices, and sometimes you don't stop and think.  It's normal.  You are not bad, you are still sweet and wonderful and learning."

He perked up and said, "So maybe when I'm 8 years old I will stop making bad choices?"

"Nope.  You will just make different bad choices, and maybe you'll be able to handle the consequences better.  But then someday you'll be a teenager and you'll make really bad choices.  And probably you'll do dangerous things, and Dad and I will get scared and angry, and we will always love you and help you fix what needs fixing."

"...why will I make really bad choices when I'm a teenager?"

"Because your brain will grow and change and not really work quite right.  Making bad choices - having ideas and just doing them without thinking it through - is kind of part of being a teenager!"

With an uncomfortable but amused giggle, he said, "I will just skip being a teenager.  I don't want to do that!"

We talked a little about being a teenager.  He said if anyone ever suggested fighting with real swords, he would go tell a teacher.  There was talk about gun safety!  Then, as a total non sequitur, he told me that he informed someone today that he had fought a tiger.  "Do you think fighting a tiger would be a good choice?" I joked.  He laughed and said he had only been pretending.  "Maybe you'll want to fight a tiger for real when you're a teenager."

"I'm not going to do any of that stuff!  That sounds terrible!"

"Well I hope you still feel that way when you are a teenager!"

Sounding a bit concerned he asked, " when will I stop making bad choices?"

"I'm thinking never, sweetheart.  I make bad choices every day.  Some worse than others.  Some I know right away, and some I don't know until later.  But every day!  And I'm 32!"

"Like what did you do today?"

I told him about how I accidentally overheated some oil and ended up charring garlic and having to throw both away and start over, all because I tried to do too many things at once.  "But I didn't get angry or say mean things to myself afterwards.  I just threw everything out and moved on.  I think that might be what is easier to do as you get older."

We talked a little about what this might look at a 99, 199, and 250 years old.  ("Still bad decisions, I think.  Just less reaction because you know everything is going to work out like it always has!")

He asked me what kinds of dangerous things teenagers do and I told him about things I've seen, things I've done, and things I've heard about.  I actually found myself explaining marijuana an cocaine to my preschooler!  (Incidentally, his biggest concern about pot is that it sounded like it might cause him to at least temporarily forget how to fight with his weapons!)  At one point he insisted I had to tell him three more things before I could leave.  He was fascinated, but also rather horrified.

As I walked out his door he picked his head up and said, "I hope I'm never a teenager..."

I left thinking that we might all survive the teenage years after all.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

In which a picture of Easy Cheese makes it onto my blog

Went to the grocery store.  Saw Easy Cheese.  Got nostalgic, remembering just how much Easy Cheese and Cheese Whizz I ate as a kid.  Thought briefly about buying some just so my kids could experience it.

Then I thought "ew.  No.  Gross."  And laughed at myself, wondering what my mom would say and generally wondering what my mom would say about the 180 my diet has done since childhood.

Then I got to finding a replacement bulb and spent several minutes trying to match up the lightbulb I had with the options in front of me.  Darn CFLs are SO CONFUSING.  So I'm thinking to myself "man, Mom would be baffled by this.  I want a 23W bulb that will be labeled as something else entirely...since when does getting a light bulb require complicated math?!?"

So pretty much my trip to the store was a nostalgic trip down Getting Old Lane. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

How to use a paper towel to dry your hands

I saw this video several months ago, and I've been using paper towels this way ever since!  Since I now feel like I can verify that it works, I thought I'd share :-)

In other news, I sure am a crappy blogger, eh?  I have no real excuse.  I'm no more busy than I have been for the past 2-3 years.  Well...maybe a little busier?  But this is supposed to be a fun - or maybe even therapeutic - outlet, and I guess I haven't had much use for it lately (is that a good thing or a bad thing?). 

I have been wondering if it's partly because I don't have long runs anymore.  Running has been a time when I sort out my thoughts and think about random interesting things.  I haven't run regularly - or far - since my half marathon last March.  Maybe blogging will come back with running.  Maybe not.

I am running again, at least a little.  I just finished week two of the couch to 5K.  I'm also lifting, but my glutes aren't quite working properly so lower body is a mess and mentally exhausting.  The running is ok.  I loved it at first, but the runs are short, and I am watching the time on the treadmill to make sure I do the correct interval, and I'm watching my posture in a mirror...  I don't have a chance to get into a rhythm.  Plus I can't run outside yet.  I'm waiting to be able to run on a trail (it's too muddy/slippery/fall hazard-y to take my 3-month-post-op hip out there quite yet).  Ah!  The fresh air calls to me, singing its siren song of sanity!!

Bean invited A-Train to snuggle with him, then he asked "do you want to hear about this sword?" A-Train answered "mmhmmmmm" and then was obviously totally engrossed. 
My kids are getting more and more independent - we're even transitioning A-Train to sleeping on the lower bunk in what is now "the boys' room" instead of "Bean's room."  We sent them off to Parents' Night Out for 4 hours last night so we could clean out that room and start to clean out the office, which has been an incredible mess since before Christmas.

The kids are also both completely obsessed with the Legend of Zelda games.  We played a good bit while I was recovering from surgery, and it's kind of stuck around.  The deal is that once we finish Twilight Princess, we're taking a break from video games for awhile!  I'm just trying to limit the playing to a couple times a week, and we take a break after little sections and go do something else (mostly dishes...). 

Also, they wrestle and fight and harass each other all. the. time.  So add referee to my list of jobs!

I've started sewing, after getting a sewing machine for Christmas.  I'm loving it!  And also, I'm more of a "Jill of all trades, master of none" with each passing year, hm?  The Beast recently called me a dabbler.  I think he meant it as a compliment.

I've also been blogging for The Green Nursery since September, which I very much enjoy. 

AND I'm back to being available to take clients in my doula work.  I'm also growing more and more impatient for when I can make my life work to do birth doula work!  Probably that is three years down the road, when both my kids will be in school.  In the meantime, I'm throwing around some ideas for how to provide information and support to more parents.  AND I recently became a La Leche League Leader, after working toward it for three years!

And with that, I'm off again! 
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