Monthly Archives: December 2013

Traditions! Part One: Take Back the ‘Daze

I enjoy jumping on holiday blogging bandwagons. With that in mind, I can’t help but talk about creating family traditions.

Growing up and becoming an adult always requires some juggling of holiday traditions. Older relatives pass on, family moves closer or further away, and opportunities to either “own” a holiday, or finally duck out of a painful yearly shit-show, present themselves.

Throw significant others, spouses, and kids into the blender, and one yearly tradition is established hard and fast: guilt.

Someone is always upset about being left out. Someone else feels they couldn’t or didn’t provide the right present, or amount of gifts. Someone else feels they can’t leave a certain relative alone.

I spent several holiday seasons on the guilt tradition bandwagon. I’d put 500 miles on my car trying to meet each obligation between Halloween and New Years Eve.

Then, after a particularly disastrous holiday, I woke up and decided I was getting off the guilt train. Holidays are supposed to be fun.

I have a higher than normal threshold for tolerating discord, and I spent a whole year of holidays pissing people off-including people (well, person) I live with by saying “no”- and being surprised by people who were ok with “no.”

The hard work has largely paid off. Guilt is no longer a part of my holiday traditions.

Part two coming soon!

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Work at Home Mythology

I’m currently transitioning from a job with a place, an office, and a salary to being a roaming agent of change with a netbook and a flexible “schedule.” The reasons for this are many, and also typical to many parents- two kids, more home commitments, childcare needs, blah blah blah etc.
Like most jobs, there is face time, and then paperwork, e-mail, phone calls, etc. I get to do all these things from home.
Some people are great at this. Disciplined, great boundaries, on time, etc.
And then there is me.
I’m still figuring this out. And so far, I “work” on and off all day, every day. Thanks to my iPhone, I’m always hooked in.
I’ll be providing ongoing assessment as to how this goes, but so far, here is my experience:
The Good:
1. It has been much easier to navigate a sudden temporary loss of my childcare.
2. I can email while nursing!
3. My 2 1/2 yo is much better able to follow directions than I previously thought. “Mommy’s working,” means something to her.

The Bad:
1. I feel constant guilt about how long it’s taking me to get stuff done and learn new things. This is all internal pressure, btw.
2. I don’t have a dedicated workspace at home and am disorganized.
3. My 2 1/2 yo does suddenly decide she needs me and starts screaming “Mommy! Mommy!” Like Stewie when she has had enough.

One thing is for certain: this is not “easier” though it is “better.”

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The Terrible Truth

Parenthood-especially for women- is billed as this transformational, magic experience. TV is filled with uplifting stories of individuals following the “wrong path” until their newborn filled them with motivation to get it together . Mothers are shown nestled in pillows and flowy robes, their babies cooing or-better yet-sleeping.

Lovely, isn’t it?

Perhaps, also, this WAS your experience. If so, my hat is off to you. Your life is now on the straight and narrow, and/or you and your baby and spouse/partner/involved parties are snuggling happily in your matching loungewear.

For the rest of us, however, there emerges a terrible truth: you plan. You procrastinate. You prepare. You despair. And then: the baby arrives, there is a huge rush of adrenaline, and then, you realize that you are just YOU. Still. With a baby.

What a fucking letdown this was for me. Add that I had postpartum depression and anxiety after my first, and not only was I still me, I was the most anxious, difficult, messy version of myself when I first became a parent.

Despite being a borderline cynical realist about most things, I really, deep down, believed parenthood would make me “more”-organized, patient, crafty, housewifey-
Ummm, nope.

The only thing I have become more of is humble. I fail, in this role, all the time, as myself, my best self, my worst self, and everywhere in between, yet, every day, my girls trust that I will continue to be there, to be the parent. Just me-except with kids-is alright by them.

And finally, it’s alright by me, too.

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Baby wearing-The sweet spot and the sweat spot

I am a huge fan of baby wearing.

For the uninitiated, baby wearing is when you utilize some sort of baby carrier to literally strap your kid to you. It is often associated with an attachment parenting style. As I am not someone who pushes this type of parenting-or anything except “keep everyone fed, warm, and reasonably safe, clean, and satisfied,” you can google it yourself should you want to know more about it.

Baby wearing is great for someone like me who is not gifted at what to actually do with a non-verbal, non-motor enabled being. Now that I have two kids, it has become essential to be hands free so I can catch the older one while she tightrope walks the back of a couch.

I get a lot of hippy mamma jokes about strapping on my babies. I am not really that crunchy at the end of the day. Baby wearing is simply the only way I know how to entertain or calm a cranky baby. Strap them on and go for a walk, fold laundry, shop, watch TV, blog from your cellphone- it is so easy. They bop around, look at stuff, and then, like magic, fall asleep.

However, the part no one tells you about is that you are prone to giant sweaty spots where your baby hangs out. Also drool. As in, bring a clean shirt. Also a sore back, shoulders, and maybe hips can come into the territory. There are so many kinds it is possible to find one that minimizes all of these things, but as someone who has five of them (obsessed) let me tell you that all of them involve wearing an increasingly heavy baby.

Also, you drop food on them. Or at least I do.

Also, until you get them on your back, it is impossible to wash dishes-for me, anyway.

The benefits of having your little one strapped to you, however, cosy, warm, and out of trouble-are too many to count.

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Stuff

While on maternity leave, I became one of those people who enthusiastically participated in reading Facebook memes and joining Facebook challenges. It was a way to occupy myself while nursing at all hours of the day and night, and, quite frankly, I don’t have the attention span right now to actually read something substantial.

One challenge posted by a dear friend was to go through your “stuff” and give away/throw away the number of things that matched the date for the entire month of December.

“I can totally do that!” I thought, ” We have way too much stuff!”

December first came, and I started my mission. I have, each day, given or thrown away the number of things that matched the date. Today, I identified 13 things that needed to leave my house.

I won’t bore you with pictures of my discarded stuff. But I will tell you this: This challenge has brought to my attention two stark truths for me. I keep things out of hope, and out of laziness.

The hope piece is generally that a) I will fit into/need this article of clothing again or b) I will make time to re-paint this picture frame/mail this postcard, etc.

The laziness piece is “Oh I will go through this/sort this/recycle this tomorrow.”

In both situations, the same truth appears: for most of the stuff I keep, that hypothetical “again” or “tomorrow” has never arrived.

I have unexpectedly forced to see the truth in so many of my actions and motivations, as evidenced by the “stuff” I’ve been able to tell myself, “Honestly, you don’t need this.” Much of my stuff leads back to goals either unrealistic to begin with or found unnecessary and abandoned.

“Stuff,” is complicated for so many people. For so many of us it is the physical manifestation of what is inside our heads; hence, why it is so hard to sort through and release. I also acknowledge that “stuff,” and the accumulation of it, is a privilege, and evidence of privilege-as is being able to let some of it go.

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Reflections on Demoting Yourself

Yesterday, I read this blog post about a mom reflecting on her own experiences “demoting” herself in the workplace, from quitting her high-power job to returning to the workforce in a much diminished capacity.

I, too, have recently made this shift.

I have a serious problem with the idea of “demoting myself” as a concept, however.

I enjoy my career, and I enjoyed my previous job. However, I like to think that we, as humans, all have a finite amount of energy. It was becoming increasingly apparent that my husband and I were both advancing our careers, and that in doing so, we were losing flexibility, energy, and significant time as a family. Something had to give. In sitting down, and looking at the financials, and our careers, it became obvious that the one who had the bounce-back able profession with the most options was me. It wasn’t simply because I’m “the mom” and that “the mom” had to stay home.

I completely freaked out leading up to the change. I have worked at least one job since I was 14 years old. I had been working full time, full steam ahead since my older baby was 12 weeks old. At that time, I was also the primary breadwinner for my family.

Following my second maternity leave, I’m returning to work part time, in a different job. In doing so, I regret previously buying into the idea that by not working-or not working as much- is letting down my fight for gender equality. Or that being dependent on my husband for money makes me “less.” It caused me a lot of unnecessary mental anguish leading up to the actual decision.

Families are interdependent units where members work together for maximum effectiveness. Right now, I am able to use my education to work a flexible job that allows me to stay home when my kids are sick and put them to bed at night. My husband is able to work towards advancing his fairly recent career change that will, in a few years, allow him more flexibility as well.

Devoting most of my time to taking care of my toddler and infant is not a “demotion.” It is an opportunity I am grateful to have. Maybe I’m a closet old school traditionalist, but my family is my number one commitment. My family is in much better balance with me home more.

And I never want to say to my daughters, “spending more time with you was a demotion.”

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Ich bin Caillou

Currently over here, we are obsessed with Caillou, perhaps the most annoying program on children’s television to date.

Or, I should say, the most annoying program whose content is actually really strong and therefore we are allowed to watch it. Check out Lalaloopsy if you want annoying TV with no redeemable qualities.

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Caillou, for the uninitiated, is a show about a little Canadian boy who whines his way through common trials and trevails of the middle class preschooler.

When the on-demand queue of Caillou has been exhausted, or when we are sitting on the potty for an extended engagement, we turn to YouTube for more Caillou.

As children these days are born knowing how to use Apple products, my 2 1/2 year old daughter can navigate and select her own shows once I do the initial search and set-up.

What is consistently interesting to me is that she does not discriminate on the language of her cartoons. Today, she watched an entire episode of Caillou in German. She knew what was happening in the episode as well. I have observed this on more than one occasion-as long as her characters are bopping around, she is satisfied.

I’m wondering how I can encourage this and continue to develop this indiscriminate part of her brain, as well as the ability to assess context and content outside of spoken language. In Europe, radio and TV are available in many languages most of the time. Here, we have a Spanish Channel, and not much else. Are YouTube cartoons a golden opportunity? Perhaps.

All I know is that Caillou’s whiny voice transcends all linguistic boundaries.

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Exploring a Seasonal Expectation

Motherhood brings with it many shoulds.
Today’s should-a Christmas Craft. Namely, salt dough ornaments.

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Confession: I HATE crafting. It is so…messy. It involves STUFF that I have to specifically purchase for said craft. I like to read. And write. And take walks. I don’t do hobbies that involve “STUFF.”

But my daughter, she loves herself a craft.

Besides, somewhere in the middle class mother by-laws there is a rule that I need to craft. It runs rampant in our collective unconscious.

While crafting, I almost blew a blood vessel. After successfully working as a team to mix the dough, my daughter decided that she wanted me to make “eggs” with the dough and she freaked out every time I rolled it out to make an ornament. I tried to be a zen crafty mom-“Here sweetie, press the shape!” But soon was almost yelling at her to follow the steps.

Shouldn’t this be fun? I mean, we are trying to cookie cutter ourselves some heirlooms here.

We finally agreed to disagree. I made stars, and she concocted an elaborate story of an egg family.

After wrangling some dough from the egg family, I have some ornaments that could be destroyed by said daughter, or the cat, or any number of messy catastrophes that occur regularly in a home with two children under 3 and two sleep deprived adults.

I am also stuck with a giant bucket of cookie cutters.

Then again, at Christmas, you should make cookies…

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New Beginnings

In the early 2000s, a dear friend was in a Chekov play that explored the relationship between men and women. Within the context of this play, the male character spouted to the female. “You! With your crinoline logic!”

It has stuck in my mind for nearly a decade. “Someday,” I told myself, “I am going to start a feminist ‘zine and use that phrase as a title.”

Time has passed- and, some may say- the time of “‘zines” has passed us as well. But yet, the phrase, over and over again, has never left me.

As I come back to writing, I was searching for a title, a phrase, of clever uniqueness for this newest blog. 

Crinoline- A petty coat, an underskirt, stiffened to make the skirt of a dress stand out

Logic- A particular way of thinking about something

I am always terrible at these intro posts. I put a lot of effort and energy into putting pressure on myself to sound smart, profound, blah blah blah. 

Really, I’m just excited to write again. 

Real post to come soon!