12/31/08

The New Year Recap, Sundry -style

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?

Left my toddler for four whole days and (sort of) lived to tell the tale.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

My only resolution from last year was to find a way to dance more. I have to say it was a total FAIL as I neither got out to clubs nor a dance class. I did, however, get my daughter interested in some dance parties in our living room.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

The democratic party FINALLY gave birth to a president, thank goodness.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

My cynicism about the political will of the democratic party kicked the bucket.

5. What countries did you visit?

Unfortunately none, other than my very own. Though Kauai was AWESOME.

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?

Some more patience. Some more money. Some more time. Oh, and a Democratic President (yipee!).

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Tuesday November 4, the day that I started to believe in my country again. (Am I done with the Democratic Party cheerleading? I'm not sure...)

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Gestating another person (halfway there!) and living through a terrible first trimester.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Succumbing just a bit too much to first trimester whining.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Does first trimester misery count?

11. What was the best thing you bought?

A new pair of maternity jeans that only need to be hiked back up once an hour instead of once every five minutes.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

The American people.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

The majority of voters in California.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Mortgage, insurances, daycare, Trader Joe's, Target.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Election night was a great high.

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?

1234 by Feist.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? 'bout the same.
b) thinner or fatter? WAY WAY bigger. But it's ALL baby. Really. I swear. Those twice daily servings of Christmas cookies have nothing to do with it.
c) richer or poorer? 'bout the same (though if I include retirement and college savings.....)

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Danced. Cooked. Gardened. Hugged. Written letters. Made phone calls. Reached out.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Whined. Lost my temper. Stared at a plate of food and felt like crying way too many times.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

With my in-laws in Tucson, surrounded by dogs and sunshine and love.

21. Did you fall in love in 2008?

With CG and Zoe. Again and again and again.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

Weeds, The Office, Entourage, The Daily Show, Mad Men.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I don't really go for the word "hate".

24. What was the best book you read?

Oh, that's a hard one... since my memory SUCKS, I'll have to go with what I'm currently reading and loving: Pasadena by David Ebershoff.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Lenka

26. What did you want and get?

Another pregnancy.

27. What did you want and not get?

A fun couple of months trying for another pregnancy.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

Once, Waitress, Juno, Superbad (all on Netflix, so they may be from 2007 for all I know!)

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I had breakfast in bed, bought a sewing machine, and had a date night to see "Spring Awakening". I am now 36 (how did that happen?).

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

It's a tie between a less sucky first trimester and a less sucky vote on Prop 8.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?

How often can you wear sweats and still be considered as having a "fashion concept"?

32. What kept you sane?

My husband, family and friends. Exercise. Sunshine. Books.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Can I just say that I LOVE the word "fancy" in this context? I admit, sheepishly, that Obama's grin makes my stomach do a few flip-flops from time to time.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

Again with the Prop 8.

35. Who did you miss?

All my friends and family who live too far away. I hate the phone. I hate to say goodbye. I hate that our country is just so damn big.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

My talkative toddler. Who is this amazing, chatty, genuinely interesting PERSON?

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.

Listen to your child, let her know she has been heard, then be sure you are the one in charge.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

"Can't do it alone. I've tried." - The Show, Lenka.


12/28/08

Does it hurt me more than it hurts you?

Dear Zoe,

My heart is aching. I need to hold you, kiss your cheek, hear your voice tell me to "Wait. WAIT Mommy. WAIT till I run to Daddy." when I try to tickle you. I just sobbed my way through "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" because there was always some baby being born or some Mama being kissed or some beautiful and true and trite line about love lasting forever and it was more than I could take.

I am so sorry to have left you this long. I know you're too young to really understand the calendar we left for you with its boxes to check off and the day when we would come home starred at the end of the page. I know you don't understand why we can call you on the phone but can't "come home RIGHT NOW!". I know you'll probably never remember this in the long run (in even a week or two?).

I know that you've cried yourself to sleep at least once.

(I'm so sorry for that.)

I also know that you haven't asked for us once today and got to have a cookie AND whipped cream for dessert tonight so maybe you aren't as desparate as we are for a reunion.

I know that we'll see you soon and hug and kiss you and in a few days, we'll be home in Pasadena and it'll all be back to normal with me sometimes looking forward to your naps and bedtime for a little time to myself again.

I know that this Mt. Vesuvius-sized zit smack dab between my eyebrows is from the stress of missing you (and the stress of realizing that we will soon enough be moving to this crazy part of Northern Virginia we're visiting, with its odd lack of history and character and organic, layered, natural development. I hope we can find a nice community here. One that isn't too sterile and devoid of edges and depth.)

We'll see you tomorrow, sweet girl. I'll do my best not to smother you with kisses and endless weepy hugs.

Love,

your Clueless But Hopeful Mama

12/26/08

Away from the manger

My purse is empty of every crayon, Little People person, baby wipe, pull-up, spare underwear (size 2T), plastic hair clip (not that they're ever worn but JUST IN CASE), sippy cup and snack trap. It is half its normal size.

I am not responsible for keeping track of any one's nap schedule, bodily functions/outputs, bedtimes, moods or entertainment needs except my own.

I am able to carry on a conversation with my husband that does not include any whispering, spelling out of words or interrupted trains of thought (except when my pregnancy brain takes over, of course).

I will be able to sleep in tomorrow (theoretically) and wake up to no one's voice calling insistently for me.

I will spend the next three days looking at towns and homes in what will be our new home state: Virginia. With CG. Without Zoe. I spent the two flights it took to get here reading. WHOLE CHAPTERS AT A TIME. And brazenly eating peanut M&Ms and bad-for-you "snack mix"es at a non-official snack time.

I can't believe I'm spending this much time away from my baby. I know she will be fine. I know her Nana and Papa are taking good care of her. I know this is important for us as a family, to really take time to explore our new home state before the new baby comes and we're moving and it's too hard to figure out where we should live. I know it's important to us as a couple to have time away and not have every moment revolve, at least a little bit, around our joyous, demanding and chatty whirlwind of a daughter.

I can only hope I don't miss her so much that I fail to enjoy this precious, precious time alone with my husband. Everything I see or hear, I imagine her reaction. On the drive from the airport, I pointed out "horsies" to CG in my excited mommy voice. It's so hard to turn that part of my brain off. I don't really want to.

Except, for maybe, just a few days.

12/25/08

Postcard from Arizona

Holiday greetings from Tucson!


Hope you are warm and bundled up wherever you are.


(And that your stuffed seal has a good view out the top of the blanket.)

12/22/08

The big guy with all the magical power

I think one of the coolest, and one of the scariest, parts of being a parent is that you get to decide what this little person learns about the world.  When Zoe was first learning to speak, I was freaked out that I could just tell her that a cup was called a "napkin" and a dog was called a "goojimiwhatsit" and she would be effed, for a little while at least.  The power was stunning.

We tell our children, in clear and subtle ways, what to believe.  What stories are "true".  How the world works and why.   Our children will, of course, grow up to learn, or make up, their own truths and reject a little/some/most/entirely ALL of ours but what we say still forms the basis for their understanding of the universe.  And that means that I want to carefully consider the stories and "truths" we tell our daughter.

Can you tell we're still over-thinking the whole Santa thing?

Christmas is challenging for those of us who do not subscribe to organized Christianity.  What is it supposed to be about if not the baby who was sent here to save us all or teach us about our sins or, um,  whatever?  We want it to be about family and ritual and tradition; feasting and giving and lights; nature and remembrance and warming yourself by a fire as Bing Crosby sings about exotic things like chestnuts and sleighs and red-nosed reindeer.   Is that too diffuse?  Not "deep" enough?  Should we just switch to a pagan solstice holiday festival and call it a day?  (Festivus anyone?)

I'm slowly beginning to realize that some of these family traditions need to evolve organically and we shouldn't force them into creation all at once.  They don't have to be set in stone and they don't have to be completely thought out perfectly.  

I think Santa will be coming to my in-laws' house this year.  And filling Zoe's stocking.  But the big gifts will be from us.  And we're not going to overdo the Santa mythology;  we still have to decide whether to leave some cookies and milk out for him.  And whether to eat them/put them back in the cookie vat.   Just how far we will go with the story remains to be seen.

----------------------------

Updates:  

My dad's first tests are today.  Just because I'm not a pray-er doesn't mean you can't, if that's your bag.  (Thanks.)

We survived our trip here to Arizona, sans DVDs.  Don't ask me why we're holding out at this point.  I'm not expecting a medal or martyring myself for any deeper cause.  I'm pretty sure we're going to think we were stupid for waiting this long when we finally show her some TV and she doesn't turn into a (somehow simultaneously) hyperactive spaz and drooling imbecile.  It was enlightening, heartening even, to realize that we could make an 8 and half hour trip with a two and half year old without TV and be just fine.  We read books.  We sang songs.  She played with her felt board and her Little People and talked to her "babies".  She ate and slept and only melted down once (at the very end, when we ALL were melting down.  She kept whining "My bottom hurts" and we assumed there was a rash in her pull up that needed attending to and we wanted to wait until we got to the house which was only 15 minutes away to search for the diaper cream that was buried the back of the car.  It turned out to be a wedgie.  And yet another truth was told from up on high;  wedgies SUCK.)  We didn't need DVDs and it's nice to know that.  But we will, at some point, want them.  And I know we will all be just fine.

12/17/08

Why does it all happen at once?

We are waiting for word, most likely by the end of next week, on my dad's tests. Thanks for all your kind words of support. Now we just have to wait. And hope for the only Christmas present I really want.

Me, CG, Zoe and Sweet Dog are all piling into the Prius on Friday for a cozy 8 hour drive to Arizona for the holidays. And we still haven't introduced Zoe to TV. Anyone want to bet how long we last until we're pulling into the closest Best Buy (oh wait, did they just go belly up?) for a portable DVD player? What would be a good starter video for those prone to STARING glassy eyed at the rare glimpse of television? One that won't rot her brain or make us want to pull over and shoot ourselves.

I have spent the last few days googling things like "first foods after vomiting" and "best way to sanitize toys after stomach flu". FUN. (And for you? Do you go the vinegar route or just say F the environment and go right for the bleach?)

After many a fretful conversation and a sleepless week when we thought we might have to move in JANUARY, we have decided to accept a big job offer for CG. That means we will be moving from California to Virginia (not the "real Virginia" though) next August. With our house full of junk, two cars, a dog, a toddler, a THREE MONTH OLD and me, barely clinging to my sanity, no doubt. Anyone live in Virginia? How's the weather out there these days? I'm pretty sure I'm looking at a whole new wardrobe here.

Why do the holidays always seem to get wrapped up with a whole lot of other stress?

12/15/08

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

I know I'm a little old for this but bear with me. I've been a very good girl this year, paid my taxes, followed basic laws, forgave my neighbors who put up their Yes on 8 signs and all the other basic things that constitute grown-up good girl-ness. I am even carrying a new little person inside me that will maybe one day leave you cookies, if my husband and I can agree on telling our kids that you "exist", and you can decide if she is naughty or nice or the usual combination of both at once, and that must be kinda fun for you.

Now I usually ask for a little something for myself that could brighten up my life. Like a new lip gloss or a massage or three weeks in Hawaii with my husband (and/or James McAvoy) but now it seems I have something more pressing.

Can you deliver something else? Like a negative test result for my dad who it seems might have lung cancer?

That'd be swell. There'd be lots of cookies for you and warm milk and OH GOD PLEASE.

Sincerely,

one Clueless But Hopeful Mama (and Daughter)

12/11/08

Dance party

Last night:

I am not as brave as you all think! I chose a blouse-y dress (some might say "muu muu") that maybe would have hid the bump a few weeks ago but these days? NOT SO MUCH. But it was a treat to be out on the town, CG looked so dapper in a three piece suit (What is it about vests on men? I LOVE THEM.) and I was comfortable. Well, about as comfortable as I could be in high heels, on a concrete floor, in a Clockwork Orange-y former power station-turned circus cabaret club complete with nearly nekkid ladies hanging in sheer fabric slings from the ceiling. Add in the loud music and young hipsters drinking all around me and, well, I felt pretty darn wrinkly and shrivelled and yet BLIMPLIKE. It was strange to be without a cocktail in my hand and I had no choice but to accept the forcible offering of a mouthful of cotton candy from the bosom of a woman (?) dressed as Marie Antoinette (don't ask). Also, I have apparently forgotten how to make small talk, witty banter, or even hold BASIC CONVERSATIONS. Oy.

But the only really sad part was: THERE WAS NO DANCING.

I watched the women hanging from the ceiling and later, the circus women dancing in a circle and I felt a pang. I used to do this. Well not this. But something like it. I used to be fit and nimble and OH MY GOD MY HEAD JUST WENT TO "JACK BE NIMBLE". It's way past my bedtime.


This morning:

I got up with Zoe and she wanted a dance party before breakfast. She chose"1234" by Feist, her current favorite dance music. And then she wanted to see the 1234 video on YouTube, the one with the "dancers and tumblers and lady in the blue dress". We watched it and tears sprung from my eyes. I love that video. I want to be in that video, to crawl inside and live in that video. I want to move like that again, be apart of something like that again. Dance.

So we danced.

video



(By this point, I was tired and Zoe had moved on to "Shut Up and Let Me Go" by the Ting Tings, or, as she calls it, "the stomping song". [Okay, NOT the best choice of lyrics for those of us who hope to instill manners in our children. However, I have held firm and not introduced Zoe to one of my current favorites: the expletive-happy Kate Nash.] Notice also that there is a "baby" having a nap under the blanket on the floor, a toy store threw up behind our leather chair and there is a distinct possibility that my daughter has a shot at starring in "Breakin' 12: Electric Poopaloo".)

12/10/08

Fergie has her humps. I've got my bump.

Tonight we're going out to dinner and a club to celebrate the birthday of CG's work friend. She's renting a limo for the group of us and we're supposed to "dress to the nines". This being LA and all, I assume that means my current favorite stained sweats are out.

Contrary to my usual appearance, my closet is not a completely sad, barren place. I have short little black dresses. I have ruffly, swirly, pink dance-y dresses. I have tight, slinky patterned dresses.

I also have a medium-large bump. And I'm not sure exactly how to act as an obviously pregnant woman at a club. Obviously, I will not be drinking or looking to pick up the bartender. However, I will be wanting to shake my groove thing (Where is it again? Is that it over there....?) and not terrify or disgust people while I'm at it. Should I go for the "Hey, here's my bump and I don't care" look or the "Ha ha! Nothing to see here except some loose fabric and too much beer!" look?

12/8/08

Wait for it.

Last night I returned home from the last of three incredibly long days of an incredibly wonderful Pilates workshop.

CG had had a hard day and once Zoe was asleep, the venting began. I heard all about the diaper/potty battles, the picky and yet painstakingly slow lunch time, the inexplicably strange moods that morphed without warning and I truly felt for him. (I also got in touch with how hard it can be to come home to all THIS when I had had my own hard day, thankyouverymuch, NOW WHERE ARE MY SLIPPERS AND CIGAR?) All along, though, I was thinking "Now maybe he gets it".

His venting slowly gave way to other matters, the business of the week, the plans, the parties, the minutiae of household management. I found my mind wandering, waiting for him to say something heartfelt and appreciative about being on the other side of the childcare equation. Something about how he now truly appreciates the impressive work I do at home after three days of doing it all himself (*ahem* without doing the laundry or cleaning or food shopping). I even found myself formulating possible ways to ASK for the appreciation I wanted, from snarky asides to needy pressure-filled declarations.

The conversation came to a lull (perhaps because my mind was ELSEWHERE) and CG turned to me, his arm around my shoulder.

"You know, this weekend definitely made me appreciate all the things you do around here."

BINGO.

12/5/08

Sickness and lycra

Today is the first day of a three day Pilates workshop that I stupidly signed up for even though it's occurring at this most stressful time of year when really an entire weekend with a bunch of other ladies in lycra talking about breathing and posture and abdominal support is not quite as important as decorating the house with broken twinkly lights and baking disgustingly sweet holiday cookies and trying to figure out if it is indeed possible to do my ENTIRE Christmas shopping list from behind the comfort of my laptop keyboard. But I need this workshop for the continuing education credits and CG is totally capable of taking Zoe for three days of Daddy Fun Time. Why, they can go to the zoo! Or the park! Or do all our Christmas shopping at some socially responsible local artisan - and yet TOTALLY CHEAP - store!

Today is also the first day of what sounds like Zoe's first monstrously bad cold of the season and she's.... less than pleasant about it.

Oops.

12/2/08

Today we saw the beating heart of our baby.....

girl.




Upon rereading my last post, I think I knew underneath my "knowing". I knew on some level that I was destined to have two girls.

No penis showed its ..... face this afternoon at our ultrasound and our OB said, based on the view he got, he was 95% sure we were having another girl.

I will get to revisit all of Zoe's clothes. I will have yet another version of the mother-daughter bond that I cherish with my own mother. I will get to know a sisterly bond, if not from the inside out, at least from the top down. I will go into mothering this child thinking that I know a thing or two about her because we already have a girl and really, how different could they be? (hahaHAHA).

I will not get to see a little boy run through this house, with blond curls like his daddy as a baby. I will, someday, stop daydreaming about what a son, our son, would have looked like.

I will forever wonder what we would have done about circumcision. I will never know what it would have been like to wipe lava-poop from the tiniest of scrotums. I will not get sprayed in the face at diaper changes and purchase a "pee-pee tee-pee". I will never have to teach a son how to aim for the potty, talk to a girl he likes, be open and caring in a world where being a tough guy sometimes seems like the only option for boys.

I will try not to apologize to my parents who, it seems fairly certain, will have 3 granddaughters and no grandsons.

I will stop repeating the boy's name we had picked out when I rub my belly. I will let go of that name, the ideas and dreams I had attached to that name.

I will create new ideas and dreams for a new name. A girl's name.

12/1/08

Boys and girls

The weekend is barely over, we still have thanksgiving leftovers in the fridge and gravy boats to put away. But suddenly I realize that tomorrow is a very big day and it has totally snuck up on me.

Tomorrow I will be 18 weeks pregnant and I have an ultrasound. One that will hopefully reveal the contents of this baby's nether regions.

I am so nervous and excited about it I can barely stand it.

When I was pregnant with Zoe, I so desperately wanted a girl. I am very close with my mother and wanted to recreate some version of our special bond. I identify with girls and was scared of the stories I'd heard about destructive, rambunctious, difficult boys. I was also scared of practical things like what to do about circumcision and the terrifying statistics about autism in boys. But I didn't want to be sad upon learning it was a boy so I spent weeks trying to make myself feel okay about the possibility. I did such a good job that when we found out it was a girl, I cried tears of joy AND sadness (Poor CG got emotional whiplash that day).

Whether this baby is a boy or a girl, it is our last. We are done. And so there is a loss either way. Some days I hope for a girl; I always wanted a sister and wonder what it would be like to have two girls. I would love to revisit some of my favorite baby's clothes of Zoe's. Other days, I hope for a boy; I wonder what it would be like to parent a boy, to raise a confident yet respectful man.

I didn't have a strong feeling either way when I was pregnant with Zoe. But now I'm convinced I'm carrying a boy, mostly because this pregnancy has been SO different than my first. With Zoe, I was exhausted and STARVING, gaining 20 pounds in my first trimester alone. With this pregnancy, I was so ill and depressed in my first trimester I started to totally lose myself. I could barely eat and when I did, it was mostly TERRIBLE food. In my second trimester, I am at turns angry and randy and I can't help but blame some miscreant testosterone for it all.

Since I started to admit to myself and others that I think this baby is a boy, I watch the little boys I know and love and imagine what our little boy would look like. I imagine a little CG running around, a strong, sensitive, inquisitive little boy. I question my friends with little boys and I seem to see happy, easygoing little boys everywhere.

I will be surprised if a penis doesn't appear on that ultrasound screen tomorrow. And I'm surprised to say that I'll be a little bit sad.

11/30/08

Worth a thousand words

Rebecca just posted about "money shots", those perfect shots that emerge from the millions in your I-Photo library to just take your breath away. She asked us to share.

I was not about to pass up the excuse to scroll through the system-crashingly huge number of photos I've taken of Zoe over her 2 and 1/2 years. With most of our family so far away, I began taking pictures of Zoe regularly, often daily, as soon as I emerged from the fog of her delivery. Most were junk but some just about stopped my heart, capturing moments that I didn't realize were so fleeting but knew instantly were precious.

It was a rough 20 minutes for me to narrow them down to just a few of my all time favorites. But here they are. (All were taken by me, except the first one. I had to include that one because I pretty much always start crying when I see it. She was so little and I held her like that all the time. I can still remember how it felt.)








11/28/08

The day of birth

Today is my birthday and I got to spend the morning sitting in bed, drinking tea, finishing New Moon (Oh God the writing gets worse but my heart still beats for Edward), and sharing waffles, eggs and bacon (I clearly didn't get enough calories yesterday).


I am lucky to have a birthday near my all time favorite holiday (not to mention the fact that I share my birthday with none other than Jon Stewart! *swoon*). With family visiting (aka. built in babysitters!) and my husband off of work, we will truly celebrate.

But still, I am reminded of how different my birthday feels to me now that I am a mother.

My birthday used to be all about ME.

Now I think of it as the day my mom birthed me. The day she screamed and cried and bled and thought she would break in two and yet didn't. The day she held me for the first time. The day she and my dad named me. The day they began the long journey of teaching me about the world and how it worked. Though it wasn't the day that she became a mother (my brother is three years older), it was the day she became MY mother.

So, Happy Birthday, Mom. Thank you for my birthday and every day after.

11/26/08

Giving thanks

Thanks for pillows and down comforters and the crook of my husband's shoulder.

Thanks for Zoe's curls and her soft, soft cheek and her sweet little voice singing "Alice the Camel".

Thanks for my friends and family who never let me fall through the cracks, never let me become some pale, motionless version of myself, without a fight.

And thanks to ALL THAT IS HOLY that my appetite is back in time for Thanksgiving. Thanks for the just-in-time enjoyment of stuffing and turkey and my in-laws' cranberry salad. Thanks most of all for the FIVE iced spice cookies I just ate in one sitting. Oh appetite. I am thankful for you most of all.

Iced Spice Cookies

1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling cookies
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 egg
3 Tbsp molasses
2 cups flour, sifted
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp each salt, cloves, nutmeg (freshly ground, if you want to get all gourmet about it)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter till light and fluffy (3 minutes). Mix in egg and molasses.
2. In medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and spices. Add to butter mixture and blend well.
3. Fill shallow bowl with granulated sugar. Make walnut sized pieces of dough and roll balls in sugar. Arrange on greased cookies sheets and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, make glaze. Combine powdered sugar with 1 Tbsp. water and lemon juice. Drizzle immediately over cooling cookies.


EAT THEM ALL IN ONE SITTING.


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

11/23/08

Skillz, easy come, easy go

When I first got pregnant this go 'round and started feeling so sick, Zoe's behavior took a nose dive. I immediately attributed it to her having a tortured internal conflict over being a big sister. She clearly was reacting on some deep emotional level to her new reality, right? Right?

I guess it's possible that she was reacting to this new information in some way. But now that I'm starting to feel quite a bit better (Appetite! Energy! Sex drive! All Some systems go!) I've come to realize that she was reacting almost solely to me and how I've been as a mother lately. It's a sad truth that my parenting was completely devoid of creativity and humor for a few months there.

She's been in a much better place these last few weeks. Fewer tantrums, easier transitions, more reasonable (for a toddler). I didn't think too much about why until tonight when I felt the light bulb come on over my head when we were all hanging out after dinner. Zoe started getting pissy and telling CG that she didn't want him in the living room. "NO. Just Mommy and my babies. It's my BABIES' room." I sighed and started to tell her, in my recently humorless, matter-of-fact way, that this was our FAMILY room and the whole family was welcome and that Daddy wasn't going anywhere blah blah HUMORLESS, UNCREATIVE blah. When her fussing grew louder, I realized that I used to handle these things better, with ease.... What did I used to do anyway? Back when I had energy??...... I whispered excitedly: "Hey Zoe, Do you think your babies would fit in that laundry basket there? Isn't that a snug little room? Maybe they'd like some blankets in their special room..." And IT TOTALLY WORKED. JUST LIKE IT USED TO.

Creative distraction. The bedrock of good parenting in my book (at this age anyway. Do you think it works with teenagers?? "Hey honey! Is that pot you're smoking? What's over there? Do you hear a TRUCK going by? Do you think it's a BIG TRUCK or a leeeetle teeeeny, tiny one??"). Unfortunately, I found that my ability to think creatively, to distract Zoe easily, COMPLETELY left me when I got pregnant.

Along with my sense of humor and my ability to be silly. I realized a few weeks ago that Zoe and I used to spend lots of time laughing. And that I hadn't heard her really, REALLY laugh in a while. (I'll pause while you let the ABJECT SADNESS of that statement sink in. Tragic, isn't it? A toddler who doesn't laugh? You have to work at that.) And silliness goes a REALLY long way to ease transitions for us around here. Tooth brushing doesn't need to be the miserable 5 minutes of TORTURE it was for a month or so there. Apparently, all I have to do is sing silly songs, use the toothbrush to "knock" on the door of her closed mouth and ask in a silly voice to "please come in". I also remembered that if I need to hurry her up and I start having an animated conversation with an imaginary kid named Bob who just might get there first, she suddenly moves like the wind. I'd forgotten all about those things. And we both were more miserable for it.

Now that I seem to have located and dusted off my old skills of creative distraction and silliness, I am struggling with the current and more long lasting loss of my other most favorite parenting tool-- "the pick-up-and-move" maneuver. As my belly gets bigger and bigger and my poor old arthritic back goes all funky with relaxin, I can't just haul her 30 lb self around like I used to, with ease, on an almost hourly basis. Tantrumming in the middle of a store/sidewalk/street? Pick up and move her! Misbehaving in significant ways and ignoring warnings? Pick up and move her! Refusing (or dawdling) to transition to nap/potty/bath/clothing change? Pick up and move her! It works for so many things. My discipline was often based on it but so was our play. I'd "fly" her around the house and "crash" her into one of the beds. I'd swing her around in my soft laundry basket while we sang songs. When I tried that last one, the other day, I had to hobble around the house for the rest of the day while the hitch in my giddyup worked itself out. Zoe's going to have to get used to a less mobile mother and I'm going to need to find new techniques to fit this new stage of our lives.

I'm just so much less fond of the "grab by the wrist and drag" maneuver than the elegant, take charge "pick and move" maneuver, you know?

11/20/08

Who's the boss

One day last week I went to pick up Zoe from school. As I lingered near her, the usual pack of girls came over and started pushing books in my face (this has become an unfortunate ritual at pick up time. "Zoe's mom is here! Quick! Find something to make her read to us!"). I sat down with them and the usual bickering started. Pushing, whining "I caaaannnn't seeeeeeee!", trying to sit in a chair that someone else is already sitting in- you know, the usual 2-3 year old behavior.

But what I noticed most of all was, of course, my darling daughter. The light of my life.

The apparent school yard bully.

She started out wanting to sit next to me (reasonable) and she wanted "her" dolly to sit on the chair next to her. But there weren't enough chairs for kids AND dolls so I told her to hold the baby and give the chair to a girl who needed one. So she turned to the girl on the other side of me and said "Get up". AND THE GIRL DID. Before I could say anything, Zoe sat in that seat and turned to the girl on the other side of her and said again "Get up" and THE GIRL DID. Zoe put her dolly down and smiled beatifically at me. I was speechless and once again told her there were NOT enough chairs for dolls and kids and she would have to hold the baby on her lap. This did not go over well but was quickly enforced by the adult in charge, which would be..... oh yeah ME.

Later, when one girl had a book Zoe wanted she whined/yelled "IIIII WANT THAT BOOK" and the girl just dropped it and walked away.

?!?!?!?!

I should clarify too that some of these girls are tough cookies. One was an unrepentant biter for months. Another was known for pushing kids down the ladder on the jungle gym. They are all verbal, smart girls not pushovers. How did my daughter get to be the bossy one here??

GG and I have been worried about this bossy streak for some time. She can be very bossy with us at home; often when we ask her to do something she'll say "YOU do it" or if she wants something that she's totally capable of getting for herself (say a book from her bedroom) she'll whine for me to do it for her. (It's a bit maddening how she wants to do anything dangerous or impossible to do at her size/ability "BY SELF" but anything else she wants us to do it for her.)

I think we've done a pretty good job of not giving in. We don't do things for her unless she really can't do them for herself or, in the case of borderline things like finding a lost toy, HAS TRIED. And if we need to help her we try to involve her in doing it with us and ask her questions to get HER to problem solve. We don't get up from suddenly preferred chairs, though we are often ordered to (yep, chairs are a recurrent problem). We don't do things for her unless it's a reasonable request and she has asked it nicely. We don't let her push Sweet Dog around though Zoe always seems to suddenly NEED to sit wherever Sweet Dog is on the bed/couch.

We aren't giving in.

But I guess some of the kids at school are.....

11/19/08

What I would Twitter if I twitted

Can't blog. Reading Twilight series. Might resurface. But only if Edward lets me.

11/15/08

Standing with us on the side of love

Dear Zoe,

I've always felt a little uncomfortable when I've seen babies and young children plastered with slogans and hoisted up at political rallies, the cutest of campaign propaganda. They are clearly not able to make a judgment on the issue at hand, they are brought there by their parents, cherubic faces forced to tag along, possibly even explicitly meant to pull at your heartstrings. I never wanted to "use" you that way.

But your Dad and I also strongly believe in standing up for what we believe in. So we didn't put you in a rainbow flag T-shirt or plaster you with buttons or stickers. But you came with us today to Pasadena's anti-Prop 8 rally at city hall. You saw your parents stand up with many others and chant "Yes we can!" (you really liked that). You fussed loudly through the moment of silence at 11 am. You ran hysterical, giggly circles around me with your little friend L.

L is a girl. If you grow up and want to marry a girl, we want to be there to kiss you, celebrate you, and greet our new daughter-in-law knowing you will have all the rights and privileges your father and I enjoy.

We had to go today because of you.

Because we love you and will support you in finding a partner to love.

Because we believe in civil rights for gay people and we are willing to fight for it (or at least give up a few hours on a Saturday to show our support).

Because the minister who married us, the one who officially made us a family, now can't get married in this state. How messed up is that?

Love,

your Clueless But Hopeful Mama



11/14/08

A few of my favorite things right now

Fresh gerber daisies going on week 2 of beauty!
Cuddling with MY little bear.
Pretending to sleep (while wearing 4 layers of clothing on her bottom.)

As it's 85 degrees outside today, I'm sure I will get to enjoy these newly planted pansies and impatiens for quite awhile. We may not have the glorious foliage and snowy mornings of my youth but So Cal rocks for its year round sunshine!


(Thanks everyone for your sweet, supportive comments to my last post. It sure does help to hear that I'm not alone in this!)

11/12/08

First Trimester Depression

Sometimes people find their way to this clueless but hopeful corner of the web through a Google search. (My latest favorites: "coverall underwear" and "can i eat cheese tortellini in first trimester"). This post's title is for you knocked up Googlers looking for someone else who is crying and cranky and miserable, even though you are pregnant with a much wanted baby.

Hi! Want a tissue?

Two weeks ago, after a few days of crying constantly for no real reason, I finally admitted to myself that this whole crappy feeling I've had for-freaking-ever 7 or so weeks could maybe just be called depression. And that maybe I needed to do something. Talking with CG, my mom, and my best friend and having them all say "Um YEAH. You haven't been yourself in weeks and weeks and WEEKS and I've been very worried about you." cleared things up as well.

So last week, I sucked it up and went to my primary care doc to get a referral to "mental health". Now, I've been in therapy before. Six years of it, to be exact. I fear not counseling, emotions, sharing feelings, delving deep into the dark, neurotic corners of my psyche. Some might even say I tend to overshare in this regard (shocking for a blogger, no?). Yet it was extremely hard for me to force the words from my mouth in the Doctor's office.

Busy HMO Doc (with thick Russian accent): "So, vhy are you here?"

Clueless But Hopeful Mama: "Um, I need a few referrals. I want a flu shot and I, uh, have this shoulder pain that just won't quit."

BHMOD: "You'll have to go to clinic for zee flu shot. Your shoulder...no need to see an orthopedist as they'll want x-ray and you're pregnant, see? What else?"

CBHM: "Uh.... I ... uh......"

*contemplate saying "Nothing! Everything else is fine! See ya!" then realize my eyes and throat and nose are already filling up with snot.

"For the last month or so, I've been a bit, uh...... sad." *big wailing sobs*

BHMOD: *patting my thigh* "You must be having boy, then, yes? Not to worry. I was so sick and cried every day with my son. It's normal but let's get you some counseling anyway."

She then went on to point out that on the back of my HMO card is the number for direct referral to mental health specialists. As in, I didn't need to do the whole sob-in-the-doctors-office-thing AT ALL.

Swell.

I wound up getting a referral from a friend for a therapist and saw her last week. One whole box of tissues and 50 minutes later, I was so glad I went. But even just making the appointment and acknowledging that I'm sad - Oh for Pete's sake, I can't even type the word "depressed"- helped bring me into an upswing. (That and the fact that I'm almost 15 weeks along now and DUE FOR AN UPSWING.) Admitting what I'm feeling has given me the energy to finally move towards feeling better. I started taking a prenatal yoga class. I have given up on cleaning and we now have house-cleaners (Who come. AND CLEAN. Our whole house. AT ONCE.). I've been working really hard to NOT feel guilty about leaving Zoe at daycare longer than I need to some work days so that I can rest.

Perhaps the hardest part of all of this is that I DO feel so guilty on top of the sadness. Guilt over the lame mother Z has at the moment. Guilt over how completely ABSENT I've been as a wife. Guilt over the damage I must be doing to my unborn child by "forgetting" to take the prenatal vitamins that made me gag and wish for death for hours afterward (I'm now back on them and tolerating them better), eating horribly unbalanced, unhealthy "meals" (BBQ potato chips and fig newtons having become a recent favorite) and basting his/her poor little developing brain in a steady stream of depression juices.

Guilt over how sad I've felt when really, REALLY, I am so insanely lucky in so many regards. People kept telling me about "the bright side", all the wonderful things I have going for me. This only makes me feel worse. I clearly have NO RIGHT to be so low when I have a supportive, loving partner, a healthy child, a fertile body, a new life forming inside me as I type, a comfortable home, a supportive family. I even had a middle of the road bout of morning sickness.

(Oh my, I'm really struggling with my tenses here. I want to write this all in the past tense. "Look at me! It was rough but phew! I'm all better now!" But I've been writing this post over several days and... it's still touch and go.)

That's right regular readers, even though you might have thought differently given all my whining, I haven't even actually vomited. And I have guilt about that. I mean, it's like the nausea and misery might as well have been all in my head. There are those who have truly, truly have suffered, like my poor friend M who puked several times a day, every day for months. And others whose blogs I can't seem to find now even though I read all about their hyperemesis gravidarum and felt so sorry for them and guilty that I was feeling so mentally lousy when I wasn't even puking. Just lying here, day after day, feeling sad and sick and sorry for myself.

I now have much more sympathy for people with chronic pain or illness. Weeks and weeks and endless weeks of nausea really took their toll on me. I couldn't think straight and was starting to lose the will to do anything. Nothing was bringing me joy. People would congratulate me on the pregnancy and I would have to work REALLY hard to not tell them : "Thanks. I'm not really excited but I guess I will be at some point."

(Oh wait, I'm pretty sure I actually said those exact words. Several times. To strangers even.)

I'm attacking this problem on several fronts; mostly I'm counting on gathering support, allowing myself to rest and, well, just TIME. Time to myself. Time to forgive myself for all of the above. Time to let the hormones do what they need to to nourish this little life along and then LEAVE MY STOMACH AND PSYCHE ALONE.

Oh! and I should just mention, speaking of "time", it's TIME TO PULL OUT THE MATERNITY PANTS.

Bump!

(Edited 6/7/11. I continue to be moved by the number of people who visit my site for this post alone. I know what a lonely experience it can be when you feel so miserable at a moment of such profound change. Please, if you're reading this post and recognize similar feelings in yourself, tell your doctor. Reach out and lean on people: friends, family, a therapist, or even me. Feel free to email me. I'm no expert, but I've been in a similar spot and I can tell you it will get better. Good luck.

PS. My doctor didn't know anything: this baby was NOT a boy. She was, IS, a beautiful girl. )

11/10/08

Family Ties

My mom was just here for a rescue mission visit while CG was out of town for a job interview. It was a lovely 5 days of hanging out, just us girls. She cooked for us, washed dishes, was walked by the dog and patiently played every one's least favorite game: "what are you trying to say?" with Zoe. (Seriously. The girl is total chatterbox but half of it is unintelligible. AND she has the nerve to throw a fit when we can't understand her garbled words. Sheesh.)

I'm sure I would have been fine, totally fine, without her but it was really, really nice to have some support. The kind of support that only (good) family really provides.

And I am, once again, SO envious of my friends out here who have family close by. Most of my mom friends grew up out here and have the benefits of grandparents a short drive away. They have babysitters when they need a date, support when they all get sick, weekend trips away without their kid(s). I know that they have issues from time to time with boundaries and I'm sure that, depending on your family, proximity can be a very mixed bag.

But I'm still so envious, all the same.

Miss you, Ma. Wish we lived closer.

11/7/08

The Big Cheese

Zoe's last illness (I won't go into too many details but let's just say it was a really rotten, protracted digestive affair) brought me face to face with a brutal reality: we live on nothing but cheese. I woke up to this fact when told that Zoe would have to stay away from all dairy for the two weeks (seriously) it has taken for this bug to run its course. This would not be a problem if she had no appetite like normal sick children or ate a reasonable variety of foods like the non-picky children who belong to other parents. I was very aware she loved cheese but I wasn't totally clear on how addicted we all had become.

For a long time, I thought I was taking the advice of "Child of Mine. Feeding Your Child With Love and Good Sense": don't serve separate, special meals to your children, feed them what you eat, serve a variety of healthy foods and don't bargain with them about what they have to eat before they can eat something else (ie. "no more bread until you eat a carrot"). This all made sense to me and I really, truly believed we were following it.

HAHAHAHA.

With this ever present nausea (Oh but it's waning! I'm almost too scared to say so but it's waning!), I was "cooking" the easiest, most happily received foods I could think of: mac and cheese, grilled cheese, pasta with cheese, scrambled eggs with melted cheese, cheese and bean quesadillas, frozen lasagna, frozen empanadas, frozen gnocci with cheese, etc. etc. MELTED CHEESE ETC. They appealed to me too and I just didn't have the energy to watch her pout and whine for "diff'rent food, Mommmm-my".

Instead of her eating what we eat (what used to be some steamed spinach and brown rice and salmon or at least some grilled chicken and potatoes), we had come to eat only what she would eat.

I was shocked when she got sick and realized that she (or anyone else in this house except the dog) hadn't had a meal other than breakfast without cheese as a main component in many many months. There was literally NOTHING else in my fridge. Cheese tortellini, tortillas (What can you put on tortillas besides cheese?), yogurt, milk, cheese in every form you can imagine. The first day she was well enough to really eat yet still very sick and unable to eat dairy, I put a rice cake, some hummus, a couple of carrot sticks and a few pretzels on her lunch plate. She looked at me like I had just lost my mind. What was this and where was the CHEESE?

We are making a slow climb back to her normal diet but it was a big wake up call for me. Once I get back to actually cooking, I need to find some new toddler friendly foods that we can all enjoy without relying so heavily on the Big Cheese.

Any ideas??

11/5/08

Clinging to hope

I know I want to chose hope over fear. As a mother, as a person. But these last few weeks I have been so fearful. As a liberal Democrat, one whose passions are often teary and uncontainable, I have lived with bated breath. Too scared to be hopeful, having been sure, SO SURE, before, only to be let down. I wanted to believe that we could really do it this time.

And now we have. With Obama. (OH MY GOD!!! YAY!!!!!)

I am so proud that one day I can tell Zoe about waiting in line for an hour to vote for this inspiring man, our first African American president.

I will also tell her how I knew he would win California handily. That the most important things I voted on weren't even his presidency (though I HAD to vote for him anyway) but the ability of young women to obtain an abortion without HAVING to submit to the scrutiny of their (possibly abusive) parents or the courts (state proposition 4) and the ability of women to marry women and men to marry men (proposition 8). Those are the votes that are close. Those are the votes that I really, really, REALLY had to make.

And the results are not looking good for my gay friends (or young women). I am so torn this morning between joy for Obama and our country and our standing in the world and such sickening sadness that there are so many people who are threatened by people who want nothing more than to commit to love and support one another. How this is a threat to an institution that has evolved many, many times over the years and NEEDS TO EVOLVE AGAIN, is beyond me. Surely they don't believe gay people will stop having children together, stop adopting, stop living together as loving partners. So how they could deny them the right to codify that. TO STRENGTHEN THAT FAMILY, FOR THE FREAKING CHILDREN, is totally beyond me.

Okay, this is why I shouldn't write about politics. Because I become a flaming liberal, caps lock addict, with zero control over my emotions.

Fingers are crossed for my local propositions and for Obama to continue to show his superior intelligence and calm demeanor in his ruling of our country.

I will cling to hope.

11/1/08

The obligatory Halloween pics


Zoe checks out our jack-o-lantern.

This is the best picture we managed to get of Zoe in her rather unfortunate cowgirl-on-a-pony costume. We did have a great little cowgirl hat for her but she wore it for exactly one minute.
At least she managed to walk, without tripping over the front end of her pony, to three of our neighbors houses to trick or treat for the first time.

I love that she is at the age where she's starting to really understand the essence of each holiday. This one, clearly, is about "they gave me CANDY!".

As for me, I went as my pale, nauseated, ghoulish self. (Who needs a mask when you have a malleable face?)

Happy Day After Eating Waaaayyy Too Much Halloween Candy! (Except for me, of course. Because chocolate is still EEWWW and that makes me so, so sad. Do you think they make Reese's peanut butter cups smell THROUGH the wrapper on purpose??)

10/30/08

I gotta work on my multitasking before kiddo #2

3:48 pm. Fold laundry while reading an open magazine on the couch and listening to Zoe begin to wake up.
3:52 pm. Jump over toys strewn on floor while simultaneously placing water glass down on table after hearing "Mommy! I need to poop!" over the monitor.
4:08 pm. Spend yet another eternity wrestling over the potty sticker chart (Why oh why did we think this was a good idea? Stickers can entertain this child for HOURS. ON THE POTTY.) while doing Kegels to keep myself busy as well as keep my own pathetic bladder patient, and PLEASE GOD obedient, while waiting for my turn on the potty.
4:31 pm. Place Zoe on the counter and keep one hand on her while we add eggs, water and oil to the mix (Trader Joe's pumpkin bread/muffin mix. YUM.) and allow her to "stir". Place muffins in oven while managing the toddler's escalating tantrum on the floor about wanting to "break eggs BY SELF".
4:52 pm. DRAG Sweet Dog outside to lead her to a brutal slaughter give her an oatmeal bath. Lasso Sweet Dog with leash while convincing Zoe that she will not have to get wet and CANNOT eat the soap just because it's "oatmeal". Completely forget about setting a timer for the muffins.
4:58 pm. Remember I was supposed to set a timer for the muffins but I am now up to my elbows in wet dog hair and oatmeal shampoo. Glance at my watch and vow to check on them in 5 minutes. Talk a whiny, crying Zoe through drying her legs with a nearby towel because Sweet Dog has already shaken on her.
5:07 pm. Was that 5 minutes?
5:08 pm. Muffins are done! Explain several times why we cannot immediately eat one just yet even though we "WANT ONE RIGHT NOW". When logic fails to convince her, cut one open to show the steam rising and allow it to cool off sooner. Quickly find out that it's now RUINED because she "wanted it WHOLE". (All while listening guiltily to the soaking, oatmeal-y Sweet Dog whine pathetically from the backyard where she is shivering to death, though it's 9o degrees).
5:16 pm. Sweet Dog has been rinsed. Towel off Sweet Dog with one hand while stuffing half a pumpkin muffin in my mouth. Realize that hands are still covered with wet dog hair. *SIGH*

10/27/08

Lying low


Zoe has been sick, so sick, since Friday and once again I am shaken by how sickness takes us totally out of orbit. It's no news that I've been feeling low physically and emotionally with this pregnancy and I'm beginning to realize how much and for how long I've been out of orbit myself. All week I was looking forward to a much needed date night with CG and fun Halloween plans to help lift me out of my funk. All were canceled, of course.

It is my new strategy to be as good as possible to both of us as much as possible. Sometimes our needs are at odds. Sometimes we are in sync. This weekend we both mostly wanted to sit. Read books, many many books. Have extended doll play (her). Read New Yorkers (me). Cuddle, NO EYE POKING!, with Sweet Dog (both of us).

Dressed however we wanted. (I'll spare you the pics of me in my perma-bathrobe.)

And though neither of us is totally better, I am so grateful for so many things.

And I know we will both be better soon.

10/23/08

Book Report: The Plug-In Drug.

I think this might be a good time to revisit our decision to keep Zoe TV-free as we are finding ourselves suddenly warming to the idea. (Funny how a crappy first trimester can do that!)

First a little history: we have wrestled with whether to allow Zoe to watch TV since she was about 4 months old. At that time, I noticed that whenever I was nursing her in front of the TV, she would unlatch (causing geysers of milk to drown nearby cities) and stare glassy-eyed at the TV until I did something to block her view. So we decided to keep the TV off when she was awake, though I still watched during many naps and in the evenings. I quickly figured out that some of my less-than-complete bliss at being a stay-at-home mom was related to the way I felt after spending too many hours prostrate before the tube watching "Jon and Kate Plus 8"/"Rock of Love"/"Made"/"What Not to Wear" and whatever the hell came on after because OH GOD I CANNOT SEEM TO TURN IT OFF. When Zoe was an infant, TV kept me company, made me a feel a little less alone and gave structure to my strangely formless days.

It also made me feel pretty crappy. So after initially focusing on keeping the TV off when Zoe was awake, I started to seriously limit my TV intake in general. CG too. If there is something specific we like ("The Office", "The Daily Show", "Entourage", "Weeds"), we TiVo it and if the time comes that we really want to watch it, we can, without commercials, on our own time. Today, this means that we don't watch that much TV, usually an hour or so a couple times a week. Which is quite lovely. (Though lately, with this ever present nausea, I've been watching way too much again. So I'm hereby resolving to go back to the No TV During The Day rule. Her naps can be my naps and I trust I will manage to survive without seeing my 1,000th "A Baby Story".

We don't plan on keeping TV from Zoe forever; after all, we await the blessed time when she can wake up early on a Saturday, take herself into the living room and watch cartoons while CG and I sleep in. But we decided to go with the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation and wait till she was at least two and then decide.

She is now two and a half. Now what?

Last spring, after I noticed a tattered billion-year-old copy of "The Plug-In Drug" by Marie Winn at my parenting education class, I went home and ordered myself a copy of the "updated" book. (Updated to include references to VCRs but not DVDs. Winn mentions with TERROR one "new" minivan that now comes with a built-in VCR. OOOOOoooo. Me thinks it's time for her to update again.)

The book is straightforward and decently written. No poetry here, just get-the-point-across prose. (Hmm perhaps that should be my new blog tagline...) However, Winn clearly has an agenda (can you guess what it is from the title?!) and relies on waayyyy too many anecdotes to support her arguments. (I know anecdotes are supposed to be helpful, so many parenting books include them, and honestly, they mostly annoy the F out of me. I prefer statistics and an N of 1 does NOTHING for me, people.)

And just what are her arguments, you ask? (Her points are summarized in bold, my comments follow.)

1.The real issue with TV is not the content (many parents counter any argument against TV with "But it's educational! He's learning Spanish/spelling/math!"). The problem is that time spent watching TV is time NOT spent doing something open-ended, using your child's imagination. TV captures the imagination, it does not stimulate it. This is especially problematic in young childhood as their developing mind should be busy making sense of the world and exploring, at their own pace, based on their own interest. TV is a passive experience that replaces play in which the child is the active leader. Young children so often have things done TO them and rarely get the chance to lead their own lives. Only open ended play does that. TV does not.

I find this argument persuasive. Zoe often plays independently, in her own world, talking to herself and her dollies and her shoes (! Should I be worried about that one?). I wouldn't want to disrupt, limit or impinge on her having that open-ended time. I hear the educational argument all the time from parents who don't understand why we don't show Zoe TV and I'm not terribly persuaded by it because, as Winn points out, EARLY childhood is not about acquiring rote skills through prescription (there's enough time for that later in school) but about acquiring social skills, independent play skills and imagination, all of which can be limited or hampered by TV watching.

2. The slippery slope issue: TV habits often start small (a half hour here, a half hour there), but as the child gets older TV replaces more and more of the open ended exploring that is the cornerstone of childhood development. It becomes more and more of a draw and harder and harder to limit. A daily battle over how much TV is allowed is common in many households.

(I just saved you by not including the 8,000 anecdotes she uses to illustrate this point.) I know myself and TV and fear my own slippery slope tendencies with it. And we still see Zoe completely zone out whenever she does see TV (at restaurants or friends' houses) so it's easy to imagine that it would be a big draw for her. I fear I would resort to it more and more and more. Once that gate is open, I know it would be hard to keep limits.

We are wrestling with this even more, just in the last few days, because somehow we got into the habit of watching some short videos of dance recitals on YouTube. I'm not sure how it started but now Zoe is a bit obsessed and insists on seeing the "Mary had a little lamb dancers!" ALL DAY LONG. We've got to put a stop to it, if only to keep my brain from rotting. I feel like it's just semantics at this point that we're keeping "TV" from her when she's watching videos on the computer. They are short and I'm right there with her but still, it's screen time all the same.

3. It allows us as parents to get a little lazy when faced with a task we need to do and a toddler who wants our attention. It becomes too easy to plunk your child down in front of the TV while you are cooking dinner rather than finding ways to include them in the process or find a parallel play activity that they can do while you work. It may be an easy short term solution that becomes an entrenched habit.

I was first really REALLY was tempted to use TV when Zoe started being clingy RIGHT at dinner-making time. For a month or two, it was IMPOSSIBLE to cook anything without her screaming, whining body attached to my leg/hip/neck. Soon enough, I figured out things that she could do while I cooked and now she mostly plays independently in the kitchen with me while I cook or I involve her in cooking (okay, right NOW, I'm not really "cooking" at all but the warming up of Trader Joe's food and the doing of dishes from the three previous meals so that we have a clear table and some dishes to eat with still has to get done somehow!). I fear that if I had used TV then, I would never have tried to get her back into the kitchen with me. Dinner making time would just be TV time and that would be the end of it.

4. It doesn't allow for the imagination that comes with "boredom". Finding something to do when you are in unstructured time is a skill. As the TV generation ages we find many adults who are unable to do this. These are the people who automatically turn on the TV on vacation, the ones who have it on all weekend long without really watching anything, the ones who spent the whole evening after work endlessly channel surfing to see if "somethings on". Boredom for kids inspires creativity. Those who learn how to deal with boredom and entertain themselves will not be as likely to yell "Mom! I'm booooreeeddd!"when they're older as they will not be counting on external stimulation all the time.

I have friends and family who must always have the TV on and I honestly find it a strange and sad thing. What about silence? What about a little space to hear the voice of your own thoughts? What happens if a child is not given the opportunity to live and play without external stimulation all the time? What if even a little of that external stimulation becomes so treasured that it surpasses all other play in value to the child?

5. Children are different from adults. Adults can use TV to unwind from stressful days, to relax while being effortlessly entertained. Children benefit from other ways of unwinding. TV time, instead of relaxing children, often leaves them crankier than before, which, she argues, is most likely a result of the different kind of consciousness that occurs in young children watching TV. It is akin to post-sleep crankiness where the brain is challenged to come back to wakeful, purposeful alertness.

She goes on to describe TV as addictive (hence the title of the book) for parents and for children. She describes the way parents use TV, as a way to entertain kids when they are sick, to calm them when they are upset, to help them transition to new activities, as akin to drugging them. This is over the top, but I get her point.

The whole idea that TV affects the brain and "consciousness" is interesting and scary but, unfortunately, she uses very little fact and lots of stories about kids "zoning out". She asserts that the visual images presented in such a flattened visual field is really a "sensory assault" to young brains, one that "activates an immediate passive response in many young viewers". She goes on to link the constant shifting of visual frames in most TV programs to ADHD but uses only anecdotal stories and quotes from doctors with no mention of specific research. ARG. Give me STATS!



So, if you're still reading, what do you all do about TV? What do you make of her arguments (or, at least, of my poorly summarized versions of her arguments)?

PS. I should just mention here that I was raised on TV from a young age and can tell you all about every single game show, soap opera, and laugh-track sitcom from the 80's. And I have no brain damage (that I can link to TV, anyway). I'm STILL interested in whether TV is a good, necessary, desirable thing to show to my kid(s!).

10/17/08

The ultimate craving is finally satisfied

Don't even think about it, Sweet Dog.

There's a McDonald's a few blocks from my house. (Apparently, that's how you know you live in a "transitional area"! Well, that and the closest business establishment to our home is actually a liquor store.) When this undeniable craving struck, I only had to jump in my car and drive 5 minutes. I pulled into the parking lot and saw two windows for the drive through. I figured one must be the order window and the other a pick up window, so I drove to the first window and the teenager there said "That'll be $6.73, please". I stammered and finally told her I hadn't ordered yet. She looked at me like I was .... a person with special needs... and told me this was the PAY window and I needed to get out of line, drive around the corner to the order-speaker-intercom thingy and start over. OOps.

I did ask her if she could possibly spare a bucket of BBQ sauce while I was waiting (two minutes? TOO LONG!).

Notice: I got the Chicken Selects, with pieces of actual inhumanely factory farmed chicken! as opposed to the amalgamated chicken-ish Chicken McNuggets! I'm practically Mother of the Year! Don't you think that'll make the difference between Harvard and prison for my unborn child?

10/16/08

Lima bean blues, or I think I'll leave this one out of the virtual baby book

So I guess I should just admit that this 11 week old pregnancy has sucked donkey balls. There. I said it. I haven't been enjoying myself on any level and I even think every once in a while that maybe this whole thing was just a big mistake. Looking back, it feels like we were coasting along with a polite, charming, almost potty trained two year old, my body was back to something approximating normal, my clothing was somewhat cool and well fitting, my dinners were often home cooked and organic, my relationship with my husband included things like DATES! and, sorry relatives, S E X! and CONVERSATIONS! And not necessarily in that order! I often feel like we were in the home stretch, everything was getting easier and more manageable and then we had to go and eff it all up. We are just past that lovely cresting moment at the top of the hill (with the expansive views and placid family life), now we're adding speed and plunging back down into the land of poochy-stomachs, ill-fitting-knitwear, no makeup wearing (except for gobs of cover up), sleepless nights, harried days, exhaustion, DOWNWARD SPIRAL ABYSS.

(Yes, I know this is clearly the effect of the hormones and the nausea and the dog who sleeps on top of me with breath that smells like she's been assiduously licking her own ass [because SHE HAS] and the whining, poop-withholding, non-napping toddler. No need to call me a shrink.) (But perhaps you could send me a housecleaner/chef/dogwalker/babysitter?) (and also an editor to reign in my use of parentheses?)

I'm beginning to think that I just don't deal well, mentally speaking, with pregnancy. (You: "YA THINK?") Last time I was pregnant, I was a pretty miserable stress case and I just chalked it up to the general level of stress in our lives at the time (multiplied by Googling "stress and pregnancy" one night. Woo Hoo! That was a fun time!). Like this time, I got pregnant a little too easily with Zoe. A few months before we were really, really ready. Before the time was "right". (Does anyone ever feel ready? Is the time ever right? All I know is that with Zoe we didn't and it wasn't.) It was an unusually stressful time in our lives. We were moving, bought a new house, got a puppy, I started a new job, and CG was finishing his dissertation under extreme time constraints while concurrently starting a new position as a post doctoral researcher. In short, it was hellish. This was not how I wanted to be pregnant. I expected pregnancy to be a time of glowing expectation, lots of loving foot rubs, time to relax and plan and nest. Instead, when I was pregnant with Zoe, I lived in chaos, surrounded by boxes, an unhousetrained, chewy, spazzy puppy, a stressed out husband and on top of it all, I was alone and lonely in a new town where I knew no one. I promised myself that we would carefully choose the next time we got pregnant to make sure I got that easy, fun, glorious pregnancy experience that I assumed was available to those who chose a decent time to get knocked up.

As it happens, this is actually a reasonable time in my life to be pregnant but it sure feels stressful just the same. We are well established in our home and community, we are not changing jobs right now, our dog knows to pee in the back left corner of our yard. But CG is -ssshhhh- sort of on the job market; his funding runs out in August next year and he has to figure out what he wants to do pretty soon. Hence the traveling he's been doing and will continue to do (Lord help me). He's super busy finishing up his research at his full time job while resume writing, job hunting, and connection schmoozing on the side. Our house has dropped in value so much that we don't talk about what will happen when we move. We are just praying the market changes for the better before that happens. We are luckier than most young families financially but it sure gives me pause when I can't turn on NPR or open the paper or turn on the TV without hearing about the "global financial crisis". I don't know about you but expecting a new baby in the middle of a neverending sh!tstorm of a war (excuse me, TWO wars) as well as our brand spanking new "global financial crisis" isn't exactly compatible with predicting a glorious future for my unborn child. Or, you know, looking for a great new JOB for CG and home for us.

But all this war/election/global financial maelstrom aside, this is really all about Zoe. I'm smacked in the face EVERY day with how Zoe suffers at the expense of my having another little life to attend to, even if that little life is still an internal lima bean who asks only that I lie prostrate for hours a day and eat full fat cottage cheese, pretzels and chicken nuggets. I hate that she's getting short changed, getting less than she deserves. I had vaguely thought it would be good for her to not have all my attention but now I realize that's like saying "I'm going to ignore all but your basic needs. It will build your character! Buck up!". I already feel a loss in my relationship with her. I miss having energy and running around with her. I miss feeling like she was the center of the universe. Mostly though, I miss her napping.

(Okay, it's only been two days and the girl still CLEARLY needs her nap. It's a defiance thing. It's a testing boundaries thing. Perhaps, it's a "let's make mom crazier and MORE TIRED" thing. It better be a "HA HA, just kidding, back to normal thing!" very soon.)

Just to be clear, I was, I AM, grateful to have been able to get pregnant so easily after years of fearing it would be difficult (News Report: My poor gynecological history aside, I'm apparently quite FERTILE. And yes, I wish I could bottle that fertility up and give it away. It's beyond unfair that so many who want desparately to be parents cannot get there easily and unassisted. I do realize how lucky I am.)

Things that are helping: (Yay! Bullet points!)
*CG is home! And sweet and supportive!
*My mom is coming to help out during CG's next trip! Yay!
*I just reread "Waiting for Birdy" by Catherine Newman. It reminded me that I am not alone in feeling that the first trimester, especially in a second pregnancy with a needy first child at your feet, can really suck. But it also reminded me that, one day, I may be lucky enough to be holding a healthy happy new baby, one that I will love with the same heart-exploding fervor that I love Zoe. I knew this intellectually but "Waiting for Birdy" brought it home to me emotionally.
*I'm at 11 weeks now, almost 12. Getting closer and closer to, hopefully, feeling better.

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