1/29/10

How I'm making friends for us both. Or not.

Dear parents of A:

(I was about to address this to "A's Mom" but how lame is that assumption? I mean, it's totally possible that A is being raised by two daddies, or a stay at home dad or a single dad or a grandparent or something. I mean, it's not like I'm TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY LIVING FOR the possibility that A has a mother at home who might possibly want to be MY FRIEND. Hahahahaha ha ..... ha.)

You don't know me (and aren't you so glad because I'm clearly crazy) but our daughters are friends at school (or at least your daughter calls mine "Cheesey" which seems like the cutest nickname! Like they're real, true friends! Or like yours is picking on mine and mine is completely oblivious- I don't know WHERE she could have gotten that trait!- and your daughter probably comes home to you every day and tells you what a loser Z is and how she's sure her mother is EVEN WORSE, in which case NEVER MIND this whole note I didn't mean it!)

I was wondering if you might like to bring her over for a playdate sometime soon? (AND BE MY FRIEND OMG I NEED A FRIEND.)

Sincerely,

Z's Clueless But Hopeful Mama

1/25/10

Charge/charging/charged

On long rainy afternoons, we play down in the basement. Z dumps her tiny choke-able Legos onto the carpet and I create a barricade with pillows and my body, leaving E on the other side with the bigger, safer toys. E ignores the toys strewn all around her and makes an attempt on my stronghold. Grabbing my pants with her pinch-y hands and her drool-y mouth, she pulls herself up onto her knees, peering over my legs to see the prizes on the other side. Grunting, struggling, inching, she is determined. I try to focus her on the excitement of the crinkly birdies! and plastic rattle phones! and felted wool balls! and she wants none of it.

When I adjust, just a little, she makes her move, catapulting herself over the top of my thighs headfirst into the bin of tiny Legos.

And I hear in my head: "Charge!"

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There is this spot on the back of her head, where all the hairs stand up, as if charged by electricity. The baby-fine, light brown hairs, with uneven never-cut edges that have touched my insides, only lie down when wet. Sometimes, when she's nursing, I stroke that spot, those hairs, and watch them spring back up over and over again. She doesn't mind this. I wonder how long she won't mind this.

Sometimes, after her bath, I smooth her wet hair. Ragged wispy bangs get swept to the side, tall hairs in back get pressed down.


They will not stay pressed down.

As her hair dries, it rises slowly. One hair at first, then a few more. Finally they all stand at attention, driven by some hidden energy source below.

It is quite an energy source.

Hey E, Kate Gosselin called. She wants her old hairdo back.

Just like Jaws, with bonus drool

First of all, YAY for goodies! The randomly chosen winner is: FRAN! Well, now, isn't that nice!? If you all don't know, she could use a few goodies right about now. Fran, I'll be contacting you for your address (to stalk you, of course).

And there are more goodies to be had! Check out Michelle and Hillary's goody giveaway (two chances to win!).

Secondly, I have a nasty, messy, miserable cold, complete with pounding sinus headache. Suffice it to say that I'm not sure when the goody package will get out but it will be a while. I don't exactly want to send a bubonic plague package, especially after all that Fran's been through.

And lastly, I cannot get a certain iconic movie theme music out of my head. And this is why:

video

PS. Notice Mt. Saint Laundry in the background? (Step back! She's going to blow!) If that made you feel just a teensy bit better about the state of your laundry pile, then my work here is done.

1/22/10

Goodies

Few things can top a long visit with Gramma.




Except maybe two (2!) packages of homemade goodies IN ONE WEEK! Christmas in January!

From Whimsy!! An ipod cozy for me and cuteness for the girls!



And then, from my dear friend KG: handmade necklaces and knitted critters.

I think we all need a little infusion of goodies in January, don't we? It's important to give them to ourselves whenever possible (oh bar dark chocolate mint, I'M LOOKING AT YOU) but there is something so life-giving about receiving from others. ALLOWING yourself to receive beautiful goodies. What a blessing.

And now that I have been deported back to Cali-FREAKY-fornia for using the word "blessing", I would like to pay it forward.

Tell me, what are your favorite goodies? I will pick a random winner from the comments and send you a goody package that may or may not include homemade cookies, will not include handmade presents as my skill level in that area is SLIM TO NIL, but most definitely will include a little bit of sunshine in this dark time of year. (Comments will close Sunday at midnight. Package will hopefully be mailed sometime this year. Not to be combined with any other offers. Void where prohibited.)

Happy weekend!

1/19/10

Blog post SOS

Apparently, there was something in one of my previous posts that sounded like a cry for help.

Because several people called me right after reading it to check on me.

One of them was my mom, who greeted me by saying "I'm coming to visit you. Make some appointments for yourself."

And now the cavalry has come.



Over the next few days, I will get to see a few professionals about various body parts and maybe even get to the gym a time or two.

Here's to self care!

1/17/10

Conversations with Z: the race edition

Z: No school tomorrow!
CBHM: That's right. Do you remember why it's a holiday?
Z: Yeah, the man who gave the big speech, it's his birthday, right?
CBHM: That's right, it's the day we celebrate all he did for our country.
Z: Does he live in a castle?
CBHM: Who?
Z: Martin Luther's king.
CBHM: No, sweetheart, he wasn't a king, "King" was his last name. Martin Luther KING. It's Martin Luther King's birthday that we are celebrating tomorrow.
Z: Oh. Do we get birthday cake?
CBHM: No.
Z: Presents?
CBHM: No.
Z: Candy?
CBHM: No.
Z: What kind of holiday is it?

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

I have no idea how to talk to my kid about race. So I haven't really. I figured I would shelter her from difficult topics like this until they came up on their own. I thought that was the best way to handle it.

But then last fall, I read this article in Newsweek, which is actually an except from the book "Nurtureshock" by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. In the article, the authors make the case for talking openly with your children about race. They present us with studies showing babies as young as six months notice differences in skin color. Children as young as three start to categorize people based on skin color. Children as young as six already have ingrained assumptions about people based on the color of their skin, even, or possibly especially, when their parents haven't talked to them at all about race.

The authors label the usual, vague "every one's equal" pronouncements as ineffective. So what's a liberal, white, clueless but hopeful mama to do?

How DO you talk to your kids about race?

How do YOU talk to your kids about race?

1/16/10

Life in a bubble

My newspapers sit, mostly unread, in a heap on the kitchen table or a chair or the floor.

After years of listening all day, every day, I don't listen to NPR any more, as Z now hears and understands so much, and there is so much I wish to shield her from.

I only turn on the TV to watch something specific on the DVR and I haven't watched the local or national news in years.

I get most of my news from two-day-old Daily Shows.

I live in a bubble.

When the earthquake in Haiti happened, I found out about it on Facebook. Why are all these people suddenly updating about praying for the people of Haiti?

I still haven't seen many images or heard many stories and I'm okay with that. My brain is like a three year old's: images haunt my dreams for days afterward, stories that happen to someone else far away often feel like they are happening to me, right here, right now.

Z isn't the only one whose brain is in need of protection.

But what little I have heard and what little I have seen about the devastation in Haiti is horrific. Moving. Desperate.

I didn't mean to cheapen or belittle the situation by linking it to Delurking Day. And I was so excited to read about your favorite charities, though I was often moved to tears by some of the stories on the charities' websites. There are so many groups doing such great work.

Specific numbers be damned, I am donating $100 to the Red Cross for their relief efforts.

I am also donating $100 to the charity that the most people listed in my comments yesterday: Doctors Without Borders. I couldn't have picked a single 'favorite', not after reading about the important work they do at St. Jude's or looking at the pictures on Smile Train's website or thinking about women suffering from fistulas in Ghana.

I am still happy to be in a bubble and I am committed to staying in it for my own sanity. I realize how very lucky I am to be able to live such a protected and gentle life. I just wish there was more I could do for those who aren't so fortunate.

1/14/10

Delurk, for a good cause!

It's National Delurking Day! Woohoo!

I ask whoever comes to visit my blog today, whether you usually comment or just lurk in the background wondering when I will ever learn to use a hairdryer (answer: NEVER!), to say hello in the comments and tell me about your favorite charity, perhaps one I don't know well (bonus points if you give me the URL).

In return, I pledge to donate $1 for every comment received by midnight Friday January 15th to the Red Cross effort to support the Haitian people. And I pledge to donate another $1 for every comment to one of the cool charities that you fine, fine people tell me about (I get to pick! FUN!).

I'll start:

Hi!

One of my favorite charities is Raising a Reader. http://www.raisingareader.org/. They encourage parents to read daily to their children and provide bookbags with a rotating bunch of books for the kids to take home. They call it "book cuddling" which is SO APT. I wish I could cuddle with a book RIGHT NOW.

Your turn!

New shoes, part two.

When I was three, I started begging my mom to take me to ballet class. Who knows why I fixated on it but I remember wanting it so badly.

On my first day, I refused to participate and hid behind my mom the entire time, sucking my thumb. The teacher, a gorgeous buxom Italian lady, came over to me at the end of the class and made me promise I would come back the following week and dance. Being shy and terrified and ever so slightly thrilled, I never thought about being able to go back on my promise.

The following week, I came back and danced. And I didn't stop until I was 30.

Zoe hasn't been asking for dance classes. Mostly she asks about taking another "horsey class", which we will, come spring. But we needed something this winter.

So on Tuesday we went to Target and I let her pick out a leotard and tights, though I tried in vain to steer her away from the fuschia one with rhinestones, finally just weakly warning her I didn't know what the teacher's rules were about what you could wear and we might have to come back to get a plain one. Next we bought some real ballet shoes from the dance store where she marvelled at the big girls trying on pointe shoes and gently stroked the fluffy tulle tutus.

The whole time we were shopping, I greeted her enthusiasm with a wary smile and repeated in my head: she is not you, she will have her own experience, she is NOT YOU, she is her own person, let her have her own experience.


She loved her first class yesterday. There was no hiding behind me, no thumb sucking. There were no rules about what you could or couldn't wear. As the girls filed into the room, I swallowed my shyness and took Z's hand to introduce her to the teacher, thinking I would have to help her integrate into the class since the moms are supposed to wait outside and we missed the first class last week.

After saying hi to the teacher, a bleached blond with a warm smile, Z let go of my hand and ran to sit down with the other girls, ready for dance class.

She is her own person, she will have her own experience.

I sat outside and jockeyed for position with the other moms, all of us pretending to be nonchalant but each of us actually desperate to catch glimpses of our girls through the little sliver of a window. A few of the moms were friendly and I was able to chat like a somewhat normal person. Having E there strapped to my chest, like a drooly, wiggly, protective chest plate of armor, helped.

All the way home, Z was smiling. "I love my new dance class, Mommy. When can we go there again?"

She is not you.

"Next week, sweetheart."

"NoooOOOO. I wanna go again TOMORROW, next week is too far away.........Can I take dance class forever and ever?"

She will have her own experience. She is not you.

"You can dance for as long as you like."

1/12/10

New shoes.

Sunday, 8:51 am.

Z and I arrive at the pool early, as the early morning lane swimmers are doing their last laps. Her hand-me-down suit is gaping at the legs and I'm tugging at my own suit, hoping last night's hot date with my Mach-3 Turbo did its job.

We spend 20 minutes in the pool by ourselves, kicking and noodling and motorboat-motorboat-step-on-the-gas-ing. Finally, some older kids and parents arrive but with Z not able to swim on her own, she's reduced to watching the other kids from afar.

As the classes start, the ones that Z doesn't want to take because she doesn't like to get her hair, face, eyes or ears wet (OMG ARMAGEDDON IF THE EARS GET WET), we pack up our things. We towel off in the locker room, both of us eyeing the other moms and kids as they get into their suits for class.

"I want to make a friend," Z announces loudly.

I blush self-consciously but force myself to smile, to support her. "Okay. Do you want to introduce yourself to someone?"

She nods and turns to a little girl close by, "Hi. I'm Z."

The other girl is not yet two, a little young for full conversation. Her mother answers Z's questions and Z seems satisfied as she grabs my hand for the freezing walk to the car.

On the way home, I am mentally checking off items in my head (Alone time with Z. CHECK. Preschooler energy release. CHECK.) when I hear her voice, soft but triumphant from the back seat. "I made a friend."

(Oh, right. Friends.)

----------------
Monday, 9:30 am.

After Z goes to school, I sit motionless at the computer, facing yet another cold week ensconced in the house. I think about the playgroups we've gone to that haven't worked out for one reason or another, the ones for Z that meet at E's naptime, the ones for E that meet at Z's preschool pick-up time, the ones where the moms all cluck about how expensive it is to dress their girls in frilly dresses and their husbands get mad at them and they just yell WELL HOW ABOUT YOU TAKE SOME MONEY OUT OF YOUR PRECIOUS FOOTBALL BEER BUDGET, HUH? and everyone laughs and clucks except me.

I begin searching the web for classes for Z, anything that will get her moving and get us out of the house, meeting new people.

Music and movement? Full. Preschool gymnastics? Meets at E's naptime. Splash and play? Meets during Z's preschool and may include, one can only guess, SPLASHING.

Pre-ballet? Good time. One space left. Let's not think too much about ballet, baaLLLLLEEETTTTT with all its baggage. It's just a way to meet other moms and girls and get Z moving in these cold months without a playground.

Let's just try it.

------------------
Tuesday, 4:12 pm.

"Can I try on my new shoes now, Mommy? Can I? Can I? Will you teach me to dance, Mommy? Will you teach me ballet?"


1/9/10

Doomed Personal Initiative 2010

It's a freeing thing, this skipping out of New Year's resolutions.

The word "resolution" always sounds so serious and onerous. Also: DOOMED.

I don't need MORE things I'm supposed to do, more things on a list to look at and think: Riiiiigggghhhhtttttt, there's THAT I could do or there's ......Jersey Shore on the DVR.

(Oh yes. There is.)

"Resolutions" are for other people.

For me, it's more like: "Yearly Attempts at The Same Impossible Things" or "Annual Doomed Personal Initiatives".

I really love hearing what other people resolve to do. Really. I beam and cluck when reading about people's new, complicated eating plans or training for triathlons or enrolling in scary academic courses.

And then I contemplate taking a nap.

Whoever came up with the insane idea of attempting to do new, difficult personal improvement projects in January? It's dark. It's cold. It's time to make like a bear and HIBERNATE. It's time to sip hot tea and read books and lose brain cells watching reality TV.

But then there's Erin's Quiet Project, where she chose "Quiet" as a word to focus on last year. As Doomed Personal Initiatives go, this one, with its simplicity and lack of measurable outcomes, seems like a good fit for me. I thought long and hard about just stealing her last year's word for my own focus this year, because I sure could use a good hit from the Quiet Stick.

But the more I thought about it, the more another word kept popping up.

SLOW.

For all the above blathering about wanting to sip tea and stay still, I am rarely still. I am rarely slow or measured or calm. I am often doing many things at once, most of them poorly. I've always walked fast, leaving annoyed friends behind or forcing them to run to keep up. I cook fast, leaving tornado-like flotsam around the kitchen that is terrifying to see, exhausting to clean up. I've always inhaled my food with barely a chew, a habit that has not been improved by the chaotic mealtimes of motherhood.

The act of slowing down is often painful to me, as if it runs counter to every part of my being. The slowest dance piece I ever performed nearly made me crazy with it's monotony and lack of momentum. Meditation is torturous. The Sisyphean act of helping my daughter put on the necessary layers for outdoor excursions drives me completely batty.

But, clearly, I crave slowness, stillness, calm. I find the rare moments I can slow myself down to be the most present and pleasant parts of my day.

Slow is about lower expectations for what I can accomplish in a day. Slow is about giving us all more time to do just about everything. Slow is about being present and receptive to what is. Slow is about less.

So: SLOW.

Here I go.

1/8/10

Conversations with Z: the gender edition

"Mommy, is that a boy or a girl?" Z asks me peering over the edge of the Target conveyor belt to size up the check out clerk.

I blanch and peek at the clerk's blank face before kneeling down beside Z to whisper, "Let's talk about that when we get to the car, okay?"

On the way to the car, Z's full of questions, "He had long hair! And sorta some boobies! But a little mustache!"

In addition to talking about death lately, we've also been talking a lot about gender. And just like in our conversations about mortality, burials and whether you can see in your coffin, her curiosity and candor about gender have given me a new lens to look at the world through.

"Well, sometimes it's a little hard to tell, right?" I start. "We can look at some one's hair but both boys and girls can have long or short hair." (I can't help but think about all the times that someone has glanced at Z's short hair and ambiguous clothes and assumed she was a boy.) "And men sometimes have chests that look like boobies-"

"But they can't have bweastmilk!" Z interrupts.

"That's true" I say after briefly considering telling her of the supposed possibility of male lactation. "And many women grow some hair on their faces-"

"Like you!" Z shouts triumphantly, proud to be figuring this all out.

"Hmmm. Yep. Great. Like me," I say, resolving to spend some nap time with Mr. Tweezerman.

"I know!" She shouts, jumping up and down, "I can ask if she has a penis or a vagina!"

"Um, NO. Actually, it's not polite to ask if someone has a penis or a vagina." I blurt out.

"Why not?"

"Because.... well..... those are private parts and we don't usually talk about them with strangers."

"Or let them see them," she notes, nodding sagely.

"Right. I know you're interested in trying to figure it out. Sometimes we have to figure it out in our heads, based on what we know and can see. With our check out clerk, I could read her name tag which said Amy and since Amy is almost always a girl's name, I am pretty sure she is a girl."

"So she has a vagina!" Z trumpets as I buckle her into her car seat, much to the delight of the man getting out of the car parked next to ours.

"Yes. She does." I declare, resolving to leave the conversations about intersex and androgyny and the extremely remote possibility of someone naming their boy child "Amy" for another day.

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"It's always boys who come to fix things," Z says when we're waiting for another contractor to come by and take a look at our leaky basement.

"I guess it's mostly been men lately, but it doesn't have to be. Just like Mommy and Daddy can both do things around the house, women can do those jobs, too." CG says quickly.

"Have we ever had a woman come to fix things?", Z asks hopefully.

CG and I both glance at each other before we admit the truth and I mentally start Googling "VA woman plumbers".

1/6/10

Not so different this time

Today I'm having the usual problem: There's so much to do I have no idea what to do first. I know! I'll organize the stray dog hairs by short, medium and long! That's good use of naptime! Nah, how about I just tootle around the internet for an hour or so?

(Not to be confused with yesterday's problem where I stared at the license plate of the car in front of me that read "3fnkids" for 5 minutes, marvelling over the audacity of "3 EFF-N kids" on a license plate before the light bulb went on that Perhaps they mean "3 FUN kids"?)

I think I need to relearn how to be a stay-at-home mom. Or, learn in the first place, since I never really found a groove the first time around.

When I was working part-time, before E was born, I felt like I had a good balance. Z had time in "school" with her peers, but she also had days at home with me. I had time "outside", in the "real world", and I enjoyed feeling untethered (though I was always checking my phone and my watch) and reasonably capable (unlike in motherhood!). The decision to work came not out of financial necessity but out of personal preference. I was itching to get out of the house, alone. I felt I needed a substantial weekly break from mothering. I was ready to use my brain in different ways, talk to adults about things other than our kids, feel competent.

It wasn't perfect
; teaching private Pilates sessions to clients who were counting on me was particularly challenging when Z or I were sick, which, since she was in daycare, was all the freaking time. Last minute canceling wasn't so cool and there was no working-from-home option.

I assumed when E was born, I would just stay home for the 'first couple of years'. Until she was in preschool at least. I thought it might be different this time. Surely I could figure out how to be really happy at home full time.

Newsflash: it's actually harder to be at home with two kids (in a new town, with no friends and a freeking COLD ASS climate) than it was with one kid (in a town where I had a few friends and could often be outside for parts of the day without freezing my behind off).

I got into a head space when I was working part time where, subconsciously, being out of the house was my "real life" and the rest of my time was somehow less than. I was often looking forward toward that "me time". As much as I loved Z, it sometimes felt like my real life existed when I was without my child.

I'm trying to adjust that way of thinking because it's not currently tenable. There are so few minutes of the day where I am not with my children, not in this house, that I MUST find a way to be my whole self, have my "real life", with them, rather than without them. And also? That's a sad way to think. Even when I go back to work, even when the girls are older, that is not how I want to be. They are a part of my real life, they may not be all of it, there may be other important parts, but they are not an obstacle to be pushed aside.

It doesn't help that many of the things I love, all the things I crave for sanity and peace of mind, are difficult to do with two little ones in tow: read (hahaha), write (HAHAHA), exercise (well, we do have our dance parties on a regular basis and I will start walking with the stroller again as soon as I know CPS won't be called to save E from my obviously negligent frost-bitten care).

The fact is, I don't feel ready to work yet. I don't want to put E in daycare. I don't want to be away from her all day. I just need.... a little space. I want a break from the pressures of being a stay at home mother.

When I went to back to work substantially, Z was about 16 months old. I think I wanted to escape my own internal pressure to be a perfect mother. And the only way I could find to escape that was to leave the house. Working outside the home, I could turn down the volume of (if not totally turn off) the constant voice in my head that I wasn't doing it right, that I didn't know what I was doing. I was scared to be The Mom, to be the one in charge, who's supposed to know what she's doing, all the time.

Here I am again, with all this internal pressure to be perfect. I know it's completely ridiculous, unhealthy, unhelpful. I find myself frustrated and distraught when Z and E aren't happy and content every second, because here I am at home with them, GIVING IT MY EVERYTHING, why are they not PERFECT? IT'S ALL MY FAULT.

The fact that I don't have to struggle to balance work and family means that I shouldn't be struggling, right?

This, this teetering pile of laundry, this cluttered, dog-hair-covered house, these sticky, whiny children IS my current job. This is IT.

My job. My real life. My time.

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