Monday, April 30, 2007

My Gems

Every now and then, I scan through our digital photos and find some gems. They're pictures that capture the quirky, goofy, touching, and sometimes odd moments that adorn the days of my life. So, without further ado...

This is what happens when your sleep deprived husband is left alone to watch the children. I think the kids were in the kitchen playing with knives or something. But doesn't he look like he's having fun?

Emma has gotten VERY "girly" lately. She asserts her newfound gender identity by demanding to wear "pretty dresses" and her "joory" (I just love the way she says, "jewelry,") every day. One other thing she's caught on to is how I wrap my hair after a shower. Naturally, using my example as her guide to femininity (she has NO IDEA what kind of trouble she's in here), she demanded that I start wrapping her hair after her bath.

Incidentally, her aggressive and often over-bearing, not to mention stereotypical, assertion of her gender as of late had become a source of concern for me given my strong opinions about the insanely oppressive stereotypes of women in this culture. However, with a little research, I came to realize that this behavior is not only completely normal, but a bit of an experiment on her part. Young children really only know how to do things or identify with the world in extremes (all parents should insert the word, "duh," here). And since Emma is at the age where she is realizing the differences between herself and her familial male counterparts, she is, in keeping with her larger-than-life persona, asserting her femininity to the extreme. In time, she'll come to realize that being a woman is not at all about dresses and jewelry, but about more subtle nuances of character and grace. And....if she doesn't come to realize that, well then, she's gonna' have to find someone else to go shopping with because this self-proclaimed tomboy and feminist is NOT visiting the makeup counter at Macy's anytime soon. But she does look damn cute in those dresses, I have to admit.

Finally, if this doesn't epitomize grandparents, I don't know what does...sandwiched between the two, delightfully devouring the pages of a book.

Here's another with grandpa "Aca"...

Those are just a few of my precious gems. I don't have a lot in my "joory" box, but my heart is full.

Supermom Strikes Again

Um...Nicky's walking. Yeah. In the same week that my toddler is potty trained. Actually, before she was potty trained by a few days. I'd like to sit here and brag about how I totally masterminded the accomplishment of these two milestones in ONE week, but as I said before, I'm seasoned enough at this mommy thing now to know that I am TOTALLY not in control here. So I'll just relish watching my son's wobbly steps as he toddles after my daughter heading for the bathroom.

Aah. Bliss.

Ok. This isn't actually Nicky walking. I don't have any photos of that, lots of video, but no stills...which, when you think about it makes sense. You can't get stills of an action.

Anyway, I just love this picture because it's Nicky's Pavlovian response to the sight of a camera. He just loves to say, "Cheese." Of course, coming from him it sounds more like, "Sheeeejsh." Oh...did I mention he's talking too. Man, I'm good. Ok...not really. But the milestones are coming fast and furious these days. It's getting fun around here!

Two Words For You....

"Potty Trained!" That's it!

Sporting her new underpants which she proudly displays...a little too often.
Finally! I thought this day would NEVER come. I first introduced the process when she was two. She's 2 and a half now. After many months of starting and stopping upon coming to the realization that she just wasn't ready, the kid finally decides she'd rather wear dry pants than fester in her own wet, gooey stink.

Her using the potty was much like her finally walking (which she did VERY late). She knew how to do it much earlier, but had to come around to actually doing it in her own time. So, when she finally decided she'd rather walk than crawl, she just stood up, and off she went like she'd been doing it for years. No fumbling, no falling, no tripping, no bumbling. She was running within days.

Same case here. The kid went from "trying" to use the potty to getting up from the table unannounced, going into the bathroom, closing the door behind her and doing EVERYTHING by herself in 2 days. TWO DAYS! And when I say she does everything, I mean everything...light on, clothes off, up on big potty (no chair for big girls - "potty chairs are for babies"), does her thing, gets down, wipes, gets dressed, washes hands at sink WITH soap and NO MESS, dries hands, turns off light, closes door behind her and sits back down like it's no big deal. I got so excited I think I had an accident!

So I guess she was paying attention all those times I tried to model and teach her the steps. She just had to do it when SHE wanted to. Man, I'll tell you. Nothing teaches you just how little you actually control in life like a toddler learning to use the potty....learning to do ANYTHING for that matter. She's a stubborn, strong-willed one, she is. Hmmm....wonder where she gets that?

Anyway, I'm gonna' go count the money I'm saving on diapers. Oh money's going to the preschool that required her to be potty trained. Damn. Parenthood. Can't catch a break.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Benefits of Motherhood

This is not what you think. I'm not going to preach on and on about how fulfilling and wonderful and heartwarming raising children is. Everybody knows about that part. What they don't tell you about before you embark on this blissful journey called motherhood is the complete LACK of the other kind of benefit package. This is all prompted of course by my recent job interview in which I was handed a 4 page leaflet of information about sick days, vacation days, life insurance, health insurance, vision, dental, disability insurance, free cultural institution passes, etc., etc., etc. With any job comes the benefit package. So here's my question. If being a mom is my current occupation, where's my benefit package?

"Nicky", my youngest, has recently come down with the mystery virus du jour and lovingly passed it on to me. What this boils down to of course is that despite my feeling just as crappy as he is at 4am, when he wakes up screaming with a temp. of 104, I still have to drag my butt out of bed and bathe him, medicate him, and console him. Don't get me wrong, I love him, I would do ANYTHING for either of my kids, and I don't mind taking care of them when they're sick. But what about when I'm sick. Where's my sick day? Who do I call to say that I'm not coming in?

It would go something like this, "Hi. Emma, Nicholas? This is mommy. I have a fever, and I'm not feeling well today, so I won't be getting out of bed. You'll have to make do without me. The cereal's in the cabinet, and you'll need to get some new wipes to fill the wipe containers. Oh, and don't forget to pay the mortgage, vacuum the living room, and take out the trash. And can you bring me some water and motrin? I love you. Have a good day."

Yeah....I wish.

I don't remember my mother ever being sick when I was a little kid, at least not until I was about 10 or 11 and more or less self-sufficient in the house. Of course now I realize that it wasn't that she was never sick, it was that she got up and did what she had to do to take care of us DESPITE feeling awful. And not until I was old enough to pour my own cereal, get myself up and ready for school, do my own hair, etc. did she give herself the privilege of staying in bed when she was sick. At those times, I remember coming home from school and shuttling water and snacks upstairs to her while she recouped.

Those are fond memories, taking care of my mom...perhaps because I felt so grown up taking care of her for a change. Or perhaps it's because lately, at 4am, when Nicky is burning like fire and I'm bathing, medicating, and rocking him while struggling with my own feverish aches, it is my memories that comfort and reassure me....that someday soon, I too can call in sick.

Incidentally, I won't even get started on the lack of vacation time in this job! (wink, wink)

P.S. Thanks mom.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Respect Your "Mother"

Sunday was Earth Day. And this being a blog by an environmentally minded mom, about mom stuff, I felt it only appropriate to share a few words about "mother earth." Now I'm not one of those tree-hugging, stereotypically granola, vegan-eating, soap-box spouting, in your face environmentalists. I'm more pragmatic than that. But I do feel strongly about the state of our home, and I cannot understand why people in this country aren't more willing to do their part to help protect and cherish it.

To put it bluntly, as I have done in a previous post, you wouldn't dare throw garbage around your own home, or fill it with noxious gases and kill every other living thing in it excepting yourself. So why on earth do we do that to our planet, really?!? It is our home. It sustains us (though not for much longer at our current rate of consumption). It inspires us, comforts us, and nourishes us. And when you look at it this way, isn't the earth really a "mother" to us all? And would we treat our mothers with the same blatant disregard and lack of respect as we treat our planet?

And yet, we as Americans are so caught up in our need to consume, to have the next big gadget, to have the biggest cars and houses, to eat the juiciest steak, that we lose sight of the consequences of our actions. This culture has, in my opinion, one of the most warped understandings of the word, "need." We think we, "need," SUV's and 4,000sq. foot homes, and giant screen tv's, etc. We equate having them with our happiness. And true, they make some aspects of life more pleasurable, but at what expense? In acquiring these things, we pillage the natural resources of our planet, while abusing the laborers hired to produce these things, then leaving them with so little of their own that they are forced to exist at sub-standard levels (which is another issue for another post entirely).

In truth, we need 4 things. Four simple, little things: food, water, shelter, and a little bit of space. And we only "need" enough of those things to sustain us....not to sustain us at the expense of the planet or the expense of another's human happiness for that matter. And in many parts of the world, people live quite happily with much less than we feel we "need" to consume here in the states.

All that I'm asking here is that people be a bit more mindful of their place in this world both ecologically and socioeconomically. What we do, what we buy, what we consume impacts the world and people around us. So, in honor of Earth Day, I pose this challenge: be mindful. Implement just one of the following suggestions to show your concern for the planet and ALL of the people who reside therein. And remember, I'm a practical person, so I wouldn't presume to ask something too demanding. I'm keeping it simple because in my experience, simple works.

Simple suggestions to reduce your ecological footprint:
1. Replace one incandescent light bulb with one compact flourescent light bulb. JUST one. Now, c'mon, that's an easy one. Do know you want to do it.
2. Take a canvas bag with you to the grocery store and reduce your consumption of plastic or paper grocery bags by one. Now how simple is that?!? One little bag. One less bag in the landfill that takes 100 years or more to biodegrade.
3. Eat one less meal containing meat per week. (creating pasture for cattle and poultry ranches accounts for an increasing incidence of deforestation in the world's rainforests) Now I know this one will be tough for some of you, but your heart and arteries will thank you for it as well. And don't get me wrong, I like a good cheeseburger or rotisserie chicken now and then, but I'm loaded with DELICIOUS salad and fish (sustainably caught of course) recipes.
4. Unplug your appliances when not in use, or put them on power strips that can be turned off at night and when you're out of the house (they drain energy even when they're not on (about 70% of all the energy they use), particularly appliances with digital displays - research "phantom load")
5. Recycle. Recycle whatever you can. Aluminum, plastics, glass, newspapers. A stack of newspapers 4 feet high is equal to one 40 foot fir tree. Look out in your backyard. Do you see trees? Now go cut one down for every 4 feet of newspaper you throw away. Go on. like the tree there. It hides the view of your backyard from your nosy, beligerent, gluttonous neighbor. Ok. Now go put this morning's paper in a recycle bin somewhere.
6. Don't toss out old clothes, give them to good will or pass them on to friends to be re-used. This is GREAT for people with small kids. I do this all the time. They grow out of the damn things so fast that most of the time they've only worn stuff 3 times anyway. (This of course assumes that you not balk at the idea of "hand-me-downs" or second generation clothes. Clothing production accounts for a good deal of carbon emissions from factories.)
7. Walk to the store or bank or wherever is humanly possible. How many times do we jump in the car to go somewhere that is blocks away? I was HORRIBLY guilty of this in LA where public transportation was deplorable and the car-culture is a dominant thread in daily life. Thankfully, my time in NYC turned me on to the virtue of public transportation and walking. Besides, walking's good for your's salad and fish (see #3).
8. Once a week...heck, twice a week, take a shorter shower. If you're like my husband, you like to turn the water up to nothing short of scalding and stand there, enjoying the personal sauna that you've created. And after a day of playing referee to my two small kids, I like a hot shower too. But I know we could all cut it short by A minute...just one. Your shower head puts out 5-7 gallons of water per minute.
9. And of course, turn your hot water heater down to 120 degrees. This is true if you have small kids in the house anyway, but you'd be surprised how much you'll save on your energy bill. And hot water dries out skin anyway. So, unless you're a beaver covered in a thick layer of primordial-like oil to waterproof yourself, your not doing any good for your skin standing under that scalding water.
10. Carry a reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water. It takes 5 liters of water to produce a one liter bottle of water. FIVE liters to produce one. There we go again with that consumption thing.
11. Finally, be an example to others. The best form of persuasion is through example. Be mindful. We are part of a larger community. A global community. And we owe it to ourselves and our planet to do our part.

Playing Catch Up

It's been pointed out to me that I've been a bit absent in the blogosphere lately. I fess up. I've been remiss in posting, but my lack of writing is not for lack of ideas. There have been a plethora of things swimming around in that head of mine that have been begging for some air time. So, in the interest of "clearing the air", or in this case, my head, I'm going to play a bit of catch up. It seems to be a dominant theme in my life these days.

The first bit of "catch-up" was played out at my recent job interview. Yes, this self-proclaimed stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) broke down and submitted a few resumes. Admittedly, after almost 3 years out of the work force, I was more than a bit concerned about their ability to elicit a response. And I was growing increasingly worried about the amount of "catching up" I'd have to do to re-enter the work force relative to the amount of time I stayed home. (Anyone who's been a SAHM with ANY kind of ambition in life knows what I'm talking about. At a certain point, you begin to feel like the rest of the world is passing you by in every way. And frankly, our culture does not affirm or validate the work that SAHM's do as valid work. So, I admit that I fell prey to the pressure to be a "contributing" member of society (as they say), and decided to submit some resumes.)

Anyway, imagine my surprise when I got a bite. I'm not sure if I was more excited that the world still found me employable, or by the prospect of an excuse to take 2 indulgent hours away from the kids to talk "shop" with adults. And in retrospect, I talked WAY too much in my interview, but then I talk a lot anyway. Ask anyone who knows me well and they'll agree. Nevertheless, I found that the captive audience did something to my fledgling ability for verbal tossed it right out the window. So, after 2 hours of verbal diarrhea on my part, with a few intelligent comments here and there, I found myself thanking my perspective employers and went on my merry way.

Now, to be fair, my interviewers did find me and my background intriguing. I know this because they mentioned it. So, apparently almost 3 years tucked away in a house with small children, knee deep in diapers, graham crackers, and sippy cups hasn't completely robbed me of my ability to converse intelligently. And even though I felt as though I was in dire need of "catching up" with the work force, these three individuals seemed to think otherwise. That was reassuring.

As for getting or taking the job, I don't know either yet. The hours are rather unpredictable and given my husband's already shifting schedule as a rookie cop, the logistics of childcare might be just too much to handle for the salary. We'll see. Besides that, I'm not even totally sure I'm ready to go back. I know that I need to do something more for myself...ok....SOMETHING for myself since "more" would imply that I'm already doing something, which I'm not. But perhaps it's time to do a different kind of "catching up."

Which brings me to "catch-up" number 2. Going back to school. At 33, I've come to the realization that I've gone about things a little bit ass backwards. Most people got to college, go to graduate school, meet someone, get married, live together, buy a house, save some money, and eventually start a family. I'm not most people. I went to college, traveled, changed careers twice by 25, met someone, moved across the country, changed careers again, got engaged, got dis-engaged, moved out, met someone else, got engaged, got married, got pregnant one month later, got pregnant again 10 months after the first was born, moved south, and bought a house. Notice the lack of "graduate school" in there. I fast tracked my 20's and forgot to pursue the appropriate advanced degree to further my career. Ok...I didn't forget. I was wrapped up in all the career changing, not knowing what the hell I was doing kind of stuff. And then I had a kid. And then another. And then we bought a house...on a cop's salary. And now going to graduate school is logistically a pain in the butt. I know it's totally manageable, but with two kids and one income, paying for childcare and the mortgage while mommy goes back to school is going to be tricky to say the least...which of course will lead to some "catching up" in the finances department when I finish. C'est la vie, eh?

So, that's it. Apparently I'm all "caught up" in the employability department. Problem is, I'm not sure the employment is in a field that I wish to pursue any further. And I've got a lot of "catching up" to do in the education department if I want to further my career goals. In the meantime, I've been running a house and raising children, hunting down preschools, paying bills, etc.etc.etc. This life is a constant game of "catch-up" and usually involves a lot of ketchup. But then, any mom, SAH or not knows all about that!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

"My Many Colored Days".... the title of a children's book that I just love. It uses colors to symbolize the myriad of moods that we, as beings capable of complex emotional thought, experience. However, it does so in an artfully simplistic manner, that only Dr. Seuss can do, which provides the average preschooler with a visually available concept of their constantly shifting emotions.

Anyway, at the risk of being blatantly tacky, I thought I'd steal the Dr's good idea to shed some light on the latest happenings here in South Cackalackie....

Some days are yellow....particularly those in SC when the trees are flowering, which is EVERY DAMN day lately, and everything, EVERYTHING in your world is coated in a 3cm. layer of fine yellow dust that's impossible to remove without the help of some overly toxic solvent, thereby leaving the one doing the cleaning in a I allow myself and my children to be overwhelmed by the pollen and suffer the toxic result of allergy induced sinus infections, sneezing attacks, runny noses, and swollen eyes; OR do I clean up the layer upon layer of pollen which coats every crevice and counter of my house, car, and personal being using said solvent and thereby expose myself and my family to the overly stringent toxins therein which will certainly result in sinus infections, sneezing attacks, runny noses, and swollen eyes?

Hmmm.....I'll go for the solvent and take my chances. After all, cleanliness is next to Godliness, eh?

(Side note here: I have NEVER suffered from extreme allergies in my life. Admittedly, I've had a sneezy day here or there over the years, but nothing that a good splash of cold water and strong tissue couldn't handle. Since we've been in SC for our first spring, I've woken up twice in the middle of the night, gone into the bathroom, and looked like Joe Frazier at the end of his bout with Mohammed Ali, puffy, swollen, and bruised....except I didn't win.)

Pollen = 1, Danielle = 0

Some days are green...a kind of dark and corrosive green. The kind of green that apparently folks around here have lovingly, but sarcastically, nicknamed "South Carolina" green. It's the color of the mold that has not only taken over my mother's beautiful white, wooden rocking chairs that used to add "southern charm" to her oversized white porches, but it has also begun corroding them to the point of wood chipping, paint peeling, etc. What the hell kind of place is this that it produces a mold so strong it eats through wood in a matter of weeks!?! And is that what has discolored the vinyl siding in the back of my townhome? And if so, how long is it before the stuff comes creeping through the walls like something out of a 1950's blob flick? And incidentally, isn't mold also toxic? Hmmm....I'm seeing a common thread here?

Mold = 5 (rocking chairs & vinyl siding & and God knows what else that I haven't discovered yet), Danielle = 0

Some days are tan...and smell a bit like French Vanilla, especially when your toddler son, eager to display his newly acquired height at the kitchen table, repeatedly knocks over your one and only cup of coffee several mornings in one week. Ok. Granted, I should know better than to leave it anywhere near the edge for more than a minute, even if during that minute I'm fixing HIS breakfast. But to my credit, the last time he knocked it over onto my formerly light beigy/grey rug, he had climbed up on my chair in a matter of 15 seconds. The kid can't walk yet, but he could probably scale the house if we let him.

Coffee stains = 3, Danielle = 0

So those are the dominant colors of my life at the moment. Put them together and they create something akin to the color of....well....poop....which figures I guess since I see a lot of it in this household. Which reminds me, potty training is not going so well, but those are colors for another blog.

Ta ta.