Tuesday, April 21, 2009

it takes a blogosphere.

I wanted to mention this a while ago, but I forgot until just now. But I loved this post from Da Momma. I liked the post in general because, you know, it was funny, and I do enjoy reading about Mare and Ren. But one thing that really stuck with me was this part:

The barn owner tells the instructor to bring a horse over and I tell Mare to get her boots off and pass them to Sister. Mare instantly complies, but the boots are tight she’s having trouble getting them off, and Ren’s waiting for her ride and … here it comes. The Meltdown.

She’s high strung. She’s dramatic. I indulged her too much as a toddler and now she has no coping skills. She’s never going to be able to manage a corporation or a surgical team or an embassy and people won’t like her and she’ll be That Girl and it’s all my fault...

“Mare, why are you freaking out???” I finally say. She stops mid-wail and looks at me with a deep exasperated sigh. She puts both hands on my shoulders and says,

“Momma. It’s what I do. I’m a person who freaks out.”

I stare stupidly.

She’s not me.

You freaking dumbass. She. Is not. YOU.

“Oh, okay,” I say.

She nods and goes back to hauling on the boots and wailing. She gets them both off, we ram them on her sister, and Doodley skips happily over to the horse and scampers up.

I loved that. "It's what I do. I'm a person who freaks out." I think it's very easy to forget about this with our kids. When your young child is throwing tantrums or doing things that you just don't want them to do, you are supposed to Do Something to make sure that they don't engage in these maladaptive behaviors for the rest of their lives. Like Da Momma said, you don't want your kid to be That Kid just because you fucked up and dealt with tantrums wrong or something.

And yeah, children shouldn't get their own way constantly and they shouldn't throw tantrums to get what they want and blah blah blah. (I know I keep mentioning tantrums a lot - Bee is the queen of tantrums, so it's nearly always on my mind.) It's great to lay down the law and help your child be a functional member of society. But at the same time, you have to step back from your child and accept the person s/he is. You can't always try to mold them into better people if you want them to love themselves for who they are and not resent you for constantly trying to change them.

So I'm logging this here so I can remember this for Bee. Had I not read it, I don't know if I'd otherwise be that level-headed during that kind of interaction. I don't know if I'd just be able to say "Oh, okay," and let her do her thing her way, even though it would be the right thing to do. I often feel like the blogosphere helps me to be a better parent. Thanks, Internet. :)

Monday, April 20, 2009

which fruits and vegetables should i buy organic?

I'm all for organic food, but it's simply not thrifty for us to buy 100% organic everything every time we shop. We decided that we'd make sure to buy organic for the most contaminated fruits and veggies, and not worry as much about the cleanest ones.

Here is a fantastic list that ranks fruits and veggies based on their pesticide load. I found at FoodNews.org, which is apparently run by EWG (Environmental Working Group).

(Feel free to comment and tell me how to get this huge space out of the middle of the post, as I have no clue.)

1 (worst)Peach100 (highest pesticide load)
3Sweet Bell Pepper83
10Grapes - Imported66
13Collard Greens60
16Green Beans53
17Summer Squash53
21Grapes - Domestic44
28Winter Squash34
31Honeydew Melon30
33Sweet Potato29
41Sweet Peas - Frozen10
45Sweet Corn - Frozen2
47 (best)Onion1 (lowest pesticide load)

I hope this is as useful to someone out there as it is for us!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

siftables, the future of computers. or blocks. or both.

Okay, this is really cool. This is an example of the kind of thing Dude is interested in professionally. He has actually met this guy, but only tangentially. Anyway, whether or not Dude finds it interesting is irrelevant, because this shit is awesome.


If you have high expectations/standards set for the people in your life, you will continue to be disappointed when they fail to reach them. This can cause annoyance and frustration on your part as well as resentment on the part of the people in your life.

I'm not saying you should expect (or accept) the worst from the people around you. But if you expect everyone to be perfect, you will be disappointed and they will be hurt.

Do expectations really have to be that high? What if you step back from the standard you have set and just evaluate people as they are? Are they really that bad, despite not living up to YOUR expectations for them? Can you accept them for who they are? If so, let it go. It can only help both sides. If not, I suspect the problem is on your end. You are not perfect. Why expect perfection from others?

I'm working hard on this, especially when it comes to ME. I will never live up to any impossibly high standards I set for myself. But when I take a step back and look at myself as I am now, not living up to these expectations at all, I see that I'm actually just fine. In fact, I like myself better and am more relaxed when I just accept that I am where I am. I'll get to those high standards if/when I get there, and there's no need to feel bad about myself in the meanwhile.

Same for everyone else. The people in my life are going to fuck up, and I am going to love them anyway. People say and do hurtful or insensitive things constantly, but I can't expect them to never do these things. What I can do is accept that they will do these things, that we will communicate about them if necessary, and then we will move on. I don't want to have high expectations for other people. It is not fair to me or the other person.

I don't want anyone to have high expectations for me. I'm doing fine the way I am. I'll never be perfect and I don't want to be. I think about teachers in my past and how many of them said I wasn't living up to my potential. If I worked really hard, I could be a straight-A student. If not, I would continue as a B/C student. I felt like I should try harder, should do better, and yet I never did and I felt bad about myself constantly.

Looking back, WHO THE FUCK CARES? So I didn't live up to my potential. Big fricking deal. I learned a lot of important things and I am still learning today. Maybe I am not living up to my potential now, and I'm okay with that. I am happy and content with the way I am living now. My husband and daughter seem happy and content as well.

So fuck it. Even if I had the potential to do things way better than I'm doing them today, it's not worth the stress and the constant sense of failure. I'd rather be a happy-go-lucky C student who's surprised by and proud of the occasional A or B than an anxious A student who berates herself for the occasional B or C. And sure, it'd be great if we could all be straight-A students without the stress or anxiety or self-deprecation, but we can't. At least, I'm not one of those people who can. I don't want to lay that trip on my daughter, either. I'd rather have her be a functional, happy, self-accepting person than someone who lives up to her potential in school.

I've been told often that I am too laid-back about things, but that's the way I am and that's the way I want to be. I'm proud of not forcing myself to live up to my potential. I'm glad I'm accepting where I am. I'm excelling at relationships, so I don't care if I have no motivation towards a career or going back to school or being the perfect homemaker. I am where I am, and I'm doing just fine, and I have no desire to try to do even better than fine. I'd rather be content with what I have than constantly striving towards a goal I'll never reach.

I'm very happy I've finally reached that point, although many might look at this and feel like I'm giving up. But I just don't care. Maybe my house is messy and I'll never get a master's degree or a "real job" and our budget is stretched thin and I quit my work-from-home job because I hate it and we eat the same thing for dinner 4 times a week and we get pizza too often and we fail at our color-coded cleaning schedule and I don't keep up with my writing and I don't shower every day and sometimes we forget to brush Bee's teeth and and and and... I just don't care. I just can't give a shit anymore. Even with all that, we're a happy and healthy family, so why harp on all the things I'm NOT doing?

We seem to be thriving on imperfect, and all that happens when I attempt to do things beyond my capability is that I feel like a failure. This is bad for my mental health, day-to-day life, parenting ability, and relationship. When I stop freaking out about the clutter and the dirt and the fact that it's crockpot stew for dinner AGAIN, I can finally feel good about myself. I'm doing a fantastic job in terms of being a happy and well-adjusted person, an attentive and nurturing mother, a supportive and loving wife, and a caring and generous friend. And even when I don't do as well at those things as I'd like, it's okay because I'm human and I'm bound to slip up every now and then.

"For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin. Real life. But there was always something in the way. Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time to still be served, a debt to be paid, then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life." - Alfred D'Souza

I guess what I'm trying to say is, suck it world, I'm fine the way I am. I'm not going to wait around until I'm perfect to love myself and enjoy my life. It is what it is, and what it is is JUST FINE.

Monday, April 6, 2009

this is my kind of mom.

I just discovered The Pioneer Woman, and OH MY GOD LOVE. I especially liked this post on homeschooling. (For the curious, I don't have plans to homeschool the Bee, although I haven't ruled it out either. It's certainly something I'd consider, but not something I'm planning for. As of now, I think it is more likely that Bee will be in public school, but that door is still open.)

An excerpt:

And when you have a baby or a toddler and you homeschool—fuhgettabouta schedule. There is poop when there should be math. And there’s crying when there should be literature. And with that color-coded schedule that lasted four whole days, if something got in the way and you missed a thirty-minute block of time, you were screwed—there was no more time in the day to be had. And all I did when I tried hard to stick to a rigid schedule was fail, and then I’d feel like a loser, and that wasn’t fun. Because I’m not a loser, dang it. I’m not. No, I’m not. Stop saying that. I’m not.

Leaving out the homeschool part, the post echoes my own shiny new approach to mothering: the relaxed approach. I once scheduled out every hour of every day in order to achieve all the goals I had in mind to work towards being, well, Little Miss Perfect. Every single day had absolutely everything I needed, scheduled in beautifully manageable chunks. See? I laughed outright at the Pioneer Woman's description of her color-coded schedule, because it sounds EXACTLY like MY color-coded schedules. In theory they seem totally great and are aesthetically pleasing to boot. I would try to make easy schedules that seemed fool-proof, but you know what they say. Make something idiot-proof, and they'll make a better idiot.

So I have stopped setting myself up for failure. I have stopped giving myself a million goals to accomplish in a day or week or month. I try to do what I can, and if it doesn't happen, I don't tell myself I'm a failure. No more rigidity - it doesn't help me, Dude, or Bee. We get through the day, every day, in whatever way works, and we feel good about ourselves while doing it.

I've got no clue if this approach is going to produce any particular future outcomes that I might want or not want. I like to think that a calm, laid-back lifestyle is good for the whole family. But even if things don't turn out the way I expect them to in the future, it doesn't matter. I can't stress out about being the perfect mom or perfect housewife in anticipation of providing my daughter (and any future children) with some sort of perfect life. We're enjoying the imperfect life we do have, taking pride in our abilities while accepting our limitations.

So yeah. I'm not as concerned about what the future will bring or whether I'm doing things the right way. My daily routine is flexible and less goal-oriented, and it's working out so much better. Just like the Pioneer Woman, some of our days are awesome and some are not-so-awesome, but they all go with our general flow. If things turn out amazingly, great! If not? Well, I guess I'll close with a line from the post...

But I refuse to believe it will be because I chose to wipe my baby’s bottom with that color-coded schedule rather than let a piece of paper tell me when I had to make my bed.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

how not to blog.

I compose blog posts in my head several times a day. Some of them are awesome. You'd probably enjoy them. They never seem to make it from my head to my fingers to the keyboard to the screen, though. The process gets interrupted very easily.

An online friend of mine made me think about how bloggers change once they become parents. Pre-Bee, I would post constantly to my own online journal (not here) and to communities related to women's reproductive health. It's just not that easy now.

During the time it's taken me to type out these two paragraphs, with absolutely no editing, Bee has turned my cell phone on and off twice, thrown it across the room once, and threatened to throw it down the stairs three times. She also sat down, patted the area next to her, and said "Mama" until I came and sat next to her. Currently, she is nursing while punching me in the chest and kicking me in the armpit. Sure, I could blog while she's asleep, but being that she is not the world's best sleeper, naptime is my chance to get anything done that's easier to do without her awake.

So I'll give you a quick update on her first and then me. She is nearly 16 months old. She is getting approximately 200 teeth at once, and I did not know there was even enough room in her small head for that, but apparently there is. She's a very verbal child, and she (as I've mentioned) loves to read. She memorizes books very quickly, and because of this she has learned things that amaze me.

For example, she can correctly identify the numbers 1-7, out of order and out of context, thanks to Sandra Boynton's Hippos Go Berserk! (a book I thoroughly recommend). This is brand new, just started this weekend, and BLOWS MY MIND. We went to my in-laws' house on Sunday for dinner, and she picked up pieces of a number puzzle and just went to town. "Theeeeee!" she beamed proudly, picking up the 3. "Doooo." (2.) "Poor." (4.) "Pa-kiiiiiive." (5. 5 is always pronounced just like that. She cannot pronounce Fs so they come out as some sort of interesting PK amalgam.) "Bebben." (7.)

"Stop teaching her this stuff," my father-in-law warned. "You don't want her to end up smarter than you." This is true. I don't want to be outsmarted by a 1-year-old. How was I to know that reading a book about hippos approximately 700 times a day would start me down that path?

She also can correctly identify yellow, blue, and red. She gets green right every now and then. If she's not sure what a color is (e.g. brown, orange, pink, purple) she will tell you it's yellow with a very proud grin and an "I'm-totally-acing-this" look on her face, followed by applause.

She is also starting to figure out how to climb. She is going through such a shift over these past few months, from baby to young toddler to SUPER TODDLER, and it blows my mind. Last summer, this was the baby who rolled over ONE TIME and refused to do it ever again. Now she's moving furniture around to see if she can, in fact, jump out the 3rd floor window, because that sounds like a good plan.

So let's move on to me. I know I've linked to this in other places, but possibly not here... WEGO Health did a spotlight interview on me, which is REALLY COOL because I have always assumed that no one cares about what I have to say. I am also blogging occasionally for Massachusetts Friends of Midwives, along with several other bloggers.

In our personal life, things are going quite well for me and Dude. We are at the phase of "settled in the new house" where there are still definitely some things left to do, but they are so minor and easy to procrastinate that they never get done. But that's okay. I've also kind of given up on trying to be Super Housewife. Because who cares? At the end of the day, there might be dried food under Bee's high chair and dust on the shelves and a sink full of dishes that no one wants to take care of. But Bee and I are happy and healthy and well-fed, and Dude and I have an amazing relationship with each other and our daughter. We all enjoy each other every day.



When it boils down to it, our family dynamic is supremely awesome, and that's the most important thing, isn't it? I'm not saying we live in squalor (my mother may disagree), just that the house is rarely tidy these days, but we all love each other and are taking care of ourselves and each other. And that is all that matters.

Someday I will write about nursing a toddler. About how Dude and I are hoping for a 2010 baby and a planned homebirth. About Fertility Awareness Method and how we have used it to avoid as well as try for pregnancy. All these posts and more are brewing in my head and itching to be typed out. But some other time, I suppose, because my Bee is falling asleep at the breast. I'd like to put her down and maybe work on some of those non-priorities mentioned above.

So for now I shall leave you with this, the true marker of a successful day... playground time.