Thursday, February 26, 2009

random thoughts

I know that many of you reserve your random thoughts blog posts for Tuesdays, but I don't feel like waiting that long. And I happen to be quite crabby and ornery, so don't argue with me, k?

**OK, the reason I am crabby and ornery is that I have been the target of germ warfare. Yes, an acquaintance has purposely infected me with a particularly insidious form of the common cold. How do I know it was on purpose? Well, she came to church sniffling and sneezing and coughing and then cornered me in the library where she breathed really heavily in my direction. Then, she forced me to take a book that she had just smeared all her germs on. What other conclusion could I come to? I can't prove it and I haven't determined a motive, but I AM plotting revenge, rest assured. This is honestly the worst cold ever in the history of mankind. I was up until 3 AM gasping for breath, popping decongestants, and praying that I wouldn't go into labor. I mean really, all I need is to go into labor after no sleep and while not being able to breathe.

**I have a pretty active imagination, which I feed regularly by watching episodes of Law and Order, Numb3rs, and reading the news online. I hear particular news stories of abuse or violence and have a hard time getting them out of my head. It seems that this gets worse when I am pregnant and I get a bit paranoid. Just last night while I was at the grocery store, a man gave me a funny look. He was probably looking bemusedly at my enormous stomach and giving thanks his own wife didn't resemble me, but it freaked me out. The next thing I know, I am convinced that he and his wife want a baby of their own and they are willing to do whatever it takes to get one. Then I realize that I have told the cashier that I am due in 2 weeks. Did this strange couple hear me? Are they now waiting to kidnap me and slice open my stomach to steal my baby? I was super-vigilant in the parking lot, checking under cars and looking people in the eyes, and I even checked to make sure no one followed me home. Even now, more than 24 hours later, I am devising ways to escape if this couple does indeed come after my abdomen.

**And as if I don't have enough to worry about what with homicidal baby snatchers after me, I just heard an ad for an upcoming lecture at SIU about the risks of polio. Apparently, we are not as safe from that disease as we think. Did they really need to add to my list of obsessions? Seriously, I would just rather not know some things. I do not need another disease to worry about and to imagine I am coming down with. Have I mentioned that I sometimes can be a bit of a hypochondriac?

**I just found out that my brother is being lauded as a hero in Chicago. He is a firefighter and he helped rescue two people from their burning home. I watched the news reports and press conference and wow, was that fire immense. It looked like a miracle that they were able to save these people. It amazes me that my brother, who tormented me from the very beginning (we are twins and I swear he beat me up in the womb) actually saves people's lives for a living. Though he has been doing this job for probably 10 years, sometimes I forget how dangerous his job is. I am really proud of him, though I do have to question the sanity of a man who runs INTO burning buildings.

**Despite a serious lack of sleep, I did not inflict any bodily harm on my daughter after listening to her whine and cry in the wee hours of the morning. That kind of makes me a hero, too, right? So, where's MY press conference?

**It's a good thing I didn't give in to temptation and send Charlotte off to boarding school today. She whined and complained about everything this morning; I had to find every one of her 7 Care Bears, make her waffle just right, hand the bottle of water to her at the specific angle she wanted, etc. Then, about 30 minutes ago, she barfed all over everything. Apparently, she was crabby because she is sick. I feel like such a heel for telling her to quit whining.

**We just got back from Wal-Mart about an hour ago where I happened to amble down the Easter candy aisle. I love candy, especially if it has chocolate, caramel or peanut butter or any combination thereof. The strange thing is that Easter candy has its own particular appeal to me. It is so much more irresistible than any other candy. I can't figure it out, but wrap some candy in pastel colored wrappers and shpae it like an egg and I am totally sold.

**I believe that there are hidden cameras in my ob/gyn's bathrooms. I am sure this is the reason they still insist that I pee in a cup even though I can barely squeeze into the bathroom. It's all for the amusement of the harried nurses and doctors. Also, I love that in order to get a sterile specimen you are supposed to clean yourself up, then pee a bit into the toilet, stop the pee flow and then capture the rest in the tiny, teeny cup. I mean, really? Really? Who came up with this system? It's practically impossible.

First off, it is really hard to reach around the 20 pound watermelon that is my stomach. So to be able to reach down and get the cup positioned just right really takes some flexibility and reach. I happen to have very short and inflexible arms. Then, there's the whole stop your stream of pee thing. Not too easy to do when you have 55 pounds of baby, fluid and miscellany sitting directly on your bladder. Once I start peeing, I don't stop.

Seriously. I don't even stop once I get off the toilet, if you get my drift.

Oh, c'mon, tell me you have never suffered from stress incontinence. No, on second thought, don't. I don't want to hear about your toned and fit pelvic muscles; I prefer to believe that you are all peeing yourselves every time you sneeze, cough, stand up, or sigh heavily. Misery loves company and I am ornery today. Have I mentioned that?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

correction

I just discovered that my last post hurt my mother's feelings and as I reread it, I realize I wasn't totally clear about a couple of things. When I first got married my mother did not criticize me as a housewife or cleaner. On the contrary, she did everything she could to help me set up house in our new apartment. She gave me advice on juggling work with home and she encouraged and supported me.

I didn't mean to imply that my mother looked down on me when I didn't do the laundry. In fact, it was my mother who helped me relax a bit. At one point when I was pregnant with Danny and feeling really run-down and sick, I mentioned how bad I felt that I had let things slide around the house. I hadn't cooked as much as usual (couldn't stand the smells) and I was so tired after work that I often crashed on the couch for an hour or two before Bil got home. My mom told me to take it easy, that ordering a pizza every now and then would not kill my husband. She reassured me and helped me to prioritize so that the most important chores were being taken care of while I let some others slide.

Yes, I did feel pressure to measure up, but mostly that came from ME comparing myself to HER. I wanted to be like my mom. And my mom just happened to be one of those women who did pretty much everything herself, not by choice but from necessity. I have said this before, and I seriously am not exaggerating, but my father rarely helped my mom with chores, and never did so voluntarily. Not even the typically male chores like yard work or car maintenance. Under duress my father might build something, like my sister's and my set of bunk beds, but typically once he came home from work, he was done, no matter how much needed to be completed around the house. This did not change when my mother went to work full-time when I was in high school. The only thing that changed was my mother's workload getting significantly heavier.

So, really it is no wonder she was so impressed to see Bil cooking a really nice meal or my brother-in-law mopping the kitchen floor without complaining. It isn't that her standards for her girls were so high or that she thought less of us for asking our husbands to help. If anything, she was probably happy that we had more equal relationships.

And even though my mom rarely got help around the house, she has taught me that there is nothing wrong with asking for and receiving help from others. She has taught me lots of tricks to lessen the workload and she has helped me with tons of reorganizing and cleaning projects, not because she thinks my cleaning skills are sub-par (though they probably are) but because she knows how nice it is for me to have a clean house before my in-laws come to visit or to have sparkling windows before a baby shower that I am throwing.

Thanks, mom!

Monday, February 23, 2009

the standards don't measure up

Disclaimer:
OK, before you label me a misandrist (which means man-hater, by the way. I just learned this word and wanted to use it) and femi-nazi, I want to explain that this post is not a criticism of my husband or men in general. It is more a comment on societal expectations...

When I first got married, my mother made a lot of comments that indicated her opinions of a wife's duties (I meant housewifely duties. Get your mind out of the gutter, people!). Despite working full-time while Bil finished his degree, my mother expected me to do all the cooking, cleaning, laundry all while requesting no help from my husband, who happened to eat, wear clothes and make at least as much of a mess in the apartment as I did. When I talked to her on the phone one Saturday, she asked me why I was reading instead of doing laundry. After informing her that Bil was doing the laundry that week, the phone went silent. One Saturday when she and I went to a craft fair, Bil made dinner for us all and my mother about had a stroke, she was so impressed.

He made a pasta dish with chicken that was delicious, he didn't sculpt a masterpiece. Now, don't get me wrong, I do really appreciate it when my husband cooks or does any other household chore--he is a very agreeable man who willingly helps whenever I ask--what got me was my mother's reaction. She could not get over the fact that he cooked a meal for me. Never mind that I cook for him nightly. Have I ever gotten praise from her for that? Oh, no. Of course not, because it is my job. But just because he happens to be a man, all of a sudden my husband cooking dinner is worthy of a neighborhood parade. And my mother is not the only woman to swoon when she discovers my husband occasionally cooks for me. Yet, none of these women have ever passed comment on my many, many, many meals for him.

I know my mom comes from a different generation and all us kids would have had a stroke along with her had my father ever willingly plunged his hands in dishwater. Things were different then, but what interests me is that she is not the only woman out there (or man, for that matter) who deep down has much lower standards for men than for women. I mean, when was the last time someone expressed surprise that a mother spent all day Saturday at the park with her kids? Yet, get a father out there playing with his kids and people will ooh and ahh over what a great dad he is.

I have friends who routinely comment on how great it is that I have a husband who every so often will load and/or unload the dishwasher, who will sometimes even take out the garbage without being reminded. When was the last time Bil's friends told him how lucky he is that his wife does his laundry? Cooks his meals? Even makes his doctor's appointments? For that matter, I would probably think my mother or a friend were crazy if she gave me praise for a floor well-swept or for keeping the house clean.

It makes me think of my wonderfully funny sister. When I was in labor with Danny, she was my birthing coach, along with Bil. At one point, Bil started rubbing my shoulders in an attempt to lessen the pain (yeah, I know kind of like trying to stop Hurricane Katrina with a couple of sandbags, but he tried). When the nurse entered the room, she exclaimed, almost giddily, "Oh, how sweet. Your husband is so wonderful!!"

My sister glared at her and said, "That's the least he can do. She is the one in all the pain, after all! The one doing all the real work!" I loved that she said this, because now when I remember it and all the agony that was still awaiting me, I wonder why no one made that big of a deal over the labor and childbirth. I mean, really, don't you think each and every woman who has ever birthed a baby should receive a parade or diamonds, or heck, even some really decadent chocolate treat? Seriously. Where is the equity here? All a man has to do to impress a lady is rub his wife's back (and yes, I know it was a totally altruistic backrub, since Bil knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this particular massage was not going to earn him any favors, if you know what I mean), but a woman could push 8 pounds of writhing baby from her exhausted and pain-racked body and no one bats an eyelash.

What is up with that?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

bugs don't have feelings

This morning, I took Charlotte to the library to get her out of the house. I have been feeling a bit guilty in that I don't take Charlotte out very much--we spend most of the time cleaning and organizing and getting ready for the baby. But, today I decided she needed to get out just with me to do something fun.

And she did have fun. So much so that she didn't want to leave when lunchtime came around. She resisted going home, so I had to pick her up, and take her to the car, which of course made her cry. On our way out of the library some random old man who I have never met smilingly told my little girl that if she didn't stop crying, he would have to give her a spanking. I was flabbergasted for so many reasons, not least of which was the complete and total inappropriateness of a stranger threatening my baby girl. I wish I had said something to the man, but I was so stunned and really just wanted to leave the library.

The incident has really got me thinking, however. Why is it that so many people's reaction to displays of emotion is to get really angry or uncomfortable? Why would someone think it appropriate to punish a child for being disappointed? I know the old man at the library is an extreme example of this, but actually the more I think of it, the more examples I come up with situations in which people reacted really negatively to other people's emotions. Here are some examples:

** A friend of mine who I really admire and respect gave me some parenting advice this Fall that made me uncomfortable. When Danny was scared about going to school and crying in the morning, she advised withholding a treat on the days he cried. Why would I punish Danny for being scared of school? And I didn't feel right about rewarding him for not crying, because wouldn't that just be teaching him to swallow his feelings?

** Just last week when I shared with some friends from church that I was pretty scared to go through labor again, most of the women (who had all had babies) totally mocked me and blew off my feelings. One even went so far as to share some birthing horror stories, in case my anxiety level wasn't quite high enough.

** My father, throughout my entire life almost always reacts in anger to people's unhappy emotions, especially if he somehow had any part in the person's emotions. His favorite saying to us growing up was "Bugs don't have feelings." Granted, I now seriously suspect him of having Asperger's or some other high functioning form of autism, (plus he is an alcoholic) but still it made growing up quite difficult to always be mocked for my feelings. I can't tell you how often I was called a crybaby as a kid.

And sadly, these are only a few of the examples I can think of right now, but I don't want to get into the others.

Why is it that some people cannot stand to hear about others' fears, frustrations, hurts without reacting negatively or blowing the person off? I know some people see displays of emotions as a a sign of weakness, but I actually believe the opposite. I think it takes enormous strength and courage to be vulnerable and share one's innermost feelings with another. I also think it is this type of sharing that takes a relationship to another level. My closest friends are those who have shared with me and who have listened as I have shared. On the other hand, I know several people who will never concede that they have difficulties, and it is these people who I just can't get close to. And who I will never share with.

As a mother, and especially as a mother of soon to be two boys, I worry about teaching my kids that their feelings are ok. I want them to know that it is ok to be scared, to worry about things, to have your feelings hurt. These are all normal and it is important for them to be able to talk to someone about them. This society really seems to look down on boys who share their emotions, which scares me because the emotions are there and will come out somehow. And if my dad is any indication, I think many people who try to ignore their feelings will manifest them in anger and possibly try drowning them in alcohol. It has taken me years to understand that the fact that I can cry and share my emotions doesn't make me a weakling.

It makes me think of a song I discovered years ago by Jewel called "I'm Sensitive." I have always liked it, especially the chorus that says, "Please be careful with me. I'm sensitive and I'd like to stay that way."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

minor epiphany

Danny seems to be doing rather well this school year, despite the many changes he has faced (much bigger class, different teacher, regular class as opposed to special ed class, etc.) He has really surprised me at how well he is dealing with all the extra stimulation, especially this winter; in the past, he has had difficulty after many days with no recess and little exercise during the school day. It has been many, many weeks since the kids got to play outside, yet he has not fallen into his habits of pushing kids and getting wild. Thank goodness.

There have, however, been a few incidents for which Danny has received a "Humpty" which is his teacher's euphemism for getting in trouble. For some reason, he keeps getting in trouble during naptime. I am not entirely sure what is going on as the notes home are pretty cryptic saying things like, "Danny bothered someone during nap time." At first, I kind of laughed it off, thinking the teacher would deal with it, but he has now gotten 2 Humpties in 2 weeks (and a few more throughout the school year). I am sensing a pattern emerging and would like to take care of it before it becomes a problem.

I don't entirely agree with the Humpty system, because it seems like the only real punishment is that the kids don't get a treat from the golden treat box at the end of the week. It seems to me there should be some more immediate consequence and it should be related to the infraction. For example, I suspect that Danny is making noises during naptime because he is bored and also because it gets the attention of the other kids. So, one option would be to remove him from the other kids. This would probably really bother him and might just be all it takes to control his misbehavior. Also, though he may have gotten a Humpty on Monday, I never hear about it until Miss A. sends a note home on Friday. And as you can imagine, Danny is not exactly forthcoming about when he receives these Humpties. So, what am I supposed to do at home about something he did days ago? It seems a bit late to really fix things at that point.

Last night I was thinking about the situation and about Danny's teacher. I am not entirely fond of her, mostly because she is not all that approachable. Of course, I am comparing her to Miss Sally, who Danny had for his first 2 years of preschool and who was amazing. We worked so well together: she stayed in touch with me throughout the years, reporting not just challenges, but successes as well. It was completely evident that she loved Danny and all her students and that she did all she could to understand and reach them. I know she had fewer students than Miss A and had more time to devote to individual kids, but still, I so wish I had the same rapport with Miss A as I did with Miss Sally.

Anyway, as I was contemplating Danny's teacher, I realized what the real problem is: I have been intimidated by Danny's teacher and have let that get in the way of how involved I have been this year. It is so dumb. I mean, what makes me so nervous to assert myself to my son's preschool teacher? Why am I so willing to assume that other people know what's best about my kid just because they are supposed to be experts? For pete's sake, I have a master's degree in education and taught in an inner-city high school for years. I know from discipline issues. Besides, even if I only made it to the fourth grade, I know my kid better than anyone. I should not be afraid to offer some guidance or ask for information about what is happening at school!

So, I sat down this morning and wrote Miss A a note asking if we could talk soon about how to take care of this naptime misbehavior. And while I was at it, I wrote to Miss C who is the special ed teacher who takes Danny out every day. I have no idea what she does with him as Danny won't really give specific information and Miss C has never sent a note home, called or even met with me at parent-teacher conferences. I have been wanting to know what is going on there, but kept putting off contacting her.

I am a bit ashamed to admit all this. I know I should have been more assertive and a better advocate for Danny, though, in my defense, school has gone so well this year, I didn't think it was necessary for me to butt in. But now, I realize that I just need to be more informed about what is going on so I can help Danny more. I cannot allow my insecurities to get in the way of advocating for Danny. I wonder if I will ever conquer those demons.....

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

maternity t-shirt sayings

I am now exactly 35 weeks, 5 days pregnant, so I have roughly one more month of pregnancy bliss. One more month in which to frantically prepare for the coming of this sweet bundle of joy. Actually, aside from packing my bag for the hospital, I am pretty much prepared. I have had a serious case of nesting syndrome for the last few months, so I think we are good to go. This has been a relatively easy pregnancy (if you count aches and pains and lots of heartburn "easy"). I have enjoyed most aspects of it, but there is one major thing I will not be sad to leave behind once the baby comes, and it is this: really strange/insensitive/redundant remarks and/or questions about this pregnancy. So, I have decided to make up some t-shirts that should put an end to the crazy comments. Here are a few of the sayings I will be putting on the t-shirts:

Hands off the gut!!

No, I am NOT having twins.

Yes, I know I am "great with child." That little phrase wasn't funny the first time and it isn't funny now.

If you use the words "huge," "enormous," "gargantuan," "behemoth" in my presence, you better have good reflexes.

Please do not share birthing horror stories with me. I just ate.

Wide load coming through. Please make way.

None of the following is any of your business:
the baby's name
how much weight I have gained
whether I will breast feed

Got a death wish? Call me hormonal.

Just lie and say I look nice.

No comments about my size, ok?

And this one is especially for my kids and husband:
Pick up your own dang socks. I can't bend over.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

elusive sleep

So, I was indulging in one of my many guilty pleasures--reading a dumb magazine--the other day when I came across an interesting article. Over a year ago, in a misguided and futile attempt to reinvigorate my diet and exercise plan, I subscribed to Fitness magazine. It hasn't helped me at all, and I haven't been all that impressed with the articles. In my opinion, they are too cursory and too common sense. Like, duh, really? We shouldn't eat ice cream at every meal? Who knew?

Anyway, I have been too lazy to cancel my subscription, so I still read the fluffy articles. This month there was an article entitled "Deprivation Nation" about sleep and its effects on our health. I think we all know how important sleep is, right? Anyone who has gone through their day in an utter fog knows that sleep is helpful in life. The other day, after one too many nights of interrupted sleep, I couldn't concentrate on anything. I called a friend back and left a message, only to find out hours later that I had dialed a different friend's number and left the message on the wrong answering machine. I put the pepperoni in the freezer rather than the fridge and couldn't find it all day. Yes, I know that I need sleep to function.

So the article talks about some recent research that has found a link between lack of sleep and diabetes. Apparently, not sleeping enough totally screws up your body's ability to process glucose. Great, as if I need one more risk factor for diabetes. Or one more thing to worry about as I wake every night.

The article then goes on to list all these ways you can reset your sleep clock. The author writes as if the reader needed motivation to get more sleep. I had to wonder who she thinks her readers are. I mean, I WANT to sleep. I wish I could sleep all day. I wish I could have a whole week of nights with absolutely no sleep interruptions. No little boy falling out of bed and needing comforting. No toddler waking up screaming at least 3 times a week and requiring hours of needling, bribery and coercion to get back to bed. No need to wake up and use the facilities at least twice nightly. No husband snoring in my ear. Seriously. (This has all happened to me in the last week. I am totally not exaggerating, either.) What I wouldn't give for better sleep. And no amount of avoiding caffeine, no amount of regular exercise or soothing music is going to do it for me. Nope, there is only one answer for me, and it is one my husband stubbornly refuses to accept.

It is a two-fold plan and very simple, though potentially expensive:
a room of my own and boarding school for the kids.

I really don't think this is too much to ask, is it?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

use your imagination

Imaginative play has been a bit of a depressing concept in our home. For so long, I had therapists express concern that Danny wasn't engaging in imaginative play, which of course added to my already interminably long list of worries. At times, I got defensive and made excuses for him. After all, he is very, very active and is more interested in running and jumping than in playing house. Growing up, I tended to prefer to play field hockey and softball with my twin brother and his friends than dolls with my sister. Maybe it is just a personality thing or a preference...

Still, I worried. And when he finally started employing his imagination more, I celebrated. He began small by feeding a baby doll or having his stuffed dog accompany us on trips. He insisted that I buckle puppy in, and puppy got to take part in all our activities. Now, we use our imagination in therapy and pretend he is crossing an alligator-infested swamp when he uses our makeshift balance beam. That sort of thing.

Last night, though, he really oudid himself. When he came home from school, he decided to clean up his room ala Wall-E (unbelievably, this game has stuck!) where he piles everything he owns, and a few things he doesn't, into his closet. Then, he and Charlotte commenced to jumping off the beds onto the floor. Danny proclaimed that they were at the beach and were jumping into the water. They dove and "swum" like madmen. They even started splashing me with imaginary water--right in the face. I would splash back and Danny would wipe the water from his eyes. When he tired of swimming, he laid out his blanket, which was now his beach towel, and spread out snacks of apples, grapes and watermelon, all imaginary. After snacking, (and being very careful not to get the snacks wet), they went back to swimming.

It was delightful watching Danny use his imagination so actively. I had to tear myself away to finish up dinner, but as I worked in the kitchen, I heard Danny say, "Charlotte, come on. Let's build a sandcastle!"

I know this is an average day in the life of a mom with "typical" kids. I used to envy those mothers--a lot, and sometimes even resent them and their "easy" kids. Their kids who never freaked out because the organ music was too loud at church, the ones who didn't get overstimulated at the drop of a hat. The ones who picked up language easily. But now, I have come to appreciate my experience more and what Danny is teaching me. For one, I am so much more grateful and aware (and in awe of) kids and what and how they learn. I definitely would have taken all the kid milestones for granted (that's just the kind of person I am, I think) had Danny not shown me how miraculous our brains are, how complicated and amazing.

So, here's to pretend play!

Monday, February 2, 2009

battle lines

The other day I was talking to a good friend of mine about kids, houses, parethood; you know, generally solving all the world's problems. She made a comment that has stuck with me, which she does often; Denise is quite profound. She was talking about her house and how it is messier than she would like it, but that she made a decision to not focus on that. Instead, she felt like she needed to focus on the love in her house, because she felt it was lacking. The kids had been bickering and she wanted to increase the love. I liked her point, because I think it is true that we have to decide what goals to prioritize as parents. We just can't do everything. Well, at least I can't.

So, I have been thinking about the principles and values that mean the most to me and that I stress with my kids. It has been interesting to realize that some of the things I make the biggest deal of to my kids are actually things that teach them important values. It's nice to know. Here are a couple of areas I have been working on with the kids:

** I have been teaching the kids to clean up after themselves. They both know now that when they come in the house, they are supposed to put away their coats and shoes. And they actually do it, miracle of miracles. Also, they are much better about throwing away wrappers from food rather than just dropping them on the floor and generally picking things up that I ask them to. They still make messes, but they are becoming much more cooperative about cleaning up. I like a clean house. I really do, but I can handle some clutter. I don't totally stress out if the house is messy, but this is important to me because I want them to learn to respect their possessions and to respect me. There's nothing that aggravates me more than a kid who just expects me to clean up after them. I am hoping to instill in them a sense of responsibility and a respect for others and for what Bil and I do for them.

** We have been really stressing that the kids use the words "please," "thank you," "excuse me" etc. This was something my parents really focused on and I think it is so good for kids to have nice manners. Plus, I think it helps lessen that feeling of entitlement that most kids have. I want my kids to understand that I don't have to help them or give them things. They should be grateful when someone does something nice for them and they should ask for things politely. It goes a long way toward getting what you want, too; people are so much more likely to help you if you are polite.

** Anger management is another priority for us. This one is tricky; I am not always sure how to teach the kids how to react in appropriate ways, since to be honest, I am not always the best model of proper anger management skills. But we are working on it together.

What are some principles or values that are important in your family? Do you have any areas that you are really working on? Why did you pick those areas? What has worked for you?