Saturday, March 26, 2011

Please Pardon the Interuption

We have a night away! My brother and sister are up babysitting Zygote while YG and I hang by the pool at the Hilton, and eat at snooty places on Newbury Street. sweet!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Being Invisible

Zygote and I went grocery shopping this morning to get out of the house and to prepare for a houseful of weekend guests. I like to talk to her when we're out and out, describing different things, in an effort to get her to start talking more. I was standing on my tippy toes trying to get some applesauce out of the far corner of a shelf, blathering on about high fructrose corn syrup, when I heard a loud sigh and an "EXCUSE ME." I turned around. My big preggo belly and big cart full of toddler and toddler-related snack items was blocking the aisle. A woman in her twenties, I'd guess, and her fancy Bluetooth headset wanted to get by. I moved, and when she walked by, I heard her say to whoever she was talking to, "god, these people with kids are so oblivious."

I wanted to cry. I was/am that lady, and I know I've muttered something similar a gazillion times before when trying to manuever around someone else's enormous stroller, but now I'm the mom. Nobody even sees me, and if they do, it's because I'm in their way. I didn't cry. Because I'm me, I said, loudly, "Oh, excuuuuuse me. I didn't realize that you were so fucking important that you needed the friggin aisle all the yourself" and stared her down. But it got me all rattled, and with the pregnancy hormones, all morose about how I will never be cute again. Eye roll.

I never WAS cute. Or I was, but I never EVER appreciated it. I never appreciated people looking at me or talking to me, and because of all my body image issues, I figured that the only reason people ever looked at me was because I looked weird or wrong or was the wrong size or had the wrong clothes. I have never been able to accept a compliment. And now, I kind of morph into the big mass of decent, yet tired-looking women pushing kids in strollers and wearing comfortable shoes. It just is. And it's particularly noticeable when you live in a college town and the places you frequent are filled with 18-22 year olds.

So we came home, and I got a little teary because of my invisibility and because I had to throw out some maternity clothes because they are too small. And I don't care how body positive and healthy you are, throwing out MATERNITY clothes will do a number on you. I put Zygote down to nap, and started trolling the Internets.

I found Erin Shea's Mirror Image post. The whole thing is beautiful, but these parts really brought on the waterworks:

How can I continue to berate myself and how I look when this perfect, sweet, awesome tiny human being looks so much like me? Even more pressing is that she’s going to hear that her whole life – “You look just like your mother.” I would rather that be connected in her mind to a woman who is at peace with herself and her own skin than that of a woman who spends an inordinate amount of time telling her reflection she doesn’t measure up.

Because I would stab anyone who would tell Abigail such a thing about herself.

. . .

All the same, she is a good reminder that I have value and beauty and worth, and I deserve better than what I offer myself most days, and in turn she deserves better than to be raised in a house where even a woman who has worth and intelligence and has worked hard to craft for herself and her family a life like this can be annihilated by a “fat day.” She deserves better than to be raised in a home where her mother uses such language to describe herself or anyone else, as though any of that is important.

She deserves, she deserves, she deserves.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

To Forgive

I read this post over at AlphaMom about Lent and forgiving yourself, and I wanted to come up with something equally as forgiving, but tonight, I am forgiving myself for not really wanting to write. I want to just sit on the couch and eat pie and read some more Jessica Darling novels and watch t.v. So I'll just steal her list because I kind of love them:

I forgive myself for not being a cook and not having the desire to learn how to be a better cook. But my children are not adventurous eaters and when I do make something new and exciting no one wants to eat it anyway and then I am stuck eating enough leftovers to feed an army. Because I am feeding an army.

I forgive myself for yelling when a kind word and some compassion were probably the better choice. Actually anything is usually a better choice than yelling. And yet I just can’t stop myself.

I forgive myself for not staying in touch with people I care about. I really hate the telephone. I said to one of my friends last week that in the event of an emergency she should text me. She agreed that I should do the same. Perhaps that is why we are good friends, we don’t need to actually speak.

I forgive myself for putting work ahead of my children.
I cringe at the number of times I am buried behind the computer screen and shush my children as they talk to me. Or the times I look up and sigh heavily as they excitedly burst into the room to tell me something. Only to have their faces fall and one of them say, “Did you lose your words, Mom?”

I forgive myself for putting my children ahead of my work.
How many times I have I gotten involved with my children when I should be working. When going outside in the sunshine to watch them perform their latest death defying skateboard trick, or basketball shot, or help with a chalk drawing seems more exciting. What isn’t exciting, however, is running out of money before the month is over.

I forgive myself for not achieving that elusive work-life balance, something I am not sure even exists. What would be a perfect solution is if I could give up sleeping. I just haven’t figured out how to make that work yet.

I forgive myself for not ironing on my daughter’s girl scout badges in a timely manner. In fact I passed the task off to someone else. I will admit that when my daughter told me one of the girls in her troop had her badges stapled onto her vest I felt a strong kinship with that girl’s mother. I wanted to grab two glasses, a bottle of wine and head over to their house and shout, “We can be friends!”

I forgive myself for never sewing any buttons back onto any clothing even though I save them all, including the extra ones that come with some clothes, with the delusion that this time will be different.

I forgive myself for hiding in the pantry and eating snack food. But I do it for the children. I am only thinking of them. And their teeth. And the obesity crisis in America. Honestly.

I forgive myself for not changing the sheets on the children’s beds weekly, every other week, until the sheets are able to walk to the laundryroom of their own volition, until a stomach bug hits the house.

I forgive myself for not always checking over my children’s homework before they hand it in. Or making sure they do their homework. I do make sure that they go to school so that counts for something, right?

I forgive myself for the dust bunnies, the weeds, the houseplants that never got watered, and the toothpaste splattered mirror. For the sticky bits on the counter, the crumbs on the floor, the tupperwares of mystery food in the back of the fridge. For the jeans with holes, the mismatched socks worn to school, and the shoes that suddenly are two sizes too small. For not being perfect.

All applicable, as is this from the lovely Liz Taylor:

"The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they're going to have some pretty annoying virtues."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Kids Are All Fat

Most of you know that I am not a big fan of all the hoopla about our national obesity “crisis.” Not because I don’t think people are getting heavier and not because I don’t think there are health risks associated with being very overweight. Mostly because all of the conversations around this “crisis” seem to always devolve into ‘fat people are lazy’ discussions and/or ‘if we could only educate those poor fatties, they would KNOW how to help themselves’ self-congratulatory tomes. Newsflash: fat people (and I might add, not-necessarily-that-fat-people like myself) know they are fat. It’s not a secret. Also, a lot of these anti-obesity campaigns seem to be focused on LOOKS and not on HEALTH. If you look thin, you must be healthy. If you look fat, you’re unhealthy. There is little wiggle room. And, OMG, FUCK THE BMI.

Basically, I have a lot of feelings (italicize) about obesity and food and fat, and not a lot of rational thoughts. I get all riled up when I see things that I think are wrong about health and nutrition in general, but I’m not sure if I know what is right. I have thoughts about campaign finance reform and food marketing and corn subsidies, among other things. And I read A LOT of books, but I am admittedly very jumpy about this stuff and see everything through a “stop judging me because I don’t look right” lens.

Also, I sure as hell don’t know how to educate people about health and exercise and nutrition. But Slate readers do. Sort of. A while back, they asked readers to submit their best ideas for reducing the rate of childhood obesity. Earlier this week, they posted the 12 best ideas : 6 selected by experts in food, nutrition, fitness, and public health, and the other 6 picked by readers.

he judges' top six picks are:
1. Stop Being Afraid of the Food Industry, by Maria
2. Teach Children Cognitive Control, by Kristin V.
3. A Holistic Approach to Reversing Childhood Obesity Rates, by Rachel Assuncao
4. Legislate, Educate, and Inoculate To Create Food-Savvy Kids, by Bettina at The Lunch Tray
5. Food Stamp Incentives, by Zahava
6. Change the Cultural Norms Around Eating, by JenInNH

The readers' top six picks are:
1. Push Play Instead of Push-Ups, by Matt Bowers
2. End Corn Subsidies, submitted anonymously
3. Improving Sidewalks, Bike Lanes, and Street Safety, submitted anonymously
4. Change the Parent's Mind, Change the Child's Life, by HealthCoachRobyn
5. Build an Online Network, by Elizabeth Brotherton
6. Subsidize Small Local Farmers, by Rebecca Rothfeld

There’s a lot of interesting stuff in there, and I should point out that NONE advocate a shame-based approach. This was noted by some of the more douche assholes in the comments section. Also, Tea Partiers fearing a “nanny state.” Seriously.

When we’re not worried about ruining our children’s lives by sending them to the wrong preschool, YG and I worry about saddling them with all of our weird food issues. Our families had extremely different approaches to exercise and nutrition, but both of us are undeniably fucked up. So we’re trying to figure out what our approach is. Right now, it seems to be moderation around food and play and modeling by example. We’ll see what happens as we get deeper into the middle school, terrible girl years.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

She’s Really Good At Blocks

YG and I recently started talking to people in our neighborhood about preschools. And by “talking to,” I mean absentmindedly replying to the question, “You haven’t started thinking about preschools YET?” Apparently, there is a lot to learn about preschools. Stuff that I didn’t really bother to pay attention to since Zygote is 1.9 and won’t be entering preschool until 2.9. I thought we had time.

And I was wrong. We are already in the 80s on one wait list, and still need to research other places to see what works with our schedules and budget. So I found myself reading Katie Roiphe’s article in The Financial Times, School for Parental Delusion,and laughing out loud because almost ALL of it struck a chord, from the talk of diversity(“This is a puzzling word, “diverse”, thrown around all the school promotions, into pamphlets and brochures and websites, because if you were truly committed to sending your children somewhere “diverse”, would you not be selecting a different school, one that doesn’t require almost all of its students to pay tuition that could support several villages in Africa?” to the ridiculousness of having an 18-month-old do an interview.

Look, I love my kid and think she is brilliant and hilarious, but I find myself at a loss when I fill out the daycare forms asking me to describe (specifically) her strengths and weaknesses. Strengths? Funny, charming, likes people, not too messy. Weaknesses? Poor bowel control, gets irritated when she doesn’t get her way, needs assistance with basic tasks like putting on shoes and socks. Isn’t that pretty much EVERY two year old? How do they even evaluate this stuff?

I also find that my bullshit meter is on high when I read through descriptions of the various schools and programs. Everything is an “exploration,” or encourages “expressive art” and is “vibrant and holistic.” I use those same words in pretty much every press release I write, so I know they are marketing schlock. And let us not forget CREATIVE.

Roiphe describes,
“The most sought-after school in my neighbourhood, a famously open-minded and progressive and arty yet very exclusive private school, is conferring a kind of creativity on the parents, so that even if they are bankers or hedge-fund guys, as many of them frankly are, they can tell themselves in the dark of night that they are creative people, because their children attend this impeccably creative school. And if they are creative people – that is, people who have somehow made enough money to send their children to this school, but work in film or music or advertising – they can congratulate themselves on their creativity, even if they are not, although in a creative profession, exactly creating anything themselves. The secret suspicion that you might be a hack, a glorified hack, making a rather nice living doing something fun (but not truly living out your fantasy of creating art the way you honestly thought you would be in college), well, the cheque you make out to that fancy, creative, open place you are sending your child to is proving otherwise. They are putting on operas when they are three years old, after all. They are illustrating Wallace Stevens poems by the time they are six. How could anyone accuse you of just being a banker, or a music executive, or an internet guy with good glasses? I have a friend whose five-year-old attends this school. She and her husband were pleased that when their daughter had an assignment to write down what she wanted to be when she grew up she wrote “artist”. But when they arrived at the class presentation the next day they saw that all 22 children had put down “artist”: there were no “veterinarians”, no “circus acrobats”, no “doctors”, no “hair cutters”. Twenty two artists, and one kindergarten class: the school, you see, does not play around.”

I relayed that story to YG, and he said, “God, I really hope I have the kid in that school that says ‘I want to be a cop so I can kick some ass and carry a gun.’” I am not with him on the desire for a gun-toting tot, but I do hope I have the kid that can look at all this uber bougie nonsense, and say, “Seriously? Are you fucking kidding me with this?”

Luckily, I will be there to rescue her when she gets reprimanded for swearing because at all “good” pre-schools, I will be required to have a job to give me extra “insight” into my kid’s universe. I will have work days and classroom time, sometimes adding up to at least three hours a WEEK. Each of these schools have an accompanying FAQ about parent time that has one question like, “What if I already have a job and can’t make my designated times?” with a guilt-ridden answer about how if you really loved your children, you would give them all the time in the world. And a rainbow. And a pony.

It’s scary, and seems hyper competitive. My parents were always involved in my schoolwork – my dad was a teacher and had a long tenure on the Board of Ed and my mother was the homework checker, diorama builder, and project manager. Both believed STRONGLY that education was the most important thing in my life. For Zygote, I imagined that we would settle on a decent school using our standard “know it when we see it” rule and that my involvement would be somewhat like my parents – helping her to do the best she can. That feels very na├»ve. Apparently, I need to develop a “philosophy” about education and I need to get my happy, silly girl the How to Win Friends and Influence People: Toddler Edition, along with quitting my day job so that I can learn how crafts help broaden her worldview.

I am so not ready for this.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Advancing My Big Gay Political Agenda One Child At A Time

Sometimes the small people do pay attention.

The MG: Are [My Brother and brother’s boyfriend*] going to get married?

JM: Um, I don’t know. Maybe.

[Launch standard feminist discourse about how not everybody wants to get married, sometimes unequal institution, blah blah. Subtext being ‘You will not marry some couch hogging n’er do well who wants you to work extra shifts at Dunkin Donuts to support his video game habit and occasional recreational drug use. You will go to college and be successful (read: not live in my house) and after you have conquered the world, you can worry about boys.’]

[MG rolls eyes. Sighs impatiently.]

MG: Yeah, I KNOW. But if they get married, will they get married here or someplace like here where they can get married?

JM: Um, probably, if they want to get married. There are not a lot of states that allow gay people to get married.

MG: Because they are stupid.

JM: Exactly.

* I was going to refer to them as B and J, and then started laughing. BJ. Ha ha ha. Oh, blow jobs. So hilarious. I really have no right to be educating children.

Things That Made Me Laugh

Atheist pet watchers.

You've committed your life to Jesus. You know you're saved. But when the Rapture comes what's to become of your loving pets who are left behind? Eternal Earth-Bound Pets takes that burden off your mind.

Awesome. I confess too that the first time I saw a bumper sticker that read, "In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned," I thought it was some weird, cool sex thing.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Interrupted Lives

"Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will be in our troubled world." — Etty Hillesum

I heard that quote today and felt guilty that I hadn't heard of Etty Hillesum. Esther "Etty" Hillesum was a young Jewish woman whose letters and diaries describe life in Amsterdam during the German occupation. She died in Auschwitz sometime in 1943, and her letters were published posthumously as Life Interrupted.

I heard these quotes in the context of a sermon on Nicodemus the literalist vs. Jesus the poet. I wish I was a poet. I think I should be a poet, as someone who enjoys the writing life, but in reality, I am a literalist. I ask a lot of questions, and I like to figure out answers. I'm much more straight and narrow than free and easy. Faith and mysticism do not come easily to me, and even though I show up to church every week, I find myself daydreaming a lot or looking around at the people, lost with their eyes closed, and wonder what it is that they understand that I don't. I WANT to get it, but the vast majority of time I don't. And I wonder how people who seem normal and not Jesus freaky make all of this work for them. How do people accept things on faith? I like proof. And Excel.

So, today, I was slipping in and out of the sermon, half paying attention and half making a mental list of things I want to do today: brunch, laundry, gym, job seeking, and then I heard, "You can't think yourself out of your problems." Record scratch. Um, WHAT? Does not compute. What else do you do? You think about them, and then you solve them the best you can. Right? Almost every major life decision I have made has involved a long list of pros and cons, each carefully contemplated, but here I am still, lost in transition. I keep telling YG that if I only had the time to THINK, then I would figure out what to do next, what my next steps are. We talk about each of us going away for a weekend and making lots of lists, holed up in a hotel somewhere. Or if only I could find the perfect organizational system, I would figure out my life. All practical, all logical, all literal. I have never once considered just going with my gut feeling.

I think I am going to be uncomfortable for a while. I think I have to stop thinking about what being uncomfortable means and just ride it out. I think I have to start feeling something about what I want to do other than wrestling and roller derby, and see what happens.

And I think my writing is going to suck more and be considerably less funny while I'm here. Seriously, I sound like a self-help book.

“Become simple and live simply, not only within yourself but also in your everyday dealings. Don't make ripples all around you, don't try to be interesting, keep your distance, be honest, fight the desire to be thought fascinating by the outside world.”