Saturday, December 31, 2011

Resolution Version 2012

Here is my 2012 New Year's Resolution (singular): Survive.

I was thinking about how the last couple of years I have established a New Year's Resolutions goal on this blog and how that's actually helped me remember it/them and have a desire to keep on keepin' on. Well, I have nothing that I feel particularly driven by right now other than to survive. To forget a new everyday. To create something that hasn't been before. And, to be happy about it.

It's a busy, momentous time for me and us right now. My new job is one of survival. Every day with a 2-year old, packing and planning and coordinating, is something of a survival mode. And with the second little bean on the way, I'm pretty positive that there's going to be some survival adjustments to be made by us all there as well.

Therefore, my goal this year is not just to survive but to thrive and truly be happy in the life that we are molding for ourselves. It is what it is around here, and right now, that's okay.

So, here goes...!!!

Monday, December 26, 2011

How to survive the holidays when you can't remember anything

I've never been known for having an outstanding memory, though it mostly seems to be lacking around my mom. In other words, I *always* forget something when we go up to stay with my mom and dad. Yet, I personally think that I'm pretty darn good at remembering at school, a work environment that pulls my attention 100 different ways every minute. Maybe it's a learned behavior in both situations.

Either way, pregnancy brain has struck again--BIG time! This is especially problematic in December, which is non-stop between school and the holidays. I'm just used to needing to make a couple of trips to the store and forgetting things on my Christmas list, even with lists. To his credit, the boy doesn't get frustrated with me about my forgetfulness. He's a good sport and rarely complains, even if it means that he has to make a flying trip to Meijer in order to save the recipe that I'm half-way through. But the latest BIG flub is both totally my own doing and one that I'll remedy myself, though it's the last thing that I want to do right now.

I went gift card style for lots of family and friends this year, mostly because I'm at the stage in my life where those are up at the top of my Christmas list. I don't really need (or want) most stuff, but food is entirely another matter. I LOVE me some food gift cards! And I do also appreciate the freebies that places throw at you right now if you buy a gift card. I wholeheartedly admit that I can be a sucker for gimmicks and advertisements as long as it serves my purpose. I don't really care if I'm giving a gift card from steakhouse A or B as long as I have something that the person is going to like. So if it's 6 of one and half dozen of another, then why not go for the one where I get future date night money in return? A week ago, I went on my gift card shopping binge and plunked down something like $150 just for gift cards, but seriously, that took care of everyone with some freebies for me in return.

The time came this week, early in the morning during the pre-school-getting-out-of-the-house rush that I needed to stick the first 2 gift cards in gift bags to send to the sitters. I grabbed them and life was grand. Actually, life was great because I actually remembered to send them unlike the week before when I just completely forgot. I had a free pass on this one of sorts, so I was just glad to make amends for my earlier miscue. Except...

...a couple of days later, I realized that I gave the wrong gift cards to the wrong people. While the ones that I gave to our sitters were perfectly acceptable, those were actually intended for my siblings, who don't live in Kokomo. I did have a couple of gift cards ready to go for the sitters, who do live in Kokomo, for one of the few quality, non-chain restaurants in town...in Kokomo. What I have left at this point are 2 gift cards for a restaurant IN KOKOMO for 2 people who DON'T LIVE HERE. Which means...

...that I have to go out and buy 2 more gift cards at a time when I'd rather not spend more money on presents, thanks very much. Granted, the two gift cards that I have will be just fine sitting here and waiting until the end of the school year for another little thanks-so-much-you-guys-are-a-lifesaver moment for those 2 fantastic women who play with, teach and encourage my child every day. I guess that I just have to suck it up and pay now rather than later. And really, those 2 gift cards for the local restaurant are still going to have to survive the next semester, which could be an unprecedented time of confusion and upheaval for us.

I guess what I really need for Christmas is a personal assistant for the next 5 months. That. Would. Be. Amazing. Except in my case, the devil wears maternity clothes. :-)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A festival of lights

I never really enjoyed driving around to look at Christmas lights when I was younger, which I remember doing a couple of times as a pre-teen/teenager. It's not like we did it every year, but I distinctly remember doing this a couple of times with my parents and grandparents, who seemed to really like it. What I distinctly don't remember is either of my brothers coming along, so my guess is that this happened in that period of time when I was still forced to come places but when my brothers were old enough that they were off doing their own things. Truth be told, I didn't hate it, but it was frankly pretty boring in my opinion.

Imagine my surprise when I totally enjoyed it tonight with my little family! While driving home at night with my little munchkin the other night, it came to me that she'd really enjoy driving through the park where they have a pretty nice (per Kokomo standards, granted) holiday display set up. Ben was groovy with the idea, so following an early supper, we did the bath routine and jammied up (all of us!), loaded in the car, brought some Christmas cookies, and set off. We jammed to lots of great Christmas music and just generally chatted and looked around with the perspective of a 2-year old. On at least one occasion, this caused me to annoy the car behind me when I realized I was only driving 20-miles an hour. But worth it! We were out for about an hour and ended up going through several neighborhoods as well at a snail's pace. And, one house was even synched to the radio, so we stopped there for an entire song. Fun! Abby even convinced us to let her lick on a candy cane and later determined that her "skin was sticky." That was definitely true.

This has been a fun Christmas for all of us so far with Abby's growing interest in Christmas-y things without the burden of consumerist impulses manipulating her young mind. I think that she's still going to have much fun receiving the socks that we already stashed in her stocking. She wants to get Ben a teddy bear for Christmas. But she also wants to get me a teddy bear for Christmas, and undoubtedly that's on her wish list for herself as well (her little friend must be privy to these Christmas yearnings because that's exactly what he gave her, and it's now always with her). And Ben has decided that secrets will be ignored this year as he is utilizing Abby as his little Christmas elf and having her help with secrets for me...secrets no more! She's pretty good about telling what's in the presents without prompting.

Abby gave us a break and was happy by herself for a while, which allowed Ben and I to cook supper together in the kitchen (a rarity!), followed by our festival of lights excursion, which means that overall, I'm still in the happy little family glow. Times like these sometimes just pop up, and those warm fuzzies are the best!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Zogurt & such

Once upon a time, I went to a wedding by myself when I was 9 weeks pregnant, and it was down in Fishers/Indy, an hour from my house. I ate lunch before I left (wedding was at 2:00), but as soon as I got in the car, it became inherently obvious that I would need food before the cocktail hour began. That little granola bar wasn't going to cut it. I missed one Arby's. I missed another Arby's. Life was looking grim. I wasn't looking forward to a wedding of indeterminate length with nausea inducing hunger. And then, and THEN, a heaven sent Zogurt appeared before me at the last corner, on the last road, about a block from the church. My car must have had some GPS tracking device that guided it into a parking space in a fantastically quick fashion.

Zogurts, as the bored looking guy explained, is all about gluten-free, sugar-free, and other free frozen yogurt. And it's delicious. And, you can sample the flavor before you buy it. AND, you control everything! Portion size...toppings...everything! So I dug into some white chocolate macadamia nut frozen yogurt. With a few well placed brownie chunks, and Oreo pieces, and pecans, and hot fudge, and caramel, and coconut.

That Zogurt kept me so happy until cocktail hour began. What a wedding day miracle!

And in other news, I'm on the down slope with the nausea (oh please, OH PLEASE). This has been w-a-y worse than the last time. A boy this time?!?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I don't even recognize my life anymore!

Oct. 5th. My good friend's birthday. 3:30-4:30 p.m. Lots of life changing stuff happened in this hour.

(in no sequential order)

First, I received a call from a principal at another high school (Ben's, specifically) officially offering me a job teaching 12th grade English. This meant that I would have to give up my job where I had been working for 5+ years, where I knew everyone and everyone knew me, where I adored the people that I worked with. Ultimately, I made the change--tendered my resignation and broke the news to my kids. And then I spent the next couple of weeks biding my time before the transition happened, an uncomfortable and unsettling period when I knew and the kids knew that my teaching ability was somewhat restricted. That being said--those kids were great. Really. Not a single time did I have a student throw something that I assigned back at me claiming that it was useless since I was "just leaving" anyway. (There was one parent, however...) And now I walk into a different classroom with a different view out of the windows with different kind of desks and a different board and assign different homework. Goodness, I miss many of those people...even the hallway duty and the (idea of) the lounge coffee. Two weeks in and still so much work.

Second, yep, the clan is expanding. Where we're going to put this new one is anyone's guess!! This house--still on the market. 'Bout to come off of the market for a couple of months. So now we're into trying to control nausea just about non-stop and pulling out the boxes of maternity clothes. My super sniffer superpower has returned. My hunger knows no bounds. I can't remember basic info. I must be pregnant.

So the last 6 weeks have been nothing short of tumultuous and exhausting. Just...tired.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet & The Litigators

That's the longest title I've ever used.

I've gotten a couple of books read, and I'll use these as my blogged books for both October and November since I, again, didn't get anything down last month. (Excuses? It was a busy, weird, unsettling month!)

First, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jaime Ford: Howard County Reads book for 2011. Not super impressed. Despite a couple of reviews that I read online before I cracked the cover, this one was overall a let-down. The story itself was okay to above average, but the writing--mediocre at best. At best! I'm not inspired at all to read anything else by the same guy. I even spent some time reading in his blog (a first-time experience for me, reading an author's blog), and I'm even more disappointed after reading the book. I don't know. He seems like something of a braggart on his blog and then his book doesn't live up to that gradiose-ness and importance that he kind of implies. But, he's also apparently going to be in town in a few weeks for an appearance at the local college. That could be interesting to attend for no other reason than to compare yet another impression of him to the other two that I've established. I did like that the story is fairly unique, dealing with a lot of atypical racial tensions (Chinese-Japanese) in Seattle during WWII. Remember, we put all of those people of Japanese descent in concentrations camps then. If this book is to be taken as an honest representation of that, then it paints a uniquely different perception of what a concentration camp is in comparison to what we are most familiar with given that term--Nazi concentration camps. But, that interest factor beside, I read it because I kinda had to for school. Henry Lee, the protagonist, just didn't do anything for me. He's pretty static actually; not a good thing to have with a protagonist!!

Then, I whipped through The Litigators by John Grisham this week. It was absolutely a welcome respite from life at night and during breakfasts throughout the week. I've read every other Grisham book save one YA fiction book that he's done, so I'm obviously a fan. Frankly, his style is just really Grisham-y, and it works, hence his gross level of success. Seriously, who would think that someone could be so famous and successful writing about lawyers and lawyer stuff? Yet the stories are so addictive! It helps that they're easy to read, granted. But, really, the characters are his specialty. He always spends time with the details on the characters, not ad naseum, but in a freakishly insider kind of way. Detailed in the right way. He's pretty expert at creating a fairly developed character in a short amount of time. And, I always think of this when I read his work, he gets a lot (if not all) of his character's names from the obituaries. Fun, right? At any rate, The Litigators is supremely fun, especially the end, but I'm really not wholly buying the storyline. But, frankly, it doesn't matter! How delicious is that! It's a greatly enjoyable read with a fairly ludicrous plot. Sounds captivating, doesn't it?? But read it! Absolutely!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Why do we...?

Why do we congratulate people so enthusiastically when news of a new baby comes out? It's A LOT of work, among other things!!

I remember reading a specific reference that a Russian woman made to this, noting that in Russia, news of a new arrival is met with a more realistic attitude--"Oh, that's good news, but there's a lot of work ahead for you." Whereas in America, how do we respond? "Yayyyyyyyyy!!!!! Congratulations!!!!!!" You'd think that having a baby was synonymous with having scads of money flung at you for you apparent reason: everyone is excited about it and kinda wants in on the action for the good parts but no one wants to really help out with the bad parts (like paying taxes on your lottery winnings).

I'm not about to pretend that I don't also share this energetic, over the moon, as-if-it-were-happening-to-me response. I can't help it. You get all hopped up on happy thoughts of warm snuggly, toothless little coo-ers who smack their lips and have those ever-so-adorable yawns and good morning stretches.

And, for that matter, why do we get so excited to share such good news? Do we revel in the adoration? Secretly desire the lavish attention showered on us when it's our turn? Ignore the rational knowledge that reminds us, Warning: massive amounts of work ahead with little free time for yourself for at least a couple of years!!!

Whatever the case may be, happy news and cuteness is always appreciated.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

conundrum

In keeping with the constant state of flux and difficult problems this school year, here's another.

I have officially been offered a job teaching 12th grade English at Eastern High School.

Yep.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

10 years already?

Yesterday, I sent out a message to a couple of high school buddies and said something to the effect of "Hey there friends from my former life." It's so true. What part of my life now resembles anything 10 years ago? My goodness, my twenties are flying by! Will there ever be another decade of my life with this much tumultuous change and upheaval?

I've been thinking about this somewhat lately because my 10-year high school reunion is coming up in a few days, I guess. The only way I even know a single bit about this is because someone put me on a list on FB and every once in a while I go over there and look at bits and pieces of what people have been saying.

And I don't miss these people, at least the ones who have been posting. I'm really not sure what I was like 10 years ago. I don't remember much at all from being in high school, especially in the classes themselves. I remember snatches of who I hung out with and vague bits of my schedule. But I really wonder, what was I like from a teacher's perspective? From my classmates' perspectives? I...don't know.

There isn't any incentive for me to pay $30/person ($60/couple...what a deal!!) to go try to make small talk with some people that I used to know in my past life but who I can't always put a face with a name. By and large, I can't remember vivid details about these people. A couple of my "besties" from high school are out West and really out West (like West coast style), so they're not coming back. Another good friend is going, but...I've kept in touch with him and see him occasionally.

It's also Ben's 10-year reunion, yep, another $30/person. All told, it would be $110 for both of us to go to both of our reunions. Not a good use of finances, I think. Unfortunate? More bittersweet.

My classmates mostly intimidated me, and I never felt like anything more than an overweight, nerdy nerd around them who couldn't think of anything funny and was highly uninteresting. So this whole reunion thing is kinda bumming me out a touch cause what it is mostly doing is dredging up these ugly, unpleasant feelings.

Instead, we might go to our college's Homecoming, a place where I never felt anything but acceptance. We might go to the zoo and visit with my parents. Both of these options seem better to me.

So I'll lift my own glass of whatever to cheer on my old classmates from a distance. Some of them are truly inspiring and warm-hearted individuals; I'm proud to be friends with them or to know them, even tangentially. Best wishes to them all. I hope that they have fun.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Out of the tumult comes a modicum of relief

What do you know, our babysitter situation seems to have resolved itself. Big sigh of relief, less night crying, an ulcer has been averted...

I'm over exaggerating a *smidge.* But some amount of kismet or else a true honest to goodness heaven sent hug just came our way.

But hear me out. I'm not guilty about working and having Abby at a babysitter's house every day. I'm not. Ben's not. We have no reason to be. Because she's in the care of two wonderful, loving women, she's undoubtedly learning and experiencing things that she would not should I choose to give up my career and stay at home with her. She has the chance to socialize with two little kids who are both exactly her age. She learns songs at Bible study. She does crafts, liking making a cute little ant that looks like a spider. She gains an understanding of what it is like to not be the only child.

Granted, paying for childcare stinks. And of course of course, I adore being at home with my munchkin. Love it. Have the sweetest job in the summer that lets me be home for 10 weeks and still get paid for it.

But still, what's to feel guilty about? Before our babysitter change, the thing I felt guilty about was that she was in a mediocre situation, not a great one. And now, she's in a great one. But it's still going to be another up-in-the-air situation at the end of the school year probably. Crud. This part really bites.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tumult

(If you're interested, I just posted about my latest book find. Keep reading if you're interested.)

This school year has been nothing short of TUMULTUOUS. There's some quality of self immolation for anyone who chooses to teach. Sometimes, it's torture. Sometimes, it's horrible. Most often, it's comfortable and (dare I say?) enjoyable.

I made no secret in college that I was only going to teach for a few years and then move on to other pursuits, ventures, and what have you. I'd already decided that I wanted to be involved in education in some capacity, but I wasn't convinced when I graduated with a license to teach adolescents (oxymoron??? ha...lame joke) that I wanted to commit my entire professional life to the confines of a high school. Just because you start out as a teacher, it doesn't mean that you have to always teach. But, you know, it's growing on me. I'm alarmingly close to reaching my 10-year-and-out limit. We'll see how the next 2 years go after I fulfill this contract.

But what I really want to talk about here is just the sheer tumult in my life right now. It seems as if nothing is truly comfortably fixed, which drives me absolutely NUTS.

*My classroom situation is in a complete state of flux. I have a student teacher working with me for the first time, which is somewhat incomprehensible. Am I really old enough or experienced enough to have a newbie working out the kinks alongside of me?
*My teaching schedule is going to be radically altered next year when I am assimilated into the New Tech way of teaching at the junior level.
*My babysitter situation is not where I want it to be and seems to be impossible to find what we need. This is definitely keeping me up-a-night. What can we do? Do we just stick it out? Where else can we place her for 2 days a week? We are doing our best to avoid placing her in a daycare setting, but what if we have to? How do I reconcile myself to that situation?
*Our house has had some really positive showings, which is quite a bit alarming and exciting. Alarming--we have no where to go, not even an apartment lined up should our house sell. Exciting--we're going to take a hit on our house, but maybe not as much as we had been warned against. Alarming--we have been seriously looking for a new house since January and have no house in our sights. Exciting--it's still kind of fun looking for an upgrade.

How HARD can it be to find a house that has a couple of basic requirements in the price range that we're restricted to? In this county, it seems that it is in fact downright impossible. Something is just going to have to give, and unfortunately, it can't be the price. Maybe we can't have a basement. Maybe we can't have 4 bedrooms. I don't know. But something is going to have to be amended if we are ever going to find our we're-staying-in-this-one-until-retirement house.

This all comes along with a phone call from our financial adviser who was answering a question that Ben posed to her. But the answer that she gave me just epitomizes the frustrations and TUMULT that everything has been lately. According to her, we need to contribute an additional $800/month to our retirement savings if we want to retire at 55 (standard for teachers). That along with what we're already contributing would equal 23% of our net salary. How does this work? It's not like we're just now starting to save. Technically, we could afford it, but at what cost? No vacations. Not nearly enough or anything saved for Abby's education. Nothing or very little put away in savings. Is the economic forecast really that bad that we need to commit this much to being able to maintain the way we live now, which is decidedly not flashy?

And, the only salary increase I earned after 4 years and $12,000+ dollars to finish my Masters was about $30/paycheck because my school's teachers were forced to agree to a 2.5% pay decrease and no incremental promotions (i.e. I'm stuck at 5 years experience for an indefinite amount of time even though this is my 7th year teaching). Comparatively, Ben, who is on the B.S. salary schedule (2 increments below mine) and has the same years of service earns about $3000 more than I do in gross pay. Our health insurance has gone up 14% in 2 years and our pay is going...

I'm whining here, I know, but why does it have to be so hard? Why? We both have stable, full-time jobs; why can't we find a decent long-term house and be able to save for our collective futures without sacrificing everything now?

Let me clarify that I don't expect everything to be given for me. I appreciate the fight and the struggle and how the benefits that are reaped are sweet. But, I wouldn't mind a little sense that we're doing things right, that we're okay.

In one of the best episodes of The West Wing, Toby, Josh and Donna end up stranded in Indiana. Toby is hanging out in a hotel bar waiting for a train to get back to Washington, and he gets into a conversation with a guy who was returning home from taking his daughter to Notre Dame for a college visit. The guy is baring his soul to Toby, talking about how he doesn't need someone to just hand it all to him, but just a little help would be nice, something to help him know that all of his efforts are meaningful and that things will work out. I get this guy's perspective now. I get him. Just a little confirmation would be great...

This has been a constant prayer as of late.

Stories I Only Tell My Friends

By Rob Lowe

There's a little bit of background to my adoration of Rob Lowe (2000s-present). He was Sam Seaborne in The West Wing. You may ask why that's such a big deal--it is!! First of all, his character is nothing short of adorable and genuine and optimistic in the show. Second, it's The West Wing, an amazing show. Third, this is the show that hooked me up for good with Ben. (Another story for another day if you're really at all interested.)

I'm not all that in love with Lowe in his pre-TWW days, e.g. the likes of Tommy Boy when he was associated with the Brat Pack. The rationale for this is basically because that type of movie is really never anything that I watch or enjoy. Crude comedies? Not my thing.

At any rate, I adore Sam Seaborn. I'm not much of a book buyer, so I had to wait in line at the library to finally get a copy of it to read, which is to say that I had to wait for a while because I was something like 18th in line for a copy. And then I got my chance to read it at the beginning of September when I was halfheartedly reading 2 other books and when the school year starts ramping up (and, oh my, this year has been epic so far--distractingly so). All of this means that I had to turn my copy back in to the library with no hopes of renewing it. I had to get back in line, but I'm only 5th in line now, so maybe I won't remember that I'm on page 127 and that he's in the middle of talking about starting to shoot his breakout film, The Outsiders (I hated this book! Truly one of the few books that I've had to read for school that I haven't enjoyed in some way. But whatev...way to go Rob "Sodapop" Lowe!)

Regardless of me not finishing it, I'm going to offer my thoughts on it so far, which I also believe will hold true for the rest of the book whenever I get it again.

1. His writing is pretty lame.
2. His stories are pretty incredible.
3. Didn't anyone who was editing/proofing his text realize that his verb tenses are problematic and subtly (or forthrightly) suggest that he fix them? I mean, past tense or present...pick one.
4. It's unreal that random connections he had by the time he was 15, 16 years old. The name dropping in this autobiography is jaw dropping. "The guy who beat me in that footrace ran like Superman; later, he would be Superman. It was Dean Cain." Or, "I got fired from my first real job partly because I was caught making out with Holly Robinson [Pete] behind the Coke machine." Or what about, "I was hanging around the [Martin] Sheen's house with my good buddies Emilio and Charlie and this guy Tom Cruise was staying there for a few days while he was auditioning." Another favorite--"I was walking across a supermarket parking lot, and I saw these guys, Chris and Sean Penn, making a movie." Ridiculous.

It's an amusing, quick read; why not pick it up if you also enjoy his adorableness? And his son is a big Colts fan. :-)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

computer woes

The Cox family definitely has a dearth of computers floating around the house. We've had some combination of 3 laptops and 2 iPads floating around our house all summer. Ben and I have each invested in personal laptops justifying it by citing grad school work. Ironically? Ben still hasn't started his (soon???) Unfortunately, this has also meant that I greatly appreciate the luxury of having my own device. For all of the torment my little machine has given me (really, who ever thought that Vista was a plausible operating system?), it saw me through 4 years of Masters work. I much appreciate what it can do for me. But now, I am sad to report that the little booger has died.

It is lost beyond the feasibility of pricey repair. And now I have to largely share laptop space with Ben whenever I want to type. I don't like sharing it. It irritates me enough to rarely even open it. Instead, we (fortuitously) adopted a couple of iPads for free this summer. One went back to the school that Ben teaches at, but the other is basically on permanent rent to us. I greatly enjoy the quickness that I can access any information that I desire. Especially considering that it would often take me 5(+) minutes to turn on my laptop and log onto the internet it was sometimes so bogged down in garbage that Ben never got cleaned up. Now, it's 20 seconds. Lovely! But iPads are frustrating means of typed communication. They're really mainstreamed for finding and scanning information, not typing emails to friends who you haven't talked to recently (or typing blog posts, even short ones).

But then my school blessed me with my own personal laptop, so it's kind of a cheap way out of investing in another laptop just for my personal use. If I remember to bring it home. And if Ben was able to make it compatible with our internet at home.

So all this to explain why I haven't typed much lately. And that also means that I lost the last two topics that I had yet to write on for my This I Believe series. But no one reads that anyways. And, I know that I broke my New Years Resolution for the month of August--I think? I don't think that I've done a book review since July. I've run into a reading road block once school started. This is an exhausting time of year. Unsettling as routines are hammered out and altered. Suffice it to say, I miss my laptop. I kinda feel sad, like selling our first car that we owned. Nostalgic for the silver bullet that was nothing if not slow.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

This is such a funny age

Abby's a Daddy's girl, BIG time. Tonight happened to be Ben's night to give her a bath and put her down to bed (we alternate). Ergo, she was in a great mood.

As Ben was backing out of the room, I heard a variety of little girl giggles including "Good night, sleep tight" repeatedly interspersed with a litany of things she loves. It ran something like this "Abby loves zoos, Mommy, Unca Joe, Mommy, butterflies, Daddy, zoos..." So that was funny.

Then, she kept chattering to herself after Ben finally shut the door, and since her room is right by the living room, we could hear it all. And the best part was this particularly funny exchange.

Abby singing a nursery rhyme.
*thump*
Abby: "Oww, that hurts. I hit my head." (in a silly, giggly sort of way)
Ben: If she hit her head, that means that she's not tucked in anymore.
Abby: Daddy, tuck my feet in! Daddy, tuck my feet in!!
Daddy walks into the room to re-tuck the little munchkin.
Abby: "I have poopy diaper."
Daddy: "This is what you needed to do in the potty before you laid down..."
(a few minutes later...)
Abby: "Tuck in Abby's feet! I tuck in Abby's feeeet!!" (Her pronouns are hit and miss. She still insists that the proper way to ask to be picked up is "Pick you up!" And often when she wants to sit on your lap, she'll repeatedly insist "Sit on my lap.")
Ben goes in to re-tuck one last time.
Abby: "I see Daddy's feet!"

Back to singing to herself. Her current favorite hits medley alternates between "Tinkle, Tinkle Little Star" (which I find wildly funny when she sings it while sitting on the potty) and the ABC song.

Oh wait, as I type this, she's reverted to another favorite stand-by. "Where'd Abby go?" She probably has a blanket on her head. (Which reminds me, and I'm apparently in a rambling mood, Abby likes to play hide-and-seek, and sometimes mixes it up and "hides" her favorite stuffed kitty, though always in the same spot. It's pretty easy to distract her and then re-hide kitty. So funny when she comes back to where she thinks her kitty is hiding, sure that you'll never find the toy, only to discover that her kitty is truly hiding. Where'd kitty go??)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Service

***This is the 13th entry in my This I Believe series.***

Well, it’s been months since I’ve last contributed to my goal of completing my own This I Believe series that I began last fall with my Composition kids. I’m finishing these last couple, whether anyone reads them or not!

I know what I want to believe about service, what I feel that I inherently do believe about service, but I’m the first to admit that I am not absolute in my devotion to carving out the time necessary to make this a habit in my life. There’s always more that I, we, you can do to serve others. My belief that service is right, good, necessary all stem from my faith, but I don’t believe that it has to be. To me, it’s a bit nebulous because “we” want to stereotype that as something that “good people” do, and “good people” are those who are “religious” or “go to church” or what have you. But certainly, one can fail to fulfill their need to attend organized church and still succeed in a deep understanding of what service is to one another.

I know that service makes me feel good, but about what? Myself? My world? My community? Do I feel good because I realize anew all that I have to be thankful for? Do I feel good because there’s no greater commitment to humanity than to serve others above ourselves? I like to think that the latter is the pivotal reason why people continue to serve each other. I’m always going to play the optimist because as far as I have seen, witnessed or experienced in my few, cognizant years, people always step up and help when the rough things happen. Not only that, but who hasn’t witnessed someone perform a simple act of kindness for a random stranger for no apparent reason?

I believe that such simple acts of kindness are a necessary act of service if we are to communicate and live together as a unified society, whether that is city, state, country, or world. We must help each other out. We must. It’s that simple. I believe that to be true, fundamentally and wholeheartedly. I feel this way about service much as I do about my faith—it just is, it just must be so.

I believe that there is a variety of services that we must perform, not only to ourselves but also to our world (which, really, all comes back to serving ourselves also). If we want to live in community, we have to include service to this phenomenal world that God has given us to take care of. We are stewards of the Earth just as much as we called to serve each other.

I believe in the ideology of being a servant. We sang this hymn at our wedding, and the words are just as applicable here: “Will you let me be your servant/let me be as Christ to you?/Pray that I might have the grace/to let me your servant, too.” There’s a pretty heavy message in this simple Brethren hymn; can we not only serve each other but allow others to serve us, too?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Abby's prayer

Abby really likes to pray, specifically at bed times and at meal times. Granted, some of this is a delay maneuver on her part. Little does she know that she's actually doing what we want her to do...ha.

Until last night, Abby has always been free and easy with making prayer requests. We pray for every member of both of our families every night (it takes about 2 seconds per person), some of them repeatedly (Uncle Sam and Uncle Don...you get a lot of prayer requests). And sometimes, other things strike her fancy and must be prayed about as well--the sandbox, the swings, the slide, her stuffed kitty, etc.

Last night at supper, Abby made her prayer request; except for the first time, she wanted to say it herself, and the proceeded with this gem:

"Dear Lord, I love Mommy and Daddy. A-MEN!!"

At that point, I think that Ben and I were each adding our own silent prayers of thanksgiving for our little sweetie.

Monday, July 11, 2011

If I had extravagant amounts of tangible wealth...

This is my thought process during my shower this morning.

If I had extravagant amounts of tangible wealth, I would make these splurges priorities:
*a daily trip to Starbucks for a grande hazelnut latte, skim of course
*a Kuerig/Tassimo deluxe coffee station
*a membership to a wine club (by the way, I'm open to sharing this with someone out there who would like to get together maybe once or twice a month just to have dinner and try new things...seriously)...this makes it seem like I'm a pretty serious drinker, which I'm definitely not. I just kinda like the idea of trying new wines once in a while.
*a gym membership so that I could take yoga classes
*a summer vacation that would last for about 2 months and would take us to visit every MLB ballpark, once Abby was older
*someone to do my hair EVERY day
*weekly pedicures/manicures
*my dream kitchen
*a greenhouse
*a nanny who would not live at my house

I think that's about it. Do-able on a teacher's salary?!?!?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Busy, busy, busy!

June was a veritable whirlwind! It included, but was not limited to
4 office visits for Abby (various doctoral needs)
2 visits to the zoo
1 trip to Ft. Wayne
1 trip to the lake
4 times running the Coyote Kids race (a Kokomo thing for kids)
4 story times at the library
4 playdates
potty training part I and then potty training part II
daily walks
visits to various parks nearly every day
2 visits with two of my best buddies
1 babyshower
1 anniversary
at least 8 trips to the library, maybe closer to 12
2 trips to N. Manchester
1 meeting at church about sharing a pastor
1 cabin/camping trip with the in-law clan
1 day spent driving around looking at houses

And I thought that July was going to slow down. Not at all!

Now, Abby's turning into a potty pro, but it's still an adventure every day. And coming up soon, we have a trip the fair, a reunion, a possible trip to Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati, a definite trip to Cincinnati with a stay at a sweet little B & B and a Reds game with club seating (there will be a blog posting about this...SO excited, our first baseball game since before Abby was born, *and* club seats), a whole day ordeal so that Abby can have a couple of cavities filled which involves sedation (curse you, antibiotics!), another day where Abby gets tubes put in, a green team meeting at church, and the possibility of three more playdates/swimdates coming up. Oy! I'm kind of in a sunshine and family stupor right now as I'm typing this, too. We just came from another lake trip-then-afternoon with the in-laws that included an eye doctor trip & unexpected lunch out with the boy. How much can you jam into 18 hours? A lot!!

In the meantime, I thought about writing an entire post about our zoo trips, but it's been 3 weeks now, and I finally have my pictures put on the computer and labeled (I took around 200 just in June), so I'll just throw on some from the last month. Fun times!




This is from the Coyote Kids race last week. After every kid finishes, they get a popsicle and a...


...ribbon. :-)


Abby is BIG into "ready-set-start," and this is one of her two runner's poses. This is (as Ben informs me) her 2-count start. She sometimes chooses to start "from the blocks" in a 3-count start. I'll let Ben be the running coach. He gets paid to do it; I don't. But, I will say that this isn't her best starting form. She's preparing to run up a ramp here, and her balance is thrown off a bit. I'll just cheer and hold out a little cup of water as she zips by me.


This isn't the best picture of Ben, but it's the only one where Abby didn't have a hand in front of her mouth. Silly goose. Look how many clothes we're wearing mid-morning at the end of June! It was beautiful camping weather!!


Sometimes, you have to eat where and when you have the chance. Sometimes, you're not wearing pants when you eat.


Zoo #2: trying to be a giraffe or pet a giraffe



Zoo #2: serious. concentration.


Zoo #1: typical pose



After zoo trip #1: This isn't Abby's best picture, but Ben's face was extra goofy and his eyes are open in the picture for once, so hey, why not? She thinks that it's funny when she and Daddy wear his Colts hats together.

This has been a seriously fun summer...so far!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

by Amy Chua (not only does she have a fantastic first name, but there are a lot of Amys referenced in this book, also)

okayihavetorefrenencethisbooksomewherebecauseit'sprettycoolsoyeah,thisisanotherbookreview,but deal,okay?

Alright, 230-ish pages, and it took me around 24 hours to read. I mean, this one reads fast. It's not like all I did was read for one whole day. Nope, just for a while at night and then during nap time. Quick quick quick.

What I most especially love about this one is that the author *completely* talks about what worked and failed, and frankly, focuses on failing quite a bit more than succeeding with "Chinese parenting." If you haven't heard of this one, it gained a lot of press when it was published a few months ago because the idea of Chinese parenting can be (in my opinion) misconstrued as barbaric by Western parenting models, which is the #1 focus of the text. Chua addresses differences between Chinese & Western parenting models, as well as admitting how she grossly stereotypes with this terminology, consistently throughout the text.

There's a part of me that is very much like "Rock on, you've got something working here!" with what she talks about. But really, the greatest part of me is more "C'mon, we need to compromise here between what you're generalizing." Truly, I see us as being (or wanting to be) somewhere smack in the middle of the two. I'm not big on sleepovers and accepting mediocrity (which she bashes), but I do see the validity of playdates and allowing your kid to have some say-so in what activities they'd like to participate in (which she also bashes). But then again, my kid(s) will learn how to play an instrument and have definite academic standards set for them (which she acknowledges as givens). It's an interesting ad refreshing perspective on parenting, and one that I frankly admire a lot because of what I understand as motivating factors. It's not that I admire the tactics necessarily employed, but I really admire the deep, intense desire to prepare your child to succeed and perform well.

Chua is funny, insightful and frank. And, she is really quite gifted at just telling a story. She's a Harvard educated lawyer who married another Harvard educated lawyer, both of whom now teach at Yale. In other words, she's a smart cookie. Okay, I'm also jealous of her but in some small, niggling way that means I would never seriously consider exchanging my life for hers, knowing what kind of life an academic (especially at that caliber) truly leads. It's intense. Really, really (really) intense.

And Chua, I like how you ended the book; the coda is truly a fitting way to end and honest to the rest of the book.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

what I learned from camping with the Cox clan

We had a be-u-ti-ful weekend of weather for camping in our 2nd annual Cox family camping trip. Here are some reflections from the time well spent with wonderful people. It's a good family to be accepted into. Abby is the only grandkid on this side, so there were 8 adults and 1 toddler. Things I (or any combination of we) learned:

*In the middle of the night when you're camping and it starts storming, it's nice to be able to think "I'm glad that I'm in a cabin and not a tent." (Yeah, I still consider this camping. It's like luxury camping.)
*Abby does just fine sleeping in a utility closet when faced with a dearth of options.
*A peanut butter cup makes a dandy substitute for the classic chocolate bar in a S'more.
*My in-laws generally pronounce certain words differently than I do, namely "cee-ment" (cement) and "sa-more" (S'more).
*It's entirely possible to eat 2 breakfasts.
*When camping, it can be difficult to fit in any activity other than eating. It has to be carefully scheduled in.
*Being able to eat dinner by 6 means starting to search for "one of the really big grills" and a shelter by 3:30 in hopes to find something by 4.
*Swans honk like geese would if they were old men who smoked a lot.
*A simply fantastic adult to toddler ratio is 8:1.
*When you take along 6 extra adults with you while on vacation, it means that you get a vacation from playing with your kid and actually get to just...sit.
*Drawing a chalk line on a sidewalk that says "STOP ABBY" is all you need for ooooodles of entertainment. This sets the stage for racing. All of the extra adults take turns and you don't have to for once.
*When you send three females into a grocery store for milk & butter, it will still take 2 phone calls and a long time before they'll come back out.
*If you take the interstate around Indy rather than a circuitous route full of twisty roads, small towns, double lines, and road construction, you'll arrive at your destination at least an hour sooner.
*Spencer, IN is almost exactly 97 miles from my house, which just so happened to be the range my car told me that I had left before I would run out of gas. The gas light comes on with 25 miles left. Some gas stations are closed on Sundays. "Just for fun," I had 4 miles left when we finally succeeded in filling up after passing by all of the Indy/Carmel/Westfield gas stations because Abby was mercifully asleep.

I didn't get as many good pictures this time around, but the weather made up for it. Basically, it was simply fantastic (especially in a cabin!). :-)

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Kitchen Daughter

This blog is turning into a veritable book club, isn't it? I do tend to blog in spurts of like topics frequently enough. You may not notice, but I do. And, since I try to bring you the highest quality blog-someness that can be found anywhere, I take this quite seriously. But you know what? Sometimes we have three pasta dishes all in the same week. And so it goes with my blog. Just think of this like fettucine alfredo--always impossible to resist, right?

Here's the low-down. I devoured The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry in 2 days. Yeah, I'm on summer vacation so I "have time" to read more, but it's not like I don't have other things to do yesterday and today. This one hooked me really quickly and it was hard to set it aside last night and was effortless to finish today. I mean, I loved it (as far as pop fiction goes)! Why???

1. The protagonist is autistic, specifically has (undiagnosed) Asperger's syndrome. This creates a unique narrative perspective that forces the reader to challenge her own expectations. In other words, you don't expect it, and because you figure it eventually because of subtle clues, it wonderfully emphasizes the primary theme--What is "normal"? And frankly, the autism spectrum is affecting more families and individuals in our society, and it's a fabulous reminder that we as a society are oh so quick to judge, label, and categorize anyone who doesn't act as we do (i.e. a supposed "normal").
2. On a personal note, my nephew has been categorized as having Asperger's, and I greatly appreciate an author, albeit a fiction writer, affording an often silenced voice a chance to "tell" her side, to demonstrate her emotions and thought processes, fears and strengths.
3. The protagonist is brilliant in the kitchen, and there's some beautifully descriptive food passages as told through her perspective.
4. It has something of a corny premise (there are ghosts in this novel), but it's really written in such a way that it's not cheesy at all. It works! Probably because we, the reader, have the same inner battle between incredulity and hopefulness about the protagonist, and we ultimately choose the same mindset as David, a key character. We believe because there's something about the girl, Ginny, that just begs us to be the one to listen and understand her if for no other reason than no one else does or will.
5. It has an unexpected ending. And I like that.
6. It's not a romance. If it were, the author would be selling out. But she doesn't. You think that she might, but the book stays true to it's deeper message.
7. The cover is kind of fun. Okay, pretty brilliant actually. You could write a paper on it--how the main character is represented by the mesh grocery bag, transparent but strong, full of holes and flaws, but also perfect for the purpose that she was created... Yep.
8. It's kind of a sad book. But really, it's more of a book about empathy than sympathy.

My only negative comment is that the author, like so many pop fiction writers today it seems (ahem, Ann Brashares and Sarah-Kate Lynch), relies on forced analogies. There's fairly terrible at times and are nothing short of clunky and absurd. BUT, after a while, I got what McHenry was doing and politely applaud her efforts here. All of her analogies are food analogies, which correlates to the mind of her protagonist, who uses food as a coping mechanism. So it makes sense, but it's still a bit yeesh.

Those are my thoughts on the book. I value the impact it had on me and my way of thinking. And, I challenge you to go through the experience as well. Will you?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

My Name is Memory

by Ann Brashares

(Just to prevent my brain lapse about monthly book blogging for June, I'll just take care of this nice and early in the month.)

As you can see, I'm not totally a classic book snob or a Michael Pollen-esque book snob. I actually do read pop fiction once in a while. By here's the reason that I don't more often--I don't know these authors! Unless something has been recommended to me or unless I happen to stumble upon one, odds are that I haven't read it. This is kind of why I don't think that I would really use a Kindle, though I want one enough to consider it. I just don't buy books all that often unless I have to for a class, and I don't read much pop fiction.

And this book proved why I shy away from such reading. Here's my analogy. I used to like Hershey's chocolate. It was good stuff and the best of the Halloween candy when I was a kid. Chocolate was chocolate, and I enjoyed it all. But then I discovered Lindt. And Ghiradelli's. and Valhrona. And Scharffen Berg. Hershey's will never be "good" again. It's not even acceptable. It's in-a-desperate-situation-only kind of chocolate for me. It just doesn't taste that good to me anymore once I've experienced quality chocolate. This book is definitely Hershey's. But at least it is the dark chocolate Hershey's. If it was milk chocolate, I wouldn't have gotten very far in it.

The diaglogue was contrived and often saccharine sweet, cloying even. Give me books where the dialogue is seemless and plot is seemless rather than forced. GIve me one or two dominant themes upon which the protagonist's character is developed rather than a jumble of disjointedness. Furthermore, give me characters who mean something. It's like profanity and adult content--there's a time and a place. Make it purposeful about the message of the text, not gratuitous.

So if it sounds like I'm slamming this book...I am. I probably wouldn't have been so harsh about it except for one unforgivable flaw. I mean, seriously unforgivable. The books just stopped. It wasn't even a cliffhanger ending or an ambiguous, choose-your-own-adventure, The Giver style ending. No. It just stopped. It wasn't just one story line that ended, it was allll of the storylines. What??? Oh, and it's really similar to The Time Traveler's Wife, though I haven't taken the 2 seconds to see which was written first. (I think that TTTW was because Brashare's book references 2009, and the aforementioned book had the weird but decent movie that came out sometime around 2009.)

In a nutshell, not too original. Forced dialogue. Typical characters. Unrealistic emotions & situations. The worst ending that I think I've ever read. But, quick read and entertaining enough to keep going.

Ann Brashares: You did much better with your breakout novel, The Last Summer of Me (and You). You had moments in that one that kind of got overlooked because it was a pretty decent message. But your writing has some serious flaw-age. Fix it. And don't take another author's idea; that's not appreciated.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wuthering Heights

I'm slacking (unintentionally)! I missed my New Year's Resolution May post about a book I read for fun. A few days laaaate, but here it is.

I daresay that my general constituency, if I had one, will discard this post as a snooze. Can't help it. Sorry peeps. This is what I read last month. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (pretend that I knew how to include the two dots above the last "e" in "Bronte"). Despite being the only novel by this Bronte sister, it's a keeper!

It's a perfect example of a Victorian Gothic novel--supernatural elements; dark, foreboding atmosphere; large, ancestral homes; etc. Lots of raw emotion, intense passions even at the expense of common sense, and haunting presences. It's one of those that I read, and enjoyed, for an undergrad class--pretty sure it was spring of my first year, so I would have been 19. Ergo, it's been 9 years since I read it, and time well spent with it again. And, it has my favorite line in any book.

It reminded me of why I've spent 8 years as a student of English literature. It's the equivalent of a special kind of ice cream that had been discontinued for a few years now and all of a sudden you find it again in a little out of the way store, splurge, spend a night savoring it tiny spooonful by tiny spoonful, and then when you finish it, you think "I missed that." Ahhh, good times.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

my shy sheila

Abby has always been shy around people, even family, whom she doesn't see on a regular basis. Thankfully, our immediate family members are pretty understanding about it and don't take it seriously, but I know that some people do. What!?! You're really getting bent out of shape because a toddler doesn't like it when you get up in their face, make a stupid noise, and poke at their belly? By the way, I hate this and cringe for Abby every time. It's not her fault that you're acting like an idiot.

So this post goes out to the older gentleman at our church who persists in doing the aforementioned every week though I try to avoid him. He doesn't get the message. No, she's not tired. No, she's not grumpy. No, she's feeling just fine. You, however, are acting like a buffoon, and she thinks that you're scary.

This post is also dedicated to random people who you meet in public who likewise act stupidly whenever there is a kid in their presence. I know that you think that you're being funny and connecting with kids, but really, listen to yourself. You're not. Treat children like people, not lapdogs.

I wasn't intending to rant about this, but it's been on my mind a bit because Abby's level of shyness is reaching really bad proportions when around other people, even her BFF Jonathan, whom she played with, sang with, read books with, ate with, giggled, and chased for 3 days each week of the last school year. I feel bad for the little guy because all he wants is his friend Abby and she's acting all who-are-you? with him. She came with me to graduation open houses last weekend and clung tighter to me than she ever has post utero, seriously buried her face in my shoulder, and held a hand over the exposed part of her face the whole time (yet still managed to eat a cookie...talented, she is).

My sheila has always been shy, but this is problematic. It might be really tough on her (and us!) when school starts back up again in the fall. Oh my.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Sigh...she's so big



after "helping" plant the garden



I was trying to take a good picture of Abby's first ponytail, and it turned into a full-fledged photo shoot. Mostly, she likes taking pictures so that she can see herself on the camera.



She's. SO. Big.




Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Signs that the End is coming?

The title is a tongue-in-cheek homage to May 21st. And the October 21st that is coming.

In all seriousness, there are some really weird things going on lately.

#1: I have found myself enjoying cucumbers. I not only ate pickled cucumbers and begrudgingly shared some with Ben, but I read through a recipe for an asian cucumber salad tonight and am already salivating in anticipation. Yum!

#2: I ate tomatoes TWO DAYS IN A ROW and (again) enjoyed them! This is especially not normal. I mean, I'm like those people who don't enjoy chocolate because up to this point in my life, I could honestly say that I thoroughly disliked tomatoes. I've started to eat them and not mind them in certain circumstances, but this past weekend, they were front and center in a salad and, frankly, delightful. Granted, these were cherry tomatoes, so they're supposed to be super sweet, but I heretofore hadn't been convinced of that. Yum again!

I guess that there's hope yet that the kid will grow out of her aversion for avocado. It might take 26 more years, but hopefully someday she'll learn to like them if her mum can smile about cucumbers and tomatoes. (It feels weird talking like this.)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Why does everyone around me have to breath?

Every once in a while, I'll have an inordinately hard time falling asleep, usually on Sunday nights for whatever reason. This really irritates me when I know that I have to get up at 5:15 the next morning. I mean, this really irritates me, which only leads me to fume and toss and thrash and continue to just be awake. In the last month, I've had three such nights, which is rare. During the school year, I know that I'll be sufficiently wiped out mentally to be able to fall asleep pretty easily every night. It's a sleep-to-wakefulness ratio that seems to work.

So this is beyond irritating to me at this point. I'm at the point where I go to bed almost expecting to stay awake because even on the nights that I do fall asleep, it seems to take me a little while longer. Last night, around 11:52, while I'm settling into our surprisingly-comfy-to-sleep-on couch, I realized that this is a unique time of day for me, should I be awake. It is around this witching hour that all of this inevitably scrolls through my mind.

*Various shades of annoyance and downright anger at Ben. I'm an irrationally light sleeper in general, which has caused anyone who lives with me grief for years. But really, how can I be expected to sleep when he's laying there breathing beside me??? It's completely impossible! The loudest sound EVER! And he refuses to entertain the idea of either his & her bedrooms or a king-sized bed. I'm especially irate about this at 11:52 p.m.

*The dishwasher always seems to be running on nights when I can't sleep. Which means that I can't just move to the couch because it is a mere 10 feet from the offending dishwasher, which, understandably, is a million times louder than Ben's breathing. Hence, I am forced to stay in bed. My irate-ness continues.

*Normally, the dryer is good white noise for me to help drown out Ben's unfair breathing. But on nights that I can't sleep, it's another instigator of my irritatedness. Our utility room is across a hallway space from our bedroom, but I've already been trapped in my bed because the couch is too close to the dishwasher.

*Silence. This is the WORST!!! Mostly, because it allows me to hear BEN'S BREATHING!!!!!

So the couch has been my bed of choice lately, despite the clock that incessantly ticks. For some reason, if the dishwasher is done and if the dryer isn't running, then this is a good place to be.

But then again, I always have the baby monitor turned on because you never know when my child will turn rooster. And, then, you know what...I can hear Abby's b-r-e-a-t-h-i-n-g.

Sometimes, the hardest part of my day is trying to go to sleep.

Friday, May 6, 2011

It's nights like this

Supper was not a fun event tonight. And while I won't over exaggerate and say that it happens all of the time, it's not *infrequent* either. Part of me doesn't want to write this because my pride dictates that I only present a happy-at-all-costs facade, especially since I can decide what is put on this blog and edit out anything that isn't complimentary. But you know what, my parenting isn't that pretty, so I dare say that there would be little to write about.

Ben's 100% married to track right now, and there's still about 1/3 of the season left. They started on Feb. 14th, and it's been one never-ending season. Right now as I wallow in my own self pity, I want to blame this on Ben and say "Because you aren't here a lot, I have to do more than my fair share (yeah, I know...whatever that is!), and I need a break." I want to be able to blame someone other than myself for the veritable disaster at dinner tonight which left me in tears and Abby laughing. And while I know that she wasn't vindictively laughing at me, IT SURE FELT LIKE IT!!!

So it's nights like these that re-affirm how much parenting is fail fail fail fail. Are the good parents the ones who cover their failings the best or who hide them most skillfully? You know, giving an almost 2-year dinner who can adequately feed herself a little bit of food is fairly simplistic. Easy. So how did we end up in a standoff where she alternated between playing peekaboo (I turned my chair and ignored her), pretending to be asleep (really hard not to laugh; I turned my chair to ignore her) and poking (at) me saying "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!" (I still turned my chair and ignored her).

I know that part of my sobbing is the determination that my daughter WILL learn to eat well and enjoy healthy food. So a mealtime like this feels like a slap.

I refuse to use dessert as bait. (I actually got her favorite lovey out of the dryer, which she had been neglected of all day, and used that instead. It worked insofar as she kinda took one bite.) I hate doing the "3 more bites and you can..." tactic because I want her to learn to listen to her own hunger cues. But then again, if she's telling me that she's not hungry, why am I trying to force her to eat even just a couple of bites of food? How do I learn the difference between "I know what's best for you" and "I must respect your own innate self"?

I crave "parenting talk" and seek it out a lot specifically for help, tips and validation of what I'm stumbling through. But it can be tough to be in a conversation with another parent and admit that I'm really struggling with whatever issue. So I'm going to put this out there seeking maybe not so much advice (though welcome) but commiseration. It's good to know that I'm not the only one who struggles with knowing how to parent. More often than not, it seems that I am. I think that "we" all have on the I-must-not-admit-my-failures filter. Well, I'm admitting one of mine, of which there are many. Maybe I'll slug though another one on a different day.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Art of Racing in the Rain

I know, this is late for the book that I read in April. And actually, that's something of a misnomer--"read."

April was a month of re-discovering free time for me. But what I'm still finding to be true is that I've had such a dearth of it for so long and I have so many things that I need to work on or want to do that my free time at night is about 1 1/2-2 hours and it's full full full full full of stuff. Suddenly, it's 9:30 at night and I kick myself again thinking, "Drat, I wanted to read tonight."

It was about 1/2 way through April and I hadn't really begun any new reading project when my kids started talking about this book, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. Not only were they talking, but they were raving about this book, even kids who I know are non-readers. That sounded like high enough praise, so I tracked down a copy and dug in.

Actually, there's wasn't much to dig into, unfortunately. It's not as bad of a book as I'm going to make it seem, but here's my honest take on it.

It has flaws:
*The writing is often crass and at times monotonous. Sometimes, there are passages of poignant writing, but...
*The narrator is a dog. And this isn't Watership Down.
*There's a ton of detail about open car and open wheel racing (are those the same? I'm not even sure.) I like sports, but...
*This means that the whole philosophy of the book is based on fairly cliched sports truisms. Which makes the crass writing sometimes smarmy.
*The technical writing is around an 8th grade writing level, but...
*The content is definitely adult at times, which means that the content doesn't really match the intended audience. Bedroom scenes (yeah, plural), really?!?

Ultimately, I didn't have any desire to finish it even though it's a quick read and I was 2/3 of the way through. I found myself irritated with every character. There wasn't a single one that redeemed the book in my eyes. I mean, every character had flaws that were loathsome if not disgusting, the only exceptions being the dog (super crass) and the little girl (a flat character who wasn't even likable).

I'm not a person who has huge issues with the reading that is taught in schools. If anything, I'm the very opposite of that person, but still, I have issues with this book. I can see how kids would like it, but what are we sacrificing by using it? Morals? Propriety?

It could have been a great book...

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Friendship

This is the 12th entry in my This I Believe series.

*****

I’ve lived in Kokomo for 6 years this summer, and I can count on 2 fingers the amount of friends that I/we actively socialize with on a regular basis. And those 2 people are married. And holdover friends from college. And we haven’t socialized with them since the Super Bowl back at the beginning of February. And it really feels pathetic.

(Here come the “buts.”) But, I/we have never been social butterflies. But, we each have a collective group of friends that we work with. BUT, we have the lame yet true “excuse” of being so ridiculously busy for much of this semester that we don’t even see each other that much let alone friends.

I believe that it’s really, really hard for most people to make new friends a) when they graduate from college or high school (whatever their culminating education might be) and b) when they move to a new town/city where they don’t know anyone, specifically in their own age bracket. Not only do I believe that it’s really hard, but I believe that it’s an issue that isn’t addressed enough and leads to definite feelings of confusion, loss, depression, self-doubt, or some combination of any of these.

I admit that I’ve gone through some gradation of feeling all of these in the past 6 years, despite joining my best friend in moving to this new city. It’s taken me this long to come to terms with friendship as being a different beast than it used to be. Admittedly, friendship has never been easy for me; I feel awkward and overtly intimidated by people that I don’t know or don’t know well. Consequently, I also know that I come across as snotty or mean too often. I mean, I know it, and that alone leads to feelings of “confusion, loss, depression, [and] self doubt.” I’m also just starting to recognize this and thus be more conscious of it.

Thinking back about high school, I didn’t realize how torturous it was at times for me to relate to and communicate with my peers. It was the norm, and I didn’t dwell on it at the time. So here’s my apology to anyone who knew me before college. I know of one circumstance where I was completely misconstrued, and it led to a lot of unintentional pain for both me and my friend. I fully admit that I still dwell on that situation today—10 years later. I’m sorry I was such a snot and so mean. I didn’t try to be. I really didn’t.

I believe that friendship is just hard, and I completely admire those people for whom the ability to engender and maintain friendships is a natural gift. Social media is a whole ‘nother monkey that has absolutely twisted our cultural understanding of “friendship,” and I believe that it enables people to believe that they are “friends” in interesting and counterintuitive ways. But I also believe that the friends that you fly across the country to see, those are the ones that you cherish. Your friend base doesn’t have to be centered in the geographic area that you live, and I’m learning to understand that I’m okay with that. But, it sure does make it a little more convenient.