Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My daughter, the mobster


That's the name that my oldest daughter has attributed to my youngest daughter.  Guido.

She also throws in a whole plethora of gibberish-y names at any given time.  But Guido is the predominant favorite.  Where did she get that name?  Who.  Knows.  She's three, and unintelligible are her mental meanderings many a moment. 

For example, when I tell her something that she doesn't want to hear (e.g. "Abby, we have to wash your hair tonight because you have silly putty and glitter glue in it"), she sometimes tries to cut me off with an abrupt "That's now how my story goes."  She is the main character in her own story, and it is, apparently, written clearly in front of her.  That's what she tells me, at least. 

And so we are the proud parents of Abby and Audrey, a.k.a. Guido.  We're such the proud mobster parents.  This is also why Abby had very little say-so in the naming of the newborn. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Color me mine

By far, my favorite stress reliever of late (like the past few months) has been to whip out the old coloring books and crayons and fill in some doodles, with or without a 39" assistant.  (By the way, Abby is only around 11" taller than Audrey right now but about twice as heavy at 32 lbs.  Aren't babies deliciously disproportionate?  Some day, I might write an entire blog entry on the super duper uber soft downy baby head that just snuggles into my neck, you know...speaking of delicious.) 

Abby is becoming more interested in coloring on her own, which is great--once in a while she just disappears over into her art corner and sings away while selecting the perfect waxy stick.  Talk about happy mommy time! 

And sometimes, like today, when my mind won't shut off and I find myself snappish and frustrated about silly, inconsequential things, then it's coloring book time.  We grab some containers of Crayolas (though Rose Art aren't bad, I think) and find some blank pages to scribble away on.  It's like vegging with a toddler, and it's good times. 

This morning, Abby was listening to her Amelia Bedelia book-on-tape, and we had some moments of cohesive quiet.  Even better, we work on sharing cause my little girl often thinks that any crayon anyone else is using is the EXACT ONE! that she needs, regardless if she has three other green crayons in her hoarded pile.

This morning--a western dog on a weird looking horse.  And it was pretty good, not my masterpiece, but, you know...pretty good.   

Monday, December 17, 2012

How to be a parent 101

I'm the youngest of 3 kids.  In other words, I didn't grow up around younger siblings.

The first grandchild in my family was born when I was a junior in college, and my sweetie little niece-y lived 4 hours away.  In other words, I didn't get to be around young babies much in my formative adult years.

My college boy was the oldest of 3 kids.  In other words, there weren't any babies that I could hang with while visiting with the future in-laws. 

Prior to daughter #1, I have had minimal exposure to those little alien beings known as babies

True story:  I once asked my older brother what my niece, who was 1-ish at the time, ate.  He laughed at me and said "She eats what we eat."  Duh, little ignorant sister.  Well, whatev big always-knows-more-than-me brother.  It's not like I knew anything about pretty much anything related to babies

And then came my own guinea pig, and my own trial-by-fire initiation began.  I quickly learned that the internet is my friend.  Books are my friend.  And other moms of young children are my best friends. 

I've learned about and received advice for breastfeeding, poop, solid foods, clothes, discipline, pre-school, cloth diapers, developmental milestones, and how ridiculously funny little munchkins can be. 

I once suggested that a friend of mine who just delivered her first join my weekly Mom's Meeting group, and her response completely befuddled me: Oh, I don't like comparing myself to others.  We do it all of the time, intentionally or otherwise.  And if we didn't, how would we know that there is a reason why your kid's poop is green?  (2 kids later...I know why.)  I guess it's not for everyone, but here's to women who stick together and don't judge, even when they are secretly thinking "What in the world is she thinking?!?!" 

This is a shout out to my mommy friends that I met as a new wet-behind-the-ears mom and have continued to get to know and learn along with over the least 3 1/2 years.  You've quickly become my peeps and partners in crime.  And here's to my ongoing continuing education course in Parenting 101 with 2 of the smallest, chubby-cheekiest professors ever. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

It's a wrap

Staying at home with the girls, I'm always looking for something new and interesting to do with them.  Right now, that's pretty easy to do because it seems like we have a lot to do with the holidays.  And wrapping presents has quickly become a very, very fun activity for a certain 3-year old.

Abby LOVES helping.  And Mommy puts up with Abby helping.  (By the way...I'm usually "Mama" as of the last few months, which I attribute to that squishy, blue cap wearing Mama Bear who almost always has a gentle voice and words of wisdom to bestow upon her cubs.) 

I'm not a huge fan of wrapping presents anyway as a hobby, and then when I have little hands wanting to touch, grab, re-arrange, tape, write on, and move everything, it means that I have short wrapping sessions.  I enjoy doing things with her, but sometimes, when I'm struggling to get something wrapped and it's taking longer because of taping miscues and torn paper and misplaced ribbon, I just want to finish!

I had several large sheets of craft paper that I gave Abby to decorate, so we've been working on using that to fancy-fy some gifts for her cousins and Ben.  And she's so excited about that and about getting to write the TO and FROM on each one that it pretty much erases my irritation.  (She really is writing most of her letters pretty legibly and makes a good effort at the others.  More on that at a later post.)   

The best part--she's pretty excellent to have around to tie knots in curling ribbon.  Her little finger works perfectly. 

Friday, December 7, 2012


Before I commence with the real blog post, I want to scold any of you who read my post about the Berenstain Bears Thanksgiving.  I knew that I was spelling that wrong when I wrote it, and I did it anyway.  And no one called me on it.  But then again, I didn't call me on it either, until now.  I'm spelling it correctly now.  Let's get on with it.

I HEART PANDORA, big time!  I heart how I can make multiple stations for whatever I'm feeling like or whoever is with me.  I heart how I can skip things and it clusters like music together.  I really heart my Keane radio station.  Because of Pandora, I'm now even more keen on Keane (haha...get it?), O.A.R., Carolina Liars, One Republic, and Snow Patrol.  I heart how I can stream it so effortlessly while working.

I first heard about Pandora while I was finishing my Masters degree, and that website got some mileage while writing my thesis.  Now, Audrey and I groove to my jams on many a night while the little bean is im-Moby-lized (man, another one...I'm hilarious) in the witching hour before bath & bed.  Abby digs her toddler station, too.  Many a day, if not most days, we are grooving to the tunes at some point. 

And that's all I have right now.  I heart Pandora. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Imperfect Birds

Anne Lamott: I like your non-fiction.  A former pastor of mine used to reference you fairly frequently in his sermons.  I was intrigued by one other piece of fiction that you wrote. But this hit home, hard.

Imperfect Birds essentially revolves around a mother-daughter relationship: the mother is a recovered alcoholic and the daughter spirals more and more out of control with various substance abuses throughout the text.  But it also deals with teenage relationships, friendships, student-teacher relationships, peer pressure, freedom, and ultimately recovery. 

1.  I'm a teacher.  I don't like the mom or the girl from a teacher's stand-point.  I look at the mom and see a myriad of ways that she enables her daughter.  Enabling is a fine line to walk, and teachers struggle with not doing this with students all of the time.  You want teenagers to succeed, grow, learn.  You want to believe them.  You want them to get along with you.  I get it why teachers and parents do it; in fact, it would be awfully hard to fully negate all levels of enabling.  But this parent is decidedly an enabler, knows that she's an enabler, and continues to do so simply because she craves and needs her daughter's approval.  There's enough background information about the mom's upbringing for the reader to pretty easily understand that the mother-daughter relationship distinctly parallels the mother & her parents.  In fact, there is quite a bit of parallel/symbolic STUFF going on throughout.  I give props to Lamott because it's not always inherently obvious.  You know what they say (I say it a lot now at least after stealing it from a former professor), if something quirky happens once, you think "oh, how interesting;" if something quirky happens twice, you think "hmmm;" if the same quirky thing happens three times (or more), you think "yeah, this is purposeful."  The mom was enabled, and she then enables her daughter.  The mom abused as a teenager, and her daughter abuses as a teenager, often with her mom's approval.  This is the part that is most especially irritating as a teacher.  What does she expect her daughter is doing at school and after school with her friends, whom her mother knows are also using.  What does she expect?!?  There is one jittery moment where the mom ups and calls the science teacher (the daughter is somehow brilliant at Physics but only good at Chemistry, all while heavily abusing substances) to check how her daughter is doing.  The mom is nearly unable to communicate with the teacher (admittedly, she thought her daughter had something going on with the teacher).  Yet the implication is that the mom is so far out of touch with her daughter's school life that the very notion or action of calling a teacher to check on her daughter's progress was enough to about fall off of the wagon again. 

2.  I'm a mom.  Need I refer to the enabling again?  But more than that, I kept thinking about how this could be my daughter.  The girl in this story is a strong student.  I hope that my girls will be strong students.  But it was also just the thought of my girls doing anything of this nature that was knotted my stomach multiple times while reading this.  And I felt a lot of empathy for parents who do have to live this torturous nightmare.  Kids from good families do stuff like this.  And on the outside, you would probably think that this was a good family in the book.  But on the inside, you definitely see the profusion of cracks forming and spreading, specifically with the mother.  As another mom, I feel some amount of repugnance for her again for what she is allowing to happen because she so avidly demands her daughter's approval, love, and friendship.  This woman has mentally disabled herself and serves little purpose for anything, contributing little and understanding that she was lacking. 

3.  I'm fresh out of my teenage years (10 years removed).  I feel a definite disgust for the teenage mentality that the daughter continued to proclaim, never letting go of her mantra from beginning to end: "Everyone else does this...I'm not doing nearly as much as everyone else...what I'm doing isn't even is only fun when I do this...I'm nothing without doing this and I refuse to be nothing."  This girl was seriously using any and everything, so the idea that "what I'm doing isn't even bad" is the height of ignorance and stupidity.  And for any teenager who claims that any of these statements are true, I challenge that because you know what, I did just fine without any of that and I enjoyed being a teenager.  Dare I say that I even had plenty of fun times without so much as a cigarette or a discreet sip of anything.  And my daughters better understand someday that any of these lines is nothing short of malarky with me and their dad.  It's pure selfishness, and that's not cool.

Imperfect Birds was one of those books where I thought at least a dozen times about stopping in the first 50 or so pages.  But I didn't.  And it didn't have any warm fuzzies at any point to really make a Hollywood moment.  But it has validity and some amount of merit insofar as I think it's addressing what is a largely ignored/overlooked/blind issue in society, one that has been festering and one that will continue to ferment in its own oozy stench for much, much too long.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Believing in Unreality

When I was a child, I don't remember ever having that watershed moment of realization that SANTA CLAUS ISN'T REAL?!?!?!?  But for that matter, I also don't remember much effort being made to keep me believing either.  I think it was the same for Ben.  We rather like this approach.

Society is so very immersed in certain beliefs that it can be fairly difficult to buck certain trends or traditions.  Abby gets asked quite a bit about what she's asking Santa for Christmas.  What if we never fostered that belief in the jolly old elf with her; how confused would that make her?  We, as a society, have certain vested beliefs that we often unilaterally apply to everyone. 

I'm not against Santa in theory.  It's a fun bit of make-believe that isn't damaging or teaching things that I don't agree with.  But the pressure on children to believe does crumble my Christmas cookies a bit.  (It's the same irritation I feel, though on a much lesser scale, when strangers naturally assume that my daughter is a "princess" or into very diva-esque things.  We go out of our way to not encourage that, and (wait for it....) she's not.)  It seems like the question at stake here is would our daughters be adversely affected if they are not strongly encouraged to believe in Santa? 

We don't think so.  Society doesn't force or expect children to continue to believe in unicorns or leprechauns, so what's the big deal about Santa (and the tooth fairy or Easter Bunny)?  Disappointingly, Santa is pretty lucrative for the economy.  Leprechauns just don't sell a lot of candy or toys for children. 

We're cool with Santa insofar as it doesn't affect our wallet.  Bottom line, my children: believe in Santa if you want and you're certainly welcome to give up that belief any time you choose.  Given the choice between leaving out milk & cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve or making a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas Day, we hope that you choose the latter.  Talk about belief and faith...