Super

Super
And for once I was SuperMom

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Girl Power

Last night I took a bath. I laid there in the water and instead of lumbering up onto my elbows and grabbing the book that I had rested on the edge of the bath I just sat there and thought. This happens a lot to me in baths, I take a book with good intentions and then just plunge into the recesses of my brain.

I recently read a blog where a fellow writer was asking women about women and power. She stated that feminine power looks differently than male power. In America we have been asked to behave like men to get ‘ahead’ in life, acting aggressively and often getting us labeled as ‘bitches’ rather than just strong.

As I lay there on my back looking at the rise of my monstrous belly I saw the thump and divot of the kick of my unborn daughter and thought,
‘Um, that’s kind of powerful.’

Why is it so powerful?

It’s the one thing we can do that men cannot. I have had a quite a few men get angry at me when I have told them that they cannot relate to pregnancy and childbirth. I have sincerely thought about pregnancy and tried to relate it to other processes my body has gone through, and really there is no equivalent. I have wanted to rail at those men and yell,
‘Get Out!’ This is our domain. In a world where men make higher salaries, make decisions, and seem to still rule over women pregnancy and childbirth is ours.

(Yes, I think husbands and fathers should be present at the birth…I have my misgivings about male OBGYN’s, though.)

I have had friends tell me of the power they have felt when breaking their own membranes during birth. Other friends who have never felt stronger when they let loose a guttural roar and pushed their child out into the world.
Think about how many royal family dynasties have been lost because of the inability to produce an heir.
Think about marriages that have been ripped apart because of infertility to different desires in creating a family.
Think about friends you have known who have been devastated when they couldn’t have children.
Think about friends you know who have been elated after years of trying to get pregnant and finally did.

This is indeed powerful. The world could not go on if we ceased to have children. We hold that key. We are the ones with wombs.

Soaking in the tub allowing the warm water to cradle my heavy body and soothe my aching back I thought that maybe just maybe when I’m at the time in my life when I feel the weakest and the most compromised that is when I am at my most powerful.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Little Too Much?

My mom mailed Emma's Christmas gifts to our in laws house in Colorado, where we spent the actual day of Christmas.
Sorry Mom, we opened them up early.
We did it to spread out the Christmas presents. We did this with her birthday presents. Every day we opened a new gift from a family member or us. That seemed to work better than a barrage of toys, books, and clothes. I ended up being happy that I did pre-open my mom's gift for Emma because she included a few classic christmas books and we read them to her in the days leading up to Christmas.
We thought that maybe giving her all her presents would be too much Christmas joy all at once. I think the oft heard parental phrase is,
"Too much stimulation."
Then I got to thinking that maybe it's too much stimulation for us.
Think about it.
I mean so much of child behavior is just human behavior displayed more adamantly. Really, we don't change much over the years.

Chrstmas morning after we took turns opening gifts from each family, my husband is the youngest of five, so with spouses and children there are a lot of people. Thankfully there seems to have been a precedent set a few years ago to dial it down. For the past few years we have collected small gifts throughout our year that signify where we have been and what we have done. Since the past few years have been full of travel and transition each Christmas package has been pretty unique. I am wondering how we will fill a box of interesting goodies from just living a normal year in the US. (I probably shouldn't pre-empt myself, international travel has a way of falling in my husband's lap.) I was happy to see that everyone had gathered thoughtful and inexpensive gifts. Little, 'I'm thinking of you's.' Even though it took us a few hours and at the end we were tired and maybe a little over stimulated.

In the evening we gathered around scrapbooks another sister had made and talked. One sister stated that she would be glad if we didn't do presents. Internally I balked at this. I don't know why. Isn't this what I wanted? An admission that we don't need anything of this? A proclamation that we love each other anyway but don't need to spend money on each other?

In Kenya we heard from many of our friends that they don't exchange gifts on Christmas day. As children they would all get new outfits and then spend the rest of the day visiting family, and eating. I thought this was lovely. Simple, family oriented, low cost, and low stress.

So why didn't I readily agree to no more presents?
Because what is Christmas without presents?
How is it that we have turned Christmas into a morning of giving gifts, that we mostly don't need, to each other. If we take away the presents what do we have? What would it look like to gather in the morning and...do what?
I know, I'm stumped too.
I love taking a stand and doing alternative celebrations and really questioning why we do what we do. Why do I get tripped up at Christmas? Cutting out presents would eliminate a huge amount of stress from life, save money, and cut so much excess from this time of year that is so prone to excess.

So now, a few days later, in the aftermath of it all what stands out?
For me I think of all the fun I had watching my relatives play with my daughter. The hikes that we got to enjoy with each other. The conversations that I had with the other adults. The cookies that I baked with my niece. Our family Christmas Eve Service.
But still the question remains, what do you do with Christmas morning? What do you think?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

If You're Pregnant & You Know It

After going through the arduous process of childbearing I remember driving through the streets of Nairobi and looking at other women and wondering if they had ever given birth. And thinking,
‘You don’t even know what your body is capable of.’

I feel like a traitor to my sex, for many reasons other than just hating math and wearing makeup regularly. Right now the reason that bothers me the most is that I do not like being pregnant. Oh sure I love the end result, but I find the process to be difficult. I know some women love it and I am so happy for them. Truly, good for you. I know these women, I’ve seen them with four or five kids in tow. They smile and say they were never sick at all, they felt energized, and sexy. Am I jealous? Actually not really. But I might be tapping out at two biological children.

Unfortunately I do feel sick. Even now at twenty weeks I get sick after every time I eat. It disappears in twenty minutes or so, but it wears on you.
Unfortunately I do not feel energized, I feel exhausted, taxed and compromised in any physical activity that I try to do.

Unfortunately I don’t feel sexy. I feel heavy, cumbersome, and large. Last pregnancy my libido left the building, like it stood up brushed it’s hands off and said, ‘looks like my work here is done, I’ll see you two in about a year.’ This time around let’s just say the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. (Funny that I had to have to sex to get this way and yet I don’t feel sexy.)

Unfortunately I find myself doing so many things that just aren’t characteristic of me. The way I eat completely changes. I just polished off half a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips. A food I have always considered ‘one of those weird foods that my dad likes.’ Right now? Tasty, salty, and gone. Normally I tap the line at vegetarian. Right now? All I want is meat, carbs, and dairy. Normally if you give me the option of cross country skiing all day long or sitting in front of the fire, and knitting all day, I would choose skiing. Right now? Knitting sounds just great.

Unfortunately I don’t do this gracefully.

Something that I have learned from talking to countless women about their pregnancies is that we are all completely different. In pregnancy there is no judgment. Or there shouldn’t be. Some women aren’t sick at all, others are sick the whole way through. Some barely gain weight while others pack on fifty pounds.
I guess it’s good to take a rest, and let my knees and joints take a breather from all the challenges that I give them. It’s good to sit and cuddle with my kid and take some last moments with just her, all by herself. It’s good to just knit and put all the million other projects I have going on away for awhile.
I guess I need help with this, I struggle with finding the process beautiful and wonderful. I know it’s amazing and doing it once was totally worth it. I guess I want to hear from you (please do not send me faux encouragement or advice) what were moments when you felt amazing while pregnant? Where you felt like, ‘this is the most awesome and special thing I can do.’

Even better than cross country skiing.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Meanwhile Back in BV

Last Thursday we flew from Boston to Chicago, Chicago to Denver, and then drove about three hours up into the mountains to Scott's parent's large log home.
Some of you know this and some of you don't: we lived here with them for about two years, the year before we went to Kenya and the year after we came back.
Coming in on Thursday night was more familiar to me than the place I call home now. We always seem to arrive in the dark when we come here. The smells were the same, the views were the same, and most of the furniture was still in the same place.

Coming back to places I've lived before always seemes surreal. I can slip back into the same patterns, and I can't all at the same time. Running into old friends has a glaze of awkwardness of it, until you can spend a moment catching up. I always want to go say hello to all my old haunts, here it's all the trails we've hiked. Crunching up into the snow, in the quiet woods near our parent's home made me ache a bit, I love our new home but solitude and untouched woods are hard to come by on the North Shore. We've been able 'to go exploring in the forest' a few times, Emma in a backpack that she has outgrown, Scott treading lightly about, and me lumbering along. I seem to last about an hour and half, which is about as much hiking in the cold as a two year old can handle.

I am also reminded of the things I didn't like about living here, the dry air that seems to suck the moisture right out of your body, the three hour car ride from the airport, and the quiet. Right now the quiet is welcome, soothing to sink into it and let it wash over us. Back then I remember days where it was deafening and isolating.
Now the landscape covered in bright snow is a relaing welcome to my eyes, but I do remember days where I cursed the snow and wished for anything but.
I could see how there would be times in my life that this place would be exactly what I needed. I think it served as a good bridge for in and out of the developing world. I think I was retired I would love it.

I am thankful for our days here in Colorado, I remember that our first year here I loved it and I remember the second year I struggled because there wasn't much I could do with my one year old daughter. I am thankful that I built relationships with Scott's parents that I couldn't have had we not lived with them. I am thankful that I began to show my art here, Colorado's art scene is a bit friendlier than some parts of the country. I learned a lot while hiking here; about altitude, what elk sign looks like, what rabbit tracks look like in the snow, and what conquering a fourteen thousand foot mountain feels like.
Good, just so you know, it feels good.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Just Don't Do It

Last week I somehow found myself leading the women's bible study. All the women. In a big circle staring at me.
Part of me was okay with this, because I am a teacher. I am not a stay up all night plan ahead teacher, I am look over my notes five minutes before and shoot from the hip teacher. As we watched a video, I hatched my plan. I came up with a few questions and an agenda. A week or two before we had heard from a missionary who asked about hardships that we experience, many talked about the pressure to be perfect. The holidays are a time when this comes to a head. Decorations, presents, time with family, all of this we are supposed to execute, while looking lovely, oh and it would be good if you can hand make all of it. I thought I would throw out to the women how do we handle ourselves in the middle of all this madness. How do we focus on the true meaning of Christmas? How do we spend time with family, and give to our children without turning the holiday into this crazy Black Friday madness that our culture hands us?
There were some amazing things that the women said. One said that they don't 'do' Santa because that places the focus on the presents and not Jesus. One said that she checks her motives, is she giving a gift to her mailman because of outside pressure or out of love?
Not one of them, not one of them, said, 'Just don't do it. It might not be worth it.'
My husband says it to me all the time.

I baked a hundred cookies for a tea. I don't mind doing this, I like baking and I like feeding people. Two of the batches came out overdone, taking them from delectable, melt in your mouth,to just kinda dry. I almost re-did them. I stopped myself I had been standing all afternoon, my back felt like I had worked a 48 hour shift waitressing, and I had already used six sticks of butter. I looked up at Scott who was sitting on the couch watching football.
"I shouldn't bake more, right?" He just shook his head. I sat down. I didn't even apologize to the host of the tea, and I'm sure no one cared or noticed that some of my cookies were 'too brown.' In fact there were very few cookies left.
I didn't do it, the only reason I would have re-done them is to appear perfect.

Yesterday I sat hunched over a bunch of hand made postcards for our family. I spend all afternoon making them. I did this because I am bad at fulfilling the North American female duty of providing photographs of my family for all my relatives. Every Christmas someone makes a comment. I hate it. So this fall we went out to walk in the fall foliage and get a photo of the three of us. The weather was colder than expected and Emma was dressed to look cute rather than for warmth, she wouldn't extricate herself from either of us without crying. We went home without a shot of the three of us. I am going to take a moment to point out here that we didn't do this because I wanted to or thought it would be fun or good to do (I am pregnant the last thing I want to do is get in front of a camera), we did it because I wanted to avoid comments from my relatives. So I took the only photo that I have where it doesn't matter if Emma is crying or my neck has disapeared: our new daughter's ultrasound picture and made it into ten postcards for our family.
Normally I would enjoy this task. Yesterday I was stressed and this only added to my stress. But I did it to myself. I could've just printed out ten photos and been done with it, but I didn't.

So I think I am going to come up with some kind of litmus test for keeping the holiday madness in check:
1. Why am I doing this? To display love and appreciation, or because I think I have to, or to appear that I 'have it all together.'
2. Am I enjoying this? No one wants a gift that caused you frustration and anxiety.
3. Who am I doing this for? Me? Another woman? Because, let's face it, men don't care, we do it for each other.
4. What is going to happen to this once I am done with it? Is this card going to end up in the trash? Is this present going to become a teasured part of their life?

Inevitably gifts will end up in the trash or at a thrift store. Food gets eaten. Cards get thrown away. Yes, it is nice to do all this stuff for each other, but in a country of excess something 'nice' has almost become menacing.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

It's Proof She Loves Me, Right?

I remember when I was a young woman, babysitting other people's children, I remember when the parent would come pick up the charming and wonderful child who I had been charming watching for a WHOLE HOUR AND A HALF would melt and throw a temper tantrum the second the parent would tell the child to put away toys and leave. I remember thinking smugly that I had taken better care of the child than they parent had.
What a smug a**hole I was.

My sweet precious daughter has begun displaying some classic toddler behavior. About every other request or direction is met with some dramatic display of protest. These are some of my favorites:
1. The Flop: When she is being held she throws the top half of her body backwards in attempt to throw herself out of my grip. Luckily I am still stronger than her. For now.
2. The Jello Shoulder: Where when she is being lifted off the floor either by her arms or torso she throws both arms up in the air and when you grab those arms she somehow dislocates her shoulders and oozes out of your grasp.
3. The Boneless: Most parent are familiar with this one it's a bit what I imagine trying to pick up a gigantic sea cucumber is like.
4. The Wilt: Her best imitation of a wilting flower in time lapse photography, usually done after some directive like, 'It's nap time, go walk to your crib.' The Wilt starts with a drop to the knees and follows up the rest of her body, ending with her lying prone on the ground. This is usually followed by The Boneless.

I also remember when I was that young babysitter complimenting a parent on the exceptional behavior of their child, and the parent making some dismissive comment like,
"She's not like that all the time," I remember being so incensed at those kinds of comments. How could the parents be so negative? If you predict negative behvior out of your child you will get it, why would do that?
What a sumg a**hole I was.

I just read an article in Parent's Magazine about how children save their worst behavior for their primary care giver, which right now would be me. This morning Emma threw a fit when Scott put her jacket on her, ending with her actually trying to rip the jacket off her body. I felt vindication, starting at the tips of my toes and reverberating out to the ends of each hair on my head,
"IT'S NOT JUST ME!!!"
The other morning Emma started to wander into that dark and dirty corner in every bathroom where the plunger and toilet brush lives, while brandishing her toothbrush. She got ahold of the sponge that lives among that mess and began to wipe her toothbrush across it. As you can imagine I picked her up and whipped eveything out of her hands in lightening fast mom speed, you know what I am talking about, it's on par with crazy mom strength, where we left semi trucks off of our children. This was followed by a four alarm temper tantrum. Of course in her mind all she knows is that, 'Mom just picked me up and took all my toys away.' Sorry kid, when it gets that frighteningly gross all those nice warnings go away. While she proceeded to throw herself on the ground and weep at the injustice I went into our bedroom and leaned against the bed, rubbed my forehead and said,
"This is just a phase right?"
"Yes, when she's twenty she won't be doing this," Scott assured me. A slow shuddering lightbulb lit itself above my head,
"Of course, when she is twenty she won't be rubbing her toothbrush on a plunger."

Now when people tell me how wonderfully she behaved she is in the nursery I just smile and nod.

Friday, December 9, 2011

What am I Saying?

A friend of mine just sent me an article from the Huffington Post written by Lisa Bloom, author of Think: Straight Talk for Women Who Want to Stay Smart in a Dumbed Down World; it's called How To Talk to Little Girls.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-bloom/how-to-talk-to-little-gir_b_882510.html

I appreciated this article. The author goes over how when she met a friend's little girl her first impluse was to tell the girl how pretty she looked, she choked it and then started talking to her about books. They read a book together and had a good conversation about reading.

I think most of the times I talk to children I talk about school. Mostly because it's kind of big deal in kid's lives. I think after this I'll start watching my first impulse when I talk to little girls, just to see what it is.

As a parent I always get a chill down my spine whenever I read an article like this. My mind starts racing how many times have I told my daughter that she is beautiful, what does that to her focus on beauty, am I telling her that beauty is the most important thing in her life...and the second guessings go on. Then I check myself. I do call my daughter, 'beautiful,' and, 'pretty girl,' and 'beautamous.' (The last one is my favorite.) Are these nicknames harming her?
Probably not.

I do want to point out that this was one woman's interaction with one child on one occasion, I do wonder if she has children.
As a parent raising a little girl I think it would be detrimental to her not to tell her that's she beautiful. Well, because she is. Having talked to many women that weren't affirmed in their appearance by their parents, and in specific, their father, and having heard from them how this hurt them and made them feel insecure I think it's important we tell our daughters that they are beautiful.

Then I start to wonder how am I telling her that other aspects of her personhood are important? As a mom I think it's important to remember that a daughter will get her idea of femininity from you, that you are her first line of defense against the messages of culture. What am I telling her about being a woman? How much time do I spend on my appearance? How much time do I spend shopping? How much money do I spend on clothes and makeup? How do I spend my time with her? How much do I fuss over her appearance?
I do think appearance is important. I think taking care of yourself and presenting yourself well shows that you like yourself and you're worth being respected. I do want my daughter to look beautiful and presentable. I also don't want her to think she needs to wear a full face of makeup to go on a hike (I have seen that woman in the woods, it grieves my heart every time).

Sometimes with parenting I feel the need to rest on my laurels. To relax and know that my daughter is well loved and as person I think I present an approach to beauty that is balanced. Of course I think it's important to check myself and try to change my habits if I feel that I am spending too much money or time on appearance, but I am the type of person who timed myself while putting on makeup because I wondered how much of my life was being taken by putting on mascara.
Doesn't that count for something?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Exercise

I did my prenatal yoga DVD, for the third time this pregnancy, this afternoon.
I am not a very flexible person. Usually when I practice yoga I feel like if it's good yoga at some point I should embarrass myself. Or those who happen to see what I am doing to myself out of the corner of their eye should think,
'Oh dear, is she hurting herself?'
'Oh, honey, I just don't think this is your sport.'
That is why I persist at practicing yoga, because it's good for me and I am inflexible. And if I do it right I feel like I got a full body massage.
This particular DVD is very modified; there are three women performing the exercises one in each trimester of pregnancy (all of them wearing full body unitards, I didn't even know they made maternity unitards). The first time I did the DVD I was early in my second trimester (my first trimester was spent largely lying down) and could follow along with the woman in her first trimester. I thought,
'Hey, this is great! I can do this!'
This time, at 18 weeks, things were a little different, I heard things popping, some muscles were sore, my knees felt loose, my belly was definitely squashed during the squats, and my feet felt more like a distant acquaintance. You sure would like to get in touch with them, but, gosh, it's just been so long.

I must say this pregnancy has been a lot different from my first one, where I cared about things like my pelvic floor, kegels, and caffeine intake...I mean really almost anything would send me to my copy 'What to Expect When Expecting,' flipping like a mad woman lest I hurt my unborn child. I ran up until fifteen weeks, then it just felt wrong and I was pretty sure that all those loosened joints, extra weight, and high impact movement would lead to a knee injury. Then I walked four to five times a week and actually lifted weights up until my third trimester. This baby is lucky if she gets one long walk a week. Did you pick up on the fact that I have only done that DVD three times in 18 weeks?
Oopsies.
Funny how the ever present reminder of a healthy child relaxes you a bit during pregnancy. Like, look it worked out okay. Also funny how that ever present sucks up all your energy and time to exercise. I pretty much set my sights on my due date and decided that I would just be sluggish and miserable until this was all over. Fatalistic? Yes. Truthful? Yes. This pregnancy has hit me like a truck. Eight weeks of morning sickness, scratch that, anytime sickness, and bone crushing exhaustion has left little room for my 'get up and go' to take over.
Did I also mention that we have a very comfortable couch and cable? That certainly doesn't help.

There's also something about having that aforementioned ever present little one that sure doesn't allow you to rest. After an hour of 'playing' with Emma, in where she grabbed my finger looked up at me said,
“Pom, Mommy, pom,” that's 'come,' by the way. I followed her into her room, held her baby while she gave it milk, then she put the baby in it's cradle and repeated the process in all the rooms of our home. Which involved me standing up, walking, and sitting down repeatedly. I thought to myself,
'Who needs squats?' I'm a fan of natural exercise and parenting a toddler provides ample opportunities for such.
Anyway, I will do what I can with what I have and know that in the end no matter how out of shape I am I will find some way of fixing it. Hopefully....

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Freckles

Emma has two freckles.
The first popped up on the back of her shoulder, a light tiny butterscotch dot. It showed about a month ago. The next one is on the outside of her right wrist, a perfect round circle in a deeper camel color. I noticed last night while we were watching TV.
“Oh you have another freckle,” I said, as I turned her arm to get a better look. She saw it, I’m sure for the first time. I knew that she was going to try to rub it off or scratch. So as her little fingers and nails began to explore the little spot I hoped she hadn’t heard the disappointment in my voice.
Reframe! Reframe!
“Oh honey, don’t scratch it. See, it’s part of you and it’s special. It makes you unique,” maybe I recovered that fumble.
I pointed it out to Scott tonight.
“My eckle, ouchie!” she said.
“It’s not ouchie,” Scott said.
“It’s not ouchie, it makes you special!” Mommy might be trying too hard.

Of course it makes me sad to see the landscape of her perfectly unblemished skin start to gain spots. They make me wonder if I haven’t been good enough with the sun screen. They make me sad about the marching of time that my daughter is getting older and changing in ways that I can’t control. I guess this is part of watching and waiting and seeing what she will become. I can’t really control who she turns out to be, I hope that I can hold her in the palm of my hand and allow her to grow.
I remember liking my freckles when I was a kid. I would read books where protagonists would bemoan the smattering of spots across their nose and cheeks. I think I internally stomped my foot and claimed that I would like mine, because I would be darned if someone else was going to dictate how I felt about my freckles. Besides I can’t change them might as well like them, right?
I remember not thinking that my skin looked that old until I had her. Then when I held her little body in my hands and saw the contrast of my scarred and freckled skin next to her untouched skin I was surprised at how many spots I had. I must have started out like that, right? Time not only marches on but it marches all over our bodies leaving it’s footprints in the shape of scar tissue, moles, and freckles.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

It Takes Two

My daughter has turned two. The week, the very week that her little internal age clock clicked over to two years her behavior nosedived. Suddenly the routines that we have been doing for months are negotiable.
"That was the last story, it's naptime. Walk over to your crib."
"I don't want naptime," and she flops down on the ground, whining.
I know these are little stabs at controlling her own world, when she still has so little control of what happens to her or really understanding of what happens.

This afternoon we got out of the car and Scott started unloading easels, boxes, and paintings that I had taken to a craft fair the night before. I pick up a box or two and try to guide Emma over to the staircase that leads up to our apartment. She has begun to attempt to pick up one of my easels; a wooden box that is larger and weighs more than she does. In my attempts to gently guide her away she kept running away from me, screaming like I had threatened to sell her to the gypsies, and our usual walk up the stairs turned into boneless mess. I picked her up and walked up the three flights of stairs, hefting my pregnant weight, two boxes of art supplies, and a twenty pound child who was doing her best imitation of a dying manatee.
At the top of stairs she melted into a wailing puddle. We were heading out to go for a walk and her diaper needed to be changed, so the wailing puddle got her diaper changed. These are the moments that are the hardest for me as a parent. I know that I am making the best choice for my child but she is making it completely difficult for me. These are the moments when I go into what I think of as 'nurse mode.' The place where you set your jaw and plow through and do what you need to do. It's not pretty.
So in this moment Scott comes in kneels on the floor beside her distraught little face and eventually gets her to laugh and giggle.
This is usually another bad parenting moment for me, where I compare myself to my husband. That I think that he is a better parent than me, for being more patient, more fun, or just more anything.

We got back down the stairs and were on our way to the park; Scott had enticed Emma to walk, instead of just being pushed in the stroller. I walked ahead of them and occasionally turned back to see my daughter holding hands with her daddy, as they walked and marveled at leaves and other suburban wonders. I could feel the low thoughts of comparing myself to my husband rise in the back of my head just like bile rising in the back of my throat. I don't get her to walk like that, after a few feet she just usually asks to be carried. Which has led to moments of ridiculousness where I am carrying her in one arm and pushing the stroller with the other hand.

As I looked back at the grin on her face I let it go. I think I compare myself to him and always make myself lose because I am so afraid that he might be judging me and thinking that I am not making good decisions with Emma. After all she is his daughter too. I think that I have to realise that he trusts me too, just like I trust him. In those few moments I decided to enjoy my husband for the way that he parents. His ability to be patient when I am not. His ability to find fun in every day activities. His ability to allow her to do challenging things when I am scared.

I try not to nag at him or fuss at him when he parents differently from me. I am not always successful. The balance between being a united front and allowing the other person to care for your child as who they are is one we are still finding as a couple. We will never get it perfect. Hopefully at the end of the day Emma will still know that we love her.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Why I Can't Feel too Sorry for Myself

I have a jealousy problem. A big one. I go into my friend’s homes and I’m jealous of the space they have. I’m jealous of the two cars that they have. I’m jealous that they’re considering buying a house. We are terribly financially behind most of my peers.
We spent two years in Africa and that choice put us only looking at the American dream and not actually achieving it. I don’t allow myself to regret it.
Here’s why:
We don’t have a dishwasher, I found myself complaining about it with friends the other day. Which I am ashamed of, only a small minority of people in the world have a dishwasher. Nobody, but nobody has a dishwasher in Nairobi, I wouldn’t know that fact had I not lived there.
As I click through the list of blogs that I follow I run across one from a girl I knew in college, they are in Uganda awaiting the adoption of a child. My heart sinks as I see her list one more court date that they have to attend. I have seen the fallen faces of parent’s after one more court date when a judge did not show up because they were ‘sick’ or on ‘vacation.’ I walked with friends as the adoption process dragged out for years, watched as corruption kept children out of the arms of the families that so wanted them. I saw the tears and hugged the children. I’ve been to orphanages; I’ve held the babies that were left behind. They all had colds. I have talked to friends who were bravely fostering these children, heard stories about children who would never be adopted because their incarcerated father wouldn’t give up parental rights. I have admired their courage as they gave their weekends to love on children who weren’t getting held enough, admired their courage to love a child that would probably never be their own to love. My inner cynic rises in the back of my head as I look at my friend’s hope, and then I beat her down and tell myself to be proud of my friend’s willingness to love and have hope.
A colleague of mine from the school that I taught at in Nairobi was kidnapped in Somalia four weeks ago. Her name is Jess Buchanan, she was working for a Danish demining group and was taken in an area known to have Somali pirates. Last I read she was being held for a ransom of 50 million Kroner, when I finally had the guts to convert that amount I learned that is about 8.6 million dollars. If you want to find this out you have dig in the US media, Justin Beiber’s hair is a higher head liner than one of our own citizens being kidnapped for ransom. I know because a friend posted about it on Facebook. And I know Jess, she’s not just some Chaco wearing do-gooder who I toss a passing prayer to the heavens and hope everything turns out all right. I know her, I know that she would probably rather be caught dead than wearing Chacos. I sat at the lunch table with her and laughed at her hysterical stories, heard her re-tell tales of her students, and wished her well when she moved to Somalia.
This is all why I don’t regret living overseas for those two years. My worldview was blown to smithereens. It’s hard to be in the US where in one opening of a browser site you can be knee deep in cluelessness and a thousand miles away from the heartbreak of the rest of the world. It would be so easy to feel so sorry for myself because we live in a small apartment with no dishwasher, but I know that in many parts of the world there would be a family of ten smashed into my apartment with a very good chance of no running water and no electricity. So I can’t feel too bad for myself, something that I find to be a blessing. I can’t turn a blind eye to the suffering of the world. Another blessing.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mom Would Be So Proud

I never thought I would say this, but I think I need a thimble.

My mom would be so proud.

When Emma was in utero I started making all the decorations for her room. There was a dearth of 'cute' age appropriate nursery decorations in Nairobi and really it was just my version of nesting. Some people clean, I create. My nesting urges launched me into a collaging phase. I started combining collage and embroidery on canvas.

I don't know if you know this but embroidering through gessoed and painted canvas is hard. This afternoon as I sat there trying to force a needle through two layers of thick paper, fabric, and canvas I thought, 'I could use a thimble.' I resorted to using the flat part of my hole puncher to force the needle through. As I did it I was pretty glad that I already glued the button on and that the sewing was only for added cuteness, or it could have been precarious and dangerous.

Why didn't you just punch a hole with the hole puncher? I had...

I actually love embroidery. I'm not good at it, but I enjoy. I think because I'm stabbing something... My mother taught me how years ago. She also taught me to sew. I have actually finally decided to accept the fact that I do not like sewing. I like the idea of it, I love the creativity and all the possibilities. I hate the process. I always get about a quarter of the way through a sewing project and then something happens to the bobbin (always the bobbin) and I think, 'oh, right I hate this.' But embroidery stuck.

It's funny to remember this, as I am sewing buttons onto this canvas I watch my hands push in, flip around, and tie off. Centuries old motions that my own fingers do so quickly. A muscle memory that I never knew I had.

After an hour or so of collage I find myself relaxed, calm, the soothing feeling of having accomplished something, I can move onto other tasks. One time I was talking to a friend about doing art and how it calmed me down. She looked at me and said,
"Are you ever angry?" I seriously wondered how she could ask that question of me. I don't do art when I'm angry, only leads to ruin. I clean when I am angry,
"Gee, Lara the oven is really clean."
"Oh is it? Is it sooo CLEAN?!?!"
I digress, if you have the time wander over to my Etsy shop and check out what I've done.

www.etsy.com/shop/laradavisbarnett

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Just Another Night

"I a rubber duck," Emma announces.
"Oh, are you a rubber duck?"
"I not a rubber duck."
"Well then what are you?"
"I a boat," she asserts.
"Oh, are you a boat?"
"No, I not a boat."
"What are you then?"
"I a fish," the next one.
I fan out my fingers and look down at my hands,
"You're a fish?"
"No I not a fish."
"What are you then?" I ask, trying to get to her to say that she's, 'a Emma,' or a 'little girl.' Little ragged islands of nail polish float in the middle of my nails. I look back up, she has given up on our conversation and is now jamming the beak of her rubber duck into the faucet.
"Is your duck's beak in the faucet?" No response. Continued jamming. I wonder why I even bother to paint my nails in the first place. Even if I can find time to sit still long enough to let the polish dry they are ruined the first time I wash dishes. That was the case even pre-baby.
She turns to me, and says a litany of words that I can only discern means she wants to go take her duck to her daddy, who is presently washing dishes in the kitchen. Picturing a dripping wet child running across the apartment and then wanting to get back in the bath I say,
"That seems a bit logistically difficult right now." In a few moments she shouts,
"I want to get out!" I lift her out, rubber duck and all. While I stand up to grab her towel she starts to climb back into the tub. I catch her,
"Nope, once you're out, you're out," and quickly wrap her in a towel.
We sit down on the closed toilet and I put toothpaste on her toothbrush and give it to her. While she is busy sucking and chewing away. I turn us away from the sink and contort myself around and reach an arm under the sink to get a comb out. I have to do this without her seeing because I know that once she sees the comb she will try to rip it out of my hand. And probably succeed. I sneakily comb the tangles out of her fine hair. Hoping this will be enough to deter the frizz she's been walking around with for the past week.
I finish combing and deposit the comb in the sink, because if she gets ahold of it who knows where it will end up.
"Here, honey, let me help you brush your teeth," this is met with clenched teeth and a wiggly interfering tongue. I never have any idea at how much I am getting clean when I brush her teeth. Scott walks up to the door,
"Emma do this, ahhhhh!" He pantomines opening his mouth wide. She bites the tooth brush.
"All right, all done," I announce and turn her loose. She runs past her daddy and into the apartment.
Nothing makes me smile like seeing her little naked bottom running away from me.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Myth of a Flat Belly

Today I would like to speak the truth.

Women were not made to have flat bellies.

It's true. Google it. Or ask.com it. Or Jeeves, or whatever. Or God, I'm pretty sure he'd have my back on this one.

I have never had a perfectly flat belly. Even before I had children. Even when I was a vegetarian and running cross country; a thinning combination to be sure.
Even when I breastfed and shrunk and shrunk down to size two my belly still sloped outward instead of going flat as a board. I looked at it in the mirror and thought,
'Oh well, I guess that's sticking around.' Considering the trauma it went through I'm pretty happy that it doesn't look like a three month old deflated balloon.

I just recently saw a montage of before and after photoshop treatment of magazine photos. Everyone's boobs got bigger, waists got smaller, skin got smoother, and suddenly no one had wrinkles or circles under their eyes. This didn't make me angry. Just kind of flaccid. I cognitively know that photoshop is out there turning already beautiful people into impossibly beautiful people, but actually seeing it was just deflating. As an actress with a smattering of zits across her forehead got perfectly clear skin I remember feeling relieved and thinking it was unfair all at the same time. Like, 'oh, the beautiful people have zits too,' and, 'hey, that makes us feel unnecessarily bad about ourselves.'

Because even though I am pretty savvy, even though I am getting more and more comfortable with my body, I had bought it. I somehow believed that they all had clear skin, no bags under their eyes, and amazingly proportioned bodies. Like they were uber-humans that aren't affected by sleepless nights or bad diets.

Norway is voting on legislation that will make a warning label appear on photos that have been retouched. They have already banned ads from Maybelline and Loreal that were considered too retouched.

I guess I am tired of the lies. These actors are being twisted into shapes that don't even exist. Women were not made with flat bellies. Not even the uber athletes that have not an ounce of fat on them (which I don't begrudge them because they worked hard for it), I am sure that when they turn to the side bellies go out instead of straight down.

I guess I'm just asking all those people that are pushing the lies to stop. What's the point anyway? So you make someone look more beautiful than they really are, why is that a good thing? It may inflate their ego, but the rest of us are left wondering why we don't look like that.
Sometimes it makes me want to move to Europe, where the people who actually get famous are talented and not just nice to look at.

I guess I'm savng that if you have a pooch, give it a pat because it belongs there.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I Wonder Why? - Part II

This post may be a bit beneath me, I hate celebrity gossip. Every time I get sucked into looking at one of those glossy magazines, with beautiful people that I don't know at all I feel a bit dirty. A bit voyueristic. Like I'm looking through a peep hole in some seedy hotel. I don't know these people, I have no business looking at their lives.
But it's hard to avoid when the news media seems to shove these people down our throats.

So here's something that has bothered me for awhile. I wish people would stop criticizing Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie for having so many children. It makes me sad that so many people feel they would have to be absolutely insane to have so many children.

There was a time and a place where the more children you had the more blessed you were. There was a time and a place where having children raised your status in society. There still is such a place. To become a grandparent in Africa is still a thing of great pride. One of the highest places in society that you can achieve. I know that in America grandparents are proud. I am approached by them all the time. It seems, though, for so many there is a hesitancy to become a parent.

That you won't be cool anymore.
That you won't be able to do the things you like to do anymore.
That you won't be thin anymore.
I could go on.

I struggled with this for a lot of years. I used to think that children had 'I will change your life' tattooed across their forehead. And not for the better. Now this fear largely kept me from getting pregnant before I was married and ready, so that's good. I just wish that friends that I know would make great parents weren't struggling with it as well.

We have changed so much as a culture that we value the ability to go skiing whenever we want over the life of a person. Because that is what they are, little people.

In those moments when I wish that I was back at work I think about that. That most of all I value people. The reason I make art is to bring joy to people. The reason I write is to share with people. The reason I've taken jobs in social services is to help people. That here she is, a person. I have been entrusted with the health and care of a human being. That's pretty important.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I Wonder Why?

A few months ago two friends of ours sat with us on the beach and asked us frankly,
‘Why would you have children?’
I sat there and collected my thoughts. Why would you?

In our culture we hold up individual autonomy and independence as two of our main values. Our friends are happily married and thoroughly enjoying life. Why would they want anything to change? They can travel. They can renovate their home. The can ride their bikes anywhere. I know they fill their Saturdays with fun activities that are definitely harder with children, if not impossible.
I thought about two years of interrupted sleep. A career derailed. And there really is just more fluid involved in parenting that I really thought there would be. Sometimes as I think about mounting my diplomas to the front of the washing machine and I wonder why I did.
As our daughter played in the sand about us, Scott and I told them why we had chosen to have children. I don’t remember what we said.

I wonder why and then I look over at this little person who is sitting on my husband’s lap carefully and deliberately eating goldfish crackers I wouldn’t have it any other way. As I look at the little mouth and perfect little feet that I love to kiss so much I can’t imagine turning back the clock and choosing to do anything differently.
I wonder why and then I realize that she is this perfect little combination of the two of us, a beautiful living reminder of our love. She is this little person unfolding before my eyes. A little person that I am enjoying to get to know. I can see some of her personality in between the cracks of toddler behavior; a calm spirit, a precocious sense of humor, a quick mind, an infectious excitability.
I wonder why and then I catch a glimpse at the inside of her arm and realize it looks exactly like mine. Like me she will spend the rest of her life looking at that arm.
I wonder why and then I think about the hours of tickling and giggling. I think of that pitch of her voice when she hits that deep belly giggle. I think of her little face curled up into smile, and how much I want to cover those little cheeks in kisses.

This afternoon I gave her grapes while she cuddled on her daddy’s lap. Grapes are one of the few foods that she will always eat. She clambered up from her father’s lap, waded through a wad of lap blankets, all while holding grape out to me. When she got to me she placed it in my mouth, curled up against my shoulder and said,
“I love you,” she then looked up at me and put her finger on my nose and said, ‘oh, I love your nose.’ Then her little hand went up to my glasses and waved about above them, ‘oh, I love your glasses.’ Almost like she wanted to take them off, but knew better. Then she slid off me and on to the floor and ran off to run amuck.

We have a rough day where she is whining, I am tired, and then she runs up to me grabs my finger and says, ‘I want to play with you.’
I wonder why....

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Little Help

We're doing this wrong.

I adore my child. She is a beautiful joy. A bundle of brilliance, curiosity, humor, and sweetness. She is usually pretty well-behaved, if you can see through the requisite toddler behavior.

I am exhausted by her. If she pokes me in the butt one more time with a book while I am trying to complete some utterly ridiculous task, like putting on makeup or putting away the dishes, I am going to tear my hair out and scream.

I know she needs my attention. I want to give her attention.

I have vacuuming that I've been putting off for a week.
An endless pile of dirty dishes.
Blogs I have yet to write.
Books bopping about in my head.
Illustrations I haven't completed.
Half done paintings.

Sometimes I feel like I can't complete a thought. Much less a project.

It's such a balance of giving her one on one attention, which I know she needs and I am happy to give and then actually getting things done. Of course I feel selfish for wanting to get things done but 'things' actually do need to get done. Right? They do, don't they? I can't spend every waking moment watching her pretend to fix her new kitchen. Right?

I want to spend a chunk of time on her and then a chunk on everything else. But it doesn't work that way. My child's five minute attention span bounces off my proclivity towards distraction and nothing gets done, I get frustrated, and she ends up in front of the TV.

Then she'll come up and hug me.

Or say, 'Mommy, I like your earrings,' when I'm in the middle of changing her diaper. And I feel like a jerk.

We're doing this wrong.

When I am with a group of mothers and someone says that she works so she can get away from her children, and we all laugh, there is something wrong. I know that not every moment can any one human be patient and calm. With so many mom's feeling tired and worn out and resorting to parking their kids in front of 'The Wiggles' it leads me to believe that we are doing this wrong.

I think this is the first time in history that women have been isolated and made to largely raise children on their own for eight or more hours a day. Play dates and 'mommy and me' classes can only get you so far. I keep thinking of women that I saw in the village in Africa who would get together everyday to do their work. You would look over at pack of women sitting on the ground happily shucking corn and chatting while children ran about playing simple games.

This is a hard scene to recreate when we all live in our separate homes miles from each other. When we have boundaries that say it's not okay to have anyone over when your house has dirty dishes in the sink or your floors are not vacuumed. When you feel like you need to have a four course meal on hand for any guest that comes over around meal time. Even though I know I don't expect that from anyone else. I'm usually just happy for a cup tea.

Last night I invited a friend over for dinner. Her husband was out of town and having done the dinner alone bit with a child I knew she could use company. When we trying to decide when she should come over and I encouraging her to come over sooner I admitted my side of it,
“I'm tired, I don't know when Scott is going to be home, and our kids could play together while we cook,” she laughed and said she'd be over in fifteen minutes.
I threw together some soup and she brought over Bisquick and made biscuits at my house. Our kids stole toys from each other and we had company.
We both dropped our self-reliance, admitted that we could use some help, and had a much better evening than we would have alone.

How can we do more of this?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Little More Normal

I have appreciated all the encouragement I've gotten from my last blog. I know that I am doing what I need to do and for whatever reason my body seems to need to gain more than the 'recomended' weight. I so thought I had done better this time around, I did, but only by five pounds.
It's just discouraging to watch yourself get bigger and bigger, and see the numbers climbing and know there's nothing you can do about it until six or seven months from now. Like there is some switch in the back of your head that you can just flip and suddenly all the years that you have trained yourself to wish the number to go down you're supposed to be okay with it going up? I usually look up while they're weighing me. With Emma I had no idea until the last doctor's appointment. Besides it was in kilos, double digits? Looks great!
I confessed to a nurse practitioner that I couldn't even drink water, it grossed me out. She laughed and nodded. This is one of the reasons I have chosen to use female doctors, and midwives. They know. They tell you to eat healthy and then tell you, 'do what you can.' Because they know, they know what it feels like.
Oh sure some may think, 'she's just indulging because she's pregnant.' There may be truth to that, but when I look down and realize I have just hoovered an entire plate of enchiladas, a feat that would have left me in pain pre-gestation, and then I could still use some more, methinks something else is going on here.

Tucking happily into a Big Mac and fries is unusual desire for me. McDonalds is a place that I usually avoid with a sneer and a comment about it not being 'food.' The first time I had that 'hamburger' craving, I went on my own 9:30pm burger run, because my husband didn't believe me. The quarter pounder that I got had too much ketchup on it, and the meat was gummy, but I ate it anyway just to prove him wrong.

Yesterday, for breakfast, I craved whole wheat toast, with peanut butter, banana, and honey. Instead of frozen waffles or a bagel. I was almost elated that I wanted to eat something so healthy and so normal for me. As I sat there munching I was happy that I had gotten to the part in my pregnancy that my 'cravings' seem a little more normal and I don't have to eat every two hours.

Then I dumped syrup on my kid's peanut butter toast to get her to eat more. Didn't work. But then, that's another blog...

Monday, November 7, 2011

My Eggo is Preggo

Well folks it's time that I announce to the blogosphere that I am pregnant. 14 weeks and counting.
So that should explain the dearth of posts that have not been in the past three months. Unlike my pregnancy with Emma this one has left me either laying down or kneeling in front of the toilet. It's hard to come up with deep insights about the world around you when most of your energy is focused on not throwing up.
Today I am feeling better, it's past eight pm, I am sitting upright and still have enough mental clarity to write.
To I am going to take this time to pause and pontificate on pregnancy and the crazy things we eat just to get through. So, why, mother nature, in the one time in our lives when we are supposed to be eating the healthiest the only thing that I can keep down is french fries, boxed mac and cheese, and Big Macs? Why is that?
One friend told me that all she could keep down during her pregnancy where bagels and french fries.
Another friend asked what is the craziest food that I have plowed through, her example was that in less than a week she went through a 32 ounce Irish Creme flavored creamer. I laughed and said that after grocery shopping I sat in the car and ate half a box of Cheez-it snack mix. I needed a mid-morning snack.
There has also been a lot of late night bacon.
For the first part of my pregnancy I am like a hobbit: second breakfast, elevensies. Second lunch. And it's not just, 'oh I could use a snack.' Nope, I am ravenous about every two hours. And if I don't eat, I puke. With Emma I put on twenty pounds in my first trimester, with this one I skated by with only fifteen. I was so hoping I would do so much better. Apparently I didn't.
I guess it's just what my body needs to do.
I did get, let's call it a bacterial infection, when Emma was about four months old and couldn't really eat for four days. I still had plenty of milk to feed her. So thanks to all those second breakfasts we were okay.
I hate it though, I'll check in with a website to find out how big my kid is getting and there will be some uber perky paragraph about how I might, just now, be fitting into maternity clothes. Thanks scrawny, I've been in them for a month. Or that maybe I even lost weight because I've been so sick. First of all I think that it is sick to let women think that weight loss of any kind is okay during pregnancy. Second, nope, sick as a dog and somehow managed to gain fifteen pounds. Maybe it's all that exercise I haven't been doing....
Then there's the two hour naps I've been taking most days. This from a woman who never naps. Never. Unless gestating.
So, you know, sleeping burns a lot of calories....
The other day we were seated in a McDonalds and I was looking down at the remnants of the large fry that I had just put in their place and said to Scott,
"I wonder how much damage I have done to my arteries in the past few weeks?" He shrugged popped a fry in his mouth and said,
"You'll run it off."
Indeed I will, I will run it all off.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Alone Time

A close friend of mine just had her first baby. She was laughing over the fact that every time she goes to take a shower her son starts crying and wants to be nursed. I laughed and said that almost every newborn baby I know cries right at dinner time and you never get to eat your food warm, or get seconds for that matter. I told her it gets better and said,
“I can now go pee by myself.”
“Ah, yes but can you close the door?” She returned. I laughed and said,
“No, she brings me books while I am sitting there.” I have actually had to explain to her that I can't read to her because I have to wipe.

Sorry that may have been too much information. But we all do it, don't we? Wipe, that is. At least I hope we do.

The other morning in the shower I heard,
“Roar!!!” I turned around and my two year old daughter had whipped aside the shower curtain and was pointing a toy lobster at me. “A lobster!” Then she threw it in the bath and said, “Oh, I dropped it!” I have been over the difference between purposefully dropping something and throwing it, seems we still don't know. Or are choosing not to.

When my husband is home I usually gleefully slam the bathroom door shut and 'go' in private, all by myself. It's glorious.

A few weeks ago in a Bible study one of the women had finally had all her children go to school. When we eagerly asked her what she did with this new found 'time alone' she shrugged and threw her hands up in the air and said almost hopelessly,
“I did laundry.” There was laughter and an assurance that that's okay because no one ripped it apart behind you. (The first time my daughter gleefully undid a folded pile of laundry I let her, and then congratulated myself on being so patient and understanding of her development. Now I yell at her to stop. How fast and how far we fall.)
I get this though. I know I don't have as many kids as her, or have been denied of time to focus on myself for as long, but I get this. This morning Scott took a friend to the airport, they took Emma with them to give me time to be alone. I got out of bed before they left, Scott said to me,
“Honestly I expected you to sleep longer,” and miss out on time by myself? Heck no.
“Actually I thought you would need my help to get out of here on time,” I said as I snuggled with our clothed and fed daughter and looked at him all fully clothed and stuff. He did a little self-congratulatory fist pump and was out the door in a few moments.

And then I sat there. I sipped my tea with milk and honey. I stared in front of me. My mind buzzed over what should I do with this precious time. I thought I should take advantage and try to pray. So I sat and sipped and tried to wrangle my run away thoughts onto cogent conversation with God. I finally ended up where I usually do: praying about writing, painting and sculpting. Praying for direction, understanding of why I have these desires and gifts, and a venue for which to do them in. Finally my stomach did remind me that nourishment is necessary for life, I toasted a bagel and continued to wrangle while eating. I landed on the conclusion of, 'stop whining and get up and go do it.' So I finished some gluing on a collage I'm working on and then showered. Sans any lobster's this time.

Some of the older member's of my audience may be rearing up to tell me to enjoy this time and take advantage of enjoying her while she's so young. Don't worry most of the interruptions into my privacy just crack me up, but I have learned that I need to be given time alone or I get grouchy, impatient, and easily angered. My husband has watched me spiral downward when I have been 'on' too much and has gotten good at offering me timeouts. I just need to get better at deciding what to do with myself when I get them.

Last night while trick-or-treating a couple was sitting outside in front of their garage with a fire pit blazing, the woman got up and brought a bowl of candy to Emma and our friend's son Bennett. She cooed over their cuteness and patiently waited while each two year old selected their candy. As she stood up she made a comment about this is what you get to do when they all go away to college. I had a mixture of thoughts from 'how sad' to 'how fun.' I guess that's the life lesson, enjoy it while you got it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Only Real Men Need Apply

Awhile ago one of my grade school friends joined a group on Facebook called SlutWalk. At first I was taken aback so I clicked on it. (Right, isn't that everyone's reaction to something that shocks them: look more?)
Upon clicking and reading more I learned that it was a march or initiative to stop victim blaming in rape cases. Like, 'she deserved it, you should have seen what she was wearing.' Or, 'She was sooo drunk, she was asking for it.' Those kinds of defenses or excuses.
No one, no one, deserves to be sexually assaulted no matter how drunk they got or how scantily clad they were.

I remember a few years ago walking around in Santa Barbara while they were having Rape Awareness month, there were purple flags hung from street lights depicting the very downtrodden face of a woman. I remember thinking that this was backwards. Rape is not a women's issue, we are not the one's raping.

My husband and I tithe to a camp called Deerfoot Lodge, it's an all boys camp. At first I bridled at the thought of supporting an all boys camp, shouldn't we support an all girls camp? To create strong women? I am not sure exactly how Deerfoot does this, but all the young men that I have met that come out of that camp are genuine, respectful, and kind. The type of men that I would be happy to send my daughter on a date with. So I acquiesced and we donate to them. (And the camp means a lot to my husband, so it's really more about that.)

After reading Packaging Girlhood and seeing trailers for Miss Representation I have realised how de-sensitized I had become to sexual images of women in the media. They have affected my own personal self-esteem less and less over the years because as I have grown stronger and become a mother the worth of my body can no longer be measured in the perkiness of my breasts. (Don't get me started the western over-sexualization of the breast.) But to read that book and read some of the statistics that Miss Representation puts forth shocked me. I know that women are still treated poorly and depicted poorly but to see what's really all out there it makes you realize how far we still have to go.

I remember driving down the street in Nairobi and seeing a poster of Mariah Carey with half of her chest bulging out of the top of her dress. What was this for, an album, or just titillation? The ad was for cable television. I remember thinking, 'No wonder they hate us.' Here in a more conservative society to have the depiction of a white woman as pure sex object gives the wrong idea about our culture and white women in general. Did you know that the majority of porn consumed world wide depicts caucasian women? Think about what that does for aid workers and missionaries.

Now, one might argue that we need to put it away. I can't say that I disagree. I have taken a turn towards the more modest in the past few years. One sunny summer day I was on my way to the beach, I parked my car and walked across the street wearing only my board shorts and bikini top. I looked up to see a homeless man leering at me. Oops. That's right girls, if you hang it out there everyone can see it, not just the cute ones. Also now that I am married it's really not for anyone else to see.

With the passing of Halloween I have heard so many people question why this holiday has just turned itself into an excuse for women to dress like whores. One year I dressed as a sexy devil, I wore a short red skirt, a tight long sleeve red shirt, horns, fishnets, and black high heeled boots. The friend that I borrowed the mini skirt from told me that she was surprised that I would dress that way, I seemed to have too much respect for myself. About halfway through the night I changed into jeans and took off the horns. Seems I did.

Why is it that women's issues have been so often dropped in the lap of women? Sometimes I feel like I'm shrieking into the void, demanding respect that so many aren't willing to give. But for every women like me, who changed into jeans there are one or two more willing to take them off.

Here's another problem, like in the civil rights movement white people had to say that black people deserved their rights, now men have to say that women deserve to be respected. I know plenty of men that think that and act accordingly, unfortunately I think of them as amazing or above the norm, rather than normal.

Here's the thing we all need each other. Women need men and men need women. Sexism has always been a bit lost on me, don't you want to support and love the people who are bearing and, most likely, raising your children? So I'll walk down my side of the street, I will focus on education over appearance, I will spend more time reading and less time shopping, I will no longer dress as a sexy devil. I am asking to men to walk on their side of the street, to look away from demeaning images, to not consume porn, and to respect us as a whole.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Playground Woes

We live within walking distance of three different playgrounds. This is a luxury that I revel in, weekly.
Like most playgrounds there are elements that are perfect for my peanut sized two year old daughter. Little houses, wooden cars, small slides, they are tiny, stationary, and safe. She wants none of those. She wants to play on the huge massive slides, ramps, and otherwise shakey elements that are loaded with danger and extremely large children.
And who does she want to climb on those things with her? Me.
Ballet flats and hanging tires don't mix well.

I have foisted her on my shoulder and 'helped' her swing from the monkey bars. When I popped her on the opposite platform and she lifted her arms in the air and shouted,
"I did it!" I would think, 'Oh, did you? Because I'm pretty sure that was all me.'
I have used my shoulders to balance myself up a ramp that was suspended with chains and tires while holding my child's hands in mine. An element that you would usually use hands and feet for balance, but my hands were otherwise occupied. I think we looked like some strange snuffalufagus lumbering up a ramp we shouldn't have been on.

Now whenever she grabs my finger and points in a direction I fear what is coming next. I have often re-directed her towards swings or something more nailed down. Some of these elements that she wants me to do with her she is capable of doing on her down, when I have backed away and tried to give her the freedom to do them on her own she has thrown herself down on said stair or tire and dissolved into fits of tears. Kinda emberrassing.

On Tuesday when she was hauling me by my finger up and around platforms and stairs I heard my mother in law's voice in my head intone,
"You're her only playmate." When she first said this to me it felt frightening. Like it was some grave responsibility and also a heavy burden. Like when i tell her that I can't play with her because I am washing dishes or peeing am I denying her, hurting her deeply, or just teaching her boundaries? In some ways those words have allowed me to enjoy her. To be hauled around by my finger and look down at her little sweet face and listen to her cute little saying and just enjoy her at this age.

But I would like her to be able to play without me on a playground. So moms, how have you fostered more independence for your child while still enjoying the dependent moments? Because it is nice to be needed, but I'm not going to be around forever.

PS: I'm pretty sure that the LCD on my phone is bleeing because of going down slides with it in my back pocket....oops.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sometimes We Pause

Last week a one of my closest friends came to visit me from California. We have criscrossed the world and continent many times and still our friendship has remained intact. One move she gave me a card that called me a 'big tree' friend. That the roots of our friendship go deep and the branches of our future will keep growing.

My friend came out after experiencing a family tragedy. She gave birth to her first child in the beginning of August. At fifteen weeks during her pregnancy she discovered in a routine ultrasound that her son had several physical problems. These problems were deemed incompatible with life. Through many conversations I heard her heart about whether to terminate the pregnancy or allow her baby to go full term.
She and her husband choose to have her son. There were many reasons at one point they believed that he might be able to donate to another child and save the life of another little one. During the pregnancy it was decided that he would not be able to donate. They chose to have their baby anyway.
She gave birth to their son, they named him Gabriel Eleison Stengel, and they got to enjoy him for forty hours. In the end he was able to donate heart valves to another child.
During the course of her visit I asked questions and she answered honestly about why they choose to have their son. Now the more I process what she went through and how she conducted herself I realise that maybe she just wanted to meet and know her first child. To have the privilege that any parent wants, to hold and love their love their child for as long as they are given time.
During one of our drives into Boston I went on about how conflicted I was about being a stay at home mom. That while I loved my child and wanted the best for her I felt that my education and career aspirations were being put on the shelf. After probably fifteen to twenty minutes of spew she spoke up, in a calm and non-judgemental voice,
"Can I say something?"
"Sure."
"You have her," I felt like an asshole. I apologized. She told me that wasn't her intention. I know it wasn't. I told her that I was talking out of both sides of my mouth that in one breath I am frustrated and in the next I am thanking God for her perfect little life. I think she knows that.

Tonight Emma stumbled and started crying profusely. She didn't seem hurt herself, maybe she was too tired, maybe she scared herself, maybe she hurt herself with the book she was holding and I couldn't see the bump. I found myself holding her and comforting longer than maybe I should have. I snuck little kisses at the corner of her mouth and told her she would be okay. I think awhile ago something in me clicked and I realised that she won't let me do this forever. That soon mommy's kisses won't fix all the hurts she feels. Soon she won't know that she can still trust me with her hurts. Soon she'll want to fix herself.

Maybe my friends words have sunk into my brain. I remember at the beginning of her life feeling inconvienced and put out by all the crying and nursing. I think even before her words of wisdom I knew how lucky I was to get to parent this little child who was born perfect. But sometimes a reminder helps.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Girly Girl Revisited

So here's the problem: women like to look pretty. What little girl hasn't dreamed of some 'princess' moment in her life. The moment you walk down the aisle and your husband to be sees you. Swirling on the dance floor in your prom dress.
Do those moments come true for every woman? Yes and no. My husband did look happy when I walked down the aisle toward him. I can't remember it I was so amped on adrenaline and the only photo we got of it, he has such bad red eye that he looks like a really happy demon. Prom? Let's just say that most of us wouldn't like to revisit our awkward teenage choices.

What is it about us that wants to be beautiful? Are we the peacock of the species, rather than the peahen? Is it just preening to attract a mate? Is it competition?

But it is.

The authors of Packaging Girlhood hate Angelina Ballerina. (A cartoon about a ballet-obssessed mouse) They deemed it one of the few shows you should just boycott because of the negative stereotypes portrayed therein. I was a little surprised at this. So she likes ballet, is that bad? In the series Angelina is portrayed as a star student. Ballet is hard, I think being superb at it is a good thing to emulate. There are a few characters who indulge in particularly 'catty' behavior; the female sins of gossip and backbiting. They always 'get it' for this type of behavior. I always shudder when I watch these episodes because it's so eerily accurate. Unfortunately girls do that, I appreciate that the show depicts these as negative and punishable. In other episodes Angelina leads a protest to save her favorite tree and sneaks on an all boys hockey team (and is one of the best players). That's kind of awesome.
Is anyone else frightened that I have really well informed opinions on toddler programming? Because I kind of am.
I think the one lesson that I took this book is to pay attention to what my child is learning. Not only to the explicit messages but the implicit ones as well. What is Angelina Ballerina teaching my daughter? That it's fun and good to be a ballerina? That's an okay message. That the only she can do as a girl is to be a ballerina? That would be bad, but I don't think it's teaching that. I think it's important to point out here that a large majority of the shows available for Emma to watch feature male protagonists and males in active roles and females in passive roles. That is an implicit message to watch for and counteract.

Here's the thing, men and women are different. We have made a mistake in this culture to say it's bad to be a woman. Then we have made a mistake in saying that to be successful you must be male or act like a male. Hopefully we can move past this and celebrate each gender and then each individual. We can be equally happy about a boy who excels in ballet and a girl who is excellent in ice hockey.

Hopefully my daughter can watch her mother who runs every morning and backpacks and know she can do whatever she wants rather than take her cues from television.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Girly Girl

Yesterday I put Emma in a pink layered ruffled skirt. When I put it on she said,
"Yay, ballet skirt!" Then stood up, steadied herself against her dresser and lifted her leg in the air behind her. Later in the day she steadied herself against the couch and pointed her toe out in front of her.

I had several different reactions:
1. I was super impressed that she could connect the pink frilly skirt with ballet.
2. I was impressed with her coordination.
3. I was totally chagrined because it's so girly.

Yeargh.

Dancers are amazing athletes. Ballet is a beautiful art form and is challenging. Why would I care?
Okay I know that my daughter watches way more television than she should. One of the shows that she watches is Angelina Ballerina. This is probably where she got the ballerina idea.
I have been reading the book Packaging Girlhood. In the book the two authors took the time to research all the available toys and media that are being presented for our daughters again and again. A few of the elements of girl centered media that they saw again were incredibly discouraging: a lack of female characters on cartoons and shows, an over-emphasis on appearance, toys that prepare women for house and home and not career, a lack of healthy female relationships, the list goes on...

My mother-in-law is a nurse and during 'Nurse's Appreciation Week' she recieved a purse kit of a brush and mirror, she gave them to me for Emma. I took them happily because she was getting enough hair that I was starting to think I should start brushing it, the mirror I was happy for because I had wanted a mirror when I was a girl.
The other day Scott came out of Emma's room holding our girl, she was holding her 'purse,' the mirror, and a pink cell phone. What have we done?
For awhile I saw the mirror just as a developmental need for self identification. Now I wonder if I am teaching her to focus on her appearance.

Both my husband and I have cell phones. The pink is the manufacturer's fault. But why did they make it pink?

Emma has a little washer that she puts things in, a friend gave it to us. I thought is was a strange toy, who wants to play at doing laundry? Then I noticed that she did put things in it and play with it. I read it as developmental, toddlers like to stick things in things. They just do.
I do the laundry in our house. It's the only thing I am a control freak about.

She also plays at washing dishes. My husband washes most of the dishes in the house. So maybe she just imitating what she sees regardless of who is doing it.

Emma also pretends to be a pirate and can dunk a basketball in the hoop that hangs from the back of a chair.

My goal with Emma is to encourage her on what ever path she chooses. Cheerleader or basketball player. Ballerina or Pirate. The thing about the book that bothered me the most was as I read I saw stereotypes and images that had harmed me growing up. This idea that the only thing that made me worth anything was being uber-beautiful. I'm honest enough to know that I am no supermodel, for years I felt that I had to look like that to attract a mate. Through becoming more and more athletic I focused on what I could 'do' rather than what I looked like, and became more and more happy with my body. (Who cares what size I am I just ran six miles!) This is my hope for my daughter that if she does pursue dance she does it because she loves what she can do, not because they get to wear pretty costumes.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fall has Fallen

It's here. Fall has come.
Yesterday I read that it would 65 degrees, in Colorado 65 is still warm weather. In Chicago I never knew what to do with the 60s. And in California 65 was cold. So I didn't really know what to do with that day. So I threw on jeans, my Toms, and I short sleeve sweater. Within a few moments outside I knew my mistake.
Like Chicago 60 degree temperatures are bit confusing here in New England. Moments of warm interspersed with crisp wind. Mostly on Friday I was cold.
Today I went out prepared, long sleeves, vest, and tennis shoes. Too much clothing.

Emma didn't sleep during her nap time today. I let her stay in her crib and talk an extra half hour because I wanted time to myself.
What did I do during that precious time? I laid belly down on our couch.
As I lay there staring at the black screen of the TV I noticed someting. Fall sounds different. Through the cracks in the window I could hear leaves rustling, the swish of cars, and birds. The summer buzz of cicadas was gone. The noise that only adds to the body coating heat of the summer was no longer buzzing away.

As I walked this afternoon, pushing Emma in her stroller, giving her a second opportunity on that nap (which she did not take), I noticed bees and flowers.
Having grown up in a land of forever summer I still don't know how to interact with the seasons. These times for me are strange, the mixture of both. Even the air is both hot and cold.

So far I have been in denial about the coming of colder weather. I love summer, even in the land of forever summer I loved summer. Being cold too long used to sress me out, I would wonder when I would ever be warm again. After months of not being able to feel my nose spring is a cruel and welcome mistress, giving warm weather one day and then a storm the next. Fall is the same cruel lady bringing deep colors, the celebration of harvest, but the end of warmth for several months.

I think these past two days have made me ready. I have accepted it, fall is here. I am ready to light my 'Autumn Harvest' candle and make some pumpkin bread. I've already gone apple picking, who am I kidding?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Patchy Returns



I may have lost a few battles but I won the war.

Patchy is finished, hung on the wall and done.
We are glowing with pride in the Barnett household. Okay, maybe just me.

Some of you know that I have been trying to turn an old frame into a whiteboard. Last time we talked I had failed at 'antiguing' it in aqua and teal.
I repainted the frame in aqua, back to the drawing board as it where. Moved into the shade, sat down, and moved slowly. Before I tried the teal glazing while standing and moving ridiculously fast, like a woman crazed. I re-sprayed the teal and wiped right after I sprayed. I was much more systematic and slower. The glaze turned out to be too heavy for my liking, but it worked and it wasn't patchy.
Patchy sat in our little hallway for a few weeks. I have a habit of putting a problematic project in my line of sight for awhile until I can figure out what it needs. Rachelle at the Shabby Tulip, in her post about her new door, gave me the idea of sanding it. So I just gently sanded (with 100 grit) the areas that were too heavily glazed.
Patchy began to look a little awesome.

We went back to Home Depot with our tail between our legs to get the 'white board' for the white board. We walked into the Home Depot, and there it was...a child's craft project...they were making WHITEBOARDS!!! I hovered around the worker that was passing them out and asked, where she got that. She said,
"We just get them this way from corporate in the package," and she pointed to a box of pre-fabricated frames and boards. "You might want to try building materials that way," she pointed down the store.

I had seen on a blog that Home Depot carries a product called 'white panelboard' and you can use that for white board. White panelboard is used for shower siding. After wandering the aisles anxiety riddled and walking past some products that looked the youtube video I saw, I asked for help. I asked a man named 'Norm.' 'Norm' took me right back to those products that looked like what I saw, but I wasn't what I saw. The products that they had that were similar to 'white panelboard,' but all had tile-ish imprints in them or texture to them. Not so conducive to writing on them.
'Norm' suggested plexi-glass. I thought, 'hey, that might work.' So he showed me the plexi and left me to decide.
I am potentially the most indecisive person on the planet.
I got my husband. He gave me an indecisive answer and ran off to entertain our child in the window section. I picked a piece of plexi and set off to the 'cutting station,' to get it cut to the size I need.
I stood at the cutting station behind 'Norm' and another Home Depot worker holding my plexi patiently waiting while they actively avoided eye contact with me.
Finally 'Norm' turned and 'helped' me. I asked if he could the plexi. In a volley of words I came to understand that they couldn't use the saw on plexi and 'Norm' didn't really know what he was doing. He stopped another worker and they discussed the impossibility of cutting this piece of plexi-glass. I stood with bated breath, could it done? Had I come this far to not get the second best of what I wanted?
It was deemed that 'Norm' would get a hand held plastic cutter, scour it, and then break the plexi. 'Norm' began this process of scouring and cutting the plexi. This process started to look grim. He kept missing his scoured line, this might have been compounded by the fact that he was using a piece of baseboard as his t-square. After much flipping and scouring he went to break it...
SNAP! In half at an awkward angle. My hands went to my mouth, 'Oh no, do I have to pay for that?' I didn't. I thanked 'Norm' and left him, I think I had caused him too many troubles in one day.

Can getting a white board be this difficult?

I checked Micheal's; the only white board that they carried was too small.

Eventually Scott found one. In a matter of moments he had cut it perfectly so that it fit into the frame without needing any adhesive. Patchy was done.
Scott hung him on the wall. There he was. He was done and, I think, beautiful.
Maybe Patchy is not so Patchy anymore but like an unfortunate nickname given to you in an emberrassing moment in your childhood the name will remain.

Now I just need to go remember to buy white board markers.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Thirty

This is the year that I turn thirty. When I turned 29 last September 12th I felt, ‘let’s just get this year over with.’ A good friend of mine referred to 29 as the ‘diet thirty.’
It’s been strange thinking of myself this year. I’m still in my twenties but not for long.

I have a friend who is a few years older than me, one time while we were together she kept repeating the phrase,
“Well you know, I’m past my prime,” and then she would go on about some makeup tip or other tip to make herself look younger or keep her husband interested. Every time she said it I just thought,
‘Who told you that?’ Then my next thought would be,
‘How sad.’ Later it went into further ruminations about defining beauty by youth rather than what actually makes a woman beautiful.
Awhile ago I saw an article in a woman’s magazine about women who looked more beautiful when they were in their sixties and fifties than in their twenties. They seemed to all the same things in common, as they aged they accepted themselves more and more. They worked with what they had instead of trying to change it, like wore their curly hair curly instead of straightening it. They grew into themselves and were more comfortable in their own skin.
I have made this my goal.

Somewhere in my twenties I made the goal that I would run a marathon the year of my thirtieth birthday, kind of a ‘I’m not dead yet!’ rally cry against the years. Oh, how little did I know. Seeing 30 as an age that defined me as old, as somehow fading in health and ability. I didn’t run that marathon this year, as we opened the door for getting pregnant in February. Those seemed like incongruous goals. (That was NOT an announcement of pregnancy.)
I feel stronger now than I did in my twenties. In a lot of ways I feel like I’m just getting warmed up.

Funny how thirty is the last harbinger of adulthood. Our culture has decided that if you aren't acting like an adult by now there is something really wrong with you. I felt the last nail in the coffin of maturity the other day when I drove the baby-sitter home for the first time.
Maybe than rather referring to it as nails in a coffin I should refer to it as a seed in the ground. Shucked of the burden of a lack of self awareness I can really grow realistically. Planted in stable and loving ground of my own little family and the family that brought me here, and the family that I married into I can continue to sprout.
This is the day, thirty years ago at 12:05 last night I came into the world. And, oh, the places I've been and, oh, the places I'll go.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Is this really better?

The ‘ice cream’ that my husband brought home from the grocery store is called a ‘Frozen Dairy Dessert.’ Nowhere on the package are the words Ice Cream written as it would if you were to label it. It looks like a carton of ice cream. It has a fun flavor of ‘Peanut Butter Cup,’ but apparently it is not ice cream. I wondered why this is, so I looked at the ingredients figuring that was probably the problem. I am guessing that the Ice Cream Council took one look at the product and its innards and said,
“Uh huh, Edy’s, no you didn’t.” And labeled it ‘Frozen Dairy Dessert.’

This got me thinking, is it really easier to get all these crazy ingredients like ‘whey,’ ‘coconut oil,’ ‘whole milk powder,’ ‘ maltodextrin,’ ‘partially hydrogenated palm oil,’ and ‘propylene glycol,’ rather than just blending together cream, sugar, milk and vanilla? Is this really a better option? Ice cream needs little to no preservatives, right? I mean it’s frozen. You make it frozen, you keep it frozen. Freezing things preserves them. Am I wrong? I know that sometimes it can change textures and the integrity of a food, but ice cream is made to be frozen. You do that do it on purpose.

If I think about it the texture of this ‘Frozen Dairy Dessert’ is not as nice as the more all natural brands. There is a weird fluffy texture, and a funny after taste.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m gonna eat it. Oh, I’m gonna eat it all. But maybe next time we’ll make sure it’s actually ice cream that we buy.

My mother in law came back from Whole Foods with a jar of vodka sauce, it was from a local farm and had ingredients like, 'tomatoes, cream, onions, garlic, and vodka.' The sauce was fantastic. I picked up our can of pasta sauce that we had on hand and was again met by ingredients with chemical names and the ever present high fructose corn syrup. I thought again, 'Do you need preservatives in canned sauce?' I mean you can things to preserve them, right? If you can tomatoes at home you just can them, you don't put anything in them, other than a little salt.

I'm sure that companies add these preservatives because they are shipping that can of sauce from Ohio to Colorado. I'm sure that the tomatoes went from California to Ohio. The peppers may have been Canada. And the jar itself from Mexico. I am sure that it is extra insurance against spoiling.

But is all this really better? We have this system that is predicated on the usage of trucks on huge interstates. How did we do this sixty years ago, when those didn't exist? Is shipping products huge distances to the consumer really better? Is pumping said products full of chemicals so that they don't spoil really better? Even products that in theory don't need preservatives?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mine all Mine

My daughter needs to hang out with more children.
Here's why the toddlerish proclivity towards believing everything is hers has taken a vicious turn.
She mostly plays with adults, this is good because she gets lots of face to face time with people who use full sentences and have no problem sitting there holding a stuffed bunny while she puts different hats on it. This is bad becuase say we're coloring together and she wants the purple crayon? I let her take it, because like I even care, right? Let's just say, hypothetically I made her ask the other for the purple crayon? Full on crying fit. My husband looked at me,
"What happened?"
"I made her ask for the purple crayon," I shrugged.
"Oh."
The other day at the pond I pulled out our bucket of sand toys. At my invitation my friend's son helped himself to a shovel. Emma came screaming across the beach. He backed up and handed the toy to Emma, like,
"Whoa, here crazy lady! If it means that much to you, you can have the shovel."

Yesterday at the library? I look up after being distracted for two seconds and she's screaming and wrestling a train from another child's hands. I jump up and take it away from Emma and give it back to the kid. Oh, the kid was older by the way, and much larger. His mom said,
"Oh, don't worry about it," yeah, that's because you're sitting there thinking, 'haha, my kids the innocent one.'

My kid has turned into 'that kid.' Awesome, I know.
The same friend whose child offered the shovel to keep mine from ripping it from his innocent hands, told me about a joke she'd seen called Toddler Property Laws:
1. If it looks mine, it's mine.
2. If it looks like something I may have had once, it's mine.
3. If I want it, it's mine.
4. If you have it, it's mine.
I know this is pretty typical behavior, but I can't believe that my kids off the wall behavior intimidated another child into giving away toys.
So moms on the North Shore of Boston, watch out there 2'5" of terror coming your way, and she wants what your kid is holding. I will do what I can, but we all know they have little minds of their own....

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Failure to Cookie

I have a sweet tooth, a big one. Actually I have never understood the phrase 'sweet tooth' because really your tongue is tasting the sweet.
I guess I have a 'sweet tongue.'
I have always doubted the people that claim they prefer salty to sweet. Really? If I popped a big old piece of chocolate cake right here in front of you you'd pass it up? For some pretzels? Okay maybe not pretzels, but potato chips. I still don't believe you. Most of all because I have seen those friends of mine that claim they do not like sweets all that polish off their fair share of brownies and ice cream.
One of my afternoon rituals is to put my daughter down, make a cup of coffee and eat a sweet treat. I like my dessert in the afternoon. In the skinnier times of my life I have been able to stick to that. So usually on Monday I bake something, cookies or brownies most likely. Every now and then I try something different from the usually routine of chocolate chip. I had found a recipe in Parent's Magazine for Orange Ricotta Softies. The picture looked like little glazed balls of fluff. Fabulous.
I also had everything I needed except for the ricotta. Even more fabulous.
This afternoon after Emma was down, dishes washed and chili in the crock pot I attempted to bake these cookies.
First I didn't soften the butter enough.
Oh well. I kept going. Then I realised I might not have enough flour. Hmmm, I got in just under 2 1/4 cups. Just like the recipe ordered.
Then I realised I didn't add sugar, I threw it in after the fact instead of beating it in with the butter like you normally do. Okay, maybe they won't be so light and fluffy. I also had bought the wrong size container of ricotta, I bought a 32 oz., instead of 15 oz. So I just eyeballed half and told myself that next week we would have Lasagna.
The dough looked, well, a but runny for drop cookies. I dropped and threw them in the oven for the allotted amount of time.
I checked on them after about six minutes, instead of holding true to their little round shapes like the picture showed, they were oozing all over the cookie sheet like a monster from a swamp. Hmmmm.
I checked the recipe. Oh, 2 1/2 cups of flour. Oops.
I pulled them out put them back in the mixer, probably a mistake and added more flour. But I thought you were out of flour. Yep, I used whole wheat. Because that is what I had. This time around I cooked just one. It did not maintain round integrity but didn't take over the cookie sheet like a swamp monster. I ate it. Not a cookie texture.
So I decided to muffin them.
I know have little orange flavored, dense, muffin shaped things. They are not light and fluffy, they are dough-ish and sweet. I thought about calling them tarts to make myself feel better, but there is nothing tart like about them. The recipe is in the trash. I think they did not have enough raising agent to achieve muffin. They might get thrown away. I did eat most of two of them.
Because after all I have a 'sweet tongue.'