And for once I was SuperMom

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Am I Wasting My Time?

I wonder how many hours of my life have been lost to putting on mascara.
It takes me about 28 minutes to get ready for the day (exactly one episode of Caillou), that's including showering, hair, makeup and clothes. That's 196 minutes a week. 10,192 a year. Roughly 169.8 hours a year. 7.1 days a year. I use up seven days a year just getting ready for the day. If I live to 85 that's 601.6 days. Almost two years.
Time is my most valuable commodity these days. I think about what to do with Emma while she's awake. How do I spend my time with her? Once she's sleeping I think about how I use those precious moments to get stuff done. How do I spend my time without her?
I remember reading my brother's magazines when I was in junior high and reading articles about tying knots and surviving in outdoor situations and then turning to magazines that were dedicated to girls of the same age and they had articles about the application of eyeshadow and boys. Famous and unattainable boys. I remember thinking that this information was useless. What did eyeshadow matter in the grand scheme of things?

I started reading the book Packaging Girlhood and it railed against the accessory racks for little girls, and the prevalence of pink princess themed clothing in stores. The authors levelled accusatory fingers at marketers and companies for enslaving women with silly depictions of femininity, their voices raged in an outcry against bras for ten year olds and sexy underwear for seven year olds. I agree with them. Those things are ridiculous and harmful to little girls.
But here's the problem, I don't think that those companies are as nefarious as all that, I think they sell what sells. Then we buy it.
We are complicit in this whole mess.
No matter how many times I time myself in the shower or putting on makeup, I still do it. Almost every day. I know that time might be better used for playing with Emma or working on all the millions of projects I have bonking around in my mind. But I don't, I still spend that minute and a half putting on mascara.

It's a hard game to play, because I know that appearance doesn't matter, and I know that it does. I know that I won't get into heaven because I took good care of my skin and got good haircuts. But I also know that if I wear baggy, hopelessly out of style clothes and didn't tend to matters of hygiene I would get much less respect and attention that I do.
I guess it's a balance. And I don't pretend to understand to know where that balance is. Maybe if you feel like you like yourself and feel like you look good then you're doing fine.

I probably shouldn't add up how many hours I spend eating or sleeping...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Travel Weary

I am going to Phoenix for the weekend to celebrate the upcoming birth of a friend's child. I am flying. Since 9/11 all the times I have flown have either been for an extended trip or, you know, moving, I have not done the weekend jaunt thing in a long time. I am trying to avoid checking a bag. And I will, it's only two days after all.

When we moved to Kenya we were doing a multi-day ticket, with stops in Chicago and England. So I had packed up toiletries in my carry-on so I didn't have to rifle through one of our fifty pound duffle bags to get my mousse. I had three quart size bags with all that I thought I needed, including smart little things like sun-screen and aloe gel. I had painstakingly squeezed little travel sized bottle full of shampoo and conditioner, and purchased tiny little bottles of eveything else. As we snaked our way through the line I saw a sign that told me I could only have ONE quart sized bag. I panicked. And started trying to consolidate everything into two, Scott would take one and I the other. I had jammed enerything I knew I needed, like toothpaste and deodorant into two bags and had the rest in one bag. The sacrificial bag. I came up to the line sweaty and panicking with my one extra bag of contraband toiletries I threw two ziplocs in one grey tub and hoped for the best. The TSA worker picked up the sacrificial bag,
"Just take it," I said. She paused holding it gingerly at the top with a gloved hand,
"But ma'am," a question or suggestion perched on her lips.
"Just take IT." I said resolutely, I had already decided. She slowly turned around and dropped it into the tubs of other personal goods that they had confiscated from other poor saps like me.

During one of our many flights we went through security in back of a Muslim family. They looked TERRIFIED, as they bustled about putting on shoes and putting things back into luggage and shushing children. I can only imagine how they felt. Here I am, US passport holding, blonde woman, with no criminal record and I break into a cold sweat when someone mentions airport security.

You know those commercials that show travel savvy business men and women sailing through airport security with smooth and confident smiles on their faces. I have travelled a lot, I mean a lot, and I still panic when I throw that little quart size baggy on the conveyor belt. I am always afraid that their just going to take something ot of spite,
"Eh, we didn't like the look of your contact disinfectant, so we threw it away, sorry."
When we flew to Kosovo my travel size contact disinfectant that I bought at Walmart was four ounces. I didn't notice until I was home that it was not TSA certified. I am guessing that Walmart assumes most of it's shoppers are not world travellers. I took it anyway. I was petrified that they were going to take it away. In Denver International Airport the TSA agent took it and did some kind of litmus test on it. I think I didn't breathe the whole thirty seconds she was doing it. I was pretty sure that they didn't sell contact disinfectant in Kosovo, or if they did I couldn't afford it.

My feelings of panic are not without cause. One time they took my lip gloss. During that same search they missed my Leatherman, which has a two inch blade on it. I dicovered this on the flight. I remember being in my seat and bent in half rifling through my bag and then seeing the pocket knife. I slowly sat up, and hissed to Scott,
"I have my Leatherman in my bag." I guess they were too busy throwing away my bottled water to notice a knife.

Speaking of that restriction. Do you know how difficult it is to be a nursing mother on an international flight when they keep taking your water away from you? Let's just say I was thirsty. And angry.

Have mentioned that at two weeks old Emma was patted down? Twice.

Oh, you can always spot Americans in foreign airports, we have our shoes off. In Heathrow there are signs all over the place that say, "Please do not take off your shoes." Many times I have gone through security in other nations and thought, "That was all? No DNA cheek swab? Strip search? I even wore pretty underwear, just in case."

This time I have just purchased travel size products instead of trying to fill up little bottles with my normal size bottle of shampoo. Ten to fifteen dollars in and only six little bottles to show for it I am beginning to get a little annoyed. I have some other bottles from old trips but I am always nervous to take them, because you never know how much is in them. I can only picture myself with sopping wet hair and mid-psst my mousse runs out. Not fun for anyone. I do know the trick of using samples, I seem to only get samples for shampoo and conditioner and strange hair products.

I guess I just feel like once I have mastered a travel system they up and change the rules on me.
Water? Perfectly fine.
Not any more.
Knitting needles? Not a problem.
They took them away from my mother in law.
Lip gloss? What can you do with that? Threaten to make the pilot girly?
YOu can have it only if you put it in a clear plastic baggy.
I get it, I do. There are certain liquids that if you combine them they make explosives. I am guessing that they assume if you are honest enough to actually put stuff in a baggy you're probably not interested in blowing up the plane in which you are presently riding.

Ah well, all that to say, at least I am travelling to a developed part of the world where if they take away my lip gloss, out of spite, I can go buy more.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


A few Saturdays ago I had the pleasure to go to a used bookstore in Manchester-by-the-Sea with some of the lovely ladies from staff. As we were checking out my creepy antennaes went up on the clerk. I told myself to stop and that maybe I was being judgmental. Some of the ladies had picked up books on farming, the clerk asked us if we wanted to start a commune. We all chirped up that we thought it would be fun. He then went on to say that most of the time communes didn't work because the guys would start to vie for the attention of the attractive girls in the commune.
Yep, he was creepy. A man more interested in sitting in the dark and reading books about life rather than living it.
When we were outside I told the girls that I had thought he was creepy and then told myself not to, and then he went and said THAT, and I thought he was creepy again. I made a comment about four attractive young girls in his store and how he had go and say something gross. They were silent.
I don't think they were silent because I said that he was creepy. I think they were silent because they don't get how pretty they are.
The other day I looked at Scott and said,
"You don't understand why I can be so neurotic about my appearance, do you?"
"Yep," he responded. Then did that bobbing of the head with pursed lips thing and widened eyes that he does when he can't believe something.
Whenever I picture a beautiful woman in my head I immediately think of a green-eyed women, with lustrous dark hair and olive skin. The complete opposite of my fair skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes. I don't even give myself a chance. I remember telling Scott that during a discussion of blonde hair and blue eyes as a high standard of beauty and he told me,
"I think you're alone in that."
I like my hair and eyes, but of course they come coupled with skin that fries like bacon in a microwave, so I have thrown out the trio because I just want skin that tans without so much pain.
You see we always lose. For whatever reason women mentally stack the deck so that we don't win. There is always someone who is more attractive than we are and we know that, so we always lose. Media bombards us with impossibly beautiful people (come to think of it I don't actually KNOW anyone who is as beautiful as any actress), so there are always those women even if we feel pretty good about ourselves.
I was having a discussion with my mother in law about the way women feel about themselves and was realising that her generation struggled with this just as poignantly as mine. I said I thought it was the media and she said,
"I think it's because we are women and men look at us," and then there's that. We are the peacocks of our species, we spread our fancy tails to attract a mate. Once we've attracted that mate it gets better, but it doesn't stop. We always compare ourselves to others without realising how beautiful we are.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

All Ages Welcome

Some of you know this and some of you don't. I taught Elementary School, Middle School, and High School. People often ask me what my favorite age was to teach. I usually say they all have their benefits, I think older children are easier to teach but I enjoy them all.
Elementary school age children are still often afraid of you, so discipline is easier.
And they're hysterical.
Middle school age students are still childish in fun ways but they are also capable of deep conversations.
And they're hysterical.
High school age students are pretty self sufficient and capable of grappling deeper and harder concepts.
And they're hysterical.
I have realized throughout our lives that we pretty much have the same needs and wants, the behavior just manifests itself differently. We all need attention. So when we are babies we actually cry to get the attention that we need. When we are children we 'act out' when we aren't getting proper attention. When we are in middle and high school we take to all kids of strange behavior to get attention, some of us dress in all black, some of us get really good grades, and some of us go out for cheerleading. As adults we pretend we don't need it, but really we do.
A friend of mine recently said that we are all as insecure as we were in middle school, but we just learn to hide it better.
Living with Scott's parents for the past year I often found myself in conversations with people old enough, literally, to be my parents age and usually I quite enjoyed myself. Since I've had my daughter and am making friends with other mothers I am often around lots of children. This summer my husband and I are living with college students. All of these developments have made me think about how rich my life has become because I have become friends with different people in different age groups. I think as women we become often myopically focused on being friends with people that are only in our age group or are same stage of life. I was actually really hurt by some single friends that cut me off after I got married. And when I was single a married friend that cut me off after she got married. (I actually love having single friends, they have time to get together.)

I think it's important to spend time with people that are older than us because if we can stay still and humble we can pick up on their wisdom.
I think it's important to spend time with people that are younger than us because they remind of us all the energy we had to try new things and do new stuff. If we are humble enough we can allow them to teach us some of those adventurous skills that we never had an opportunity to do (like rock climbing).
I think it's important to spend time with children because they remind us that the world is an amazing place to keep discovering. They remind us to have unbridled joy in simple things.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Does Thank You Mean I Love You?

The other day I was crouched on the ground in front of the fridge shoving something into some back corner and Emma came up behind me and hugged my back. Her little arms stretched around the small of my back. As I turned she ran around me and into my chest, she wrapped her arms around my neck and said,
"Tank you."
"Aw, thank you, Emma. I love your hugs," I may have said that. I may have been too shocked to even respond other than silently accepting her hug.
I think this is the first real show of outright appreciation. For awhile she would kind of say,
"I low loo," a version of 'I love you.' I don't think she really knew what she was saying and, I think, mostly she was parroting our 'I love you's.'
We get hugs and we get snuggles. We get rushing to us when she's distressed, but 'thank you?'
No, this is the first one.
I was amazed that a tiny little person could get that. I know that she knows that she's supposed to say 'thank you' when we give her something. She does that quite frequently and we react big and tell her we like it when she says 'thank you.' She does it quite regularly I am assuming because it makes people respond so wonderfully to her. Out of nowhere, though? Does she understand all that I do for her? Does she get turning my life upside down to make sure that she's taken care of and raised well? I mean, I hadn't even gotten her juice in the moments before she hugged me. This was a completely unmitigated thank you.
I wish she was saying 'I love you,' but isn't 'thank you' a kind of 'I love you?' Thank you for accepting for who I am. Thank you for taking care of me. Thank you for being brave enough to have me. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for loving me.
I have often wondered at the seemingly one-sided nature of parenthood. I grew up feeling like I could never re-pay my mother for all that she had done for me, but I knew that when I had a child I would do that for her. So often while holding her, breathing her sweet unblemished scent I worship at the alter of her, how amazing it is that I have had a child, and how amazing it is that she is so perfect.
Here I receive a little baby 'thank you' and I am stunned. That's all it takes. All the night wake-ups, all the fatigue, all seems worth it. That something so precious could love me back.
"Tank you."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Say What?

Yesterday Emma came around the corner stood in the kitchen solidly on her wobbly toddler legs, sippy cup clutched in one arm like a teddy bear looked up at me and said very clearly, and very sincerely,
"Meeno-Meeno-Mee," I looked down at her, put my hands on my hips and said back,
"Meeno-Meeno-Mee?" she looked up at me, pulled her little eyebrows in together and gave me a look that communicated that I was clearly crazy. I guess I would doubt the sanity of someone who repeated my words back to me verbatim.
Today when we went to drop off first month's rent at the apartment we will be moving into in August she sat up on a stool, put her little elbows on the bar in the kitchen, put hand on top of the other and told me a story. I had no idea what she was saying, but she was clearly communicating something.
All day long I am being very clearly communicated with in a language that I don't speak. I'm sure that sometimes Emma feels the same way.
"No, I don't want to 'go for a ride in the stoller, I clearly told you that I want to watch Caillou," sometimes I understand and choose to pretend that I don't.

A friend told me that her sister was at this stage, as a toddler, and got so frustrated that no one understood what she was saying that she just stopped talking. She stopped long enough that she scared her mother. I believe her mother was about to take her to a doctor when she started talking again, in full sentences.
I can only imagine the frustration that a child must feel at the inability to talk right now. I'm sure she understands much of what is going on around her, and has wants and desires but her tongue cannot oblige her enough to clearly say what she wants, needs, and thinks. To some degree much of her life probably is not understandable to her,
'Why do they keep strapping me into chairs?'
'You give me your hand when I say 'hand,' and yet you insist I say this word 'please' when I say juice,' someday I will explain to her that demanding affection is completely different from demanding beverages. Especially when the person demanding the affection is two and a half feet tall, cute, and came out of you.
I am looking forward to the day when she can pony up to our kitchen bar, lean on her hands and say,
"Mom, guess what I did today?" For right now I am still enjoying the fact that I can scoop her up into my arms and kiss her whenever I want.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

I spent three months in Tanzania while in college. I loved it, it was completely magical. I shaved my head while I was there. Why? Because I was an experimental college student. I loved it, it was so freeing.
Also there were no mirrors. I only had access to one mirror the whole time I was in Tanzania. It was behind our bath house. So after we came in from weeks on safari I would run back there pluck the undergrowth on my eyebows, scratch my head and move on. I also grew out my leg and armpit hair....but that's another blog.
When we came back from Tanzania my friend that I had travelled with covered the mirror in our dorm room with a bright orange cloth. I remember her doing it and saying something like,
"Yech, mirrors," as she pinned up the cloth. I remember admiring her bravery so much. One thing about going in and out of poverty ridden countries and going without is that when you come back to America you have to decide what overindulgences you are going to dive right back into. I remember noticing upon my return that there were mirrors everywhere. In every gas station bathroom, all over people's houses, and even in the sunshades on our cars. There weren't mirrors in bathrooms in Tanzania.
I haven't lived in a house with a full length mirror in years. I would stand on the edge of the tub and kind of wiggle around to get a sense if something looked good on me or not. I've not sought out to buy one because I guess if it looked good on me in the dressing room it should still look good, right? They're also expensive.

There are mirrors all over our little section of this dorm that we are living in presently. THere is one on the wall in every room, there is one inside the door of my closet, there is a full length one in the hall, and there are several in the bathroom. I catch a glimpse of myself constantly.
Since we moved here I have become increasingly dis-satisfied with my appearance. I hae begun feeling that I am gaining weight. I have become dis-satisfied with some of my clothes that before I thought looked fine.
It's the mirrors.
Where before I could go many hours without my eyes appraising my appearance, now several times a day my eyes glaze over a reflective surface. I see curls that didn't curl quite right. I see legs that need a better tan. I see thighs that need to run more miles. I see a muffin top that I didn't think I had.
Maybe I should jut close my eyes when I walk around? Ignorance is bliss, I guess.