And for once I was SuperMom

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.


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


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.
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.'

Friday, September 2, 2011

Maybe this is eternity.

As an artist I think a lot about the eternal. The artist's that have gone before me and the legacy that they have left behind. What will mine be? Will I ever make a mark on the art world? Will my art end just end up in junk shops after their owners pass away?
When I was younger when people used to suggest that I would sell a million dollar painting my heart used to jump at the thought. Now I know that most of the time if a painting sells for a lot of money usually the beneficiary is a dealer or a collector and not the actual artist. Now I even wonder if there is a place for that anymore. When movies and sports events have taken the place of the salons of Paris I don't know if the visual artist will be the big winner anymore in the income category.
Next week I turn thirty.
This brings about some self introspection. Who am I and what have I accomplished?
I have a couple degrees under my belt.
I am happily married to man who treats me like a jewel.
I have a gorgeous daughter.

Maybe this is it, maybe that's my eternity.
Not in the canvases I have covered in paint. Or the rocks I have carved into pretty shapes. Or maybe even the words I have written.
The hearts I have touched. The students who feel better about their life because I have told them, 'Really it gets better.'
The friends whose hands I have held through tears and joys.
The family that I came from who reminds that I have always have a place to go when it doesn't look so sunny.
The husband who I have promised to love and care for on this side of life.
And now the daughter, who came from my body and is the physical sign and culmination of the love shared between my husband and I.
Maybe that is what I will be remembered for.