And for once I was SuperMom

Monday, April 16, 2012

Miracle or Waste?

One thing that has struck me while re-integrating into American life is the amount of products that we have. Specifically the amount of specialized products. As I have tried to cut our budget I have looked at all these products and tried to decide what is necessary and what is not.

Personal care products are one of the places that I can fall into purchasing things I don’t need. I just recently read an article that pointed out products to splurge on and products to spend more frugally on; it also listed ten products that you can live without. Eye cream was on the ‘live without’ list, because there is no scientific evidence that we need a different product for underneath our eyes. I have been using eye cream for about four years now, once I crossed over the ‘closer to thirty’ line and started noticing that I was indeed getting fine lines around my eyes I figured that an inexpensive cream couldn’t hurt. I would rather do something and maybe, possibly prevent some wrinkles rather than do nothing at all. I ended up with a L’oreal product because it was the only one who promised to attack wrinkles, puffiness, and dark circles whose price didn’t make my knees buckle. Does it help wrinkles? Doubtful. I think gravity always wins that one. Does it help dark circles? I don’t know. But I did notice that it seemed to suck up the puffy patches under my eyes. I think that’s worth it.

So this month I ran out of my eye cream and decided that I would see if it made a difference. This may have been the wrong month to try this experiment.
I remember the last night that I slept through the night. It was in October. A friend was visiting from out of town, I was still in my first trimester, and we were so busy that one night I went to bed and didn’t wake up until morning. It was glorious. No waking up to pee. No waking up to turn over. (Another friend calls that a three point turn, and, oh, how right she is.) No heartburn or indigestion keeping me from being truly comfortable. No insatiable back pain. Just sleep.
After catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror and doing a double take because I thought,
‘Oh dear, I look dead,’ I tucked my tail between my legs and headed back to CVS, coupon in hand, hoping for something reasonable that would work. Of course that particular CVS doesn’t carry the product I usually use so I stood, dumbly, in the aisle for about ten minutes trying to decide what promises creams and gels could actually keep. And, of course, trying to decide how much I am willing to pay. I ended up in the ‘all natural’ section holding a product that promised to de-puff you. It had a very ‘honest’ looking photo of a middle aged woman on the front, puffy and then not. I flipped it over and read,
“Do not smile or frown, or move your face for three minutes after applying this product.” Yikes! I put it down. That can’t be natural.
I ended up with something from Aveeno, a company I usually trust, and hoped for this little miracle in a jar to be, well, miraculous.

So what do you think, are these creams and things useless? Do they work? Do they help? Is it a waste of money?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ya Big Baby

“So what we’re gonna do is go in through your nose, reach all the way down, and pull the baby out back through your nose. And we can schedule you for this procedure tomorrow,” the doctor says this all with a smooth voice.
“Okay, you’re going to pull the baby out through my nose, but you’re saying that if you do this I would be no longer pregnant tomorrow,” the very pregnant lady asks.
“Yes,” the doctor assures.
“Okay, let’s do it,” she agrees.
I think this is how so many inductions happen. I am 36 weeks pregnant. This baby is a lot bigger than Emma. I am so uncomfortable and so large that even washing dishes feels like a monumental physical feat.
I told someone who has never had children that at this point I would rather be holding the baby in my arms than in my body. Her eyes got really big, like I had said something horrible.

I had another ultrasound this week because I am measuring ‘large for gestational age’ according to the sonographer this baby is 9.2lbs. I feel like a walking freak show. One of those women that you hear about from friends,
“My sister’s friend from college just had a 12lb baby!” A friend whispers in shock, eyes wide, hand over mouth. You picture the women in your head, she’s big, she has a proclivity for overeating, so of course her baby would be huge. Right? Nope, apparently you should just picture me.
Once my midwife saw the results of the ultrasound she started talking about a c-section. For those of you just dialing in: my last delivery was a 40 hour ordeal that ended in a c-section. Turns out the cord was wrapped around Emma’s neck and was keeping her from descending. I have been pretty committed to having a VBAC. To have that empowering feminine experience of pushing a baby out of my body unaided by medicine.
But on Thursday when my midwife said that phrase, ‘c-section,’ I thought,
“I could go for that.” They could just cut this baby out of me. I know what it feels like, I’ve done it before. I was running within a month. When my friends talk about sitz baths and mesh panties I think,
“Maybe this ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.”
Really I was hoping she would announce that this baby is way too big and they would have to cut her out of me tomorrow and I would not have to be pregnant anymore. But they won’t touch me until 39 weeks. They are very well behaved. I did however spend the next 24 hours in a funk, with tears, thinking that I might not be able to have normal childbirth experience, because I had gained too much weight and grew a freakishly large baby. Up until this point I haven’t really felt like there was a correlation between maternal weight gain and size of the baby. They seem to take what they want and get as big as they want.

Several friends I recounted my ‘huge baby’ diagnosis to tsk’d, ‘they don’t know,’ came the response and then a recounting of a huge baby that turned out to be well within legal limits. Hopefully they’re wrong and this baby is more normal than large. I can tell she’s bigger than my first, but my first was, and still is, a peanut. Hopefully regardless of what happens in the delivery room I will be at peace and feel like the right decisions were made. Hopefully at the end of all this I will have a healthy baby girl and a healthy me.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


“Time to go upstairs!” I chirped and directed my daughter towards the stairs leading up to our apartment.
“I don’t want to go upstairs!” She shouted and stomped her two little feet, and hunched her back in the full body pout.
“Well, we need to go upstairs because mommy has to go potty,” I started to explain. Then I stopped myself. Why in the world am I trying to reason with a two year old? Really why am I trying to reason at all? She doesn’t really get a vote right now, we’re going upstairs because that is what we are doing now. The next thought I had was, ‘if I start giving her reasons for everything all the time what in the world am I going to do when she is sixteen and can actually reason back?’

While mommy was taking that potty break Emma dumped the crackers out of her snack container. From my throne I told her to pick them up and she did. She then ran out of the bathroom carrying her snack container. By the time I waddled out into the living room the crackers were back on the floor. I insisted that she put them back in, she stalled, she refused…two time outs, and a potty break later I just put her down for her nap. No books or nothing, just diaper and crib. Twenty minutes of crying later she was quiet. I felt like we weren’t getting anywhere, but I didn’t want to give up because if I can’t get her to pick up crackers when she’s two what is this going to look like when she is sixteen? As I looked at the pile of crackers that were still on the floor I thought I would leave them for her later. An hour later the pile of snack still sat on the carpet, I began to rethink this. Is she too young? Is that just cruel? She definitely didn’t get what she wanted. What would plunking her down again and insisting she pick that up really look like? I have heard horror stories about children getting the same plate of food over and over again until they ate it.
So I picked it up.
I can’t tell you why, it just felt like it was the right thing to do.

Scott and I are somewhere between the kid is the center of the family and kid joins the family and needs to subvert their needs for the good of the family. There are times for both. Children are tiny and don’t understand the world so at times we need to make sure that their needs are met over other’s to ensure that they aren’t going to grow up to be insecure, fearing that no one cares about them. Other times our needs are more important, for example while driving my need to not rear end the person in front of me is more important than her need for juice. So she can wait until we are home.

Now I am not talking about saying ‘because I said so.’ I think to be able to do that I need to go back to the beginning. I don’t think you should break your child’s back with your authority. Authority laid down with a heavy hand leads to rebellion. I need to be here now. With my two year old. She needs to trust me. Trust that I love her. Trust that I will not punish her unjustly. Trust that I have her best interest in mind.

Then I need to trust myself. I need to lay down the fights that we go through, not re-hash them over and over again, wondering if I have done the right thing. Trust that our relationship won’t be broken in half over one altercation. Trust my instincts. Trust that all my hugs and kisses mean something. Trust that I have laid the groundwork in her heart to trust me.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Kid's Art Craft

Emma completed six paintings today. Usually I cut her off at two. I give her two dishes of Crayola Kid’s Paint, with one color in each. That way she learns about blending colors and she doesn’t end up with compositions the color of mud over and over again (remember mixing paint when you were a kid?). She also does watercolor; she has completely gouged out the red. When I look over and see that she has only used one color I will ask,
“Can you find the green?” She happily complies and we end up with more color discovery. There have been a few times where she just points to the green and continues on with her red. Oh well, I try.
So far we have not had any unholy messes and the paint truly is washable. Every now and then I glance over and see Emma sucking on a paint brush and hope that Crayola’s promises of non-toxic are really true. I give her scratch paper so in my head I tell myself that we aren’t wasting resources.

As a consequence of this I have a six inch stack of paintings. I saved the very first one. Then I started to toss them in the trash. Then I thought better of it. As an elementary art teacher I knew that most of the work that I sent home got thrown away. I feel deeply that I need to plan several tree planting excursions to repay the earth for all the deaths of construction paper that stain my hands. I know that parent’s throw away art, I’m sure I will continue to, but it haunts me. I don’t like it. Every time I did at work I would stand there and eyeball the trash can for a second and feel just wrong.

So what does one do with a stack of paintings completed by a two year old artist?
This Valentine’s day I made valentines for the grandparents, Emma’s daddy, and a friend we were having dinner with that night. Of course it didn’t occur to me to make Valentine’s out of them until Valentine’s Day so the grandparent’s did not get them until about a week later. Because I am awesome.
So I set Emma up in her booster seat completing more paintings, and while she did I employed the third grade girl trick of folding paper in half and cutting hearts out of them. First I made very large hearts from an entire painting and then smaller hearts with which to decorate the composition. I didn’t have any Valentine’s day themed stickers or else I would have given Emma stickers to further decorate the paintings. One thing that I learned while teaching art to small children is that a fair amount of letting go is involved. If you want something to look a particular way, do it yourself. Do not invite the children into the process. So I thought I would cut out hearts, apply glue to the back and allow her to put them on the Valentine’s, getting some of that great, upside down, toddler feel to it. I held out a heart, narrated what I was doing, demonstrated how to put one down, and then tried to get her to do it. She completely didn’t understand, she tried to put the heart down with the glue facing upward. I realized that I did actually want these Valentine’s to look a particular way so I finished them. I consoled myself that I was using her art in the first place.
I mounted the big hearts on construction paper and cut them out. Then glued a typed greeting on each one. I have wretched hand writing, so I prefer to type for any cards or signs that I make.
I had Emma give one to her Daddy when we picked him up from work. She was so excited and happy to present him with a blue heart. I also had her give the one to our friend, again she glowed with excitement to present her hearts to people.
Of course one may ask why I am writing about a Valentine’s Day craft in April, it’s because I am awesome.

Of course I like to tell myself that maybe I am inspiring readers to come up with ideas for their own child's art because they can't do this one right away. Right?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Is the Bunny Bad?

As Emma gets older each holiday we get to think about creating our own holiday traditions. Like the chocolate mint fudge that is a standard at my family's Thanksgivings or the sparkling apple cider that we drank while decorating the Christmas tree. Scott and I will talk over how each family celebrated each holiday; the foods and the moments that made each day remarkable and special. We get the joy of combining each family's traditions, picking the ones that were the most magical to us.

In the past few years there has been a contingency of people who have stopped using traditions such as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Christians that have decided that these get in the way of the true meaning of each holiday. Jesus Christ. I don't know how it happened or when it happened but over the years we have melded pagan celebrations of spring and winter with our Christian celebrations of Christ's birth and resurrection. I don't know if missionaries did it on purpose or if over the years the people blended the two together. Recently it seems that some Christians have been eschewing eggs and Christmas trees because they are not explicitly Christian.

This makes me sad. First it should really come as no surprise that our traditions are based on cultural heritage as well as Christian belief, people do this all the time all over the world. These holidays come as a way to remind us of who we are just as much to remind us of who Jesus is. It makes perfect sense that we would blend our celebrations of Christ with the celebrations of yore, as we as people grow in our understanding of the world we also grow as a culture adjusting customs to each new change and discovery. 60 years ago everyone smoked, but now we know that it's harmful to health and have made legislation against it, removed it from our entertainment and significant amounts of the population do not smoke because they do not want cancer.

Is this combination syncretism? It may have been many years ago. But I seriously doubt that those of us who are hiding Easter eggs are doing so because we are worshipping Eostre, an Anglo-Saxon goddess that seems to be related to the worship of spring. Melding our worship of Christ with the worship of the seasons makes sense because for North American and Northern European cultures the seasons are kind of a big deal. Now that I live in a climate with a winter, spring is exciting, the dawn of new flowers and warm weather is something to be celebrated. As we no longer are dependent on good weather for survival replacing ceremonies worshippng the sun with candy eggs seems appropriate. Looking to our surroundings to find meaning, understanding, and reminders for Christ would be only natural.

That's what these traditions do; they make these days fun, nay, even magical. I remember coming down to the kitchen table on Easter morning and finding a basket full of candy and just feeling like it was magic. My mother always bought good chocolate, so I remember there was a specialness to this day, not every day did we get a beautifully made chocolate egg. This feeling elevates the day to a day of magic, and isn't that what Christ's resurrection is magical? Something that can only be accomplished through an all powerful God, something we can't do?

Of course we can't compare a basket of candy to the resurrection of Jesus. Our traditions can draw attention to the miracle rather than distract from it.

So did Emma get an Easter basket this morning? Yes. Was it full of chocolate? Yes. Did we tell her that the Easter Bunny brought it? Nope. Scott told her that eggs and chicks are new life and we use them as symbols to celebrate the new life that Jesus offers us. Is that true? As long as we make it so.