And for once I was SuperMom

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Just Be

Today we had no plans. I eyed the murky sky through my third floor apartment's windows and decided that a library visit was the best idea. Emma can get herself down the first flight of stairs and put her shoes on, Carys still needs some help. So I strapped her little self in my ErgoBaby carrier and followed my toddler down our three flights of stairs and to our double stroller. I happen to love the ErgoBaby, Carys seems to have mixed feelings. That moment was mixed.
Down the first flight: squirming.
Down the second flight: squirming and grunting.
Down the third flight: squirming, grunting, and shouting.
While jamming my diaper bag into the compartments underneath the seats (whoever designed these things has never carried a diaper bag): squirming, grunting, shouting, and tossing that huge noggin across my chest like a dying catfish.
“All right! This beautiful attachment parenting moment is over!” I yelp. Hands flailing, buckles unclipping, straps tossing, and plunk, my sweet two month old finds herself in the seat of a stroller instead of nestled sweetly at my chest.
Then she fell asleep.
Then she napped in the carrier the whole time we were at the library, (because I can't fit my stroller through the doors I gambled and put her back in it) but only as long as I was standing or moving.
I remember when Emma was first born. I sat on our apartment floor bent over one of Dr. Sears books, Scott walked into the room and I looked up at him,
“This says we should be wearing Emma all the time. Even to nap. Do you think we hold her enough?”
“Why do you read that book, it only makes you feel guilty?” He asked back.
If I remember correctly the passage in in question also suggested you nap with your child. Have you noticed how much children nap? Do any of us have that kind of time? I am also not a child and am no longer growing, therefore I do need to nap as much as they do.
Anyway, we went to South Africa shortly thereafter and because of weight restrictions I could not bring the tome he has written on parenting in our luggage. And I have never looked back.

Have you ever noticed that a lot of parenting books and birthing books are written by men?

This has a twofold effect. This means there has been a birth of quite a few parenting philosophies born of unrealistic expectations and understandings of full time parenting. These are not people who are with children all day and night. Most of them are pediatricians. Sure they are smart people who have seen a lot of patients. But they are not at home with kids all day. We are on the front lines with the children, because some days it is a battlefield. I am also going to point out that pediatricians only have medical training; they are trained to see people in a scientific light. They are not psychologists or behaviorists.

This also means that people who truly do not understand the way the female mind works have been putting burdens on us that they do not understand. Men do not understand the guilt that comes with motherhood. They do not. They can't. My husband is a fully engaged father, he does not have an understanding of the crazy train of guilt that runs away with my emotions when it comes to my children.
Well, he watches me and often invites me to jump off of it, like a hobo who has decided he's at his next stop. But he doesn't have a mind or heart that works that way. He can't, he didn't carry our children in his body. From the beginning every action we take as mothers weighs in heavily on the child's well being, what you eat, how much you exercise, if there is a flaw in our very bodies it can harm our child. Then when the baby comes out it only gets worse.

I would also like to point out that it's funny that breastfeeding has become a part of a philosophy. Before the advent of formula breastfeeding was just how you fed a baby.

 Neither Scott nor I claim to be attachment parents or Babywisers.
We are parents. We raise our children using all kinds of tools. Sometimes we use a sling and wear our children. Sometimes we leave them in the car seat. Sometimes we feed on demand. Sometimes we schedule a feeding.
I think it's important to be actively engaged with your child. Meeting their needs to best of your ability.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sun Tips

“Wow, you’re burned,’ my husband eyes my shoulders, “we were only out for twenty minutes.”
“I know, I’ve told you, my skin is special.”
You know when you go to buy foundation and you’re looking at all those colors of beige (and three browns, I always thought that would make me angry if I wasn’t white)?  Go all the way to the left. There.  That’s my color.  The shade I use now is called ‘Translucent Light.’  I like to think it’s because it gives a translucent effect not because I AM translucent.
But I am.            
It’s true.  Any tan that you see on my skin is from years of beating my skin into submission.  My skin is pretty much only good for keeping my internal organs from falling out.
So because I am from a place where tanning is a sport and I love being outdoors (and wearing a burka in 90 degree heat isn’t an option) I know all sorts of ways to keep sunburn at bay.  In moving to the east coast I’ve noticed a lot of people don’t really know what to do with their skin in the summer weather.  Here’s a few tips.
1.        Apply sunscreen before you leave the house.  The cream needs time to bond with your skin.  So take a minute and slather you and your kids right after you put on your bathing suit and before you leave the house.  Your children will probably be more cooperative as well because you aren’t standing at the park or beach and holding them back so you can put sunscreen on.
2.       For your first application you should put at least an ounce of sunscreen on your skin, that’s the size of a shot glass.  Just butter yourself up.
3.       Reapply after swimming.  You may not need to do this at the end of the summer when you have a tan, but it helps a lot in the beginning of the summer months.
4.       When you get home and suspect you have a burn take a cool shower or throw your kids in a cool bath.  This will take the heat out of your skin and keep it from continuing to burn.  (Ever notice that I sunburn develops over a few hours?  For example: you get home and you look fine and then when you get in your pajamas you discover crazy lines on your back.)  I used this tip to keep from burning while camping on Lake Superior.  I had given all my sunscreen away to my campers, so in the afternoon I would jump in the lake and soak until I was shivering, then I would get out and put a long sleeve top on and I didn’t get burned.
5.       If you don’t have time for a shower rub ice cubes on your skin.  If you don’t want to do that you can put cold water on your skin, and then don’t dry it off.  Just let the air dry you the conduction will cool you off.  A shower really works, but water and ice seem to help; at the worst it will just feel good.
6.       Drink a lot of water.  This may not prevent the burn but it will keep you from feeling sick.  Yes, I have been so sunburned that I was sick. 
7.       Any SPF over 45 is just advertising.  I often use SPF 15 because it lets a little color in, keeping your skin from remaining completely vulnerable to the sun’s rays.
8.       Sunscreen prevents vitamin D from getting into your skin.  I’ve read that about twenty minutes of sun exposure with no sunscreen on will allow you to get that vitamin. 
9.       You know those blue and green bottles of aloe gel?  Buy one.  Put it on the burned or suspected burned area at least twice, once when you get home, and once before bed.  Keep doing that until the burn fades. 
I have to admit that I used to tan a lot.  After getting pregnant with my first child my commitment to tanning and desire to be tan dropped way down on my priority list.  Now I mostly just don’t want to burn, because it’s annoying and quite frankly I think about skin cancer every time it happens.  I think that means I'm getting old....

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


You know those women that 'have it all together?'
You know what I am talking about.  Those women that you are jealous of, maybe they are thin, or pretty.  Or their houses are always clean.  Or they are always dressed beautifully.  Or their hair always looks coiffed and done.
Or they are incredibly tactful.
Or their family is perfect.

Those women don't exist.

It's true, they don't.

I have a friend who just recently made fun of herself because her hair is always 'done.'  We were admiring the hairstyle of another woman, in a 'messy' do.  My friend sighed because she can't do that, and joked that her hair could never do that.  I happened to know that the other woman's 'messy' hair do was her 'I didn't have time to shower' look.  The whole thing just made me laugh.
We always want something we don't have.
We always make ourselves lose.

I always thought that there would be some age, I think it was 30, where magically I would 'have it all together.'  I would become organized.  My house would be clean all the time.  My clothes would be beautiful and fit perfectly.  My hair would become sleek and straight (even my hair would be organized).
I have oft admired straight hair, it looks so tidy and tailored, rather than my unpredictable, mind of it's own mop.  Even though I have had countless women compliment me on my hair, even one friend who screwed up one of her eyes, pointed a finger at my scalp and said,
"I bet you don't have to do anything to your hair.  Right?  Just put product in it and leave?"  She's right, mousse, scrunchy, scrunchy, and I'm done.

It would be nice to spout off at those women who look like they 'have it all together.'  It's an act.  They spend too much time on their hair and not on their children.  (My friend with the 'done' hair is a wonderful and intentional mother, in case you thought that was a dig.)  They are hiding something.  Or you can turn it on yourself and say, 'they have something I don't.'  Some mysterious quality that I can't have.  Something that makes them closer to perfect.

But that's not true.

It's not.

I have finally figured out the mystery to this feminine competition conundrum.  It's not about them being perfect, it's about you projecting onto them.  Whatever it is that they have or you perceive that they have it's something you do not feel that you have.  Sometimes it's simple.  Sometimes it's more complex.

Maybe you have a friend who's house is cleaner than yours and you're jealous of that.  It might be because she cleans more than you do.  So maybe instead of being jealous you should clean more.
That's simple.
Maybe you have a friend who's house is cleaner than yours and you're jealous of that.  It might be because you think you have to have a clean house.  It might be because you have false expectations.  It might be because you feel inadequate.  It might be because you are buying into a false image of what it means to be a woman.
That's complex.
Maybe when you feel yourself getting jealous of someone you need to look at them and think, 'It's not you, it's me.'  Because I can guarantee there is no woman alive who 'has it all together.'

Saturday, June 16, 2012

My how things change

"All they want to do is nurse and be held all the time!  And you don't realize how easy that is until they get older!" Someone in my bible study said several weeks ago.

Last night Scott looked at me,
"So I need to buy athletic shorts...I was thinking that I could take Emma tomorrow and take her to see the puppies at the pet store and then go over to Dick's Sporting Goods," his words shone like spun gold in the air.
"Uh, Okay!"  I thought, 'I'll only have the baby, I can actually get stuff done!'

My how things change.  I remember the first time Scott left me alone with Emma.  I was terrified.  I'm not going to tell you how much he helped me with the first baby, I'm afraid angry housewives might show up at my door with pitchforks and drag him away.

So after a slow morning of pancakes and cuddles Scott left with Emma.  Carys had belly trouble (I think with Emma I referred to it as the fear inducing 'colic.'  Not colic, just having trouble pooping.), so I strapped her to me in the ErgoBaby (something about the vertical and belly to belly contact soothes babies and helps them poop and fall asleep), and then we walked to the library.  I was torn when I got there, now is my chance to whip through and be as task oriented as ever or do I loll and take my time and look at what they ACTUALLY have.  Alas, I was task oriented.  Some habits just never die.

This time around I have learned to nurse while eating at the table, while typing, and while putting my two year old in time out.  With the first I camped out on the couch bolstered by pillows.  Not this time, I soon figured out that only checking my email every three days wasn't an option.  Sometimes what I type one handed turns out looking like Albanian, but you do what you have to.

So now I am home, and laid Carys down to nap.  I think I just heard her cry.
Pooh, sometimes our agendas and their's just don't mix.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Beauty Tips for New Moms

I saw this headline the other day: Hide Tired Eyes!  Eagerly I read it, because everyone from the postal worker to the doctor's receptionist is asking me if I am tired.  Of course I usually have a newborn attached to me and a two year swirling about my ankles so one can infer that I would be tired, but I always think,
'Oh crap.  I look worse than I thought I did.'
I have read a lot of these articles lately, there are a lot of them, especially ones written for mothers.  It seems not many people are getting enough sleep.  Especially mothers.
They've included such useful tips as:
1.  Wear mascara, concealer, and blush.  I do that, and apparently it's not working.
2.  Keep spoons in the freezer and apply them to your eyes (one article helpfully told you to make sure that they were closed) for ten minutes each morning.  If I had time to do that I wouldn't be so tired.
3.  The above advice was also given with cucumbers and tea bags.  I think I would rather use them for food.
The list goes on including various tips on makeup application, again if I had that much time to spend on putting on eye shadow I wouldn't be this tired.

So I thought about real tips for new moms:
1.  Carry a nursing cover that matches your outfit. That way when your child pops off and milk covers your front you can wear the cover like a shawl and pretend that it's all on purpose.
2.  Instead of your normal contacts opt for horn rimmed glasses.  They do wonders for covering up dark circles under the eye.  Because you are actually putting an object in front of that puffy and unfortunate half moon.
3.  A baby carrier is a practical way to hide that postpartum belly pooch.  Not to mention spit up or drool that is smeared across your front.
4.  Baby barfed on your shoulder?  Ran out of clean shirts?  Hide it with a quick swirl of a scarf.
5.   Don't wear white pants until your children are in college.
6.  Don't leave the house.  Then no one has to know.
7.  In a combination of home decorating tip and beauty tip you can cover your mirrors with beautiful patterned fabric.  Don't remove until your child is six months old.

I know that people are trying to be understanding when they tell me that I look tired or ask if I am tired, I know that.  But it certainly doesn't help.  So if I show up still obviously wearing maternity clothes, with frizzy hair, with spit up on my shoulder, and my concealer failing just pat me on the back, tell me I look wonderful and offer to hold my baby.
Oh, and tell me my baby is cute.
That helps too.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Have We Really Evolved?

Scott had left for the afternoon.  I was alone…well, alone with two children. 
I needed to nurse Carys.
I needed to sit there and hold her while she burps.
I was on the couch.
I was antsy.  A bit bored. 
Baby burps are only so entertaining.
Then it happened.
TLC On Demand.
Scott came home and caught me.
“Are you serious?”
I shrunk a bit deeper into our couch.
He caught me red handed, watching Sister Wives. 
Last night he had to go back to work after dinner.
It happened again.
I watched The Man with No Face, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, and The Man with Half a Body.
Punctuated with ads for Half Ton Mom and 600lb. Life.
I’ve watched those shows too.
I am so ashamed.
Just recently I finished the book Water for Elephants.  For those of you who haven’t read it the book is about a Depression era circus.  One of the characters is the Lovely Lucinda, the circus’ 400lb Fat Woman.  Apparently in 2012 we’ve added a couple hundred pounds to qualify you as entertainment. 
In the book one of the characters is a little person and he makes the point that there is really nothing else he can do for a living.  It occurs to you that at that point in time that making yourself into a circus freak might not be such a bad option when there is no other way to make money.  Because who would want to do that?  Who would want to put themselves on display like that?  Why display yourself as an image to be pitied.  A person that is so disfigured that others can only pity them, a hit of ‘at least my life isn’t that bad.’
You think, ‘but back then we were so insensitive and we’re better now.’  Are we?  Has political correctness and sensitivity brought us so far away from circus freaks?
I don’t think it has.  Instead of ogling our ‘freaks’ in a travelling circus we put them on television and make hour long specials about them.  Sure, the hour long specials are crafted with care and sensitivity to the person’s plight, but is it any different?
What does it say about us that we watch those programs?  What does it say about me?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Their Own People

"I don't have a stop sign," I throw both hands up off the wheel and inform the truck that just pulled slowly in front of me at a four way intersection.  I hear a sweet high voice from the back,
"I don't have a stop sign."
There it is.
Been waiting for that.  For the day when our trash talking to other drivers catches up to me.
They are little reflections of us aren't they?

Emma has taken Carys's arrival a bit hard.  There has been more opposition, more crying, and more emotion.  From both of us.  I think Emma has my emotional constitution.  Dramatic.  Socially conscious.  I think she doesn't even know why she feels the way she does.  I mean, she's two, but her behavior of striking out in general rather than taking it out on the baby tells me that maybe she just doesn't know why, but she's not happy.  I often find myself grumpy and don't know why, I've learned to dig around and figure it out, but I'm thirty.  She's got some time.
I know that Carys is only a month old, but she is calm.  As calm as a forgotten tarn on an ancient mountain.  She hasn't really cried too much yet, just squirms and grunts.  I've decided that she must take after Scott, with his truly stable demeanor.  I was telling Scott this, he looked up at me and said,
"You know that they're their own people, right?"
What?  No.

While my sister was here helping me with my new baby and my two year old she laughed one morning as Emma twirled in a circle and declared,
"I'm a princess!"
"I think it's funny that you ended up with a kid who loves pink and princesses," she said.  I almost wanted to say 'thank you.'  My feminist hackles go up a bit every time she does it, and I start to feel that somehow I have failed.
Before I had kids I judged parent's who lived vicariously through their own children.  Enrolling them in sports that they always wanted to play, or dressing them how they wanted to dress.  It's an easy vortex to fall into, this desiring for your child.  This forcing of success on  your children, a mastering of your failures.  Hoping that if you give them better options, options that you may have wanted that they will do better than you.

Hopefully I can step back, I can stop looking at their gene pool to explain them.  I can just enjoy them for who they are.  I can open my hands and allow them to be who ever they are going to be.  While they are little reflections of us, our behavior, our tendencies, they are they're own people.  Whether I like it or not.  So maybe I'll enroll her in ballet rather than the gymnastics classes I was envisioning.  If she's built anything like me she'll be better off in soccer...but I think I'm going to have to let her figure that out herself.