And for once I was SuperMom

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Dressember to Remember

Halfway through my month of wearing dresses.
A little over halfway to my goal of raising $300 dollars for International Justice Mission.

 I've allowed myself to wear workout clothes, when I'm working out and around the time that I am working out.  In the home I've allowed myself to wear sweats, because they point of this is to raise awareness for women who are oppressed, not for me to ruin all my dress clothes while cleaning the toilet.  But when I get dressed  it's a dress.
This has had the unfortunate side effect of making me very aware of what I look like all the time, because when you wear a dress you feel like you have to do your hair, wear makeup, and maybe even accessorize a wee bit.

I've worn dresses through many days of very cold rain.  I've worn dresses through my heater breaking.  I've worn a dress to a birthday party in a bowling alley.  I've worn a dress to a Christmas tree lighting ceremony. I've worn a dress when I would've rather just thrown on jeans and a hoodie.

When I first heard of the Dressember challenge (a challenge to wear dresses the month of December to raise money for the charity International Justice Mission) I thought, 'that was totally created by someone from California.'  I soon found out that a friend of mine attends church with the woman who created the challenge.  The church is in Pasadena, California.
Here I am in New England walking through snow storms in a coat, dress, and leggings.
Most of the women who have restrictions placed on the way that they dress live in warm climates, right?
Currently in Kabul, Afghanistan it is 37 degrees Fahrenheit.  Where many women wear a full burqa.
In Thimpu, Bhutan it is currently 36 degrees.  Women are restricted to traditional dress, which includes (you guessed it) a long skirt or dress.
In Pyongyang, North Korea the high is 12 degrees today.  Women are required to wear skirts and if they wear pants they are forced to work in a labor camp as punishment.
While I have access to things like SmartWool socks and fleeced leggings many of these women do not.  I have actually found out that some of my fleeced leggings are warmer than jeans.

I remember when I lived in Nairobi seeing women wearing full hijab in the blazing sun of equatorial Africa.  I wondered how they were holding up in all that black polyester.  I wondered how many of them chose to wear it.
I know that some Muslim do choose to wear hijab, and I can understand that (having the barrier to not be looked at).  The point is that they're allowed the choice.  No one should be forced to wear something because their state or their husband says they can't leave the house unless they are wearing it.
I am not speaking out against traditional dress either.  Just that women do not have the freedom to dress as they see fit.

I haven't worn a dress to work out.  I don't think I could take my workout seriously if I was worried about a dress getting caught in a Spin Bike, or tripping while running, or sweating through one of my nice dresses while doing burpees.  I have seen film of Afghan and Saudi women rowing crew and skateboarding while wearing hijab.  I am thrilled to see them out there in boats and on boards, when so many of us would not.  Before I went to that bowling birthday party I found myself in my bedroom doing lunges with my hand on my bum to see if my dress would ride up while bowling.  I don't know if it did indeed while at the party, because I was also squatting, bending over, and lifting small children around.  Hopefully my leggings are not see through....
Certain types of dress certainly do restrict freedom of movement.  There also seems to be a correlation between the restrictions placed on women's dress and the restrictions placed on them elsewhere.

Through a storm of first world problems (bad weather, sniffly children, a broken double stroller, large embarrassing temper tantrums) I have found myself cooped up in the house with my children for the past few weeks.  There has been the few times when the thought of getting dressed properly was another straw on the  camel's back of not leaving the house.  This has made me think of women who's movements are restricted by other forces.  In some countries women can't leave the house without a male escort.  I can't imagine how difficult my life would be if I had to wait for my husband to be with me so that I could go somewhere.  I don't know about you, but my husband works and is not with me for most of the day.  He also travels for his job and is often gone for days at a time.  I would be home for weeks at a time, with just my children.  I don't know what the infastructure is in those countries that restrict women so heavily and if they have parks and libraries available to them, but I know that most of my day is spent shuttling my children to the YMCA so we can get some exercise or to the library or to parks.  So restrictions on my movement effect the the health of my children as well.  Which effects the overall health of a people group.

So any time you restrict women, you restrict children.  When you endanger women, you endanger children.  When you endanger children you endanger your future.

That's why I chose to wear dresses all month to raise awareness and funds for International Justice Mission an organization that fights for the rights of the oppressed worldwide.  They've shut down sweat shops in India, they've pulled people out of sex trafficking, and protected many others.  The founder Gary Haugen, the President and CEO of IJM came and spoke at my church in Santa Barbara several times and I loved hearing his story and how he stepped down from a prominent legal career to fight for the underprivileged.

Thanks for reading my thoughts that have been swimming in my head as I've spent the month being ladylike, if you haven't donated to International Justice Mission and would like to here's the link to my Dressember page.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Something They Need

Something to read
Something to wear
Something they want
Something they need.

This is an interesting category to write about.  
Mostly what comes to mind are things like mittens, coats, warm hats, cold weather gear, those are things that children actually need. But, see, here in new England I had to buy stuff like that back in October.  Actually it usually goes like this; you get lulled into a false sense of security in October, because October is not that bad.  Then In November you get your first really cold day, and then realize that child's hat, or coat, or mittens don't fit from last year.  So if you've got your stuff together you make them try it on in October so then you can have it ready for that first cold day.
If you're me, you end up buying it in November after having to force your child into last year's coat.
There is usually tears.  
Not always theirs.
So, what I'm saying is that by Christmas time, my children already have all their cold weather gear that they will need to not lose an extremity here in New England.

So what do my children need right now?
Actually, really nothing.
They need warm clothes.  They have plenty of those.
They need a warm house.  We have that.  Of course warm is a relative term.  I believe right now the thermostat says 64.  
They need food.  We have that.
They need love.  We do love them.

So what do they really need right now?
I cannot think of a single thing.

Scott and I have been talking about to get each other for Christmas.  We have been using the phrase 'could use.' 
"I could use new pajamas."
"I could use another dress shirt."  
"I could use a pair of those gloves with the phone fingertips.  What? Don't give me that look, you keep texting me when I'm walking, then I have to whip my gloves off, it's annoying.  Hey, you could use a pair too."
He refuses to get them on principal.
We actually have all we need.  The things we 'could use' only serve to make life a little easier.  We are at a place where we can buy what we need.  That's a great place to be.

My children aren't getting anything they need this Christmas.  To fulfill that category I would have to make something up.  

Maybe we need to rethink the category of 'need.'  That we shouldn't be giving a 'thing.'  My children need love, so maybe in this season I make sure that I show them I love them.  Maybe by doing things with them I don't like.  You know getting down on the floor and actually playing with them.  Those things.  Meeting them where they're at, instead of giving what you want to.  Everyone has a different way of feeling loved.  I will read books to my children until my voice cracks, but I do not get down on the floor and play 'pretend' with them.
Don't start thinking I'm all awesome, this afternoon we had some former students over for lunch and my five year old was asking them to go upstairs and play with her.  As she was reciting all the different roles that each student would play, one prompted,
"And mommy?"
"Mommy has to do the dishes."  That hurt a bit.  Or a lot.

The other day I took my five year old to the pool, just the two of us.  As I was buckling her in to her car seat I realized that I all she does at the pool is play imaginary games.  Usually she is a mermaid.  I don't engage her in these games because I am usually wrangling her two year old sister.  I realized I was going to have to 'play' with her.  So for an hour, I was a mermaid.
One could argue that she needed that.  There was definitely a smoothing to some of her more difficult behavior after I played mermaid with her.
All it took was one hour.

It's a thought process.  A paradigm shift.  When one lives in a state when you have all you really need, your needs change.  What my family needs for Christmas can't be put under the tree in wrapping paper.  What they do need will take thought, I'll have to actually think through how to give them something they need.  I might even have to talk to my husband about it.  Or think about how he feels loved, am I missing him on that?  How do my daughters feel loved?
Then take time to do that, rather than getting them another thing that they don't really need.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Something They Want

'Maybe we shouldn't do presents this year,' I texted my husband a few Fridays ago.
The thought had occurred to me in a moment of radical conviction.  I knew that he would save me from myself.  Because if we don't do Christmas that means that I don't get a Christmas present.
And I really want a new winter coat.
I want one of those down sleeping bag coats that covers me all the way to my knees.
I pointed out a picture of one to Scott about a year ago,
"What do you think about this coat?"
"It's not that flattering, I think it looks like, 'I give up I'm cold,'" he responded.
I give up.
I'm cold.

"What do you want for Christmas?" I asked both of my children.
There was some silence.  Emma thought for awhile, 
"Pinkie Pie," and that was it.  I looked at Carys, and asked again, she lifted both hands over her head and proclaimed joyfully,
"A Toy!"  
That was pretty much that.  I was so proud of my girls.  I proudly told people that they didn't know what they wanted.  They don't watch television, except for PBS and DVDs, so they don't see commercials.  I strutted for a few days...and then my mother in law sent a Little People Nativity set.  Something I am more than happy for them to have, but it came with a catalog.  Pretty soon Emma started following me around with that catalog.  Asking for something every day.  
Eventually I threw it away.
I remember wanting as a child.  Seeing toys that I was powerless to purchase and wanting them.  I am sure that I caused many embarrassing moments for myself and for my parents over that want.  I was hoping to spare my children of that want
Christmas makes this hard.  Sure there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to give small children gifts.  The experience is certainly fun.  I do remember eventually being disappointed with those things that I wanted and then actually got.  Or deeply wanting something and never getting it. Not understanding all the nuances that go into gift buying, like budgets or that something may have already been purchased for me.

We asked our Kenyan friends what they do for Christmas and they all talked about getting a new Christmas outfit and then walking around their town and visiting family and friends and eating.  That seemed lovely to me.  
Giving presents is part of the tradition that our country has adopted to celebrate Christmas.  To take that out of our families tradition seems, well, grinchy.  So I can't do that.  How do I help my own children not get into the want trap.  Or is it inevitable?

Well, fortunately for us, our budget forces us to keep the gifts at Christmas simple.  
A friend of mine just hosted a Toy Swap at her house, where we all brought toys that our children no longer played with and picked up toys that we could give to our own children.  I was able to score Carys' main gift and find a few things we needed.  A total blessing.  
Now for the extended family, we exchange gifts with ten families.  For the past several years we have constructed a box of things that were important to us that year; like a souvenir from a place we traveled that year or a shell ornament from the beach by our house.  My relatives have kept it simple as well, either making things or giving food.  One sister usually gives a box of fun snacks from Trader Joe's, one sister made a body scrub for the women and her husband (my brother) made a bbq rub for the men.
Simple, easy, and I'm thinking of you.
Isn't that what this is about?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Something To Wear

'Something they want, 
Something they need,
Something to wear, & 
Something to read.'

I'm not sure that what I wear during the month of advent makes my life more complicated.  
Ugly Christmas sweater parties?
Okay, that's kinda fun.
Cocktail Christmas parties?
Let's face it at about any of those parties in America it's completely acceptable to wear jeans.

I have a few events during Christmas that I need to look a wee bit fancy for, but nothing really that stresses me out.  I'm at the age wear I've started buying what I like and what looks good on me as opposed to what is trendy.  My clothes are lasting longer because of that.  I also have started practicing buying fewer and nicer items, rather than lots of cheap items that fall apart or pill in a few months.

The only thing I can think about is that I haven't bought much lately to refresh my winter wardrobe and I'm already sick of my clothes.

It's only the fifth of December.
I am in so much trouble.

A friend approached me a few weeks ago about an event called Dressember.  Where you wear dresses the whole month of December to raise awareness and money for women who've been exploited for their femininity.  She's going to do this.  I thought it was a good idea, maybe a little silly.  'What would wearing dresses all month long do to help a woman being sold in Cambodia?'  Besides all the women that live in countries where they would be required to wear a dress are warm countries.  Right?
Because I live in New England.  And it is cold here.  And I can wear pants.  And almost all my dresses are summer dresses.
So how would me freezing my, ahem, off all December help anyone?
When I heard about this challenge I thought, 'I bet a Californian made this up.'  Sure enough, Dressember is registered in California as a non-profit.

And when it comes to raising money I am the worst.  Seriously, cursed, every fundraiser I have laid hands on does nothing.  I don't know why.  

Today I saw my friend in her dress.  
Then I found out another friend was also participating in the event.  
I felt a little bit like a cad.  I should wear a dress for a month.
Might make me a little more thankful for that closet of clothes I am sick of wearing.  
Might make me think a bit more about other women who don't have the choices I have, rather than pouting because my favorite black sweater is now pilly.

Guilt sneaked up the back of my neck.  I felt a little convicted.  Trafficking, poverty and the plight of women are issues that are so close to my heart.  Why can't I do this?

So about five days late I joined Dressember and am committing to wearing dresses all December.  So help me out, all the funds raised will to go to International Justice Mission to lift women out of exploitation and poverty.  
I guess for me 'Something to Wear' is a dress.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Something to Read

Today is December first.  The day that always takes me by surprise.
The day that I realize I should have put together that lovely handmade advent calendar, like yesterday.  Or that I should have hung the advent calendar that my sister-in-law gave me, like yesterday.
When I sit down to read to my children tonight I realize that I should have come up with some plan of attack for our nightly Bible readings, like yesterday.

It's also my eldest brother's birthday.  Which means I should have sent him a card, like yesterday.

This year I may have won this round.

I feel like every idea I see trounced across Facebook for advent calendars is super crafty and takes lots of forethought and organization.  I can craft with the best of them, but forethought and organization?  Now, those things I do not have.  Most of the time when people post things they have done for advent my face starts to hurt and I shut down, it's just all so much.  I also would have had to have it done, like yesterday.

Now, don't get all offended if you're one of those people that loves doing all these things I made fun of.  That's great.  If that's what you want to do, then by all means do it.
But if you don't want to, then you don't have to.
And you're not less of a person.

At least that's what I tell myself.

One of my more organized friends has in the past taken twenty five Christmas books and wrapped them in wrapping paper and each night at bed time her children can unwrap one and they will read it.  When I saw her pile of lovely wrapped books, my heart warmed, those children will remember that forever.  Then my heart dipped, I will never have my stuff together to do that.  Ever.
And it's just so wholesome.
I do, however, have a pile of Christmas books.  I stuck them in the box with the all the Christmas decorations.  I pulled them out when I brought the boxes up from the basement.  There it is.
Something to read.  I didn't have to organize anything, or pay attention to the date.

Now for that whole Bible reading thing....
The ladies that I'm in a community group with have a running text.  One of the ladies texted us this little link a few days ago.  A schedule for reading though the Jesus Storybook Bible during advent.  I thought, 'we have that Bible, I love that Bible, it's still November, I can print that out.'  And tonight when our bed time routine was falling apart because my two year old refused to eat dinner, for only reasons that two year olds understand, I was able to sneak up next to my husband and hand him this little piece of paper with this schedule.
The one thing that is a challenge is that we both put the girls to bed.  One night I'll do it. One night he'll do it.  So whatever we do both Scott and I have to know about it.
This was perfect, print it out, stick it in the Bible.  Neither of us has to think about it, nor does it have to add extra communication to our marriage, which if you've been married long enough you know that doesn't always happen.

I probably should read something myself for this time of year....

Maybe I can think about that next year, before December first....

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Advent-ageous: Christmas for the Lazy

For a large portion of my young life I kept hoping that one day I would turn into an 'adult.'  One day my hair would straighten and look lovely all the time, instead of deciding each day on it's own how it wants to curl.  I would look good in beige sheath dresses, my feet would enjoy wearing heels, and I would somehow manage to never be caught in public in anything I might wear to the gym.
This still hasn't happened.
Did I mention I would also be super organized.
This still hasn't happened.
The advent of the advent season (like the pun?) every year, sneaks up on me.  Like a possessed jack in the box, silently moving toward me through the fall, then BAM it's December 15th and I have done nothing.  I need a few days of recovery from the crush of Thanksgiving, and that reprieve somehow leaves me lagging.
Christmas is not a competition Lara.
I know.  But I'm losing.  

No elf on the shelf.
Don't worry about it Lara, that thing is creepy.
I agree.
No thoughtful advent calendar, hung where my small children can excitedly turn over each day in preparation.  And if I do get it out, I forget to incorporate it into our bed time routine.
Kids grow out of that.
I know and by the time I remember to do it, they'll be too old for it.
No awesome organized bedtime schedule of Bible reading to teach my children the message of Jesus.  
Does that even exist?
Yes, it does, and even though we read the Bible to our children every night, I still, haven't done it.
No beautiful hand crafted gifts.
Wait I thought you make a lot of stuff?
I do, one year I made peach jam, one year I made cranberry sauce, one year I made Christmas ornaments, you get the picture.  However I am always nervous that I am the child handing the dandelion to the adult.  Everyone kindly says thank you, only to throw away the sad little dead flower while the child is not looking.  So whilst they are hand crafted I am always nervous they are not beautiful.  
(Yes, I've said this before, and yes, my relatives always tell me the gifts are lovely.)
No huge shopping spree.
I mean, we usually spend more than we should, and spend some time in January letting our debit cards stop smoking.  But there is no Black Friday in this house (I do usually experience a twinge of regret, what if I did just miss out on buying a four dollar flat screen television?)  

I feel like every year I sit in a group of women who are complaining about how stressful the holidays are, and I sit there thinking, 'but we're making this stress ourselves.'  No one says we need to any of this.  Nobody.  Especially not the man who's birthday we are celebrating.  

Advent is magical, and a time that is special.  Advent is the only part of winter that I actually enjoy.  January seems like one big hangover.  So we should do something to make it more special.  
So over the next few days and weeks (or whenever I find time) I am going to write about advent for the lazy.  Or advent for the unorganized.  
There's a popular mnemonic device I keep hearing, 'Something they need, something they want, something to wear, and something to read.'  This phrase was created to inform the way that you buy gifts for your children.  A way to keep it simple.  I'll use this as a framework for the blogs I write.  

Of course, I really have no idea what I am doing.  So with each blog I would love to hear your suggestions and thoughts on how you've kept this time of year simple.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Body of Work

'Mother Teresa didn't walk around complaining about her thighs.
She had shit to do.'

I just shared this quote on Facebook.  I don't know how Mother Teresa would feel about this, maybe she would laugh.  (As an aside I read her book, 'NO Greater Love,' it was like one big literary hug.  I highly recommend it.)

I am plagued by the way we interact with women's bodies.  And actually I'd love to hear some men chime in about all this mess.  They probably feel like that quote, 'who cares if I have a beer gut, I've got shit to do.'
I saw this blog post; the heading picture was of the Ms. America finalists from 1945.  The entire article was encouragement that none of the contestants had thigh gap.  All I could think was,
'Have we gone and lost our minds?'
These women are finalists in a beauty contest.  I can guarantee you that I would not fit into one of those swimsuits.
And we are relieved because they don't have 'thigh gap?'

I did notice that they were not particularly toned.  Crossfit was probably not a thing in 1945.

We have placed such a standard onto women that you have to be not only thin, and completely toned and fit.
Thigh gap and buff arms.
Have you any idea how hard that is?
I, for one, have noticed that the stronger I got that some parts of me got a bit bigger.  Like my thighs, for example.

I've gotten a bit aggravated through my life.  I am short and muscular and prone to gaining weight.  My love of exercise has kept me from getting heavy.  But my love of bread has kept me from getting too thin.
There is no way I look like any model or actress.  Or beauty contestant for that matter.
(Not too mention I would rather be caught dead than prance around in a bathing suit so someone could literally judge my bum.  Not because I'm embarrassed of my bum, but because that's just completely demeaning.  Just for the record I have friends who've competed in beauty contests, I'm their friend because they're awesome, not because they have a nice bum.)
So somewhere in my life I decided to screw it all and just get as strong as possible.  Run as much as I could.  Hike as much I wanted.
And my body met those challenges.  Gladly and willingly, without much injury.

My Aunt put together an album of all the family photos that we have.  There is one particular picture of six of my female ancestors, one of them has my face, and they are all thick strong farm women. And I thought,
'Oh, that's my DNA, well then, I am doing great.'
I was still trying to force my body into what the idea of a good female body is.
Think about it,
"She has a great body."
You immediately thought about looks.  Didn't you?  I know I do.
Not health.  Not strength.  Not the ability to grow and make healthy babies.  Or the ability to feed those babies.

Is this the part where I post a picture of my stretch marks?  Because I am not going to do that.  Culturally we see stretch marks as ugly, most of us have them, if not from puberty we have them from making babies.  They're a reality, and I don't think mine are that pretty.  They just are.  As my husband said,
"You had two babies, it's unrealistic to think that your body wouldn't go through changes."
So I can't comfortably wear a bikini anymore?  So, I would like to point out that bikinis are completely impractical, how many of us have had them fall off or shift in embarrassing ways?  Having to wear a one piece is a bit of relief actually.
Can someone tell me a good solid reason why I need a tan stomach?
I don't wear bikinis, I have shit to do...actually children to run after.

Because I have a good body.  Healthy.  Strong.  Capable of large amounts of manual labor.  Makes healthy babies.  Feeds them just fine.
Actually it's a great body.

I would love to hear how all of you love your great body. Attach this hashtag at the bottom and we can spread the love!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Together and Apart

I kissed my husband goodbye this Monday morning.
I drove him to a trailhead, with twelve college students and an assistant, kissed him and walked away as he hiked into the woods.

My husband has a very awesome job.  As director of the WILD Semester, at Gordon College he gets to take twelve students on an eighteen day backpacking trip in his locale of choice.  For the past few years he has chosen Colorado, where his parents live.
While I believe fully in what he does, as his wife it leaves me at home, with the kids, holding the proverbial diaper bag.
I struggle often with feeling like an addendum to his life.  This add on, just waiting for him to finish his awesome adventures so that I can make dinner for him.
He would hate that.
I hate that.

I lost my iPhone.  In one of the weeks while he was gone, I was rushing around, keeping us busy so we wouldn't notice the absence of one of our family members, and I lost it.  I searched, oh, I searched.  It is long gone.  When my husband left today, he left me his phone.  For emergencies.  Today while my children napped I scrolled through the pictures on his phone.  What did I see?  Pictures and videos of his children.  Pictures of me.  Sometimes in the background, behind a sweet child.  Sometimes in the foreground; climbing a rock face, before and after running a half marathon.  Funny how that can be so telling.  We photograph what we find important.  What we want to remember.  What we want to see later on. What we are proud of.

He left me with his computer as well.  I didn't bother to bring mine out with us to Colorado, it's a bit of dinosaur.  Seemed excessive in all the packing.  I had trouble today connecting to the WiFi at his parent's home.  As I ticked through each password that I knew he had, the different versions of the same iteration of a theme, I realized that I know this about him.  I know all his passwords.  All the versions of them.

Apparently I play a big role in his life.

But someone has to take care of the children.
They need to be raised and loved.  Washed.  Diapered.  Hugged.
I don't want to pay someone to do that.  So I do it.

And someone has to earn the money.  And I married an unconventional man, and I like him for that.  All the business majors I met in college I ran away from, I wanted someone unique.  Someone who followed his passions.  Someone outdoorsy.  I found that.  Then I married him.

I suppose that I have to sit in that.  I need to accept that because I married a man that believes in the power of backpacking as personal transformation that occasionally he's going to go backpacking. Without me.
And the jealousy burns.
And the children cry.

Then when he comes home he looks at our children's faces,
'They look different,' he says.
'She's talking more,' he says.
And I know the changes sting.  I know he doesn't want to miss out on the girls.
He tries to fix the stress for me.  He can't.  It just is and will be.

I suppose there are silver edges to our time apart.  It pushes me to seek my own place in a career.  I can use my jealousy over his success and push it towards my own success.  In the evenings when the girls are in bed I can sit and gather my thoughts.  I can do all that introspection that has been building up.  I can whisper all those prayers that have needed to be said.  I can write and paint without feeling like I am abandoning him.

So strange this dance of marriage.  This bonding together of two people.  How we become a unit.  So much more than a partnership.
There are times when we need to be a apart.  How those times create tension and then shed light on things we never saw before.

Monday, September 1, 2014

I'm Not Sorry

My daughter got really car sick the other day.
There were a bunch of factors that added to her losing her breakfast on that tiny highway in the Adirondacks, but one of them may have been that I was driving a little faster than normal.  There was a little red Hyundai trying to climb up my tail pipe.  So I drove faster, because I didn't want to be that person.
I kept thinking he was back there cursing this little blue Honda with the 13.1 sticker on it,
"Well you probably didn't run that half marathon too fast, if you run like you drive."
Right?  I can assume that was what he was thinking, because I've thought it.
Then my daughter threw up, as I pulled over, that Hyundai was probably thankful that I stopped, as he whizzed by me, and I unclipped my sick kid while she continued to vomit, he was probably cursing at me.
I'll never know.
I drove too fast because I was worried that someone I will never meet was annoyed with me.
Then my daughter barfed.
Then I read this blog. I know she's talking about being stressed about and not being able to be there for people.  That stinks, we've all been there.
We're so trapped by other people's expectations of us that we apologize all the time or make poor choices or spread ourselves too thin.
Probably just our perception of what other expect from us, rather than the actual truth.
So I'm not sorry.
I'm not sorry that I pulled my kid off my back at the beach and told her to stop jumping on me.
I am not a human trampoline.
I'm not sorry that I yelled at my children when they deliberately ignored me several times in a row.
I am their mother, I deserve respect.
I'm not sorry that my husband and I fought when I felt he was placing his needs above my own.
I have needs too.
I'm not sorry that I said 'no' to a commitment because it was something I didn't want to do and knew I would be bad at.
Let someone who is better equipped do it.
I am not sorry that I protect my free time fiercely.
I have needs too.
I am not sorry that I lose my temper.
Sometimes tempers need to be lost.
I am not sorry that I get frustrated with my kids and they know it when I do.
Sometimes their behavior is frustrating.
They need to know when they are frustrating so they can stop it.  They need to function in society without frustrating people all the time.  It's part of being a successful person.
No one is perfect.
Not one of us.
We can all stop acting like we're perfect, that we need to be everything to all people, all the time, we can relax.
And stop apologizing all the time.  

Sunday, August 10, 2014


I recently read a blog the other day calling for a death to the 'play date.'  The father writing it hated the lack of spontaneity and the implied need to provide planned snacks or crafts for the children involved.  All of this leaving moms and dads a little to intimidated to get together.
Right now as a mom to two little ones the play date has become my life line.  The only way I get to know other moms and provide age appropriate social interaction.  I understand the intimidation factor.  I've been to houses where the mom has prepared non-GMO gluten free wholesome snacks for the children, as well as the parents.  Or where she has whipped a lovely pre-planned and educational craft for the children to engage in.  I have found that some of those friendships have floundered, because I can't keep up.
I think there is something very real to this.
I know that many times women do not extend invitations to their homes because they perceive that their houses aren't clean enough, or cute enough.  They think that the food that they feed their families isn't politically correct enough.  What will she think?  They ask themselves.
We are also so sensitive to individual preferences that we are afraid to interact with each other.  Are they gluten free?  Do they drink out of plastic glasses?  Will the children play with our toys?

Have we gone stark raving mad?

Do you know what I've noticed about all of these issues?
Children do not care.
My daughter is just happy to have a play mate.  Do you know what she cares about?  If the other child shares their toys.  If they pretend to be bad guys and scare her.  Basically if your child is nice to her she will play with them.  That is all she cares about.
Building my village has become more of a pressing issue in my head lately, because of her desire to have play dates all the time.  When we spent those long afternoons in our house while her little sister naps, she is just begging to be played with, something that I am no longer good at.  My ability to play 'princess' has long since left me.  I'm not a good play mate.  I hope that I'm a good mother; play mate...probably not.  At least for now.
There's a mental shift that needs to begin taking place.  A relaxing.  A letting go of expectations.  Mostly for yourself.  When I'm invited over to someone home I don't expect to be served gloriously prepared snacks.  I don't expect a perfectly clean house.  I don't expect politically correct toys that are all organized.  I just want someone to chat with me and children to play with mine.
That's all I really want.  And the end of the day isn't that all you really want as well?  Do we need to spend all this time trying to impress each other?
Building relationships is more important than perpetuating the Home Maker of the Year facade.  Time to throw out the pearls and the aprons and admitting that we run around in ripped yoga pants all day long.
At least on some days....

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Village: Take Two

Another long afternoon stretches out before me.  With my youngest still napping each day takes the same basic shape.  Morning activity, afternoon in the house.  This pattern has held long enough that I don't really remember what it was like to have a day completely open and unstructured.  So many other mothers follow the same pattern, out and then in.

The afternoon's have gotten a bit lonely for my eldest.  I can tell.  I don't know that I mind the 'in' times.  Time to get housework done, time to get painting done, time to get writing done, time to get cooking done.  But my eldest has just crossed the threshold into wanting to have friends around all the time.  Wanting playmates and little ones to imagine with.  She asks me to play with her, but I am horrible at it.  My ability to get on the floor and be creative in play has long been funneled into other venues.
I just read the recent post about the village that never was.  I've been saying and feeling this ever since I had my eldest.  Wanting help and needing companionship so very badly, but often being stuck in my apartment taking care of little ones all by myself.  Being driven mad by the need for other people.  The silence of adult voices ringing deafening in my head.

This wasn't even when we chose to stay in the house all day.  We rarely often do.  When we would go to playgrounds or libraries I would look around see no friendly faces.  Exchange a few words here and there, but no real connection.

So I invite people over, we trade playdates, a perfect solution, right?
Except that I seem to be able to only get one scheduled a week. I know that so many other women are on the same schedule.  Everyone is seems busy.  Or we assume that everyone is busier than we are.  Or we assume that other people don't us like we need them.
We all want the village, but what does it take to make it happen?
We don't want to put anyone out.
We don't want to give up our time.
Are we so married to our individualism that we are harming ourselves?
I think I was okay with those standards, but now that I am seeing it affect my child I want to change something.  We all seem to be struggling from the same thing, parenting in isolation.
But what does it take to change this ladies?  Opening up our schedules to let people in?  Admitting that we need help?  Being willing to flex and see if the baby will nap at a friend's house? 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

So Many Questions

“Mommy, why is she saying ‘I’m so fancy,” Emma asks from the backseat.
“Uh….she thinks she’s fancy,” I leaned over and changed the radio station.  Yes, I was listening to Iggy Azalea’s ‘I’m So Fancy,’ in the car with my children.  Is that so wrong?  It probably is. 
“Why is she saying I-G-G-Y?” Emma asks a moment later.
For that one I really had no answer.
Just because I had kids doesn’t mean my love for bad pop music has gone away.  I’ve always said the day I hear, ‘Hey baby drop it to the floor,’ from the backseat is the day that I will stop.
So that basically happened.
I have never heard Scott giggle so much.  Later on he told me that I totally deserved that line of questioning.
I did.
Emma is in that ‘questioning stage.’  Every conversation is a litany of ‘whys.’  She asks me stuff that I know that she knows the answer to.  Which is frustrating.  Or the exact same ‘why’ question that she has been asking for the past several days.  I often get hung up on some of the ‘whys,’ when I know that the true answer to what she is asking is a concept that is way too large for her to understand.  I know that it is developmental, and I take deep breaths and try to not let the constant ‘whys’ get under my skin. 
I can remember asking ‘whys’ all the time as a child.  I remember wanting to know the deeper meaning, why did they do that in the story?  What was their motivation?  What were they thinking?  I just wanted MORE.

So I Googled it.  ‘Why do children ask so many questions?’  I wanted to know what developmental function was driving a child’s need to constantly pepper you with questions.  I was given a few links to question and answer forums.  Quite a few of them said some version of ‘kids don’t know much and that’s the only way they have to gain knowledge.’  I thought that was a bit arrogant and weak.  Kids know a lot, they have lots of ways to gain knowledge (sight, touch, taste, observations, etc.), and, I mean, I know I am a god of knowledge, but I don’t know everything.  I clicked enough to find this webpage.  I do know what it feels like to answer a child and receive a deflated response from them.  I guess I had thought that was because the answer wasn’t quite as magical as they thought it would be.  I liked the thought that they are just trying to engage you in conversation and they don’t have a better way of going about it.  I’ve tried just exploring her questions with her, especially when she asks the same question over and over again.  I know that child has a mind like a steel trap, I am pretty sure that she didn’t forget the former answer.
But it remains annoying.  Which is hard.  Because it’s just a stage.  I don’t want her to internalize my annoyance and begin to believe that she is annoying.  She is just four, and four year olds do annoying things.  The other day I had about quite enough of it, I turn to her and say,
“Why are you asking me so many questions?”
“Because I just don’t know what is going on all the time,” she responded. 

There you have it.  From the mouths of babes.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


“Yeah, I’ll just go ahead and stay home with Carys,” Scott said resigned, “this is really horrible timing.”
            Emma’s first ballet recital was on a Sunday afternoon.  We had to have here there at 2:30, even though the performance wasn’t until four.  Our two year old naps from about one to four every afternoon.  I’ve been pretty faithful about keeping my children on the afternoon nap schedule for the sum of their little lives.  I don’t take them anywhere during that time.  Outings would be a mistake for everyone involved.  I can’t tell you how many secretaries have been bewildered by my refusal to bring in a sick child during nap time. 
            ‘Really you want a feverish, exhausted toddler in your office?  That sounds super productive for everyone,’ is usually the refrain in my mind.
            So I took Emma to her recital on my own.  The dance studio we chose is one of the more laid back in our town; so all I needed to get for her ‘costume,’ was a light pink leotard, skirt and tights.  I begged, borrowed, and shopped second hand for all parts of her costume.  She’s four, she will wear it for a few hours, why should I spend a lot of money on that?  In the interest of simplicity and eco-friendliness why can’t we all just pass around our daughter’s worn- for -two -minute -costumes. 
            I didn’t think my logic was off base.
            A week before the recital I pulled out the pink tulle skirt that I had bought about a year ago at a garage sale for Emma to wear as dress up clothes.  There was orange paint in a few choice spots.  I don’t know it got orange paint on it.  I’m an artist, my kid paints, I’m not the most attentive parent….Anyway, I hand washed it in the bathroom sink and got a fair amount out.  I started dreaming up schemes to hot glue tulle around the top to cover the stains.
            We gave it trial run at class the day before the recital and her teacher said it was just fine.  I relaxed, and smashed my nightmares of staying up until midnight hot gluing tulle to my four year old’s ballet costume.  Would she even notice?  Would that give an enlarged sense of entitlement to get so fancy a costume?  At my personal expense?  Would she even know how much work that was?
            The recital was held in a local high school auditorium.  An auditorium far nicer than where many of my college classes were held.  I turned my little one over to her ballet teacher and got a seat next to one of the other mom’s from her class.  Then I started to notice how many girls seemed to have their entire families turn out for them.  Then I started to see all the bouquets of flowers.  Then I started to wonder.
            Earlier in the class I had started to get the feeling that one of the other mother’s thought we were poor.  We’re not.  We don’t make a ton of money.  But we’re still in the top two percent of the global pay scale.  Sure my child’s costume was second hand.  I could’ve bought the whole thing new.  We could’ve afforded it.
            But I didn’t want to buy it new.  That seemed wasteful.  Extravagant.  I think I spent about six dollars, whereas I could have spent about forty five.
            As all the other families filed into this gorgeous auditorium, I felt bad for Emma.  She only had me, and I was certainly not toting a bouquet.  A heated thought rose in my head,
            ‘But what if I want to be simple?’  What if I want to promote a life of material simplicity for my children?  What if I don’t want them to have toys up to their eyeballs?  What if I want them to be creative?  What if I want her to take value in the effort and work in her performance and not the dollar amount of her costume?

            Can I do that?  Can I maintain these values? Without other people looking down on me?  Can I keep from caring that other people might be looking down on me?  

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Gender Bent

Sometimes when I like a song I wander on over to youtube and listen to the song when I need a fix.  If the video doesn't look too offensive I'll watch it, so yesterday I stumbled across this little jem. At first when Ingrid Michealson came up I thought, 'what, another Sarah Palin imitation?'  Then as I watched the rest of the video I realized it really was an homage to Robert Palmer's 'Simply Irresistible.'  I mean, that is what the title says, buuuuut then, I knew it was true.
I laughed a bit, watching men sally around in spandex is always a little funny.  I didn't quite know what to do with it.  From what I can understand the song 'Girls Chase Boys' is about the games that men and women play in relationships.
When I clicked over to watch Robert Palmer's video, I realized just how multi-layered this homage is.
(If you haven't clicked on all the links, I'd like you to take a moment now and click and watch.)
My reaction to the first video was to giggle.  Why would men want to dance around like that?  Why would they shake themselves in front of the camera?  That's so silly.  The dance moves just looked odd with male bodies performing them.
Then when I watched the original video I realized that I was not shocked at all by the video.  Seeing women prancing about in spandex and performing provocative little shimmies seemed almost normal, kind of tame, really, by today's standards.
When I showed the videos to Scott he called 'Simply Irresistible' gratuitous.  He's right, having women bend over and wiggle their cleavage  in front of the camera is a bit gross.  Or zeroing in on their wiggling bottoms is a bit gross.
Maybe men are wired different, and because of sexist paradigms in the entertainment industry this sort of filming has become next to normal.  Maybe men are just told that they're allowed to ogle and that they should and that they can't help themselves and women are told that they're not wired like that.  I don't know.  Nature vs. nurture?
But that's not what this is about.
Seeing men perform dances, that we've almost come to expect of women, makes those dances seem silly. Then why are we expecting women to do them?
Why is it so funny to see men act that way?
A friend of mine pointed out the other day that some people get all upset when their daughters attach to the whole Disney princess machine.  But we're okay when our sons attach to standard male stereotypes.  We're so proud of our girls when they're tomboys, but a little sheepish when they love ballet.
Because 'female' is bad.  Anything that is considered generally 'female' is bad.  So when a man dresses as a woman we giggle.
'Why would he want to act like a woman?'
I've heard so many women say that they wished they were male.  I am proud to say that I've never wished to be male.  That might be the tiny part of me that is logical popping up,
'I can't be male, so why wish for it?'
Might as well make it awesome to be female.
My eldest daughter is into the princess thing.  We've kept the princess toys and books to a dull roar in our home.  I have a number of reasons; the actual probability of her becoming a princess is pretty low, in most princess stories there is an overemphasis on beauty and falling in love.  And clothes, lots of dresses.  Life is really so much more than that.
Scott told me that while reading a book my eldest starting asking where all the 'girl kitties were.'
If you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up she always says, 'Doctor.'
I am hoping that for her and her world it will be awesome to be female.

Monday, June 30, 2014

I Love Technology

I finally did it, I finally got an iPhone.
'Yes, Lara,' say all my friends on Facebook, 'we've noticed.'
I've never been one for technology.  all seems so ephemeral.  One day this the hot new thing that can do this cool thing, you buy it for top dollar, and then soon there's something new and better that made the other thing obsolete.  The cycle gets played out again, and it has made me cynical.
Actually I think I was already cynical about it in middle school.
And I've only gotten worse.
Every time I got a new phone I would excited.  I would play with it eagerly for a few days and then realize that all it did was receive phone calls and take mediocre pictures.  I would give up and it would live in the bottom of my purse until I remembered to look and see if anyone had felt the need to contact me.
The whole iPhone kept building and building.  Then I was getting texts I couldn't read.  Or texts that got split up into six texts, that got sent to me out of order.
This whole blogging, internet marketing thing, seems fueled by the use of iPhones.
And people were always just staring at them all the time.  I mean what is the fuss?
So after a few discussions with my husband, where he told me I didn't need one (I mean no one really needs one).  I pointed out that he had one.  He says he needs it for work and work is paying for it.  Then I would huff around because I am not important enough to need one.  He would counter with the fact that I am important...
More huffing.
Eventually we decided to get me an iPhone.
(Sometimes I really hate being a stay at home mom, I feel like a vocational bottom feeder.)

Then I got one.
Sometimes I just pick it up and stare at it and think,
'Do something cool.'
Then it does something cool.
Or, I tap on things until it does do something cool.
And I've realized what everyone is always staring at.

I've caught myself ignoring people so that I could finish up one last round of Candy Crush Saga.  Then thinking,
'Is crushing little animated candies really more interesting than another human being?'
Probably not.
I think I have to take technology with a grain of salt.  Any time it helps me with connect with people on a deeper level or make my social connections stronger I should use it.  Anytime I find myself ignoring someone so I can play a game? ( I am currently stuck on level 29 and it is maddening. I like to think that Candy Crush helps keep my mind sharp, you know, using new thought pathways for strategies.  Keeps me from developing Alzheimers, or, you know, just in case I ever need to thwart a land war in Asia.)
I should probably lose it.
I already deleted it off my phone.
Then I downloaded it again.
That is really embarrassing.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Pink Magnolia

Pink Magnolia
This is only the third painting that I have completed since landing here in Massachusetts.  That is three paintings in three years.
A depressing fact.
I cringe every time that someone asks me if I am painting still.  I know that they are asking me out of a desire to check in with me as a whole person, or as encouragement.  Some days it feels like nagging.  I highly doubt that it is.  Finding the space in my life to paint has become increasingly harder. 
Not only that I find that I am low on inspiration.  Coming from Colorado I was driven to paint all the landscapes that I was looking at every day.  Mountain peaks that beckoned not only to he climbed but also to be painted.  Aspen groves that whistled softly and gave me painting after painting.  The deepest blue skies that were so easily wrought.

I eagerly moved to the East Coast because my husband found a job in his field (after a year of less than ideal employment) and we were living in a rural town.  I just really can't hack country living.  I know, it's beautiful, see all the inspiration above.  I just didn't grow up with it.  I didn't like having to drive 2 hours for a Target.  Or a movie theatre (not that we ever go to the movies anyway), or a Panera.  (I really, really like Panera.)

I also knew that our time in rural Colorado was a furlough, we just couldn't seem to find jobs that fit us and we were living with Scott's parents.  Whom I love dearly, but they know that at some point we needed our own space.

So we got here, and I looked around.  I liked it.  I saw all the lovely trees.  But then not much happened in my little inspirational pathways.  Maybe because everytime we went somewhere pretty I was chasing children.  Or maybe because I was still adjusting from the mountain vistas I was used to.  I began to wonder if I was all dried up.  If there was no more inspiration left for me.

One thing that Massachusetts does have is four seasons.  Four exact, lined up with the calendar, seasons.

We spun through our first summer, working, adjusting to a new job, finding an apartment.  I was so excited to experience my first New England fall, I hear it's kind of a big deal.  Then I got pregnant and for some reason all the fall flavors made my stomach churn.  Anything pumpkin pie spice, or butternut squash sent me reeling.  Really that whole season I was reeling.  I didn't get much painting done.  Mostly because I was lying down.
I hate winter.  I don't want to talk about it.
Then spring comes.  Spring is cruel.  Spring is amazing.
Cruel because you so desperately want it to be warm, and one day it is.  Then the next it is decidedly not.  You get to shuck your winter coat.  But you still have to wear some kind of outerwear.
Amazing because while you are still freezing all these little plants start popping up from the ground.
I remember standing in my gym staring out the window, sometime in April, the tree outside had developed that nubbly appearance on its limbs.  I stood staring between my sets, eyeballing the tree, because I was pretty sure that I saw a bud appearing at the vertex of one of those nubs.
And flowering trees.  I love flowering trees.  I am almost (but not quite) sad when it turns to summer and those go away.  For those few weeks of color dotted trees I am enamored.

This third painting was of course inspired by those trees.  Last year I took pictures of pink magnolias as I walked by them, stopping on sidewalks in front of houses, hoping owners would not mind the lady with the stroller and the camera phone snapping pictures of their magnolia tree. Of course I didn't use any of those pictures.  This year my neighbor across the street provided a tree that produced plentifully.  I had an excuse too, if presented with an angry owner I could introduce myself say I lived at '34' and hoped they didn't mind.

So, a year in the making, we have a painting.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Over Market

"I'm trying not to buy stuff we don't need," I heard a wife hiss to her husband, as I wheeled my cart through Target.  I giggled, don't we all think that in Target?  Don't I think that every time I go into a store?  A purchase of a few dollars isn't something I need to fret about.  So that hummus looks good, and so does that extra pack of tortillas, ohhh, they're on sale, I should buy those shoes now.
And with everything looking so tastey or so necessary it's really hard not to buy a bunch of stuff that you don't need.

I spent the afternoon shopping by myself a week or so ago.  Usually when I come home I report my findings.  I had ended up spending way more than I expected at Panera for lunch for myself.  I chose to get one of their 'You Pick Two,' meals.  A prominently displayed option where you choose two of either half a salad, half a sandwich, or a cup of soup.  By the time I actually did the math I realized that I was paying twelve dollar for a half sandwich, and half salad.  That seems like a lot of money for a small meal, doesn't it?
The way that Panera displays this meal option you automatically go to it, and want it, without realizing the cost of the choice.  I also noticed on that same shopping trip that Trader Joe's had their chocolate displayed in a peculiar way.  The more inexpensive choice is lying down on the top of the shelf and the more expensive choices are propped up and easily accessible.
I told all of my 'finding's to Scott when I got home.  I felt like I had been manipulated the whole time I was shopping.
I know that there is a whole science to marketing, but it just makes me mad when I figure it out.

"Well, she's tall and skinny and often that is what makes a model," I said, we had just figured out that one of our friends has a modeling contract.
"Why? Why is that considered beautiful," my husband asked.
"Well, because tall skinny people look good in clothes," I respond.
"That's stupid," he said definitively.
He's right.  That is stupid.  I think as he has lived with me and has seen how much this standard of beauty has kept me from enjoying my short muscular body he has grown to hate this paradigm more. Even our standard of beauty is centered on marketing.  A tall thin body type has become our standard of beauty because designers use women shaped like that to show off their clothes, and they are photographed and we think we have to look like that to look good.
Or to be pretty in general.
We are so driven (or being driven) by marketing, by what is in our wallet that we have let our very images of ourselves get caught up in it.
Doesn't that make you mad?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Make Like a Tree and Leaf

"Mommy, I want to stay in Mr. Nate's cabin," Emma asks, a request that has no chance of being accepted.  It was just the other day I walked away from her and said,
"I wish you'd stop asking me things that I have to say 'no' to all the time," I feel like the biggest wet blanket until I realized that most of the time she is asking things of me that have no chance of getting granted.  No chance, like, ever.
This time she was asking to stay in the cabin of 34 year old single man who runs the Adirondack backpacking program of Gordon College.  While Nate is a perfectly non-creepy individual, having my four year old daughter stay in his cabin with him is completely inappropriate. We spent the week up in the Adirondacks at the Base Camp for this program so Scott and I could take a Wilderness First Aid course.
A four day course detailing things like Traumatic Brain Injury, bandaging wounds with bone sticking out of them, and High Altitude Cerebral Edema.
We got a babysitter.
It was heaven.
About two days into the course I was chatting with our babysitter at lunch,
'Carys won't let me put her down,' she says to me, 'just last night my back started to kill me,' she tells me, 'I don't know how you do it,' she finishes up.
Two sticks slowly rubbed together over my head, a slight spark just started.  My back, which usually hurts by the end of the day, didn't anymore.  I expected my back would because I was sitting on a hard bench all day taking part in lectures about splinting sticks in eyes, but it didn't.  I thought about all those days were I couldn't wait to lie prone in bed just because it meant that I was off of my spine.  I suspected it was because parenting a two year old is physically hard work, but here it was, proof.
I've always liked retreating to camps and woodland environments.  The chance to take a break about caring for my appearance.  The chance to dress like a dirty wilderness guide.  The chance to have an excuse not to look at the computer.  The chance to not hear music, cars, and television.  I always feel like it is cleansing.  I noticed that at the end of each day I still wanted to retreat to my cabin and sit in quiet.  A facet of life here that is the same, at the end of each day I just want to sit in quiet.
I just read an article online that says I might be an introvert.  I think I might.
I just want to sit in quiet.
Even without caring for children all day long.
I just want to sit in quiet.
Even without the noise of an urban environment.
I just want to sit in quiet.
We drove home today, by about Amsterdam, New York my face had started to hurt.  I told Scott that, that I could feel the stress returning to its strongholds in my body.
Even though when I walked into our house I could feel signs of my body relaxing into home.
Funny how it takes time away to shed so much light on something.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Is it just a movie?

"What do you want to do with the evening?" is the inevitable question that Scott asks me each night once the children are put away and the house picked up.  This question is often heard with a sprinkling of guilt and indecision.  I should spend the evening writing.  I should spend the evening painting.  What I want to do is curl up on the couch with Scott and stare at something on TV.
I try to see TV and movies as a treat.  After all it is entertainment, and isn't that something you only do when you don't have anything else to do?  An agreeable distraction for the mind?  After all, ladies and gentlemen, I have shit to do.
Occasionally I do give in, an evening is sacrificed on the throne of mindless enjoyment.  Friday night I gave up the evening of potential productiveness to snuggling with Scott, drinking a summer ale, and watching the movie 'Elysium.'  The movie is about a dis topic future where humankind has laid waste to the Earth and the wealthy have retreated to a space station that is akin to paradise.  The plot focuses on the fact that all citizens of Elysium have 'med bays' in their homes, a futuristic MRI-like machine that heals them from all ills.  These 'med bays' are not available to the citizens of Earth.
Without even viewing the movie I knew that the plot was an analogy for the developed world and the developing.  I like movies that provoke thought...

When we lived in Kenya we noticed that the Kenyans often overdressed their babies in super warm clothing.  Down coats and hats in 80 degree weather.  I was constantly asked if Emma was cold.  Eventually we learned that almost every Kenyan knew someone who had lost a child to pneumonia.  The warm clothing was to combat sickness.
When Carys was nine months old she came down with pneumonia.  She had been acting a little off that day, during her nap I read an article in Parents magazine that described the symptoms of respiratory distress in infants.  I went in to her room to check on her, her nostrils were flaring raggedly, and her ribs were fluttering in and out.  Through a series of phone calls I got her to a doctor in about an hour.  She was admitted to the hospital that night and we spent two extremely un-fun nights until the doctor felt she was healthy enough to go home.  Through the whole ordeal I kept my emotions stable by assuring myself that we were in a developed nation, Carys was hooked up to monitors, and there was a room full of trained professionals that would rush in here the moment anything misfired.  I asked my doctor what I could've done to prevent her illness, 'never let her near another child,' was her answer.  I could not have controlled the situation.  But because I live in a developed nation with good medical care Carys lived.  I knew that...
Carys in the hospital.  Being visited by her sister.

But the movie provoked more thought, if I was truly in a nation where I didn't have a doctor's office a five minute drive from my house, and a hospital a twenty minutes from my house, how would that have progressed.  Say I didn't have access to a magazine that told me what symptoms to look for in my baby?  Say I couldn't even read, because my family couldn't afford to educate me or didn't value educating girls?  Say I didn't have access to a car?  Or couldn't pay for a doctor's visit.  Or didn't have a husband that believed me when I called him and said, 'something's not right with our baby, come home and take us to the doctor.'
Where would I have been then?
Where would Carys have been?

The one thing that does bother me about sci-fiction movies like Elysium is that they are so out there that some viewers can miss how truthful they really are.  We watch and think, 'gosh it would be nice to have a med bay in my home, those bastard citizens of Elysium, why don't they share?'
I guess we can start sharing.
Pneumonia is one of the leading killers of children.  We can donate to Unicef.
Malaria is another leading cause of death in the third world.  We can donate to
Both of these diseases are extremely preventable.  Of course pneumonia is an infection that stems from the flu, so educating about hand washing, breast feeding, and treatment of the flu will help.  Think about all the basic knowledge you have to help your children.  Now imagine that you can't read...
There are countless ways we can help, please write me with ways that you have thought of and charities that you have found to be exemplary, I would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Get Down

"Man, when I'm their age I want to be able to do that," I was looking forlornly at the backs of a 60 year old couple.  We were visiting their neck of the woods in South Africa and they had taken us on a hike.  They were about fifty yards in front of us, or just me, Scott was probably staying behind just to make me feel better.  He did assure me that they were hiking rather fast.
Again, he probably said that just to make me feel better.

Last Tuesday I wheeled Carys into the library playgroup that we've been attending, the lady spotted my flushed and probably sweaty face and said,
"Did you just go running?"
"No, I just took a Spinning class," I responded.  She rolled her eyes, a gentle tease for my overachieving,
"I know, I'm that person," I joked.  I didn't take offense.
I had been tired that morning so chose to attend the class, normally I make up my own workout and then shower before playgroup, but the class is scheduled so that I don't have time to shower.  Arriving red faced and disheveled was not a normal occurrence.  I had debated quite a bit about this decision.  Showering usually wins.  I kept thinking that this was superficial, but really there are only a few times during the week that people I didn't birth see me, so I would like to look presentable.
That Tuesday I chose working out over hygiene.  The next conversation that followed was between myself and two other moms; I was encouraging them to do the things that I had so that they could workout.  They were telling me lots of reasons why they could not or would not.  I let it go, I didn't want to be that person again.
Over the past few months, as I've joined the YMCA and gotten back into fitness, I've had to think through why I am doing this.  I'm in my 30s, and I'm already married, so it's clearly not to attract a man.  He is still interested, so maybe it's to keep him interested, but as I've found with other things if you do something purely to please someone else it doesn't last long.
Am I doing this to look like Jillian Micheals?  Well, that is impossible.  I like bread too much.  I have finally realized that I really cannot compare myself to other women when it comes to looks.  No matter how much fat I lose off my body I am built differently, I won't have my friend's nice long slender waist, I am short, she is tall.  If fitness is based on looks then I better focus on looking like the best 'me' I can.
But eventually looks fade.  No matter how much Spinning, or running, or weightlifting, or yoga I do I know that there certain things about aging that I cannot control.  My skin is looser than it was ten years ago.  I have some permanent lines over my eyebrows that make me look like I am perpetually sarcastic.  (Which I kind of am, so I deserve those.)  This body is going to get looser and gain more lines.

In that same playgroup one of the children had come with her Grandma, I heard the Grandma say this,
"Well, I'll be the first to admit that getting down on the ground gets harder as you get older," I then watched her slowly get down on her knees, like watching a creaky gate close.  The woman that teased me about Spinning is about the same age as this one, she is down on her knees with the little kids all the time.  Probably because she does it all the time.  She works with little kids.  They're on the ground a lot.  I think the body has kind of a 'use it or lose it,' policy.

Then I thought,
'That's it...that's why I do this, I want to be able to get down on the ground with my grandkids.'
In my head I tell myself that I work out to prevent premature aging and disease.  Somewhere in my heart I know that I cannot completely control all of that.  Even though I've been a regular exerciser for my entire adulthood I know that I might pull the cancer card.  I do like to think that I've all that I can.  I would hate to get cancer and know that chemotherapy might not cure me, I should have just eaten more kale all those years ago.
I also like it, exercise, that is.  I like the way my body feels when I push it a little farther.  Achieve that distance I never thought I could.  Get into that yoga pose that seemed impossible six months ago.  Life that weight that wouldn't move a week ago.
Being fit comes in handy too, in my life of lifting children and, well, lifting children, a lot.
I need a macro excuse though, a realistic one.  Getting a six pack in six weeks seems a bit silly, but being able to get down on the ground with a two year old when I am well into my seventies, that seems honorable.

Dearly Departed

Maya Angelou left us today.  She was 86, a life certainly well lived.
She has always been on my list of people that I wanted to have dinner with, I could see her smooth voice patting me on the head, telling me that if I just press on my art will be seen, my writing will be read.

She was one of the first that I read, in that high school and middle school abyss when all you have is time and a library card.  I loved her voice.  I remember the anecdote from 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,' where several of the girls from Porgy and Bess where straightening their hair with a new treatment.  The treatment made their hair fall out.  Maya's family wrote her and asked if she was one of the girl's who had lost it to vanity.  Her answer was to send them a picture of herself, big smile, both handsburied in tugging on curly hair that was firmly attached to her head.
I loved that.
Race and land mine hair discussions aside, I always grieve a bit inside when I hear that someone is trying hard to change the things about themselves that they can't.  Hair texture, hours spent in bathroom curling or straightening in the other direction.  Height, bunions and stinging arches from wearing high heels or hunched shoulders from an attempt to shrink.
Thank you Maya for loving yourself enough to not straighten your hair.

Honestly I think that her passing just raises my chances of meeting her, at the rate I am going with writing the next great American novel I wouldn't have found myself sitting next to her at some writer's luncheon.  Maybe on the other side she can put her hand on mine and give me the approval that we all want from great people.  Those people we wish we could be friends with, if only we were greater or our circle of influence wider.  People you hope would like you too.  A kindred spirit, just a few hundred miles away.

She didn't start her memoir 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings' until she was 42.  This fact gives me hope.  Reminding me that I am still in the beginning of my life, that I still have some time.

I don't straighten my hair either.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


This is my lawn:
It's really more dandelions than actual grass.
I spent an hour and half weeding dandelions one Saturday afternoon.  I kept getting the distinct feeling that they were laughing at me.  Scott spent his time pulling up a purple flowered vine.

"I keep getting the image from some 80s horror flick, of some monster that only laughs and grows more when you cut it?  You know what I mean?"  I said to Scott about half way through the afternoon.
"You know those lawns that are like carpet?  I want ours to be like that," I said, hopefully.
"I think we're a long way off from that," Scott replied.  Ever the realist.

A friend of mine who had some delightfully crunchy ways came over, she looked at our lawn,
"Oh, you can make dandelion jelly!"
"What?  Because I was literally thinking, 'stink I wish these things were useful, because we have so many of them," I know that they are edible, but I assumed that was really only in case of emergency.
She then proceeded to tell me about dandelion jelly and walk about my yard pointing out all the edible plants I have growing back there. She did confirm that the dandelions were indeed laughing at me.
"Their roots go down a couple of feet, you know," I didn't, but I certainly had my suspicions.
I thought this dandelion jelly thing might be just the thing to join 'em and not fight 'em.  My daughter picks me piles of dandelions.  She loves them.  I Googled it, and it seems that dandelion jelly is a legitimate thing.  So the next afternoon I enlisted the help of my four year old.  The first recipe I found called for 4 cups of dandelion petals.

 My daughter picked her  first bouquet for me.  I pointed out the spot on the measuring cup that we needed to fill,
"Do you think this will fill up to here?" I asked.
Lara, she's only four.
I know that's why I asked, instead of just raining on her parade.

Well, this is what I had after the first batch.
I kept sending her out to the yard for more.

Soon she tired of picking and I ended up just sitting on the grass and picking the flowers from around me.

Funny how when I don't care she brings me piles of them, but the second I want her to do it she's not interested...
I kinda knew that would happen.
Call it mom intuition.

After an hour and a half I seemed stuck at 2 1/2 cups.

I decided to find a new recipe that only called for 2 cups of petals.  I found it.

The next step is to make a 'tea' out of the petals.

Add boiling water, let it sit for a day and then strain.

You should have two cups of tea.

I had one and three quarter cups.  That was after straining it with cheesecloth.
One recipe said you could just add a bit more water.  So I did.

I didn't have pectin on hand so I put the tea in the fridge and waited until I went grocery shopping again.

I didn't pay attention and grabbed powdered pectin, rather than liquid pectin.  Largely because of the price.  The whole point of this is to create super cost effective good food, right?  If I am making jelly out of plants in my backyard I kinda want this whole project to be on the cheap.  I realized that the recipe I decided on asked for liquid.  I plowed right on ahead.  Adding sugar and boiling away.

I didn't look closely enough and added the amount of lemon juice from the first recipe to the second recipe.
One quarter cup, as opposed to two tablespoons.

I usually make jam, and have chunks of fruit to work with, I know what jam looks like when it is done and how it acts.  I am not sure how jelly works.  So when I followed the directions to only boil for a minute or two I shrugged and thought, 'maybe it's supposed to be liquidy.  Maybe it will firm up when it cools, right....?'
Here is my dandelion syrup.  Looks great, doesn't it?  Lovely honey color.  Tastes good, like honey.  My kids love it.  But it is decidedly not the texture of jelly.  Scott thinks I didn't even achieve syrup.  Dandelion water?
I know we all live in fear of 'not jelling'.  I have watched both of my mother's poke at some jam hoping it worked.  There seems to be a bit of superstition surrounding the ability to make good jam.  Maybe I added too much lemon juice?  Maybe not enough sugar?  Maybe I should've boiled the tar out of it.
 Any jelly experts want to weigh in?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Old Becomes New

"Well, this is a gut," my real estate agent leaned in to the bathroom, she turned on her polished high heel and walked out.  I stood feeling insecure in my Target ballet flats...
"I don't know, I kinda liked the tile," I said.
I mean it was pretty dirty, she stopped and came back, she squinted up at the wall,
"I think I like the tile, and the wall paper, but not together," she gave me.
"Hmmm, I could see that," she was being generous with the wall paper.  There were many times that I felt that real estate agents should get some kind of psychology degree along with their real estate license.
This is what we were looking at:

Lace curtains, oh my!

I don't think you can tell, but that is rotting linoleum down there.

There is that tile, and it is aqua.
I don't know, I might be kinda alone on this one, but I like it.  Aqua is super in style right now.

Which means that it won't be, probably by the time that I finish writing this blog post.

That radiator is also painted sea green, I think they were trying to match the tile.
They failed.

Nope, the grout is not brown.  It is white.
Or was white.
Maybe at one time.
The 70s?  Maybe?

And mold!

So that mirror was actually mounted so that I could only see the top of my forehead in it.
I mean, I'm not the tallest of people, but c'mon.

There's that wallpaper.  I can see how someone would like it,
but I still think that my real estate agent was just being nice.

Maybe in a powder room?  With lots and lots of white.  Not with aqua tile, thought.
Not with aqua tile.

I thought you might like to see all the swans.
With the wallpaper, to give you the full effect of the room.

Well, we could not afford to gut the bathroom.  Which I was glad for, because I actually like the tile.
Have I mentioned that?

But we still changed a lot.
Scott ripped out the swan door, in an act of new homeowner aggression.  We removed the wallpaper.
We replaced the toilet.
We replaced the sink.
We had new tile installed.
We had a smaller window installed and put in a bigger and lower mirror.

And here is what we have today:
 The sink doesn't look that different, I know.  Here's the story: I was told (by my contractor) to pick out a 19" vanity, so I spent about three nights on picking out a vanity, because we needed it 'right away.'  Then it sat in the house for a month.  Then about a week from completion my contractor went to install it, it barely even fit in the bathroom.  He told us to pick out a pedestal sink.  Then my plumber looked at it and said, 'I think you're going to need a wall mount sink.'  Then my contractor called my husband and told him that we needed a wall mount sink, and needed it now.  So my husband returned the lovely pedestal sink that we bought and spent all afternoon driving around the North Shore and we ended up with almost the exact same sink.  I wanted an oval one.
But, hey, look at my awesome DIY shower curtain!
And that is a brand new toilet.
Everybody loves a new toilet.

Look white grout!
About a day before we moved in the bathtub was full of construction trash and a shopvac.  Two very lovely friends of mine cleaned out the bathroom and bleached the tub.  I am very thankful they did because I am pretty sure that if I had to get that close to the dirt I never would've been able to use the tub.
Ignorance is bliss.

The art is my daughter's, that I reframed.
I wanted a grey paint that would work for both the upstairs and the downstairs bathrooms.  I chose Misty Moonstone by Glidden; a really light grey that shines blue in direct sun.  The shade will probably become the color of my porch.  If we get around to painting the exterior before Glidden stops making that paint.

The radiator got a coat of white paint,
as did the trim and door.

I actually had a hard time finding the right trim paint.  I wanted a paint plus primer in a pure white gloss, and Home Depot does not carry gloss, they carry 'high gloss' or 'semi gloss.'  I landed at Lowe's with Valspar's Ultra White, in a gloss and paint plus primer.
Lowe's also supplied the new medicine cabinet.  I know that I am supposed to hide all those bottles in cute little packages, but if I don't see my allergy medication I don't take it.  Maybe when Better Homes and Gardens photographs my house I will hide it.

I wasn't quite sure what floor tile could mix with the tile that we were keeping.  Most of the tiles that are in style now are rather large and didn't fit with the small bathroom that we have.
So I Googled 'retro bathroom design,' then I said a little prayer of thanks when I saw the yellow and mint green tile that was in style in this same era.  I also saw that a lot of the bathrooms had this mosaic style tile.
And I love it.
You know how dogs will rub their faces on the ground, and then roll onto their backs?
When this tile was installed I wanted to get down on all fours and rub my face across it.
I didn't.
But I thought about it.

Hey look, I can see my face in the mirror!

I wanted to do a fun funky vintage oval mirror.  Scott wanted a medicine cabinet, so we could put actual toiletries in our bathroom.
He won.
We also got this medicine cabinet at Lowe's.

I am happy to say that mounting the medicine cabinets on the wall was a team effort.  I re-learned how to use a drill.  Had been awhile.

That is a very detailed account of my bathroom.
I hope you enjoyed it.