And for once I was SuperMom

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Cleaner Things

It was late, the coffee pot was gurgling away.  A late night cup of coffee, to keep me awake to do creative things?  Nope, instead of the robust brown smell of coffee steaming out, a thin stingy smell of vinegar and stale coffee bit at my nostrils.  I was cleaning the machine, that brings me so much life, a small-ish scoop of baking soda in the basket and a splash of white vinegar in the water, hit brew, and the liquid that is brewed is far from drinkable.
I've used that grade school science experiment kaboom of baking soda and vinegar to clean out the blocked holes in my shower head as well.  The pop seems particularly effective as getting rid of hard water deposits.  Or the scrub brush I jammed in the holes afterward were effective at cleaning hard water deposits, who will ever know?

That particular night I was bit heady from reading too many blogs that espouse the wonderful combination of baking soda and vinegar as a cleaning powerhouse.  I picked up my kettle, if it worked on coffee pots, why not kettles?  
A few minutes later while I was scrubbing the kettle with real soap, with toxic bubbly phosphates and all, I thought about all the times that these all natural cleaners don't work and how, sometimes, you just need some bleach.

Like the time our High Efficiency clothes washer started to smell bad.  Which meant that, you guessed it, our clothes started to smell bad.  I, sheepishly, Googled this problem, what was I doing wrong?  Are we that dirty?  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it is a fairly common problem, there is even products created to abate that smell.  Being wary of spending extra money on a cleaning product that might not work I clicked around until I found a blog that told me I could just use white vinegar and run the machine on hot.  I thought, 'that's cheap, I have vinegar, can't hurt anything.'  So I poured half a gallon of white vinegar in there and hit the hot button.  One cycle later our washer no longer smelled.

But then there was the time I made orange vinegar.
Every time I peel an orange I look at the peels and think, this is a valuable resource.
Seriously Lara?
You've no idea how cheap I am.
And I love the way orange zest tastes.
Or candied orange peel.
Really?  I thought only old people liked that?
Yep.  And me.
The last time I was climbing the stairs to clean our upstairs bathroom, the handles of the four different cleaners that I require for a clean bathroom were cutting into my fingers, and I thought, 'there has to be a better way.'
Then I was looking at that orange peel, I think I must have Googled 'how to make cleaner from orange peels.'  Then I found orange vinegar.  The next time I climbed those stairs with all my bottles, a new bottle of homemade orange vinegar was among them.  I eagerly sprayed it on my sink and wiped away.
A few moments later when I was re-wiping the sink with actual bathroom cleaner, I thought, 'maybe this isn't the wonder cleaner that the blogger promised....I remember using vinegar to clean things when I was a kid....what were those things...?  Tile floors...but we only have tile in the....BATHROOMS!!!'
Eureka, I may have found one purpose for that stuff....

I'd like to wean myself off of those disposable Clorox wipes.  The first time I saw them I thought, 'those are so bad for the environment, how could anyone use those?!?!'  Judgment.  
Then I potty trained.  
And, look, you just throw the poop away.  It's all clean and all gone.  It's like that trashy TV show.  you just can't stop.  You know it's bad for you, but you just can't look away.  I keep buying those wipes, and thinking, 'I'll stop when they're all potty trained.'  Or, 'I'll stop when they stop spilling milk at the table.'
I am never going stop.

Still every time I open the cabinets and look at all my different sprays for every different surface, I think, 'there has to be a better way.'
They're just cleaning supplies, Lara.
Yeah, but something about ALL of them bothers me.
Yes, I mean fifty years ago we weren't using disposable wipes for everything!  Right?
Yeah, but I bet if Grandma had them she would've used them.
Maybe.  I've found that some people that have gone before us are much more wise about seeing the consequences.  The big consequences.  Like all the bottles from these cleaning products piled up in landfills.  Like all the toxins that we're wiping over all our surfaces.  All the silly excess, two cleaners where one would work just fine.  Complex products for one specific purpose.
I suppose that just bothers me.
During my semester abroad in college, I did a home stay in a remote village in Tanzania.  At the end of the week when we asked where to throw our little baggy of trash, from our baby wipes and q tips, our host father just motioned at the front yard.  There was no bin.  There was no trash in the yard.
We produced trash.  They, seemingly, didn't.
That stayed with me.
What other things do we have that aren't necessary?

Like when we have two pairs of shoes.  When we could have one.
When we produce more trash, by buying two things, when we could buy one.

If only that orange vinegar could wipe out my bathroom sink better....

Friday, March 27, 2015

Not My Feet

I was bent over in yoga class.  My fingers gently prying at the tips of my toes.  As my feet spread wide, sinking into the pad of the mat, I smiled.
I've always had a love hate relationship with my feet.  They're rather wide.  I am a perfect 8 Wide.  Do you know how many shoe stores sell 'wide' sizes?  Not many.  I've shoved my feet into so many 8's and 8 1/2's, hoping they would stretch to accommodate that extra piece of flesh I have on the outside edge of my feet.  I remember my mom making so many comments when were trying on shoes. I'd only be able to jam my first three toes into adorable pair of sandals, and she would come beside, 'like little pieces of pie.'  Then, 'mine are like skis, long and narrow.'  We've never shared shoes.

Whenever I get a annoyed at my feet, and their low arched inability to withstand high heels, I remember those wide feet are great for running.  They're absolutely perfect for hiking.  Never given me much trouble for walking.  I certainly have spent many hours running, hiking, and walking.  Many more than I ever have wearing high heels.

So why did I smile the other day?
That morning I had just an article on footbinding, a last century practice in China.  The last of the women to have ever had their feet bound are dying.  As with any body modification procedure there are a host of reasons why women chose to disfigure themselves and their children.  Usually it makes them a good marriage prospect.  With both footbinding and female genital mutilation the culture believed that these practices would make women better wives.  Female genital mutilation was believed to keep women from straying and is based on men's sexual preference for a tight vagina.  Footbinding was thought to promote obedience and the ability to bear pain in childbirth.

So why did I smile at my wide feet?
Because there they are.  I don't think anyone considers wide feet a thing of beauty.  I honestly have started not to care.  I am also pretty sure that my husband never noticed the width of my feet.  I do remember a day when we were out shopping and I was trying so hard to find a pair of black pumps that would go with a black dress that I wanted to wear on a date.  His response,
'Honestly, I'm not going to be looking at your feet.'

I grew up in a time and a country (female genital mutilation is still practiced in the Middle East and Africa) where my mother never felt like she had to transform my body to make me a better marriage prospect.  (No matter how hard it was to find shoes for me)  I grew up in a time and a country where there were few match makers, in fact I was encouraged to be 'just myself' and the right person would come along aside me.  In truth that's what happened.

Of course I grew up in a culture that tries to dictate what women's bodies should look like, to be considered beautiful.  I remember in middle school reading that the 'boyish figure' was now in style.  I thought, 'Excuse you, you get to say what  kind of body type is in style, women can't change their body type, how can someone's body be out of style?!'  By middle school I was well on the way to developing the curves I now have.  There was never a chance that my body would ever be considered 'boyish.'  Largely it's fashion and marketers that try to tell us what we think we should look like.  Tall, skinny, fit, etc.  But we get to push back.  I get to say 'that's not how this works, people.'  I get to decide how I feel about my body.

I am thankful for this.  Extremely grateful for this.  So excited for my daughters because of this.  No matter how rough we think we have it, no one has ever tried to bind our feet.

Apparently there was a story about an empress who did not have bound feet.  They say she used to rule her husband with her big feet.  I love this.  This image of this regal woman padding around her palace on her big feet.
So there they are, down at the end of my body.  My wide feet.  No one has ever tried to break you.  Wrap you up.  Or make you into something you're not.

They sure would have had a hell of a time if they had.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Texting While Parenting

Apparently being on your smartphone around your kids is a bad thing.  A few of us have read the article that is currently bouncing around Facebook.  A few social scientists watched parents at McDonald's while dining, and recorded the behavior between parent and child, specifically observing those on smartphones.  They found that parents were more agitated with their children while they were on smartphones.

Um, I could have told you that.

But, the experts noticed it, so it must be true.

We have all felt it, the frustration rising in the back of our neck up over our scalp,
'Mom, mommy, mom,' little faces looking up at us while we finish that text.

This was heard in my house today,
'No, you don't need me for the three minutes it takes me to go down into the basement and change the laundry!'
So you go do things. and then while you're showering they have a potty accident.  You get so mad at yourself, but you can't hover over them all day long.  You would hate that.  And resent them.  Truth be told, the children would eventually hate it too.

They are aching black holes of need.  They're most important need?  Your attention.  All the time.

So when they clamor at you while you're on your phone, it's just one more annoyance.

Well, yes.
And, well, no.

I tried to make a phone call the other day.  An actual real phone call.  Like from people that are going to renovate our house.  I couldn't complete it, because every time I tried to wade through their impossible sea of menu choices my daughter's would fight.  I even hung up and tried again.  During that interlude, I yelled at my children.  What did they do?  My two year old looked at me, and then body checked her sister into the wall.
I was so angry I couldn't even laugh.
So that's not okay.  I should be able to complete a five minute phone call without having to put anyone in time out.
But I can't.

I used to play games on my phone when I was bathing them.  Then I'd get angry with them because they would want things while I was in the middle of crushing imaginary candies.  How dare they?  Disturb my game, with their 'needs.'
So that's not okay.  I shouldn't be ignoring my children so that I can play games on my phone.

I have to admit I was late to the iPhone game.  I'm usually on the tail end of technology.  At first I didn't want one. Then I couldn't texts from people.  Or I'd have to switch out phones with my husband, because I needed the GPS to go somewhere new.  And going somewhere new in New England without a GPS is a pants wetting, terrifying experience.  I have 'lost in Massachusetts without a GPS' PTSD.  I am usually a map girl.  I am nerdy for maps.  Having a map for every tiny, curvy road in this state would fill my trunk with maps.  A GPS is a  really good thing here.
Eventually, even though my husband didn't think I needed one, I threw enough temper tantrums and I got a smartphone.
I love that stupid thing.

It is a 'thing' afterall, isn't it?
Just a 'thing.'  While it makes my life easier, it is not more important than my children.

Do I really find a 'thing' more interesting than a human being?  Especially a human being that I brought into the world?
Gosh, I hope not.  I would hate to think I was giving my children issues because I was staring at a phone rather than interacting with them.

My children really are aching pits of need.  They need to learn that they are not the center of the world.  The need to learn that I am not their servant.  These are real lessons.  Lessons that parent's teach.

The smartphone issue is tricky.  We use them for so much now.  I've found that I need to be careful how I use it, when I use it, and for what reason I use it.  They are actual phones, that we use for calling people.  Which does still happen now and then.  That's important.

They have a GPS.  Which as I have pointed out, helps a lot.  Makes my life easier.  Actually can make my life with children a lot easier.  Have you ever gotten lost with your kids in the car?  I have.  Having children with you when you have lost your bearings, just takes the whole experience to a new level.

Let's talk about texting.  I don't know about you, but often texting is just casual conversation.  'This made me laugh, and will make you laugh too,' kinds of exchanges.  There's nothing wrong with these, they're fun and they promote connections between people.  I've found that I need to be aware of them.  Then I become 'that person.'  Like when the nurse asked me to put that down so I could answer questions.  I will point out she had just walked in the room, and I was in the middle of texting my husband to say they were doing more tests and I would be late.  She kind of jumped the gun on me.  That's where we are though.  People are ignoring important interactions because we're texting or on our phones in some other capacity.

I'm not going to come up with guidelines.  Because guidelines are the worst.  Like when the American Association of Pediatrics tells you not to let your one year old watch TV, and I'm like, 'then you come to my house and watch my kid for twenty minutes so I can shower.'  So you plop them in front of TV and then you feel guilty. Then you shower.
This blog is a 'no guilt zone.'
I'm not even going to come up with 'suggestions.'  Because who am I to tell you how to use your phone?
Everyone's life is different.  Some people do a lot of business on their phone.  Some people are wasting a lot of time on their phone.

I think this article is a good place to start checking yourself, before you wreck yourself.  Or your children, for that matter.
Sometimes it's appropriate to text.  So text away.  Sometimes your kid asks for your attention in the middle of texting.  I like this phrase,
"Let me finish this text, and then I can help you."
Then I have to actually put the phone down and pay attention to them.  This is hard.  I find I get caught up in so many distractions in the house that I am often saying, 'let me finish....' and then I never get to them.  There are so many things that need to be finished.
Today I set a timer for myself, I usually set one for the girls.  They kept interrupting my train of thought for nonessential things, so I said,
"Mommy needs to work on this, I am going to set a timer so that I can work on this and then I can help you," by the time the timer went off they were involved in their own game and were no longer clamoring for my attention.
Did I mention I used the timer on my phone?
Now, there's a good use for that thing.

Sometimes texting is inappropriate.
Like at meal times.  Can't you just hear yourself ten years from now, 'no texting at the table!'  Unfortunately that starts with us.

I'm part of a large group text of seven different women.  As you can imagine, my phone blows up quite frequently.  Eventually I turned off my ringer, because I found that one night while I was cooking dinner, between my children, my husband, and the multiple tasks of cooking (chop this, boil this, etc.) I was spinning in circles.  I've left my ringer off, for the most part.  My texts become more like emails.  I pick up my phone, check what is there, answer them, and then move on.  Sometimes I leave it in my purse for hours at a time...

I have uploaded and deleted so many games on my phone.  Once I got accused of playing Candy Crush like a fiend.  I deleted it.  I was so bratty though.  I held the iPad aloft, screen pointedly directed at my husband, and hit the delete with more force than the touch screen ever needs.  He laughed.  Even though I was mildly jerky about it, I don't miss it.  I've since then uploaded and deleted Trivia Crack, Scrabble, and Candy Crush (the latter about two more times).

Remember the days of phone that had to stay plugged into walls?  Remember answering machines?  I like the type of interaction and thought process that those promoted.  You have stop and be where you are and communicate intentionally.  We can still use smartphones like that.
This age of instant communication and leaving plans till last minute might not be the best cultural shift we can have.  I know the pull, 'but if I don't answer right now...'
I've noticed though that most things work themselves out.

I have had to be very honest with myself.  Am I ignoring my children to play on my phone?  Am I doing something important?  If I am, why can't they just leave me alone?  Because children are aching pits of need, as parents we can fall into the 'they never leave me alone trap.'  But maybe, just maybe, if we give them some time, they'll leave us alone.
For a bit, at least.