Thursday, January 31, 2013

5 Facts About Us.

This week I'm linking up again with Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop.  I love me some Mama Kat, and I especially love that she loves her some Roo @ NiceGirlNotes too.  So in honor of all this love fest, I just had to keep the love going and do the Mama Kat prompt that was inspired by Roo.  Here are 5 pretty random Facts about Our Family. 

1. I was once in a parade dressed as a condom.  I was a college sex educator, which usually meant that my dorm room was full of condoms to hand out to my peers and that I was the go-to girl if you needed to know all about different kinds of birth control or lube.  It was soo much fun.  My sophomore year, our group walked in the homecoming parade.  I dressed up as our mascot, the condom.  Funny enough, I was still dressed as a condom at the end of parade sitting in front of my boyfriend's frat house while broke up with me.  How you gonna break up with me while I'm dressed like a condom?  Cold-hearted!  

2. Annika was a surprise baby.  I know it is hard to believe, especially after reading #1, but it is true.  Annika was an unplanned pregnancy.  We were simply married, and not being as careful as we thought we were.  Oops!  I even have a colleague who still to this day doesn't believe it, because he knows how much I plan everything and he thinks the timing of her birthday at the exact last week of the semester was just too perfect.  I WISH I was that good at planning things.  She was the best surprise that changed our lives, and we wouldn't have it any other way now, but she was assuredly not planned.  

3. I told Andy I would not marry him unless he owned a passport.  The summer after we got engaged, I was in Germany working as a waitress.  Andy couldn't come see me because he didn't have a passport, and we only got to talk 1-3 times per week on a rickety old payphone.  (This sounds so antiquated, but it was only 2003.)  I vowed, NEVER again.  I chose a foreign destination for our honeymoon, and he got a passport--best decisions EVER.  

4. The girls in our family LOVE to sing, Andy, not so much.  He's pretty much tone deaf, so we're all glad that he chooses not to sing.  I will never forget the look on Andy's face when he and I went on our first road trip and I started singing.  I think he thought I was an alien.  He's grown to tolerate the singing now, which is good because it is a trait I have passed on to our offspring.  We girls will continue to sing Katy Perry and Taylor Swift at the top of our lungs in the car, much to his music-snobbish chagrin.  

5. It makes me soo sad to think that my girls probably won't remember living in Berlin for a year of their lives because they were so young when it happened. I think that's the real reason we took so many pictures during our time in Berlin, so that we can show them what we did.  I know that they will go back to visit, but it will certainly not be the same.  Childhood memories stitched together from stories told and pictures shown are never as good as remembering the fun of climbing sculptures, the smell of the air in the subway, the taste of the Apfelschorle, and the squish of the mud between your toes.  

At least we have the pictures to go with the stories.  
Mama’s Losin’ It

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Unexpected Cologne

Cologne, Germany is one of my favorite places. It could be that the biggest proportion of people with my maiden name come from that area.  (Yes, I did hear your collective gasps as you read that I, the academic feminist did actually change my name.  Get over it.)  I love visiting that city in the heart of west Germany and have been lucky enough to go a couple of times.  Both of my trips to Cologne, Germany were rather off the cuff, and I had a great time both times.  The first time I went with my friend Susan, and we drank all the locals and backpackers under the table.  It was fun.  The second time I went with Andy and we met up with a friend to celebrate Christopher Street Day there!  I talked German Politics with a man all night who ended up kissing me full on the mouth in front of the oldest gay bar in Cologne, every homosexual in 100 Km radius, and my husband who was too distracted to notice.  That city is crazy!

More recently back in the states, I've encountered some unexpected cologne of a different sort.  There is a guy who goes to my gym.  I don't know how he is always there when I am there, but he always is.  He also always happens to end up on a treadmill in my general vicinity.  Normally this would not be a problem, except for the ridiculous amount of unexpected cologne that this guy wears.  It makes me gag every. time.  Please, men and women of the gym, stop with the cologne and perfume!  I know the gym doesn't smell the best, but I would much prefer to smell sweat than than the unholy and disgusting mix of sweat, Old Spice, Chanel no 5, and Cool Water or whatever the cool kids are wearing this year.

Lastly, I recently went to Home Depot to get a key made.  The girl who made the key for me actually admitted to going to the tanning bed, which I completely forgot anyone did anymore ever.  The young man who checked me out at the end, who was also quite tanned for January in Indiana I might add, had surely taken a shower with in his cologne.  I almost hurled right there, but did the whole breathe-through-my-mouth-thing until I got outside.

People of the world, please please for the love of my stomach, remember that a little bit of Cologne goes a long long way.  You get great stories out of it that way too.  And for the record: never once was I gagged by cologne in Cologne.    

Here's a lovely shot of Andy & I in Cologne in 2005 before kids.  

Mouth: Trifecta Challenge

You could hear the beat, mmpf mmpf mmpf mmpf, 3 blocks away and the cars were strewn about the street parked somewhat legally.  The line streamed out into the parking lot and we gathered our IDs that we probably wouldn't have to show.  We eagerly watched boys in puffy pants and girls in sequined tops get gobbled up as they entered the mouth of the underground club through a haze of fake smoke and laser lights that seeped out of the shredded curtains at the entrance.  We gathered our courage, swallowed our pills imprinted with Buddha, and walked up to the door.  This was going to be a night to remember. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

For Theresa

Theresa is one of my oldest and dearest friends.  We were in actually in brownies together, and then played numerous sports together as we got older.  We crushed on the same boys and did some wild stuff while we were younger, most of which we're still keeping secret from our parents.  She suffered a Polish Catholic mother growing up who forced her to eat a banana a day and came to all of her sporting events and yelled loudly.  (FYI: I still love her mom, partly because every time I walked in her house she told me I looked skinny and then fed me.)  She has 3 older brothers, and a handsome husband who might actually know it all.  She and I will be friends forever and ever.

I had to miss Theresa's baby shower yesterday because a no-nonsense stomach bug hit our house, and by our house, I mean my brother's house where we were staying.  It was gnarly.  On Saturday Annika & I were down for the count, then Sunday morning my niece Emma went down.  We drove back home to Evansville instead of staying for the shower as planned, and 2 minutes after we arrived home, Andy was wrapped around the toilet.  We spent the rest of today recovering as well.

I was soo sad to have to miss the shower, but I did NOT want to get anywhere near my poor pregnant friend.  Being 8 months pregnant is bad enough, no need to make it worse by getting her sick.  I did make sure to drop off my gift as we hauled our sick butts out of town.  The homemade part of the gift was too cute not to share here.

Here are the adorable dinosaurs I made for Theresa's Dino-themed Nursery. Sorry I didn't put anything in the picture for scale, but here is the link to the patterns.   I hope she likes them*.

*If she doesn't, my kids want them.  Mayzie even already pre-chewed the tail of the blue one.  (Sorry Tree!)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

My Reading List

After several very nostalgic posts as of late, I'm moving back into my life at present with this post.

This week one of the fantabulous Mama Kat writing prompts is:
What are you reading?

Since I am currently drifting around in ABD (all but dissertation) land, which to you non-academic types means that I'm JUST writing my book, my reading is completely confined to geeky academic stuff.    See picture below:

The first book is Immigration Policy in the Federal Republic of Germany, and I'm pretty sure the title explains the content well enough.  

The second book is Beauftragte der Bundesregierung fuer Migration, Fluechtlinge, und Integration: Ein Handbuch fuer Deutschland.  A friend gave this to me years ago, and it is essentially a manual for settling into life in Germany for migrants, refugees, and people who are having trouble "integrating," which is a really fun way to say non-Germans.  Each page is half in German and half in English, French, Spanish, Russian, or Turkish, and it is filled with helpful pictures of things like grocery carts and binders.  

The third book Auf Zeit.  Fuer Immer is a collection of firsthand stories of Turkish immigrants to Germany.  I like it, and it helps me keep a little bit of context about the parents of the girls in my study too.  

The last book is Geschichte der Deutschen Migration (History of German Migration).  This is an  historical perspective on Germany in and out migration from the middle ages to now.  I need to get into this more for a more thorough perspective, but the writing is pretty dry.   

Finally, I have this little pile of articles all about subjective well-being that need to be read and put into an annotated bibliography.  Each one of those pink papers is actually a divider between the articles, so I guess the pile isn't really that little.  

I'm doing most of this reading during my breaks from transcribing my interviews that I conducted for the dissertation research.  I HATE transcribing, so I actually welcome the breaks to read this stuff and then get back to it.  This is the life of an ABD.  

Step by step, I'll get there.  
Mama’s Losin’ It

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Labor's a...

"Labor's a bitch, but you can do this. You're almost there. Look at my face. Now when you feel those muscles start contracting, work with your body and push. Go with it." The midwife's words were soothing, but I was still worried. I had heard them discussing meconium and I wanted to get the baby out as soon as possible.

I couldn't make a sound, I just pushed.

"Yes, that's right...Oh she's crowning, get the gloves," she yelled at the nurse.

 I pushed again. 

"Quick, hurry," she yelled louder and more frantically as the baby's whole head came out.

 I pushed again, and she exclaimed, "Oh Wow, she's here!"

 Later she thanked me saying, "I haven't caught a baby with my bare hands in years." I was just thankful it was all over. She congratulated me and told me I was really good at birthing babies saying, "The next one will be easy-peasy."

 I told her abruptly, "just because I'm good at something, doesn't mean I want to do it again."

And there was our Mayzie, all 8 pounds 9 ounces of her.  

This is my first link up to the Trifecta Writers' Challenge! 

Monday, January 21, 2013

4 Years Ago

I was sitting with my mother in the living room of our apartment in Berlin, where we were for the month of January.  7 month old Annika was asleep in a Pack & Play in the bedroom, and we were having an inaugural feast.  Mom had gone to the Turkish Market that morning and bought some amazing cheese spreads, olives, fresh bread, baklava, and honey rings.  She also went to the fancy grocery store and bought us some REAL champagne to toast in style.  We dined on the couch with the inauguration streaming over the VPN on my laptop.

This was one of my favorite nights of our whole time there.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

2 years Ago Today

In this picture: 
Mayzie is 6 months old. She's just started to act like she might crawl around and is getting the hang of eating solid food.  She loves to play in the jumper that hangs between our dining room and living room, and will play in the exer-saucer for at least 1/2 an hour.  She is a content baby who wants for nothing, and the only real time she cries is for the 5 minutes after I leave her with the babysitter at the gym.  

Annika is 2 1/2 years old.  She's rambunctious and wiggly and into everything.  She is sweet and cuddly and slowly falling in love with her sister, who now actually interacts with her.  She loves to make Mayzie laugh, and to play dress-up.  She's very proud to sleep in a big girl bed and to wear underpants, though we continue to have a few accidents with both.  She knows the words to the chorus of Katy Perry's California Girls, which makes her daddy sad, and she loves to try to climb around in the 3 foot tall snow in our backyard. 

I'm 32 here.  I've just turned in my 7th of 9 large funding proposals that I'll submit that school year and I'm stressed working on revisions to my 1st qualifying exam.  I have no idea whether or not we're going to Germany in the Fall yet (only 8 months away), and am pretty stressed about the whole thing.  I've been a SAHM for the past 7 months, since just before Mayzie was born, and sometimes the best part of my week is when my friend Meagen takes Annika for the day so I can get some work done while Mayzie naps and go to Target with just a baby along in a carseat.  I don't see enough of my husband, but I'm hoping that's only temporary.  My house is really unorganized, and I have neither the will nor the money to make that happen.  My panic attacks usually come in the middle of the night, when I wake up in a frenzied sweat worrying about things that are out of my control.  The stress of graduate school is really getting to me right about this time.  I haven't started receiving funding rejections, but I will soon.  I reluctantly admit that I dislike staying at home with my girls all day long, though I know I will never regret spending as much time with them as I have been able to.  It is hard to be truly thankful for what you have when you know that you really need to be doing some other work. 

Now: I wish I would have enjoyed that time more.  I miss Meagen.  I miss all my friends who would come over and sit and talk with me while my kids entertained us with their giggles.  I'm isolated because of my dissertation, but also because we're in a new town far away from my school, school mates, and other friends.  I'm slowly making friends here, but making mommy friends is dangerous territory sometimes.  I'm thankful for the friends I have made on-line especially for their amelioration of my isolation.  Their comradery makes this that much better, and I cherish every one of you who read this blog.  Two years ago, I hadn't even thought of making a blog yet.  Look at us now.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Back in Tornado Country

I was surprised by the familiar jump of my heart-rate when I heard the sirens warning of a possible tornado.  I instantly packed up my things and headed to the safe spot as instructed.  

Only someone who has lived in tornado alley can understand the feeling of: sitting in a basement stairwell staring at unfamiliar faces at the public library and waiting for the blaring to pass, all the while hoping, hoping that you don't hear anything that sounds like it is tearing the ground apart and ripping the world to shreds as it barrels toward wherever you have to sit and wait.  That is a kind of close listening that I wish I didn't know.

I was watching people venture out the door of the underground parking lot and a lady turns to me and says, "it's just a warning," like that is supposed to calm my nerves. I don't think she understands what that really means, or she might stay put instead of marching her husband and 3 kids out into danger. A man came in through the underground parking lot and actually got angry at the police officer for not letting him upstairs to return his books. I'm thankful he came to get me out of my transcripting-headphoned-haze of a Saturday afternoon. I suppose this is the price we pay for 60 degree days in January in Southern Indiana. I only wished my phone got service in this underground safe haven so I could check on my babes, and that I hadn't worn a skirt so I could sit on the floor.

I squeezed my laptop bag between my feet and listened to the others debate whether or not we were safe because of the glass doors. I watched it raining sideways through the opening of the garage, and I wished I could see the sky to know if it was green. A librarian told us we had to wait about 15 more minutes, we're close to the center of the eye now. Another 15 minutes of waiting and hoping and wondering. More people walked out, and we all wondered out loud if they have any sense.

With 10 minutes left, they moved us to a different stairwell. A librarian explained why this is At least I had cell service.

Andy and I exchanged texts.  He didn't even know there was a tornado warning, and he was at home with the girls.  He felt sorry for the 50 minutes I had spent with a group of 50 silent strangers.  I was just happy to still never have heard the sound of a funnel-train of wind coming to get me.

There's no place like home.
There's no place like home.
There's no place like home.

Photographic evidence of the warmth of January 2013, as provided by my MIL.  Here are our girls pretending to be deer with their cousin.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Due Date

Today is my good friend Jenny’s due date with her second baby girl.  I very vividly remember my due date with my second baby girl, and the zoo incident that happened that day.  So this post is for Jenny, whose sunny side up baby is due today, though she most likely won’t make her entrance just yet. 

2 days before Mayzie’s due date I woke up to somewhat strong contractions that were pretty regular.  I timed them as they crawled around from my spine to my belly button and back again.  I woke up Andy and made him sit with me, partly because the first time around I labored by myself through half of the night watching him sleep and I swore I would never do that again.  It was only an hour before he had to be up to take me to my midwife appointment anyway.  The contractions kept coming, but didn’t really get much stronger.  We went to see the midwife.  She put me on a monitor and left Andy and I to watch the lines and try to keep Annika under wraps in the room full of things she couldn’t touch.  At one point during the half hour I was on the monitor, Andy left to go to the restroom, leaving me alone on a monitor with a very wiggly 2 year old.  It was a quick trip, but I did have to sit up and pick up Annika at some point to keep her from breaking anything.  When the midwife came back, she told me she thought that Miss Mayzie was probably on her way very soon, like the next 24 hours soon, so we should get everything ready.  In retrospect, I’m pretty sure she thought the 2 peaks in the lines from when I sat up and picked Annika up were stronger contractions, but I don’t know for sure.  The midwife also got really excited because she was on call for that evening, meaning that SHE would get to attend Mayzie’s birth as she had Annika’s.  I got even more excited, because I REALLY like her and we made a great team.    

So we went home.  I wanted to labor at home as long as possible, and the contractions weren’t really getting closer together or stronger.  So I sent Andy to work and my good friend Kristi came over to watch me sit on an exercise ball and Annika run around like the wild girl that she is.  We called my mother in law to tell her to go ahead and start the 8 hour drive up to Cleveland, and that we would keep her posted.  We went about the day, and the contractions would stop and start and stop and start and never really get stronger.  Andy came home.  Kristi left, and then my MIL arrived.    

I thought, “Oh awesome!  Did I just call my MIL up here for nothing?” 

The next day, the same thing.  Contractions stopping and starting but never getting really stronger.  I now know that I was most likely having something like a prodromal labor, which is a really long warm up to the big show.  It was no fun, and I really wish I didn’t know that word at all.  Basically I sat all day on the exercise ball again while my MIL watched me and laughed every time my nostrils flared because she knew I was having another contraction. 

Then came Mayzie’s due date.  It was  a really hot day in July, and at this point I was soo sick of being in the house, and so were my MIL and Annika.  I had really wanted to have Mayzie on her due date because it was my grandmother’s birthday, so we decided to try to walk her out of me on the hills of the Cleveland Zoo.  We walked to the farthest point in the zoo, up and down several hills, and I drank water like it was my job.  Annika got to run around and she was having a great time, until she wasn’t anymore.  She had had enough, in that way that a 2 year old can just have enough and throw down like it is the end of the world. She completely lost it next to the Giraffes.  I love the giraffes, they are my favorite, but 2 year old tantrums are NOT my favorite at all.  Nana (my MIL) offered to carry Annika, but she was having none of it.  She wanted mama to carry her and only Mama. 

Ummm, yeah, remember that part about it being Mayzie’s due date?  So there I am a full 40 weeks pregnant, with a screaming and kicking 2 year old who only wants ME to carry her.  I picked her up and started to walk, which of course hurt my back like hell.  I thought, “I only have to get her to the car,” but I only made it about 50 meters before I had to take a break between the rhinos and the monkeys.  I should also mention that our car was one mile away from this point, and I’m not exaggerating. 

This is when the genius of my MIL really shined!  She flagged down a zoo worker who was driving a golf cart and asked the girl if she would drive us to our car.  I protested.  Surely there were other people who needed this service more than I did and it wasn’t this girl’s job to cart people to their car.  (In retrospect, yes, I do indeed have trouble asking for help when I quite obviously need and deserve it.)  The girl said ok after some minor convincing on the part of my MIL, and we climbed aboard. 

The first question the girl asked me, naturally, “So, when are you due?” 
I replied, “Today,” and I will NEVER forget the look of sheer terror and amazement that came over her face.  My MIL, in the backseat with Annika, giggled that knowing laugh, and we sped off in the golf cart to our car in the furthest parking lot from the zoo gate. 

That evening, we laughed about how silly I was and hoped that Mayzie would come out soon so that my MIL could stay to help us out while I was in the hospital.  She did and she did.    

Instead of a picture of me 9 months pregnant, you get a picture of us the day Mayzie was conceived.  Trust me, I look waaay better this way.  

Thursday, January 10, 2013

That Girl vs. This Girl

That girl is ME, 10 years ago.  

1. That girl is 24 years old, fiercely independent, hardworking, & fun-loving. 

2. That girl smokes a pack of cigarettes a day & does not exercise regularly other than walking to and at work.     

3. That girl works as a bartender/waitress at ChiChi's with some really great people.  

4. That girl isn't sure how to finish her undergrad degree or what she wants to do with her life.  

5. That girl is getting ready to have a HUGE summer in Germany working as a waitress, and is worried because her language skills are not so great.  

6. That girl never wants to have kids, and isn't so sure about this whole marriage thing.  

7. That girl is on spring break with her boyfriend of 7 months.  He's going to ask her to marry him tomorrow, and she has NO IDEA.  

8. That girl does not own a car and has never purchased anything over $100, other than plane tickets.  Her most prized possession is her collection of travel stories.  

9. That girl's favorite thing to do on a Saturday night is to go out dancing with her friends.   

10. That girl lives with her best friend from high school in a crappy 2 bedroom basement apartment in beautiful Bloomington, IN.   
  This girl is me, now.

1. This girl is 34 years old, fiercely independent, hard-working, and fun-loving.

2. This girl quit smoking more than 8 years ago and exercises regularly at a gym.

3. This girl is a Stay at Home Mom to two awesome girls and graduate student with a whole slew of other awesome anthropology geeks.

4. This girl has finished an undergrad degree and two master's degrees.  She's almost done with her PhD, just writing up the dissertation.  She STILL doesn't know exactly what she wants to be when she grows up, but she has a couple ideas.

5. This girl just had an AMAZING year abroad in Berlin, Germany and is a very proficient speaker of the German language.  (Some might say fluent, but I wouldn't.)

6. This girl has been married for 8 1/2 years and has 2 beautiful daughters (Ages 4 & 2).

7. This girl is trying not to go crazy while writing a dissertation with 2 kids at home, and not always succeeding, and that's just fine.

8. This girl owns a car.  A 1998 Toyota Camry wagon with lots and lots of miles on it.  She still hates spending more than $100 on any single item other than plane tickets, and her most prized possession is STILL her travel stories.  She has many more of them now.

9. This girl's favorite thing to do on a Saturday night is sit on the couch while knitting, drinking wine, and watching a great movie on Netflix next to her handsome husband.

10. This girl lives with her husband and 2 kids in a mediocre apartment in Evansville, IN.  (I promise, I've lived in other states and even one other country between these 2 pictures!)  

Now I can't wait to see what the next 10 years bring. 

I wrote this comparison of these two selves of mine for my very first link up to Mama Kat's Famous Writer's Workshop.  Mama Kat is a guru and queen among bloggers, and I bow to the genius way that she brings the creativity out of others by being endlessly creative herself.  
Mama’s Losin’ It

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Performing Girly?

Annika got invited to her first non-family American birthday party.  She was so very excited, and so was I.  The little girl who invited her is in her preschool class, and I had met her awesomely sweet mom before and was already looking forward to talking to her again.  We RSVP'd in the positive and checked the details about when and where to show up.  

Before I analyze the crap out of this whole thing, I want to start by saying that I continue to be conflicted by the entire experience.  While Annika had a GREAT time and we are soo thankful that she got to go hang out with friends and play dress-up and have fun, the feminist in me is still a little pissed that a place like this even exists.  This is NOT something that I would have chosen for my kid out of principle, but then I saw how much fun she had.  

My initial gut reaction came from the outrageous description on the website of the place where the party was to be held.  "Every little girl dreams of being the center of attention."  Really?  Every little girl?  That's a pretty bold assumption and most assuredly does not speak to my own personal experience.  I DO NOT want to teach my daughters that their only value is what they look like, and performing the feminine ideal has never really been my forte anyway.  Quite frankly, I deplore the values being promoted by this type of ridiculous hyper-commodification of gendered stereotypes and my guts were twisted just thinking about it.  But Annika was so excited.  I decided to reserve total judgement until I had experienced it first-hand.   

Here's how it went: 
First the girls all lined up to hear the rules from the guide (on the left).   
That's Annika looking the other direction (on the right).   

Then they headed to the salon to get the makeover of their choice.  
Annika was enthralled watching it all.  

Then it was her turn in the chair.  
She chose the Rainbow Rocker makeover, and actually sat still while patiently observing everything they were doing to her.  

She really enjoyed spinning in the chair.  

Yes, she is wearing FAKE eyelashes.
I am 34, and I have only ever worn fake eyelashes once. 

Then all the girls went to the party room to choose their dress.  
They got dressed and had a fashion show.  
The "guide" of the party (a lady who worked at the store), showed them all what to do. 
Here is Annika doing her turn on the catwalk.  

They played with hula hoops, danced, sang karaoke, and played musical bean bags.  
Here's Ani tring to hula.  

They ate cake and Annika hid under the table while all the posed pictures were being taken.  
(That's exactly what I would have done at her age.)  

Annika reminded me so much of me at this party that I was AMAZED.  That's not usually the case.  She typically behaves so much like her full of energy that she can't sit still, but in a big group of just girls, she was just like me.  She watched what everyone else was doing, and was trying to figure out what she was supposed to do.  She emulated every move that the "guide" showed her and watched the faces of the adults for cues.  Yes, she still ran around and did her own thing instead of what everyone else was doing, but most of the time, she was watching.  (Did I inadvertently turn my kid into an anthropologist?)  She was having a great time, and I wasn't sure what to make of it.  

I was really interested in the parents and what they were doing.  There was much picture taking and encouraging smiles hardly left faces.  Some moms danced around singing the sugary-pop lyrics that we all know and demonstrating dance moves.  The small number of dads there were either sitting and holding coats on a couch in the corner or taking pictures too.  I tried to flit between conversations with the other moms and helping Annika try to actually participate in the activities that did NOT come naturally to her at all.  

She rode the carousel in the Mall after the party, and had a complete sugar-induced melt-down forcing me to carry her out of the Mall when I told her we had to leave.  Yes, my sassy 4 year old WAS still under all that make-up.  Outside she totally threw down and started pounding the sidewalk with her fists in a full-on rage.  She really lost it when her fake eyelashes came off with her tears and I wouldn't put them back on for her.  I finally got her in the car after much prodding.  

On the way home, I asked her: Did you have fun at the party?  
Annika: Yeah Mama. 
Me: What was your favorite part? 
Annika: Umm, the makeover.  I love my rainbow rocker hair.  I can't wait to show daddy.  
Me: I'm sure he'll like it.  
Annika: Can I wear it again.  
Me: Sure sweetheart.  It's fun to play dress-up. 
Annika: Yeah, but not every day.  
Me: Yeah? 
Annika: Nah, but sometimes it's fun. 

Exactly, exactly my dear girl.  Sometimes it IS fun.  Sometimes being girly is fun, and indulging your girly side once in a while doesn't mean that your value comes from what you look like or what you wear.  I would be a hypocrite if I didn't let her explore her girly side, and I am happy to let her sit by my side and experiment with my make-up that I apply once or twice a week.  She learns more about performing femininity from me and my everyday activities and actions than she does from a one day party experience.  Right?  Right????  Because that's what I'm telling myself right now as I try to justify it all in my mind.  

Trust me, I fully understand and feel the burden of being the biggest female role model in my two girls' lives constantly, and take the responsibility VERY seriously.  I also want to encourage playfulness and playing with gender roles and norms, and consistently do so in our conversations as a family.  At least once a week, we have some sort of discussion about gender construction and regulation, at a nice 4 year old level of course.  We would do the same if we had boys.  Andy certainly thinks I take it a bit far sometimes when I make Annika chant, "gender is a cultural construct."  In my defense, I really just wanted her grandpa to hear it...yeah, it probably was too far.  

But let me get to my point: Some days I feel that I am trying to teach my kids to stand on the stage of a rock concert with ear plugs and a blind fold.  Is it a fool's errand to attempt to buffer the cacophony of gendered messages that they are being inundated with on a daily basis?  I want to encourage skepticism and exploration but not to the complete detriment of their social lives, if you know what I mean.  

Thankfully, the next birthday party she was invited to is co-ed.  

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Little Bit of Berlin...

Everyone has their souvenirs that they like to purchase to remember the times they spent traveling. Having been to Berlin several times, this time we wanted to bring home some small things that would be daily reminders of our time there.

These are hanging on our refrigerator now.  

You can probably guess that we're still finding things in our mess of unpacking and going on with life back home here in the USA.  We've somehow misplaced a photo-print that we bought at one of the markets, but I'm convinced it will turn up.  Andy's mom teased us that she actually is hiding it and only brings it out when we're not around.  She's silly.  

We're also going to be ordering some prints of the AMAZING family photos that our friend Mike took for us while we were there.  I felt like a freaking GENIUS for getting them taken and sooo lucky to have an amazing photographer to take them for us.  Lucky Lucky Lucky!  

Back to dissertating.  

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Dear Neighbors

Hey Dudes,

I'm your neighbor across the street.  You know, the one with the two little girls who seems to always leave or return to our apartment while one of you is outside smoking a cigarette.  You know, the one who enthusiastically waves at you and encourages her children to do the same.  You know, the one you scowl at like I'm the crazy one for being up, dressed, and leaving the house at 9am.  Doesn't ring a bell?  I can't say I'm not surprised.

I've been trying to understand what your deal is for a while now.  While I sincerely appreciate the whole Big Lebowski Dude thing you got working for you in the fashion arena and the trippy light show that seems to come from your house whenever it is dark outside, I can only come up with a few mild ideas for what might actually be your deal.  There seem to be 2-4 different dudes that live there, though frankly you all look really similar to me when you're outside in a robe and slippers with sunglasses and long greasy stringy hair in your faces.  Seriously, be careful though.  I'm not sure it's very safe to smoke with hair actually hanging IN your face.  I digress.

It is really nice that you leave your blinds open so that we can see your 60+ inch television and exactly what you are watching on it from across the street.  I too enjoy the occasional South Park in case you were wondering.  I also love that you have been ambitious enough to actually go out and purchase potted plants that you seem to be thinking about maybe someday putting into the ground.  The empty bird feeder that looks like a gas lamp in front of your window is also a very lovely touch.

These are the scenarios I have come up with in my mind for who you actually are:

1. Serious gamer types who stay up playing MMORPGs all night long while smoking copious amounts of pot.

2. Work at home internet gurus who are living on the cheap to save up for a mansion, and serious weed connoisseurs.

3. College students who never go to class and smoke waaaay too much weed.

4. Seriously injured workers who are on disability and self-medicate with Mary Jane.

5.  Massive D-bags who refuse to wave back at my adorable children because they are too stoned for actual human contact.

This is all I could come up with.  As you can see, I'm not very creative.  Then again, I don't need to be.  I also think that you might work for our apartment complex, as the maintenance golf cart seems to be parked out front daily.

Here's the thing.  You have a fenced in back porch.  You have a balcony off of the bedroom in the back.  Why do you feel the need to smoke out front?  I do NOT understand this at all.  Is it because of the sun?  Is it because you would rather sit in a camping chair that looks out on the road instead of the beautifully maintained lawn that is directly adjacent to the back of your building?  Is it because you actually work for the CIA and are building a case against the weird recluse that lives in the apartment next to ours, so one of you must be outside doing seemingly nothing other than checking your facebook and smoking at all times?  If that is the case, please let me know, and I will insist that my children stop waving immediately.  If not, well, perhaps you could wave back or move to the back?  Pretty please?

Thank you so very much for considering this simple proposition.
Mama Melch
Your neighbor across the street


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