Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Documenting It All

Parenthood isn't always picture perfect.  I don't want to idealize and remember it that way either.  Parenthood is hard and there are days full of whining and tremendous tantrums that just won't stop no matter how many times you just ignore them.  I want to remember these times too.  I want to remember it all.  That is one of the reasons I like to take pictures during the crappy times.


Taking out my phone and documenting it all also helps me.  It helps me to get a different perspective on the situation at hand.  It isn't exactly like war photography or anything, but it does separate me from the action enough to change the way I'm feeling about it.  Taking pictures and videos of the craziness of my kids helps change me from being angry at them to understanding that they are really just upset and need to work it out of their systems.  They are tiny humans with big feelings after all.


When we were in the rain-forest section of the zoo recently, a bird pooped directly on Annika's arm.  It is a little hard to see in this picture, but I just had to take a picture.  I know it is good luck in many cultures for a bird to poop on you, but it is also really gross.  I whipped out my phone to document the disgusting-ness, and then quickly realized that I wasn't carrying any wipes with me that day (an oversight that will surely never happen again).  Luckily, there was another mom close who was more than happy to help a girl out in trouble.


This is my technique for dealing with kids just being kids.  It keeps it all in perspective.  We always look at the pictures and videos later and laugh together.  I'm not sure if this helps them at all, but I always love it.  Sometimes when they are really frustrating me in the moment, I employ the technique of another mother from some message board way back.  I say to them, "Oh my goodness you are being so insert age of child!"  This also helps remind me that they are just acting their age.  I don't enjoy these times by any means, but I don't want to forget them either.

These sour parts of parenting are what make the sweet so much sweeter.  
When we remember our children as small beings learning the ways of being human, will we only remember the sweet parts?  Am I the only parent that takes these kinds of pictures?  Are my children going to kill me one day for putting these pictures on the internet?  

Go check out some other fun posts over at the link-up party on Gfunkified and Sunday Spill.


GFunkified

Friday, March 22, 2013

Stop Making Gender Such a BIG Deal

I am sick to death of the reinforcement of gender stereotypes being parental shorthand for discussing children's behavior.  I will not abide it anymore.  I refuse, and I have evidence on my side that they are mostly BS.

Sometimes my Facebook feed makes me want to barf when it is filled with ridiculously gendered parent discussions.  Examples:
This one's all boy.
Boys are so dirty.
Boys are so rambunctious.
Isn't she a pretty princess?
Sugar and spice and rainbow pooping unicorns...
 blah blah blah... You are setting your kids up for failure already.  

I see this gendered non-sense as a very slippery slope toward the fulfilling of expectations and ideals.  What do I mean?  I mean, when you reinforce gender roles in your child, you are already setting them up to believe that the gendered standard is the ideal.  Who sets the gendered standard?  Good question!  A collective of whuckery: mostly made up by media and the people who hold cultural commodities in check.  HOLY GUACAMOLE, does she mean to say that Justin Bieber, Paris Hilton, etc etc are the ones holding up the gendered ideals?  YES.  And while the tides have been turning for quite some time as to the ideal being more diverse, there is still the unattainable ideal out there.

Kids are programmed to figure out this ideal and try to meet it.  Think about it.  When your kid is born, they aren't yet molded into a cultural model of behavior.  We as parents mold them into cultural beings from the very beginning.  We decorate a girls room with pretty pink things and a boys room with trucks and dragons. We give them toys to play with and watch them learn ways of being.  We tell them all about the shoulds, but more than that, we SHOW them.  We show them which differences are important and which aren't, and gender seems to always end up in the important category.

I try so hard not to do this.  Whenever my girls point out any difference between another person and themselves I am quick to point out 1-20 similarities.  Example:
Annika: That guy has black skin.
Me: Yes he does.  Just like our friend Stephanie.
Annika: Oh, right.
Me: He also has brown eyes just like you.
Annika: Yeah and can make silly faces.
Me: Exactly.

I'm not trying to confound gender and race here.  I'm merely implying that both are equally ridiculous made up culturally patterned concepts.  I'm also not trying to suggest that I'm not gendering my children at all, rather that as a parent I am consciously aware of the ways in which their views on gender are influenced by me and all of the people around us.  While I have been known to go a little too far, like making Annika repeat that "gender is a cultural construct," I feel that too many parents don't consider this in their computation of how they are molding their children.    

Yes, the research does show that some gender differences are inherent, but not as many as you might think.  I found this fairly good summary of the cross-cultural research findings here on this website in case you are interested.  The biggest conclusion I have come to after analyzing the data is that gender is mostly a made up concept that varies by culture.  Some of the research is a bit startling to put it mildly, but mostly I find myself nodding along and wondering why it is such a groundbreaking declaration that most of our differences are made up by our culture.  Maybe I've just been in graduate school for too long though.

Here are my two munchkins:


When Annika cut her hair short, gender became a big discussion around our house.  By flipping around the discussion to people we know, it became easier to set the wheels turning in her head rather than beat her over the head with a lecture.
Annika: Girls have long hair mama.
Me: Does Ruth have long hair?
Annika: No.
Me: Is she a girl?
Annika: Yes. Hmmm...
This is how I handle this parenting dilemma.

What about you:
Do you think about gender and the way you reinforce stereotypes with your own children?  What about the other people in your kids' lives, what kind of gender picture are they putting into your kids' minds?  Do you think that gender differences are important?  Do you talk about them with your kids?  Are you painting a dichotomous gender picture of the world for your kids?  If so, why? 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Head Shot

I had been putting it off for a couple of weeks. The organizers sent the email a while back and I had honestly forgotten about it.  I think it was my brain's way of avoiding doing something that I didn't want to do.  It had to be done though.  Was I really going to be the only person in the Indianapolis cast of Listen to Your Mother without a head shot?  No no, that really went much too far against my must-follow-the-rules German-ness to be tolerated.

I enlisted my friend Jenny to come over and help me take the pictures.  She has this impeccable style that I can only dream of, and I was really excited for her to help me with this project.  What I failed to remember was the fact that whenever Jenny and I get together, silliness typically ensues.

I caked on the make-up, like I always do when I'm nervous.  I even watched a tutorial on YouTube about how to properly apply bronzer to contour your face.  Yes, I'm 34 years old and I still am not that great at applying make-up; I don't see it as an issue.  I flat-ironed my too long hair and tried to make it look less hippy-chic.  I put several tops out for Jenny to pick from and all my favorite jewelry.  She even liked what I had picked--bonus points for me!!

We finally found a window with somewhat good light and put me in a croppable position to have a blank wall behind me.  This is how things started:

Can you see that I'm actually wearing yoga pants?  Hello, it is a HEAD shot, butt not to be included.  Naturally I have on a scarf I bought at the Turkish Market in Berlin and some chunky funky jewelry.  I mean, how else would you know that I'm an anthropologist?  This was embarrassing.  Jenny kept clicking.


Oh yeah, this one is totally flattering:

This one would have been ok, if not for the fact that you can see my shamrock earring.  It was St. Patrick's Day, and some details fell through the cracks...obviously.

This is when Jenny told me to stick out tatas...

"Seriously Jenny, I need some direction here.  I'm not a model."

Crazy eyes!

Jenny really liked this one.  She called it my Dr. Seuss face.  

Here's my smolder.  

Smoldering makes me laugh. 

In the end, this is the cropped final picture we both agreed was the best.  
The biggest lesson I learned: I'm so screwed if I ever have to get an actual head shot for a book jacket! 

Less than 10 minutes after Jenny left, this is what I looked like:
I took off all the make-up and was already back at my laptop dissertating away.  I paused briefly to take these pictures.  This seems more like me, but I wanted to be all professional looking in the head shot.  


Look back at those pictures up there: Do you see how ridiculously long my hair is?  I'm really starting to hate it.  That's why I'm going to chop it off in May and donate it to Locks of Love.  Please please go to my Pinterest Page and come back to vote for how I should cut my hair.  You can vote right up there at the top right side of this blog.  Thanks so much! 

If you live near Indianapolis, you should also come see me in the inaugural Indianapolis Listen to Your Mother show on Thursday May 2nd.  It will be a great night, and I promise to make you laugh.  


GFunkified

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday Mamavation Update

So I feel like I've fallen behind a bit, but I know the exact reason why.  On Thursday I did my final weigh in for my Diet Bet, and I found out that while I did lose 5 lbs, it was not enough to be a winner.  This should have sent me into a fit of exercise rage at my crappy metabolism and my inability to turn down sweets, instead I made a pan of brownies and skipped my Friday run.  Admittedly not the most healthy of choices, but I'm making the turn after several days of moping.  

Saturday I got up for my favorite Yoga class and the stretching felt sooo good.  I ate healthy all day long, but caved and had a drink when we went out to sing Karaoke.  (I totally rocked out Peggy Lee's Fever and 99 Luftballoons auf Deutsch btw!)  A very rainy Sunday arrived, and I hauled my bum to the gym.  I did some heavy full body lifting and then ran 4 miles on the treadmill.  I felt great the rest of the day, and like I'm back on track.

I'm so looking forward to accomplishing my fitness goals this year, and Annika has already commented that she can't wait to come cheer me on in a race again soon.

35.2 miles done toward my 500 mile goal for the year!

FYI: I am so happy to have weekly, monthly, and yearly goals for this challenge.  They really help me keep in perspective how much I have left and how to accomplish it all.  I'm also applying this same weekly/monthly/yearly goal idea to keep me on track for my dissertation.  :-)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

My Local Tribe!

I found them.  I finally found them.  Ok, so they weren't really hiding so much as I've been hiding out in my apartment attempting to write a dissertation when I'm not wife/mothering it up, but I'm soo happy I found them.

A week or so ago, I sent an inquiring email to a local doula here.  I wanted to chat with her about what it is like to try to feel out whether it might be something that I could do.  She called me, and we instantly connected on the phone.  She immediately invited me to come to the Evansville Birth Network meeting so that I could meet some of the other doulas in the area and see what they were all about.

I have to admit that I was a little worried.  The EBN is a super-duper crunchy group of ladies, and I wasn't sure I was all that crunchy.  Yes, I am admittedly fairly crunchy, but I guess I never sat down to think about all the ways I embody the crunch.

Crunchy Mom Me:
Vegetarian
Natural Labor/Childbirth Advocate
Recycler
Environmental Worrier
Mostly Cloth Diaper-er
Sometimes Baby Wear-er

Not So Crunchy Me:
World Traveler
Disposable Diaper User--for convenience & kids over 18 months
Sometimes Formula Feeder
Stroller User

These ladies are serious about their crunchiness!  As in, they say things like, "Yeah, I know I really should be using a Diva Cup, but I just haven't gotten around to ordering one."  I know some seriously crunchy people, and the Diva Cup is always at the furthest end of crunchiness in their mind.  (Side Note: If you don't know what a diva cup is, don't worry.  I'll still be your friend!)  This particular meeting I went to was all about cloth diapering and baby wearing.  While I did both of those things (sometimes), I was nowhere near as zealous as some of the ladies in attendance there.

I've been considering becoming a Doula ever since Annika was born.  I had such an amazing drug-free birth in the hospital exactly as we had planned.  We were lucky enough to not have any true complications, and I know that, but ever since her birth I can't help but wonder what we did that was so different from my other friends who had uncomplicated births that ended up being full of unnecessary interventions.  I'm not going to get on the soapbox just yet, but this is what got me thinking about becoming a doula.  Because of my funny habit of over-educating myself on everything, I've also become the go-to girl for all my friends when they want to talk about pregnancy and child birth.  I LOVE being able to help them out, and becoming a doula means I'll get to help out even more people in this amazing time of their lives.

I didn't tell Andy about going to the meeting, or my secret desire to start doula-ing, mostly because I know how insane it sounds to try to do this now.  But I want to do it.  I so want to do it.  I'm going to do it.  Why the heck not?  Don't worry, I'm still going to be working on my dissertation.

The best part of all of this happening, is that I found this amazing group of women who are all highly educated about birth and who welcomed me with open arms.  They immediately invited me to their monthly gathering and at it then encouraged me to go ahead and start taking clients to get a leg up on the training.  They are so supportive of each other and not competitive at all, which reminds me so much of my graduate school experience that it is a bit uncanny.  Funny enough, one of them is actually friends with one of sister-in-laws, though I probably shouldn't have been surprised at all as active as our family is around the community.

So thank you thank you thank you lady doulas of the Evansville area.  I'm soo looking forward to getting to know you all better, and to working together to make this place a better one for birthing babes.

STOP HERE IF YOU ARE EASILY GROSSED OUT!!!!!

Just for you ladies, here is a picture of Mayzie's cord that was tied in two true knots.
I know you believed me when I told you, but I like pictures. :-)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

6 Things I Never Learned in School

I've been in school a really really really long time now.
1 year of preschool.
1 year of kindergarten.
12 years to get all the way through high school.
9 years of undergraduate education, at 3 different institutions.
7 years of graduate school with (almost) 3 degrees.
There is a ridiculous amount of things I could write about that I've learned in school, but isn't it much more interesting to contemplate all the things I never learned in school?

Here are Andy & I at our college graduation...soo naive.
Here is my list:
1. Personal Finance--I'm still learning all about personal finance, but I know I would have been much better financially had I actually known anything at all about it earlier in my life.  I pretty much floated around barely making ends meet while having a great time out and about for most of my adult years until we got married.  I try not to think about how much money I wasted, but we're making up for it now.  Hopefully by the end of this year, we'll be getting things together enough to actually be grown up about all of our money.

2. Birthing Babies--I WISH I had learned something about birthing babies in school, and I'm completely serious about this.  I had no idea the intricacies and decisions that went into how to bring a baby out of a mother and into the world until I was pregnant.  I also had no idea how to care for a newborn until I had my own.  I probably could have learned something like this had I actually taken an Anatomy class in high school, but I could never fit it in my schedule between AP Biology and Band...Nerd Alert.  I definitely educated myself on this one later by reading far too many books for my own good.

3. Changing Car Tires--They honestly should teach this in driver's education classes.  My teacher was too busy taking walks smoke breaks when we stopped during practical lessons to show us anything about car maintenance.  Luckily, I have a great dad who would not let me drive a car without knowing how to change the tires in case of emergency.  He didn't want me to be some helpless girl on the side of the road.  Of course, the one time I got a flat tire in high school, I totally let some random kind stranger change my tire for me on the side of the road.

4. Navigating Social Media--I wish I could be better at this, though it didn't really exist when I was in high school.  Yeah, I'm old enough to remember when everyone had an AOL account and chatting had to wait until the modem stopped making all kinds of dial-up noises.  So I guess I'll give my HS a pass on this one.  I seem to be feeling it out on my own fairly well anyway.

5. Style--I still have none.  I wasn't expecting them to teach a style class, as that would be far too conforming for style creativity.  I really just wish I would have had the opportunity to learn anything about style and how to find my own.  34 feels like a really late age to actually start caring about these things.

6. Opinions Differ and that's ok.  Just because you come from similar circumstances and had all the same education, NEVER assume that someone has come to the same conclusions as you have.  This is so true for politics, relationships, and all manner of personal and professional interactions.  I WISH I would have learned this much earlier than I did. It could have seriously helped me understand to just stay away from some people.


Thanks Mama Kat, as always for making me think about things a little differently.  You rock!


Mama’s Losin’ It

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Spring Forward Surprises

I know every parent hates daylight savings time for the fact that it throws off an otherwise regular schedule.  I didn't mind when the kids slept in past 7am.  That happens so rarely as to warrant an almost never, and we feel like it is the most amazing gift from the universe when we actually are awakened by our internal clocks and not one of our two girls wiggling under our covers and trying to snuggle down as if we wouldn't notice their presence in our bed.  Then the evenings come, and we try to put the girls to bed when the clock says that it is time.  Of course, it went fairly well the first few days when we had sufficiently worn them out outside during the day.  Then came Monday.

Andy had a meeting for all the soccer coaches in the youth soccer league that Annika is going to be playing in this spring.  While he was gone, I put the girls to bed in the usual way.  One hour later, Annika was up for the fourth time and I was sick of climbing the stairs while reasoning with her that it was indeed bedtime and she needed to stay there.  I caved.  It was not my finest parenting moment, but it certainly produced some adorableness.  

"Mama, let's stick our tongues out."  

"Now make a silly face."  

"Look Mama, I'm upside down."  (and not tired at all!)

"I have another silly fish face for you." 

"No more pictures Mommy!" 

"I'm so glad Daddy's not here." 

"Let's take a serious one."

Shortly after this last one was taken, she scampered up the stairs because I told her that her dad would be home in five minutes.  I told her it would be our secret, but I totally caved when Andy came home.  I showed him the pictures and he just smiled that knowing smile.  He knew I loved every second of our "secret" time together and he was right.  

GFunkified

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Locks of Love...I've got some love for you!!

I've previously donated some 10" braids to Locks of Love and I'm ready to do it again.
I love changing up my hair, and I've never been one to keep it in one style or another for too long.  I stopped dying it a long time ago and it was really freeing actually.  Now that I'm getting more gray, I'm thinking I'm just going to let it go and see what happens.  Maybe I'll just look a little more blonde.

Soo for months I've been collecting pictures of haircuts that I would consider getting.  I am really bad about making up my mind.  My big brilliant idea: get other people to make the decision for me!

Here is a link to my Pinterest Haircut Board: http://pinterest.com/mamamelch/haircuts/

I just made it public today.

Check out the pictures there, and come back here to vote on the one that you think I should get.  You can choose more than one if you'd like.  Remember to vote early and vote often.  I'm feeling especially adventurous with this one!

Naturally, I'll document the whole thing here, like I did last time.

 Here are the shots from last time:






The most fun part was probably not telling the students in my class that I was going to cut it.  Their faces on Monday morning when I walked in the room to start teaching were AMAZING.

So Vote for my haircut and have a say in my style.

Monday, March 11, 2013

I will run 500 Miles...

Update on my Mamavation Challenge:
I got up this morning for an early run at the gym.  I haven't done that in YEARS.
I ran 3.6 miles on the treadmill at a 6.3 mph pace.
I wanted to run more, but my back was hurting.  I'm sure it will be fine with a little bit of rest.
So that brings me to 27.6 miles out of 500 I'm shooting for by the end of the year.
Not too shabby so far.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Alien Spaceship?

I'm not even sure what the thing is, even after we get close to it.  The girls rode their bikes over to it from our apartment and I'm hoping that Mayzie will have the energy to ride it all the way back as well, though I'm doubtful.  We approach cautiously.  

Annika has been begging me to go investigate it since the first time we saw it from a distance.  The weather was finally nice enough to get the bikes out and soak up some Vitamin D.  Today was the day I relented from my anxiety of having to walk them down a road with no sidewalk where cars regularly barrel down on their way to wherever at the other end of the road.  It was a nice day for it.

So 20 minutes or so after leaving our apartment, we approach this thing.


Annika calls it an alien spaceship.
For the life of me, I honestly have no idea and am just as curious as she is to investigate it.
She tries to peek in on her tip toes.


So I never actually thought it was an alien spaceship, but I had no idea it would be so deep and full of graffiti, most likely from the teenagers that live in the surrounding apartments.  I appreciated that they had the foresight and pride enough to represent the 812 area code, though I don't exactly share their enthusiasm or sense of humor.  The bottom of the round cement structure is about the perfect size for 3-5 teenagers to comfortably sit around and smoke secret cigarettes, or that other thing Indiana is famous for.  


These are thoughts that I don't share with my adorably innocent girls as they tell me all about what they think it is an why it is there.  Annika goes into great detail describing the different functions of the parts of the "alien spaceship" and how it got there.  She wonders out loud why they left it there and when they'll come back for it.  They take a break to play follow-the-leader for a while, though I'm fairly sure that Annika doesn't actually want Mayzie to be following her.  She imitates everything her older sister does, and the flattery is lost on Annika right now.  


Mayzie becomes more interested in throwing things in the lake.  


Annika keeps trying to climb the structure and to identify graffiti that she no 4 year old girl should actually be able to identity.  She calls it a rocket; use your imagination.  


Mayzie doesn't ride her bike all the way back, but that's fine with me.  At least she doesn't make me carry her.  We stop to play at the playground in our apartment complex and the girls are being all kinds of adorable together.  Annika catches Mayzie at the end of the slide and then Mayzie tells her, "Your turn."  


It was one of those afternoons that you want to pause.  You want to freeze it in your memory like so many simply beautiful days strung together in normality and everyday goodness of life with small children.  It was not perfect, but I don't want perfect.  I want love filled afternoons with my girls who are so very huggable and lovely to each other right now.  They play together well, and I know that won't always be the case.  I see it coming.  I hear the conflict of MINE coming and the escalation of tempers becoming more regular.  But for this afternoon, we were just three girls investigating a possible alien spaceship landing at the lake near our apartment.  

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Last Argument We Had

I blame Etsy.

Basically, we had an argument because our walls are unbearably bare in our apartment, and I want to put something on them.  We decided a long time ago that we aren't going to paint our apartment.  While it would seriously add character to paint it up like we'd like it, we aren't willing to shell out the money to paint property that isn't ours twice.  (We'd have to paint it back white upon moving out.)

We're also currently saving up for and contemplating where to buy our first home.  This has me in all sorts of Pinterest inspired dreams of how we could decorate it and what I would do if we had our own place.  I'm really excited to buy our first house, though it is still at least another year away, and I just like dreaming about it.  I've never been a really creative type when it comes to decorating, but I blame this on a serious lack of money and always having been a renter in my adult life.  This is going to change.

This is how the fight went down:

Scene: Andy had just come home from his soccer game, and sat down next to me on the couch where I was curled up with my iPad.  I'd been perusing art on Etsy searching for pieces to compliment the room ideas I had floating around in my head.

Me: Hey, what do you think about this for in the kitchen?

Andy: Which kitchen?

Me: Our kitchen.

Andy: This one here?

Me: Well sure, but I was really thinking about the house.

Andy: Whose house?

Me: Our house!

Andy: Where exactly is this house?

Me: I don't know!  Does it matter?

Andy: Don't you think it is a little more important to know where this future house will be before we start decorating it already?

Me: NO I DON'T!

Andy: I just don't see the point of getting all excited about decorating when...

Me: You do realize that we can decorate where we live now too right?

Andy: Well, I just...

Me: You just want us to have to purchase all of this stuff at once?

Andy: I'm just saying that we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves.

Me: And I'm just saying that we can start buying some of this stuff now to make it feel more like home here too and then move it to the new house and to spread out the spending and make it pinch less on our budget for the house.

Andy: The one we don't even own yet?

Me: Yes.

Andy: Oh...ok.

And then we went to bed.

Mama’s Losin’ It

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