From Up Parenting Creek

Trixiewithlove

To Trixie With Love – An Open Letter To My Child’s First Best Friend

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“Your friend is your needs answered.”

— Kahlil Gibran

In this life, not all friends are created equal. Friends come and go, based on the time of life, your environment, based on silly phases, fun phases and not-so-fun phases. They all do serve their purpose.

But, then, there are those special friends. Friends that can last a lifetime.

This is a story about the latter. It’s a true love story. If you met my daughter, you would not doubt her love for Trixie.
Trixiewithlove

Trixie is my daughter’s doll. She was Adelaide’s first birthday gift. As Adelaide grew up, Trixie had many of the same experiences as my daughter. When Adelaide tried peanut butter for the first time, so did Trixie.  When Adelaide got in the bath, she did her darnedest to bring Trixie in with her.

Trixie had birthday parties, Christmas mornings, got new clothes, and Adelaide was once absolutely petrified to find Trixie in the washing machine. She knew that wasn’t safe.  What kind of monster’s are her parents? To put her best friend in the WASHING MACHINE!!!

Each year, Trixie lost a bit of stuffing here, stitches added there, and after a few years, Trixie’s rips could no longer be patched. Her seams could no longer be mended.

We received many well-intentioned ideas of how to wean Adelaide away from her friend.

But it all seemed so cruel. Trixie was part of our family.

Now, she is a tattered mess. She is still used just as much as when Adelaide first got her. As a true member of our family, I wanted to write this letter to Trixie, to show my appreciation for a wonderful friend:

 

Dear Trixie,

You have been the favorite companion of my daughter for over 5 years now. Adelaide has not slept without you in that time. Not once. You have been on many adventures, and the truth is, you’ve seen better days – in fact, let’s just be honest: You have very little time left. Trixie7

There was the one time, 3 years ago, we tried to replace you with another cleaner, more sterile Trixie. You see, you were ALWAYS getting lost, and we were NOT allowed to clean you – so, in all honesty, you grossed us out and gave us headaches. But what you have done for our daughter is something spectacular. But Adelaide was suspicious from the get-go. It wasn’t long before Adelaide spotted your leg popping out of a box in the top of a closet.

My wife and I still have nightmares about the vacation when we left you in a restaurant and Santa Fe. We were 2 hours removed before we noticed. It was a really tough decision, but before Adelaide even knew you were gone, we spelled our way to a conclusion – We have to go back for T-R-I-X-I-E!

 

On a very memorable night, our third child was born. Adelaide immediately

trixie4 decided that Uma needed her own Trixie, so she sweetly gave the replacement Trixie to Uma, to comfort her, as you had always comforted Adelaide.

 

So, thank you, you have helped my daughter work through fears, anxiety and other complex emotions. You were that stable force that she needed when we moved to a new home. When we paid $40 for you at blablakids.com – we had no idea what we were really getting. So, I ask of you now Trixie, as your end looms near, in the immortal words of Dylan Thomas: 

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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What parenting an infant can teach us about social justice.

The Nights I Get Things Right

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My son is a toddler. Two and a half years old. I refuse to call it the ‘terrible twos’, and instead call it the “trying twos” as a reminder of what we’re all experiencing. It’s a trying time for him – to carve his place in this world, and trying for us parents – to be patient and compassionate and to stay out the way when the urge is to ‘complete the task’ or soothe the tears. It’s okay to cry, and sometimes, it’s ok to let that be, or to soothe.

I call it the ‘trying twos’ because when you flip the script you also alter that old saying and knock it on its side.

What parenting an infant can teach us about social justice.

About a week had passed and my son and I were stuck in a rut. There were nightly tears when I stopped our playtime and said it was time for bed. I read and attempt to practice RIE (Resources for Infant Educators) and mindful parenting. I often turn to the founder of RIE Magda Gerber’s wisdom when I’m stuck in a parenting moment and yet here I’d let almost an entire week pass. I’ve done my best at creating ‘yes’ spaces and I talk with my toddler in a conversation of adult emotional albeit simplified, detail. For some reason though, these ideas are hard to incorporate when I’m overly tired, or stressed, or in a hurry. It’s as though I’m hardwired to dictate as a parent (time to do this, let’s go, hurry up) and it takes real effort to think before I act and speak with the kindness I want us all to share with each other.

The night things really came together, I played with him, spoke to him and let him know that soon, after the ‘train ride’ we were on, we would tidy up and head upstairs to read, have a bath and go to sleep. He listened. He went to sleep that night without having cried, without whining, without telling me to lie down beside him, and I tuned into the news of the day – another mass shooting in America.

Fourteen dead. The same number of women killed by Marc Lépine at the École Polytechnique December 6th, 1989. Lépine claimed he was “fighting feminism.” Fourteen. The number I would explain to my child as an actor in a high school docudrama performed in 1990, when asked, “How many is fourteen?” “One plus one plus one plus one..” and so on, I replied. The impact of Lépine’s actions has never left me. And now, twenty-six years later, I’m wondering how I will explain any number of deaths to my son. Deaths by guns.

The nights I get things right, are the nights I think twice about raising my voice, when inside there is turmoil and rage for wanting things ‘to run smoothly’ to, ‘go as planned’. Parenting, like so many lessons in life, continues to ask me to slow down, to be present. Parenting asks me to let go of the lists and plans in my head, to be open and willing and accept the present state of not knowing and play.

“There are steps we can take to make America safer,” American President Obama said after the shootings in San Bernardino on Wednesday December 2nd, 2015. He didn’t suggest what those steps are though; he is perhaps not able to be so honest as to what it will really take. It will take a lot of courage in educating ourselves and our children to be strong, emotional, supportive and understanding beings for each other.

The nights I get things right, I am a very present parent, focused on listening and guiding with kindness. I still get things done, not through pleading or begging, or saying it’s so, but by listening, supporting, laughing and slowing down. Owning a gun if you live off the land, are a farmer, a rancher, or a law enforcer, makes sense. Otherwise owning a gun is nothing but a sign of fear. We can all be intimidated by the notion of other at some time. It is indeed, a whopping of an emotion. Think about how you felt when you met someone you really liked. There was an element of fear there. Of nervous energy about the unknown. Or that first time you played a sport, rode a bike, got on a plane, ate bugs.. insert whatever you want here, fear is a naturally occurring emotion. Does owning a gun erase your fear? No.

It’s hard to listen when you are afraid. It’s hard to listen when you ultimately disagree. It’s hard to listen when you don’t understand what someone is going through, is trying to say, or is speaking a different language. It’s really hard to listen with a gun in your hand. A gun in your hand closes your ears and your heart.

How can we disagree in our beliefs, in our religions, and still stand beside one another? A gun ends a conversation before it begins. One of things that RIE encourages is creating a safe space, a yes space for infants and children to walk/lie/climb and play without restrictions. No sharp edges, nothing that will spark an adult to say ‘no, put that down’ or ‘don’t touch that’. We do this, I think, to instill a safety that allows for uninhibited play and learning that embodies a sense of well being that hopefully paves a path to inspired, intelligent, emotionally open adults. How can we create this kind of space and build communities with guns hanging out of our pockets? Guns that shut people up. Guns that say, I have more power than you, when really all that gun is saying is, I am so afraid. I am afraid, listen to me. I am afraid.

How can we create communities where we put an ounce of understanding and acceptance in each other’s minds instead of bullets in one another’s hearts?

The nights I get things right, are nights I will continue to strive for. As a mother of a son I will do my best to ‘get it right’ by allowing for any anger or fear, or rage be heard and understood in a way that encourages open palms and the word yes instead of no. Words that take what a gun represents, all that violence and fear and says, ok, I hear you. Let’s flip it, let’s somehow try to make something work and live, let’s live for fuck’s sake, together.

Join the Up Parenting Creek Team!

Join the Up Parenting Creek Team!

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We are adding to our team! Are you a mom, dad, grandmother or grandfather who might be interested in joining our team? Keep reading for details…

Join the Up Parenting Creek Team!

You might be the next Up Parenting Creek contributor if you:

  • enjoy writing and sharing stories about parenthood,
  • believe that all parents need support,
  • appreciate the silly and ridiculous parenting moments,
  • have compassion for difficult parenting challenges/moments, and
  • value diverse experiences and perspectives.

Contributor Expectations:

  • Write 1 original essay each month.
  • Participate in our online contributor forum.
  • Share and comment on other UPC contributor’s blog posts.

What You Get From UPC:

  • Photo and bio on the UPC website. This can include links to your other writing or your small business.
  • Social medial promotion of your writing, to include non-UPC writings.
  • Membership in our supportive contributor team.
  • Professional development on the topics of writing, blogging and social promotion.

Application Process

By Dec 31st, 2015, e-mail the following information to parents@upparentingcreek.com:

  • First & Last Name
  • A brief bio
  • If you currently blog, please include a link
  • 2 blog posts demonstrating the kind of work you would contribute to UPC. (Previously published work is acceptable.)
  • A list of topics about which you would like to write for UPC
  • A brief description of why you would like to join the UPC Contributor Team

New team members will be notified of their selection by Jan 30, 2016.

 

Practical ideas for traveling with kids!

Road Trip: Tips for Traveling with Kids

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The holidays are approaching and we definitely have a road trip or two planned. Here are some tips and tricks that have worked for us (alongside those things that definitely failed). These may help as you cross state lines and try not to fall off your sanity radar. I’m sure things on the list will change as children become older and more independent. For now, the toddlers and and tykes have given us these golden pieces of guidance.

Practical ideas for traveling with kids!

Snacks

Fail – cinnamon toast crunch, chocolates, and similar items that leave sticky residue over hands, clothes, and car seats
Score – froot loops, trail mix, and other easily vacuum-able dry finger foods

Fail – water bottles or juice boxes which result in inevitable spills, half empty leftovers, and excess trash in the car
Score – reusable water bottles that are both environmentally friendly & convenient

Entertainment

Fail – puzzles, legos, craft beads that fall and cause drama because butter fingered kid NEEDS to unbuckle from their car-seat or else…
Score – car DVD players, audio books, individual coloring books/kits to maintain a semblance of collective productivity

Fail – play doh. ugh. UGH!
Score – books and educational electronics

Clothes

Fail – cute outfits that will get spilled on and won’t be comfortable to snooze in
Score – PJs. Comfy cozy cotton lounge style easy to sleep in snuggle gear

Fail – anything NEW or anything with buttons
Score – older clothes that you can toss in a gas station trash can after ultimate diaper explosions (without struggling with buttons)

Maintenance

Fail – paper towel rolls
Score – baby wipes. they clean EVERYTHING under the sun. EVERYTHING

Fail – trash bag because it’ll inevitably get mixed up with non-trash bags so you’re stuck digging out the useful things amidst junk
Score – trash container, sealed to contain smells and easily disposed and re-used after a quick wipe-down (see maintenance score item above).

Backpacks

Fail – asking children to pack their own
Score – filling individual backpacks with quick emergency essentials (diapers, extra clothes, emergency undergarments, a soothing stuffed animal or surprise)

Fail – packing bandages and emergency supplies in someone’s backpack (the number of fake emergencies we’ve had to address…)
Score – hiding away the actual first aid kit and replacing child’s backpack with toy bandages and medical equipment to diagnose and treat themselves

Happy Holiday Road Trip, Folks!

Miracle of prenancy with text

The “Miracle” of Pregnancy

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Pregnancy may be a miracle, but it sure isn’t dignified!

Warning: This post contains proper names of body parts, frank discussion of bodily functions, and details about things that happen when you’re pregnant. If this sort of thing offends you, don’t read this (or get pregnant for that matter).

Miracle of prenancy with text

 

 

At 7 months into my second pregnancy (I have a 5 year old son), I’ve learned 2 things. 1) When you get pregnant, take your dignity, put it in a box, and place that box on a shelf in your closet. You won’t be needing it for a while. 2) I will have a least one humiliating episode per pregnancy.

Embarrassing Story – First Pregnancy

All of my initial ultrasounds had been internal ultrasounds (this means a phallic shaped object is encased in a condom like sheath, lubed, and placed inside your vagina to better visualize your internal organs). This was the first time my husband had come to an ultrasound with me. After we were let into the exam room, before the tech arrived, I started to take off my pants and underwear. My husband looked at me, and asked what I was doing. Silly man. With a been-there, done-that tone of vast experience, I let him know that I had to take my pants and underwear off for them to do the ultrasound.

A few moments later, the tech came in then stopped, staring at me. “Um. You know, you don’t, uh, need to actually take your pants off for an, um, ultrasound. I’ll just, uh, yeah, I’ll be right back. When you have your pants on.” Needless to say, that totally busted my: “I’m the woman, so I know way more about this” credibility for at least a month.

Embarrassing Story – Second Pregnancy

Since it was determined that I had preeclampsia at the end of my first pregnancy, my specialist OB wanted a 24 hour urine sample for a baseline protein count. When my OB was walking me through the process, she explained that I needed to collect all my urine, during a 24 hour period, and return it in the provided jug. (Ewwwww!) She noted that after the visit, I should walk over to the lab next door and pick up the “jug and hat.” I thought to myself, “I must have heard wrong. Surely she said ‘cap’ not ‘hat’.”

I go over to the lab. The very kind gentleman tech searches, finds the jug, but notes that they are out of the “hats.” I couldn’t help but note, “You actually said ‘hat’ didn’t you?”

The poor, puzzled tech responded, “Yes, you use the hat to collect the urine.” (The “Duh” was unspoken.)

Still trying to understand the terminology, I ask, “You mean a receptacle?” “Sure, if you’d rather call it a receptacle.”

I don’t know why, but I feel the need to explain, “It’s just that it’s right before Halloween. When you say ‘hat,’ I get these images of a little, pointy, witch’s hat.”

The tech goes still, with a forced blank expression, “I don’t know how to respond to that. I’m not going to say a thing. Nope. There’s just no good response to that.” Realizing that my response could be interpreted in a more risque manner than intended, I try to diffuse the situation with, “I admire your restraint. I started that, I apologize.”

He was still a little stuck, “You can say those sorts of things. I cannot say those sorts of things.” At this point, I just want to get out of there, especially as there are now other people observing this interaction. Finally, the tech gives up, gives me the collection jug, and tells me to go back to my OB’s office to see if they have any ‘hats.’

Continuing the never ending search for this mysterious hat-thing, I approach the OB’s receptionist and say, “The lab is out of hats for my urine sample collection. He said you might have some.” At the receptionist’s blank look, I realize that I have now become one of these strange people who casually talk about using hats to collect urine. After a few moments, she gets up and goes to find one of the nurses.

She returns with the nurse, grumbling about how they lab is supposed to have these, not them (finally, someone using language that make sense!) and carrying:

Urine collection hat
The hat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AHA!

Bonus: When I got home, I just dumped everything (paperwork, glucose bottle, unused jug, unused hat) on the counter. When my husband came home, I hear, “What is this hat-thing, and why is it on my counter?!” I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. I exclaimed, “You called it a hat! I have a funny story for you!”

Random Pregnancy Thoughts

1st Pregnancy

  • Oh my, this nausea is unpleasant; however, as long as eat 2 of each meal, I seem to be doing okay.
  • I love this! I’ve never slept better or felt more rested!
  • This is so cool – my food cravings are so healthy!
  • My mood is so stable and pleasant – and I was so worried about mood swings!
  • My boobs are getting even bigger?! How is this physiologically possible? How much do they weigh? (For the inappropriately curious, 1.5 lbs each.)
  • Okay, I’m slightly uncomfortable.
  • (Direct quote from 12 hours before my water broke at 36 weeks) “I’m finally ready to say that I’m more ready for pregnancy to be over than afraid of childbirth.”
  • (Upon water breaking) Where the heck is my pregnancy book? What do you pack in a hospital bag? Where in this book will it tell me what to pack to go to the hospital?! (Spoiler Alert – nowhere)
  • (In labor at the hospital) No one ever told me that it could be “too early” for an epidural.

2nd Pregnancy

  • This kinda sucks.
  • How can it be evolutionary beneficial to be repulsed by food, water, and other liquids when you’re trying to grow a human?
  • I want to go back in time and punch my prior pregnant self in the face.
  • Why am I crying?
  • I hate everyone.
  • My husband must really love me.
  • My back and butt really hurt.
  • Why can’t I sleep? It can’t be good to not sleep more than 2 hours a night. (Upon consultation with my OB, “Well, yes, that happens sometimes.”)
  • (While the baby is frustrating the heck out of the ultrasound tech with non-stop motion) Heh. At least I’m not the only one she’s giving a hard time to!
  • My husband brought me chocolate cake for no reason. I love him so much, I have to cry.
  • My back hurts so badly, I can only lay in bed and cry. (Upon consultation with my OB, “Sorry, it’s like that sometime. Take some acetaminophen.”)
  • Oh, yay. Now I’m peeing on myself every time I cough. And my human petri dish (my 5 year old) keeps giving me colds. I thought I wasn’t supposed to be doing this much laundry until after the baby is born!
  • Hello my little pugilist. You better be very cute, or at least extremely mild mannered, because you’re an awful lot of work.
  • What fresh hell is this?! (Dizziness so bad that I the room is spinning while I’m lying down and barely make it to the toilet for the vomiting.)(According to the OB, this can happen sometimes. Call them back if it persists.)
  • Seriously, I’m still crying.
  • So that’s what the inside of my belly button looks like. I really wasn’t missing anything, was I?
  • Actual Google search: “Can a fetus kick the mother in the urethra?”
  • My husband better love me if I’m going through this!
  • Did I ride a bike for 12 hours yesterday and forget about it? Why am I saddle-sore?
  • My husband just licked his popsicle too noisily. He. Must. Go.
  • Why does it feel like I’m being stabbed in the pelvis and vagina when I walk, stand, or shift positions? (Upon consultation with my OB, “Well, yes, that happens sometimes.”)
  • Seriously, bladder, is that what you were making all that fuss about? That’s all that’s in there?!
  • Is it possible to become dehydrated from crying?

Anything Can Be a Pregnancy Symptom

  • As noted from above – debilitating back pain, severe nausea and dizziness leading to vomiting, stabbing groin and vaginal pain, severe insomnia
  • Stories from friends: craving non-food, increased energy, decreased energy, increased appetite, decreased appetite, euphoria, depression, skin/hair changing color and/or texture, visual changes (including astigmatism permanently changing from one eye to another), skin tags, hair growth in strange and unusual places, hyper-sexuality, sexual monasticism, bloody swollen gums, bloody noses, discharge, crusty nipples, “interesting” new smells, onset of new and life-threatening food allergies, pelvic separation due to over-lax ligaments, the list is truly endless!
  • I strenuously assert that my arm could fall off, and when I told my OB about it, she would simply respond, “Well, yes, that happens sometimes.”

Ways to Win Arguments

Yes, fine, I get it. No one wants to hear anyone complain all the time. I even get sick of myself. However, sometimes, when you’re pregnant and feeling rotten, other people just need to suck it up and let you win.  I find these techniques to be especially effective with my husband.

  • The always classic, “I’m growing a human inside my body that is either going to be squeezed out of my vagina or removed by my being cut upon on an operating table.”
  • When faced with why you’re uncomfortable or having weird torso sensations, show them this web page (totally SFW).
  • Yelling, “My vagina hurts!” Especially while spreading your legs open and wildly gesticulating at the area in question. (In my experience, this strategy has the added benefit of ending the argument by making my husband crack up.)

What about you?

Please tell me I’m not the only one out there! Do you have any funny or embarrassing stories to share about attempting conception, being pregnant, being a parent? Please share! I’ve got 3(?) more months to go and need to feel the love (or laughter)!

Other people telling it like it is with humor:

  • I think I’ve linked to this before, but Beth Woolsey is my hero as far as “putting it out there.”
  • For the male perspective, you can’t beat How to Be a Dad
  • A book that was recently recommended to me, Pregnancy Sucks (Evidently there’s a whole “Sucks” series)
Star Wars Blog

10 Parenting Lessons Learned From Star Wars

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So, not long ago, in a galaxy all too familiar, there was a rainy day, and restless siblings at odds with each other. A decision was made to join the rebel alliance, and begin the Star Wars experience.

Star Wars Blog

Since then, There have been moments of great despair, a night of confusion when the kids find out the relationship of Darth Vader and Luke (I’ll never forget the looks I got that night, as if all father’s were now suspect), there were times for parents to cringe (J.J. Binks), and times to rejoice for all.

But what we didn’t expect were the major parenting wins.   Important themes and life lessons frequently met with eye rolls when coming from the mouths of my wife or myself, but suddenly appreciated and heard thanks to new friends in a galaxy far, far away.

  1. Use The Force.
    Perhaps long ago, midi-chlorians were necessary to access the all-encompassing Force. Thankfully today, we have the knowledge of, and power to use Conflict Resolution. We all have the ability to solve problems, calmly with Jedi-like zen – and not let fear rule our lives and decision making ability. And we know “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”
  2. Choices made in anger are usually not our best choices.
    How many times did I use my Yoda voice in my head when my middle child revolted putting shoes on, instead slinging them to the other side of the room. “Mmmm… much anger I sense in you. Anger is the path to the dark side.”

This actually helps me from becoming angry and to use the FORCE to solve problems. And that’s just for my benefit. Hopefully my daughter will eventually learn that it’s much harder to build up your block tower when you’re angrily throwing blocks at the tower. This also leads to…

  1. Problems are best solved when we are calm.
    Young Padawan learner, “You will know (the good from the bad) when you are calm, at peace. Passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.”

So in other words, when you’re brother takes your toy, and runs away, find a way to make peace, not scream, cry and chase with harmful intent.

  1. Conflicts are going to happen.
    I love the squabbles of C3PO and R2D2. They are connected to eachother through all the movies, but they also drive their hard drive’s batty sometimes.

Much like the relationships of … well anybody in the household. We love each other, we are dedicated to each other. And we will drive each other crazy.
IMG_0202

  1. Size doesn’t always matter.
    From birth, our oldest daughter has been in the bottom of the percentiles for weight and height. She’s petite and likely always will be. But she has this longstanding dream of being “the biggest kid”. Friendships have been cast aside because a friend (truthfully) told her that she was the shorter child.   So when our kids got to watch Yoda do battle with Count Dooku, my wife didn’t hesitate to point out that Yoda was physically smaller than his nemesis. Yet, not only did he hold his own, he clearly is a great warrior with a smaller stature. Therefore, it’s ok to be smaller because:
  1. Hard work and perseverance are the way to achieve your goals.
    You may be angry, you may be sad, you may be scared, or you want to give up. Your ship may be deep at the bottom on a swamp in the Degobah system. But if you stick with your work, with your training, you can be a magnatile jedi, or a math jedi. Learn from your failures, and continue to push forward.
  1. Even when things seem darkest, there is always reason to hope.
    Maybe this one is more for us as parents. Even when your kids didn’t nap, and have been fighting for an hour, and at your heels with every move you make, you know that bedtime is coming. “Mmmm… sleep they will.” I say to my wife, “I am not afraid!” and she responds back: “You will be, you will be.”
  1. “Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.”
    You see it with Jengo Fett/Boba Fett, the climax with Darth Vader saving Luke from the Emperor, and even when Shmi Skywalker lets her only son go with the Jedi, there’s a feeling that these movies are a lot about relationships between parents and their kids. Our kids think a lot differently than we do – and that is an amazing thing that we should all appreciate.
    IMG_0182
  1. Silly Jedi, Mind Tricks are for all of us.
    Obi Wan might consider this an abuse of power, but my wife and I were pleasantly surprised how we can use The Force to our advantage over our kids. “You do not want to stay awake, you want to go right to sleep.” OK, that worked 0 times.
    How about when we pass the $1 bin at Target, you just wave your hand and say: “These are not the toys you are looking for.”
    What Jedi Mind Tricks do you think your kids may be playing on you?
  1. Love wins. Always.
    IMG_0217

 

What do you do on date nights?

Date Night: 99 Problems But Bedtime Ain’t One

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Date night – September 2015.

We get this one night, this one chance for glory. Tonight, there is no bedtime. Tonight, there we will be hearing no request for an extra book, a last drink of water. Tonight, we ride.

date night blog

6:00 – We feed the kids corn dogs, (thank you Trader Joe’s). The quandary begins. I so rarely think about what I am wearing. For work, I dress in the pitch black. Tonight, I have to pick a shirt, a special shirt. This shirt needs to be more than just clean, it needs to make my partner hungry for my time and attention.  “Yeah … but this T-shirt – now that would be much more comfortable than anything with buttons … Hmmm.”

6:30 – The kids are running around after dinner, throwing around their energy like Donald Trump throws around successful business ventures. I can taste it now – food that someone else has cooked for me- no dishes. A beer – with dinner, no less – unthinkable on any other weeknight. Man, I can’t wait – THE FREEDOM. What beer will I order? Something exotic maybe. Something shipped from the shores of Belgium, delivered specifically for me.

6:45 – A kid fight breaks out over a rubber duck.
What will we talk about? Grown up stuff. Sophisticated fair. The upcoming election? Alissa is the only person I like to discuss politics with. Hmmm .. maybe music. Or just something random. Maybe we’ll be eccentric: we’ll walk in, order some fancy beers, dressed in our clothes that we never really wear (out of fear of spills) … eccentric people need hats. Wait? What? Screaming! “OK, kids, how do we solve this problem with the rubber ducks?”

7:00 – Sitter arrives. Never look back, walk directly to the car, now run, “RUN!” Minds are changed all the time.

7:10 – Why have we not yet put on any of our old hip music and seranaded each other? Why have we not said a word? It’s silence. And what used to be scary is now BADASS. Silence. YES.

7:11 – I put on Wilco – just because that last thought made me feel a lot older than I need to feel tonight.

7:25 – We arrive – at a bar. Kids are not even allowed here. “LET’S SPLURGE – Get crazy in this mofo. FREEDOM!”

7:35 – “Someone is smoking at that table.” Grrr… “We’ll share a burger, please.”

8:00 – Our beer surplus is much better (and cheaper) at home, “let’s go home and drink a beer there, and enjoy being at home. I kinda miss our kids, don’t you?”

 

“We’ll try this again next month?”

“Yes! Next month, we make it to 10 – We can do it!”

“But, wasn’t it great to not put the kids to bed?”

 

 

Practical ideas for maintaining long distance friendships

When Good Friends Live Far Away

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I live on the East Coast. My closest friends live in Austin, Chicago, and St. Paul. We’re all moms of young children without the time or funds to travel easily. For a long time, we did the usual – have a 2-3 hour phone conversation every 3-6 months. These conversations were great, as these are the types of friends that you can just start talking to, but with that type of schedule, the conversation tends to focus on the big highlights and what’s going on right now. It’s hard to get a sense of the day-to-day rhythm of life. Over the years, we’ve done some different things that have helped us stay close.

Practical ideas for maintaining long distance friendships

Regarding Pregnancies and Babies

Kids can happen to the best of us, and they tend to take up an awful amount of time and attention. When my Austin friend got pregnant with her first child 9 or 10 years ago, I knew that this meant a big change in our carefree stay-in-touch schedule. Not wanting things to ever get to an awkward place, I had a conversation with my friend before the baby was born. I told her that I was worried about bugging her with calls, as a schedule with a baby could be so chaotic; however, I didn’t want to just stop calling her or be forever questioning if it was a good time. I offered her a deal: I would call when I felt like it. She was under no obligation to answer or call back, and she was not allowed to feel guilty (another path to faltering communication). If I was bugging her with my calls, she would tell me (so I wouldn’t be second guessing myself). Neither of us would “keep score.” If I called her 9 times, and she hadn’t called me, we would assume that everything was okay unless one of us said otherwise.

This worked really well for a while. I had a really long commute, so I called and left her a message almost every day. Most of the time, these messages were light anecdotes or “I’m thinking about you and hope you’re doing well.” Sometimes I’d talk about something that bothered me. When she got a chance to call me back, she’d tell me how much she appreciated the messages and how much they helped her feel connected when she was sucked into the mother-of-a-newborn world.

Tangible Contact

This idea is still in Beta testing. After I sent a package to my friend in Chicago, she suggested that we save the box and use it to send things to each other that we (or our kids) have made. I absolutely love this idea, but we haven’t really implemented it, yet. (Which leads to a really important rule with all of these suggestions: We have lives, and stressing ourselves out about friendship rituals isn’t good for anyone. These should be fun and flexible, not anxiety provoking!)

Skype Tea

(We actually use a program called Zoom, but I thought more people would understand what I meant with Skype. I love Zoom though – the video quality so much better!) My Chicago friend and I love drinking tea, Jane Austen, good literature, knitting, all that stuff.

Skype Tea with Friends
Almost as good as the real thing!

Of course, after she moved to the Mid-West, we realized all the opportunities lost for chatting over tea. But then we realized that in this age of technology, distance doesn’t have to be a barrier! Every couple of weeks(-ish), we have a “teleconference” where we sit down with our tea and talk about what’s going on in our lives. We’ve been a little off with Summer schedules, but I know we’ll get back to our rhythm. The scheduling that seemed to work best for us, before we ended each chat, we’d set up our appointment for our next chat. Every week seemed a little burdensome, so we average every 2 weeks, although, sometimes if we’re having a busy month, we might only do one chat that month. I really don’t like looking at myself on the video of the chat; however, the quality of the conversation with being able to see each other is worth overcoming my vanity.

Staying in Touch With Daily Life

My Austin friend and I were roommates in college, and our friendship is the age equivalent of an adult. When we saw each other last year (We usually manage to see each other every year or 2), I told her about my MS diagnosis. We took a moment to process; the following conversation ensued:

Her: “Do you need anything?”

Me: “Yes.”

Her: “What?”

Me: “I don’t know?”

The next day I got a text message from her with a picture and the caption, “Image of the day.” Almost 15 months later, we’ve only missed a handful of days and never more than 3 days in a row. Some days there isn’t a picture, just a message or a funny thing that happened. Sometimes the pictures are stunning, sad, or heartwarming, but most of the time, it’s just daily stuff that happens in life. Some of my pictures have included pretty foliage (what’s the use of living in New England if you can’t rub it in during the fall?), a picture of my son’s socks that he asked me to take, and the slice of pizza that we woke up to find in our yard one day. My friend has a huge advantage, she’s a youth librarian and a public library, so she has lots of interesting pictures; however, yesterday’s picture was of the pile of reading logs that she’d spent the day reviewing.

Chilling and texting with friends
What my ideal version of texting with friends looks like

I feel like we are much more connected with each other’s daily lives, and every once in a while, a photo will turn into an extended back and forth about a big issue that’s going on in one of our lives. I don’t know how long this will last, but right now it’s the best friendship thing that’s ever happened. Interestingly enough. . .

I was hanging out with my St. Paul friend (who comes to Massachusetts once a year), last year, and I told her about the picture a day texts with my Austin friend. She really liked the idea and suggested that she and I do it, too. I said, “Of course!” although I never told her that I was initially apprehensive. I was only about a month and a half in this with my Austin friend, and it seemed like something that would be easily promised but challenging in practice.

I’ve never been more happy to be wrong! She and I have also kept this up for over a year. I cheat a little, I’ll often send the same picture and message to both friends, but it’s amazing the different paths that the conversations take from that initial text. I had my feeling of connectedness confirmed when we briefly saw each other a couple of months ago. My friend noted, “I know we didn’t get to talk that much, but I feel okay with it. I feel like we’re caught up through the daily texts.” I felt exactly the same way.

Do you have any rituals that you use to stay in touch with good friends who live far away? Do you think you’ll try any of these ideas?

This is a great bucket list for before you turn 30

My Bucket List: 30 Before 30

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This is a great bucket list for before you turn 30

This list was before two kids. This list was before I had real deal responsibilities, like making and cleaning up after 3 squares a day and making sure my oldest doesn’t torture my youngest, or something equally as fun. This was a list of my dreams and many of them easily obtainable. It was written in 2011, when I was 29. I am now 33. See list briefly, judge me on tardiness, dock me for incompletion, and meet me back at this point.

Life happens. Or shit happens, depending on whether you are a glass half-full or empty-type-of-person. We get going in the monotony of our day to day that we forget our dreams or ideas of how to make our lives more happy, challenging, and full. Isn’t that our purpose on this earth? To take care of ourselves and others, have some fun, hone some skillz, and honor and remember those we love? I think so.

I have put this out there to start a conversation.  I am interested to hear what’s on your list. I may or may not steal some ideas for my new one: 40 before 40. I *think* I have enough time.

What do you want to do before you turn 30?

30 before 30 List

  1. Join an group-intellectual, emotional, giving etc-Joined a women’s group nearly 3 years ago. Love those awesome ladies!
  2. Habitat for Humanity- helped out with the TPUMC 2015 Mission trip just this past week. Great fun.
  3. Successfully grow a garden-Summer 2015 The basil and dill is eeking along…time will tell.
  4. Make a cleaning schedule and stick to it- Tried this a few years back, was way too ambitious and failed miserably.
  5. Create a piece of art worth “professionally” framing
  6. Open a flower shop- bahahaha Yeah, no. Uh Uh. I’m doing good to do events out of my mother’s house on frequent trips to San Antonio. I can see this (maybe) way down the line once the littles are in school full time.
  7. Big Brothers Big Sisters-has evolved to Drive a Senior September 2015
  8. Cultivate a new group of friends
  9. Regularly attend yoga…I’ve realized this is just not me. I am looking forward to Kundalini Yoga in a park on our upcoming San Francisco trip. Random yoga is more my style.
  10. New York City- Christmas 2016???
  11. Landscape (design) the front and back yard
  12. Grief counselling- Since I wrote this list I’ve lost someone (again) who was very dear to me. Do we ever really work through the pain of losing someone special? I feel as though I might be numb or desensitized to death. Need help with this one.
  13. Wear a bikini (tankini?)-Realistic goal?
  14. Volunteer at the Majestic and San Pedro playhouse DID IT back in 2007. Great fun and got to see nearly an entire show for “free.” I feel I won’t go down this road again until I’m 70.
  15. Start and maintain a book a week reading schedule-need this
  16. Take a radio voice class
  17. Have a fondue party-I think my neighbor Chris could make me do this one.
  18. Attend a book binding class
  19. Attend the gym regularly- my fairly recently acquired FitBit is pushing me towards this one.
  20. Learn how to apply eye makeup correctly 2014/2015 In 2014 I discovered the genius that is YouTube. Yeah, I know, I’m a late bloomer. Also, I still suck at eye liner.
  21. Know how to use all of our electronics-this will probably be on the list at 50
  22. Maintain a small email inbox-organize- My friend Andria just helped me begin this process by showing me a nifty thing called “the swipe”  Thanks Andria!
  23. Camping at Big Bend- anyone have any tips for camping with kiddos?
  24. Befriend the elderly- Drive a senior September 2015
  25. Attend a hat making class- really
  26. Invite Chavez family for a backyard bbq-some of the best neighbors of all time. One of those families you want to adopt you or at least have you over for delicious coffee bread and a good chat. Will make this happen one day.
  27. Get rid of all unwanted furniture- DID IT August 2014 before our move from Frisco to Pflugerville Best.Feeling.Ever.
  28. Go swimming in that cave pool- see clipping in travel scrap book or click here. This is an easily obtainable goal now that “that cave pool” is just south of where we reside. Waiting for school to start and the crowds to die down before reaching this one.
  29. Marathon-for Cindy and my dad- I just ran for the first time a few weeks ago. It hurt like hell. This goal may be eons away.
  30. Walk dogs daily

Herb Garden

Extras

Sand, seal, and install gardening/bar sink- this was a giant sink unit we pulled out of our 1920’s kitchen..sat under the carport and eventually was stolen by metal pickers. Heartbreak!

Keep poop out of yard- haha

Take a glass blowing class

Take a dance class-master it!- For those that know me, take a moment to laugh.

Form a habit of completion- Says it all.

Practical tips for talking about gender roles with your kids

Getting Social: A Gender Neutral Dialogue

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In the world we live, there is a constant sliding scale that is our social evolvement. In social evolution, not all of us are at the same place, there are many factors, background, exposure, education just being a few. This is an exciting time to be a parent, as many social issues are coming to the forefront, and that sliding scale is moving forward for many. It is a perfect time to start a dialogue now with your kids about social justice, and discuss issues, like gender, race, equality and consent. Our children are not only advocates for the future, but also advocates for change now. This is the first part in a series of articles about the discussions of social justice with my kids.

Practical tips for talking about gender roles with your kids

MY BEGINNINGS WITH GENDER NEUTRAL PARENTING:

First of all, there are many, many misgivings on gender-neutral parenting: (discussed here.) As a kid, I liked Boy George, and Depeche Mode, and wore earrings, and even once had my naval pierced. It never seemed odd to me, but it did seem odd to others in West Texas.

When I became a parent, the phrase ‘gender-neutral’ was not at all on my radar. As I continue the process of parenting, I have learned a lot. I hope to raise my kids in an environment that encourages freedom for personal growth, period. Wait, that lacks emphasis, I guess I should type it in all caps: FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION. PERIOD.

Many things we do, without even thinking about them, encourage gender stereotypes.

Girls: We talk more to them. We compliment them, how they look, how pretty they are. Words we use: cute, pretty, princess, sweetie, cupcake, etc.

Boys: We talk about their future conquests, how they could end up as the next linebacker for The Cowboys, how they are so tough, no one will mess with them.   Words we use: heartbreaker, lady killer, or the less insidious but equally divisive; athletic, strong, wild, brute.

ELSA SPARKS A DIALOGUE 

So, let’s go into when I realized I needed to have this dialogue. Way way back in the Frozen –crazed days of 2014 (shudder: I swore I’d never speak of them), there was an argument in our house:

My daughter tells my son: “You can’t be Elsa, she’s a girl, you can be Sven.”

This was a pretty telling statement, 1. That gender trumped species, (though to be honest, my 3 year and Sven share similar eating – and likely, hygiene habits.) 2. There was an understanding that in play, boys were boys and girls were girls, regardless of species even. That’s when I started to be more aware of the gender-controlled world we live in.

Just after the SCOTUS decision on gay marriage, I talked with my daughter about love and gender.

Me: Adelaide, do you think that men can love men and women can love women, like I love your mom?

A:  Yeah, I know that.

Me: What do you think of that?

A: I like it. Wait, Do you mean like mommies and daddies?

Me: Well yeah. Some families have a mommy and daddy like you, some have 2 daddies, some have 2 mommies. 

A: Aww, how sweet.

Me: Yeah, 2 men and 2 women can love each other, and can have families, just like a man and a woman can. But not everyone likes that. Some people don’t think that people of the same gender
should be married.

A: That’s so mean of them. I think they should be married.

Me: I agree with you, and so does the law now. I think that love is love, and it doesn’t matter what gender you are.

Adelaide smiles in agreement.


But a couple days later, it was a harder discussion about clothes and toys:

Me: Adelaide, do you think there are some clothes just for girls?

A: Ummm, dresses, and skirts.

Me: Do you know that in some places, boys and men wear something called kilts?

We look it up on google images.

A: That’s only in pretend land.

Me: Let me ask you this, is it OK for you to wear boys clothes?

A: I can wear what Asher wears. Pants and shorts and shirts.

Me: Ok, so, can he wear what you wear?

A: No, silly, boys don’t wear pink.

Me: I wear pink.

A: Well, my teacher said boys don’t wear girl’s stuff, and she knows everything.

This helped me realize that there are lots of influences that a child has, and I’m only one of them. In many classrooms, there definitely exists very specific gender lines and roles – that go along with toys, dress up clothes and even class jobs. Getting to know them is part of being an advocate for your child, and will help in your continued dialogue.

Me: What about pretend play? Is it OK to pretend to be a boy or a girl?

A: yes. I like to pretend I am a boy –I’m Batman (in a gruff, and surprisingly accurate Lego Batman voice)

Me: And your brother?

A: Yes. He likes to be me, and play with my toys.

Me: You like that he likes to be you? (shocked)

A: Yes… sometimes – as long as he doesn’t copy.

BUILDING PARENTING WINS – 1 VIRTUAL LEGO AT A TIME

So, we had this proud parenting moment in our house recently when playing The Lego Movie video game. In the game, you can switch between a wide assortment of Lego characters and superheroes.

She felt an affinity for Batman, while she was curious about Wonder Woman, she decided she definitely preferred Batman. She ran around the house for days saying “I’m Batman!” in legit Batman voice. It made us happy that our daughter didn’t feel she HAD to be Wonder Woman, just because Wonder Woman happens to identify as Wonder Woman.

I know some people that I know would stop her if they heard, and correct her “You can be batgirl. Haven’t you heard of her?” She also wants to be Batman for Halloween. Boom.

DSC_1133

 

(Wanna have some fun? If you have both a girl and a boy, challenge them to get dressed in each other’s closet. It is a guaranteed good time. It seemed they felt like they were breaking the rules that society already set- and we all know breaking the rules feels really good.

EMOTIONS ARE FOR GIRLS AND WORK IS FOR BOYS

I have accepted that I will never have the communication skills of my wife. For instance, she can go into such detail explaining what happened during her day on the drive home from school. I have trouble mustering a 4 word statement to explain my day. “Good” or “Not bad” will usually be all I can muster. I am aware of this, and really try at it. But growing up as a male, I don’t think society challenged me to develop my communication skills.

I want both of my children to learn to deal with their emotions and communicate better than I have myself. So far so good, as Asher already is able to recognize and express his emotions more quickly than his 5 year old sister.

Ash: I’m mad

Me: You’re mad? What are you mad about?

Ash: I wanted to close the car door and jump out.

Me: Did you ask?

Ash: No.

Pauses for effect and stares at me.

Can I close the car door and jump out?

Me: Sure, just reverse the order.

At just 3 he is able to express his feelings so well, and communicate them to me, I have a lot to learn from him.

Emotions are not girl stuff. It’s life stuff. Learning how to handle your emotions is going to be pivotal in our child’s lives, and in their relationships the rest of their lives. Why would we prepare our daughters for heartbreak and conflict, but not our sons?

What’s your son going to do when he suffers his first breakup? What is he going to do when he has a conflict at work? “toughen up” is no longer an acceptable strategy.

It’s important that our kids understand their emotions, and have productive, helpful strategies to get through the big and powerful ones.

Breathing exercises have been great for our family, and we practice often when we’re happy. And sure, sometimes, when she is especially mad at me, my daughter chooses to hold her breath.

PRACTICAL LIFE SKILLS ARE FOR EVERYONE

Asher loves to help cook. And he has always wanted to “put back” whatever he is playing with. Montessori schooling only tells part of the story, Adelaide on the other hand would rather do anything but cook or clean. She will occasionally spread her bed, or put clothes away, but only ever under duress. Asher doesn’t mind, ever. And he loves to do dishes.

Oh how I wait for the day when kids are doing work independently around the house, cooking, dishes, trash, and, dare I say it: laundry. It is hard to believe there was a time when laundry was thought of as girls work. Learning how to cook, to clean after yourself, to take care of things, these are life skills. How did anyone make it without this crucial training? My wife will tell you these people just found someone else to do the work for them. Ahem. But if we want to raise independent, capable, confident little humans, how can household chores be skipped?


Giving our kids the opportunities to be themselves, enjoy a wide variety of things – instead of just boy and just girl things is a great start. But I encourage you to start a dialogue with your kids, about their thoughts on all this boy/girl stuff.