Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Words to live by

Heard at my house around toothbrushing time:

Boy-o :  "Mama - we have to brush our teeth because that's what keeps them healthy and strong."

Me:  "Yup."

Boy-o:  "Do you know what keeps our bodies healthy and strong?"

Me:  "No, what?"

Boy-o:  "Hugs. . .  And jumping a lot."

Driving Mr. Boy-o

On a pretend driving adventure, he informs me:

We're going to go Australia and then Calgary and then California and then Mexico. Our car can fly when we need to go over the ocean. It's sleeping time now. I'm going to sleep. But you can't sleep because I need a driver. Our car is sun powered. And then at night it can use moon power too. Because this is a special kind of car that runs on the light of the sun and the moon and the stars and the supernovas. It uses everything that's light and that we can't reach from way down here on earth.

Monday, May 30, 2011

TheStar 'Genderless' baby's mother responds to media frenzy

TheStar 'Genderless' baby's mother responds to media frenzy

(Heather Mallick also wrote a reasonably good response to the feeding frenzy at Parent Central). 

And then, immediately beside the articles and links, a poll for Star readers:

"The Star's reporting on a Toronto couple who have decided to raise their baby 'genderless' has elicited a firestorm of responses. After reading the story, do you think Storm is a boy or a girl?"

What Fuckwits.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Old Navy Lunchbox

A friend was in Old navy yesterday, and snapped this pic of their newest lunchbox....  (though I, indeed, would not mind a sugardaddy, - though likely a slightly different version than this lunchbox implies - I'm not sure the lunchbox set particularly needs this concept.)  Thoughts??

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Nerdmom's heart goes into overdrive

It's bedtime. I'm attempting to wrangle a four-year-old-conscientious-sleep-objector into his rocketship footy pyjamas, (the footy-ness of which I am incidentally quite jealous of). Anyways. He asks if I will do up the zipper for him, but let him do up the snap at the top. This is a bit curious, since manual dexterity isn't a strong point, and snaps are generally a great source of frustration for him, and I wonder if this isn't a new addition to the fine art of bedtime stalling. Then we have the following conversation, as he attempts and reattempts the business of the snap:

Me: Are you sure you wouldn't like some help?

Boy-o: Oh no thank you, Mama. I think I will just persevere.

A few minutes pass.

Boy-o: (forlornly) Mama? I just don't think I can persevere anymore.

Me: (totally unable to stop myself from laughing out loud). Okay buddy.

Boy-o:  Mama? Is persevere a funny word?

Me:  No.... Persevere is a great word. And you are a great kid.

Be. Still. My. Nerdy. Heart.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Aftermath of Calipers - my DNTO schtick

Last weekend, I had the wickedly fun opportunity to be on CBCs Definitely Not The Opera, talking about one of many humiliating gym class experiences. Below are the dirty details :)

In a nutshell: Canada Fitness Testing. Words that strike terror into every fat kid's heart.

The endurance run. The chin-ups. The sit-ups. The push ups. The weigh-in. The sprints. The endurance run. All perfectly dreadable.

I almost always managed to skip the endurance run day. I'd beg and beg my mom not to make me go or to write me a note somehow getting me out of doing it on the same day as the entire class. Then the gym teacher would send me out the following gym day with my best friend and a stopwatch, which seemed much more, well, humane.

Because being mocked while at the same time, being the slowest, the sweatiest, and the most out of breathe while going around and around a ginourmous never ending track is too dreadful for words. Let me assure you that it is next to impossible to convincingly deliver a snappy comeback to a fat joke when you are gasping for what might be your last breath!

And then, just when you think they haven't found enough inventive and creative ways (like Canada Fitness Testing!) to make fat kids die of embarassment, they come up with the fat calipers. And there is no note decrying my horriblly painful period cramps that can get me out of the fat calipers - though if I'd have known they were coming, I probably would have tried.

You know what fat calipers are right? They look like large torture implements, but I'm told in fact that they are not. I remain unconvinced! Anyways - they're designed to pinch and assess your total body fat and are apparently meant to be wielded by gym teachers like mine, who get to squish your arm fat and accordingly pronounce you fit or fat. Because gym class in general, and Canada Fitness Testing in particular, isn't bad enough without also being weighed and fat clamped in the gym teacher's office.

So it's meant to be 'private' but everybody totally finds out anyways, because IT'S HIGH SCHOOL! How I'd wished I'd gone to the endurance run and skipped the calipers! I stood in that line, heart pounding right out of my chest, praying to be miraculously struck dead, rather than face what was sure to be the ultimate in humiliation. No such luck. No rogue tornados, hurricanes or other very welcome natural disasters befell us.

Not only was I not going to get a Gold, Silver or Bronze and be stuck with the "participation" pin that pronounces you a total loser - but they were actually going to tell me (and possibly everyone else in the vicinity!) that I was TOO FAT! Like empirically too fat - now they had the evidence to convict me of fat personhood! I was weighed, pinched and pronounced too fat (not in so many words, but that was pretty much it in a nutshell). I could feel my face was hot and red and my mouth was dry and my eyes were teary. and it was awful. And my results of course, made it to the all too willing ears of my peers exaggerated whispers that pronounced me the second fattest girl in class.

And I sort of had this moment, where everything stopped, and I felt this loud roaring in my ears, I remember that part so clearly. But I surprised myself because in addition to the familiar body shame, I felt something else for the first time - pissed off, indignant. Okay - so they just called me the worst thing in the world. All right - so what if I AM fat? What does that even mean??

I'm not saying I wasn't humiliated. I WAS! Plenty. The aftermath was actually a whole lot less humiliating than the experience itself, however fleeting. But everyone else forgot about it long before I did (obviously, since I'm still thinking about it now!) Being measured, marked as not measuring up, was incredibly shame inducing. But I also think that as traumatic as this experience was, it was also the very first in what would be many, many life turning points for me in terms developing and being okay in my identity as a fat person, and being critical about what gets said about fat people and health.

Though while it was the first step in my saying: "Okay, I'm fat, so what?!" this whole experience made me hate gym even more (in fact, I dropped gym as soon as they'd let me, which was coincidentally the very next year) and shun the idea of physical activity for years and years post-high school. I used to have this saying "Why run if no one is chasing you?!" And another friend of mine used to love to chime in that we probably shouldn't run even if someone WAS chasing us, because inevitably they'd catch us and then we'd be out of breath.

But somewhere along the line, I decided that this whole belitting and humiliation that fat kids get in gym class, and fat people get in general when they try to be active was actually holding me back. And I woke up one day and decided that I wanted to be fit, whether I was fat or not. Which has led to me eventually becoming a fat (though as we've already established much less so at the moment than usual) person who could do that stupid endurance run no problem now. A few times over. And the sit ups too. Though I'd be kidding all of us if I tried to tell you I could do any pushups or chinups! I love running now, in my 30s. So if you see that fat girl in spandex running down the sidewalk past you - she could just be me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Book browsing

So I'm  in a large chain bookstore the other day (I know - evil - but it's the only one I can go to with the kids without being looked at like I'm the devil, and that has good stuff to play with) and after being thouroughly annoyed with their gender studies section (which had three, count 'em, three titles), I head over to the parenting book section, which is considerably larger than the gender studies... interesting.  Anyways... I started taking in the titles -

The Parents We Mean to Be
Hold on to Your Kids
Raise Your Kids Without Rising Your Voice
Connected Parenting
Intuitive Parenting
Parenting From the Inside Out
The 10 Secrets of Happy Mothers
Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids
Raising Happiness
Free-range Kids
Bringing up Happy Children
Simplicity Parenting
Zen Momma

...and that's just the top fricking shelf. 

Does this make anyone else feel slightly nauseous, hopelessly imperfect, and so not "zen momma"?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, May 23, 2011

Madwoman in the Academy?

The Madwoman in the Academy: 43 Women Boldly Take on the Ivory Tower.  (Eds.) Deborah Schnitzer and Deborah Keahey.  Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2003.

I likely shouldn't have read it.  I knew it as soon as I picked it up.  But it was like a train wreck - I couldn't look away.  It's actually a fantastic book.  And I'm not just saying that because it's co-editted by one of the best professors (and loveliest people) I've ever known.  An edited collection of women's experiences in the academy.  The downs and outs.  The dirty bits.  The scary bits.  The frustrating bits. Details I need to remember and think about before I choose whether to jump in feet first.  The still far too prevalent sexism in academia.  The in-fighting and me-firsting and I'm-smarter-than-you-ing and eating-the-young-ing.  Imposter-syndrome.  The particular challenges and lack of accomodation for moms in academia.  (Breathe, T. Breathe.)   As (the wonderful) Deborah Schnitzer asks in her essay "Tenure Tracks",
How can a system that has been organized for and by male experience and privilege respond effectivelyand respectfully to the realities of women's lives?  How can a system burdened by a dependence upon a ritualized transmission model, restricted and often mechanical standards of measure, esoteric official languages, and limited ways of defining what constitutes knowledge comprehend those who work within frames of reference that are dialogic, inclusive, multidimensional and organic? (199)
How indeed? (I know - she is brilliant, right?  And also brilliant and right).  And those realities of academia are ones I must consider - carefully- before I jump back in.  But then there are the good bits too, of course.  The mentoring.  Sage navigational assistance.  Breaking barriers.  Smashing one's own ideas of one's limitations (and possibly other people's too).   And the parts I really crave:  The thinking. The writing.  The Thinking!  The Writing!

My absolute favourite essay in the collection is by Monika B. Hilder, entitled: "This Three-Horned Bronco of a Life" in which she describes the challenges of life in her triad roles as mother, academic, writer.  So gorgeously and bravely.  (Note - I am sharing big chunks of Hilder's writing here.  It is not my intention to overshare.  You should buy the book.  Read the essay in its entirety.  It's good, good, good.  But this particular essay really spoke to me,  to my own current worries and processing, so much that I feel compelled to share it with you all).

She writes: "Mad?  Me?!  You bet I'm mad - dissapointed, frustrated, feeling guilty, and alternately fiercely angry that I am able to do so little with words while I engage in the whirligig of family details.  I am not always so disgruntled, but sufficiently so to answer your question in the affirmative" (35).

And I read this, slightly panicked, and think: Good lord.  But I feel this NOW.  Can I really dare to add more fuel to that fire?  Can I handle another role, another division of self?  Can I handle that triad Hilder writes about? 

And then more:

Mad?  Me?!  When I was young I had the hubris to reject the position that a woman must choose between books (teaching and writing them) and babies.  (Isn't it ironic that this either/or dilemma is still presented by many camps: the misogynists, the kindliest patriarchs and matriarchs, the feminists?)  I still reject this position.  I still want it all: books and babies.  But sometimes I feel crazy with the competing demands on my person.  I grow furious with the helpless feeling that I am going too slowly along the journey of teaching and writing literature. (36)
And just like Hilder - I also want it all.  Babies and books.  I want desperately to reject that either/or dichotomy that feels so much like losing.  I want to be able to be a mother and a thinker, a writer, a do-er.  I want to be able to inhabit multiple worlds.  So much so that I often feel these days like I am leaping out of my own skin.  But I worry - have I waited too long to go back to school?  Can I keep up?after six years away? Will my trying to keep up put my other roles in jeopardy?  Will we all adjust?  Is it really possible to keep it all together, to remain - more or less - intact?

And then back to Hilder, who essentially tells me that the answer to my question is, in fact, no.  Not so much.  Remaining intact is likely not an option.  She relates: "[m]y mothering life is a crucible. . . . Pain characterizes too much of this fleeting lifespan I have in which to raise my beautiful beasts.  I would die for them (birthing does prove that, for starters).  The immediate fact though, is that I am dying daily in just trying to live with them.  So my teaching/writing aspirations are daily crucified to the needs and nonsense of my dear ones three" (36-37).

Something will always give.  And that something will almost always be the external obligations, the public sphere self.  Because that is the bargain I struck, quite willingly, when I chose the path of motherhood.  It feels overwhelming just to consider adding that public sphere self back to my repertoire.  But it feels equally like striking the sort of bargain which meant choosing not to do this would be a bit, you know, disastrous.  Luckily (?) for me, Hilder seems to suggest that perhaps remaining intact is overrated, and perhaps, not the end result I should be aiming for:

I whine, but the truth is that I wouldn't trade this triad life for anything.  To ride this three-horned beast for even a few seconds is an extraordinary privilege.  In the words of Ursula Le Guin, 'Babies eat books.  But they spit out wads of them that can be taped back together; and they are only babies for a couple of years, while writers live for decades; and it is terrible, but not very terrible' (812)*. . . . Mad? Me?!  Yes, yes, a resounding yes!  I'm riding this three-horned bronco of a life with all my might, dust-caked, and with tears in my eyes. (38-39)

So then - to be or not to be a madwoman in the academy?   I strongly suspect not even this book will scare me away from trying it on for size.  But I also strongly suspect that I won't ever be sure...

*The Ursula Le Guin quote in Hilder's essay comes from: "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle Writes the Book." The Art of Short Fiction.  (Ed.) Gary Geddes.  Toronto: Harper Collins, 1993. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011


As I sit here beginning this blog post, it is Sunday at noon.  And I have been alone for almost three hours.  And during those three hours, I have dowloaded some new music, had a long, satisfying run (a personal best!), and done laundry and facebooked and taken a gloriously (and likely also highly irresponsibly) long shower.  And now I am sitting here.  In the purple sundress I bought last year but can't wear in public because I discovered it was see-through.  Sipping my second coffee.  Fingers on the keyboard.  And listening.

I can hear things.  I can hear birds outside my window.  I can hear the padding of cat paws on the kitchen tiles.  The neighbours lawnmower.  I can hear the ticka-ticka-ticka of the keys as I type.  I can hear my own breathing.  A slight rustle of breeze.  Someone's windchimes.  The sound of swallowing coffee as I pause to think.  The clock ticking.  I can hear all these things, and it occurs to me how much I don't hear in the regular swing of my life, when cacophony and chaos (however adorable) reign. 

Sometimes I forgot the impact in my life of being an introvert.  Not in the social sense - I'm highly aware that I'm that girl that always really wants to meet new people and make new connections but gets hopelessly tongue-tied and self-conscious when the opportunity arises - I mean in my day-to-day life as a parent.  I am an introvert with two really, really, extremely active, passionate and holy-fucking-LOUD kidlets.  For 10-13 hours a day, every day, my home is filled with activity.  Noise.  Motion.  A constant supply of kinetic energy.  For the most part, I am glad of this.  I have vibrant and wildly energetic smalls who live with a whole lotta gusto.  Two different, but very big personalities (well, three if you count mine ;).  Most days, their verve feels like a win.  

BUT - there is not a lot of room in my life to nurse the introvert in me.  Sometimes, the volume and movement seems so normal, so natural, so unavoidable, that I forget exactly how much I depend on quiet and stillness and space for introspection to come back to myself, to regroup.  And how rare a bird such quiet and stillness and space is.

So, for as much time as I have today, I will luxuriate in this aloneness, in the hopes that I find myself somewhat reenergized to keep up with these amazing wild things that make my world so full of noise... and life. 


Saturday, May 21, 2011

hands dirty

Basil (and more basil!), parsley, cilantro, mint, tomatoes, rainbow chard, romaine lettuce, carrots, zucchini, hot pepper, strawberries, sunflowers and five different kinds of annuals and perennials ready to burst in reds, oranges, yellows.  All this went into our wee urban garden yesterday. 

Each year, I forget how much I love getting back to the garden.  I love the planning.  The shopping - perusing endless rows of gorgeous flowers and reluctantly paring down my choices.  (I like the veggie garden too, but really, I'm all about the pretty.  I don't know how we live all winter long without the vibrance of flowers - unfathomable.)  And I love, love, love the planting.  The dirty, muddy, hands-in-the-ground, chilling-with-the-worms of it.  The smells of herbs and flowers and leaves and soil.  I especially love how the act of gardening feels like connecting with my mama - a gardener if ever there was one - even though she's two provinces away. And how excited my little 'helpers' get, watering their feet more than the plants, planting seeds insanely close together, and then accidentally digging them all back up.   The most disastrous and lovely gardening assistants.

It was a blissfully filthy day.  Full of sunshine and mosquitos and messes galore.  Perfection.

Friday, May 20, 2011

for the nerd mamas

For those of you who, like me, are into nerding out about motherhood, I encourage you go on over and check out Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement (MIRCI).  MIRCI has conferences (in Toronto, almost always), a journal and partners with Demeter Press for some cool publications. 

Happy nerding, friends.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Many Small Mercies

The smell of snuggling kiddos after a hard days play

The feel of snuggling kiddos after a hard days play

Kidlet giggles, chortles and belly laughs

I love you's

Coffee talks

New connections

Bedtime stories (best time of the day, hands down)

That feeling of rush after a good hard run

Sunshine on my skin

Dinner with people who love me

Lost in thought moments

Small hand in big hand

Hands full of soil and roots and water

Bursts of colour

My spot on L's shoulder at night

Art in sidewalk chalk

Bare feet on soft grass

Sweet songs

Awesome train graffiti flying by

Fingers on the keyboard

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The end of breastfeeding

So - we're done, Girlio and I. I weaned her. For many reasons - the most important for me being, I really really needed my body back.  Not just in the freedom from ugly nursing bras way (although that too), but more in the realm where body and emotions are inextricably tied up, in the way that greater physical space frees up some emotional space.

This was all somehow made easier by the fact that my doc thought a particular antidepressant would be good for me which was not deemed safe for breastfeeding.  In a way I think this saved me from a lot of the guilt I might have otherwise carried from not letting my Girlio wean on her own terms.  It wasn't nearly as grueling (for either of us) as I'd thought it would be.  We switched to a bottle of warm milk for bedtime, and when she asked for 'milky', I told her it was all gone now.  Shocking me completely, my steadfastly insistent breast lover accepted this entirely and moved on.  Funnily, days three and four were the most difficult for both of us (just like quitting smoking! Weird).

We're somewhere around eight or nine days in now.  Though I wonder when my poor breasts will stop aching (really - they freaking hurt!), I mostly feel relieved. I actually don't miss the closeness of it, though I worried that I would, because we have do many other ways of snuggling and loving each other up. There is though, along with the aching breasts, a certain wistfulness, a sharp edge or two. This was my last baby. I will never breastfeed again. That kind of finality is always tough to reconcile completely.

But I've spent a total of 37 months breastfeeding my two babes. And I think that's been good enough for these babes. And I think that's been good enough for this mama, too.

So - as soon as we get past the physical pain of weaning (which I really, really, really and sincerely hope is soon!) - I'm gonna celebrate the return of physical (and emotional) space, fancy bras, and 'the girls' being mine all mine once again.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Retro #3 - The great (and imagined) divide

In this corner, schlepping a briefcase, breastpump and sporting the newest in business attire, we have "the working mom!" And in this corner, schlepping a baby and a toddler, several snacks and sporting dirty jeans and the newest in baby-wearing technology, is "the stay-at-home mom"!

-And in between them, the great ideological DIVIDE!-

Certainly much has been made of this 'divide' business in the media, dubbed (ridiculously, I think) as the "mommy wars". (Seriously - are you also picturing women with babes in one arm and AK47s in the other? Give me a farking break). Maybe it's just my own personal vantage point - that of a stay-at-home mama who is married to a work-outside-the-home mommy - but I think this divide business is a bit of bunk.
Now, I know a lot of moms, mamas and mommies. I even know some mothers. Some of us work outside of the home. All of us work inside of the home. All of us work really really really damn hard. And I don't actually know a single mom who thinks they are superior to another mom because they work outside, or do not work outside, of the esteemed home. I don't. Not a single one. (And if I do, I hope they never see fit to tell me so).

Most of the work-outside-the-home moms that I know (that work outside of the home because they chose to) look at my daily life and say " Um yeah - that's not for me. That's too hard. I don't wanna do that." And most of the work-inside-the-home mamas I know look at their working outside the home pals and think that same exact thing. (This is not to say that both groups of people don't have days when they thought that ole grass might be greener on the other side, but that friends, is life).

BUT - I do think that all moms, regardless of the choices they make around paid and unpaid employment, experience a great deal of external pressure. And the problem is, the pressure is on regardless of the choices we make. Working moms (yes, all moms are working moms but I get tired of writing "outside the home" all the time, so just read it in, okay?) get bullshit-ty reactive crap flung at them like "I wouldn't want someone else to raise my kids", "You can't get this time back," and other Betty Crocker-circa-1950s-kinda-guilt-inducing-shite. I'm gonna hazard a guess that it makes them want to reach out and strangle someone, well, because it makes me want to reach out and strangle someone.

And as a stay-at-homer, I've gotten things like: "Well don't you want your kids to have a strong female role model?" or "I can't turn off my ambition just because I had children/I want my kids to see my strong work ethic" (Which of course makes me want to alternatively shrivel up and die/reach out and pop someone in the kisser).

I think this knee-jerkiness (emphasis on the latter part), even (and perhaps especially) when it does indeed come from other moms, stems from the tremendous cultural pressure on mothers (and NOT on fathers, by-the-by) to be everything. All of the time. I think these sentiments are so entrenched, and so common, that they get bandied about to in an attempt to make us feel better about our choices (which someone else ALWAYS thinks are wrong, because as I have already mentioned, perhaps ad nauseum, is that it is not possible for a female parent to make the "right" choice). And they sometimes get bandied about without really thinking about the messages behind the sentiments.

Mother-blaming. Mother-guilt. The Mother-load. These terms are not accidental. This stuff didn't get made up by mothers. And maybe the "mommy wars" aren't really about actual mommies, either.

Cause when we're busy feeling guilty, feeling blamed and feeling over-loaded than additionally and feeling like we have to expend precious energy constantly defending our parenting choices, we have far, far less energy taking those in control of our world to task for things that will make all of our lives better, like equal wages for equal pay, valuing women's unpaid domestic labour, safe, effective and affordable birth control, eroding reproductive rights, the ever-rising tide of violence against women, better paid parental leaves (hear that, Government of Alberta?!), universal daycare, improvements to public education, etc. etc. etc. and etc.)

So - let's start a new mama-movement. Let's all agree to wave the white flag and end the silly 'motherwars' hype and hoopla, once and for all. The next time someone leans in and either attacks your mothering choices, or conspiritorially attacks someone else's mothering choices - call it like you see it.

Tell 'em it's a load of crappity-crap-crap.

Tell 'em we have bigger (and far better) fish to fry than other mamas.

And then let's get to actually frying those damn fish.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Retro #2 The professionalization of parenting

Is it just me, or is parenting becoming more and more professionalized each day? Parents are expected to have an incredible amount of knowledge and expertise in child-rearing, and the parental perfection we are supposed to be striving for seems harder and harder to achieve. (In no small part, because the "experts" in the profession of parenting hardly agree on anything, making this profession a mightily confusing, in addition to it's other charms).

*** Do you read to your kids? How many books per day? Do you do finger rhymes and sing songs together on a daily basis? Are you being sure to grab every available educational opportunity? Turn off that TV and do some crafts. Not colouring books, or other such creativity killing activities, mind you. You don't want to stunt their creative engagement with the world around them.

Are you providing enough brain stimulating and engaging activities? Not too many - kids need "free range" too! Overscheduling is bad, bad, bad for kids. So, apparently is underscheduling. So make sure you schedule your kids just right!

And how about their nutrition? Are you consistently providing whole grain-organic-perfectly balanced-meals and snacks using all fo the colours of the rainbow, following Canada's Food Guide, and using every opportunity to create teachable opportunities about health and food consumption? What? Kids won't eat that stuff? No problem - just learn the art of fruit and vegetable and sandwich carving. Make happy faces with tomatoes and olives and build architecturally sound buildings out of home-made bread, granola, and brussels sprouts. And make sure to serve all this glorious food, nay, art on BPA free, re-useable, re-cycleable dinnerware. And while we're on the topic of dessert - no sugar boys and girls. Cavities! Childhood obesity! Hyper-activity disorders! Sleep disruption! Do you know nothing? And you should also make sure to avoid salt, additives, anything fried, anything with unpronounceable words in the ingredients list and any sort of convenience food.

Make sure your children receive plenty of physical activity! At least two hours per day. Every day. But while doing so, please be sure to remember the abovementioned instructions about scheduling and overscheduling. Not too many activities outside the home. (Perhaps Junior can march on the spot while you do dishes?)

Your children must receive adequate amounts of sleep! Sleep deprivation in children can cause all kinds of horrible problems later in life. What's that? Your child doesn't sleep? Tsk. That's probably your fault. Remember - healthy sleep habits will serve them a lifetime!

Emotional growth is so important. DO NOT under any circumstances - hurt your child's feelings. Try to minimize the use of the word "no" BUT make sure to set clear, healthy boundaries. Always follow through on appropriate consequences. Make sure your child always feels safe enough to express their feelings BUT don't let them run the show! You're in charge! But for God's sake, don't yell, scream or otherwise carry-on. You could scar them for life. Instill empathy without teaching your child to live for other people's feelings. Be sure to instill plenty of self-esteem and pride, but be careful not to overpraise!
Knowledge = the key the world. If you want your kids to get ahead in life, make sure they know the alphabet and shapes, at least a few simple algebraic equations before entering kindergarten. BUT make sure you don't put too much pressure on them. Pressure can stunt their emotional growth, and besides, you wouldn't want them to be bored at school afterall, because boredom in school leads to gateway drugs, casual sex and all kinds of shenanigans that you, as a parent, will be responsible for.

Immunize! Don't immunize! Use flouride! Don't use flouride! Bug bites carry terrible diseases but Deet causes seizures! Exposure to sun causes cancer, but wait - sunscreen causes cancer! And for goodness sake, watch out for parabens, phthalates, scraps of teflon ready to jump out of your frying pan, and other dangerous lurking chemicals. They're out there...you know, lurking.

Above all - make the dangers lurking around every corner cannot reach your children. BUT - don't be a helicopter parent. Everyone hates a hover-er. ***


Now, I take my job as a parent pretty freaking seriously. I'm into this whole thoughtful and reflective parenting business. I work hard at it, and my kiddies (and their physical, emotional and social growth) are certainly the most important thing on my radar most days. But the things is: I'm not actually a therapist, or a nutritionist or a pre-school or phys-ed teacher. (Moreover, I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to be any of those things). I'm a mama. Just a mama. Doing the best I can on any given day, with the resources I have at hand (which some days are better than others, let's be clear). All the pressure to be the best parent, to raise the perfect kids is immense, all pervasive and pretty much freaking impossible. I'm exhausted just writing about it! It's enough to put a mama, this mama at least, in the mad-house.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Retro #1: I'll give you two good reasons to cry at Folk Fest

We went to Folk Fest yesterday. We towed around a kid with a fever, and another who hadn't slept much then night before. And against all odds - the fever mostly stayed away and they were amazing and patient and loved the atmosphere and the music. We stayed for ten hours and Boy-o still wasn't ready to leave.

And while sitting at our first music session, featuring one of my very favourite singers, Colin Hay - we had the most perfect few minutes. I mean - just silly, stupid, ridiculous beautiful. The sun was streaming down. Girlio had just fallen asleep in my arms. Boy-o sat in L's lap, chillin' and spontaneously moving his arms in the air to the sounds of gorgeous music. And then Colin played "I just don't think I'll ever get over you", which is one of my favourite songs, ever. And it was perfection. The kind of moment that only comes along every so often.  Teariness abounded.

And the later on, I was reminded again of just how much I love my life. And of how fragile that life really is. After traipsing and listening and snacking and climbing up that infernal hill about a gazillion times (okay - whose idea was it to put a folk festival on a ski hill, anyways?!), we went to the kids' area for some playground fun. Boy-o and L. were playing happily in the sand when I realized that Girlio had spiked a fever again, and called L. over to help me give find and administer some kiddie drugs. And it happened. In an instant. Boy-o was gone. L. and I searched the area growing increasingly freaked out by the second. We found security. They put the word out. And we continued to stumble around, by this time frantic. I walked the same perimeter of the play area over and over, Girlio was in my arms, but I didn't once feel the solid 20 lbs of her weight against me, so singular was my focus. Every child looked like Boy-o but wasn't. All of the sudden, everyone seemed to be wearing the same sunhat as he was. More security kept coming over to check in and help. One of them tries to reassure me by saying: "If your kids' gonna get lost, this is the place to do it!" I smile weakly and do not say anything that is on my mind. I do not say that there is an exit right beside the playground area and scads of forest trails in the area. I do not say there are so many places a child could be hidden and hurt at this festival. I do not say how trusting my child is of adults. I do not say that just because someone loves good music does not mean they aren't also a pedophile, a kidnapper, a child abuser, a murderer. I do not say that I can't stop thinking about the fact that I could be leaving this festival without him. That this is my worst fear. (Every parent's worst fear). I do not say any of these things. But I am thinking them. They are running through my brain at breakneck speed. Over and over. Until they find me and tell me that they have found my boy. That he is busily entertaining the security folks over at Mainstage. Making them laugh with his Boy-o antics. The security person kindly helps me find my way there, my mind so cluttered with relief that I can barely see. And sure enough - Boy-o is fine. Perfectly, marvellously, miraculously, fine. He is entertaining everyone. He sees me and tells me that "You and mommy got lost and I couldn't find you," as I am falling to my knees and grabbing him tight to me, Girlio still slung over one hip. And then we practically run together across the grounds to find L., who is still looking, still out of her mind with all of those unspoken and unspeakable fears.
I do not cry until after. When I have left my three peeps to go in search of sustenance to take as a picnic to the next stage. And all of the sudden, my legs feel like lead, my head swims with dizziness and I feel the tears starting to stream down my face. I know the people around me must think I am crazy. But I don't care. I am literally overthrown with relief and fear and grief and happiness.

And then, the reality of hungry babes sinks in, and I force myself to shake it off and forge on in my mission for food, and to enjoy more music, more time with my family, who I am insanely lucky to have.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

it sucked and then I cried - reading the almighty Dooce

Heather B. Armstrong. it sucked and then I cried: how I had a baby, a breakdown, and a much needed margarita. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010.

Okay. So I really want to hate her. She's like that wildly popular girl from high school, makes over $40 000 in ad revenue a month, her blogs have been published by a major publishing company and made the NY Times bestseller list, and she's probably the one blogger everyone thinks of when they hear the term 'Mommy Blogger.'  I know - annoying right?  Why is her nervous breakdown so much sexier than mine, mmmm?!  (Likely largely because she's not, you know, me.  Also perhaps because I'm not actually having a nervous breakdown.  Just, erm, some growing pains or something.  And someone should kick my ass for being so dramatic).   Anyways.  It turns out she's freaking hard to hate.  For real.

Armstrong is a witty, engaging and often funny writer, who takes you along on a journey of soul-crushing post-partum depression in a way that doesn't make you feel, well, crushed.   This book sucked me in.  I started and finished it two nights ago in the bath (which was mighty fucking cold by the time I was done, believe you-me).  I love that Armstrong has the capacity to take you through the highs and lows of a given aspect of mothering.   I laughed with her.  (She has a warped sense of humour - possibly stemming from her Mormon upbringing - long since rejected, which I really appreciated).  Like when she talks about breastfeeding dogma: "They will tell you that it is easy. . . . And they will be lying to you.  SHOVING A BLUNT PENCIL INTO YOUR EYE IS EASY, TOO" (84).   Mmmmhmmmmm.  And then I cried with her.  (Not, like out of control cried.  But if you can forgive the Oprah term,  I 'pretty' cried, in the eyes-welling-up-little-tears-trickling-down-the-cheek way).  Especially when she wrote about having to wean her daughter in order to go on some pretty serious anti-depressants, which of course seems to have coincided with the weaning of my own Ms. Girlio:
I have been bound to this child for six months without any break, and that morning as she snuggled in my arms and ate her last boob-delivered breakfast I sobbed  and gushed tears onto her porcelain soft cheeks.  And when she full I held her close a few extra minutes so that she could lift her arm to my face and pinch my nose.  And the a put her whole hand in my mouth to nibble on her fat fingers and to muffle my weeping. (175)
And there were also the many requisite, -hey! me too!- moments at things both humourous, and less so.  Her extreme dismay at losing power in her home, thus disconnecting her from the voices and faces keeping her company from the television is eerily similar to the discomfort (read: panic) felt by yours truly every time she loses power and cannot check her facebook.   And the following passage describes a feeling I have encountered, acutely, many times in my own at-home tenure:
Some days I stared eternity in the face and thought about how many diapers I would change that would only get dirty again, towels I would wash that would only become soiled, dishes I would load into the dishwasher that we would use to eat again and again, and I felt useless, as if I were fighting a battle that could not be won. (137)
I'm not going to lie.  I bought the book because of the title.  It's a good title.  I'm not sure I was actually expecting such a frank, bare depiction of the tumult of new parenthood.   But Armstrong's waters run deeper than I thought they would.  She probably attributes a bit more of her depression to chemicals in brain, and a bit less of it to concrete material and social factors than I might. (Like, I dunno, the fact that her husband could only take three days off post-birth, said baby had what can only be described as horrific colic, and there are virtually no social supports for mothers out there and immense pressures to be supernatural creatures... and I could go on and on with this list, but won't, cause you've heard it from me before and I'm going to start sounding like the Charlie Brown trombones again.  And because noteveryone has to be as obsessed about this business as me, right?)  She gets to make those calls.  Not my journey.

So - it`s probably fairly clear that she doesn`t need the revenue from my recommendation.  (But neither does J.K. Rowling, and I`m all about HP).  And for any mom that has struggled - or anyone who wants to understand more clearly some of the struggles that mom`s can face - it`s worth a late night bathtub read - if you don`t mind the water getting a bit chilly.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Love 'n energy to spare

I pick up strays.

Cats, dogs, kids, sometimes even grown ups. I'm a stray magnet. Apparently I've got love and energy to spare and it shows. At any rate - I don't this week. Have enough of either. This week I don't even have enough for my own people. This week full sentences take - effort. Most weeks, it isn't unusual to go at least a few days without chatting with folks other than my kids. So of course on the day when I really don't want to, I pick up a stray kid at the park, where I've taken my kids so they are occupied enough that I don't, in fact, have to speak in full sentences. And she's bossy. And persistent. And won't stop talking to me.

And then, just when I finally get rid of Ms. Munchkin, my insane neighbour, we'll call her Mindy, shows up at the park - and this requires idle chit chat, which I loathe at the best of times. (Either let's talk about who we are and what matters to us, or let's not bother. I don't get chit chat.  Also, I'm terrible at it.  As an aside, if I'm in a situation where it isn't, or I'm worried it isn't, appropriate to relate on that level, I come across as weird and stilted. As an aside aside, this is why I suck at big groups without large, large amounts of alcohol.  As an aside aside aside - I wonder if this is why I feel so isolated, because it'svirtually impossible to have a conversation about anything real with another human being when kids are in tow...huh.)

I wonder what it means that while my energy is about as low as I think it can go with me being, you know, upright, I still manage to pick up strays?  'Cause I think if I met me in a park right now, I might stay clear.  I guess that's a good thing, even if it does require me to speak in full sentences. 

Maybe, just maybe, it's the universes' way of telling me I'm not actually meant to remain monosyllabic.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

blogger down

Hey all -

Blogger has been down, some posts have been removed, and some of my scheduled, written posts have disappeared into thin air.  I'm really hoping they come back... in the meantime, an oldie:

The thing about Kids:

A friend and I were out with our kids at a local - and purportedly kid friendly -attraction (ahem Muttart Conservatory), where we were glared at, told in no uncertain terms to keep our kids quiet, and instructed not to let them run by attraction staff. (Each of these things more ridiculous than the last, especially when you consider that at the front door of this attraction is a gift shop with a huge display of candy.) At first I was embarassed, and tried to shush and slow down my little guy (he is definitely a kid that veers towards the, um, enthusiastic side of things). But then I was really annoyed. I'm still really annoyed. They were just being, well, kids.

But here's the thing about kids. We don't actually like them. Now before you jump all over me, I don't mean I don't like them. I like 'em fine (most of the time!). I mean, our larger culture doesn't like them. Hear me out on this one. Sure, we're baby crazy. We watch faithfully for celebrity baby bump alerts and wonder which of our friends will get pregnant next. We delight in baby showers, baby names, baby things, and engage in all kinds of baby over-consumption. We read diligently read scads of baby books, but how many people do you know who actually do the same reading about child development?

We really don't value children. We see evidence of this on a larger scale, for example, our most developed nations have appallingly high rates of child poverty and we think nothing of the fact that those we task with taking care of our children make ridiculously low wages. On a smaller scale, we are vexed by children's endless energy; annoyed by their volume and exhuberance; inconvenienced over their predisposition to avoid things we think they should do, like sleep and eat vegetables; and we are most certainly ill-equipped to handle the hugeness and wildness of their constantly changing emotional development. (For instance, I recently learned that our dopamine levels - that's the happy chemical - are the lowest at the ages of 2 and 14. Really, this says SO much about the wildness and unpredictability of emotions that come out of our two year olds - and 14 year olds, obviously!)

We glare at parents whose children melt down in public. We shoot dirty looks at parents whose kids talk to loud, move to fast, or otherwise break social codes of civility. Why can't those darn kids behave, we wonder? Why can't they talk instead of shout, walk instead of run, sit still once in awhile, listen the first time, pay attention. Why do they stubbornly dig in their heels in defiance? Why do they tantrum?

But what we really mean is, why can't they be more like us? More, well, adult. We like to think we have an appreciation for childhood. But have you ever heard someone say, "Oh don't be so childish" to a child? I have. It says a lot, I think.

Children are imperfect, messy, impulsive, loud, whimsical, exhaustingly-always-on-the-go, accidents-waiting-to-happen. They say it like they see it and feel their feelings unabashedly and with gusto. They need room to move, freedom to explore, and space for their voices to be heard (however loud those voices may sometimes be). It's as often exhausting and frustrating as it is cute. But they only get to be kids once. Why are we all in such a hurry to train it out of them?

The fact that my friend and I were glared at and reprimanded at a public place designed to be an educational facility for folks like kids speaks to the lack of spaces in the world that kids can be themselves.

If children were valued... if we actually liked children... we'd let them be kids from time to time.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dear Lu Lu Lemon

You are pure evil.  I went in against my better judgement because I knew I couldn't afford the clothes (And I've railed against them previously ;). But I need some workout pants - and there you were.  Hey - did you know that you only go up to size 12?  Huh.  Guess you do.  Fat chicks don't want to run or workout or do yoga anyways, right? (Though - just a thought here - maybe they would if you made them some nice clothes, mmmm?).  Anyhow.  I tried the things on.  And dammit if they didn't make my ass look better than it has in years and likely ever will again. You people are evil.  Evil. (and possibly geniuses).  I'm a little fragile right now and apparently a good-looking ass is all it takes for me to drop almost 100$ on workout pants in a store whose body size politics (and also chic now-ness) kinda piss me off. 

Then there's the small issue of the bag.  You put my pants in a reusable bag that says things like "Friends are more important than money" (which is really good to hear, because I spent all my fucking money on your Pants and my Ass), or "The pursuit of happiness is the source of all unhappiness," or "Do at least one thing each day that you're afraid of."  I'm sorry Lu Lu.  You make great Pants.  Really.  You do.  They even deserve that capital letter I have them back there.  For real. 

But - shhhhhhhhhhhhh - don't talk.  


Mama T

P.S.  Also - could you expand yoursizes so I can feel a bit less guilty when I go buy my next pair?

P.P.S.  You are Evil. Evil. Evil. (and also bum geniuses).

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

medicating mama...FYI

So folks - I'm told that I might be a little dim for the next coupla weeks (and also apparently, 'excitable', not sure what this means but you can be sure I'll let you know ;).  In light of this, after I use up the new stuff I've jotted down in the past few days, I've lined up a little bit of a bloggy restrospective of older posts (just in case I'm too wonky to get out the goods). 

Too much Technolove

I am an addict. Let's just get that out of the way right up front. If you take away my IPhone or netbook or laptop (yes, I'm  spoiled addict), I will cease to exist. Okay - not literally. I'll still be here, chasing the rugrats and folding the laundry and whipping up dinner out of nothing in a whirlwind of my kids' musical stylings and arsenic hour complaints (holy crap - that is one aptly named hour).  But without my blog, and without facebook, I could go days without seeing or conversing with someone outside of the little family. You are going to have to take my word for it when I tell you that the aftermath of such wordly absences is not pretty.  Anyhow.  I use facebook and this blog to remind myself of that world outside of the four walls, I'm still around.  (Figuratively, at any rate).  

I wasn't quite aware of how badly dependant I was until the other day when I woke up to NO internet.  I looked at L., quite literally panic stricken, and conveyed with one mighty meaningful look- 'no way are you leaving me here without the my dose of the outside world!'

But my kids hate the computer (or at least the time I spend on it).  And I don't think my wifey is super keen on it either.  And they're probably right to feel that way.

So this week, since I seem to be falling right the hell apart anyways, I've gone off of facebook.  (Not my blog.  You can take any anything but this, folks.  This, I need.  As evidenced by the fact that yesterday was my first facebook-less day, and in between kid wrangling, fieldtrip supervising, and attempting to have a small breakdown, I've already written enough blog material to last until Armageddon). 

The goal is a week.  You can feel free to place your bets on how long I make it.  (Between you, me and the lamppost, I think it'll take a miracle to make it past Wednesday). 

So - on with the withdrawal....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, May 9, 2011

last times

I breastfed my baby for the last time tonight.  Ouch.

the morning after...

Why did I write that?  Why did I make myself vulnerable like that?  What was I thinking? 

Now there are people who read this blog, who I sort of know, but not really, thinking - 'hey -that chick's nuts.'  Or possibly, 'Hey- there goes the queen of overshare!,' which, though likely true at various junctures, isn't something I necessarily want everyone in the whole world to know.  I generally like to present a personae that reads, 'reasonably together,' however real that is (or isn't).  I feel a bit like I forgot to wear pants to school and I'm standing there in my underwear, exposed (and possibly wishing I'd thought to wear cuter underwear).

So what the fuck was I thinking?  Honestly - I'm not sure I was thinking.  Feeling, most definitely, but thinking maybe not so much.  

Am I sorry I wrote it?  Not sure yet. 

Maybe vulnerability on my part, however awkward it feels, will other folks feel less like fuck-ups.  Maybe they can look at me and think, 'sure I can't keep the house clean, but that chick can't keep her house clean AND she can't make it through the day without crying in front of her kids.  I"m not doing too bad.'   Or maybe my vulnerability allows others who know exactly what I'm talking about, to feel less alone.  Like the five brave and lovely commenters from yesterday who added their own voices, experience, encouragment.  (and thank you - you definitely made me feel less alone.)  Maybe I need to let go of the over-achiever bit, and just admit I'm a bit of a fuck-up sometimes, just like everyone else. 

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Whatever the outcome - I can't unsay it.  Cards, meet table.  Let's see what kind of hand I've got.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

mother's day

This morning I sat there on the couch, clutching my coffee and watching L. snuggle the babies as they played on the computer.  And all I could feel was sad. 

What kind of mother, what kind of person, looks around at the most beautiful things her life has ever given her, two beautiful babies and a partner who loves her unconditionally (and often undeservedly so), and just feels sad?   Who does that?  Who is that? 

I've been like this for months.  My partner is probably getting sick of hearing about it.  I'm sick of hearing about it.  (And likely you're all sick of it creeping in between the lines).  The running isn't working anymore.  And I've been running - a lot. 

So - my to-do list grows again:
1. find daycare
2. find job
3. learn French for PhD program (in English.  Funny, yes?)
4. attempt to think of smart things to study in PhD program (which is not easy when one is mostly immersed in kid talk and dirty dishes day in, day out)

and... though I've managed to be off of them for 6 years now (6 YEARS!)...

5.  call my doc and get back on some meds

Now I know perfectly well that there are all kinds of non-chemical related factors for the sad - social isolation, lack of time for myself, lack of space to think, etc. etc. blah. blah

But I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be able to check off numbers 1-4 on my list if I don't check off number 5 first. 

I'm hyper aware that this makes me the total cliche* 'desparate housewife.'  If I threw a whole bunch of cigarettes, and some house-dresses (and possibly some speed) into the equation (oh, and a husband), I could be straight out of the 1950s. 

But cliche or not - this mama isn't doing anyone any favours like this.

(And now - admissions of continuing imperfection out of the way - back to your regularly scheduled programming...)

** I know very well that cliche should have an accent and can't figure out how to do it on this keyboard. 

Two great mama blogs by other folks... check 'em out!

ACRJ Blog: Queer parenting: being genderqueer and pregnant: "By Yvonne Tran Kiyo and Janelle I recently had a conversation with Janelle, a good friend and mentor of mine, about their experience be..."

Honouring Mothers Within our Social Justice Movement Building Work  by Tk Karakashian Tunchez 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

No Woman, No Cry | Trailer

Model (possibly former model?) Christy Turlington Burns has partnered with Planned Parenthood International to create a documentary about the crisis situation of maternal health and mortality worldwide. No Woman, No Cry's trailer is above, and will air on the Oprah Network (if you get it) on May 7th.  It's pretty much guaranteed to be a downer, as Turlington shares the stories of at-risk pregnaty women in four parts of the world, including a remote Maasai tribe in Tanzania, a slum of Bangladesh, a post-abortion care ward in Guatemala, and a prenatal clinic in the United States.  But we should watch it anyways. 

This is an issue that continues to grow worldwide - It is estimated that a woman dies every 90 seconds from maternal health related issues - and that a full 90% of these deaths are completely avoidable. Canadian citizens should be particularly disturbed by our leaders' reticence to fund safe abortion services under the umbrella of international maternal health care.  And we should all be outraged at what is happening regarding access to abortion across the border (and worried about what's going to happen in our own backyard too). 

Please head over to Every Woman Counts for more information - and avenues with which to take action on these issues.

Friday, May 6, 2011

cheese with these whines?

Hey lovely blog readers....

You may have noticed I've been posting lots of other folks' stuff of late.  I feel like my voice has been degenerating into a lot of whining lately.   More than, you know, usual.  (I know that's my schtick and all...).  I seem to be having . . . a moment.  So - given that I was annoying myself, I figured there was a reasonable likelihood I was annoying the rest of you too.   So I'm taking a bit of a breather.  I'll be back.  Soon-ish.   Until then - I'll try to keep throwing out some of the brilliant, fab work of other folks for ya'll to read. 

Thanks for hanging in with me.

Mama T

Unbound: A Mother's Day Gift — Western States Center

Unbound: A Mother's Day Gift — Western States Center

God - this makes me want to cry. And throw up. Maybe both.

and so begins...

And so begins in earnest the slinging of motherhood perfection.  Not that it wasn't earnest before now, but I'm telling you - nothing brings about the perfect idealized mother issue quite like mother's day.  One of today's MSNBC headlines reads: The Best and Worst Moms on Television, and you know there's sure to be more where those came from. Lots more.

But so far this one, currently all over facebook, is my hands down favourite:

"To all the unselfish moms out there who traded sleep for dark circles, salon haircuts for a ponytail, long showers for quick ones, late nights for early mornings, and designer bags for diaper bags, and wouldn't change a thing. Let's see how many moms post this who don't care what they gave up and instead LOVE what they got in return.  Post this if you LOVE being a MOM ♥"

And..... the inevitable sound off... (you knew it was coming....)

I love the chatter of my babies, their observations about the world, their sweet kisses and sticky hands.  I love watching them grow and change.  I love when they call me "mama" and slip their hands into mine.   I sometimes even love it when they tell me off.  There is so, so, so very much to love about being my children's mama.  They are amazing small creatures.  And I would sell my soul (watch out, I'd sell yours too) to make this world a safe, loving and happy place for them. 

Oh - but I do care what I give up

I miss my long showers.  I miss being able to go to the bathroom alone.  I miss being able to do anything alone. Despite loving breastfeeding, I'd like my breasts back now, please.  I haven't slept in around two years,  slept well in four.  I'd like some of that back too.  I've lost a chunk of social life.  And worklife.  And brain life.  I'd like some of that back too.  I never stopped getting salon haircuts, and I'm not going to.  Oh. Hell. No. Not for anyone.  Not even my kids.  (Yes - that's right.  I said I'd sell my soul but not my hair).  There are lots of days in the week that I'd rather stab my own eyes out with a fork than listen to kids music or a constant stream of chatter or crying.  There are days when I just want to squirrel away and be inside my head.  And sometimes the frustration of spilled milk and the constant stream of "whys" and the insurmountable mess and the tantrums is almost too much to bear.   Sometimes I'd sell them to the highest bidder just to get a chance to be alone, or spend an hour talking (really talking, not talking in between wiping noses and diaper changes) to a friend.  

Does that make me selfish?  Probably.  Could I be in the running competing with TV's worst moms?  Maybe.  But I highly doubt I'm really so out of the ordinary.

This Sunday, I'm going to fill a big old glass of wine.  Enough for all of us, maybe.  And I'm going to toast all the mamas out there like me.  The really, especially (openly) imperfect ones.  The ones that yell sometimes and swear sometimes and sometimes pine for the parts of themselves they feel they might've lost along the way.  The ones who'll back me up when I say that wanting to change some things doesn't mean I love my babies any less fiercely than any other parent.

I love being a mom.  With  999/1000th of all of my heart.  But that doesn't mean I'm willing to sell my own needs out in order to do the job unselfishly.  So - happy mother's day folks.  Here's to us.  (And to continuing to try to turn the ridiculous expectations of mothers right on their ass.)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

thinking outside the mother's day box: the strong families initiative

"Strong Families is a 10-year (U.S.) national initiative to change the way people think, feel and act in support of families. Our vision is that by 2020 we will expand the definition of family to support families of all kinds. Along with this culture shift, we will generate broad public support for policies on the local, state and national levels to created conditions so that families of all kinds can thrive.  The focus of Strong Families is on families who have the least amount of resources and are most under attack: families of color, low-income families, immigrant families, LGBT families and single parent families. As families in the U.S. struggle, low-income women, women of color and their children experience the greatest burden. Strong families are families in which every member has the opportunity to thrive. This is a very different definition from the strong patriarchal family for which our opposition is advocating."

Below is some fabulous materials put out by Strong Families, as well as a kick-ass video about the need to support young moms.  Great stuff.   Get the materials out and about!  Pass on the materials - and pass the support! 

And while you're at it - check out the Strong Families Movement too. 



So - the newest phase in my so-called midlife crisis seems to be an enormous surge of impracticality.  I  need new clothes because my old ones have outgrown me.  And yet, while I seem to go out shopping with the intentions of new jeans and sneakers, I somehow come home with little hot pink dresses and spanky high heeled boots and other fancy things that, though thoroughly delicious, are also ridiculously impractical for a girl in my line of work. (Though, I suppose I am now thoroughly prepared for any pressing tea-party wardrobe needs that may arise during the course of the day).   I've probably mentioned this before, but just in case you missed it, the full time mom gig, it ain't glamourous. There isn't actually a ball at the end of the night.  And I'm spending money we really don't have (and that I didn't earn, at least not in the literal sense, and yes, yes I contribute in other ways, etc. etc. etc.) in the bizarre expectation that there might be.  (Next time, blue jeans, I swear).

In the meantime - what to do with the hot pink dress part of me?  She's been packed away for awhile.  And I really miss her.  But - I'm not sure that there's actually room for her in this house that I've made. 

And is that giving up?   Or growing up?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Reason # I can't count that high I need to keep working on the weaning...

Girlio just reached up and grabbed my nipple (so hard I yelped) in front of god and everyone (everyone being several parents from Boy-o's class. Just the ones who look at me like I'm nuts anyways). Sweet Jesus.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Mama Lit Review - The Monster Within: The Hidden Side of Motherhood

Almond, Barbara. The Monster Within: The Hidden Side of Motherhood. Berkeley: The University of California Press, 2010.

I purchased the brand spankin' new, only-available-in-hardcover release of The Monster Within by Barbara Almond with great anticipation. I have been rather preoccupied with social messaging regarding concepts of 'good' and 'bad' mothers lately, and greatly hoped that Almonds' work would do a good job of delving into the idea of the darker side of motherhood in a non-shaming, enlightening sort of way.  Almond both does and does not manage this task.

I should begin by explaining from the outset that Almond is a psychiatrist, and accordingly, this book is steeped in a psychoanalytic language and perspective which tends to speak of people and their experiences in terms of orderedness and disorderness, and which I personally find quite dehumanizing. This may very well not be an issue for other readers, but definitely was a detractor to fully engaging with this book for me.

Almond found that within her psychiatric practice, a recurring and powerful theme for female clients was profound senses of ambivalence about issues relating to mothering: whether or not to become mothers, fears surrounding pregnancy, and women with children wrestling with feelings of ambivalence towards their children, and about their roles as mothers. She contends that while maternal ambivalence towards their offspring is a normal, even inevitable occurence, social expectations around the achievement of perfection for mothers become more stringent all of the time, making coming to terms with maternal ambivalence a nearly impossible feat. She argues:
That mothers have mixed feelings about their children should come as no surprise to anybody, but it is amazing how much of a taboo the negative side of ambivalence carries in our culture, especially at this time. I believe that today's expectations for good mothering have become so hard to live with, the standards so draconian, that maternal ambivalence has increased and at the same time become more unacceptable in society as a whole. (xiii)
Almond uses case studies from her practice and literary analysis to take on the considerable task of tracing maternal ambivalence from its most benign, common occurences through to its most serious and destructive forms, culminating with child murder and infanticide. Be forewarned, this makes the reading process somewhat discomfitting for mothers, in large part because due to the ubiquity of the experience of maternal ambivalence, it is impossible not to relate in some ways to the women on the more destructive and abusive ends of the mothering spectrum. Making these women's experiences reachable and accesible is one of the places where Almond's writing and perspective really tends to stand out.  But this particular strength doesn't necessarily make you feel like less of a 'monster.'

Unfortunately, it seems to be an enormously difficult task to write a book about mothering, even one that sets out to explore the more difficult and less palatable parts of mothering, without actually judging mothering and mothers. The judgements are subtle, but you can certainly tell where Almond's parenting beliefs lie.  She takes aim at attachment parenting in one chapter (using the most extreme example of attachment parenting ("...She pushed her beliefs too far" (41), and describes a mother going back to work 'too soon' in another (99).  In another case, examining a mother who experienced a traumatic, as well an an early return back to work post-birth,  Almond has this to say: "Both Hannah's grief and her absence at work represented a disruption in an otherwise loving mother-child relationship" (95, emphasis mine).  Too attached? Too detached? Too sad?  Back to work too soon?  What's a mama to do?!

There were also some moments here and there that I found to be quite jarring. In one such example, about a client who believed herself fat and ugly, Almond proclaims: "True, she was somewhat overweight and beautiful by conventional standards, but she was neither obese nor repellant in her appearence" (155, emphasis mine). And reference to how some women's frigidity is cured after childbirth (42), shocked me out of my read: are we really still using that one?

Moreover, though certainly a discussion of social and cultural barriers experienced by mothers, such a sexism, racism, class, sexual identity, ability, and so on, was not the purpose of Almond's exploration, it would have been refreshing to have some inclusion of how social power dynamics can impact people's experiences of mothering and ambivalence. Other than to acknowledge that this book relies mainly upon case studies involving middle-upper class women (because they are who comprise Almond's client base), in large part, this book treats mothers as a fairly homogenous group with similar experiences, focussing on difference mainly in terms of family of origin issues. And although she discusses women's ambivalence about having children, there is virtually no discussion about the immense pressure on women to have children whether or not they want to.

Despite not being all I'd hoped for, The Monster Within isn't without its good points. Her overarching discussion of maternal ambivalence as something that is present in all women (I'm going to qualify that with all women who choose to parent, even though Almond doesn't choose to make this distinction) helps to give voice to an issue that is still incredibly taboo. She relays her hopes that doing so will allow for a collective achievement of greater understanding, and of healthier overall ways of coping with our ambivalence. She does not exaggerate the pressures of maternal perfectionism, and I believe that any discussion of the more discomfitting side of motherhood that happens in a compassionate way is pretty darned important. 

(Okay - so it wasn't my favourite mama-read.  But don't let that stop you.  Give it a read and tell me what you think!  Maybe my expectations were too high going in...)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Confessions of a terrible mother # 5467

I am not so secretly hoping for Boy-o's first t-ball game to be rained out tomorrow so that I can otherwise celebrate my birthday. (Or at the very least not have to deal weird socializing with other t-ball parents, who can't figure out who L and I are but will be temporarily too polite to ask).

B-A-D mama. Bad, bad mama.

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The morning after: Where are we and where do we go from here? | rabble.ca

The morning after: Where are we and where do we go from here? | rabble.ca

Mood Music (aka - sorry, I`m fresh out today)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Queerest mama? Mama queerest? Straight Martha Stewart Wannabe?

There are lots of identifiers people use to make sense of their lives, their politics and their place in the world.  As I've talked about lots in my blog - I'm queer. I'm a mama. (I'm also a feminist, fat activist, an anxiety ball, a pinko- lefty, and a hothead).  But today I want to talk about the queerness and the mama-ness in particular, because they don't always get along so well.  I don't mean that I have a problem with my queerness or my mama-ness or how they fit together.  They fit together just fine, in my estimation.  But my estimations aren't the only ones around.

Starting with the mamaness as related to the queerness -

Being a mama makes my queerness far less visible, which is annoying (throw in that I'm run to the girly side of things and unless I'm with L. or get caught checking another girl out, I don't read queer at all.)  It also means I'm always on the alert for heterosexism and homophobia for my kids.  It means I have to try twice as hard to make the world navigable to them.  It means I have to worry about things other parents just don't.  It means my kids will have to worry about things other kids just don't.  (Everybody has worries about their kids based on life circumstances and particularities.  I'm not trying to say that mine are more important.  But I am trying to say that this particular worry for us is systemic and widespread and sometimes seems overwhelming).   And there isn't a day that goes by where I don't have to come out with the kids in tow.  Applying for new schools, parents and coaches and swim instructors and day camp leaders and random people in the grocery store who feel compelled to ask if my kids got their eyes from "daddy!"  And while we're on that - I have nice eyes, people.  They coulda fucking gotten them from me!  Breathing and moving on).  The mama who is queer doesn't jive for lots of people.   

And the the queerness as related to the mamaness -

Being a mama also makes some folks in the queer community less comfortable.  (Throw in the fact that I'm a  married stay-at-home mama and chalk me up to livin' la vida straight-wannabe, supporting the institution of marriage, which to be clear, ain't such a great institution, and watering down the in-your-face-ness of queer life and queer sexuality).  We're right out of a episode of Leave it to Beaver, right? (Ha!  Accidental funny.  Digressing.)    The queer who is mama doesn't jive for lots of people either. 

Take for instance, the essay I read this morning, entitled:  "Is Queer Parenting Possible?" by Shelley M. Park, that argues that 1. the fight for marriage equality will not further queer rights, (and just to be clear, I believe marriage rights are a tiny wee part in a broad sweep of changes needed to further equality for all kinds of queers - not all queers want or identify similarly-, so not all social changes will appeal to all queers... anyhoo but maintain that legal rights for those who want them are kinda important),  2.  that lezzie families like mine are practically un-queer in our acquiescence to heteronormative, biological family structures and relations.  The article actually did make some good and fine and challenging points -perhaps even to be talked about another day in another blog, but I also came away from it feeling like I was getting a little bit of a spank.   (And not in a good way).

The article also references a theorist (whom I hope never, ever, ever to meet) who argues that lezzie families like mine are, in fact, aiding the right-wing queer haters in our procreating ways.   Oh my.  My.  My.  My.  Unclenching fists to type.   (Reading this particular paragraph made me seriously rethink any sort of theoretical investigation into queerness and mamaness in a potential Phd because I'm not sure the old heart can take it.) 
So - I guess I feel like my lezzie identity and my mama identity (and the tricky combination therein) take me to this weird sort of no man's land. 

Not only do I have to worry about all the parents looking at me like I have three heads at softball games and classroom orientations, field strange and awkwardly personal questions about who got the sperm in them and how, and spend scads of time explaining and re-explaining and coming out as graciously as I can so that I can normalize us to my kids  in this effing redneck town - but I also apparently have to worry about not being queer enough

Do I need to change the name of my blog?!  I dunno. 

But somehow, "a straight-esque family grows in redneckville" doesn't quite have the right ring... 

I'm open to suggestions.