Monday, September 30, 2013

Brown-Eyed Girl

I'm getting my #12ThingsILoveAboutMe post for September in just under the wire!

This month, I'm focusing on my peepers. I love by eye color, which is a rich dark brown.

I haven't always loved my eye color. I'm brown-haired and brown-eyed, as are my dad and my sisters. The dominant genes are strong in this one.

For so long, I saw brown as drab, unexciting, the opposite of the quintessential all-American beauty, blond and blue. (Even Kate Hudson once got photoshopped--she's a green-eyed blond beauty and a magazine cover made her eyes the more acceptable blue.)

For so long, I thought brown = boring.

My husband, he's got the exciting combo of rr genes: Red hair, GREEN eyes. And I love this about him.

But I have come to love my brown eyes.

I still feel a secret thrill when I hear a song immortalizing a brown-eyed girl. Of course there's the iconic Van Morrison tune, but there's also the more recent "Pretty Brown Eyes."

It seems to me that it's easy to sing about honey-colored hair and sapphire eyes. It takes a deeper, more thoughtful look to sing about the brown-eyed beauties among us.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Case of the "Shoulds"

So today I've read two wonderful articles on parenting and both of them included the idea of letting go of self-blame. This one from the Today Show included a piece of advice that I completely agree with and actually made me tear up a bit:

For Stephanie Decker, a mom of two who famously used her body to shield her kids while a tornado destroyed their Indiana home in 2012, playing with kids is a key to parenting, even when the kids are tiny babies.

“Kids don’t care if the house is perfect or if the laundry is done; they care if mom will have time to sit, play and cuddle with them. At the end of the day, all our kids want is to be loved and cherished.”
This has me thinking about my own tendency to hear the "shoulds" in the back of my mind as I go through my day. I've gotten loads better at shutting off this voice, but there are some things that often run through my mind, mostly on weeknights, after work and while I'm enjoying the few hours I have with Munch and Hubs.

When I get Munch home from daycare, our first activity is often to veg on the couch. I snuggle him as he drinks his bottle (one of the biggest shoulds in my mind: "I should stop him from using a bottle"), and we sometimes watch his favorite Disney shows, but other times it's just quiet. It is our wind-down time. After 8 hours apart, these moments are precious to me, some of my favorites of ever.

But that doesn't stop the shoulds from creeping in.

"I should clean the kitchen."

"I should pack up Munch's old clothes."

"I should dust instead of just sitting here."

"I should get dinner going." 

"I should clip Munch's nails."

"I should clip the cats' nails."

"I should clip my own nails."

And even less productive shoulds, but more personal ones:

"I've seen this episode of Sophia 60 times, I should read while we sit here."

"I should write my grandma a letter."

"I should stay off Twitter while I'm with Munch."

All the "shoulds" go toward telling myself that what I'm doing at that moment--sitting quietly with my son, or even playing with my son--is wrong somehow, not ENOUGH somehow, lacking somehow.

And that is both sad and full-on crap.

I agree with Stephanie Decker--I believe that the biggest gift we can give our kids is our time, our attention, our support, our smiles, our kisses, our arms, our snuggles. No, I don't think it's okay to let trash pile up in the corners or flies to buzz around dirty dishes in the sink. But I think snuggling on the couch is 1000% more important to my parenting than folding a pile of laundry and making sure every bit of dust is off the shelves.

As a working parent, something's got to freaking give. It can't be work. I refuse to let it be my time with Munch. So, it's the housework, by and large.

Besides this, as Munch grows up, I find he's a kid who likes companionship while he plays. A couple of friends have kids about Munch's age who seem much more independent than Munch in that they go to their rooms, alone, and play. One of these kids goes to daycare every day, the other is home with Mom; one is a second child, the other a first. So I don't know if it's an environmental thing. I think it's a temperament thing.

And I think: "Should Munch be playing on his own?"

He will turn to me as he plays and pat the floor and say, "Mommy, sit down."

And 10 times out of 10, no matter what I'm doing, I sit. I ask you, what "should" I do? Tell him, "Play by yourself"? Is that the right answer?

But then I shake myself and say--There is no right answer. There is only what is right for me, and what is right for Munch, and only I as his mother and Hubs as his father can answer that.

And, for me, sitting with him, playing with him, is what I want to do. Munch has to play independently at daycare all day, every day. For him, for my child, playing with Mommy and Daddy in the evenings is important to him. And it's important to me too.

The "shoulds" whisper in our ears as parents because of the huge responsibility we hold. We think, or we fear, that every decision we make will affect our children forever. Some decisions of course will have a huge impact. But my sitting to play with my kid who happily goes off to daycare each morning does not mean he will become a clingy kid who refuses to leave my side. When kids are around, he already leaves my side, screaming "Kids!" He tells me to stay away as he climbs ladders to the slides. He has an independent streak; but he also has the "sit with me" streak.

So, self, let go of the shoulds. Snuggle and play. Munch is only young once.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Snapshot: My Little Myna Bird

Munchkin has gotten into repeating after Hubs and me and other things like the TV. My favorite is:

Munch: Mommy?

Me: Yes, baby?

Munch: Yes, baby.

Rinse, repeat.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Career Day Killed the Veterinary Star

When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a veterinarian. It's likely this imagined career is popular amongst little girls and boys alike. I liked animals; I liked the prospect of working with them every day. I read the Animal Inn series about a girl who helps in a vet's clinic, and though #2 featured the dread putting down of a beloved pet, I loved the books.

But I did not grow up to be a veterinarian. And I remember the moment that dream died a quick and shameful death.

It happened at our 6th grade career day. I don't remember any presentations from that day, other than the one I was most excited to attend--the talk by our family's vet. I felt like this was the moment I would learn all about the glories of becoming a vet.

And maybe he did talk about the good stuff and the rough stuff, but what I heard and grabbed on to was the HARD stuff. Dr. D said in his talk how difficult veterinary school was--to get into and to complete. It would take years, FOREVER, to my young mind. He talked about how few vet schools there were, how competition was fierce, and the best of the best only got in and made it.

I can still feel the deflation as I remember sitting in the folding chairs and listened. It was a sort of crushing heartbreak. This would not be my future after all. I knew it for a certainty, beyond a doubt.

Because, I was sure, I was not the best of the best. I couldn't do it, so there was no use in even going down that road. It would be too hard and I was sure to fail.

The irony here is, at least in my small pond of a small school in a small Michigan town, I was the best of the best, or damn near close to it. I was straight As almost entirely through K-12, and I graduated salutatorian. I excelled at AP courses. I was smart. I was bright.

But I wasn't confident.

And my greatest fear then, as now, was failure.

This streak runs through me, the absolute certainty that I am about to fail, falter, fall short in some fundamental way. Over the years, I've learned to push these voices aside, but it's an active process, and it's exhausting. I've learned that if you don't try ANYTHING, you will not live any sort of life. But it's hard for me, even now.

I've learned to close my eyes and and go, in some cases, enter a sort of free fall--like motherhood, the largest, scariest, most rewarding, most terrifying endeavor of my life. I'm learning to see things not as absolutes, so much. Some things I will fail at--like when I gave my 2 year old a love nip on his shoulder during bedtime routine and he flipped out. But that doesn't mean I'm a failure.

And I've learned to live with failing, learned to see the glory in the trying--like when I wrote my novel and failed to get an agent. There's still time, yes, but there's pride just in having completed those 150,000 words.

I don't know why Dr. D hammered into his young audience how challenging it was to become a vet. Maybe he was sick of having rose-eyed kids imagine his job was simply giving adoring pups a few pats on the head. Maybe he needed to validate himself that day, all his accomplishments and hard work.

And, it's likely with time I would have reached the conclusion that being a vet wasn't for me after all, once I stopped to imagine myself putting a family pet to sleep. I like science, but I'm not precise enough. I don't think I could perform surgery on anything, as I can't even cut a straight line.

But those aren't the reasons I didn't pursue it. Those are mature reasons, the reasons of a woman who knows her strengths and understands that medicine isn't one of them, and that it's okay.

My reason was fear. And that's sometimes hard to live with.

This post was inspired by the writing prompt, 1.) Something you wanted to be when you grew up.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hail to the Spaghetti

Last week, I shared this tweet: "And then my finicky 2yo ate a plate of spaghetti. In a RESTAURANT. #doublewhammy"

This is the story of that tweet.

The scene was a recipe for disaster. Hubs, Munch, and I were on vacation with Geema and Geepa at Massanutten Resort in the Shenandoah Valley, and we decided to venture into a restaurant instead of eating in, as is always easier with dearest Munch, who doesn't always sit down for meals (*understatement*).

The restaurant was a buffet, heralded in the resort literature for it's "popular pasta bar."

It also was located inside the big ol waterpark that we weren't taking Munch to because he wants to ride the tallest slide and swim in the deepest water and stand under the biggest bucket. It's just not the scene for him (or mommy) at this point in his life.

The buffet overlooked the entire park from pretty much anywhere you sat. Distraction was not an option.

We were disappointed to find that the food looked, in a word, disgusting. And this is coming from me, the girl who loves fast food and recently told her sister how she thinks with fondness and longing of the elementary school cafeteria pizza and chicken pattys. I'm not a high-brow food person, I love "trash" food, and this buffet was inedible.

So, as Munch squirmed to look out at the water park and said, "Kids!" and "Down there!" my mood quickly downgraded from hungry and hopeful that Munch would sit calmly to quite pissy and queasy. I wanted to leave, but Hubs said it was too late, we'd ordered drinks, we'd tried the watery mashed potatoes. We were committed.

As I walked back from another look at the buffet with Munch drooped sullenly in my arms, he spied food at another table and suddenly said, "Lolos" (translation: noodles). Someone was eating spaghetti. I said, "You want lolos?" and he nodded.

With no hope and nothing else to do, I took Munch to the "popular pasta bar," which consisted of two types of noodles, pale shrimp, and a few veggies, and ordered him up some spaghetti with red sauce. We watched as the "cook" made up the pasta on the hot plate, then I carried the large oval plate back to the table, figuring that I'd be the one eating the noodles.

Munch sat in his booster seat next to the window overlooking the water park and let me feed him a noodle. Seeing as how he's never eaten spaghetti for me, I held my breath, pretended this was no big deal, and fed him one noodle at a time. He looked at me and said, "Big one." As in LOAD THAT FORK, WOMAN. And soon he was shoveling the noodles into his own mouth!

He ate two-thirds of that plate, quietly watching as the big water bucket filled and dumped over and over. None of the rest of us ate much, but it was Munch's best meal of the trip, and for that, I thank the Blue Ridge Buffet.

This post was written in response to Mama Kat's writing prompt: 2.) Find a tweet you shared last week and elaborate.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Welcome September!

I'm so happy it's September, the gateway to my most favorite season, autumn. I can't believe summer is over (and hope the humidity gets the memo soon!). It was a good summer, full of both travel and home time, but I'm not sorry to say, as Munch would, "Bye-bye August!"

I've been looking at so many people's "back to school" or "starting school" pics and it's hard to believe this will be us in a couple years--I'm glad we're not there yet, because I will be a puddle!

The fall is another fresh start in the year. I just saw Gretchen Rubin's quote that today is the other January 1. It is so true. Even though I haven't been in a school environment for years, I still think of this as a "start." And we all know how I love new beginnings and times for resolutions!

I'm casting back in my memory to remember if I was nervous or anxious over going back to school, and I must have been some, because I get nervous for any and all changes and transitions. But school was something I was good at, at least the academic part. I don't remember the anxiety, if I felt it.

What I remember is full tubes of Elmer's glue, new pencils, smooth pads of paper, new shoes and jeans, and pictures on our square front porch, holding my clarinet case. I remember a tidy desk and a clean locker and new seating charts and dark black chalkboards not yet gone gray with eraser streaks.

New things, full of promise. That's how I feel about every autumn. That may be what I'm "supposed" to feel about spring, but I don't. Autumn is where it's at.