Sunday, May 31, 2009

can you handle more pictures?

With our friends at the Arboretum this week:







Playtime in the back yard:







Friday, May 29, 2009

tgif

I've been cranky all week, but the sun is shining and the weekend is nigh, so instead of hearing me complain, how about some eye candy?

Here are some shots from a trip to the Arboretum this morning. (We went with the neighbors, and if they say it's okay, I'll put up some pictures of Daniel and his friend together; I just want permission first.)

Anya blowing kisses:



Yellow magnolia blossom:



Wild turkeys on the road (funny how they run away from young children...):



Daniel and Anya picking dandelions:




From our own backyard, here are some flowers:




And Anya trying to sneak into the shed:



Daniel in the sandbox:


Have a good weekend, all!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

watercolor

My children are driving me INSANE. Anya had a 30-minute nap, which is of course totally inadequate, so she's super-cranky and won't. stop. whining. Daniel insists on wearing underwear but he keeps forgetting to use the "toh-et". It's cold and raining outside so we're kind of stuck here for the afternoon, making the constant whining all the more hard to take. I feel so cooped up and frustrated I want to cry. Or get a drink. Or maybe both, though I hope this little whine session of my own will prevent either from taking place.

Okay, enough.

The kids wanted to do some watercolor painting this morning. Want to see the results?



The one on the left is Daniel's, and the one on the right is Anya's.

Anya paints with gusto, mashing the brush down in the paint tray and then coming down equally hard on the paper. I don't let her anywhere near the cup of water for rinsing (well, I did once, but let's just say it was one-trial learning), but otherwise she does pretty well with keeping the paint on the paper and not on her clothes. She's so hard on the paints themselves that I bought a new set for Daniel; the Crayola kind is about 4 bucks at the craft store and totally worth the prevention of inevitable rivalry that would ensue if they had to share one.

Daniel is so orderly with his painting, today even more so since he was trying out the new paints and wanted to see what each color looks like - hence the easter egg blobs. He almost never draws any representational images, just paints blobs and stripes to see how the colors turn out. Daniel has always been such a careful child. He never writes on the walls or puts anything away in the wrong place. He's always been an expert at stacking blocks.

Anya is a little more typical in that she is an unintentionally destructive toddler. She's certainly not as rough or energetic as other kids I've met (and I don't mean that in a negative way), but she steps on toys, knocks things over, and if you give her a writing implement, she'll write on any surface she can find. Like I said, typical.

She's also just a year and a half old, so I don't know how much I can read into the paintings from this morning. It was all of five minutes before both kids lost interest and wanted a snack. Still, I can't help but ponder the implications of their personalities when I look at those paintings side by side.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

daydreaming

I daydream a lot. It's a way to keep my mind occupied when I'm reading the same story for the fifth time in a row or washing dishes or walking to the park or any one of the million other things that keep me busy but not mentally stimulated. I wish I could say that my daydreaming will one day lead to the invention of a car that runs on trash or a genius act of diplomacy that will solve our problems in the Middle East or some other great thing that will save the world. I hate to disappoint, but I'm afraid my daydreaming is pretty centered on mundane, domestic things. I plan knitting projects for me and my children and all my preggo friends (and Stuart, because I totally owe him a sweater). I imagine my ideal vegetable garden, complete with a white-washed stone path meandering through the perennial herbs (actually, that was my mom's idea). I fantasize having enough time to run 4 miles a day like I used to. Occasionally, I pretend I'm a superhero, but anymore beating up the bad guys with mad martial arts skillz sounds way less appealing than five minutes of quiet with a glass of wine.

I also think about what life will be like in a few years when Daniel and Anya are older. Of course I don't know what the future holds, where we'll be living or what we'll be doing, and I can't entirely predict how their personalities will develop (though I think I'm starting to get a good idea). This time now can be awfully sweet, you know. As exhausting as it is to be the center of their lives, I wouldn't trade it for anything. But there are things I won't be sorry to leave behind, like cleaning up poop and fruitless arguments about whether it is or is not too early in the day to watch TV (come to think of it, that particular topic will probably be an issue for many a year...)

The other day, I rented the movie Charlotte's Web to watch with Daniel when he wasn't feeling well. I don't think he necessarily followed the story, though he really enjoyed it; silly animal antics are guaranteed to catch a toddler's attention, I guess. I liked it well enough, and I had a rush of nostalgia watching the story unfold. I read Charlotte's Web many times as a kid; it's one of my favorites. I realized, watching the movie, that I am really looking forward to a time when we can read chapter books together at bedtime. Goodnight, Moon is fine, but you know...it's also nice to have some real plot development.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, so I think I'll just leave you with a question. What do you daydream about? The future? Being a superhero? The perfect vacation?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

surviving motherhood

There are days - like when both kids went to bed at 10:00 and got up at 5:30 and are sick with a cold but nobody naps for more than 10 minutes despite the late bedtime, even the baby, and you can't go for two minutes without wiping up bodily fluids of some sort off of any and every surface and you barely leave the house/yard - those days you almost have no choice but to pop in a video and open a bottle of wine at 5 in the afternoon.

I'm having one of those days.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

random acts of kindness

When I canceled our play date with the neighbor because Daniel is sick today, she called back and said "I made too many enchiladas and they don't freeze well. Can I bring the rest over to you for dinner?"

Monday, May 18, 2009

guns

The only guns in our house are my bulging biceps.

I hate guns. I really, really hate guns. I can accept the fact that officers of the law have to have guns, and I'm okay with hunting rifles if they are used only for legal hunting. (Hunting is necessary. I don't think I ever want to do it, but it doesn't bother me that other people hunt.) But as far as I'm concerned, the world has no use for handguns or automatic or semi-automatic weapons. Their sole use is murder, and I am absolutely NOT okay with that.

I get very upset when I hear things like this morning's NPR report on the NRA convention and how sales of guns and ammo have skyrocketed since Barack Obama was elected. People think they need these killing machines to protect themselves. Somehow they feel safer knowing they can annihilate another person or dozen with the flick of a finger. I think easy access to guns and automatic weapons is a huge problem (Columbine, anyone?)

I am a gun-hating liberal, and nothing will change how I feel about this issue.

But there is one little thing.

Yesterday my neighbor asked how I feel about water guns because there is the distinct possibility that her son - Daniel's best friend - may receive one from his grandpa this summer and she wanted to know if I would be okay with the two boys playing with such a thing together.*

I actually remember playing with squirt guns as a kid and loving it. Summers in Kentucky can be near unbearable with all the heat and humidity. We didn't have central air conditioning, so we kept cool by going to the public pool, running through the sprinkler in the back yard, and squirting each other with water guns. (As I recall, there was also a fair amount of sitting in front of the fan and whining about how hot and bored we were.) Now, generally I would forbid any sort of game where one kid pretends to be shooting another. Because it's SHOOTING and that is WRONG. But spraying each other with water is genuinely fun and to my knowledge there just aren't squirt toys out there that aren't shaped like guns. Please correct me if I'm wrong about this and direct me to a place where I might find such a thing. That would solve my problem immediately!

Our neighbors are very conscientious parents and considerate people, which is why they would think to ask us before introducing Daniel to water guns. I really appreciate that. And I actually said I would be okay with it, mostly because I remember playing with them as a kid. Stuart isn't so sure.

The thing is, I know that (with boys especially) shooting games are pretty much inevitable, but I do think there is a difference between having a toy gun and pretending another object - like a stick - is a gun. I'm also not a fan of micro-managing playtime. So basically, my dilemma is whether to allow the squirt guns now or wait a little while until Daniel is old enough to know the rules of playing with squirt guns, and more importantly, why we have those rules.

Most of the time, I don't like to over-analyze every aspect of parenting. You should do what feels right and hope for the best. But this gun thing is a serious issue for me because in case you hadn't picked up on this yet I am VERY ANTI-GUN, and guns are so pervasive in our culture. What do you guys think?

*ETA: Our neighbors are basically at the same place we are politically. They have the exact same concerns we do about play guns and play shooting. The issue is basically what kind of "shooting play" would happen if the two boys get together and play with water guns. I just wanted to clarify that we're not in disagreement at all. We are mutually trying to come to the best decision.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

done with mommy wars

I'm SO over the mommy wars.

Around the time I had Daniel, I did some reading about motherhood, mostly in the context of modern feminism and women's rights. I read The Feminist Mystique (or at least most of it) and The Mommy Myth, as well as a smattering of articles on the subject. Most large media publications would like us to believe that the Mommy Wars are real, that stay-at-home-moms (SAHMs) and career moms are at odds with each other, that SAHMs believe career moms are selfish, that career moms believe SAHMs are boring and unambitious. We are at opposite ends of the spectrum, says the myth, and ne'er the twain shall meet.

I am here to tell you that is absolutely untrue.

Here is what IS true:

1. Motherhood is difficult.
2. Motherhood is physically and emotionally exhausting.
3. Motherhood is totally worth all the difficulty and exhaustion.
4. No one understands this completely until they have gone through it themselves.
5. Mothers get endless criticism from all sides, no matter what career and parenting decisions they have made. I think this is true for two reasons (look! subcategories!!):
a) No one really understands what motherhood is like until they've done it themselves (see no. 4, above)
b) No one, including mothers, know what they want from women and mothers in our society, and this ambiguity and ambivalence creates tension and criticism that gets whipped back in the face of mothers because, let's face it, we're easy targets.
6. Most of this can be said about parents in general, though I find that fathers don't get all the crap about career decisions. Unless they decide to forgo the career to stay at home with the kids, but that's a whole 'nuther thang.

I am constantly having discussions with friends of mine who are mothers or planning to be mothers about modern motherhood. This also happens with random parents at the park/zoo/local caf├ęs, in part because it's easiest to start a conversation about something you have in common, and if there are two adults both trying to wrangle squirmy kids in a high chair or negotiate who's turn it is on the curvy slide, well, it's pretty obvious where to start. We talk about stuff that bore any non-parent out of his/her gourd: eating habits, sleeping habits, potty successes and failures (guess where we are on that topic? sigh...). I confess I find these particular conversations stifling unless I'm talking to someone I already know well and care about.

When I talk to other parents (mothers in particular) about career decisions, I find almost universal ambivalence (see 5b, above). Most of us don't want to give up the idea of a career completely, but knowing how difficult the juggling act between work (as in "paying job") responsibilities and home responsibilities can be, we tend to fall on the side of whatever makes the most economic sense. Most single mothers I know can't afford not to work. Most SAHMs I know can't afford to work; I can't, considering the cost of daycare for two kids and the pay level of any job I would be qualified for. Most career moms I know have only one kid, or their kids are spaced pretty far apart, or they have really high salaries to pay for all the daycare.

It sucks we're not presented with more options. But more options means higher taxes to pay for it and we all know how most Americans feel about THAT. (Actually, I'm not sure what most Americans are more afraid of: paying higher taxes or the word "socialism.")

In the end, though, I have to admit I'm tired of the whole discussion. Me? I'm just doing the best I can, and I believe the same can be said for 99% of the other moms out there. At least we can agree on that.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

motherhood

What I wouldn't give to eat a meal in peace.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

mememememememememe

I love memes. This one I got from my mom on email...y'all can read it or not. But if you want to do it, too, consider yourself tagged, and leave me a comment saying as such so I can go read it.

1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? Nope. "Susan" was the only name my parents could agree on when I was born.

2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? when I saw Susan Boyle on youtube. I'm a total sap for stuff like that.

3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? kinda.

4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT? I don't really eat lunch meat.

5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS? This question seems like a good excuse to put some pictures up!




6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? I like to think so.

7. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? Sadly, yes.

8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? yes

9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? no frakking way

10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? the oatmeal Stuart fixes every morning

11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? only if my hands are free, which they often aren't

12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? yes

13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? Must I choose? I'm quite partial to chocolate chip mint.

14. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE? what they're wearing

15. RED OR PINK? red, absolutely

16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? postpartum belly wrinkles

17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? my brother

18. WHAT COLOR SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? green garden shoes

19. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? cereal

20. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? I was about to write "whining kids" but mercifully, they're taking a break. Probably because they're playing with something they shouldn't.

21. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE? I asked Stuart and he said "silly question." I think I would be yellow, because it's happy spring color.

22. FAVORITE SMELLS? fresh baked bread, morning espresso, spring flowers

23. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE? my mom (it's Mothers' Day, dontcha know!)

24. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? of course

25. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? I enjoy the Olympics. I know that's not a single sport.

26. Hair Color? brown with some flecks of gray.

27. EYE COLOR? brown/green hazel mix

28. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? since I was 13

29. FAVORITE FOOD? this is always such a hard one to answer...right now, I love falafel from scratch, tortillas with beans, homemade noodles with pesto sauce, fresh apples (not all in the same meal, of course)

30. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? Happy Endings

31. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? We're in the middle of Benjamin Button

32. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? black, but I need to change it to do some gardening

33. SUMMER OR WINTER? I've been through too many Wisconsin winters. Definitely summer for me.

34. HUGS OR KISSES? depends on who's offering

35. FAVORITE DESSERT? when strawberries are in season, strawberry shortcake; otherwise, I'm partial to chocolate cake

36. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? I'm not really reading anything right now. I tried to read Fury by Salman Rushdie, but I just can't get into it. I want to read the new #1 Ladies Detective Agency book but I don't have it.

39. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? We don't have a mouse pad. I'm not sure why.

40. WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON TV LAST NIGHT? The first hour of Benjamin Button

41. FAVORITE SOUND? my children laughing

42. ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES? Beatles

43. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME? South Africa

44. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? I can fit my whole fist in my mouth.

45. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Albuquerque

Thursday, May 07, 2009

i could use a week

I could use a week alone in this house to get some things done - mostly boring stuff like cleaning and sorting and painting. The kitchen needs some serious reorganization. There is so much garden/yardwork to do, I am not sure where to start. I have some knitting projects that I need time without family interruption to finish, and I have a pile of sewing projects I haven't even started! Mostly, these are summer clothes for Anya because...well, I'll save you the long version of my seasonal tirade about kids' clothes, but DUDE, have you SEEN the stuff they make for little girls? Specifically the shorts. They are SHORT. Like, her diaper would show out the bottom.

I know I could spend time shopping around until I find more acceptable clothes for Anya, but I would still like to make her some things. This is mostly because I like to do things the hard way, but the romantic side of me loves the idea of dressing my children in things I have lovingly made to suit their styles and fit their growing bodies perfectly. The fact that they don't care where their clothes come from, and that they will outwear and outgrow these things in the space of a few months doesn't bother me for some reason.

Forgive me for saying this, but there is something especially appealing about making things for little girls. I am not so enthusiastic about ruffles and lace, but I love simple sundresses over capri pants and little cotton sweaters over tank tops.

I am obviously not a person who often chooses the convenient way of doing things. I make all of our bread from scratch, even tortillas. Heck, we make our own noodles most of the time (not as hard as you'd think, incidentally.) I hang laundry on the line outside (sometimes). I use cloth diapers on Anya, and I did on Daniel until he was 2 and just too skinny to wear them comfortably. I love to make things by hand; I knit socks and sweaters and blankets. Occasionally, I sew things, too.

This means I never have enough time to make and do everything I'd like. I've been promising Daniel hand knit socks for months and still haven't gotten around to making him any. Now that warm weather is upon us and the last thing he needs to wear outside is warm woolies on his feet, I suppose there's no rush. (Plus, he keeps changing his mind about the color.)

It occurs to me that I could just give all this up and do things the easy way. I could buy our bread and Smart Wool socks and suck it up and deal with the ugly kids' clothes (since they don't care anyway) and stop fantasizing about the vegetable gardens and apple trees I'd like to have someday. There are times when I know I make more work for myself than I need to. The thing is, I can't help it. The way I handle my domestic life is a part of me and my creativity, and without that I would be unhappy (though my house would probably be cleaner.) Not to wear out an old topic, but since I'm not playing piano a whole lot, it's especially important that I feel productive in other, tangible ways.