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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Evilness all ablaze with sweet berry flavor

Last night in my car, I switched on NPR. They were running a story about an Iranian blogger who got arrested a year ago in Iran for being a blogger or something.

I'm not really sure. You know why? I switched stations to listen to music.

There was a time in my life when I would have gotten all irate and
when I got home I would have gotten online and read more about it, then sent off a message to some of friends about it, then signed a petition to have him freed.

Not anymore. My head is way too filled with other things like schooling and healthy meals for toddlers and autism and vaccines and avoiding the swine flu and potty training and playdates.......

Are you tired yet?

So, after I switched stations, I thought, "WTF. I used to DO this for a living." Report the news I mean. Not be an Iranian blogger.

So I switched back, determined to get my panties in a wad over the injustice in the world. By then they were talking about some wine being ablaze with the flavor of blackberry currant.

I clicked off.

A year ago, I was still an avid newshound. Even when Annika was latched onto my breast 24/7, I still couldn't wait to get my news fix first thing in the morning along with my coffee.

Two and a half years ago I worked for a newspaper. I was so on top of what was going on in the world I could have told you how often W took a shit.

And now that we have a president in office whom I voted for and whom I like, (not to digress, but I was actually a Hillary supporter initially).

I don't follow the news.

Can someone please tell me what it is about becoming a parent that makes you stop caring what is going in the world? Can someone please tell me why I have absolutely no interest in the news anymore? I mean, okay I do have an interest. But I have lost touch. I don't even know where to begin anymore. I miss it. And I miss the old me.

But I like the new stuff too. And I also like the new me.

Ironically, the new me is a lot like that NPR broadcast. First there is the old me who gets all fired up about politics and war and evil oppressive dictators. Toyin used to have to monitor the television so that Fox news didn't stay on too long. He was afraid my blood pressure would shoot up so high that I might have to be hospitalized.

Then there's the new me. All saturated and drippy sweet with mommy life.

Somehow I've got to find a way to fuse the evilness of the world with blackberry currant. I think this post is a good start. Now for the news.....

Monday, October 26, 2009

Unfooding myself

A couple of posts ago I wrote about choices. I've been thinking a lot about my choices lately. And with choices comes letting go of limits I've put on myself.

For years I've wanted to lose 10 pounds. I'm not counting pregnancy and post pregnancy weight here, just the basic weight that I am.

I hover around 140. I'm 5 foot 6 inches. I think that I would look and feel better if I could hover around 130. 125 would be even better, but I'd be happy if I could get that damn 10 pounds off as it seems like they are all right in the middle of body.

Overall I'm pretty happy with my body shape. I'm probably rare in that my goals are actually attainable, but for some reason, I simply can't get there. It's so close and yet, for the past 10-ish years, I've never managed to get down there.

I've gotten close. Sometimes I'm really good about eating right and exercising for a couple of weeks and I get down to 135. I'm not going to sit here and say that I've tried really really hard, counted calories, jogged, lifted weights, yoga-ed, spinned, boxed, tai chi-ed, you-name-it-ed. No, the truth is, I haven't tried that hard. The truth is, if I had tried that hard, I could probably lose that little bit of weight.

So why haven't I?

I really and truly don't know, but my brain keeps coming to this. Maybe I simply don't want to.

Maybe I'm happy with myself the way I am, gut and all.

Wait, I better check my birth certificate. Am I really an American woman?

It simply can't be! What? I'm not supermodel skinny! Can I be happy with my body even though it isn't perfect? Yes. I can. Because I choose to.

So, yeah.

The headline. Unfooding myself. Let me get to that before I start telling you how wonderful I think the rest of my imperfections are. (Tongue firmly planted in cheek.)

I'm a member on Sandra Dodd's Yahoo group called Always Learning. It's an unschooling listserv. I joined it a while back when I had heard about unschooling and was curious.

I wrote to the group last week and asked them about unfooding. I got some killer advice. One woman said she likes to keep a bowl of Dove chocolates in her kitchen so she can have it any time she wants it. I'm totally going to start doing that.

Another woman said she doesn't think of desserts as separate. They go on the plate along with the rest of the meal. I made brownies over the weekend and when I served Annika dinner the other night, I gave her the brownie along with her meal. She ate that first, but she ate the rest of her dinner too.

The point is, I have choices. And I'm going to stop putting ridiculous limits on myself. It's stupid to constantly tell yourself that that you can't have chocolate because you want to lose 10 pounds. But then after you have limited yourself for several weeks you buy a box of chocolate cookies and eat the whole box on the way home from the store and blame it on PMS.

Yeah, I've done that.

More than once.

Last week when I went shopping. I bought a box of cookies. I didn't eat it on the way home. But over the course of the next three days, Annika and I (mostly I) ate them all. I didn't feel guilty about it. I ate them whenever I wanted to. I did not save any for Toyin and I'm not even sure he knew they were in the pantry. (Sorry Toyin).

Then when they were gone. I made brownies. We ate them all over the weekend. And you know what? I don't want any more chocolate.

I can have it whenever I want it. I can. And I will.

Oh, and I weighed myself this morning.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Parenting the Chris Rock way

One of mine and Toyin's favorite inside jokes is a line from Chris Rock's bit, "How to Maintain a Relationship." (Warning, this video is not for people who are easily offended. It's pretty typical Chris Rock stuff).

Our joke stems from the part where he is talking about how men don't actually need to talk back when women are talking.

"You gotta just act like you're talking. 'Get out of here. Go on! l don't believe it. You don't say! Really? Get out of here! Go on. l don't believe it. I told you that bitch crazy.

"You gotta throw in, I told you that bitch crazy, you know why? 'Cause every woman's got another woman at her job that she can't stand."

When Toyin and I watched that bit, we cracked up because we had a pretty typical couple issue in that when I was venting, he wanted to fix fix fix. Toyin is the master solution maker. But when I was upset, that's not what I wanted. I just wanted someone to listen. More importantly, I wanted someone to understand.

Shortly after we saw that Chris Rock bit, Toyin and I were walking into a Lowes one afternoon. Walking in front of us was a couple in their mid-forties. She was talking and talking, clearly irate about something, although not at him. She was venting. They walked closely, indicating an intimate relationship. He held his hand on her shoulder in a loving manner. As she talked and waved her arms about, he nodded and said in a nurturing way, "mmmm, hmmm."

Toyin and I laughed and looked at each other and he said, "I told you that bitch was crazy."

What we saw that day was a man who was simply listening to and understanding his woman. He wasn't trying to fix anything.

Well, kids need that too.

I recently wrote a post about how I started reading Tears and Tantrums by Aletha Solter.

I'm just about done and it is eye-opening!

Solter points that when children cry or tantrum, parents are in one of two camps. They either punish, or they soothe/attempt to find a fix.

I have been in the soothing/fixing camp.

But Solter says that neither one of these is a good idea and soothing away the tears is just as detrimental to the child as punishment.

Why? Because they don't feel understood.

Additionally, if you try to fix it, or you ignore, or punish, you are not letting your child release her/his stress.

And just like adults, they need to release stress.

Since reading T&T, I am actually encouraging Annika to cry when it seems like she needs it. Solter gives some recommendations to parents in the book, which I'm not going to write down because this is one of those books that you should read yourself as this is one of those ideas that really doesn't translate well through retelling.

But if you don't read it, a simple solution here is: next time your kid is having a tantrum, just remember, "I told you that bitch crazy."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Choosing to parent with the end in mind

I have choices.

That has been my mantra all week.

I have choices about what I eat, what I wear, when I sleep, where I go, what I spend my money on, who I hang out with, what I read, how I live my life.

The first several are no big deal, but that last one, well, that's the doozy.

Since becoming a parent I have realized sooooo sooooo much about why I think the way I do and why I live the way I do has so very much to do with the way I was parented.

This is not a parent-bashing post. My parents did lots of things wrong but they did lots of stuff right too.

They are not/were not perfect. My siblings and I have spent a lot of years being mad at them for all the stuff they did wrong. I think that is pretty common, although, we always thought we were the weird ones.

One thing my parents did wrong was not give enough choices. I think that is also very common. I don't blame them for it. My mom and I have had lots of talks about our childhood and her early days of parenting. As she puts it, "By the time you (me) came along, I was just trying to get through the day."

I have one kid and I feel that way a lot. There were/are four of us.

Mainstream parenting says that children should do what their parents say. I know plenty of people who think their children should just obey them. I know people who teach their kids not to touch their stuff, to eat what is put in front of them, to go to bed because "I say so," to hurry up, get to school, do your homework, eat your dinner, go to sleep. They punish, give rewards, spank, yell, blame, time-out, control, force, and just generally reckon with. And the next day it starts all over again.

It's how most people think parenting is supposed to go.

I was telling Toyin the other day that I hoped by the time Annika is a teenager I hope and pray (and I ain't a religious woman) that we do enough stuff right so that we are close. I hope she doesn't hate us and rebel in ways that would do long-term damage.

I don't think that's "normal."

Imagine a world where you start it out as an infant, and your cries go unanswered a lot of the time. Then you begin to explore the world and you are constantly told no. Don't do this. Don't do that. Don't touch this. Don't touch that.

Then the punishments start.

Your life is structured for you. You have very few choices about what you do on a day-to-day basis.

Then you finally hit an age where you begin to have a little independence.

No wonder teens are rebellious and angry!

I think it's a sad state of affairs in this world where "normal" means that teenagers spend all their time with their friends, feel alienated from their parents and avoid talking to them.

The teen years are a time when kids should be looking to their parents for guidance on a lot of things that are going to affect the beginnings of their adult life. That's a time when I hope and pray that Annika will feel close enough to me to discuss with me and Toyin things like sex and drugs and college and career.

So, anyway, I have choices. Yeah, I digressed the hell out of this post. But that kind of stuff has been on my mind lately and it all ties together. Watch me now.

I have choices.

I spent the first part of my life being told what to do all the time. Then I spent the first part of my adulthood parroting back what I thought I was supposed to do.

It would have worked if I had liked it.

I got married. I got a job. I bought a house.

I have none of those things anymore.

I hated it. It sucked. I remember thinking, "Is this it? Is this what life is supposed to be?"

I got rid of all that stuff and now I am not married. I have a kid. I don't have a job (that pays). I don't own a house.

I like my life so much better.

But I am still working on making choices to make my life better. I still struggle daily with the idea that I *should* be doing things a certain way. I struggle with the idea that I should eat a certain way, dress a certain way and behave a certain way. My inner voices fight all the time. It's fucking exhausting.

My point, and I do have one, or do I? Is this.

Giving a child choices teaches them how to live and how to ensure they are living the way they want to. I recently saw this quote somewhere online. It's from Stephen Covey's book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: "Start with the end in mind." I haven't read this book, but now I'm thinking about reading it.

I like the idea of parenting with the end in mind. When I was pregnant I used to imagine Annika as an adult. I imagined her to be tall and beautiful. I imagined her to be strong, independent, happy, courageous, curious, friendly, intelligent, and loving.

I imagine her this way because this is the way I hope she turns out. I am curious about the semantics. What will her humor be like? What will her fashion (or lack of) sense be? What kind of work will she want to do? What kind of music will she like? Will she travel? What hobbies will she take up?

These are the kind of things I will leave up to her. But I think the other stuff is up to me and Toyin.

So, I parent with the end in mind. I want Annika to know that her choices will define her life.

Somehow, I got through a lot of life before I figured that out. I thought my life was being controlled by some outside force. Then one day I woke up and realized that my life had turned out exactly the way it had because of all the choices I made. I made a lot of good choices. But I made a lot of bad choices too.

So, I have choices.

I have choices.

Friday, October 16, 2009

As the mother of a bi-racial child, this makes me furious and scared

I am white. My daughter is half black. And when I read this story this morning my heart raced with rage and fear.

Wait... what year is this?

A judge in Louisiana denied a mixed race couple the opportunity to get married in his court because of fear for any children they might have.

"He came to the conclusion that most of black society does not readily accept offspring of such relationships, and neither does white society, he said.

"'There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage," Bardwell said. "I think those children suffer and I won't help put them through it.'"

That is utter BULLSHIT!

My family and Toyin's family love Annika dearly and neither one of them has ever once expressed concern for her race.

What really gets me is that another part of justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish Keith Bardwell's, reasoning is that interracial marriages don't last long.

Uh, last time I checked lots of marriage's don't last long, whether they be white, black or whatever else.

What really gets me is that this asshole thinks he has the right to deny the Civil Rights movement and flout the law against discrimination.

Why is this jackass still an employee of the UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT?!

Oh wait, it's ok. He's really not a racist. He still lets Black folks use his bathroom.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Babies on drugs flinging poop

This was my Facebook status tonight:

today Annika kicked @Lorien's baby gate several times. Hugged Rafi. Didn't want to hug Rafi when parents were looking. Came home, ran around saying nononononono. Wanted to nurse. Wanted to read. Nursereadnursereadnurseread. Now's she asleep. Toddler life.

After I read this, I thought, "Man, it's like being on drugs."

This is why I believe wholeheartedly in Attachment Parenting. That right there.

Can you imagine being that confused and disoriented all the time, only to be yelled at, spanked, shamed, and then be put to bed and left crying yourself to sleep?

I think that most parents look at their kids like little adults. But they aren't.

Yes, they are little tiny human beings. But they don't have the cognitive skills that (hopefully most) adults have.

It's like those science monkeys who can practically have a conversation with people using sign language, but after you finish playing backgammon with them, they get pissed off and throw poop at your face.

I mean, if I let her, Annika would probably throw poop at me and laugh. It's not because she's mean. It's because she doesn't understand that poop is filled with bacteria that could make you sick. And it's gross.

Annika likes to say poop. She thinks its funny. She also likes to say shoes. She also likes to say food, then when I give it to her she says nonono and throws it on the floor.

It just seems like it must be sort of wacky in their heads. That's all I'm sayin'.

Rant over.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Enter Tantrum

Annika's has been such a sweet and happy-go-lucky kid for the most part that there was this little part of my brain that has been continuously whispering soothing thoughts in the back of my head when I see other children throw tantrums.

"Nooo, not our Annika," a Gollum-like voice hisses into my brain when our playgroup friends demand toys and yell at other children.

"Annika is a gooood gurl. She will never act like thaaaat."

Well Gollum voice, go to hell, because damnit, my kid is normal and today the fit hit the shan, so to speak....

Annika threw a full-on tantrum on the living room floor that lasted a good three hours.

Ok, ok, it was really only about two or three minutes, but geez, did it feel like a long time.

I just started reading Tears and Tantrums: What to Do When Babies and Children Cryby Aletha Solter, because, quite frankly, I did see this coming. I just hoped I was wrong, or that the little mini-fits she was having were the worst it was going to get.

Before I started reading T & T, I thought that allowing tantrums was a bad thing. And honestly, I think that sometimes there are fits that are really and truly manipulative. I know that makes me sound very non-AP, but I'm starting to realize that there are no hard and fast rules for anything and when it comes to children there are subtleties that only the parents will pick up on.

But this book defies all laws of nature and everything our parents told us (and we all know that they are right about everything) that tantrums are actually a good thing.


Yeah, it's like a sneeze, says Solter. Because see, toddlers are still learning how to control their emotions and when they are upset, confused, frustrated, angry, in pain, tired, cranky, irritated with you, bored, anxious, impatient, you-name-it, they don't have the words or the power to fix the situation.

So what do they do?

They lie on the floor and flail their arms about and roll around and cry and scream and look at you like you're the devil. Then rush into your arms for a hug. Then push you away.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

So yeah, the above is pretty much the scene today when Annika awoke from her nap and I abruptly got up to answer the phone while she was still lounging at the breast.

Normally, I would do one of two things. I would either hold her close and say, "There there, it's okay. What's wrong? How can I help you? What do you need?"

OR, I might, depending on the situation or my mood say something like, "Oh no. There's no need for that behavior."

But today, since I started this book and I was curious about the advice, which is to simply let it happen and stay with your child while it happens.

I did just that.

For one, she raged longer than normal.

And two, when she was done. She hopped up off the floor happily. Patted Baltar, while cooing at him. Then she came over to me and gave me a really long hug and kissed me.

It really seemed to make her feel better.

In addition to letting the child clear out her feelings, the theory behind this methodology is that if you punish or soothe the tantrum away, you are not validating your child's feelings. This could potentially be the beginning of a life of unexpressed emotions. Distrust is another problem too. If you don't validate or allow expression of the feelings, the child will not trust you to really hear her/him.

I'm not totally sure how I feel about this idea. I like it. I hope it's correct. But I'm not completely convinced yet. I'll have to wait and see if this method continues to work so well.

I also plan on reading more about this subject. I'd love to hear suggestions for more material.

And now, for the best part.

Because I'd rather leave you with an image of Annika dancing, not throwing a tantrum. Plus, it's cute as hell.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Monkeying around with food

Today I was visiting with my friend Sonya and, as women do, we got around to discussing our eating habits and weight loss. Naturally, since we are also parents, this discussion morphed into our theories on how to teach our kids about food.

We both have a fondness for starchy and cheese laden foods, as well as sugar. Knowing that too much of these kinds of foods are not good for us, we have already begun to come up with ideas on how to thwart bad eating habits in our children.

It seems like with food, everyone knows what they don't want. For instance, Sonya and I agree that we don't want our children to attach emotional rewards to certain foods, as we do.

We know that we don't want our children to overeat or to eat things that will give them long-lasting health problems like high blood pressure or heart disease.

But the conversation got me to thinking.

What do I WANT for Annika. Not just what do I not want, but how to I want her to view food?

And just what is the best way to go about helping her learn the best way to view food?

Personally, I seesaw between being puritanical about food and binging. I don't like cooking and I lack the creative sense for making it look good. Therefore, I will eat whatever is put in front of me as long as I can stomach it and I am hungry.

My ex-husband, who was in the Air Force, used to tease me about my laziness in the kitchen. He once told some friends that if I was stranded and I had all the makings for a three-course meal, but I had to cook it, and my other option was an MRE (acronym stands for meal-ready-to-eat, those freeze dried camping thingies, also used for military) that I would choose the MRE. He was right. At the time anyway. I think now I'd take a stab at the cooking.

BUT, I also have certain go-to foods when I am depressed, anxious, bored, lazy, lethargic.... You get the point.

Food can be emotional for me. It seems that it is for a lot of people. Maybe everyone? I don't know about that. But I'd like to think that food doesn't have to be overly emotional. I guess that is what I want for Annika.

Sure, I'd like her to enjoy her food. I want her to be able to find enjoyment in all areas of life. But I don't want her to attach certain emotions to certain foods, like for me, when I get depressed I need chips and salsa. (When I went through my divorce, I practically lived on them. I am NOT kidding.)

But, back to my conversation with Sonya. I found that our goal is essentially the same -- to have children who make healthy choices and don't have weight problems or other health issues caused by eating habits -- our approach differs somewhat.

I tend toward the idea that with food, less is more. And more is less. In other words, little to no regulation of food is a good idea. This idea is otherwise known as unfooding.

Sonya's approach is to make healthy food attractive to her son.

I've realized that these are both good ideas and I want to find ways of making healthy food more attractive to Annika so that she doesn't struggle with making choices based simply on what tastes good, but what is the best choice for her health and how it makes her feel physically.

In order to learn how to make choices, one must HAVE choices. And food should be something to enjoy just like anything else.

This is what I struggle with. How to balance the enjoyment of food without overeating?

Annika doesn't seem all that interested in real food. She'll still nurse any day over eating regular food.

Lately I've been thinking about ways to give variety and make food attractive, like making monkey platters (the name is from unschooling/unfooding mama, Sandra Dodd) and using Bento boxes. From what I've heard, variety is key with little kids and also it helps give them extra choices.

So for now, I'm looking for ideas on how to put some variety into Annika's diet while also giving her healthy food choices.

A sad and pathetic first attempt at a monkey platter. She seemed to like it anyway.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Putting the human pacifier to rest and oh, I'M the mom

It's been about five weeks since the start of weaning Annika from the human pacifier (me) and I figured I should make a final update and then let the topic go about it's merry business.

In the past two weeks or so, it's come to my attention that Annika is finally getting used to the idea that I am no longer going to accommodate her wishes that I lie in bed with her for every sleep session allowing the suckling to continue indefinitely.

Tonight, she actually popped herself off after falling asleep, within a minute or two. I was very happy about that.

She's still waking up after about an hour or two once I put her to sleep, but she's sleeping longer and longer during the night. I was discussing this with a friend today, that I might not really need to night wean her.

So sure, the process took longer than it could have. And I won't lie. There were a couple of rough nights where she cried much longer than I was comfortable with. However, I am sure that nothing I've done has damaged our attachment and I don't think she ever felt scared or unsure that I wasn't going to be there for her. She was angry, sure, maybe a bit uneasy with the new situation, but not scared.

In addition to me finally getting some evening time back, I've noticed some other positive results. She's sleeping more deeply and her vocabulary has increased like crazy in the last few weeks.

That could be a coincidence, but I don't think so.

She's now saying lots of words: cat, hat, Mama, water, shoes, up, food (well, she says foof, but we know what she means).

Yeah, Mama. She says it, but she doesn't seem to be referring to me. Until today. She looked up at me and said, "mom?" It was surreal. I went, like, "Oh, shit, I'm the MOM!"

Yeah, 9 months of pregnancy, 19 1/2 hours of labor and 16 months later, and I still can't get over it. I'm the mom. Wow.