4.30.2009

I really think I suck

And here's why:

Sometimes I ignore Hawk's attempts to get my attention because I'm doing something else - and not something else like cooking or driving where I really should keep doing what I'm doing - but things like writing, checking email, diddling with my phone. Basically, anything internet-related.

I feel badly about this when I do it during "Hawk time," otherwise known as any-time-NOT-sleeping. I should squeeze this stuff in while he naps, right?

I don't know how WAHMs do it. How can they possibly squeeze a full workday into naps? And what if they have multiple kids on multiple napping schedules?? Oy.

Today I've been feeling particularly bad about myself. This morning I woke up at 6 and instead of getting out of bed to workout I just laid there staring at the ceiling listening to my morning radio show (thanks JB & Sandy!). When I heard Hawk fuss at 7, I checked on him, made sure he had his paci and went back to bed. Of course I laid there and felt worse about myself for not getting up all the way especially since the lil' guy was up and at 'em. My hope was that he'd fall back asleep and I could workout. But that, of course didn't happen. He fussed for a minute or two then dozed and finally woke up saying, "Mama! Mama!" 20 minutes later.

My head stung from too much/not enough sleep and my whole body ached from working out the day before. I just wanted to sink as deeply into my mattress as possible, hope Hawk would be ok, and just be utterly lazy for a minute. My attempt at this was ruined by my own conscience telling me to get off my stupid ass and get my warm, sweet baby out of bed.

After breakfast, normally Play With Hawk Time, I sat down here, at the computer, and started checking in.  Hawk, good natured as usual, was running around touching things and playing with toys and then returning to my knee and patting it and putting his head on it as he mumbled softly, "Mama," and still I typed. I threw him a bone or two and rubbed his back when he'd be at my side, but I forged on in my determination to pretend he wasn't here.

Then, my conscience came back again - and my right mind - and so I closed out the computer and gathered up Hawk and headed out for some early morning errands. By the time I got home an hour or so later it was all I could do to take his shoes off, close his blinds, race through a book, settle him in his crib and sit - you guessed it - right back in front of the fucking computer.

It's been like a drug to me all day. I crave it like nobody's business. It's like some sort of island oasis of intellect and stimulation for me and while it's nurturing the big girl in me, I feel it's also shitting on the mama in me. I took the Facebook and Twitter apps off my iPhone because I found myself checking it obsessively throughout the day like a tweaker - like I'm so popular I can't wait to be at home to check the computer. I embarrass myself - I would be at the park, a bright blue sky above me, my cherub-faced baby before me, the wind playing with our matching hair and on my fucking phone. Who the hell do I think I am? Can I control time and think I can just rewind these minutes, these moments, and get them back any time I want??

Today wasn't a complete failure (or FAIL, as the case may be), I was able to pull my head out of my ass intermittently.  Hawk and I had our first lunch date ever, I took him to the park, I read to him before his morning nap and before bedtime when all I really wanted to do was plop him down in his crib and run.


How the fuck to military mothers do it? With partners deployed for months or even years at a time? Being stay at home moms 24/7 all alone, presumably far from family and friends. I'm 12 days in and I'm going bat-shit crazy. And don't get me wrong, I LOVE being a round-the-clock mom - I mean, aren't we all? But with a partner, at least I get a sense of relief.  Rooster bathes him, might take a night-squawk check, changes a diaper, soothes a temper. Even if he is gone from 9-7 every day, he's still here in the mornings and evenings to share the load, to tell me I don't suck ass. I feel like a weakling that I'm so whooped. I'm struggling and don't really feel like it's justified.

It's only been 12 stupid days...

So, here's the deal: If I insist on feeling badly about something (because God knows I do) I'm going to make a point tomorrow to not let it be this. I'd rather feel bad that I let that receipt blow away in the parking lot yesterday or that I didn't recycle the cardboard toilet paper roll thingy. I'm going to focus on Hawk and on being present with him. It's all he wants in this whole universe anyway.

My attention is more valuable than any park I take him to or any toy I buy him. He only wants my arms around him, my eyes on him, and my energy with him. I think I can do that. No wait, I KNOW I can do that.

Do you ever feel shitty about how you spend your time spent with your kids? Am I the only one?? Or hell, this could even be about anything, not just kids. I used to beat the shit out of myself when I was in school - if I wasn't studying round the clock, then I was a bad student. *sigh*

4.29.2009

Baby had a bad day...


I'm so ass tired. I mean, tired as ass. My ass is fine, really. It's my brain that's lagging. I can't believe it, but I just fell asleep on the couch from sheer exhaustion. I've pushed myself to the limit the past 5 days or so - plus the week and a half alone 24/7 with a very mercurial toddler. I suppose the two bottles of wine in as many nights didn't really help either.

But I'm wineless tonight and the exhaustion has caught me. It's crawled up my back and slowly wrapped its long, stinging tendrils around my head and covered my face. I feel like I can barely breathe... and yet, I write.

I write to purge myself of listless, senseless worry. I'm sure a lot of you have felt it, too. It's hard not to. We're at a level 5 warning now. Sweet Jesus. I was just on a plane from Phoenix where lots of people have come from Mexico. I live in Austin and again, lots of people have just been to Mexico. So, Hollis' hot skin and tiny running nose has had me on uber high alert. It's not because he's been running around like a chubby little banshee, it's because he might have the flu: THE flu.

Somehow I manage to calm myself down from that one. I'm not that out of my mind with fatigue that I can't be rational, but I do have to be careful. The only death in the US occurred less than 3 hours away from here.

Ok, so there's that.

Then Hollis fell today and cracked his head on the corner of a cabinet in the kitchen. He was excited to be going to the garage with me to switch laundry over (yeah, I'm working on him early) and he tripped and slammed his head on a sharp wooden corner. His screams were instant. So were my arms. Thankfully, no blood, just an abrasion and a huge goose egg lump. His first ever.


Of course he wouldn't let me put anything cool on it. He just squeezed out big, fat tears and wriggled and fussed then clung to me intermittently for 10 minutes. I don't blame him. That was one hell of a crash. I called my mom, a nurse, to recheck what to look for in severe head traumas (dizziness, vomiting, sleepiness). I said, "Mom, he's a toddler, of course he's going to be sleepy."

"Oh, I'm sure he'll be fine..." (pause) "Really, go ahead and let him nap. Just watch for the vomiting."

I took it as a supremely good sign that he snapped to the music while in the car running errands with me. He wasn't losing words or anything, either. Color was good. But what about that runny nose? Eesh - no, it's not the flu, Jess, calm down. I mentally mapped routes to all the ERs I could think of. Did I even know all of them? When he put his head on my shoulder as I carried him through the store I determined then and there that there was no way in hell he was taking an afternoon nap.


So, we pushed through and relied on bananas, fans, nice sales people, and grandma and grandpa to get us all the way to bedtime fit-free.

And now I'm beyond spent. Hollis is sleeping the sleep we all pray for: deep and silent and rejuvenating. I hope to be doing the same in T-10 minutes....

I hope Hollis has a better day tomorrow. One without a mommy who makes him march for miles beyond his limits and who leaves his nose alone and quits taking his temperature every hour. Not to mention a day without teeth rattling head bangs.

4.27.2009

What's really worthwhile


The name of this blog came about because as a stay-at-home-mom I was craving outside stimulation and connections. I found myself spending an inordinate amount of time on celebrity gossip websites: they were titillating, engaging, and I was also living a little vicariously through all those fucked up "tartlets". It was like I was 23 all over again.

Eventually, I felt ashamed of the amount of effort I put into sleuthing out the latest dirt on so-and-so celebrity. If I could put that much effort into finding out how much blow Lindsay Lohan was doing, surely I could put something of more substance out there.

That was how "This Is Worthwhile" was born.

What I find truly worthwhile are those things that make the heart stronger, the mind sharper, and, in general, the world a better place.

This past weekend was particularly "worthwhile."

I went to visit my grandmother, my dad's mother. And despite my horribly complicated and painful relationship with my father, I have always been close to her. When I was little I thought Grandma Berber was dazzling, cosmopolitan, cultured and articulate. She had fine china, wore stilettos, and remembered every word of French she learned in high school. Not only did she have gorgeous things, but she was also talented and looked up to; she had friends for 60 years, could whip up a gourmet meal on a moment's notice, and had a social calendar that would make a debutante jealous.

My father moved in with her in 2005, ostensibly to take care of her, but then he got deathly ill. It was a terrible pair. She was no longer willing to cook for herself and couldn't remember to take her pills. She rarely saw her friends and she was extremely forgetful, more so than usual. He was in chemo treatments and trying to keep it a secret. Her declining health was no where on his radar. He was struggling to survive himself. It was the blind leading the blind.

When my uncle died, her oldest, in March of 2006 she really broke from reality. She was drinking a bottle of wine a night, at least, because she couldn't remember she'd already had a glass. Fast forward to June of '06 and my father is in hospice. It was more than her brain could handle and she quite literally went somewhere else. She left the room, so to speak. She doesn't have Alzheimer's, but an advanced kind of dementia where even her long term memory is affected. She can't remember anything.

After Dad died, it was tasked to my sister and I to get her to her new assisted living residence. My uncle Randy (her only surviving son) and a family friend, Jeffrey, packed her house and moved it while Gabby and I occupied my grandmother. This was the day after my father's memorial service. There's nothing like great timing, right??

After the sedatives we gave her and the movie where she literally fell asleep, Gabby and I took our far-from-lucid grandmother to her new "home," Amethyst Gardens. We were to stay with her that night in the guest suite while Jeffrey and Randy got all of her things settled. She cried and begged us to take her home. She sobbed that she missed Ring and Robbie. She couldn't sleep alone because she was scared and she repeatedly came in to our room to cry. All we could do was hug her and hold her and let her cry and say we were so sorry she lost her babies. She wailed that she missed her sister and husband and mom and dad and baby girl who died at 9 days old. And still, all we could do was hold her tight and gently take her back to bed and tell ourselves it was the right thing to do.

Gabby and I cried together and held each other tight, sad for grandma, sad for us. We should never have had to do this. In a perfect world she would be in a city filled with relatives, not hundreds of miles away in an island oasis. She would have relatives fighting to have her move in with them, not two dead sons and no where to go.  Rooster and I contemplated having her live with us, but we knew we were ill equipped. She needed full-time care and we couldn't provide that. And so I helped dupe her into leaving her home of 30-years only to arrive to a new 2-bedroom apartment in Peoria, AZ, 30 miles from where she expected to be. Far from friends, and not in her real home.

Three years later it's gotten better for her, although also much sadder. She no longer hates being there. She doesn't spit nails when she talks of eating with the other "old" residents and she doesn't tell me she wants to be in her old house again. She is happy. Content. She has a routine... She doesn't even know what year it is.

But it's sadder because she is also failing and we need to get her more help. My uncle, her only son left, is the executor of her estate and I don't know what's going on with that. She needs someone to come and help her bathe twice a week, make sure she has toilet paper, clean sheets, and bathes. Every time I go to see her she smells bad and her nails are too long and her sheets are dirty. It's heartbreaking. This woman prided herself on homemaking, personal looks and bearing, and social status for 60 years and she is living in a dog-track, powerless life; doing the same things over and over, wearing the carpet bare in places, making a dirty spot on her sheets.

And every visit my sister and I get up in arms about the state of her life. We talk to employees and managers, we clean her dishes, throw out junk mail, put laundry away, clean out her fridge, turn on her AC, get her hair cut, washed, and set, get her nails clipped and painted and it's still not enough. I can barely afford the trips I make. But I need to make more.

This last visit was particularly hard, but for totally different reasons than just the fact that she's not the woman she used to be. This time Hawk needed more of me and I couldn't give all my attention to Grandma. He had to be my number one priority. His naps, hunger, etc. were always at the forefront of my mind. Therefore, we didn't even see Grandma until the day after we arrived in Phoenix.

Not only was she not my number one priority, but it's obvious she's no one's priority and it breaks my fucking heart. I'm crying now thinking about her utter vulnerability, her lack of awareness, comprehension, confusion, and power. She is always worried about her purse, "Where's my purse?" she asks 15 times in an hour.

The soft spoken hair stylist told me, "She has a lot of build up" as she began to wash my grandmother's hair. At that very moment Grandma grabbed my hand like a child. Unsure of what exactly was happening to her, but at least sure that I am her granddaughter and that I am safe. I began to cry in the salon, unable to avoid my own reflection in all the mirrors. I'm so sad that no one can make sure she washes her fucking hair. I fought tears for the next hour as we discovered she has terrible cradle cap. I also noticed she has thick, scaly skin around her collar bones, presumably from lack of showering. And I cried some more. There is NOTHING I can do. Later that day she refused to shower, insisting she only showers at 9 pm every night.

We also saw my other 91 year old grandmother while there, too, my grandfather's second wife, Grandma Berber's ex-husband's second wife - you follow me?? She has her faculties, for the most part, although she is going blind. Even seeing the decline in her over the last year was hard. But again, I say, at least she has family nearby.

Today, Grandma Berber didn't even want to go out to lunch. Thank God she was willing to let us take her out yesterday to get her inch long nails taken care of. She said it was her heart. She wasn't up to it. She was tired. We ordered pizza instead and dove head-first into cleaning her apartment some more.

So, what can I do?? I pushed Hawk to his absolute limit this weekend by going there. He slept barely 45 minutes during the day (this from two naps a day, normally). It cost me more money than I can really afford, but of course I have to go to see her and take care of her. So how am I going to make this work for the next trip??

Quite literally, this whole weekend was beyond difficult: flights with an angry, tired toddler, shitty ass passengers, scamming rental car people, rude hotel employees, and ancient, sad, loved ones. It was incredibly difficult, draining, and sad, sad, S A D.

I'm exhausted. And I'm so, so heavy-hearted. And I feel horrible about it. I feel like a bad human being, a bad person, a bad granddaughter. I tried so hard to take good care of her but I feel like a colossal failure. She's completely lost her mind. I don't even know if she knows our names (I take heart in knowing she at least knows we ARE her granddaughters). But she's still alone and 1000 miles away from me. And poor Hawk is whooped beyond all reason, totally devoid of nap time, eating food that riles his eczema because that's all we can get. And I feel like even more shit because I'm mostly afraid of the other aged people who flock to us in the halls of Amethyst Gardens; eager to touch my baby and with "Pig Pen" clouds of aroma about them. There is zero dignity in aging in this manner and so they are as friendly as puppies because they know what's around the next bend. They don't have to expend any energy on airs: they're old and dying and they know it.

I don't know, it just sucks. Getting old and dying sucks and I never in a million years thought I'd be this involved in it at this age. My mother is only 58, after all. But my dad died and I was only 30 and I was confronted with the loss, the paperwork, and the scent of hospice already so why should I be surprised by this?? I guess it's because when my other grandparents died I had nothing to do with it. I didn't make any decisions about their care or even care about their care because there were others there to do it. But my grandmother, really, has no one. And now my sister and I have to go to bat for her to make sure she bathes at least once a freaking week. What the hell is that??

This is exactly why it is so important to me to be near my family as we age. I do not want to have to make long distance decisions about my mother's and step-father's care. I want to be minutes way, not miles and miles away. This is gut-wrenchingly difficult and ridiculous...

My grandmother always told me that she didn't want to be that little old lady that got dragged out of her house to assisted living. She was going to pick a place and move in "when the time was right."

Well, the she missed her chance. By the time she needed assistance she had senior-onset alcoholism and dementia and she couldn't make a decision to save her life. And so she got tricked by two girls, 55 years her junior, to go to lunch and catch a flick and whoops! you don't live here anymore, Grandma! here's your new apartment! I only thank God for the fact that she's never blamed us; she never could remember how she ended up at Amethyst Gardens.

She told us today that she is happy and content. After three years of hating it there she's finally forgotten about anything else and she's let go of any memories of independence. She thinks her dead sister visited her yesterday. She thinks her dead son is teaching music at the local college. She thinks her dead husband has a car dealership. Somehow, by the grace that is, she really and truly thinks her life is worthwhile. And I'd like to think so, too.

And in the end, no matter how painful or difficult, this is worthwhile:


PS: I miss Rooster and want him here to hold me close and tell me everything is going to be fucking ok because it sure as hell doesn't feel like it...

Quickie

Quickie

Quickie

From Tokyo to Athens


Well, we're definitely not in Tokyo anymore.  I thought the transition into Japan would be the most jarring portion of our trip, but I was mistaken.  After a 12-hour flight from Tokyo to Munich, and then a couple more hours to Athens, we arrived in Greece at about 11pm local time.  I slept for several hours on the plane, but it didn't seem to help all that much.  I was stick-a-fork-in-me done.


The culture shock hit right when we got off the plane.  There's no jetway at the Athens airport, so we headed down the stairs to waiting shuttle buses.  The airport smelled of cigarette smoke and the unique scent of European crowds.


Determined not to repeat the mistake in Japan of being caught with no cash, I tried to get an advance on my corporate Amex card.  Alas, I had neglected to set up a PIN for the card, so it wouldn't work in the ATM.  So, I used my personal visa to pull out 40 Euros.


Then it was time to get a cab to the hotel.  My boss and I headed outside, into a mammoth line for taxis.  It took about 20 minutes to get to the front, but we eventually got a cab.  By this time, it was about midnight and I needed sleep badly.  Unfortunately, this was the cab ride that seemed to never end.  I'm not sure how we managed to get the only cab driver who obeyed the speed limit, but we eventually got to the hotel.  It was definitely not the sparkling location we had in Tokyo.


When it came time to settle the cab bill, the meter read 27 euros, and that's what the driver told us the fare was.  My boss gave him 40, and got 3 back in change.  That started a long, tense discussion about the costs of the fare, and the extra charges for our luggage (putting it in the trunk, I guess?), the tolls on the highway, and the "airport surcharge."  I wasn't the one arguing, and my anxiety was still through the roof.


We eventually just agreed to disagree, and went into the hotel to check in.  Our rates were supposed to include breakfast and internet, but the guy at the desk said they didn't.  I was too tired to argue.  The room itself was fine, if a little run-down.


I crashed hard at about 1am, and woke right back up at 5:30am.  I tried to go back to sleep, but there was nothing for it.  I eventually got up and went down to the fitness center to run off some of the anxiety.  It helped a little bit, but after getting dressed and going down to the lobby, I got to watch a really angry American argue with (you guessed it) a taxi driver about something.  Stress level went right back through the roof again.


If I've learned one thing over the past few years, it's that being anxious is no way to live your life.  So, I went to the front desk, and asked about the included costs in our reservation.  He said they didn't show we had free internet or breakfast, but they'd check later today with the main reservations group.  I also asked about taxi charges to the airport, and what we paid last night sounded about right.  We can also just reserve through the hotel and it is a fixed price.  Definitely sounds like a low-stress option.


So I'm feeling a little better.  I'll get some breakfast, hopefully nap later today, and try to keep enjoying this opportunity to see the world!

4.25.2009

The Ideal

Beautiful:

Not so much:

Am I wrong?

For the moms


This statue was in the park behind my hotel in Shinjuku.  I like it.

My hero

Will I only need one hero??

Really: Oh, crap

(This should have benn under that picture of Hollis.)

I don't know how it happened, but big, fat wires were crossed and I'm at the Phoenix airport 3 HOURS before my sister arrives. And I'm stuck here because the rental car is in her name.

I wanted to cry when she called me from San Francisco and I was already "waiting" for her down in baggage claim with a precocious toddler who hadn't napped.

I was starving - ate a burger.
I was grumpy -drank some wine.

Hollis STILL hasn't napped, but seems to he in good enough spirits. He scarfed down some fries and he's been a shameless flirt with anyone who'll give him the time of day.

Thank God I'm not pregnant. This glass of wine saved the frickin' day. I no longer feel like crying.

Oh, crap

Avalon Organics Baby Products


I've tried about half a dozen different baby washes, lotions, and diaper creams and none can compare to Avalon Organics line of baby products. I wish I knew about this stuff right out of the gate.

They're non-greasy, cruelty-free, organic, smooth, have nice, light scent, and are really, really good at their job. Not to mention they're moderately priced, which is a bonus.

The body wash suds up just right and rinses off easily.

The lotion is super moisturizing, but totally not greasy or super wet like some others (Burt's Bees, for example is super slippery and takes forever to soak in).

And the diaper cream is by far the best I've used. It's thick, effective, and not overpowering with its scent.

If you're not sure about making the $10/bottle investment, you can always try out their Little Traveler pack of diaper cream, lotion, and body wash. (That's how I discovered them, actually. I needed travel-sized baby stuff.)



PS: This is strictly my own opinion. I'm just trying to pass on what I've learned in the last 18 months. I wish someone could have told me half of what I've had to learn on my own...

4.24.2009

Quick update

Not much time to update today, but here are some thoughts from yesterday:

While the boss took a bus tour, I decided to get an all-day pass for the subways and get some shopping done.  After managing to navigate the busiest train station in the world (Shinjuku Station), I managed to get to the Kappabashi area.

This is a street devoted to wholesale restaurant supply shops.  I was in foodie heaven!  Bought a ton of stuff, most of which are gifts so I can't disclose them at the moment...

After dropping my loot off at the hotel, I got some lunch at a noodle place and headed to the Shibuya district to find the Tokyu Hands store there.  I'd been in the Shinjiku store, but apparently the Shibuya store was a bit better.

I'd gotten pretty confident about navigating the subway, and was feeling a bit overconfident.  I'd forgotten that once I got off the subway, Shibuya is a pretty big area, and I had no easy way to find the store.  I'm realizing how much I use my phone to navigate.  Not an option here, unless I want big data roaming charges on the company phone.

I got lost in Shibuya, and ended up wandering the alleyways of a red light district.  I only got propositioned once, which was a little disappointing.  :)  Maybe it was siesta time or something.

After managing to find the Tokyu Hands store, I headed over to the Ginza area to see the Apple retail store.  This was my first experience with commute-time subway riding.  It got seriously crowded.  Jessica would have hated it.

Ginza is truly a sight to behold, with ultra-snooty retail giants and well-dressed clientele.  I met my boss at the Apple store, and we headed out to find some dinner.  In the end, we called up our local contact, who said he'd meet us at one of his favorite sushi restaurants in the area.

So, we hopped a cab over to Tsujiki, which is home to the largest fish market in Japan (maybe the world?).  We had the best sushi and sashimi made from fish that came in that morning.  The restaurant was tiny, and I was really glad we had a guide who could interpret for us.  It was one of those places where I wouldn't have been able to find on my own, or know what to do once I was inside.

Our last experience for the day was the subway ride back to the hotel.  I thought commute time was crowded, but this last ride at 10pm took it to another level.  Our stop was right after Shinjiku Station (the busy one), and we had about a dozen stops till we got there.  At every stop, more people got on, and very few got off.  I was standing right next to the door, off to the side, and after about 5 stops there were people crammed right up against the door.  I thought there was no way to pack more people on, but at each stop after that, someone (or several someones) would see the full car, turn around backward, and back right on into the crowd.  Everyone shuffled around and somehow made room.  At one point, Jessica sent me a text, but there was no way for me to move my arms to get to my pocket.

We made it to the hotel without incident, and I FINALLY slept the whole night through.  I feel human today, except for sore legs and feet from yesterday's walkathon.  Today is more Tokyo wandering (in the rain), and then tomorrow we fly 12 hours to Greece.  So much for getting over jet lag.  I'll check back in with you all later!

4.23.2009

Firsts for today...

Today Hollis grabbed a giant kitchen knife off the counter.

He also laughed when he burped... and giggled when he tooted.

He stabbed food with his fork and ate it.

He climbed into his toy basket and proceeded to make a little nest for himself.


Today has been a big day around here.

Quickie

Impressions


I've struggled with starting this post for a few days now. Being a Westerner in Japan is so different from anything I've experienced, it's tough to distill it down into words. I'll give it a shot, though. Here are some impressions I remember...

Anxiety in the Osaka airport, when I realized we wouldn't be met by our contact, and would need to get a cab to the hotel.

Disorientation of a cultural sort, as a flood of unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells surrounded me as soon as I left the airplane. It hasn't slowed down one bit, but I'm getting a handle on it.

My first business card exchange with representatives of one of the companies we're here to visit.

The entire world that exists below the streets of both Osaka and Tokyo. Tunnels lined with shops, restaurants, and other goodies. A continuous river of people going about their lives underground.

The panic of the first time I tried to pay with a credit card, and they told me cash only. I had no cash and had to borrow from our host.

The adventure of eating foods I barely recognize. Thank goodness for the popularity of sushi and sashimi in the States. That brings the recognition percentage up to 50% or so...

The relief of enjoying almost everything I've eaten or drank here (except natto, but who can blame me?)

The realization that this is a culture that moves through the world with as little social (and personal) impact as possible. Just like me. (Much to Jessica's chagrin.)

Riding the Shinkansen (bullet train) that I'd been dreaming about since I was a kid. It was less exotic than I imagined, but still a very cool experience.

My embarrassing, awkward first attempts to speak Japanese, with our host's encouragement.

The sheer panic when I thought I had left my cell phone in the seat of the cab.

The tiny bar in the Golden Gai, smaller than our not-so-big master bath at home, where only 6 people could sit comfortably. There were many, many of these, all crammed into one small area.

Finding out that language is no barrier to raising a glass and toasting with newfound friends. Kanpai!

Watching two giant masses of people in a huge crosswalk surge toward each other, and somehow seamlessly merge and separate again without slowing down.

Of course that's just a taste of what the past 4 days have been like, but I need to get ready to get lost on the Tokyo subway. I think today will be the ultimate immersion. All day wandering, with no guide. Let's hope I find a lunch place with picture menus...


Did my foresisters forget something??



Since dropping out of mainstream, earn-a-paycheck life my hamster, against common thought, has not gotten a break. In fact, I think I've been working him even harder.

Before motherhood I considered myself a staunch feminist, and after being pregnant, giving birth, and nurturing a child for more than a year I feel more like a post-modern feminist. And maybe I have the term wrong, but it's what I think fits. I now see the world through they eyes of a mothering woman and feminist, and it surprises me immensely that these shifts have occurred. I didn't know this would happen.

The most defining difference between the feminist I was and the mothering feminist I am now is I really think my foremothers forgot to fight for something crucial in the struggle to gain equality with men in the eyes of the law and our society: the idea that the work involved in being a mother, and all things associated with it, are as equal to the things a man does in his job and therefore should gain as much status in our society.

It's great that they fought for the right to do the same jobs outside of the house, but who was fighting for the status of the woman who was staying at home to raise her children? She was considered a non-feminist. A feminist, almost by definition, was a woman who "broke the chains of childbearing" and, essentially, behaved like a man could: free. Of course she always came home to her second shift, but during the day, she had earned the right do what men did: work outside of the home.

I'm not so sure that was such a boon. I really wish they had fought equally as hard to raise the status of woman, in general, that is to say that women are inherently equal to men, no matter what they were doing and that "women's work," namely child rearing and house management are truly noble pursuits and require incredible intelligence, ambition, determination, poise, and a plethora of social skills. Sounds a lot like what you need to climb any ol' corporate ladder, wouldn't you say?

I break my own heart every time I feel guilty for not earning a paycheck. It's the world I live in that has me, as a stay at home mother, in a strata below that of all money-earning people. No one would ever say it to my face, but it's in the socially awkward question, "Do you work?" Hell yes I work. And I torture myself every day over every little decision that is 1000x more important than that invoice you're working on because I affect a human being's life and development. You affect someone's bottom line. Yet, your question is implicit in supporting the cultural idea that working outside of the home is the standard by which to be measured.

I am not in any way attacking working mothers or fathers, I am attacking the utter lack of status my position holds. Working moms are above me. They garner respect. They "do it all." And truly, they do. They work as hard as any man, get paid $.78 to a man's $1, and then they come home and do what I do all day long. I can't even begin to wrap my head around how difficult that must be.

Almost all of my friends have worked out of necessity, a couple by choice. I think it's fantastic that we have the choice to work (whereas a few decades ago our choices were much less), but why can't we have a generation of women who both see themselves, and are seen by others, as contributing members of society, just like their middle management male partners are?

It's confounding. And sad. Really, really sad.

Look at the state of maternity leave here in the States. A woman gets roughly 8 weeks to birth a child and get back to her desk, ready or not. Fathers get zero (which is also deplorable). It's almost as if the 8 weeks off is grudgingly given; a man never takes paternity leave, after all. If she gets her doctor to write a note she might be able to squeeze out another two weeks. If she's "lucky" enough to get a C-section, she gets an automatic 12 weeks to recover. Of course she can also use the Family and Medical Leave Act, but it only guarantees her position, not a continued monthly income during her absence. Who can afford that??

My foresisters really did get (at least partly) what they asked for: to be given the same opportunities as men in the workplace. Too bad we're not men and our babies are babies and need more than 8 weeks with a mother. I cringe inside whenever I listen to a new mom talk about her maternity leave. She is at once wistful, sad, scared, and determined to do what she has to to help her family survive financially. Other moms I know go back to work because of invested work prior to the baby: schooling, position, etc. She's no less wistful or scared. I want to hug her. I can't relate to her dilemma; I am able to stay home and truly want to stay home, $45k education be damned.

If mothering itself was in a higher position in our society a working mom could get 6 months to a year to mother her infant with no penalties whatsoever regarding her job. Maybe she'd come back at the six month mark, maybe the 12, but at least she could manage that decision herself and not some company looking at employee #346-8.

It's just all so confusing. I'm not a journalist. I'm not much of a debater because I can never remember sources or dates or pages. I haven't linked to anything in this post because I want it to be truly just from my heart and gut. I wrote papers on this in grad school, I read blogs and articles about working moms, breastfeeding vs. formula (which affects most greatly working, breastfeeding mothers), daycare vs. staying at home, and a myriad of other mother- and woman-related issues. I feel the feminist movement forgot something and I'd like to change that. I'd like to exalt the position of mothers, be they stay at home or working, to that of any other wage-earning person in this country. With that kind of basic, intrinsic equality, everything else would fall into position. On a theoretical level, if we are handed equal status before we ever earn a dollar, then why wouldn't we be given equal pay once we decide to work for someone else?


Update 4/28/09: PhD in Parenting wrote two (I think) related articles about these same issues. She's far more eloquent and diligent in her research. I felt I couldn't even bring up Hanna Rosin's inflammatory articles in my post. She knocks them out of the park. PiP also addresses maternity leave in Canada. Check them out here and here.

4.22.2009

Greetings from Tokyo!

Hi all, it's Anthony here...  I'll be interrupting your regular mommy-blog-reading with occasional updates from my first trip to Japan and a few countries in Europe for work.  Pictures will probably feature Jessica's lifelong companion Horse, since he likes travel and is eligible to fly on my lap.  He's already making friends with the locals, too...


I'll post up some more updates soon.  There's a lot to talk about!

What I'm missing on cable

A Storm is Comin'!
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Colbert Coalition's Anti-Gay Marriage Ad
colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorGay Marriage Commercial

Quickie


4.21.2009

This is so tiring: Warnings against co-sleeping are misleading and inflammatory

Today I received a Tweet from MomLogic:

@momlogic WARNING: Co-sleeping with your baby can be deadly http://tinyurl.com/cqkffb
I wanted to scream.

First of all co-sleeping is when a parent sleeps in the same room or a close distance from their baby in a separate sleeping area such as a crib, bassinet, or "co-sleeper." Bed sharing, on the other hand is exactly what it sounds like: a parent and infant share a bed.

Secondly, infant deaths by smothering, are most commonly attributed to unsafe bed sharing practices. Not simply by sharing a bed. For instance, smoking, drinking, and using drugs by the parents increases the chances of infant death. Having unsafe bedding, mattress firmness, and bed position also increase chances of a tragic accident. On top of all that, you have to be careful of what the baby's wearing: are there ties and strings? Is she going to over heat?? And only the parents should sleep with baby. Not grandma or Uncle Brad.

And lastly, it gets me really going to see hundreds of titles of research, articles, etc. stating that sharing a bed is what has caused higher levels of infant deaths by smothering. Because the truth is experts have altered the definition of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), clarified it, and therefore have begun to count what would have been a SIDS death 10 years ago as a death by smothering due to bed sharing. Yet again another example of shifting data that no one seems to care to point out.

The Mom Logic article is inflammatory, sensational, and deliberately trying to scare parents out of doing something that is, when done responsibly, a safe, loving, and bonding experience. Parents sleep with their infants for many different reasons, from helping to prevent SIDS to economic and space reasons (no money or space for a separate sleeping area) to cultural preferences. Since the "rise" in bed sharing deaths lately, parents who are trying to protect their little ones or simply be closer to them are being frightened into placing their babies in a crib.

I want to freaking puke sometimes when I think about how goddamned muddled we've made everything about parenting and birthing. Who the hell are these people who say you aren't supposed to comfort your child when he cries? Who say breastfeeding isn't critical? Who say breastfeeding is obscene? Who say that birth is better controlled than allowed to run its course? Who say your baby is spoiled because you answer her cries?

And I know the article didn't mention any of those things, but in my mind, they're all tied up together with this pregnancy-birth-and-parenting-should-be-orderly-tidy-easy-and-predictable-stinking-bow. We are practically brainwashed from the time we know what a baby is that they should be independent, not "spoiled", self-soothing, and whatever else we want in an ADULT.

God forbid that you want to be close to your tiny little baby who was JUST INSIDE OF YOU. And now we have the freaking American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) telling everyone to not bed share becauase it's dangerous!

Anthropologist James McKenna, director of Notre Dame’s Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory and a renowned expert on infant co-sleeping, breast-feeding and (SIDS) says, “Without a full understanding of what it meant to dismantle an age-old integrated biological system … that is, infants sleeping on their backs, to breastfeed, next to their mothers, Western medical science created the conditions within which hundreds of thousands of babies died from SIDS. The AAP now seems set on perpetuating aspects of this tragedy by assuming that American parents, in contrast to mothers everywhere in the world, are uneducable as to how to lay safely next to their infants to successfully breastfeed, nurture and sleep with their infants. It is not bed-sharing that is dangerous but how it is practiced. The AAP chose not to be forthcoming about this important distinction.”

Right on, dude! I couldn't have said it better myself.

In almost every single article I've read about a smothering incident the babies have been on a couch, a recliner, or in an unsafe bed situation. I've never read, "A baby died yesterday in what can only be described as an extremely safe sleeping area, wearing appropriate clothing, and whose parents are sober and non-smoking." Never.

Peggy O'Mara of Mothering Magazine writes,

And yet, the gold standard for infant sleep is an approved crib. According to controversial research conducted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, each year 60 babies die in adult beds—but most of these babies are alone. On the other hand, 900 babies die each year in cribs, and in the last 25 years there have been 36 recalls of cribs. Does this mean that cribs are unsafe? No. It means that babies sometimes die at night.
And please don't think I blame the parents whose babies were lost. It breaks my heart to hear a baby has died due to smothering or unsafe sleeping conditions. I can't imagine the pain and remorse that man or woman must feel, the gut wrenching, awful sight before them. It's truly horrific.

The media and experts attempting to scare the rest of us out of bed sharing are doing a disservice to natural parenting, to the gut instinct of a plugged-in parent who can offer a kind touch, monitor their baby throughout the night, and who can tend to his needs with ease. And they're doing a disservice to the millions of parents out there who need to be better educated about better bed sharing practices because they're unable to do anything but share a sleeping space with their infant.

These articles are stripping away a parent's intuition down to a sum of its parts, and like the nutrients in an apple, they are each crucial and mysterious. We can't simply say, "Here eat some vitamin C, it's as good as an apple," and so we also can't say, "Separate from your baby, it's as good as sleeping together."

I think it's cruel and unfair to use the loss of other people's children to advocate for something that goes against the mothering and fathering practices of most of this planet for most of humankind. I don't think anyone should be scaring parents out of a practice which may come very naturally to them, such as bed sharing. It may not be something some parents even want to try, so bully for them, but for those parents who do, they should be supported, not dissuaded.

And for the record, I bed-shared and co-slept with Hawk and moved him into his own room at 6-months where he began sleeping more soundly than he did next to me. Until he was in his own room, he was always by my side or an arm's reach away in the co-sleeper. Now that he's in his own room, the baby monitor is always turned up and I am an extremely light sleeper and can hear every tremor, exhalation, and rustle. I'm neither a bed-sharer-till-the-next-baby-arrives, nor a baby-down-the-hall type, but sorta in the middle.

Chipotle-Maple Pork and Mango Lettuce Wraps

Pork and mango lettuce wraps

This builds off of my Roast pork loin with a chipotle-maple glaze and vegetables recipe, so if you don't have the leftovers handy, no biggie! Just cook the pork for this one!

Serves: 4
Prep time: If pork is already prepared, 15 mins. If you have to cook the pork, a little more than an hour

To cook pork from scratch:
Ingredients:
  • 1-1.5lb pork loin
  • 1/2 can of chipotles in adobo sauce, chilies chopped
  • 3/4c pure maple syrup
  • 1/4c olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 large, or 2 medium mangos, diced
  • 1c macadamia nuts, chopped
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 head butterleaf lettuce, all leaves separated and washed
Directions
  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Rinse and pat dry the pork loin. Place in roasting pan, fatty side up. Generously salt and pepper exposed side.
  • Add 2-3T water to pan. Cook until slightly golden brown, approximately 20 minutes, adding water if pan becomes dry. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and cook an additional 45 mins or until pork registers 145-150 degrees. Remove meat and let rest for 10 minutes. Cut into small strips.
  • Meanwhile, combine chipotles in adobo sauce, maple syrup, and olive oil in large bowl. Taste for spicy/sweetness and adjust accordingly. In large saute pan, over low heat, warm sauce through and let thicken slightly.
  • Toss pork in pan with sauce and coat thoroughly. Remove and put in heated bowl for serving.
If pork is already prepared:
  • 1-1.5lb pork loin, sliced into 1 1/2 inch strips
  • 1/4 can of chipotles in adobo sauce, chilies chopped
  • 3/4c pure maple syrup
  • 1/4c olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 large, or 2 medium mangos, diced
  • 1c macadamia nuts, chopped
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 head butterleaf lettuce, all leaves separated and washed
Directions:
  • Combine chipotles in adobo sauce, maple syrup, olive oil, salt, and pepper in bowl. Taste for spiciness. Add chipotles LAST to control heat. Add sliced pork to sauce and coat well.
  • Heat saute pan over med-high heat and add pork and sauce. Heat through and put in a bowl for serving.
  • Put each ingredient in separate dish with a big plate of lettuce leaves in the center.
  • Assemble each lettuce wrap with the pork and sauce, mangos, cilantro, and nuts!
  • Die and go to heaven!

4.20.2009

Quickie

Thanks for the $6.99!!!

I'm not kidding.

Thank you to all you folks out there who have so kindly clicked on all the weird ass Goggle ads you've been seeing lately underneath my posts. Thus far, I have earned $6.99!!

And I really must be random to be generating ads for visiting Madrid, losing weight, and endoscopic spinal surgery.

Apparently, I won't get a check until a $10 threshold is met hahahahahahaha. So, if you want, go ahead and click. If not, no worries! I will forever remember that I almost earned $6.99!

If I even make $10 a month I will be thrilled! That means it will pay for a week's worth of Kombucha drinks and I won't feel guilty to get my raw-drink-buzz on.

Menu Plan: Week of April 20th

With Anthony outta town there is NO way I'm cooking this week. I stocked up on a ton of frozen dinners yesterday.

And you know what's really funny? I think I've already spent $150 on groceries. Of course, "groceries" this week included diapers and shampoo and what not, so that sorta blows shit outta hand. I also bought two bags of kitty kibble. The first bag, one they've eaten in the past, wasn't up to snuff. They refused to eat it. So I caved and bought them a different brand. They're scarfing that one down.

I'll just need to pick up some more food for Hollis this week like bananas and blueberries and such. So far, the $200 a week thing has been working well.

Wish me luck.

Mon: Something rock hard, cold, and boxed
Tues: What catches my eye
Weds: Whatever rhymes with "lichen"
Thurs: The one with the cherry dessert
Fri: Hopefully Phô on the 'rents
Sat: More rock hard, cold shit
Sun: Hopefully crap that I'm happy to be eating

Hollis & the harmonica

(Originally posted 4/18/09) About two months or so ago my step-dad, Terry, bought a harmonica with the sole purpose of turning Hollis onto it. At first, Hollis cried when Papa played it. Eventually, he'd stare intently at it as the thrumming sounds hit his ears, but he never tried to touch it. He didn't seem to care about it at all.

I think Terry sorta gave up on the idea that Hollis was a harmonica prodigy and so gave it to us to play with. I tossed it in the basket next to the changing table with the other knick knacks Hollis likes to manhandle while I'm changing his diapers and didn't give it another thought.

Then, one day, Hollis started handing me the harmonica to play. So, of course I'd oblige him and toot out some bag-pipe-esque tunes and he'd giggle and squirm. It wasn't too long after that that he'd start to deliberately put it up to my mouth to play; he'd figured out that blowing with the mouth was part of it. It was at this point that he started putting up to his mouth, eyes wide and waiting for something to happen, but of course nothing did. Either he wasn't blowing or he had it to his lips backwards. In any case, I assume he was highly disappointed.

And so what a glorious day it was when Hollis happened to have the harmonica to his lips and I tickled him or something and he expelled a little puff of air and we hear a "HRRRMM!" He froze and waited for it to happen again. We went through a few days like this until he finally realized that it was his breath making that noise. He's taken off with it ever since.

I never knew an 18 month old could do something like this, but I guess it follows since he's learning to do so many other things. I think it's nothing short of spectacular.

Anthony and I are routinely woken up in the morning by sounds of the harmonica piping down the halls and through the baby monitor. I know he's up from naps when I hear his melodies. We know he's not yet asleep at night when we hear, "hrrrrrm, SHHHRRMM, hrrrrm" from the dark crack through his door.

Today he's at the point of casually one-handing the damned thing, rifting out some notes, and tossing it aside (see video below).

Our old and bitter hearts fluff up a little at these sweet sounds. I swear they do. I feel lighter in my step, happier, younger.

It is wonderment and surprise and sweetness personified.

Therefore, I'm going to dedicate an on going post to Hollis & the Harmonica. I'll add harmonica pictures as they come and any additional video.

Here's to sweet baby music!

video
Here we are playing around 4/19/09. I sound about an octave higher than I really am. Ugh. (2 mins 25 secs)

video
Watch the boy-wonder in action 4/18/09 (16 seconds).