Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ben Needs a Dollhouse

Auntie will play dolls with him!
Maybe not right now, but in the next year, definitely. He doesn't even have any dolls! But thats okay, they are really more meant for playing pretend, and he isn't there yet. He has puppy for all of his cuddling needs. Oh, its completely fine for girls to play with trucks and dirt and learn how to fix the kitchen sink, right? We love women, right? But I promise more than one man is cringing with inexplicable aversion at the idea of Ben playing with dolls.

Scott is brilliant, in my opinion, but as with all of my relationships, the guy always seems to come up short in the areas of communication and conflict resolution. I know, I know, tell you something you don't know, right? Well, how did I learn how to make friends, share (which, ahem, Scott is still working on), and discuss my feelings? Playing dolls with my friends. Before he gets to the stage where "MO-om, boys don't dooooo that", I want him to at least have a rudimentary grasp on his feelings, friendships, and how to talk about them with his peers. Being able to schmooze takes you far in this society, people! I intend to give my kid as much knowledge as I can to get him as far as I can. And I don't know Spanish at all. So that is out.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Big Love

Which one is me?
Once, a few years ago, Scott and I were going out to dinner with my family- Mom, Dad, and Stephanie, my sister. We were waiting at the front of the restaurant to be seated and Scott came in to join us. Without giving it much thought, Scott came over to me and draped his arm around my waist... as always, maybe just a smidge past the southern border. Hey, we're married.

Well, this time, it wasn't me. It was Steph. She thought that maybe it was me, or my mom, so she slowly glanced over and saw... Scott. And he saw her. Oops. Stephanie busted up immediately, and Scott looked shocked, but definitely amused. The rest of us were instantly interrogating them, ordering them to fill us in on what was so hysterical. I think Steph may have contemplated telling my parents for about two seconds, and then relayed the whole thing. Scott, being completely secure by nature, was a good sport while we all took turns beating the joke to death at his expense.

This story comes close to repeating itself every time Steph visits, especially since we regularly trade clothes when she is here. Its a big joke around our house.

Do you think he has a point? Can you tell us apart?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Language: The Secret Handshake

Do you remember an embarrassing moment in junior high or high school when someone used a word that you didn't understand? I remember having to plaster on the "I totally get it" face, and behind the mask, frantically search the context for clues. It was especially difficult if they were using a new slang term, or referring to something taboo that you weren't supposed to know about.

We decide so much about people based on language. Slang is almost like the password into an underground club. Especially when you're young, that's how you "weed out the nerds", or more likely, are weeded out by your peers. But if you think about it, we still do it as adults. We put a lot of value on accents. A British accent is thought to sound intelligent, but a southern accent... not so much. Not to mention Indian, Korean and Canadian accents.

Immediately upon meeting a stranger, you reveal so much more than you realize about yourself. At the very least, your country of origin, and if the stranger is from the same area, they may be able to tell what part of the state you are from. In this country, lots of people can identify New Jersey, New York and Boston accents. Here in California, a few slang terms can give away whether you are from the north or the south.

When it comes to connections and wealth, language plays a critical part in the etiquette universe. Much has been made about this in movies. If you use the local vernacular, and don't exercise an extensive vocabulary, you will be dismissed quickly as ill-mannered and unrefined.

The most interesting part of this system, is that we created it. We assigned social value to each language and accent, and we calculate that value each time we encounter someone new. There are so many pieces of our culture that function this way- as clues to someone's place in society- that informs us subconsciously of our relationship to them before we have even developed a dialogue.

What new words is Ben's generation going to make up to define themselves? What am I going to do if Urban Dictionary ever evaporates and I can't figure out what they mean? I hope I can teach him enough about how to use the tools of vocabulary and diction to allow him access to the locked doors in society that he may need to get into. It's amazing how much we need to pass onto our children to prepare them for our world, and even more incredible is how much they will create to make it completely their own.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Top Three

Top Three: Favorite dreams I have had since Ben was born.

1. Scott wearing Stephanie's cardigan out and about and being hurt when I laughed at him. His reasoning? He was cold. I shouldn't have laughed, it really did flatter his Popeye muscles.

2. Sitting on an airplane with a few friends, the plane tilts forward at a frightening angle and our cups of water fall out of the cup holders and tumble to the front of the plane. Later on the flight attendant announces that he is testing the cups for DNA, since it is imperative that the airline discovers who would be so rude as to hurl their cups at the front of the plane.

3. Attempting to seduce Scott, but everytime he begins to reciprocate, I fall asleep (that's a classic for first time parenting, don't you think?)

Top Three: Things that belong on a coaster, a household-wide study.

1. Remote Controls

2. Cell Phones, which apparently trump remote controls.

3.  Etcetera.

Top Three: Quotes from my husband. That I remembered to write down.

1. After clicking on a pop-up that was all but screaming "computer eating virus!" I asked him why in the world he would do such a thing. He replied, "I just wanted to put myself in the pants of an old person." Maybe a review of common sayings is in order.

2. "Two women chatting at a stop sign should be the symbol for infinity, not that twirly thing."

3. "What do you mean by 'on the fence'? You made that up, didn't you?!"
I refer back to #1.

Give me your top three list!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Honey, It's Because She's Crazy.

Hands On
Paranoia is really trying to bust out of its cage over here, what with all the people who are reading, and worse with the people of whom I hear are reading. As with walking a tight rope, if I don't look down I will make it across, right? Walking over here, well perhaps mosey-ing. Also awkwardly whistling and looking in upward directions at nothing.

I do feel that its strangely appropriate to be putting myself out "there" (where?) at this time in my life. I have just a few months left of my twenties, and I have two goals for my much-aniticipated fourth decade on earth:
        a) to truly listen to different perspectives and practice acceptance
        b) to be unapologetic about who I am

Qualifiers: not aggressive, not defensive, just not trying to fit into someone else's system.

I love my wide net of friends, with different experiences, and even if we have differences, I want to be able to focus on what we have in common, without necessarily having to sweep myself under the rug.

Here's something you may not know- Scott and I have conflicting beliefs and politics. He was raised to be very conservative, and I was raised, well.... in Santa Cruz. A very special kind of liberal territory, for sure. Neither one of us is carbon copies of our parents' original plans, I'm sure. In my case, I am very sure. But it's definitely the foundation of everything we believe. When we were first discussing marriage, we had long and sometimes depressing talks about how this was going to work. Daily life was pretty easy, but we knew that when we got older and had kids we would have to face some pretty tough issues. Well, wouldn't you know it, here we are! A whole split second later!

Our final game plan kind of floated to the top of all these road blocks that we kept running into. We agreed on very little when it was all drawn out on paper. Do you like Mexican food? Yes, yes. Check. Separation of church and state? NO?? Really???!! Okay so not quite like that, but I'm paraphrasing. In the spirit of paraphrase, our solution looked somewhat like- if the child in question asks you about this issue, you answer their question. If they ask you why their other parent so clearly scoffs at that answer, you tell them that its because said parent is craaaaaaaazy. But you love them anyway. Although we both care a great deal about the values and beliefs that Ben learns here at home, he will have to choose his own way in the end, as we all do. We respect each other's opinions and beliefs, and we love each other anyway, and I hope that is the take home message.

Another take home message: Its not okay to hide the other person's absentee ballot and tell them that the mailman must have just lost it...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Going Public!

This will probably freak me out for awhile. I like knowing who is reading, and in the past it has allowed me to be more open than I normally would be... all hangin out there in the... giant... world...

ANYway. List of promises, in this time-of-new-beginnings and all:

1) I promise that my life will not get any more interesting.
    I mean, I'm a white, married, middle class, stay-at-home mom with a healthy child. BOR-ing. Unless of course you are Kelle Hampton over at Enjoying the Small Things. She's oozing coolness that I just don't have. If there is a nerdy, relaxed, and more lazy photographer version of that, I can only hope to be it.

2) I promise to try fun challenges and ask your opinions on things.
   Of course, no advance research necessary for these types of opinions. See promise #1.

3) I promise to try to write about something, when I write. And include some cute photos when I don't.
     I also promise to practice using bigger words. To the enjoyment of all. Get out your point-and-laugh fingers now, people.

Wow, big promises! And with a six-month-old, WHY am I trying to be on the computer more?? Sigh, don't know, just a whim. We shall see what comes of it.

I'll make more promises if you leave a comment with your three wishes. But no fair wishing for more wishes! You know that's against the rules, people. You've all seen Aladdin.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Officially six months has passed... and an ode...

I just want to preface this by stating again how much I love this little nugget. Even at the worst times when we just aren't at our best, although those days have pretty much slowed to a trickle, now. He knows the drill, and likes it, and the only fussing that usually happens is when Mama fails to realize he has indeed pooped or he is bored by this stage of the day earlier than expected. Its a love haze at this point, basically. Once you get the daily grind mastered. That being said, people commonly say, "you will forget what life was like without him!" Well, here to say that day has not come yet, and I consider that to be a good thing.

At 6am, when (I know, 'lucky us' as many parents tell me) he wakes up and starts making his little wake up noises, I remember what it was like to sleep until 7:30.  I remember when the rudest intrusion upon my eight hours of beauty sleep was Scott quietly getting dressed or the cats raising some unholy heckuva racket. I remember what Friday nights were like, deciding to go out to dinner last minute or rent a movie. The odd party here and there at a friend's house. How easy it was to leave town, and whenever we wanted to. Staying in bed when I was sick, and Scott being able to go to work.

But, I remember being bored a lot of the time, both working and not working. I am a serial monogamist at heart, I have been single, but for six or eight months in a couple of handfuls. Scott and I met early, at 22, which felt like 'finally!' to me at the time. I like building relationships. I love meeting that new friend that just gets you right at the beginning. The two hour lunches peppered with "I know!"s. I love that stage of partnership when the bloom has decidedly left the rose, but you are through the "okay, I love you but am kind of sick of you" phase. You've had your arguments, you've had your obsessive together all the time stints. Now you are onto that warm breeze of missing them only just enough when they have left for the weekend. You have allowed yourself to take them for granted just that amount that allows you to feel safe and secure, but you appreciate their presence when they are gone for even just one night, and want them back. I wanted a baby, another person, and most importantly, another type of relationship. One that would help me explore human bonds further, to stretch myself emotionally. I am here to say, it has delivered. I can poignantly hold in my mind both realities: one without children, in a clean home with no bright reds, yellows, and blues. One that is constantly doing crazy things like taking your blender into the bathroom and balancing many things precariously throughout the day. I prefer the challenge of parenthood, although it is work, without it I feel I would only be jogging in place.

Confession: Now that we are at the six month mark, I get about as much done now as I did before the baby. When life got active before, less housekeeping was done. Same goes for now. I hate housekeeping so it always falls to a dismal last. More accurately, it is done in an urgent haste when I just can't live with it anymore or someone is coming over. Then I mostly clean just what they will see.

Beyond that, the promised ode. This one, to the vessel that carried my cheeky little chunk. Six months after the huge accomplishment that is Ben was birthed into this world, I thought I would be concerned about the state my body was in. Was I going to gain too much weight, be too concerned about my jigglies to feel like a wife, and not only a mommy? I feel very much like my old self, with some residual pregnancy health issues. But as to fitting into jeans and such, its not that everything is back to what it was, its just that its very close-close enough. My jeans fit better one day than the next, but my concern with it is so much less now. In fact, I am so impressed with my body's ability to go through the wreckage that was Ben's birth, and put itself back together again (more or less). I am so impressed by that, that I just don't care as much about the rest. I am not in amazing shape, exercising daily, or any of that. I thought I would be! In an urgent worry about my body being "let go". I exercise about the same amount as I did before, always vowing to do more, but remaining fairly active. What's more- when I pass a mirror, I don't mind a little roundness here and there. I  look like me, nearing thirty. I am just proud of my body, and hope to take as good care of it as it deserves. Hopefully I can resist the constant stream of outside voices (I know you hear them, too!) that say I shouldn't think my body looks fine the way it is. I should be doing more! Well, I'm not, and I'm happy. Get over it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Its Either A Cramming Feast Or An Intellectual Famine

Wow, growth! I can feel it, this new normal, rolling into the cracks and edges and coloring it all in with brand new scenery. I can't believe its been six months. I remember fantasizing about this month when he was first born- how great it would be to see him playing, smiling and jumping. Failing completely to imagine what his tiny little face would look like, all puffed out and cheeky. It is just as glorious as I thought it would be.

Further thoughts on growth: I have my mind back! Well, for now. I can remember things, and expand on ideas. I can read books and contemplate their themes. I can imagine paths for myself, with different futures and adventures. I can make lists of things to get done, and adopt new routines. That last one is the real thriller. I can adopt new routines. I am not an old person set in her ways. I can bravely learn about cloth diapers. I can decide that his bedtime routine will look like that. I can remember that since he is napping I should go do xyz real quick and move things forward throughout the house. Keeping one corner of an eye locked on my baby I can invent new activities based on his increasing skills! Now that he suddenly likes the Bumbo, I can prop him on the counter and cut up things for dinner, hanging some links and a toy from the cabinet door above. These things may seem simple, but after the intellectual famine that is pregnancy (and the first three months of infancy, really) these realizations hold the same excitement as zero gravity. It may be short lived, but I am savoring it.

So in the interest of riding this train as far as it will take me, I have been scrapbooking, researching ancestry, reading thought provoking family blogs such as "Enjoying the Small Things" and "Lesbian Dad", both providing me with windows into lives that are different, but not so different than mine. For example, an excerpt here re: Baby-Help Books by LD:
"The “For Fathers Only” sections in the chapter “Postpartum Family Adjustments” made me want to chuck the book out the nearby window. Subsection titles include gems such as

“Keep the nest tidy” (duh!),
“Be sensitive” (what else are you going to be?!),
“Guard against intruders” (must use martial lingo! must! this is manly business!),
“Take charge of the siblings” (I say again, duh!), and
“Become a shareholder” (this is to remind Dad to actually hold the baby, yep, actually hold the baby).
Is anyone this stupid? Could this actually reflect any facet of reality? Don’t answer that! If the answer’s yes, I don’t want to know. Okay, one last look at the accident before we drive on past. From “Be sensitive”:
Dads, be aware of your wife’s needs. As one mother confided, “I’d have to hit my husband over the head before he’d realize I’m giving out.”
Don’t even let me get started on the “More Keys to a Better Marriage Adjustment” section.
The most articulate response I can muster to most all of the “For Fathers” material is: What the fuck? If I’m living in a wacky, Northern Californian, left-wing, feminist-liberated, queer-friendly haze, then lord love me and leave me there! Because none of that stuff, but none of it, would do anything but patronize and insult any men friends of mine. If it doesn’t, it should! And woe betide the wife of the man who is genuinely enlightened by any of this. "

YA! I am so surprised that we are still told to hold men's hands through this whole thing, because of course the implication is that it is supposed to come naturally for us. I'll tell ya, even with drugs, nothing about pregnancy or birth felt natural to me. I kept telling myself that this had been going on with women for as long as there were women, no need to panic... comfort provided? Um, zero. Now, thats not to say that it doesn't feel natural to many women, I'm sure it does. Caring for Ben once he was born felt natural to me, besides breastfeeding, which felt more like learning how to operate heavy machinery, or work a stick shift. I'm sure there are women out there who felt like caring for an infant felt like being a fish out of water. All I'm saying, is that we are entitled to the same learning curve, and men don't even have to do any of the beginning part. We all have an adjustment to go through, nobody's getting out of that.

My husband is one of those who thankfully, does not need to be taught how to roll up his sleeves and get in there. But I tend to be the kind of person who is going to hand it to him anyway, so if he wants to roll up his sleeves first, he better get to it. I absolutely do not apologize for asking for help when I need it, and I need it. Why be on a team if you don't want to pass the ball? Anyway, beyond that, he is a fabulous partner. He has his moments, when overwhelmed, as I do as well. When neither of us wants to do this anymore, and wants the other one to do it. Five more minutes, please, just five more minutes. Not perfect, but on even-ish ground here at home and I'm so glad.

See? Thought provoking. She gives me plenty to chew on, just like Kelle over at "Enjoying the..." and that keeps my thought-wheels turning and in that way, makes me feel healthier.

I have a book club that I make it to about half the time, but I credit them with making me read Maya Angelou! One of those books you want to take everywhere with you just so that you can look at complete strangers with that casual aloof "Oh, ya, of course I read Maya Angelou and never ever US Magazine" look. It used to be a total lie, but now its only a half-truth, as I actually DO read Maya Angelou, and love her! Now I can add her to Amy Tan under my list of authors I pull out when I want to impress someone and kick my tattered and dog-eared Twilight books under the couch. Movin' on up!

All this learning and reading- I only have four and a half more months until I am 30! Apparently I have quite a bit to fit into this last leg of my 20s.