26 April 2010

Finding Another New Groove

I'll have to update my profile soon...but not tonight. Tonight, I'm running on pure adrenaline and the moment my body realizes what my brain already knows (that it [my body] is on E and the fumes aren't going to get it much further...), I'll be collapsing.

Today was the first day, since she was 5 weeks old, that A has had a dual-working parent family.

I get it now. I get all of it. I understand the pangs of regret that happen when you get home in a flurry of activity, cooking, cleaning, and suddenly - it's bedtime.

It took us a little bit to get into our groove when she started Play Skool. After all, I was suddenly getting home an hour and a half later (5 instead of 3:30), with toddler in tow no less. Now, with one car and the three of us car pooling, it's later still.

Did I mention that we get up between 5 and 5:30 in the morning? No? Well, we do. [falls down]

It'll work out of course. It always does. I found my groove after only a few days last time. It's just a shame that I have to leave for the field for almost a week just a few days into this new routine.

I keep reminding myself that when she starts elementary school, I can go back to my old schedule. Then again, she won't be a toddler anymore and, for all of the tantrums and messes and lumps, I really don't want to rush her out of this stage of development just for a schedule change. It's entirely too much fun. After all, having a 2-year old teach you a new dance just before bed absolutely cannot be beat.

22 April 2010

Your Momma Wears Combat Boots - So What?

While searching for the end of the internet a few days ago, I came upon Stanford University’s Hoover Institute. There, I discovered Mary Eberstadt, a contributing editor to Policy Review. What caught my eye in the first place was her February feature, Mothers in Combat Boots. I would like to note, now, that I really wanted to post about this THATVERYMOMENT but was ultimately too enraged to write coherently. For a few days.

I have so many feelings regarding this piece that it’s almost impossible to disentangle them. In her piece, Ms. Eberstadt lambasts the “military policy” that deploys mothers. Not just single mothers. Not fathers. Just…mothers. But in order to make her point (which is, to spare you the eye strain, that the US, it’s people, it’s military, must stop this practice forthwith and offer incentives for women to either not have children or to defer their service completely), she took a long and winding road that touched on everything that had to do with mothers and women in the military.

To make her point, she cited the case of Army Spc. Hutchinson who refused to deploy last year. I wrote my own assessment of that situation here, and I was not alone in my thinking if Ms. Eberstadt is to be believed

In the end though, Ms. Eberstadt’s ultimate goal appears to be the expulsion of mothers from the military (active, reserve, and guard) for the betterment of our culture, our country and, of course, for our moral well-being. Oh. And the children. Won’t somebody please think of the children??

It’s true that the military does not give mothers of newborns the recommended period of one-year to breast feed before

21 April 2010

Corporal Punishment. It's Not Actually a B-Movie.

Spanking. To some parents, it’s a word synonymous with abuse. To others, it’s not really a big deal and it is, indeed, incorporated as a tool for use in their individual discipline structures for their kids. But no matter what side of the fence you live on, it’s a hot button issue sure to spark debate (if you’re lucky) and flame wars (if you’re not).

With that in mind, it was with a little bit of dread that I clicked on the Circle of Moms featured discussion the other day – “How Do You Feel About Spanking/Swats/Butt Busting”. My first thought was, “Butt Busting”? WTF is…who the $%^# calls it that unless you’re using a belt on a bare bottom?! (M tells me that it's actually a porn thang that has nothing to do with children or discipline. I suspected as much. Ew.)
I am not a spanker. I am not against those who are and I do believe in the freedom of families to choose discipline or punishment that is within the confines of the law – and that works for them. In fact, I was spanked. A lot. I also had my ass busted a few times. It left a very definitive mark on my personality, never really curbed the transgressions it was meant to (just made me a little more clever at hiding my tracks) but I would hardly say that I was abused…and I love and respect the parent that meted out the punishment.

Yet…we don’t do it. Odd that, given that both of us knew corporal punishment as kids and, let’s face it,

19 April 2010

The Forsaken Cake

It came to me in a flash on Friday as I removed our daughter's birthday cake from the improvised cooling "rack". (Er, a pizza pan. It had holes! Holes let air through. Air cools things. What did I know?!)
I am terrible at most domestic activities. I can't sew. I don't have a crafty bone in my body. If I dare to iron, I actually iron wrinkles in to the clothes...and frankly, I can't create beautiful cookies or cakes like that one, over there (look left). I can cook and make a halfway decent presentation of it...as long as I don't have to do anything fancy with a knife to make...you know...fruits or vegetables into teeny, tiny sculptures. But crafty things and baking pretty things that you'd almost rather just photograph than eat? Ummm...no. Notsomuch.

I learned that a pizza pan, while having holes to let air through, does not, in fact, make a good cooling rack for a cake. Especially a moist cake. Cake, even when cool, apparently sticks to things. Which is, I told myself as I tried not to weep, probably why cooling racks are rather, well, like racks and not trays. Less stuff to stick to.

Yep, the top of my cake came off. [sigh]

But! Nothing frosting can't cover, yes? Weeeellll...um...no. I mean, yes, if you add a bottle of sprinkles. After surveying the damage to the cake, I frosted it. With the flat of a shinto knife because along with cooling racks, I also don't have a proper frosting thinger. I don't even know what it's technical name is. It's just...the frosting thinger. I noticed, almost straight away, that the cake was crumbling into the frosting. Like toast crumbs in butter (eeyeck).

I had to walk away and bang my head off of the wall. Party planning and me just aren't good friends. I start with grand ideas (like saving lots of money and going DIY) and realize when it's too late that I do not have a skill. At all.

In the end, it was covered over with sprinkles. You know, rather like toothpaste in thumb tack holes. A loved it because, well, it was a funfetti mess of a cake and she loves her sprinkles, but I knew. I knew that I'd also forgotten soda (don't drink it, didn't dawn on me), chips, and other sundries. M ran a lot of extra errands on Birthday Party Day.

But there was my cake. Most of my mommy friends are talented. Last year, one of them made her daughter a Little Mermaid cake. And it was beautiful. Of course, my cake was tasty (hard to (*#^% up instructions on the back of a box that only has 4 ingredients all told), but dammit...it was my reminder that I am just not cut out for the domestic diva-dom. I don't even have the right tools for it. Baking without the proper accessories is akin to changing the oil in a dirt bike with a mallet and water. It just won't work.

The fact that I even use a comparison like that should tell you what I'm probably better at, shouldn't it? The odd mommy out is how I feel whenever I attend other parties, for sure. I don't talk the talk...but when A asked for a motorcycle, I told her she could have one next year and I would teach her (and Daddy) how to ride.

So next year, I'll be sure to have the right tools for changing the oil in her PW50 AND for baking a damn cake.

How about you? Are you a domestic goddess or a dirty disaster?

15 April 2010

Recipe for Disaster...Er...Pajama Picnic!

How to Throw the BEST Disaster Pajama Picnic Ever

1 Bath (ensure tantrum for best effect)
1 toddler - or however many children still of tantrum-throwing age you can find/buy/steal (spouses count)
1 Spouse (see above)
Pajamas for everyone
Front Porch (Enclosed) - Ideal but not necessary
Food - All of the leftovers you can scrounge that aren't quite this side of manky just yet, and can be served cold. Condiments for impromptu finger painting a definite bonus

To Create:
1. Chase unruly toddler around the house, trying to cajole him/her/it with a bath using "Mommy's Special Soap" (no one needs to know that it's because you forgot to buy baby soap. Again.) and all of the toys he/she/it wants.

2. Lay down and weep.

3. Wrangle toddler into bath and behold! At this stage, if done correctly, he/she/it should have a complete tantrum/shit fit and demand that Daddy bathe him/her/it. Walk away relieved. For a minute.

4. While Daddy gives the bath, slap all of the food ingredients onto a plate, cut up some bread (a little stale for best results) and take it out to the front porch/designated picnic area.

5. Try to bribe toddler OUT of the tub with the picnic and groan when he/she/it demands that you, Mommy, finish the bath.

6. Tantrum. Oh. The kid too.

7. Dry toddler and allow them to pick their own PJ's. Wait for about 10 years before the final decision is made.

8. Tantrum.

9. Remind toddler that the picnic is ready and sigh hopelessly as you realize that your spouse is cleaning the cat box.

10. Behold! Picnic!! For best results, the toddler in question should take exactly one bite of every piece of food available...and place it back on the plate. Added bonus if said toddler tries to spoon mustard into his/her/it's mouth as the largest serving of anything.

11. Encourage spouse to put toddler to bed, then collapse and die.

Note: If step #11 doesn't yield one collapsed, dead mommy, you've done it wrong and should start over from the beginning.

13 April 2010

Only but Not Lonely

"So. When are you going to give A a little brother or sister?" This, mind you, isn't from my mom or M's mom or any actual relative at all. This is the mantra of older friends, neighbors, and general acquaintances since A is now 2.

"Oh, how about never?" is my pre-recorded response. Always, I'm met with protest. Kids should have siblings, families are to be treasured, blah, blah, blah. I've found that the best way to end the conversation (short of a beer bottle upside the head) is to say, "Fine. You pay for it, I'll do it. That means diapers, food, clothes, toys, birthdays, Christmases, after-school activities, college...you know. The works."

But now I've committed the Ultimate Sin. I've ensured, surgically, that I will have no more children. I just turned 35 myself; I have an amazing son in the world and my own little 2-foot tall Viking Horde in the house. Children, the having of, was never an imperative for me to begin with. We are happy just the way we are and A is certainly not wanting for playmates or, presently, for material things.

But why...why is it the wont of some to push their family ideals on others? I find that the most vociferous of these people are those who came from a large family but don't, themselves, have an immediate family of their own.

Let me give you the short and sweet when it comes to my opinion of living vicariously through others, whether it be your friends, your children (especially your children), your favorite screen character or author: STOP. You have your life, with all of it's lumps, corkscrews and bumps. STOP living through others. Live what you've been given and if it's unsavory, change it. It's your life. Get your grubby paws off of mine.

We don't want more children, no matter what anyone else thinks for us. We love the one we have. We can provide for her. Maybe her experience as an only child will make her want a large family in the future, but so far, she's on par with her peers socially and intellectually. It hasn't hurt her, neither has it spoiled her.

What about you? Is less more or do you think that everyone should have lots of children to love?

12 April 2010

So You Say it's Your Birthday...

"Mommy! I have birfday soon!" chirped a little voice from the backseat. This was a month ago and caught me completely off guard. "Yes!" I exclaimed.
"Oh! And I have bleeoons and a poh-sickle and a cup-cake...and I blow out candle!!"
"Yes!" I exclaimed again, taken aback at the amount of thought she'd put into this whole thing. "Er...would you like...pizza on your birthday?"
"Nnnnoooo. I like macaronicheeseHOTDOG."

I was in the drivers seat, nearly weeping with joy. Easiest birthday EVAR. "Um," I stumbled forward with a little dread, trying to plumb the depths of my nearly-two-year-old's mind, "What kind of present would you like? A dolly? A book?"
"No." After almost a minute of silence, "Oh! I like a ball."
"A ball?!"

For the last month, we've been hearing about balloons and cakes, candles and balls...and a more recent request for a special birthday hat, non-stop. So guess what today is? It's her birthday. But shhh...she doesn't know it. Her party isn't until Friday, when my mother, sister, and nephew arrive. Why? Because neither of us want to set a precedent that one's birthday comes more than once a year. Part of me feels badly about it, but in the end, she'll have her party with balloons and popsicles, cakes and candles, and of course, her Very Special Hat. People will make a fuss over her and she'll go to bed that night knowing that birthdays are special indeed.

And we'll hear about it every day until next year...or at least until a month before Christmas when the tune will change to Santa Claus.

Today though, I'm taking this as my day to celebrate that two years ago, I first held her in my arms - a tiny, transluscent thing with a small cry. I'm celebrating the fact that she has survived two years of our parenting, a combination of muddling and bungling through. I am celebrating the fact that we have, for two years, managed to save her from herself on a daily basis. After all, it is the job of every mobile baby and toddler to attempt suicide at least twice a day. Today is her birthday and it marks a huge turning point in all of our lives, even if she doesn't know it.

10 April 2010

Adoption - It's For Life, Not Until the Warranty Runs Out

I've been largely offline lately, owing to a recent surgical procedure and subsequent regimen of medication that has rendered me useless in any venue requiring coherence, so this morning, I thought I would catch up on some news over breakfast.

What a mistake. After seeing this headline, Russia Furious Over Adopted Boy Sent Back From US, I choked on my eggs. My blood pressure rose and parts of my body that were only throbbing twanged with renewed pain. It's true, stress and anger manifest themselves physically.

The crux of the story is this: A woman in the US adopted a boy from Russia who, after a period of time, she claims became too violent and difficult to handle. So, she bought him a one-way ticket back to Mother Russia, with the equivalent of a "Return to Sender" note pinned to him.

As adoptee, birth mother, and general advocate for adoption in general, I was outraged. I've seen it too many times in forums and in anti-adoption websites (Google it. Have fun reading)..."it" being this notion that adopted children are malcontents who come pre-packaged with issues beyond the norm and no reasonable parent-in-waiting should be asked to burden themselves. It doesn't matter whether the child is adopted later in life or as a newborn, it's an industry we must not feed, producing demon spawn that will eat our generous souls.

Adoption, whether done here in the US or overseas, is expensive. Yes. It's no guarantee of familial bliss either. I can attest to that, remembering the own misery I inflicted on my family. But they didn't send me back with a note. They rode out the storm and are still my family to this day. They, unlike Ms. Nancy Hansen's daughter, understood that family comes in all forms and that adoption is an agreement to be that family, for better or worse. It's, in fact, a larger committment than marriage. You don't normally divorce your children when they lash out. Instead, you seek help.

Ms. Nancy Hansen, the returned child's adopted grandmother, vehemently denies charges of child abandonment. After all, she claims, the boy was under the charge of a stewardess for the entire flight, and her daughter, the boy's adopted mother, had paid a stranger some 200 US dollars to pick the child up in Moscow.

Think about your families for a moment, whether blended, adopted, or biological. Think about your special needs children, your children with emotional problems - especially those of you who gave birth to those kids. Are there days you wish you could return them? Of course! Do you find yourselves clambering over them, demanding they get back to whence they came, right now!! No. Responsible, loving parents, no matter how they came to be, weather the storms, understanding that parenthood is a sacrifice, but that ultimately, they are responsible for fixing what is broken.

This Russian child has already been "abandoned" in his own mind once, by parents who could not, for whatever reason, raise him and gave him over to the state. He realized a dream that many children in orphanages around the world, including here in the US never do, and that was to find a family of his very own. Now, he's been abandoned again, by a woman who clearly doesn't understand that parenthood, whether natural or adopted, is forever, bumps, scary emotional rides and all.

What sort of precedent will this set in the end? How many children waiting for adoption will be affected by this woman's now public rejection of "broken goods"? How many other adoptive parents will ultimately follow this lead? And what sort of renewed voice will this give to the anti-adoption set?

As a mother, an adoptee, a birth mother, these questions will haunt me - as will the fate of that troubled little boy.