This is a blog all just for me. It has no purpose whatsoever except for me to share some of the random nonsense I happen to be thinking about in my day-to-day life. Sometimes it sure is nice not to have a purpose.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pet Psychic!

...or "animal communicator." Years ago, I read the book "Conversations With Animals" and was introduced to the work of Lydia Hiby. We called her when our smallest cat BooBear was having intestinal issues and also out of interest for our biggest cat Koopa. Well, after spending $1100 a couple of weeks ago on saving our third cat Bee-Bee's life, we decided to give Hiby a try.

We were so happy when Bee-Bee survived what looked like was going to be her final hours. The vet hospital we go to has the highest technology out there and so they ran full blood work, an ultrasound and more. The final diagnosis was that she has pancreatitis, although this was accompanied by the inflammation of her other surrounding organs, too. The vet put Bee-Bee on a treatment of pain medication and some antibiotics and we were allowed to bring her home.

Bee-Bee was back to normal as far as sitting and observing the happenings in our house, but she retained the yellow stain of jaundice on her skin and refused to eat. I asked the vet about her failure to eat and he simply made the comment, "Well, if she doesn't start up again, I guess we'll be seeing you back here again." What is that supposed to mean? How much more are they going to charge us just for some simple advice about what we might try next?

So, rather than pay more money to go back to the vet again, I decided that we should give Hiby a call. It's a $40 consultation by phone, but that's cheaper than a vet visit and so I decided it was worth a try. My husband and I sent a check on Saturday and then were anxious to call last night since Hiby's normal phone hours are only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. We got a busy signal for over an hour, but it turns out she was on the phone helping someone in Germany all of that time! Imagine that person's phone bill!

To begin with, all that we told Hiby was our cat's name, that she is a long-haired gray cat, and that she's about 5 years old. We tried not to give away any other information to begin with to see what Hiby would come up with. Almost immediately, Hiby said that Bee-Bee was communicating that she doesn't like the smells of cleaners in our house and that they make her sick. We do use carpet deodorizer, ironically enough because Bee-Bee pees on the carpet and makes them stink! We have also been using vinegar to clean the urine and Hiby explained that vinegar is just as difficult for cats to bear as ammonia. She suggested we try another cleaner like Nature's Miracle and plain baking soda instead of carpet deodorizer.

Hiby said that Bee-Bee has a small bladder and that she does not have accidents on the ground out of spite or to make a statement. She said that they are accidents because she does not make it to the box in time and when she does get there, she is sometimes intimidated by our big orange cat, Koopa. We ended up telling Hiby that Bee-Bee was diagnosed with pancreatitis and she said that this is a disease associated with low self-esteem. In Bee-Bee's case, she thinks we can correct this by allowing her to have some private time during the day (away from Koopa). She suggested keeping her in a closed room with her own private litter box and food. We'll have to give that a try.

Hiby also said that Bee-Bee is very sweet. She does not want to "tattle" on Koopa, because she doesn't want him to go away and she doesn't want to leave our home herself. She's happy being in our home. My husband asked if Bee-Bee is perhaps upset because BooBear has a hurt leg and has been closed up in a dog crate. Hiby said that this doesn't really bother Bee-Bee, and that it's more intimidation from Koopa that bothers her most of all. She also said that Bee-Bee does not mind the children in the house--that they do not bother her, despite the fact that Hiby could easily hear Kaz causing ruckus in the background.

I don't know if Hiby is really psychic or not, but I do think she cares a lot about animals and that she provided us with more helpful suggestions than our vet ever did. She suggested we try feeding her baby food. She said any food should be safe if it is made of chicken or turkey and that we just stay away from fish and beef. She also suggested that we try a Nutri-cal paste if Bee-Bee is not eating so that she gets some nutrients. Hiby explained that Bee-Bee is probably not eating because of the antibiotics that she was prescribed and that she is feeling nauseous. She said that once cats stop eating, it becomes a cycle of not eating rather than of growing hunger.

Hiby also reiterated that we have rights to our vet records and that we should not hesitate to request them to get a second opinion. She recommended a vet that is also in our town who does acupuncture for animals. She's worked with him over the years and so he won't think we're crazy if we mention that we talked with her...a big plus! Oddly enough, Bee-Bee seems to be doing a little better. The jaundice looks less intense and she seems a little perkier. If anything, we're feeling a little more hopeful. Hiby said that the infection she had is gone and she didn't indicate that Bee-Bee was on her death bed. It is always possible that it's false hope, but I'll take anything right now.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Our Sweet Bee-Bee

The past couple of weeks have been horrible for our kitties and our finances. It started off on a Wednesday night when I got home and noticed that our cat BooBear was limping. I discovered a huge gash on her leg was the culprit and so we took her into the emergency vet hospital hours. She ended up getting hospitalized overnight and they had to put her under to fix her leg. For the next few days, we took BooBear in daily to get her leg bandage changed. Interestingly, they packed the wound with sugar to help it heal. I'd never heard of this treatment!

Despite being locked up in Howie's dog crate, BooBear is handling all of this well. She let us know right away that she would not put up with wearing an Elizabethan collar, but even without it, she is being a good girl and not undoing her bandages. Now BooBear is healing and so we only have to take her back to the vet every three days for a bandage change. This whole ordeal with BooBear is easily turning out to cost about $600 or so, but at least she is healing and will be fine in just a matter of weeks.

Unfortunately, our other kitty Bee-Bee is not faring so well. Just as we were dealing with BooBear's leg, Bee-Bee went into an acute state of failure. I got home one day and she was meowing loudly in pain. She was panting and her skin was noticeably yellow. We took her into the vet and she was hopsitalized for a couple of nights. The vet ran a full gamut of tests on her and determined that the main problem is a case of pancreatitis. In addition to this, all of her other internal organs are also very swollen. We were afraid we were going to have to put her down then, but Bee-Bee pulled through and we thought she might be okay. Bee-Bee's ordeal cost over $1100, but we felt it was well worth the financial sacrifice when we saw her sweet face and how she was fighting to stay alive.

Now, though, Bee-Bee has been back home, and even with all of the medicine that we've been giving her, she won't eat and we're uncertain what to do for her next. One option would be to take her back to the vet again, but we don't know what they will do besides run her through the same routine as last time. We hate to say that her life is worth a certain amount of money, but the prospect of dishing out another thousand or thousands of dollars is also not realistic given our tight finances.

So, for the time being, we are spending a mere (in comparison to all of the vet bills) $40 on Bee-Bee by setting up an appointment with animal psychic Lydia Hiby. We used Hiby years ago after I had read her book, and we think she is the real deal when it comes to animal communicators. I don't know what she'll be able to tell us that will help, but I think we have better chances getting some useful information from her than from the vet at this point. We're going to give Hiby a call tomorrow night and so we'll re-evaluate our next steps after that.

I think the thing that has made all of this especially hard for me is that I have guilt over the pets ever since Kaz was born. The animals were always our babies for years before Kaz, but life has been so hectic since he came along and now especially since I've been pregnant for the second time. I believe that our pets are content with their lives, but I know that I have not given them close to the same attention that I did pre-Kaz. As I watch poor Bee-Bee wither away right before my eyes, I have regret that I have not petted her as much as she deserves in the past couple of years. The thing is...animals are amazingly accepting and nonjudgmental. Bee-Bee has obviously never held a grudge over any changes in our household. I was petting her last night and she just closed her eyes in bliss. She, like other animals, live in the moment rather than worry about the past. In these moments that she's sick, all I can do is give her love and know that with each touch I give her, she is at peace.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Letting It All Out

I haven't had the inspiration to write in any of my blogs all summer. A large reason for that is that I'm now 16 weeks pregnant and have spent all summer feeling nauseous and fatigued due to the pregnancy. It worked out that I had this extra long (longer than usual) summer while feeling sick, because now that work is ramping up again, I am grateful that I have more energy and a stronger stomach to handle what's coming at me.

One kind of frustrating, but potentially positive aspect to being pregnant is: hormones! I am quick to cry lately and while being "hormonal" and emotional may seem unprofessional and downright silly to people, maybe it is actually healthier to be able to have such raw emotions. Perhaps we ordinarily bury, suppress, and ignore feelings that we would be better off feeling and expressing.

Just think about young children and how they are so quick to cry. Yes, the crying can be frustrating and the tantrums can be intolerable at times. But, I take a look at my toddler son and can't help but think what a wonderfully Zen little guy he is. When he's happy, I know he's happy. When he's mad, I know he's mad. And when he's sad, I know he's sad. After dealing with "professional" adults all day long, I totally appreciate the honesty with which my son exists. I think that in many ways, my hormones are giving me a taste of being a toddler in the same way. Whatever I'm feeling these days, I'm just letting it all come out. As a correction, I guess it's not so much a matter of "letting" since there's no stopping it. Whatever the case, I must say that I have never slept so soundly and so hard.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

People On A Path Of Self Destruction

Last night my husband and I watched the Season Premiere of Jon & Kate Plus 8 and it left us feeling totally blue. We love watching the show normally and were excited to see it after all of the hype that had built up over the past weeks and months. But, seeing the family breaking up before our eyes seemed horribly wrong. So, if it's hard enough for me to watch this slow motion wreck of people I don't even know in real life, you can only imagine how I have been feeling watching people I do know who I feel are self destructing before my eyes.

Bottom line: I feel sad. I am surrounded by people who I believe are in emotional pain that is causing them to be self destructive. I love these people and yet no matter how much I care about them, I feel totally powerless to help them. I don't know what words to offer them or if words would be the wrong thing to use in the first place. I am accepting the fact that I can't stop their actions, and yet it pains me to see them spiraling out of control. Do I have a right to step in? Would I even know what to do? Do I have a responsibility to communicate my concerns with them? Would they even hear me? Do I necessarily "know better" than them?

For now, I am just laying low in my observation and reflection mode. I want to make sure that I am not being wrongly judgmental in my assessment of their choices. Even if I am acting with their best interest at heart, what gives me the authority to--as they would likely see it--criticize them? Then again, am I culpable in keeping silent? Unfortunately, this is not the first time I've been in this position and experience so far has taught me that my efforts are often for naught. Perhaps I need to better let go of people and let them live their own lives, even when I think that they are in pain and causing themselves more pain.

I do see that people only change when they want to change, and for some people, this never happens. It's a horrible cycle of people in pain causing themselves more pain because the pain they already have is too painful. I always wish I could throw a wrench in the cycle, but it's like they're on a downhill slope and there's no stopping them. All I can do, perhaps, is just get out of the way from getting run over.

Friday, May 22, 2009

No More Left To Give

Do you ever feel like you have no more left to give? That is how I've been feeling lately and so I think that's a sign that it's definitely time for a good break. Luckily, today happens to be Friday and this weekend is a three day weekend thanks to Memorial Day. Now, I could go on and on about all of the reasons why I feel so burned out. And, sometimes it is definitely necessary and useful to vent. But, I want to start my long weekend on a good note and so I think I'll try to brainstorm things that I'm thankful for or happy about, because there is definitely a lot of good to outweigh all of the reasons why I'm feeling negative. I think just need to remind myself of them.
  1. I woke up this morning and found that my sweet husband had cleaned up downstairs while I was sleeping. All of the toys had been picked up, he put away bags of junk that had accumulated during the week, and he vacuumed! I'm sure he even did more stuff like dishes, taking out the trash, and cleaning up pet messes. I have the best husband in the world and he is what lifts me up on a regular basis.
  2. For breakfast, I got to have a homemade chocolate chip cookie! Again, thanks to my awesome husband, I got to eat what is probably the best homemade cookie around. He baked these last night only after making his world famous eggs for dinner. Yummmm!
  3. This morning I had a message in my inbox from my friend in Japan. She and I knew each other in junior high and happened to reconnect over the Internet. People may complain about how technology can divide people, but in this case it brought us together. I love reading her messages!
  4. My entire outfit today is compliments of another friend who provides me with bags full of hand-me-down clothes from her adult daughter. Since I don't like to shop, these gifts are truly appreciated. I end up with a whole new wardrobe without having to spend any money. She gave me a bag just yesterday when we met to talk and catch up. I used to work with her and we would talk every single day about our lives. While we don't get to see each other so often anymore, talking with her is so easy whenever we do meet up and I appreciate her friendship.
  5. Last night, my Wittle One was wanting to nurse/suckle all evening long. From the time we got home, he just wanted to snuggle in my lap for several hours. Although this can sometimes get tiring, yesterday I just relished it. I enjoyed feeling him lying on me with such comfort and trust. I realize that this phase in our life is so short and so I just soaked it all in and let him go as long as he wanted. I love him so much.
The list could go on, but these are some of the first things to pop into my head from today and yesterday. Interestingly, just typing these has made me feel a calmness. I guess I should take the time to do this more often.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Parents As Ghosts In The Graveyard

I just finished reading The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman for a young adult literature group that's meeting today. Nothing like finishing in the nick of time! The book as a whole was an enjoyable, well-crafted fantasy book with the imaginative premise of a baby who is adopted by ghosts in a graveyard after his family is murdered. The boy named "Nobody," or just "Bod" for short, walks a line between the dead and the living. He's able to see and talk with ghosts of the graveyard, but he is still human. He gains special abilities that he learns from the dead, and yet he is still ultimately mortal.

While I enjoyed following the adventures of Bod as he grows up from a toddling baby to a teenager, it wasn't until I reached the end of the book that I finally felt emotionally touched. WARNING: SPOILERS! It is in the last chapter of the book, "Leavings and Partings," that the story seems to suddenly expand to express much more universal themes. It is with Bod's departure from the graveyard that I was able to see how his ghostly adopted parents are not just his parents in some fantastical story, but they are akin to the parents of any child.

One of the circumstances that Bod finds himself in as a living child among ghosts is that as he grows older and changes, the ghosts remain "stuck" or frozen in time. Child ghosts whom he once enjoyed playing games with continue to be children playing children's games as he becomes an adolescent and young adult. Similarly, his ghostly parents are unable to accompany Bod on his journey in life--they cannot leave the boundaries of the graveyard when it is time for him to go out into the world.

As children become independent adults, there is an element of physical separateness at play. I remember specifically selecting a college that was thousands of miles away from my parents, because the physical distance had meaning to me. Locating myself at the opposite end of the country was my way of leaving the boundaries of their control, knowing well that they would not be following me or be within reach. In practice, physical boundaries for living, human parents are much less restrictive than those for Bod and his ghostly family. My parents, for example, could still visit me at college and I could still make trips "home."

The physical distance between my parents and me, however, was representative of a simultaneous nonphysical separation. It was the intangible separation that was the most important to me and probably the most painful for my parents. Years after I finished college, my mom told me the story of when she and my father dropped me off at college my first year. As they drove away from the school, my dad started crying so hard that they had to pull over to the side of the road. For a man I never really see cry, even when members of our family have died, my new journey surely represented a loss that I see echoed when Bod's ghostly parents bid him farewell from the graveyard. My parents were undoubtedly happy for me just Bod hears his mom, "I am so proud of you, my son," but as a parent now, I realize that it may be a joy that is equally wrapped up in the mourning of a loss.

While my personality has always made me roaring to be independent, letting go may also be difficult, scary, or saddening for children. In the final chapter of The Graveyard Book, Bod asks his guardian, "Can't I stay here? In the graveyard?" The answer is firm: "You must not...all the people here have had their lives...Now it's your turn. You need to live." Whether children are ready to skip out the door or whether they need a little nudge, I think that this answer is key. Children "need to live" their own lives and should not "stay" controlled by their parents. This does not mean that children and parents cannot have an enduring relationship throughout life--I greatly cherish the current relationship I maintain with my parents. This also doesn't mean that children do not have a life of their own until they physically leave home. After all, the separation that occurs in real life is not one that happens in a single moment, but is instead a continuous process. In this light, childhood is a series of parents' "letting gos" of their children. It starts from the moment of birth when the baby who has spent months living inside of you is now suddenly an entity living outside of your body. It continues when they learn to take steps on their own without your guiding hand and when they spend time away at school or with friends.

At one point Bod starts to ask, "If I change my mind can I come back here?" But, he is immediately able to answer his own question, "If I come back, it will be a place, but it won't be home any longer." While I feel like the home you grow up in is a place that you always feel connected with and many people often feel comfortable in, this answer rings true for me. Home for me today is not the one that I grew up in, but the one that I have created myself. And, the more I think about it, "home" is not even so much a place as it is a space within me. Thus, in a weird roundabout way, my parents can feel reassured that as compelled as I have felt to leave them, finding my own true home has resulted in just as much a return to them. I recognize that everything that I have now is built on the foundation that they provided me, and that they remain an integral and inseparable part of who and where I am. In the cyclical nature of life, perhaps the separation that children make from parents is necessary so that they can indeed reconnect again someday. This idea ties in well with the closing lines of The Graveyard Book:

There was a passport in his bag, money in his pocket. There was a smile dancing on his lips, although it was a wary smile, for the world is a bigger place than a little graveyard on a hill; and there would be dangers in it and mysteries, new friends to make, old friends to rediscover, mistakes to be made and many paths to be walked before he would, finally, return to the graveyard or ride with the Lady on the broad back of her great grey stallion. But between now and then, there was Life; and Bod walked into it with his eyes and his heart wide open.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Race From Mouth Of Babes

Today when I picked up my son from daycare, the four-year-old class was out in the playground. As I walked by the fenced-in grounds, a little girl startled me with her loud exclamation,"You look like a Chinese person!" Caught off guard, I simply said, "Oh, thank you." and kept on walking.

I picked up my son from inside the building, signed him out, and walked out again past the four-year-olds. This time, several of the kids called out to a boy in the class, "Matthew, your mom is here!" Having been through this drill many times before, Matthew just ignored the kids as best he could. After all, these notifications happen every time that I happen to show up when the class is playing outside and they see me.

Why do the kids assume I'm Matthew's mom? Because I'm Asian and so is Matthew's mom. In their eyes, we either look so similar that they can't tell us apart, or what I've decided is more the case...they can tell us apart, but they find it "funny" to pretend that they can't. It's not as though I think that the group of four-year-olds have an insidious agenda of racism, but I think it reinforces how race continues to play a significant role in our society. Even though plenty of adults love to claim that they "don't see color," I think the uncensored honesty of children shows that it is unrealistic to make such a claim.

I know that young kids will speak their mind without cruel intentions. They'll tell someone straight to their face that they're "fat as whale" or tell a woman with facial hair that she has "a moustache just like Daddy!" They haven't yet learned how to have empathy and they certainly haven't picked up social graces. I understand all of this and wouldn't expect any different, but still...I have to admit that getting yelled at across the playground, "You look like a Chinese person!" was enough to shake me up.

With that one exclamation, I remembered how I felt growing up and realizing that I was different from my mostly White classmates. I remember how they'd always set me up with the one other Asian boy in class. I remember when we learned about Pearl Harbor in junior high and a kid turned to me and asked, "So, why'd you bomb us?" I remember being chastised for "not knowing my language" and for always resenting having to answer "where I'm from."

In adulthood, I've to embrace and appreciate my cultural background. I now cherish my heritage so much, and as my husband also greatly respects it, we even decided to give our son a Japanese first name to honor this part of his ancestry. I honestly feel like I've come to peace with my racial identity, and yet today was a good reminder that there is still that vulnerable child inside of me who never wanted to stand out as different. I also see it as a good reminder to be sensitive to the journey that my son will face as he discovers his racial identity as a "hapa," half white and half Japanese. I want to be especially thoughtful of his experience because it will be uniquely his--one that neither my husband nor myself will have known firsthand.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Permission To Not Be A Perfect Child

My last posting, Permission To Not Be A Perfect Parent, was about the pressure I often feel to be a perfect parent. Writing this has really made me reflect upon how much of the pressure that I feel is just perceived and how much is truly directed or intentional. After all, if I step back and view things from the outside (using the dissociative technique I described in a previous posting, Learning To Take Criticism), I can see how all of the parenting advice that accumulates to make me feel inadequate is probably provided on a one-by-one basis with the best of intentions. It is only when being bombarded by the many voices en masse that I feel the pressure of feeling like I'm "not enough."

With this in mind, I am also busy thinking about how children, too, can often experience the pressure of feeling like they're "not enough." There are a couple of passages that stick out from some of the extracurricular reading that I've done over the past week. The first passage is from the young adult fiction title The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson. In the book, sixteen year old Jenna wakes up with no memory of her childhood after having survived a horrible car accident. Part of her re-education after the accident consists of viewing hours upon hours of video that her parents have recorded of every year of her life. As the title of the book suggests, a central theme in the book deals with the concept of "adoration" and how it may be a double-edged sword. In Jenna's words:

They placed me on a pedestal from the day I was born! What choice did I have but to be perfect! And if I lagged in math or soccer or navel gazing, they got me a personal tutor! And then I was tutored or coached until I was perfect! I've been under a microscope my entire life! From the moment I was conceived, I had to be everything because I was their miracle! That's what I had to live up to every day of my life!

Reading this made me question the adoration my husband and I have of our son. What does it mean that we take picture upon picture of him and that we video record many of his milestone and ordinary moments? What does it mean that we spend time writing about him and give him an inordinate amount of "kissies" on a daily basis? I know that the answer does not lie in neglecting him, but how exactly do you love a child, without imposing the pressure of being placed on a pedestal? I know I felt like I was in the presence of a miracle when I was pregnant and again when I gave birth. Every night when he finally falls asleep, just the raising and lowering of his chest is a beautiful wonder, and every morning when his eyes pop open fresh to face the day, my faith is renewed in the world.

At the same time I'm a parent, I am also the child of my parents and I know the burden of wanting to have their approval and acceptance. This brings me to the second passage that resonated with me this week, which is from the memoir Boy of Steel written by my friend and colleague Steve Montgomery:

[M]y mother poured all of her affection into me. I had given up on trying to please my father--it was clear that I couldn't even pretend to be the son he desired me to be--but my need for my mother's approval was equal in strength to her need for me to be her perfect little boy. My fear of disappointing her began to overwhelm me.

On the one hand, a child's need for approval is one of the most powerful ways that parents can get their child to "succeed." I remember reading a parenting book years ago that explained how parenting has changed a lot from the past. Since children are no longer afraid of adults in terms of corporal punishment, the best tool parents have for getting children to follow their rules is to realize that all children ultimately crave approval from their parents.

The flip side to this is in recognizing how this power is so immense that it too can be crippling even though it is not a physical blow. I hate the thought that I may overwhelm my son with a fear of disappointing me. I want him to know that I love him and accept him as he is. Of course, the real test will come with each of my son's "failures." Will I necessarily approve of all of his life's choices and is unconditional approval necessarily the answer? Perhaps the distinction is between approval and acceptance so that while I may not approve of everything he does, I can strive to accept him no matter what. Then again, my mom has said in the past, "I'm happy if you're happy," but it was always said when I could feel she was anything but happy. She did not approve and all that I wanted was her approval--acceptance alone did not feel good.

So in the end, maybe the most important thing is to realize is that we're all, both parent and child, flawed human beings. We may try our best all along the way and still always end up failing in some ways. We may love deeply and still never be able to avoid inflicting pain. Thus, maybe my focus need not be so much on how we can accept one another, but how we can learn to accept imperfection.

Permission To Not Be A Perfect Parent

Being perfect in general is not possible and so being perfect as a parent is also not a realistic goal. Nonetheless, most parents are constantly striving for perfection or at least for making the least amount of mistakes possible. I think we all look into some crystal ball and realize that a couple of decades down the line, our child could easily end up sitting in a therapist's chair blaming us for causing all of their problems in life. After all, how many of us have been guilty ourselves of pointing fingers at our own parents and how their imperfections scarred us in some way.

Our parents weren't perfect and we certainly are not ourselves. But still, we turn on the television and we catch episodes of Super Nanny, which demonstrate that if only we were "super" enough parents, then perhaps our children wouldn't be throwing the tantrums that they're so good at throwing or maybe they would be better at sharing, following the rules, and picking up their toys. We do a little Internet research on ways to get our children to sleep in their own bed, and we find hundreds of thousands of pages telling us that we are simply not being consistent enough or firm enough. We never seem to be enough.

Enter The Girlfriends' Guide to Toddlers by Vicky Iovine. I had read The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy when I was pregnant, but I didn't realize that there was also a Girlfriends' Guide to Surviving the First Year of Motherhood or one for toddlers. I think that I was so busy just trying to survive during my first year that I didn't spend too much time doing reading of any sort. Now that my son is two, I'm returning to my reading and research craze, most of all because I'm busy searching for some direction or advice to help me feel more secure in navigating the tumultuous toddler years.

The first book I read during my recent reading kick was recommended by a co-worker of mine: The Strong-Willed Child by James Dobson. There is obviously an audience out there that finds this book helpful since it not only came highly recommended to me, but also has been a staple in child-rearing literature over the years. I could not, however, stomach reading this book. It is like when you meet a person and realize that you simply have such differences in personal values that you know you will never be able to have a conversation that goes beyond discussing the weather.

In contrast, when I picked up The Girlfriends' Guide, I felt like at last I had met someone who spoke the same language as me. Granted, the humor may be a little over the top for some people, but I am just soaking it all up! Although I'm still just getting into the book, I wanted to share two passages that really struck a chord with me. Here's the first one:

Toddlerhood is hell, while you're going through it. But once you've survived the journey, you realize that maybe you didn't need to get so worked up about the pottying on the houseplants; that maybe a four-year-old could still sleep in a crib and not suffer structural or emotional damage; and even though you would swear on a Bible that your little one ate not one organic particle for two years, look at him now, so tall and strong. Every day I thank Mother Nature for being so much smarter than the rest of us mothers. She actually devised a system in which we parents could make one mistake after another and our kids would not only survive us but turn out pretty much how they would have if we'd done our jobs perfectly.

Yes! This was exactly what I needed to hear at this moment in my parenting life. I needed to be given the permission to not worry about being perfect. Now, before someone out there starts saying that this gives people the permission to be lazy, let me assure them that this is not the case at all. Not having to be perfect does not mean that you stop trying to be the best parent that you can be. It just means that trying to be the best parent that you can be is often enough. The second passage that I'll quote is just more along these lines:

Toddlers will learn to accomplish nearly all of the milestones that signify a successful passage through this stage all by themselves...You can demonstrate the function of a spoon for weeks or you can keep all spoons hidden in the drawer, and when his personal DNA says he's ready for a spoon, he'll quickly figure out how to use a spoon. Really try to hear me when I tell you that you need not teach your child to walk, to climb stairs or to drink out of a cup. There is a force of nature that compels a healthy and stimulated toddler to figure this stuff out on his own.

I loved this specific passage, because I still remember how one mother I know was scolded by her pediatrician for allowing her one year old daughter to still use a sippy cup. The doctor insisted that she should only drink out of uncovered cups from a year on. I always wondered if this doctor had any real grip on reality. Yes, a one year can drink from a real cup, but they also inevitably shake any cup around like a maniac. Experts may criticize parents for causing speech delays in their child or future orthodontial issues, but they also aren't the ones living with juice splashed all over the floor and walls. Then again, I guess none of us are supposed to allow our children to have any juice these days either.

In some ways, we are lucky to have access to so much advice in this day and age, but it's also this excess of advice that makes me often feel so inadequate. I think that the way The Girlfriends' Guide departs from other parenting books that I've been reading lately is to release parents from the burden of expectations regarding keeping your child "on track." We don't need to adhere to some model developmental schedule for our children, we just need to make sure that our children are "healthy and stimulated." These are two goals that I feel are very practical and ones that I believe my husband and I are achieving so far. We are always open to and striving to improve our parenting skills, but it is empowering to realize that perhaps we are not so far off track when it comes to what matters most.

Monday, April 13, 2009

My Memory is Bad, How is Yours?

I know for a fact that I cannot trust my memory. For about the last 5 years, I have been keeping a journal thanks to my husband who inspired me to do so. My husband has been an avid journal keeper on and off since he was a small child. He is so diligent that he writes in his journal every single night before he goes to sleep. I'm not so good and so I will write about every 5 days or so, but I still think that this is pretty good.

The style of journal that I have is pretty neat. It's a 10-year journal with a page for every day of the year. Each page is divided into ten rows so that every year you write in the next row down for any particular day. It works out well, because you can glance back and see how you spent each day in previous years. As I'm 5 years into the journal now, it is enlightening to look back and see what we were doing a year ago or 5 years ago. While it seems that time flies, it is also amazing how much changes in just one or a few years. This may be especially the case since we have kids in our life. A year ago, for example, my son was just one year old and not even walking. Two years ago, he was a helpless little newborn. Three years ago, he wasn't even conceived.

Returning now to my comment about memory... I am mentioning my journal, because it is one of the best measuring sticks I can use to measure my memory against, and it proves time and time again that my memory is horrible. It never fails that I will look back in my journal only to realize that there are so many details that I would have easily "lost" had I not written them down. It is for this reason that I am so quick to question the absolute validity of witness testimonies in court cases. Perhaps events that require a court case are significant enough to become more imprinted than other memories. I think, however, that most people do not remember things as accurately as they might want to believe.

One of the best examples that I've come across lately is with my toddler. Last week, my son hit me when he was tired and upset, and he did it in front of my mother. My mom was appalled and said that my brother and I never did anything like that when we were children. Red flag! We really never did anything like that at all? What about the stories I've heard my parents' friends tell about how my brother used to ram head first into them? What about the fact that I was a stubborn little girl who never wanted anyone to force me to do things their way? I'm sure she's right that we didn't hit and kick once we were old enough to understand better. But, does she really remember exactly how we behaved when we were toddlers? She was only in her late 20s and early 30s then and that was over 30 years ago now. My guess is that her memory is simply not as accurate as she thinks.

Again, I am the first to admit that my memory is faulty. Heck, I have a hard time remembering what life was like with my son when he was an infant and that was just a little over a year ago. I certainly wouldn't expect my mom to remember what I was like as a toddler. But, I do wish that people would at least be cognizant of the fact that their memories may not be perfect...and so maybe they shouldn't be so quick to be appalled by something like a toddler that hits!

Closing on a side note, I do recognize that memory ability varies from person to person, and even with the same person, memory differs based on the type of information. An extreme example of this is presented in the book The Woman Who Can't Forget: The Extraordinary Life of Living with the Most Remarkable Memory Known to Science by Jill Price. In this memoir, Price explains how she can remember every day of her life. If you tell her a specific date, she can remember exactly what she did and what happened in the world. Meanwhile, there are others like Daniel Tammet, an autistic savant who is able to remember Pi up to 22514 digits! In comparison to either of these individuals, my memory is pathetic! But, my guess is that my memory is probably pretty average, which means that chances are...your memory is as bad as mine.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Learning to Take Criticism

I've decided that one of my mid-year resolutions is to improve how I take criticism. I think that this is definitely one of my weaknesses. When I receive criticism or even perceive receiving criticism, I get my feelings hurt and I can be very defensive. Speaking on my own behalf, I think that criticism is doled out a bit liberally these days (see my previous post, One Critical World). I also don't think I'm so uncommon in having a hard time taking criticism--who does like to have their faults pointed out?

Excuses aside, I am going to work on being more gracious when I feel like I'm being criticized. I did a little research to find some advice and one simple piece that I am going to try to incorporate is thanking the person for their feedback. Now, I will need to make sure that my thanking comes out calm and sincere and not sarcastic. That will perhaps be the hardest part, and I think that it will rely on me developing a true calmness in my being when facing criticism. An approach that may help in this regard is one psychologist's recommendation to try dissociation. In a nutshell, you are supposed to try to remove yourself from the situation, as if you are an observer of the criticism rather than a recipient. This is not to say that you completely disregard the criticism, because there may indeed be some useful information being imparted. The key is to take the "personal" part out of the message and simply view it as neutrally as possible. Then, it's just a matter of deciding if the criticism has potential benefit for you or not. Chances are there is probably some kernel of truth worth facing if you're brave enough to recognize your shortcomings and even braver to try to improve.

Another step that I'm going to try out in addition to thanking the person for their observation is to turn around and ask them if they have any advice on how I can improve. Again, the success of this will rely on me being able to do so in earnest without any defensiveness or sarcasm in my voice, facial expressions, and body language. And again, that will be the hard part since I often feel hurt or embarassed when criticized. So again, I guess I'll give the whole dissociation technique a chance and see how well I can pull that off. It seems as unwieldy a technique as something like "visualizing yourself winning the race," but I suppose could prove just as powerful when accomplished.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


I just processed the following book at work and it brought tears to my eyes: Let Me Hold You Longer by Karen Kingsbury. Here are some snippets from the author's note at the front of the book:

We spend our children's days celebrating their firsts. First step, first tooth, first words... But somehow, along the way, we miss their lasts. There are no photographs or parties when a child takes his last nap or catches tadpoles for the last time. For the most part, it's impossible to know when a last-moment actually occurs... Would I have held on longer if I'd known it was the last time?... Sometimes with tears in my eyes, I chronicled the life of a child and all the last times we might miss along the way.

While this book is geared toward "lasts" that parents encounter with their children, it can apply to life in general and how we often do not fully appreciate moments while "in the moment." If we were to actually stop and recognize the fact that any experience may be a "last" and that we may never have the same opportunity again, perhaps we would better savor each moment that we have.

I am not perfect at always remembering this, but it is something that I have consciously done in the past. With our niece, for example, I think about how every time she spends the night at our place, it may be one of the few last times. My husband and I have so many dear memories of her spending weekends with us since she was a small child, but now that she is 16 years old and nearly a senior in high school, these occurrences are becoming more sparse and we realize that soon they will cease altogether.

I remember this also every time I take my son for visits with my grandmas. I feel so grateful that he has two great-grandmothers in his life and that both of them are so wonderful in playing with him. I will often take a step back and just admire the interaction, because I know that since they are already in their mid-80s, I cannot take their role in his life for granted. Of course, since we never know when anyone's life may end, having this appreciation should not be limited to people who are of an advanced age. We should appreciate all the time we have with everyone!

On a bright note, lasts are not always such a bad thing. There can be the last time that your toddler bites another kid or the last time that your child wets the bed or the last time that your teenager sneaks out at night. Of course, even a "last" of these types of occurrences can leave you feeling oddly nostalgic. For example, it's not that I love changing diapers (although I don't hate it), but I would feel a little sad knowing when I've changed my son's last diaper. I think the sadness is in knowing that, for better or worse, you've reached the end of an era. At that point, I think it's always important to realize that the end of an era also means the beginning of another. We should make sure to enjoy all the positive aspects of a new era rather than wasting time mourning the one that's already gone--as always, it comes down to enjoying the present moment.

I'll close this posting with some of my favorite passages from Kingsbury's book:
  • "The last time that I lifted you and held you on my hip" and "The last time you ran to me, still small enough to hold" - This still hasn't happened with my son, thank goodness!
  • "The last time you woke up crying" - Sometimes our son will wake up without crying, but he certainly hasn't had his "last" time yet...when do kids stop waking up crying?
  • "Our last adventure to the park" - Our niece used to always go with us...we'll have to force her to go with us soon so that the last time isn't in the past. We love pikuniku time in the park!
  • "Last colored picture made" - I thought about this when our niece was over last weekend and I saw her coloring. She used to always color as a kid and I think the only reason she did it recently was because she was bored enough at our place. Still, those were fun days when she would color for hours, creating amazing masterpieces.
  • "I keep taking pictures, never quite sure of your lasts" - Hey, this is good justification for my addiction to taking photos!
  • "The last time when we cuddle with a book, just me and you. The last time you jump in our bed and sleep between us two." - I LOVE cuddle time and this is something I don't even want to think about ending.
  • "The last time that I help you with a math or spelling test." - I really do miss helping our niece with her homework and am looking forward to helping my son with his homework. Call me crazy, but I love homework time!
  • "The last time that you need me for a ride from here to there." - We've seen this happening now that our niece's friends all drive. It's easy for parents to complain when their kids need them, but then there is also an emptiness sometimes when they suddenly don't need you anymore. Of course, not being needed is not such a bad thing. I truly believe that my job as a parent is to raise my children to be independent.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Knitting Class Flunkie

As a lifelong overachieving student, I've never experienced being one who falls behind with assignments. I can't remember turning in work late and certainly never missed an assignment completely. With my current extracurricular knitting class, however, I have fallen far behind with our weekly assigned squares. Today we received our 37th pattern for the afghan that we are working on and I just barely finished working on the 17th pattern. This means that I am 20 patterns behind!

I'm not too concerned about my lack of progress, because I'm taking the class merely for enjoyment, and I am certainly not the only one in class who is behind. Nevertheless, I've fallen into a bit of complacency about ever catching up. It has been an eye-opening position to be in, because I realize that this must be the feeling that other students get when they start missing assignments or their grades start to slip. I can finally understand how easy it is to feel like there's no point in putting out the effort to get back on track, because you feel like that is never going to happen anyway.

I realize that this logic is not true, because I have tried to explain the faultiness of just such logic many times when I was teaching. I would always remind students that even if they fell behind or their grades were low, they shouldn't just give up, because that just makes it all the worse. Now here I am 20 patterns behind in my knitting class, and rather than buckle down to catch up, I've left my knitting bag in the trunk of my car yet again. I'm just as bad as all of those other students I used to lecture! At least now I can better empathize with their lack of ambition.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wittle One Turns Two!

Today our Wittle One turns two years old! On one hand, it is hard to believe that the time has flown by so quickly since he was born. I can still remember going to my nephew's karate tournament the morning before he was born. Although I could feel mild contractions come and go, I was comfortable enough that I was even able to go shopping that evening with my husband. It wasn't until we got home after shopping that the pain went from tolerable to me-crying-aloud intolerable. It happened in a matter of minutes. I went into the shower and my husband was under the impression that everything was still progressing nice and slowly. Within minutes, I emerged from the shower doubled over in pain saying that we needed to go to the hospital immediately. From that moment, everything was a jumble in my mind for about the next month.

While it may be hard for me to believe that time has passed by so quickly, it also feels like an eternity since our now little guy was just a helpless little 8 pound lump. It's hard to imagine that he was so recently a little baby who wasn't even able to smile. Heck, it's hard to remember life before he could walk, run, jump, kick, and climb stairs--and all of this he learned within the last year.

I think that having such a weird sense of time as feeling both short and long is due to the fact that our lives are now made up of two sensibilities: our adult perspective from which time flies and then seeing the world from our son's point of view. As an adult, a weekend flies by in the blink of an eye, the stress of the holidays takes us on a high speed ride from November straight on through February, and years go by when some parts of our lives may seem like they hardly change at all. Meanwhile, I remember time went so slowly when I was a kid. It felt like torture to go on an hour car ride somewhere, summer vacation felt like an eternity, and kids who were just a grade above me seemed so much more sophisticated and intimidating.

One made-up theory I have is that babies experience life in "slower motion" much like you always hear happens when there is an emergency like a car wreck. For a baby, each day is packed full with new discoveries, just being awake from morning until noon is intense enough to require taking a nap, and the difference of a few months can mean the addition of multiple pairs of teeth, a couple of pounds in weight, and inches in height. Perhaps it is in moments when so much is going on all at once that the perception of time must slow down to accomodate it.

Another fun way I have always liked to think about time is in terms of fractions. For instance, being nearly 32 years old means that a single year is a small thing to me since it is just 1/32 or about 3% of my life. For my son, a single year is obviously a much bigger deal as it is half of all his life experience! When I think about life in this way, it also makes me less sad that my baby is growing up and changing, because last year, he had only been in my life for 1/31 of it. This year, he will have been in my life for a much greater 1/16 of it, and by time he is just 5 years old, he will make up a whopping 1/7 of my life.

Before applying my fraction logic to my son, I applied it to my mother. For instance, when I turned 30, she was 60, and thus I was 1/2 her age, or put another way, I had been a part of half her life. This also meant from that point on, I would always make up more than half her life--I was a majority. Since I am similarly about 30 years older than my son, it will take another 28 years before he starts to make up my majority. I definitely do not wish time to go by too fast, because I am cherishing every moment I get to spend with him. I also, however, do not want to regret the passage of time that is unavoidable and unstoppable--rather than mourn its loss, I hope to take pride in all of the fractions that I'm building up.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Somebody's Trash is My Treasure

Today my husband asked me as we were driving home if I wanted to stop to check in at our local thrift store. An offer to visit a thrift store is one that I never turn down. I love bargain hunting in general, but thrift stores also offer the experience of treasure hunting. While we may sometimes find items that are also available in stores but are just much cheaper at the thrift store, we love the fact that we often find items that we know we can't find at any other store in town. Whenever I go to a thrift store, I never know if I will find something cool or sometimes nothing at all that interests me. Today we just so happened to strike gold!

The whole idea of buying someone else's used items is one that may be foreign or a turnoff to some people. Our niece, for example, has a friend whose family thinks that the idea is completely disgusting. One time we went on a thrift store run with our niece and her friend in tow and the entire time, the girl just stood around looking afraid to touch the "contaminated" items.

On one level, there may be a fear that the items are dirty or full of germs. I can understand this feeling, because some of the items on display can be pretty darn grimey and disgusting. For this reason, I always make sure to wash items as soon as I bring them home, even when they look like they're in pretty good shape. At the same time, even if there is some grime, I think I've developed a pretty good eye to determine if an item is one that will clean up well or not. I've learned that one shouldn't always be deterred just by a little built up dust or splotches of dried up food!

I think that beyond actual physical cleanliness, a resistance to buying used goods probably ties in with a concept that my husband says he learned about when he was studying anthropology in college: the idea of "contagious magic." From what my huband has explained, this is the idea that we as humans attach meaning to objects depending on their "previous life" such as who has had contact with them in the past. He gave the example of how someone might like a sweater, but if they were told that it was one of "Hitler's sweaters," then they would suddenly never consider wearing the sweater because of the person who once filled it. On the flip side, this is what drives collectors to seek out items that once belonged to their favorite celebrities. Listen to the news and you're bound to run across the story of someone buying a dirty Kleenex on eBay just because someone famous used it.

Poking around for just a little bit online, I see that the term "contagious magic" is one that is also used in witchcraft-style magic circles. A spell, for instance, might require the use of an item that once belonged to the person of interest. This shares the idea that objects are "infected" by the people they once belonged to. The question to me, though, is whether one considers contagious magic to be just a construction of the human mind, or if instead objects truly can be imprinted with their prior experiences. On a larger scale, it's like the question of whether or not a house can be haunted. I am not one to completely rule out the idea of ghosts haunting houses and so maybe objects, too, can carry with them some contagious magic.

Whatever the case may be, I'm glad to report that we have had no ill occurrences with any used items we have ever bought from thrift stores. Maybe we've been lucky to only buy items that have come from goods homes, maybe contagious magic is all in our minds, or maybe anything we bring home is simply happy to have been given a second chance. I like to think that items are rejuvenated when they are in the hands of someone who appreciates them. I say this a bit tongue in cheek since I know that this is a major offense of anthropomorphism. Nevertheless, this is what has inspired my husband and me to regularly let go of items that we no longer use in our home. Thus, we not only buy items at our local thrift stores, but we also donate items that will eventually find their way into someone else's home. We like the idea that these items will find a second life as someone else's treasure and that they will shine in usage versus just languish on a shelf collecting dust.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I work with libraries for my job and today someone asked me about the Dewey number for a book about blogging. As it was our system's first book about blogging (yes, we're a bit behind the times...), we didn't have other examples in our catalog to reference. Well, 006.7 it is! It's always fun to find the Dewey number for something I like. Inspired by the blogging Dewey question, and also by the DDC blog with its "DDC PEOPLE" links, here are a few more random things I like:

  • 394.2646 = Halloween
  • 599.55 = Manatee
  • 636.7 = Dogs
  • 636.9356 = Hamsters
  • 636.93592 = Guinea pigs
  • 636.93593 = Chinchillas
  • 746.432 = Knitting
  • 746.434 = Crocheting

This also reminds me of my recent visit to the Santee Public Library. In the children's area, they have a rug with pictures of various topics and their corresponding Dewey numbers (see picture on the left). My son, who is madly in love with cars right now, kept running to the rug and plopping down on top of the car. He would sit and then adjust his bottom so that he could admire the car beneath him. Just getting to be in proximity with the car picture made him glow.

So, in honor of my son: Go, 629.2! Coming in second place with him is 796.3 for ball games. And, perhaps in third place is 649.33 for "Mommy's Milk"--although depending on the time of day, 649.33 is still tied for first!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Too Much Time Out?

One of the parenting books that I recently read is Graceful Parenting: Simple Advice for Raising a Gentle and Loving Child by Eve Dreyfus. The book is a short, gift-style book that you might give on Mother's or Father's Day since it is filled with fun artwork and has sparse, poetic-like text. Each time you turn the page there is a new piece of advice from "Yelling Doesn't Work" to "Give Your Child As Many Choices in Life As Possible."

I skimmed through the book quickly and wondered what audience this book is aimed at since it included things like "Don't Hit" and "No Guns." It makes me sad to think that obviously these "rules" must be broken enough that they must be spelled out to parents.

The one suggestion that stood out to me as advice I hadn't heard before was "Try to Avoid Time-Outs." This statement made me do a double take since every non-hitting child behaviorist heralds time-outs as the consequence du jour. Just watch an episode of Supernanny and you'll be convinced that correct implementation of time-outs is a key factor in bringing order to the chaos of your home. Dreyfus's expanded explanation goes as follows:

If a child misbehaves, always try to reason with him or her in order to avoid a time-out. The use of time-outs is frequently misunderstood by children, who can feel very hurt when given a time-out or can turn the punishment into further opportunity to misbehave. Children understand simple explanations of behavior. Simply explaining the wrongdoing to the child is a much more effective and direct way to manage negative behaviors.

I have been thinking about this page for the past day or so and actually wish that I could ask the author to expand on this point with some examples. (I love to see sample situations played out in parenting books!) I can see validity in the argument that time-outs can get overused or inappropriately used when alternative consequences may be more effective. I'm especially sensitive to this fact since I sometimes wonder how effective time-outs are with my own son--he doesn't seem to spend the time in reflection and his signs of remorse are often fabricated with fake sniffling. Yes, fake sniffling since he was about a year and a half!

At the same time, I also feel like a "simple explanation" may sometimes fall upon deaf ears. It seems like a child could easily nod in agreement only to carry on with a sense that no consequence of note has been levied. I suppose it all comes down to looking at each situation within its unique context and using the measure that makes the most sense rather than believing that one solution is the fix-all for every circumstance. Thus, sometimes an explanation may be all that is needed and other times a time-out might be appropriate. I think I will continue to ruminate on this piece of advice a little more...

One Critical World

Maybe it's because times are so bad lately with the economy and so people are stressed out and feeling defensive about protecting their own personal interests. Maybe it's because "critical thinking" and the "ability to question" are touchstone elements advertised as evidence of high intelligence. Or, perhaps it's because of reality shows and their "voting off the island" and "Simon Cowell" effects. Whatever the case may be, I am feeling overwhelmed by the constant barrage of criticism I see being doled out both in professional and personal settings.

Last night, for example, my husband and I were watching Jon and Kate Plus 8 since it is one of my favorite shows. My husband asked if I had heard about Jon's possible infidelity-exploits and so I poked around on the Web to get more information. One of the top hits I found was a blog entirely dedicated to criticizing the Gosselin family. On the one hand I found the blog very entertaining, but on the other hand, I was disturbed by the audacity that people have to so easily judge others without any accountability of their own.

Somewhere along the way, it has become socially acceptable for people to constantly criticize others. I agree that people have a fundamental right to their own opinions and a right to express those opinions. I think that people have a responsibility to question the status quo so that we are not just mindless followers. And, I would fear living in a society that did not allow people to freely criticize those in power. But, at the same time, I feel that the onus of responsibility should fall on the criticizer as much as it falls on the criticized.

It is easy, for example, to criticize one's government for many things, but what are we as individuals doing ourselves? It is easy for outsiders to question another's parenting choices, but have they walked a day in that person's shoes? Yes, we can express our disgust about how horrible we think a movie or the latest video game is, but do we ever stop to consider how much work and effort went into the endeavor? Also, with the advent of technology, criticism is all too easy to make from a distance and often anonymously. As a result, people aren't even held accountable at a minimum for making statements and standing behind them. People can talk, or type as the case may be, to their heart's delight, causing pain to others without having to face and accept responsibility for the pain that they have inflicted. It is this new level of insensitivity, negativity, and detachment that frightens me.

Again, I am not saying that people should not have the right to speak their mind. In fact, I myself am guilty of being critical right now--I'm being critical of critical people! All I'm feeling is that the culture of criticism has grown out of control. I yearn for a community that aims to support fellow members rather than just tear them down, for constructive criticism to truly be constructive rather than destructive, and for sensitivity to be valued over snarkiness. All I want to know is: why is it not only acceptable, but even "cool" now to be a hater?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Keeping it All in Perspective

I have been doing a lot of reading about child development and parenting since I want to do the best job possible in raising my son. At the same time, I find it morbidly amusing when I stop to think about myself and the parents of other young kids that I see. Here we are worrying about trying to help develop our children's communication skills, motor skills, and every other type of skill. We want our children to do "process art" so that we don't squash their creativity. We try to feed them organic, unprocessed food, and we try to make sure that nothing they touch may be made out of the wrong type of plastic.

Meanwhile, in another decade, our little children will be in the throes of their teen years, and this makes me think of my co-worker who once made the following profound statement about when her now-grown children were teenagers: "I just hoped that they would stay alive."

Obviously, I do not think that my efforts to provide a safe and nurturing environment for my son are a waste. I honestly hope that the foundation that my husband and I lay now will help prepare our son to make wise decisions as he grows up. All the same, I'm also realistic and know that sometimes despite the best efforts of parents, children will still make bad decisions and sometimes luck will not fall on their side.

So, all the more, I cherish the days with my Wittle One that I have now. I love that I get to hold him close and get to protect him in many ways that I know I will not be able to as he grows older. Because, while I may sometimes wonder about when he will talk more or when he will learn to use the potty or when he will be able to sleep soundly through the night, I know that these worries are so small in comparison to what the future holds. I embrace these worries, because I know someday my worries could be about when he starts to face peer pressure over drugs or when he becomes dangerously infatuated with his "first love" or when he feels so alienated he resorts to destructive behaviors.

I hope that my worries will never be so big, and yet I know there is no guaranteed way to protect one's child from everything in the world. The older I get, the more I realize that all human beings are really so vulnerably flawed. All I can hope for is to minimize the amount of flaws that I directly cause in my children, and so I do continue on in my parenting research and I constantly remind myself to appreciate all the innocent moments I get enjoy with my still little Wittle One.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Taking After Our Child

As I type this, my son is on the couch with my husband watching Pixar's Cars. Before our son was born, my husband and I had enjoyed some of Pixar's other works, but for some reason we did not really like Cars. We figured we would never have to sit through another viewing of it, and we definitely never guessed that it would end up as a movie on regular rotation within our home. Fast forward to today, and as I'm typing, I can hear my son and husband chanting, "Go, go, go, go!" as Lightning McQueen makes his way around the speedway.

When I was pregnant with our son, my husband and I decided that we wanted to keep the baby's gender a surprise. We not only liked the idea that the birth would be like getting to open the biggest surprise gift ever, but we also wanted to avoid the trap of receiving piles of gender specific shower gifts. The thought of ending up with a collection of "My Little Slugger" or "Our Princess" apparel truly appalled us. We were determined to raise our child in as gender neutral a way as possible. And then...our son was born.

My husband and I are the most unathletically talented people in the world and yet somehow we gave birth to a boy who has been able to throw balls far and straight since an early age. I always chuckle when we go to a park and see some very obviously sports-minded father playing with his daughter on the playground. I'm always sure that he loves his sweet daddy's girl with all his heart, but I swear I detect a pained look of jealousy as he watches our son displaying the skills of a future pitcher or star quarterback. Despite all of our intentions to raise our child in a gender neutral fashion, what we brought into this world was a boy that is 100% "boy."

So bringing this back to Cars, let's just say that our boy of all boys is currently in love with cars. He still has a very limited vocabulary and so most of our conversations with him are spoken in "car." I'd say that at least 90% of the words that come out of his mouth during the day include following: car, truck, train, vrrrrrrroooom, choo-choo, beep-beep, and OH!-AHHH! (sound effects of cars crashing). We have even witnessed him mutter the word "car" in his sleep and as the first word when waking up.

You always hear about parents who want their children to follow in their footsteps, but as my husband and I have never had any real interest in cars, I can assure you that his interest in cars has nothing to do with him taking after us. In fact, rather than us pushing him to be just like us, I have found that we are being inspired by his passions and so in some ways we are taking after him.

While my husband and I continually try to expose him to a wide variety of learning opportunities around our community, we also realize that the best way to connect with him is by supporting what he loves most. Right now, that just so happens to be cars. So, this has translated into my videogaming husband spending more time playing racing games than I have ever seen him want to. It has meant that I've actually tuned into some NASCAR races on television for the first time. When I go to the library, I have come to know where to find all of the books on cars, and I am finally learning how to distinguish between different types of trucks that I never had the interest to even think about.

While there are life lessons that we certainly hope to pass on to our son, I think that my husband and I are realizing that the learning path really goes two-ways. Whatever our son falls in love with next will surely guide us to discover more about the world that we never took the time to look at on our own.

All the Time in the World!

This morning, I've been able to get a lot done because my toddler is actually sleeping! Every once in a while, I luck out and he's so exhausted that he will nap well, fall asleep early, or sleep in late. It is amazing how much I am able to accomplish when I have this free time! It really makes me think that I must have wasted a lot of time before he was born, because I would have had this "free time" all of the time. It is another instance of how you don't fully appreciate what you have until you don't have it any longer.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Change, Change, Change

Change is a fact of life. Nothing remains constant from moment to moment, and so you think we'd all be used to change by now. But instead, people are so completely afraid of change. I can understand how people do not like changes that are made without their power or say, but I am having a frustrating time with how people are just as afraid to make changes that they have complete power over.

What is the one thing that any of us really have the power to change? Ourselves! Yet, it is so difficult for people to reflect on themselves and to change themselves. I agree that self-reflection is not an easy task. I, too, get my feelings hurt when receiving criticism, and I, too, can get depressed when I realize that I've made mistakes or know that I have shortcomings. But, at the same time, I see that I can either just keep going down the same road or else I can try to find a better way.

Believe me, I know for sure that I do not have all of the answers. I know for sure that I am not perfect. I know for sure that there is a lot of room for me to change for the better, but I am determined not to stagnate out of a fear of change. I will do research to help find other possible answers. I will ask questions, solicit help, and take any advice I get to heart. Perhaps I will fail in my attempts, perhaps I will sometimes even "make it wo-orse," but if what I'm doing is already not working (at least not optimally), then what is there to lose?

So, even while I am frustrated by the people I see around me who are not ready to change, I am looking within myself to make sure I am honestly considering their points of view. I am brainstorming ways that I can change my approach with them to possibly yield other results. I am even considering change in terms of simply removing myself from situations, because sometimes acts of omission are the most powerful statements or acts of change.

And, although it is important to be mindful and sensitive of possible repercussions when making changes, it is also important not to get stuck in just thinking and theorizing. I believe in putting change into action as soon as possible. I've learned that if I wait to try things out later, then they most likely never happen. Thus, I am experimenting with changes all of the time and then sampling the reactions and results that I get. It is reflection that spurs on the change and it is reflection that must evaluate the change for further refinement.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The End is Near!

Okay, that title is perhaps just a tad overdramatic, but times really are getting bad! Besides just the normal economic crises that we're all dealing with right now, our niece put another kernel of panic into my head. She was talking about her 11th grade humanities class and how they're learning about Mayan Prophecies and specifically about the prophecy of 2012. I started doing the math in my head and thought of how my poor son will barely be starting kindergarten and how our possible second child will just be a little toddler when that day comes! At least it puts our current problems in perspective, right?

When I'm not thinking about the possible apocalypse, I've been diverting my attention to the weight of parenting and all of the many theorists out there who offer advice with the underlying message always being, "Just think of all of the many ways you are screwing up your kid!" Sure, that is probably a stretch in implication, but this is my impression of parenting in these current times. No matter what decision you make for your child, there will be a throng of angry naysayers. I'm open to learning ways to improve myself all of the time and so I'm willing to listen to the advice of just about anyone, but I don't think that most people really have _the_ answer.

Today, for example, my husband and I are taking our son for some vaccinations. This has been a topic that I have wrangled with since his birth. We have selectively delayed most of the vaccinations and so he is far behind schedule, but I really don't feel secure in knowing what the correct course of action is nor do I believe that anyone can really know 100% what the right thing to do is. Now that our son is nearly two, I'm under the belief that you just have to take a gamble either way and hope for the best. If you get the vaccinations, then you have to keep your fingers crossed that there are no serious adverse reactions, and if you don't get the vaccinations, then you have to hope against everything that your child does not end up with one of the diseases that may have been preventable. So far we have chosen a path somewhere in the middle by getting some vaccinations, but not all and not on the regular schedule, and so far we have been extremely lucky that our son has been healthy.

The "middle path" is a concept that I remember learning about growing up as a Buddhist, and I really think that it is the way to go for me. It reminds me of when I was a kid and my mom cut out an article from the Sunday Parade that had the advice, "Avoid zealots." My mom told me then that this is important advice to remember in life, and although I didn't know the word "zealot" back then, her advice stuck with me and I heed it more and more as I grow older. Now back to worrying about the end of the world...