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, 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...