Rainboot Mindfulness

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In the span of a few months, the only full priced pair of shoes I’ve ever bought Potamus, has failed. True he’s worn them threadbare, with all his tromping and climbing and sliding. But I wasn’t prepared for the rain boot replacement, and then I showed up to school today and the gash in the side of the boot (that I had, perhaps, frugally thought I would repair with a big swatch of duct tape), and a ripped strap, and just general disrepair. And I realized, “dang, it’s time to replace these boots.” As it so happens, we live in Seattle, and it’s January, and it’s…RAINING.

Thank goodness I let my students out early today, so Potamus and I headed down to Fred Meyer by our house to pick out new rain boots. He was thrilled. The whole ride there he sang a little song that went something like “rain boots, rain boots, new rain boots,” and then included things like “mommy, me, scrummy, me, house, rain boots, new rain boots.” The melody is hard to translate, but it was adorable. When we arrived at the brightly lit shelves of the toddler rain boot section, I realized…good thing I only have one kid, because a) DANG THESE ARE EXPENSIVE and b) DANG THIS TAKES FOREVER.

I squatted down, frantically looking for a replacement size 9, which we  bought a size too big four months ago. And only finding one pattern (which he quickly rejected) we opted to try on some size 8’s that actually fit really well, but make me nervous that he’ll grow out of them in 3.4 seconds. He tried on butterfly boots “like aubrey,” and princess ones “like bella’s,” and didn’t want the sharks because they were “like madden’s,” and finally, after digging through all that rubber, he decided on the one pair of dinosaur boots that fit. Phew.

But wait!

The hemming and hawwing began again.

“They’re too big mama,” he said, which I protested because there’s no way they were too big. Too small, maybe, but definitely not too big. So we tried on the shark pair again. And then looked at the butterfly pair. He rejected the ladybug that was sorta ‘like aubrey’s’ but not exactly the same. We looked at plain red, plain yellow, you get the idea.

Oh the toddler indecision.

But after about five minutes into the haggling with my tiny, I was actually enjoying myself. I remember going to get shoes as a kid and feeling so stifled by the choices because a) I was gigantic and had gigantic feet and b) my mom was cheap on a budget, and c) there were 3 of us and we were always in a rush from one thing to another. I know that the luxury of spending 30 minutes hemming and hawwing over the perfect pair of rainboots will not be something I can do forever. But in the world of hurry up, where I’m always hustling him out the door in the darkness to school, or coming home and slamming things down to start dinner/snacks/tv show/cleanup, it felt nice to simply notice all the designs available for him to choose from.

And when he strutted out of the store, and on his own said, “thanks for buying my new rainboots,” I smiled and drank in the sweet moment that passes all too soon.

one, two, THREE!

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Happy Birthday to my sweet sweet boy. Three years ago he made me a mama, and he’s growing into such a lovely person that I can barely stand it!

Happy St. Lucia Day!

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From the time I was a small girl, I have always wanted to celebrate St. Lucia Day. December 13th, a day marked in Sweden, Norway, and other northern countries, is marked by St. Lucia Day. A day honoring a Christian martyr, celebrated by the oldest girls in a family dressing as Lucia girls, and bringing coffee and buns to their parents. To celebrate my Swedish/Norwegian heritage, this year I dressed up as St. Lucia.

Did I also mention that it was my birthday on December 13th?

St. Lucia Day. My birthday. In my wedding dress, with my red sash, and homemade wreath of candles, I set out with two of my college friends to Seattle’s Pike Place Market to pass out candy canes as a strong female holiday character. To my great joy, there were many kids who said “Santa Lucia!” when they saw me. Seattle has a strong Swedish and Norwegian heritage, so it was fun to meet little blonde kids who had just come from dancing at the Nordic heritage museum and then getting candy canes from me at the market. A fun experience for me, too, and a great way to get another use out of my wedding dress!!

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Advice for December Birthdays

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Today two of my dearest friends from college are coming in to town. One from across the mountains, riding the train and taking a bus to see me. The other driving up from Portland, Oregon, all to celebrate my birthday. A December birthday. And I. Can’t. Wait.

So, it was surprising to me, to be in the grocery line at Fred Meyer, and have the cashier tell me that Potamus will get too many presents in December, and that he should celebrate his birthday in June. Um, what? I’m celebrating his BIRTHday lady, not a random June weekday. But this sentiment is something I get a lot “oh, poor thing, having a December birthday,” and the following are either: A) He will get TOO MANY PRESENTS and be overwhelmed and then a whole year of waiting will suck for him, so spread it out, or B) He won’t get ANY presents, because people will combine them together and he’ll get shafted.

As a December birthday girl, I gotta say: people are fucking dumb.

I loved having a month of presents and magic. My friend Ruth’s birthday is on December 31 and she said it’s like the whole world parties for her birthday. I know several December birthdays, and with the exception of those born on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, nobody seems to have much of an issue with it. Because let’s be honest, when else do you get a WHOLE MONTH OF PRESENTS AND MAGIC? Getting a few toys in June just doens’t compare to the exponential magic of holiday parties and birthday parties and Christmas Eve and going to grandparent’s houses, and celebrating “Winter Holiday” in school and it feels like you were born at this magical time with Jolly Old St. Nick and Jesus and there are reindeer, and snowmen and sure it’s not just for your birthday, but it’s sorta like getting invited to Prom by the most popular kid in school.

But sure, there’s some practical advice for celebrating a December Birthday:

  1. Don’t be an asshole. Don’t tell the kid it sucks to be born in December and that they’re getting shafted. Mostly because it’s not true. And if it was, would they know any better? Are you the kind of Scrooge who tells kids Santa isn’t real, either? Don’t ruin Christmas. Don’t ruin birthdays. Got it?
  2. Make your own traditions for celebrating birthdays vs. Christmas (or your Winter Holiday). My birthday is on the 13th, and so in my family we always waited to put the Christmas tree up until December 14th so that it didn’t feel like “my day” was being overshadowed. Since Potamus’ birthday is the 20th, I’m not sure if we’ll follow that same tradition, but we will definitely ask him how he feels when he gets older (we did the Christmas tree tradition because one year they did it earlier and I felt like my birthday was forgotten). Don’t go to birthday dinner and then do Santa pictures on the way home. Keep them separate.
  3. Wrap gifts in birthday paper. There are Christmas presents and Birthday presents. And wrapping paper matters.
  4. Be pro-active with school parties. Celebrate right before school lets out for break, cause it’s WAY harder to rustle kids and families up for birthday parties when they aren’t all in school together. Send invites well in advance. When I was in later elementary school my mom would host a sleepover or after school birthday party on the Friday school let out. Gave parents an excuse to go Christmas shopping before picking my friend’s up. And we all just rode the school bus together to my house, played, and had a blast. I never thought it was weird that it wasn’t a party on a Saturday or Sunday.
  5. Let the birthday kid open gifts when he gets them. Package comes in the mail a week early? Celebrate! By far my favorite part of having a winter birthday was for once I didn’t have to wait forever. I had to wait to open Christmas gifts, because that was a family day, but birthday gifts? I got to open those on the 8th, or the 11th, or the 16th, whenever they came in. It added to the magic.

Embrace the magic, because December babies are full of magic. So I nodded politely at the grocery store cashier, and moved on my merry way.

Any other advice you might have for holiday time babies? 

Tiny Human or Mini Adult

Today I shared this Offbeat Home article,“On being raised as a ‘small person’ instead of being ‘treated like a child,’” on my Facebook page. I resonated with the ultimate message, about the inherent dignity of children, but after having two texting conversations with moms of young kids, I started to really evaluate and re-evaluate my position on the whole matter.

My Facebook status said, “this is my parenting philosophy. Potamus is a tiny person.” But then I began to reflect, on how some adults treat children like mini adults. That they forget the cognitive and emotional place of being 2 or 3 or 4, and how children do not have the same life experience and/or reasoning of consequence and pre-frontal cortex control and development that adults do. If the teens in my class can’t emotionally regulate, or think about consequences in the future, getting caught up in the moment, then how could I possibly expect a wee toddler to do that? I think there are parents who treat children the same way they would adults, and maybe they think this is giving respect to the children, but expecting a 2 year old to have the same cognitive reasoning or emotional control, is actually detrimental, in my opinion (and I’m sure there could be research out there, but I’m just a wee blogger and not looking for a persuasive argumentative paper).

An example, that I could think of from my own life, was the difficult ‘adult’ decision that was asked of the kids in our family when we were faced with an impending move. I was 12, my brother was 10, and my sister 7. We had been living without my dad for a year. He was home on weekends, but spent the rest of the week three hours away working for a radio station in Eastern Washington. My mom worked an early morning school district job, then came home, got us out the door for school, and then went back to work at another school district job. She was exhausted by 5pm, and I picked up a lot of the slack. While not a little child, I was still a kid, and when posed with the rock and hard place choice of “move to where your dad works,” or “live like this for six more years until you graduate from high school.” At the time the choice seemed ‘easy,’ but the emotional fallout of moving to an entirely new culture and making friends and leaving everything I loved behind. Because we had voted, it felt like there was no room to dislike the choice. I felt stuck, and like if I had voted to stay I would have been making my mom miserable, who was stuck parenting solo. I think if my parent’s had just said, ‘this is what we are going to do,’ I would have been angry with them. I would have lashed out and blamed them and been upset. Instead I swallowed my anger and it sidled into depression.

Then, there are the families that I’ve worked with as a crisis counselor, where the tiny people are treated like friends. Where five year old are privy to impending parental divorce before their other parent is. The teenagers who are crying out for boundaries, but met with the wishy washy bubblegum popping mom who sneaks out to clubs in her daughter’s Silver jeans. The adult thinks they’re respecting the kid by being friend-like, but it puts youth in the position of trying to figure out adulthood without an adult role model.

A few weeks ago I read some commentary about body autonomy, and how when they “have children, we’re not going to force them to do things that their body doesn’t want to do,” and I liked that idea, because doesn’t it feel shitty to have someone bigger than you telling you what to do? Like a boss, or the government, or your parents at Thanksgiving who can’t seem to realize you don’t want more turkey. You know? But here’s the thing, when you’re 3, and you have an ear infection, and you don’t want to take the bubblegum liquid, your parents might have to hold you down, and stick their fingers in your mouth, risk being bitten themselves. You might be sobbing, and saying “no mama, no mama,” but you don’t know about burst eardrums or hearing loss. You don’t understand ‘it’s for your own good,’ because you’re three years old and it just feels like you’re being forced into something you don’t want. And that’s a true story, from the Potamus ear infection files over the last week. Because, my job as a mom is to get him to take his medicine, and wear a coat. I might give a lot of body autonomy and freedom of choice over dinner options (yogurt? peanut butter crackers? blueberries?), but we will absolutely not go outside in sub freezing weather in basketball shorts and a Spiderman tank top.

So after I posted, and texted, I immediately thought “oh shit, I don’t believe that article at all,” and yet…yes I do. Because Potamus is short, he’s still a person, and I treat him like the tiny human he is. But I don’t want him to be a mini-adult, and he’s not my friend, (though sidekick, I’ll allow). He’s aboslutely equal on the soul level, worthy of every human dignity, and yet it’s my role to shephard him toward his own brand of adulthood, and that means letting him be a child, not forcing him to grow up too fast.

December = Blecch

monk-monk:

Because I can’t find words to express my own December depression, I bring you this beautifully written piece.

Originally posted on Excitement on the side:

Oh hey, guess what?  It’s December and I can’t stop crying.   If you’ve been around a while you have likely already guessed it.  I hate the weird lull between Thanksgiving and Christmas when you hemorrhage money and you wonder what it is all really for and you wish you could just climb into bed with the people that you love and knit hats and wear sweatpants and eat pizza and watch movies on repeat. Oh?  That’s just me?

But when I am not moping I am hanging Christmas lights and loving my people. That’s the real pisser about the Winter Time Blues.  It’s broken up by a lot of really great moments.   This year’s funk is extra special.  Because the only thing that makes me sad and scared and completely anxious more than cold weather is good, good news.

When MQD and I got engaged I was elated…

View original 558 more words

78 Pages and a Sprinkle

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“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.” Ann Lamott

The challenge is complete. Last night, at midnight, the NaNoWriMo challenge officially ended, and not a moment too soon. Though I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed the act of sitting down daily to write, pushing myself to think of memories that don’t always come readily, like the time I broke my arm sliding down the slide wearing sweater tights, or how my brother kept saying “my feet are nice and moist,” when he got a concussion mopping the floors with his sock clad feet while I was his high-school babysitter. I have no idea the quality of the writing, or the quality of the memories, but somehow, bit by bit I wrote, daily, to complete a whopping 78 pages plus a few little sprinkles. I used three wheels of ink for the typewriter, and a partial ream of paper that I might have ‘borrowed’ from the office copier. Living dangerously on borrowed paper.

Today I borrowed a few more pages, and made myself a photocopy of the original. Because someday I’m going to want to revisit this ‘masterpiece,’ and do some edits. Or maybe that’s overly ambitious the day after the challenge is over. Maybe I’m always looking forward to new projects. A year barefoot. A year without shopping, or buying books. Three years without shaving any body hair. 30 days of yoga in a summertime. A month of daily writing, 78 pages later. A few tiny accomplishments, which leads me to my new favorite podcast, A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment, by Sherman Alexie and Jess Walter, two Spokane poets. Sherman’s on my mind a lot since I’m teaching one of his novels next quarter.

Maybe I’ll look over these stories in the springtime. Read them. Edit them. See where they can be tweaked and shaped into something new. For now they’ll go in my folder of completed words that live a life unseen by the public, unlike this blog.

Were we really fristers after all?

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Apparently we’re good at taking pictures of un-reality. Because the day after Thanksgiving, I walked out of the bathroom to overhear my sister talking to the friend I had brought to Thanksgiving dinner, about how she think I criticize her so much, and how hurtful I am, and that it’s ‘so highschool,’ and I wanted to slam my fist into the door and walk out. Screaming. Crying. I wanted to do it all. Instead I walked back around the corner and put my kid to bed, because parenting duties don’t stop when you overhead gossip going on in the kitchen when they think you’re not listening.

The whole time we were there, my New York born, Seattle, living, friend kept saying things like, “your sister is so nice, she’s just such a nice person,” and honestly I’m sick of that. I’ve been hearing that kind of shit my whole life. My sister, the quintessential cheerleader personality, with all of her baubles and tittering laugh, being compared to my tell-it-like-it-is personality that questions every authority I’ve come across. I’m the older one, the responsible one, the one who doesn’t shamelessly flirt with everyone she meets. The one who came home and studied and didn’t sneak out to party with older boys and questionable friends. And all people who come in contact with her say “she’s so nice.”

I’m tired of feeling like no matter what I do, no matter who I am, that my way of being in the world is wrong. I’m tired of being labelled the ‘difficult,’ one because my personality doesn’t conform to the standard of femininity that my sister embodies. It makes me feel like shit to hear my sister say that I’m basically a terrible person and that she can’t even tell me to my face. Makes me think that she’s just been putting up a happy-happy-joy-joy cheerleader front all this time. And for what? To build a fake relationship with me and have it all go to shit when I overhear her badmouthing me?

Boof says it’s because I have the kind of personality that doesn’t let people come close without dropping their defense mechanisms. That I don’t put up with bullshit and some people don’t like that feature about me. That it’s not about my being being wrong in the world, but rather that it forces them to see how they are wrong in the world, and they must change to interact with me. Whatever it is, it doesn’t feel good. And it makes me want to cut off all relationships, like with my friend, or my sister, to pursue more authentic relationships. Ones that don’t feel like I am a difficult person.

Nanny Trial

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I told her that my goal for Fridays, spending them with my son while I’m gone at private practice, was for him to feel loved and cared for and that the structure of the day can be free flowing, as he is in ‘school’ the rest of the week, which is a very structured setting.

And I came home to find her handwritten note, and the dishes put in the dishwasher, and a little Christmas ornament made.

All of my initial fears of her being flaky have yet to come true. She was 5 minutes early, very communicative, and had a cheerful disposition at the end. I am hopeful that she will be the nanny we can keep for awhile while I get to explore whether private practice is a good fit for me or not.

Life as a Series of Changes or Crises

In the five days between talking with my bestie Ruth, my life managed to catapult into entire upheaval, mostly in a good way, though. Our weekly phone dates, which have been going on for near a decade go far beyond the bare bones updating that happens with longer distance/time friends, and so I felt almost no qualms in stating in one breath:

So, I’m starting a private practice. And some (paraphrasing for privacy) pretty interesting personal things happened in our sex life, and I feel mixed emotions that I want to process with you.  And I interviewed a nanny, and liked her, but worried she’ll be flakey. And did I mention I’m teaching an additional class next quarter? And why do I always feel like when we talk it sometimes feel like I’m giving you a pinball list of my next crazy adventure.

She laughed, and said, ‘you know, I’ve come to realize, that most of my friends leave rather boring day to day lives. And when things are good with me and Barnes we’re good, and I don’t need to report on it at all, and we talk about things like deep religion and stuff, and then when things are up in the air or hard I need to process. And so in talking with friends, it can seem like our lives are a series of changes or crises.”

Boy did she hit the nail on the head, per usual.

Brought on my some frustration at work, I went out to coffee with a former classmate who has managed to start a counseling agency. An agency with a contract with a local school district so counselors can provide therapy to students. A counseling agency with a billing specialist, scheduler, 8 treatment rooms and a group room, an ARNP in-house for medications, and access to insurance panels. She said she’d love to have me on board, and it’s when I finally let myself remember that I love doing therapy, and am excited to see where this goes, and the possibility for 6 clients a week could almost equal $20,000 extra a year (on the high end), and that while I’m nervous about adding an extra day to my plate, it’s not forever, possibly time limited for a year or so depending on whether I get pregnant, but it could be an opportunity for me to get this other part of my soul fulfilled.

And so, the nanny interviewing begins. We met a woman who seems like a great fit, though I’m worried about her being flaky, and so I hope that added stress doesn’t happen because I am already feeling super nervous about my transition from 4 to 5 days, and I really want Potamus to have a good time with a fun person, and that’s what it seems to be. Ugh I hate being an adult sometimes and having to deal with all the stress, added on top of that the whole mommy guilt which I mostly avoid, but it rears its ugly head in situations like this where I feel like I’m tipping the balance of family to career focus.

But then I think, how great it’ll be in the summers, when I work one day a week, and he’s only in care 2-3 days, and the rest with me. That there are plenty of moms who work 5 days a week, and that dads never worry about this type of commitment. And that if I’m able to even make an extra $15,000 that would pay for childcare for a second kid if the time came to it. And I’d be able to flex my therapy muscles.

So there you go, a series of crises and changes in my world.

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