Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year: Twelve for '12

My friend Julie recently blogged her list of goals to do before her next birthday: 30 by 30. Julie is my first and only official "cyber friend", meaning that we met online (in a forum for women trying to conceive) about 2 1/2 years ago and have met once in person since then. And there have been four baby girls between us in that time frame! Her second little one is due in a few weeks.

Anyway, I got inspired to create a list of my own. (Have you noticed how much I like lists? They are my chief organizational tool. Great at writing them, not nearly as good at crossing things off of them.) This is my list for the New Year - resolutions, assignments, goals, or what-have-you. Not that anyone cares about my personal betterment, but...

In 2012, I would like to:

1) Finish my wedding present for my friend Betsy, who was married in 2009.

2) Stop using shampoo. (This one is actually stolen directly from Julie. You can read more about it here.)

3) Make couch pillows. The fabric was already purchased months ago.

4) Finish Bea's baby book. Buy/Start/Finish Margot's baby book.

5) Placeholder financial goal. (This one is hinging on secured employment and is intended to be the amount I hope we will pay off in student loan debt. I have a number in mind, but am not committing until further information about our future is unveiled.) My backup financial goal is to get the newspaper each week and clip coupons.

6) Sleep through the night. I'll define this as 8 hours straight with no interruptions from children. And I just mean that I want this to happen for one night. If many nights, great!, but I'm not expecting too much here.

7) Learn how to knit, specifically in order to make amigurumi which I've been admiring all year while following this blog.

8) Travel. To Illinois? To California? Just somewhere that requires me to board a plane.

9) Paint bookshelf. The paint was already purchased months ago.

10) Read at least five books that I already own and have never read before.

11) Cook a whole chicken. I've had this chicken in my freezer for ages and I have no idea what to do with it. Suggestions welcome.

12) Volunteer at Community Pregnancy Clinic in Camas. I've already submitted my volunteer application and met with the wonderful people at this place twice. This is a lovely organization that believes in supporting women in unplanned pregnancies all the way through the birth of their children and beyond. They are truly the hands and feet, doing good in this community, not just holding a strong political or moral position, but getting in there and doing the dirty work: helping those in need.

Okay, and here's one more for good measure and because I desperately need some accountability on this one:

13) Go to the dentist. I haven't been in...awhile.

Happy 2012 to all!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Shameful Memory #...Oh, Thousands: Foot In My Mouth

It's back to this. Allow me to empty out my head a little more. I've got to admit, it's therapeutic. My previous Shameful Memories have pretty much all faded to Amusing Memories which I consider a resounding triumph in my mental health.

But here's the thing: I have so many more! The shame creeps out all over the place. Over the past months, I have felt that old familiar twinge - the one that urges me to 'Quick! Go hide yourself, flee the country, or die quietly!" - many, many times. Most of these memories are so minor, brief one-liners uttered in haste. Perhaps I can't even remember the context; I just remember the moment of horror when I said the wrong thing.

I have:

- Collectively made fun of the girls on the high school dance team to one of its members.
- Mocked Amway to a girl who had Amway salespeople for relatives.
- Criticized the dental industry to an aspiring dentist who came from a family of dentists.
- Complained about how I was spending too much money on other people to someone for whom I had just bought dinner.
- Made a seemingly degrading comment about Baptists to people of that denomination. Twice, two different sets of people.
- Been blatantly size-ist in front of an overweight person.
- Said how terrible it would be to have twins to a twin.
- Whined to friends about having too many baby clothes to deal with moments before opening their present (which was clothes) for my baby.
- Scoffed at tea time to a British person.
- Acted horrified at the thought of someone (else) being gay to someone whose mom is gay.
- Used the adjective 'colored' in a sentence to a black man (not referring to race, but when do you ever use that word? Honestly!).
- Talked about how I wish we could just cut the states between Oregon and Illinois out of the United States because 'nobody needs them' to someone who was from Iowa.
- Complimented two people with wigs (because of hair loss) on their hair cuts. Two separate occurrences!
- Talked enthusiastically about a baby's small size to her mom who was concerned because she was dangerously underweight from not eating.

Please note that none of these were intentional. It's not like I was seeking to criticize or even to be honest only to regret having said something later. I simply forgot to stifle, misspoke, didn't remember the one thing about the person I was supposed to remember before talking. Maybe I didn't even mean what I said, I was just making conversation. I'm sure I'm not alone here. Right? This is something that everyone goes through, talking without thinking. (Please, tell me it's true.) I'm curious, though, whether everyone else catalogs these episodes the way I do.

I'd love to hear your "foot in your mouth" moments too. Anyone got some they can share? We can all have a good laugh together and shake it off. Consequently, if you were the recipient of any of my above foolish words, I humbly apologize.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Watch Your Mouth

It happened yesterday. In a moment of frustration, I yelled out the queen-mother of dirty words while driving and Beatrix repeated it a second later.


I knew this was coming, of course. She's been learning new words left and right these days and copying other harmless phrases. But though my slip-ups have been frequent as little sleep and caring for two needy little ones has taken its toll on my patience, we'd managed to avoid this particular problem until now. A few days ago, she picked up, "Come on!" from me, but that was just cute. This, this is not cute. This is a one and a half year old with a potty mouth.

For the record, the conversation was quickly diverted to ducks in which I called out, "Duck! Quack quack!" about a dozen times to make sure she understood it's just something we adults say loudly. She laughed appreciatively and responded with all the appropriate animal noises when requested. I don't really expect her to say the word again - the F-dash-dash-dash word - but she might. If something really bad happens, she might. And I'll be very, very ashamed of myself.

This whole ordeal reminded me of a post that I wanted to write way back when Bea was born, but that I never got around to. Perhaps I can prevent further damage to my poor daughters' ears if I get this out now.

Everyone knows they should watch their mouth around little kids. It's a natural thing, "ear muffs" and all that. We see children in their innocence of the world around them, we think maybe they don't have to know all the garbage we know, maybe they can live differently, maybe they can keep their mind clean for a little longer. Now, I don't believe that children are sinless, but I do believe that many sins, or just bad habits, are taught and most often by the people closest to them, their parents.

This is not rocket science, of course. We all know that our children are learning from us, but realizing the enormity of the responsibility of how much they are learning from us is terrifying. In the early days of being a mom (ha ha, as if I'm so far into it now!), I thought a lot about my words and what they could be conveying to Bea as she learns and I realized there is a whole lot more to "watching your mouth" than just avoiding profanity. This is what I mean:

"8 Other Ways to Watch Your Mouth"

1) Don't lie. When you tell your child you'll do something, follow through. That goes for discipline, rewards, promises, plans. If you have to change what you said you'd do, explain why.

2) Don't triangulate. New parents will find how easy it is to slip into a constant rhythm of baby-speak where everything you say is directed to the baby, probably from some healthy motive for good interpersonal skills and language development. However, what's not so good is how easy it is to also talk to your spouse through your child, and sometimes it's downright passive-aggressive. "Mommy has to take out the garbage because Daddy didn't do it when Mommy asked." or "Oh! Is Mommy too distracted on the internet to play with you? Come sit with me!" Don't do it. It's ugly. Practice good, straightforward communication with your spouse. You'll need it if your marriage is going to stand a chance.

3) Don't be self-deprecating. One of my worst habits, which Thom is helping me correct, is that I always say something like, "I'm so stupid!" or "I'm an idiot!" whenever I make a mistake. I have a real problem with this, holding myself to impossible standards. I do not want my kids to inherit that way of thinking or speaking. Along these lines, degrading your appearance is right out, especially in front of little girls. Don't talk about your body in a negative way. The whole world will be feeding that junk to your daughter. Please, be the one voice that doesn't reveal discontent, jealousy, or self-loathing about the skin God has given you. If someone pays you a compliment, take it well. Don't brush it off with false-humility or by pointing out unseen flaws.

4) Don't be judgmental. (Of your kids too, but just in general.) I am terrible at this, have been my whole life. And when I look into my family history, I see a line of judgmentalism that runs deep. We're snobs, let's face it. I'm not sure where we got it from, we're certainly not bred from aristocracy; we're just a family with strong values and a lot of black-and-white where others might see grey. My greatest prayer as a parent, apart from the salvation of my children, is that my own judgmentalism will not be passed on to them. I want my girls to grow up with strong values, knowing right and wrong, but I want that to be cultivated with a grace and compassion for others. I could write volumes on the ways this plays out in everyday life, but simply put, this may just look like not pointing out others faults simply as a means of feeling superior, or being generous with compliments towards others.

5) Don't be sarcastic. Okay, not forever. I like sarcasm too much to throw it out completely. I'm just not that sincere of a person. But with children, I think it's best if you let it go. Once they start developing their sense of humor and vocabulary, you will get a feel for what sarcasm they understand, but besides that it's just kind of cruel and brings you back to #1. Say what you mean; your kids need to learn to trust you.

6) Don't talk badly about your relatives. One of the best ways to screw your child up is to let them in on all of the family drama too early. Don't. They don't need to know about who's fighting with whom, or who's being financially irresponsible, or who's headed for divorce, or whose political or religious beliefs irritate you, or who's being overbearing and manipulative. Children should be allowed to love their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins freely without the weight of all the family stress we know as adults. Let them love the holidays and save your debriefing until you and your spouse are alone after the kids are in bed, not in the car on the way home where they can hear every word you say.

7) Don't disrespect your spouse. Remember your marriage is a model of Christ and the Church.

8) Don't talk about money like it is your god. I previously thought that you shouldn't talk to kids about money or money problems because you wouldn't want your kids to suffer from the guilt or stress of money; something like "We can't buy that toy because we don't have enough money!" might make some poor child worry about the welfare of his family. I don't think that anymore. While I probably wouldn't say that exact sentence to my child, I think we should be teaching our kids about money whenever possible and be extremely open with them about where it comes from, what we do with it, and how to use it responsibly. Part of this is making sure that we talk about God's provision for us, being contented and trusting in Him, and that we don't emphasize panic, fear, or remorse about not having "enough" money. Part of this is not talking excessively about wanting 'things' or disparaging the things that we have. Another part is not idolizing the wealthy. And yet another part is giving generously.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Good Reminder

1 And God spoke all these words, saying,
 2 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
 3 "You shall have no other gods before me.
 4 "You shall not make for yourself a carved image...
 7 "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain...
 8 "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
 12 "Honor your father and your mother...
 13 "You shall not murder.
 14 "You shall not commit adultery.
 15 "You shall not steal.
 16 "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
 17 "You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, [or his car, or his tv, or his iPhone, or his Nikon camera, or his furniture, or his yard, or his glasstop stove, or his investments, or his job, or his salary, or his vacations, or his family, or his talents, or his personality, or his sense of humor, or his clothing, or his designer boots, or his nose, or his haircut,] or anything that is your neighbor’s."

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-8, 12-17 (ESV)
Words in brackets not in original text, obviously.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Some Whining & Wisdom

I hate those annoying "Helpful Tips for New Moms" lists that say things like, "Sleep when your baby sleeps!" or "The dishes can wait!" or "Give yourself a break!" or "Make sure to take some 'Me Time' each day!"

Pardonnez the français here, but that is such a bunch of bull.

Sure, you've got to take care of yourself. You've got to cover the basics. Sure, you need sleep and you need to eat and you need to get help when you feel like you're going insane.

But, seriously, you can't sleep when your baby sleeps unless you a) are home - i.e. not driving a car while your baby sleeps in the car seat, b) are not working - because when my baby gets to sleep, I still have hours to put in at my job; this is not optional, c) only have one child - because when you've got a toddler to chase around all day long, you'll just be grateful if the baby falls asleep at all, or d) employ a full-time cook, maid, chauffeur and/or nanny. Honestly, sometimes the dishes really can't wait, like when your toddler needs to eat and there are no clean bowls left and you've started serving yogurt in shot glasses, or when you need to make dinner and all the pots and pans are piled in the sink and you're left wondering if you could cook ground beef in a waffle maker. And no, you can't always just "give yourself a break" and order a pizza because you're already broke and that would be irresponsible and likely to put you in an even worse place of exhaustion and self-loathing the next time you balance your checkbook.

And 'Me Time'? Uh, it doesn't exist. It could exist, I guess, if I was completely self-centered and wanted to say, "Yeah, Thom, I know you are working 10 hours a day to provide for our family, but the minute you get done with that, how about you take care of the kids? No, really, it's's not hard at all." [Run out the door.] I'm sorry, but the closest thing to 'Me Time' in this family is the shared-responsibility hours between 5 and 7pm where Mommy and Daddy both continue to work at getting the kids fed, bathed, and in bed, but are just happy they get to do it together. This is our break.

Those annoying lists also usually include things like "Don't forget to cultivate your relationship with your partner - go on a date night!" and "Regular exercise helps fatigue!" So which one is it? Go easy on myself or try to fit more things into my life that I wasn't even doing before I had a baby? Great. Now I feel guilty that I haven't taken the time to plan a romantic night out with my husband. Let me just add that to the list of things I'm not able to do, right after 'clean food off of carpet' and 'change underwear'. And how's this for exercise? I lift and carry two weights - one about 15 lbs, the other 25 lbs - all day long. Sometimes both at once, sometimes add 10 lbs for the car seat, sometimes more for however many bags I'm carrying at the same time, grocery or otherwise. Oh yeah, and sometimes the weights are kicking and screaming and doing their best to get away from me. That'll just have to be good enough because I'm not going to even pretend that 5am neighborhood jogs are an option.

While I do understand that there's a possibility to over-do it, it seems to me that most of the time we know our own limits, and no one else better expect any more than that. In fact, I think most of the stress of having young children is simply realizing our limitations; not because we refuse to limit ourselves, but that it is unavoidable. Every day holds up a big fat sign that says, "You can't. Now go to bed." Perhaps we need more reminders to just keep moving, instead of one more voice directing us to call it quits.

What I really think these lists should say is:

"Helpful Tips for New Moms"

 1) Feel sorry for yourself.
 2) Okay, are you done? Get over it.
 3) You need to learn to live on less sleep than you used to get.
 4) You are not going to get anything done or enjoy your life unless you w-o-r-k. Sorry, there's no getting around it.
 5) Don't feel like you have enough time? Try cutting out the internet and television for starters. Then say no to things that you don't want to do...and I'm not talking about changing diapers. Then stop shopping.
 6) Love your kids and love your time with your kids. Being unselfish with them is going to bring you much more joy than any time you "take" for yourself.
 7) If someone offers to help, by all means, take them up on it!
 8) And for heavens sake, sleep, eat, bathe when you can.

This post brought to you by some selfish and irresponsible 'Me Time'. What do you know? I feel better.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Life Alterations

I've been just itching to get back to blogging here, and after my brief hiatus (read birth of second child), I think I might be ready to do it. In January, I wrote about our winter cleaning. It wasn't nearly as thorough as I would have liked, but we have sold around 40 books on Amazon (making something in the realm of $300 doing so) and sold our hutch and our loveseat on Craigslist. We bought a large couch which didn't exactly help to lighten things up, but certainly made sitting down a lot more comfortable. And since sitting down is what I do a good portion of the day (read feeding second child), I am grateful daily for that purchase.

Anyway, fast-forward eight months and we find ourselves in September, our motivations re-awoken, eager and alert. The Blairs are ready to tackle life. I don't want to bore you with specifics, or maybe I do, but I can't right now because I've got other things to take care of, but I'll just say big things are afoot in the Blair household.

Over the last several weeks it has slowly been occurring to me that my life just doesn't fit right. It's a little too baggy in spots, loose around the middle, and I like things put together - trim and orderly. I've decided to happen instead of letting all the happening happen to me.

Here are some of the alterations in the works, in no particular order:

- Drinking more water
- Losing weight
- Paying off all of our student loan debt
- Not watching TV
- Getting off of Facebook
- Reading more
- Not spending money out of boredom
- Not "rewarding" myself, giving myself a "break", or thinking I "deserve" food or other purchases
- Drinking less pop (soda, for all you soda-sayers)
- Practicing delaying my stress (each day has enough worry of its own)
- Having a garage sale
- Budgeting monthly, and sticking to it
- Making intentional menus/grocery lists
- Not eating out, or only eating out with a purpose, like a date with my husband
- Not using credit cards
- Drinking coffee

"Drinking coffee?" you ask.

Why, yes! I have never been a coffee drinker before, so for me it is not a nasty habit or addiction. And let's hope it remains so. Instead, I have recently discovered the pure joy of allowing a good cup of coffee (mine severely milky and sugary) to usher in my day. It's a way for me to say, "Hello, day! I greet you and invite you to stay." This is in contrast to what I did for the entirety of my pregnancy which was to try to keep my eyes closed as much as possible while Bea played on the floor next to me in order to pretend I didn't actually get out of bed yet. Some days I would keep that up until lunch time. Not a good way to live.

I have a theory about life alterations. It's that you should do them all at the same time. If you choose just one, like "I'm going to lose weight this year!", but don't change the way you treat food, money, or your time, you will not change at all. But if you realize that all of those things are linked together and that in order to start making good, healthy, responsible life choices you need to rethink your whole philosophy on life, you will find the ability to change areas of your life you never thought possible. It's a theory. I haven't exactly proven it yet.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Internet Poisoning

It happened again: a certain social-networking site ruined my perfectly good - and sunny! - Saturday afternoon. I just wanted to pop on for a second, see if I had email, you know, and there it was: one of those posts...on parenting.

I don't know why I read it; the same thing happens every time. I guess I justify it by thinking that if I know what people are saying, I'll be better at arguing my own points of view. But instead of just taking an objective interest, it got me all worked up and I began typing a quick-fire comment about why I disagreed with the article. I had six or seven points to start, but now, after an afternoon of dwelling on it, could maybe fill a short best-selling book with my thoughts.

I didn't leave the comment, at least. I'm usually smart enough (or cowardly enough) to know I don't really want to invite controversy into my life. It still bugs me though. I mean, the article still bugs me and I still want to post a counter-argument for every illogical, foolish, emotive sentence in the thing. But more than that, it bugs me that it bugs me. I hate that I can't let go of stuff like this. And I mean that sort of in a "live and let live" kind of way - but not that generously open-minded - more in a "don't let other people's opinions ruin your day" kind of way.

My annoyance about a post on parenting should not distract me from enjoying my own sweet daughter's face and laugh. I may not be a fool, but clearly I'm the loser here.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

It's Winter Cleaning Time!

As of January 2nd, Operation De-Clutter is officially underway in the Blair residence. Already, we have cleared out over 50 books (hopefully, to sell) and have posted our hutch on Craigslist (and got 3 bites today!). I am encouraged. I'm sure there's no way I could manage this on my own right now, so I am extremely grateful for my husband's motivation. It's just so exciting to think about simplifying our lives a little, letting go of things that need it, and maybe making some money in the process.

I'll keep you posted on our progress.