Thursday, February 23, 2012

On Parenting, Part 1

When Thing 1 was first born, I read a lot of parenting books.  I generally stuck to the type of book that I knew would be in line with my idea of parenting.  I have a shelf of books written by the doctors Sears and Elizabeth Pantley (and a WHOLE lot of breastfeeding books, but that’s not really relevant here).  I did a lot of reading in the first few months of Thing 1’s life.  I felt like I got a handle on the kind of mother I wanted to be.  I eventually set all the books aside and just got about the business of mothering. 

But, lately, I find myself turning to parenting guides again.  I’ve noticed a parenting trend, and I’ve noticed myself being a part of that trend in many ways.  And I’ve realized this trend has a lot of problems… especially for the children involved.  Let me stop being vague:  A month or so ago I read an article that really stuck with me.  It was “Welcome to the Age of Overparenting” by Katherine Ozment.  This was not the first anti-overparenting piece I’d ever read, but it really hit a nerve.  Perhaps because her perspective was humble.  She comes from the position of someone who’s read all the parenting books like I did, and realized she was still kinda messing it up like I feel like I've been.

One of the problems Ozment presents in the article is that the focus of parenting these days is way more on bonding with our children than actually being the parents of our children.  That focus on bonding is usurping parental authority.  Now, I don’t think that we need to deal in extremes here.  I don’t think our choices are between being our kids’ best friend OR being a complete totalitarian.  But, I do think there is something to the idea that if we are too concerned about bonding with our children, we may forget that it is our job to parent them.  And, for real, is the bonding for them or for us?  I submit that it’s not as much about them as we like to think it is. 

Because the thing is, children aren’t necessarily happier under our thumbs.  At least, they can’t possibly have the self confidence they really need to get through life if we are constantly next to them, over them, prodding them, etc…  This reminds me of an experience with Thing 1 (one that I’ve blogged about before, but I can’t remember which post and didn’t feel like scouring for it just to reference back to it.).  He was, once upon a time, playing with his blocks.  We were all sitting together in the living room, but he was in his own world putting things together.  At one point he lifted a conglomeration of blocks and proclaimed, “I built a robot!”.  There are a few things you should know about this: 1. I didn’t know he knew what a robot was.  2.  The thing really did look like a robot.  3. I was genuinely impressed with what he’d done on his own.  So, when I exclaimed, “John! That looks so good!  That’s such a great robot!” it was sincere.  (Unlike all of the other times I micro managed we’d built something together with blocks and I’d graced him with several “Great Job!”s that come pretty standard with me opening my mouth.)  I wish I’d had a camera in that moment to capture his face.  He was just so pleased and proud.  In his eyes you could see his heart bursting from his chest.  In that moment I thought I will do anything and everything it takes to see that look on his face everyday for the rest of my life.  And, in that moment, I realized that this meant that I needed to get out of his way

And, also, I realized that I need to stop praising them all the dang time.  This is another thing Ozment talks about in her article.  She actually says she set a goal to go a whole day without saying “Good job!” once.  She failed, but I can’t point any fingers.  I’ve tried several times since reading her article and failed each time.  The thing is, we want our kids to have great self esteems and so we’re always telling them how great they are.  But, getting praise actually doesn’t create self esteem.  Trying something, failing, trying again, and learning how to succeed—finding out that you can do hard things—THAT creates self-esteem.  That it was gives a person the confidence to move forward and accomplish things in life. 

But the thing is, my children will never experience that if they never fail.  And as much as I want to protect my precious Things from all sadness, I’ve come to terms with the fact that this would be a total disservice to them.  There was a day when, if John was playing with his blocks and getting frustrated if a stack fell over or something of the sort, I would sit down with him and help him accomplish whatever structure he was going for.  And I don’t think it was a terrible thing for me to do.  But, when I started, instead, saying, “It’s okay John, just try again.” I think we just brought things to a whole new level.  Both Thing 1 and I. 
In short, we can’t always be focused on helping them to succeed.  We need to focus on their development.  Which means sometimes we have to let them fail.  It’s a natural part of any developing process, and it’s where the learning really happens. 

Besides, making sure they never experience that sense of failure is exhausting.  Am I right, or am I right?  It’s just not good for the mental state and stress level of the parent.  And it’s bad for the children.  Hovering the way we overparenters do is only going to teach our children to be afraid of everything—and at least less willing to try new things.   In the article (seriously, read it) Ozment points to evidence that children at play are less active and less engaged when their parents are present.  I know this to be true.  I put the things in our backyard to play every day.  I usually leave them out there alone.  I know people who think I’m nuts for doing that, but I figure at least it’s a fenced in yard.  Sometimes I do go out there and play with them, but when I do the focus is always on me.  They center around me and want to interact with me.  It’s lovely, to be sure, but it’s not really “free play”.  I’m fond of telling people about the time that Thing 1 was playing in the backyard and came inside to tell me about how he and the snake went looking for the dragon in the bear’s cave.  (For the record, there are no snakes, dragons, or bear caves in our backyard.)  That kind of play doesn’t happen when I’m with them.  (Also for the record, I’m sure Thing 2’s adventures in the backyard are magnificent as well.  He just only uses about 15 words these days.)  Free play is so essential for the growth and development of kids.  And it’s not just that, but their self esteems as well.  Sometimes it’s just better for them if we go away.

There is really only one complaint I have about Ozment’s article, and that is that she kinda presents the issue as “attachment parenting” methods versus “free range parenting” methods.  I actually don’t think these two styles are at odds with each other.  Sure, attachment parenting focuses on bonding with and being in tune with your children (especially beginning when they are babies).  BUT, what attachment parenting really is, is learning to respond appropriately TO your child.  Over-parenting is not responding appropriately.  Free range parenting is, in many ways, attachment parenting.  So, really, it’s not attachment parenting that has it wrong, it’s just we parents who have twisted attachment parenting into something that serves us more than it serves our children.  We should totally stop doing that.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Simple Woman

Find it HERE.
FOR TODAY:
Outside my window... Snow!  We’re having our first (possibly only) really snowy day of the winter.  How sad that its in February!  Also sad: tomorrow the temps will be near 50 and sunny.  So, today is it for winter, apparently.
I am thinking... about the rash Thing 1 is covered in.  I’ve emailed pics to the allergist.  I’d love to figure out what is causing that.
I am thankful... for my iTouch.  Silly? Maybe.  But I’ve had it for four years and I still love that thing.
In the kitchen... William made pizza today.  yummy.
I am wearing... a green sweater.
I am creating... ummmm…..
I am going... running in the snow in the morning.  It probably won’t still be snowing, but it won’t have melted yet.
I am wondering... if Smash is gonna make it past this season.  I like the show, but its missing…. something.
I am reading... The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown, Strawberry Shortcake Murder by Joanne Fluke, and Growing Happy Kids: How to Foster Inner Confidence, Success, and Happiness by Maureen Healy
I am hoping... to strike it rich.  Right?!?
I am looking forward to... bedtime.  The Things are particular loud today.  I think it stemmed from the excitement about playing in the snow, and they’ve just never calmed down.
I am learning… a lot about DC architecture and history in The Lost Symbol.  When I’m done with the book, I’ll have to look up how much of it is true.
Around the house... things are in order, if a bit displaced.
I am pondering... parenthood.  Like, you know, how to do it.
A favorite quote for today... “Under that couch, there’s two more couches.” – a hoarder on Hoarding, Buried Alive
One of my favorite things...  snow.  I so love the snow.
A few plans for the rest of the week:  Oh, I’ll probably read a few thousand books to the Things this week.
A peek into my day...
DSCN1717

Friday, February 17, 2012

On Faith

I have a problem with how faithful people talk about faith.  It is evident in phrases like, “My child was sick and now is better.  God is good.”  Or, “I narrowly missed being in a terrible accident on the highway.  God is watching out for me.”  And more generically, “Fill-in-the-blank miracle happened, and so I know God loves me.”

Here is the problem I have with the above phrases.  If your child gets sick and dies, does that mean God is bad?  If you have a terrible accident on the highway does that mean God is not watching out for you?  If you pray for a miracle, and you don’t get it, does God hate you?  Or worse, does he just not care about you at all?

No matter what your religion is, if you believe in a higher power you might be basing that higher power’s concern for you on your life events.  The problem with this is when something doesn’t go your way.  When something bad happens to you, and you don’t understand, and “It’s God’s will.” just doesn’t cut it, what happens to your faith?  One thing is for sure, I have seen a lot of faithful loose faith when life hands them a blow they didn’t expect.

I think maintaining faith, even when bad things happen—or when good things don’t happen, is one of the biggest challenges that the faithful might face.  Because if you base your concept of God on what you think he does for you, then you’re setting yourself up for a big fall when you find out he’s not doing that thing for you.  And in these moments telling yourself that God’s plan for you is best, even when its hard, doesn’t usually bring much solace.  Not unless there is something more, something deeper, behind your belief in God and what God’s plan for you is.  I’m not sure I can put my finger on exactly what that is, but you know, you know it when you see it. 

What do you think?  How do you keep your faith when you feel abandoned by it?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine’s Day? (i.e. Thanks anyway, Pinterest)

So, this morning when I realized it was Valentine’s Day, I realized this would be like the third year in a row that I did nothing fun to prepare for the day.  Its not like its my favorite holiday or anything, but I certainly don’t hate it.  What I DO love is to celebrate holidays—no matter what they are.

ANYWAYS, I decided I was going to do *something*.  And, as one always does in these situations, I turned to pinterest.

I found this really cute idea, but didn’t have all the same ingredients I really needed and can’t run to the store until later. (I wanted to surprise William when he comes home for lunch, and can’t go to the store until after he comes home with the car.)

ANYWAYS, I improvised.  Which is where I think I went wrong.

DSCN1693

The cupcakes themselves are great.  It’s a basic white cake with strawberries mixed into the batter.  Super yummy. It’s the buttercream that proved to be a problem.  I used strawberries there too, to make it pink.  There are a couple of problems with this.  One is that it’s a pretty dull pink.  I was hesitant to add too much strawberry because that would mess up the fluffiness of the buttercream.  The second problem was that I ended up adding too much anyway, and the buttercream started to separate while I was decorating the cakes.  Awkward.  If I had some beet juice or powder on hand I could have used that to make the frosting pink, and would have needed less and gotten a more vibrant color.  Or maybe I should have tried raspberries instead.  Oh well.

Also, I didn’t have a heart shaped cookie cutter small enough to use with the cupcakes, so I cut the shapes out by hand.  Some are, um, better than others.

The good news is that they taste better than they look.

Happy Lupercalia, y’all!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Simple Woman

Find it HERE.
FOR TODAY:
Outside my window... It was a sunny day, but it felt super cold.  Why is there no snow?
I am thinking... about cold medicine.  Its all I think about right now.
I am thankful... when Thing 2 just goes to bed at night.  Some nights its harder than others.  But when he’s tired and just goes to bed?  That’s the best.
In the kitchen... some dishes need to be done.
I am wearing... my warm fluffy robe.
I am creating... nothing.  I pretend I’m working on the curtains, but how many weeks are going to go by that I give the same answer to this question before I admit I’m not really working on them very much at all.
I am going... to have to eat some chocolate.
I am wondering... why we’re having the worst cold and flu season ever.
I am reading... Inkspell by Cornelia Funke and The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown.
I am hoping... that this illness plaguing me right now doesn’t last too long.
I am looking forward to... a new season of Survivor.
I am learning… too much about other people’s opinions. 
Around the house... things are a mess.  I’m sick.  The Things are sick.  Its not been pretty.
I am pondering... a couple of new blog posts I want to write.  And a couple of others I’ve already got in the works.
A favorite quote for today... “I’m freaking out!” –Thing 1
One of my favorite things... is watching Good Eats.  Mwah, Alton Brown!
A few plans for the rest of the week: not being sick. (please?)
A peek into my day...
KLEENEX Three-Ply Anti-Viral Facial Tissue in Pop-Up Box Cube, 75/Box

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sanctimony

This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about the last few weeks.  It began when I was searching the internet for dairy free recipes.  I came across a lot of “healthy food” recipe type sites.  There was a common theme.  I kept running against it again recently because I was looking for different ideas on dehydrating some veggies in my dehydrator.

The whole theme kinda went like this:

One of our favorite meals is ratatouille as made by Eric Ripert.  Now, if you were to ask about it I’d probably give you a quick rundown of the recipe like this:

onion
red bell pepper
banana pepper
garlic
tomatoes
eggplant
etc. etc.

But, if I were a health food blogger I would have typed it like this (and this is, in fact, what we usually use):

organic onion
organic red bell pepper
organic banana pepper (when they are in season)
organic garlic
organic… blah, blah, blah

I can’t even finish typing that up its so irritating.  I’m trying to illustrate a point here, but I also kind of want to punch myself in the face for how obnoxious that second list is.

Listen, we buy organic.  We buy organic local when possible.  But it’s never occurred to me to be nearly as proud of myself for it as the people that I ran across on these health food websites.  I kept wanting to leave comments like:

Dear healthy food recipe giver,

Making sure I know that you’re eating organic kale doesn’t, in fact, affect the recipe your sharing with me AT ALL.  You’re just being smug.

Thanks for the recipe,

Me.

Its not just foodies that behave this way.  I’ve often commented on it when looking at parenting sites/forums.  I think the one that gets me the most is the forum area of mothering.com.  It doesn’t matter if I agree with what is being discussed or not.  It’s the WAY these women discuss their parenting choices that make me crazy.  They are just so self-righteous about it.  It’s not just moms at mothering.com, though.  I’ve also run across some pretty pious baby wise method users, and I’m not sure any two approaches to parents could be more different than what is generally discussed at mothering.com and in baby wise communities.  (My parenting style is more in line with those at mothering.com, for the record.)

And, of course, the same thing exists in politics.  But, that’s just about the most obvious, and you probably don’t need examples there.  Its also the area where I’m most likely to be pious, myself.  (Sometimes I am overly proud of my Masters degree in Public Administration.  I do, in general, know more about politics than the average person.  Or maybe I just want to feel like the student loan debt is worth it.)

I’m sure you could think of examples from other areas of life as well.

I’ve decided there are two problems at work here.

First:

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again (over and over and over), it seems to be pretty common to decide that what you’re doing in your life and for your family is also the best thing for all of earth’s 9 billion human inhabitants.  This is a stupid, arrogant, and narrow-minded way to view the world. 

Second:

When entering into a conversation with someone else, do not assume that you are the expert and they are there to learn from you.  Maybe write the following down somewhere you can see it often, to be reminded:

Conversation = informal interchange of thoughts, information, etc. 

Lecture = a speech read or delivered before an audience or class, especially for instruction or to set forth some subject. 

If you are making the assumption that you make the choices you do because you are more knowledgeable on the subject than someone who chooses differently, you are almost certainly being totally obnoxious. 

I normally don’t promote my blog posts, but maybe you should share this one with your friends.  If we spread the word, we could make the world a less irritating better place.

That is all.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

An Executive Decision

So, I have this business, kind of.  According to the IRS its technically a hobby.  Anyways, I’m a Certified Lactation Counselor, and as such have a website, facebook page, and business cards:

BUSINESS CARD

What I don’t have, at this time, is any paying clients.  I’ve been certified since April 2011—something I accomplished with the aid of my own Lactation Consultant and some friends I made through her breastfeeding support group.  If I had stayed in Tallahassee, FL (ew) I would have remained in that network, and I’m pretty sure I’d be able to call it a real business by now.  But, very shortly after I received my certification, I moved to a new area and have yet to gather any real kind of clientele.  Part of that is because I’m mostly concerned with raising my Things and part of it is just because I’m sort of lazy.  But, also, my attempts at networking have mostly just fallen flat.  It would seem that the people who deal with breastfeeding mamas in this community (pediatricians, family doctors, OBs, and midwives) aren’t really interested in referring patients to me.  Whether its because they don’t think breastfeeding is that big of a deal or because they just don’t know me, I’m not sure.  Either way, the result is the same.

I have been able to help several mamas establish good breastfeeding relationships with their babies.  Mostly friends and friends of friends.  And mostly online, through email, or over the phone.  All pro bono.  Which is fine, because I’m totally not it in for the money.  I can’t even begin to express how much it means to me—how fulfilling and personally satisfying it is—to be able to help another mama breastfeed.  After everything I went through with Things 1 and 2, it just seems like it makes it all worth it.  It makes everything right.

It would be nice, though, to make enough money to pay for the annual fee on the website.  And, in my wildest dreams, make enough money to justify more training and conferences and stuff.  THAT would be awesome.

ANYWAYS, about the website…

I’m thinking about switching to my website from dreamhost to either wordpress or blogger.  A unique URL with worpress is $17, with blogger is $10, and with dreamhost is $120.  Since this is a hobby I have going here, it seems like a financially sound decision.  And since my website is pretty simple and I don’t care about a super fancy design, I think either worpress or blogger would be just fine for my purposes. 

So, the question is, which one?  I use blogger for my blogs now and am very happy with it.  But, I know that with wordpress I would have a little bit more design freedom.  But, do I really care about that?  Maybe I just want to stick with what I’m familiar with?

What to do, what to do…

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Commercials

While I love college football, I don’t really care about professional football.  So, the Super Bowl is mostly just like any other game to me.  But, I totally watch for the commercials.  There is some funny stuff there.
I believe this was this year’s winner:
Note the look on his face as he’s flying through the air. Priceless.
And, solidifying their win for the night, Doritos also had this one:
Some men are so easily bought.
There were some other good commercials for the night, (Honorable mention for THIS ONE) but these two were the best, in my opinion.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Simple Woman

Find it HERE.
FOR TODAY:
Outside my window... Chilly but sunny.
I am thinking... about my blog.  I keep playing with the lay out.  I’m not sure I’m satisfied.  I’ve been doing the same thing to my book blog.
I am thankful... for my husband’s job, and the extra little things I do that bring us some extra money.  Things are tight, but we are blessed.
In the kitchen... William is making ratatouille.
I am wearing... a new shirt I got a GREAT deal on at Kohls.com.
I am creating... curtains.  Still.
I am going... to need to give myself a pedicure pretty soon or my New Year’s resolution of having pretty feet will be ruined.  (I just made up that resolution right now, but I really do need to repaint my toes.)
I am wondering... what it is Thing 2 has against almond milk.
I am reading... Inkspell by Cornelia Funke and The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown and I’d Tell You I Love You, But then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter.
I am hoping... to get more reading done this week than I did last week.
I am looking forward to... dinner tonight.  William is in there now making it and it smells awesome.
I am learning… a lot about the pricing on mattresses.  We desperately need a new one.  William has been doing the research and tell me about the findings.
Around the house... my new chore chart is holding strong.
I am pondering... the idea of sewing myself a new skirt.  I have some fabric just lying around…
A favorite quote for today... “What good mothers and fathers instinctively feel like doing for their babies is usually best after all.” – Benjamin Spock
One of my favorite things... is taking out my contacts at the end of the day.
A few plans for the rest of the week: I want to start doing some crafts with Thing 1.  Hopefully this will be the week.
A peek into my day... this is a picture of the most awesome almond butter that we made.  MOST. AWESOME.
image

Friday, February 3, 2012

Almond Adventures

William and I love almond stuff.  We drink/use more almond milk than we do cow’s milk and we both love almond butter.  I actually prefer almond butter to peanut butter by a pretty wide margin. 

Thing is, almond products are expensive.  Buying lots of almonds in bulk is relatively cheap though.  And since we got ourselves a Blendtec for Christmas, we decided to try making some of our own almond products.

We actually bought a relatively small amount of almonds so we could test these things out. 

First up, almond milk:

This was way easier than I thought it was going to be.  We used the vanilla almond milk recipe in our blendtec manual. 

1 Cup almonds (soaked overnight)

4 Cups water

2 TBS Agave Nectar

1/2 tsp kosher salt

After blending, the milk has to be strained those a cheesecloth, or something like it.  We actually got some coffee filters because they are cheap and easy to use.  You can also keep the “leavings” and use them as almond meal.

ANYWAYS, this was a total win.  We felt like it was pretty sweet, so less agave next time.  And, we won’t always want vanilla.  I think we will most often just do the almonds and water.  Either way, it was awesome and yummy and cheaper than buying almond milk.

Then, we tried almond butter:

This was also a recipe from our blendtec manual.  It was so easy.

3 Cups almonds

1 tsp kosher salt

2 TBS Peanut oil

Blend the almonds and salt together first, and then add oil and blend again.  We LOVED this.  Its seriously the best almond butter every, totally enhanced by the fact that we used roasted almonds.  We did feel like it was a bit on the salty side, so will use less salt next time.  But seriously, we’re never buying almond butter again. 

I can’t wait to get me some almonds in bulk and start making these things for us all the time. 

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