The everyday misadventures and thoughts of one Geektastic Mama.

This blog has been ignored for a fair amount of time. It honestly was a missed opportunity for me. Our family recently grew by one and I think that I could have shared some really entertaining and (perhaps) a couple of heartfelt moments of being older and wiser while growing a little one. Past is past though and there’s no point in looking back.

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So, this is my monkey. He’ll be four weeks old tomorrow. He’s also the last kid, because there was no way I was doing all this again. I don’t like the idea that being a parent is a job, but it really is a lot of work. Three is enough. Maybe more than enough. Check back with me in two years and see how I’m feeling.

Honestly, it was a rough go. There was a lot of everything that can go wrong will go wrong moments. Everything from needing to get a C-section due to placenta previa to nearly bleeding to death (or into a vegetative state) post surgery due to my femoral artery bleeding . (Placenta previa for those that are curious is when your placenta is over the bottom of the uterus instead of the top. You know, right where the baby is supposed to come out.) The truth of the matter is I didn’t realize how scary and close an experience it was at the time. It’s taken a little time for it sink in how bad it really was.

I bring this up mostly because it’s forced me to look at my life and figure out what I’m doing. More specifically, it’s forced me to look at what I’m not doing. I’m not making enough of my moments and that’s a fact. I’m not providing the example to my kids that pursuing the things that make you happy is as important as it is. If there is any one single thing I want my kids to know, it’s that personal fulfillment is the most important thing in the world. Yet I sit here and I settle. I settle for a job that just pays the bills (and barely at that). I settle for not having the time to write by not making the time to write. I settle for not going to back to school, because I let myself get derailed by things that are easily fixed. Sometimes it’s easier to stay in the rut than it is to pull yourself out of it. I know this, but it’s just not acceptable anymore. I’m tired of just existing and not living.

The fact of the matter is that where I am is where it could have ended. (Yes, with the wonders of modern medicine, the chance was slim, but it was there.) It makes me step back and wonder if I looked back on my life where it is now, would I be satisfied with my choices? The answer: Eh, sort of. I have the family thing figured out. I don’t have me thing figured out though. I need to find that. Part of that is sharing this experience that is motherhood in all it’s glory and pit falls.

Yes, there are approximately 12,784 parenting blogs on the internet. Perhaps mine won’t be that interesting or different than the rest of those. I’m throwing my hat into that ring though, because I have my own unique voice and there’s no reason that I shouldn’t share it. Writing is my passion. My kids are my love. Between the two, maybe something will spark and be amazing.

You never know if you don’t try.

Through my mom colored glasses, I think this is actually pretty good. Better than some poetry I’ve seen written by people my age.

Thanksgiving
by Evan P.

The dishes clatter.
Oh, what is that you hear?
Sounds of friends and family wonderful laughter!
Their happiness is loud and clear.

What is that you smell?
Why, it’s the delicious pumpkin and apple pie.
May I please have a slice of something that smells so swell?
Yes, of course! My, oh my!

Thankfulness is all around.
Of course! Also joy.
Not an unthankful is bound to be found!
All thankful is man, woman, girl and boy.

Happy Thanksgiving, all! And may you be surrounded with warmth and joy today and all days.
Here’s a throwback picture of Evan with a disguised turkey from a couple of years ago:
Evan Turkey

Goldieblox is a company that makes “Toys for future inventors”. Specifically, girl inventors. They kind of burst onto the feminist/toy scene with this commercial:

Their mission statement is to make building toys (which are traditionally aimed at boys) for girls, because girls who play with building toys are more likely to develop an interest in math in science (a field dominated by men). Recently, they’ve been all over social media again for trying to get a Superbowl ad spot.

Let me just start by saying that I am a big fan of anything that encourages girls to think they’re just as smart/fast/good as boys. As much as I wish it wasn’t necessary, the sad fact of the world is that girls are more often told they’re pretty than told they’re smart. (Side point for parentals, it’s actually better to not praise either of these things, but to praise effort. That’s a different blog for a different day though.) On that level, I think Goldie Blox is a good product.

The whole concept of “boy” and “girl” toys has always bugged me anyway. For my son’s first Christmas I got him a kitchen, because he loved the one at daycare. I cannot tell you how many people told me that it was a “girl’s toy and why would I get that for a little boy”. Fast forward past the many years he played with it all the time and now he’s 9 and loves to cook. Take that, silly gender rigid people. Point being, there are toys and colors your child likes or doesn’t like. There’s nothing wrong with that. Goldieblox is putting forth what sounds like a very gender equating product, but the pink and purple fairy tale themed toys do a lot to reinforce gender roles at the same time.

On another note, this is not an entirely original concept like they’re trying to sell it as. For example, I give you Amazon’s “Construction Toys for Girls” listings. Many of these toys have been around a long, long time. I do my best not go into places like Toys’R’Us, but I know in the independent toy stores I prefer, I’ve seen many of these toys on shelves for a long time. (Even though, I learned something today. Tinkertoys come in a pink variety. Add one more thing to the Christmas idea list.) So, if you didn’t want to get your girl construction toys that came in “boy” colors or themes, you have options. You’ve had options for awhile now. Goldeblox isn’t reinventing the wheel here, no matter what that Facebook meme you just read wants you to think.

Biggest problem with all of this: There’s an implication in a lot of the social media surrounding this company that parents of little girls are naturally inclined to only buy them Barbie dolls and Disney Princess tea sets. There’s also an implication that these toys are of little value to girls. Fun fact: Children need all kinds of toys to learn all kinds of skill sets. Imaginative play (in the form of dress up, baby dolls, action figures and the such) teaches children how to emphasize and socialize with the world. Going back to science, the fact that girls are encouraged to play pretend more than boys traditionally are is why women are in general more empathetic than men. (Shush, this obviously not hard and fast for every single man and woman, boy and girl, but a general finding.) Puzzles and building toys make for better problem solvers. Playdoh and paint make for children that trust their self expression. The point is a well rounded child has a well rounded toy collection. I’m going to go out a limb here and say that most parents get that and buy toys accordingly.

In closing, buy Goldieblox for your daughters (or sons for that matter) if you like them. Understand though, that they really may just have one of most brilliant marketing ploys going on I’ve seen in awhile. Don Draper would be proud. Also understand, that playing with construction toys does not guarantee your child will grow up to love science and mathematics. I grew up spending most of my waking hours building with Castle Legos and I’m not inclined to either of those things. I am inclined to still love building with Legos though. (Other fun thing I learned today, there’s a freaking Back to the Future DeLoreon Time Machine Lego set. Add one more thing to Christmas gift ideas for me.)

Fact/Warning: I suffer from vomiting words that I’m probably not at a place emotionally to share with the entire world. I do this in an effort to personally feel better and probably make most everyone else just feel incredibly awkward. This is one of those selfish blogs.

When I was a kid, I loved roller coasters. Absolutely everything about them. The expectation of the up, the exhilaration of the down and the shaky leg after effect of surviving the whole thing. I haven’t been on a literal roller coaster in years, but my adult life seems to consist of some fairly extreme emotional roller coasters that have pretty much soured me on the love of them. I have experienced incredible fear, loss and pain at the lowest points and (it sometimes feels to a lesser degree) joy and happiness on the highest points. Here I find myself again, on the downward part of life’s journey.

If you had asked me one week ago how things were going, I would have said fantastic. I had come to terms with the fact that I was in fact ready for another baby. Which was a convenient thing to come to terms with being pregnant and all. I have never had a complicated pregnancy (up until the birth part with the girl, but that’s another story for another day). I thought nothing of singing from mountain tops Sound of Music style, the impending arrival of another bundle of love, poop and joy. (Mountain tops here have more the meaning of social media sites, family and the kids, but you get the idea.) Yeah, I’ve heard the logic that you don’t tell anyone until you’re three months along. Nothing had ever happened before though so what was the big deal?

Cue Friday afternoon: Cramping starts. Then bleeding. Gets worse the next morning. Stop me if you see where this is going. So, we went to the ER (always the funnest place on earth). Went through blood tests, ultrasounds, the whole nine. Three hours (or so) later, doctor casually strolls in talking as he walks in the door, cheerfully says: “It seems like you’ve had a miscarriage.” Casual AND CHEERFUL as anything that brick is dropped on my head.

So, here’s the thing, I’ve known many people who have gone though this. I’ve never thought it was easy. I always knew it was gut wrenching. I didn’t realize exactly how much so.  The past couple of days have kind of been a blur. People keep asking how I’m feeling and all I can say is, physically I’m fine. I spend most of my time when I’m not working writing, watching a lot of bad reality tv and eating everything in sight. I’m working on that last one. I feel like I can’t control anything in my life. I can’t control my body, money, circumstance, the food going in my mouth. I feel incredibly sad that I will never know this tiny soul. I spend a lot of time reminding myself not to punch someone in the face who is saying something in an effort to be comforting. I suffer from random crying fits over the tiniest silliest things. I am not okay. But physically I’m okay.

Here’s the main thing I’m feeling: The thing I’ve been told by many: Hold on to faith. Faith in God. Faith in the universe. Faith that everything will be alright. Faith is rarely based on logic and life experience. Life experience tells me at this point that everything I want and everyone I love will be ripped away from me. Probably in some of the most painful ways possible. I’ve always been an emotional, fragile person. Faith is something that I’ve always struggled with. In light of recent events, faith is not something that resides in my heart. I have so many old scars and barely healed wounds that this has torn open for me. Some of them appear to be unrelated, but at the end of the day, they all carry the same message. Everything ends in pain, disappointment and heartbreak.

So why even try?

None of this is intended as a bid for any kind of sympathy. To be strictly honest, I don’t do well with sympathy. It makes me uncomfortable. That’s why my trademark response to pain is always anger. As I stated at the beginning, this is something I needed to write. For myself. Not for anyone else. Maybe my journal would have been a better place for it, but part of me feels like maybe someone going through something similar will read this and find some kind of comfort in it. I’m not sure what kind, but some kind.

I’ve told my kids more times than I should have to that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is no right or wrong way to respond to things. I need to work on believing that myself.

So, school started up this past week for my kids. My oldest went into 4th grade and my youngest into Kindergarten. They go to public school (because I can’t afford to send them to a charter school). Here’s the obligatory “first day of school” photo:

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Now, let me be the first to throw out the obligatory comment that they are stinking adorable. It’s obligatory, because I’m Mom and, if you disagree, have the sense to keep it to yourself.

Now, let me point out that they are, indeed, dressed the same. Ah, school uniforms. Gotta love ’em, right? Well, in my case, not so much. I’ve always been pretty against the idea of school uniforms, because I’m very pro self expression. Which made me curious what the most common arguments FOR school uniforms are. And (courtesy http://www.kidsfashion.about.com/) are the arguments (in italics) and my counterpoints/comments.

1. School Uniform Pro 1: The Uniform in Uniformity

Educators and experts who are pro school uniforms believe that uniforms contribute positively to students’ behavior. They believe that when students wear uniforms, they feel more professional and behave accordingly. Many educators believe that students can become distracted by fashion trends and status symbol clothing. Therefore, when all students are dressed in regulation uniforms, there is less focus on fashion in the classroom and more focus on learning.

I actually 100% do not get this logic. Uniforms do not magically make your child smarter/better behaved/more focused. Teachers do that by holding kids accountable for their work and behavior. Also, at the age where they start noticing “fashion trends and status symbol clothing” their still going to notice the difference between a poor kid’s shoes, jewelry and cut of school uniform compared to theirs. Not to mention the haircut done by Mom or a professional or getting their nails done. (Obviously not things that my kids have to deal with, but I’m applying this argument to all grade levels.)

2. School Uniform Pro 2: Easier Mornings for Parents

When there’s no debate on what a student is allowed wear to school, then that makes mornings easier for parents and for kids. Everyone knows exactly what the kids need to wear, their regulated school uniform. This can lead to a decrease in morning arguments.

You know what I did in high school? I laid out my outfit the night before. Not only because I believed in hitting my alarm until I had ten minutes to get ready, but also because that way I didn’t have to worry about picking out clothes in the morning. You know what I did with my son (in the preuniform days)? We picked out his outfit the night before. He’s picky so there were occasionally arguments, yes. Contrary to his six year old highly educated opinion, stripes and plaids really shouldn’t ever mix. Ever. For the most part though, I just let him go with what he wanted. Back to that whole self expression thing. As long as he was in school dress code, how does it affect you to let your kids pick their own outfits out? Speaking of dress code:

3. School Uniform Pro 3: Dress Code Control

Schools without a school uniform policy still have rules on what clothing is and is not allowed in school. There are usually rules regarding modesty issues, visible logos, offensive text on clothing, gang colors and symbols and more. Teachers and administrative staff must monitor the students’ attire. This is of course avoided when all students are in uniform.

This argument seems self defeating to me. Because you’re not avoiding anything. Now your’e just monitoring their uniform instead of their regular clothes. Girls are still going to try to wear their skirts too short and show a little midriff and boys are still going to try and wear their clothes ridiculously baggy. Or whatever the current trend happens to be.

4. School Uniform Pro 4: An Even Playing Field

One of the most obvious argument for school uniforms is that by having all children dressed the same, there is a decrease in bullying and teasing. In this era of status brands and high-fashion trends, clothing has become the definitive status symbol for children and teens. By evening the playing field with uniforms, there is less opportunity for children to be picked on or shunned for their clothes.

Refer back to my statement on shoes/jewelry/hair/cut quality of uniforms. Oh, and I forgot to mention backpacks up there. Seriously, this doesn’t even begin to address this problem. It sugarcoats it so administrators can say they’re doing something about bullying when they really aren’t doing anything at all.

5. School Uniform Pro 5: School Spirit

Many experts believe that when the entire student body is dressed in uniforms, they develop a stronger team mentality. When they are all dressed alike, their all-for-one-and-one-for-all comradery is boosted.

Translation: We are teaching them mob mentality and to not think for themselves as much. Yeah, I really can’t get behind that.

6. School Uniform Pro 6: Simple Economics

Buying a few school uniforms instead of a new school wardrobe every fall is much more economical. School uniforms are designed to stand up to everyday wear and repeated washing so most parents find that they can get away with buying a few sets.

This argument works if you’re middle or upper class maybe, but if you’re low income and struggling just to get by as is, it really doesn’t. Case in point: Me. I am a thrift store and clearance Mom. I will be the first to admit it. I’m also realistic about the fact that kids are inherently judgmental and pick up on that, so I am not a tattered thrift store mom. I can make a dollar stretch, because I don’t care about labels and I’m pretty sure my kids won’t care either. I was raised to not put any stock in them by my mom and I never did. I could put together a decent back to school wardrobe for both my kids for $75 or less. Probably a lot less. I’m not sure what the final price tag for uniforms ended up being, because I literally didn’t have the money to pay for them. My exceedingly awesome mother-in-law paid for most of it (for which I’m eternally grateful). After everything was said and done, I’d say it was close to $150. (I might also add, that this was for two skirts, five pairs of pants and five shirts. So not even a whole uniform wardrobe for both kids.) And that’s not even counting the fact that I still need to get them “uniform appropriate” sweaters and long sleeved clothes when it starts getting colder.

7. School Uniform Pro 7: Weekend Style

With all the money a parent saves by not having to buy day to day clothes, they can (if they so choose) let their children buy a few nicer and more fashionable pieces for weekends and evenings. Wearing a uniform five days a week might make students appreciate their weekend fashions more–maybe enough to even take good care of them!

Or, again, in a lower income family, it means their going to be wearing the same ratty jeans with holes after school and on the weekend, because I can’t afford now to buy them new ones. Remember? I spent all my money on uniform clothes. Also, whoever added the “maybe enough to even take good care of them” clearly has no idea how children play. Which is hard. Like they should.

I’d also like to add a couple last things (that explains the title of the blog) on why I don’t actually think uniforms are as good for our kids as they would like us to believe. School is for learning, yes. It’s not just for learning the ABC’s and 123’s though. It’s for learning how to survive in the world. When they go out in to that great big world, there is going to be economic disparity. There is going to be judgment of how they dress or what they say or any number of things. Schools are slowly taking away our children’s ability to deal with any of this when it happens.

They are also slowly taking away our children’s ability to be anything more than another cog in the wheel of society. From uniforms to not being able to have “cute” pencils schools are leeching the color and beauty from the world. As a parent, I do everything to fight this effect and remind my kids that they are indeed unique, beautiful people and that’s okay. It would be amazing if the schools help support this philosophy in all children.

 

 

Nugget and Fang: Friends Forever--or Snack Time?Nugget and Fang: Friends Forever–or Snack Time? by Tammi Sauer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This tale of an unlikely friendship between a minnow and a shark was a library find by my five year old. She loves sharks and the S part of the library shelves, so she came across it.

This is a charming story, if not terribly original. Nugget (a minnow) and Fang (a shark) are the best of friends. They spend every day together having fun. All that changes when Nugget starts school and “learns” the food chain and that sharks eat minnows, so he cuts off the friendship. Fang makes his best effort to make nice gestures (to comedic effect) to no avail. Only by saving all the minnows from a net and becoming the “catch of the day” does he prove that he is not as toothy or scary as advertised and ends up with 11 new minnow friends.

The illustrations are cute and funny. There are subtleties that will go over a small child’s head, which I always have mixed feelings about. There’s nothing too bad or borderline inappropriate though. It’s digitally illustrated, but feels painted and hand done.

The message is a good one. Follow your heart and not the group mentality. I found it personally a little frustrating that Nugget didn’t do more to stand up for his friend and just fell in line with the minnow “school” of thought. (Ha. Sorry, I had to.) There was a conversation with my daughter about how if someone is your friend, you should never put themselves in a position where they have to prove themselves to you, just because other people say they should.

Overall: There are lines that my daughter has run around the house repeating since we read it. (“Helloooooo, sharks eat minnooooooows” five hundred times a day is fun and not at all irritating. /sarcasm) Highly recommended for young children up to about six.

View all my reviews

Note: I have never actually had a parent say this to me, but I’ve had it implied on multiple occasions. It’s a side effect of what I would like to call “competitive parenting”. I’m sure I’m not the first to call it that, nor will I be the last, but simplicity trumps creativity here. It’s something that I spent the first years of parenting being blissfully unaware of. See, back then, I pretty much ignored the internet and lived in the now due to financial constraints of being a single, working parent.

Fast forward to now, when it seems like it’s slapping me in the face everywhere I turn. Breast feeding vs bottle feeding. Attachment parenting vs “cry it out” parenting (really, what is the opposite of attachment parenting?). So on and so forth. The gist of every single conversation goes like this, “I am absolutely right and everyone is absolutely wrong and possibly abusing their child”. Now, don’t get me wrong, every single person should probably think their form of parenting and choices are the best they could make. That’s the ongoing goal every single day as a parent, to do the best you can for your kids with as little damage to your sanity as humanly possible. The problem really comes where you start thinking everyone who doesn’t subscribe to your personal parenting philosophy is harming their child.

Fact: Children are amazingly resilient and really anything short of actual abuse isn’t any of your damn business. Judge in your head all you want. I do that all the time. I work in a grocery store and the stories I could tell of what I consider terrible parenting could fill a book. You know what though? I don’t say a damn thing. It’s not my place. If you really want to give your a kid a candy bar just to silence their screaming, that’s your business. I might not offer a lot of sympathy, but I’m not going to shake my finger at you and tell you what a shitty job you’re doing. That’s why I have an inner monologue. That’s we all have inner monologues.

All of which brings us up to my new trepidation for this coming year. My son got invited to the Gifted and Talented program at his school. This fact fills me with immense pride and also validation that when I tell people my son is freakishly smart I’m not just looking through Mommy glasses. Then I started getting flashbacks to when I was in elementary school. I was also a freakishly smart child and spent most of my early school career (before I decided that I just didn’t care about school that much) trading 1st and 2nd place in almost everything with a girl named Tiffany. Now, Tiffany was my friend and we didn’t care who did the best. We were just happy that there was one other person equally as socially awkward as each other to bond with. Tiffany’s mom on the other hand thought that Tiffany should be first at everything. This had the duel effect of making her extremely intelligent daughter feel like a failure and making me feel bad that I put my friend in a place where she was getting bitched out in front of everyone for not doing good enough.

Now that I’m in the position of being parent of a kid like me, I’m terrified of the first time I’m going to have to deal with someone like Tiffany’s mom. Because my personal philosophy is that my kids do their best and have as much fun along the way as possible. So, if you do your best and place 6th place, then that’s a 1st place accomplishment in our household. Not that I don’t want them to be competitive, but I don’t want to raise them to think their self worth rests on being the BEST EVER AT EVERYTHING EVER. That parent is going to make this inner monologue thing very hard to maintain. And if anything comes out against my kid, well, that’s where my complete and total lack of tact will come out. Seriously, it’s like a superpower, if superpowers made you completely socially unacceptable most of the time.

Here’s to hoping that it’s not something I (or my son) will have to deal with, but with the way things seem to be going, I’m don’t hold out much hope on that.

The Smart Bean Himself

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I would like to introduce you to my daughter in the picture above. She loves pink and dressing up like a princess. This isn’t something I necessarily planned on happening with a girl, but there it is. I was always the mom who said that I wouldn’t let gender stereotypes happen and would always let my kids be themselves.

So, what happens when being themselves means that they fall into some of the lines of gender stereotypes? Well, in short, you swallow your feminist ideals and realize that maybe gender stereotypes aren’t all bad, all the time as long as they’re not limiting your child or their interests. Yes, an obnoxiously large part of parenting is learning to swallow your preconceptions and learning to let your kids be themselves. It’s not always fun, but there it is. I also have plenty of pictures of my daughter dancing in the rain, digging in mud and playing soccer so she’s pretty well rounded in all honesty.

Which brings us to the “princess” argument I found myself in on the internet yesterday. A couple of the comments:

She’ll find out the hard way that the world won’t treat her like a princess. Better if she didn’t expect to be treated special.”

“Never Princess – puts her into a fantasy box and a step out of reality.”

“The problem is that princesses are pretty, friendless, don’t contribute to society, and m then get married and their story is over.”

I’m going to be completely honest, we do call our daughter princess. She’s 100% aware that she isn’t a real princess, but fantasy life is important to the development of children. (That’s for you, comment in the middle.) As for the first comment, I cannot begin to express how much that attitude irks me. It implies that you are supposed to treat your child exactly like the cold-hearted uncaring world is going to. Which is really no way I ever want to treat anyone I love, let alone my little ones. As far as the third one goes, that’s an extremely old fashioned way of looking at princesses in the day and age of Mulan, Rapunzel and Merida. Just to stick to the Disney princesses.

Here’s the thing, if you ask my daughter what makes her a princess, she won’t tell you it’s because she’s pretty. She’ll tell you it’s because she has a good heart. That’s because we’ve had a dialogue with her from the time she was very tiny that, yes, she is beautiful, but her heart is the most beautiful thing about her. Really, it’s that simple. If your daughter wants to be a princess, just have honest communication with her about what it really means to be one. She’ll strive to be those things and every day become a slightly better person than she was the day before.

The first princess my daughter was truly obsessed with was She-Ra as well. So, she has a pretty healthy view that princesses don’t just sit around, drink tea and wear pretty dresses. They also go out to fight the forces of darkness. Which brings me to a list that I would like to share just a few princesses, in addition to She-Ra, that turn the princess myth on it’s head and that you should introduce your daughter to if she (like mine) likes to be one:

Xena. (Bonus points for teaching kids about equality and homosexuality.)

Princess Leia (and Amidala). (As much as I personally dislike Star Wars, you can’t deny that the girls holds her own in a primarily male cast of bad asses.)

Mulan. (Seriously, is there a less feminine Disney Princess? Also, saves all of China while the Chinese army of men stands around confused.)

Sara Crewe (From A Little Princess. Rich spoiled girl that becomes penniless and learns what being a princess is really about. Should be required reading for all little girls.)

Please share any thoughts or additional princess suggestions in the comments below.

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A typical day in my house involves not an moment of silence, at least ten toys to be tripped over and a sink full of dirty dishes. It also is full of laughter, love and a lot of learned lessons. So basically, you’re pretty average working family household. We’re not always neat and we’re not always polite or patient. At the end of the day, though, we are an amazing and loving unit. This blog aims to chronicle our journey, for better or worse.