Kindness

I’m sitting here writing a lengthy paper about genocide on the anniversary of the murder of a bunch of kids not much older than my own, and it’s weighing heavily on me. I’ve been at this genocide research for 6 weeks, and while the work is important and I’m learning so much from it, I wish I’d chosen pretty much ANYTHING else to write about.

I’m just popping in here right now to remind everyone to be kind. The world needs more kindness.

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Oblivious

I wanted to tell you a story about Charlotte that will make you laugh your eyeballs out of your head, but after I typed it out I decided it’s really not the sort of thing that needs to be on the internet. Let’s just say that 3 year olds have some interesting ideas about how things work, and mine can be particularly creative with her interpretations of menstrual happenings.

Instead, I’ll tell you a story about me.

When we chose the preschool  Charlotte attends, there were two huge factors that influenced our decision: 1) the place is a mile from our house, and 2) their outdoor space is huge and it’s full of different types of play areas for the kids to explore. I checked a few reviews online, but I didn’t go very far into the web. We based a lot of our decision on our gut, and our gut said THIS IS THE PLACE SIGN US UP. We filled out the application and put down the deposit immediately after we finished the tour.

Mind you, this is Los Angeles, and the preschool scene can be a bit competitive–not to mention crazy expensive. We didn’t have any trouble getting into this school and the tuition was just barely on the high end of what we’d budgeted, so it never occurred to us that this preschool was anything other than your average LA Suburb preschool.

Color us WRONG.

Forget Yelp. Apparently, I should have checked the celebrity gossip sites prior to enrolling our kid in this school.

Last year was reasonably normal. We definitely got the message that we were not the average clientele of this school, but we managed. I just tried really hard to avoid the sea of 6-figure cars in the parking lot, and we opted not to go to the school’s spring gala where I later learned that a PARKING SPOT in the school’s lot was auctioned for $5,000. Cool.

Cut to this year. C is in a small class this year. 12 kids and one teacher, versus 20-ish kids and 2 teachers last year. (They have aides who float around throughout the day, too.) I am the room parent for our class, so I’ve had a lot of interaction with the parents in the class and I’ve spent quite a bit more time at school this year.

So here’s the thing. I’m not the most observant person. Truly. I tend to be very much in my own head, and I don’t really pay a lot of attention to other people unless I am directly interacting with them. Also, celebrities don’t tend to use their real names on lists that are published with their personal phone numbers and email addresses.

So you can imagine my surprise when I came face to face with one of the moms who volunteered to help with our holiday party this week and realized AFTER I introduced myself and clarified which mom she was that I am a fucking idiot and of course I know who the hell she is. It took me about a half an hour into setup to realize what an idiot I was, and I was suddenly acutely aware of why she gave me such a puzzled look when I asked who she was. This is right on the heels of learning that there’s another well-connected Hollywood family in the class as well.

Immediately after the party, I was leaving when I recognized the face of someone I went to high school with (and hated!) who is also an actor. C-list at best these days, but still probably recognizable to a significant chunk of my generation.

At the PTA meeting a few weeks ago, I was seated next to a parent who was obviously an actor and was promising all kinds of crazy experiences for the auction. I have no idea who she was, but I probably should know. Maybe if I ever had a chance to watch TV. Although honestly, one blonde 3-something famous mom in yoga pants looks a lot like every other blonde famous mom in yoga pants.

Anyway, I’m feeling a bit weird about this because these just aren’t my people. I mean, they’re lovely and kind and generous, but I guarantee that they do not live 1 mile from school in a house with one bathroom, DIY landscaping and a dirty Ford in the driveway.

I think the thing that bothers me the most is that I went to private school with the children of people like this all throughout my school years, and I never felt like I fit in. Ever. I don’t want to be setting Charlotte up for that kind of social experience. I also don’t want to be projecting my own insecurities and issues on my preschooler.

I’m glad winter break starts tomorrow and I can have a few weeks to force these insecurities from my system. They certainly won’t do any of us any good.

 

 

Paw Pa-nope

There was a day two weeks ago when I thought I might seriously sell my child to the highest bidder. We’d been having awful mornings. She would wake up grouchy as hell and it would just spiral out of control from there. On this particular morning, she slapped me across the face so hard I saw stars and then kicked me in the shin and ran to her room and slammed the door. Where does she even learn this stuff?! 

When I finally got her to school with her face blotchy and red from tears and her handprint on mine, I wished her teacher good luck and ran out of there as fast as possible. I called Catch the moment I got in the car and told her I wanted to do an experiment. NO TV on school days. None. Zip. Zero. Nada. Effective immediately.

It wasn’t so much that we were relying on TV to babysit our child. Except that we were relying on TV to babysit our child. It crept up on us. She had always been so good at self-regulating her screen time, and then while she was sick a month or two back, she got a bit too comfortable on the couch. I was letting her watch TV before school because I am barely alive in the mornings, and all I wanted was a chance to drink some coffee before I had to be wonder mom. After school, we’d let her watch a show with her snack so she could have some wind-down time. Then we’d let her watch another show after her dinner so we could finish our own meal in peace and tackle the cleanup/prep for the next day.

I imagine our story is not unlike many others. You used to scoff at the screen time guidelines in the pediatrician’s office because your kid just wasn’t interested. Then you blink, and suddenly your kid can sing the Sofia the First theme song from memory and she’s talking about Paw Patrol in her sleep.

So we pulled the plug. We told her the TV was broken. She was understandably devastated, but we held firm. It was broken indefinitely.

After a week, it was like someone sprinkled our child with magic dust. We watched as her play became more and more creative. She was less dependent upon us to provide guidance in how/what she should play. She was pulling out toys we’d forgotten about. Even her ability to sit still and focus for longer than 30 seconds was improving. ALL IN THE SPAN OF A WEEK.

I won’t lie. It was really hard for me at first. Especially in the mornings. I just don’t want to have to be “on” in the morning. I’m coming around, though and it gets easier every day. We’re spending a lot more time cuddling on the couch and reading books after we get dressed. Mornings have been easier. Her mood has been better, too. She still has her difficult moments, but not nearly as often or as extreme.

Last Friday night after about 10 days of no TV, we cuddled up on the couch together and watched the Polar Express. ALL of us—even the dogs. It was LOVELY. It felt really special. Like a treat. We weren’t using the TV to occupy her while we were elsewhere. We used it to bring us all together under a big fuzzy blanket and be close as a family. Charlotte’s school holiday show is tomorrow night and the theme is Polar Express. Even though I’d read the book to her a bunch of times, we wanted her to see the movie since they’re singing some songs from the film.

Charlotte still sat on Santa’s lap and asked for Paw Patrol toys for Christmas, but instead of asking to watch Paw Patrol, she’s been asking me to read her the book we bought. We read it over and over again and talk about the characters and analyze the pictures. It’s the first time she’s ever been so interested in books. She always liked books, but she never really had the attention span to sit for the longer ones. Last night, we read the Snow Queen, which was easily a 10-minute bedtime story. Afterward, she fell asleep faster than she has in weeks.

All of this is on the heels of some research I did for school last term. I wrote a paper about the effects of television on preschoolers, and I really found the research fascinating. I’m really interested to see how this all plays out for Charlotte.

 

Election Day

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The only thing more American than casting my ballot this morning is the 2.5 hours I spent wandering aimlessly through Costco afterward. Alas, even in this sweet land of liberty, it was too early for the free samples. Fortunately, it is never too early for a $1.50 hot dog. I’m reasonably certain that’s even in the Bill of Rights.

My aunt posted a photo of my great grandmother Lucy Richardson on Facebook today. Lucy was born in Maine in 1900, and waited 20 years for women to have the right to vote. I’m so grateful for that reminder from my aunt today. I often take my right to vote for granted because it’s always been there waiting for me. Although intellectually I know better, when I think about women’s suffrage, it always seems to be associated with anonymous women from long ago, rather than this very real woman who knew me as a little girl.

Nana Richardson

So, fellow Americans, I hope you’ve taken this opportunity to give voice to what’s important to you today. If you haven’t, close your eyes and imagine what it must have felt like to be a woman prior to 1920—to be told by your country that only your father’s or husband’s opinion matters. Imagine how it must have felt marking a ballot for the first time. Don’t take that for granted. Voting is not just our right, it’s our responsibility.

On a lighter note…

Charlotte is also learning a lesson in democracy today as her school votes on ice cream flavors. The winning flavor will be served to the kids at an ice cream party on Wednesday. Charlotte appears to have voted for both vanilla AND strawberry, so I’m calling her a rebel with a cause.

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Coulda Woulda Shoulda?

This morning was an epic shit show of a morning, made worse by the crazy hyper hound dog following me from room to room and chewing on anything she could reach. (Including my butt as I was walking, the leg of my pajamas, Charlotte’s blanket, Charlotte’s foot, a crayon, a toy train, my deodorant, and ALMOST the meter reader.)

Charlotte didn’t want to get out of bed. She wanted me to lie with her and snuggle her all day. Any suggestion that we do anything other than cuddle in bed—like maybe eating pancakes or putting socks on cold feet–was met with either kicking and screaming and hitting or the saddest tears around.

I spent about 2.5 hours negotiating with a tiny person incapable of rational thought. You’d have thought I was trying to feed her dried grasshoppers and sriracha when I put a plate of pancakes and syrup in front of her.

“I’m cold. Snuggle me!”

“Can we put some socks on your feet before we cuddle?”

“NOOOOO!!! I’M GONNA BREAK YOU! I’M GONNA BREAK THIS WHOLE HOUSE! SNUUUUUUGGGGGLLLE MEEEEEEEEEE!”

Eventually, she made it to school (albeit very late) clothed (including socks!) with a full tummy and an empty bladder. At school, she clung to my legs and hid behind me like her life depended on it. She hasn’t done that in AGES.

Now, I’m sitting here feeling guilty because there’s no reason I couldn’t have just cuddled in bed with her all day. I mean, I have things to do, but it’s not like I have a job to worry about. I could have indulged her because she has seriously NEVER requested to stay in bed and cuddle—especially not after pancakes are offered.

I just didn’t want to. I wanted her to go to the school we are paying through the nose for. It’s the principle. Also, I know she has fun at school. I know her friends love her and she loves them because she talks about them non-stop. As I was trying to pry her off of me today, one of them ran over and said, “Charlotte! Come play with me!”

She’s fine. I shouldn’t be feeling guilty for sending her to school so I can work on my final project for one of my classes and go buy toilet paper in peace, right? Right.

Right?

Priorities

When I first quit my job, it felt like I was suddenly going to have SO MUCH time to DO ALL THE THINGS. I mean, I’m not sacrificing 8 hours a day to my job, so obviously that means I have all those extra hours to do things I want to do, right?

Yeah. Not so much, as it turns out.

School is requiring more hours than I anticipated. It’s actually making me a bit nervous because supposedly they started me with “easy” classes. It’s not so much that the content is hard, it’s just that it’s a lot of work. I worry about what will happen when the work is harder and there’s an equal amount, but I guess I have to give myself a chance to get back into the swing of things. It’s only been 6 weeks. These are short 8-week classes, so we’re working at an accelerated pace but only taking 2 classes at a time.

On top of classes, Charlotte’s teacher asked me to be room parent, which I eagerly agreed to. Turns out it’s also a lot more work than I anticipated, and the parents association is a total pain in the ass to deal with. I’m having major regrets.

Then there’s the usual household stuff. Groceries, meals, cleaning, vet appointments, etc. It adds up like crazy. I think I have time to tackle an organizational project or something, but that means something else ends up being sacrificed.

I really wanted to have free time to make things and to write. I’d be so happy if I could just sit here all day with a crafty project and blog to my heart’s content, but that’s not going to happen before I have to return to work.

I also had grand plans to finally sit down and organize our photos into Shutterfly albums. There are so many albums I want to make. I absolutely love having those custom albums around, even if they’re short and sweet. Unfortunately, they just take so much dang time. I even decided to try Shutterfly’s service where they design your album for you, but I’m not really thrilled with the results. It’s ok, but my standards are high. Blame it on my years working in marketing and design.

And then, there’s Snickers. The sweetest, most cuddly and playful asshole of a dog I’ve ever had. Nothing is safe when Snickers is around. She chews on EVERYTHING. If it’s on the floor or on a shelf she can reach, it’s hers. If it’s food and she can reach it, kiss it goodbye. She likes to “hide” her edible conquests outside next to a potted lemon tree as if we won’t see it there.

I was putting away groceries the other day and I must not have noticed her run off with an entire loaf of bread, because I found it out there by the lemon tree about an hour later. She has also chewed up TWO pairs of my prescription glasses, which caused huge problems for me last week. I can’t even legally drive without my glasses, but she chewed up my good ones and my backup pair. I had to rush out to get an eye exam because my prescription wasn’t current enough to be filled, and then I had to hit up Lens Crafters so that I could get glasses RIGHT NOW. I couldn’t wait the 10 days for the eye doc to order them for me.

She also has more energy than any dog I’ve ever known. She’ll be 3 in December, but she can easily out-play my mom’s 9 month old golden retriever. If she doesn’t get at least 2 miles of walks a day PLUS plenty of interactive play time, she is a total nightmare to live with.

When we went to Disneyland the other day, my parents watched the dogs for us. Snickers ended up running away from my dad as he was getting her inside. When we sat down to eat lunch at Disneyland, I realized I had a bunch of missed calls and 3 voicemails. 1 message was from my dad telling me he’d lost Snickers and that he’d been driving around the neighborhood looking for her for 45 minutes. Another call was from someone in my mom’s neighborhood who found her, but then lost her as he was getting the phone to call us. Then finally another message from my dad letting us know he finally found her. It’s terrible, but we both kind of just shrugged and said that her getting lost wouldn’t have been so awful.

I’m telling you, this dog is a nightmare. But then she cuddles into your lap at night, or we catch her playing so sweetly with Charlotte and we have no choice but to let her off the hook for being an asshole.

Point being, it all just seems to add up to not enough time. Never enough time. I’m glad I’m not taking these classes while working full time (not yet, anyway), because I can’t imagine how anything will get done when I am.

Disney Girl

We took Charlotte to Disneyland on Friday. We told her she we’d take her when she’s consistently pooping on the potty, which hasn’t happened, but we had an opportunity to go and we really needed some family fun so we went.

We didn’t tell her we were going. She thought we were going to hang out with Catch at work. She was completely oblivious until right here:

We had the most awesome day. It wasn’t without its challenges, but she was SO happy. Even when it was pouring rain and there were adults screaming like morons because of thunder and lightning, she took it all in stride.

Her favorite parts of the day were the following:

Teacups

Meeting any character we could find:

The parade

And seeing the Frozen stage show, where she did not move a single muscle for 45 solid minutes:

I hope the Disney magic never gets old for her. I’ve always loved Disneyland, but doing it with her made it a thousand times more magical.

{Insert head exploding emoji here}

Charlotte was sent home from school today right on the heels of an extended absence due to hand foot mouth. We literally dropped off her “return to school” note in the office this morning at 9.

I got the call around 11. “She has these red blotches all over her back,” I was told.

Now, this kid is as white as white kids come. She is so fair skinned and sensitive that red marks on her body are not uncommon and are generally temporary. I asked if she’d been roughhousing or playing in grass, but the office had no idea. They just wanted me to come get her.

Ok fine. I go to school and when I arrive, she’s still playing with her class. So they’re so concerned about these blotches that I have to drop everything to pick her up but not concerned enough that it warrants separating her from the other kids?

As we walked out, I told her she had to go home because she has red marks on her back. She said, “That’s because (boy kid) bit me on my back.” I asked her to point to where she was bit and she blindly pointed exactly to a red spot. I looked in the sunlight and could clearly see that these so-called blotches were actually scratches and a bite.

.

I marched her back to the teacher, who argued with me and said it must be an allergy.

Um….?

I left with my kid because I was on the verge of losing my shit in a room full of 3 year olds.

These photos were taken as soon as we walked through our front door. Be honest with me… what would you make of them? I’m not really capable of being objective because every minute she isn’t at school is a minute I have to stay up after bedtime to get my schoolwork done.

Hand Foot & Mouth

I’m sitting here enjoying a few quiet moments alone with my coffee before Charlotte wakes up, because once the hurricane is awake, I won’t get a second to myself until Catch gets home from work.

We got a letter from preschool the other day that hand foot and mouth disease had made an appearance in her class. When she woke up yesterday, her face was sort of splotchy, but mostly around her forehead area. I wasn’t really sure what to make of it, because she has a legit mosquito bite on her cheek and it could have just been a reaction to the bite. Still, I figured I’d better check to be sure there were no signs of HFM hiding anywhere else. Sure enough, she had a big blister on the inside of her lower lip. I may have cursed.

She feels absolutely fine, which is the real kicker here. She’s not acting sick and she’s not uncomfortable. She has no other symptoms. Even so, it appears that I’m stuck at home with her for a few days, which is hard because school is kicking my ass. I love the convenience of taking classes online, but man is it a lot of work. I’ve been spending roughly 3-4 hours a day working on my own school stuff while C is at school, and not having those 3-4 hours during the day means I have to make up for it after C goes to bed.

We had a fun day yesterday, though. I didn’t want to take her anywhere crowded where she could spread her germs, so we went to the movies with some free tickets we’ve had lying around for ages. It was perfect because there were only 2 other people in the theater.  About halfway through Smallfoot, she got up and said, “I’d like to go home now, please.” I was kind of bummed because I was into the movie at that point, but she was so polite about letting me know she was done that I wasn’t going to argue.

At home, we baked a chocolate cake together, which was easily the highlight of her day. When Catch got home around 4, she ran out the front door yelling, “WE MADE CHOCOLATE CAKE BUT WE HAVE TO EAT DINNER FIRST!” Then she ran inside and demanded dinner since Little Mama was home. Nice try, kiddo.

I have no idea what I’m going to do with her today. Maybe a trip to the dog park with Snickers and a ride around the block on her big girl bike. This kid is just not meant to be home all day. It never ends well. She’s like an angry caged animal when we’re home for too long.

Since I really haven’t shared anything of importance with you this morning, I’ll leave you with a few pictures from our trip to the farm the other day. Can you believe how big this kid is getting? Her legs are like ten miles long.

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Diet Trigger

A few months ago, Catch and I decided that we needed to lose some weight. She was having some health issues that are worsened by weight, and I was just hating my body. We agreed to try the keto diet to see how it worked for us.

Spoiler: she is doing AMAZING. I am not.

The first few weeks were hard for me, but I got through them. I lost a few pounds. I should have been happy, but I wasn’t. I was miserable without carbs and I was totally consumed by my misery. It was not making me a great person to be around.

At some point, I gave up. Since then, it has been like a carb fest around here when Catch isn’t home. I’ve been pretty out of control, although now I’m trying to be more aware that I am not ten years old and I don’t have to hoard carbs to eat in secret when my mom isn’t home. (More on that in a bit.)

Catch continues to do great. Last weekend, her parents were here and she and her mom talked quite a bit about the keto program. Catch was talking so excitedly about how well it’s working and every time the subject arose, I started to feel an old familiar guilt/anxiety/anger bubble up inside of me. I should be happy because my wife is happy. I should be supporting her. Instead, I’d find myself wanting to leave the room so I didn’t have to hear about it. It was massively triggering—particularly the mother/daughter angle—and I hate that.

I know that the roots of these feelings I’m having are deep and twisted. I have had food issues my entire life. I was always a chubby little girl, and my mom was obsessed with my weight. My two best friends in PRESCHOOL had a little song they sang to me that I can still remember to this day, “Chubby chubby cheeks today.” I was teased mercilessly in school—just seeing the names of some of those bullies pop up on Facebook is enough to trigger that old shame. I actually declined a friend request from my best friend in middle school because she was friends with the bullies and I didn’t want to invite those assholes into my life in any way. Even my Girl Scout troop leaders made comments about my weight. (Shocking that I quit, eh?)

I saw a nutritionist in grade school. I went to two different “fat camps” as an adolescent. I was on Weight Watchers around age 12. Jenny Craig was in there somewhere as well, although I can’t recall how old I was. Everything was fat free or sugar free. (Hello, 80s/90s!) When I lost weight, my mom would shower me with new clothes and praise. When I inevitably gained the weight back again, she would say things like, “Maybe we could actually find you some cute clothes if you would lose some weight.”

I had no self confidence. None. For decades I felt like I had to apologize for my very existence. I was convinced that no one would ever love me unless I was thin. I never felt like I was good enough for anyone.

There have been periods of time when I was happy to be losing weight and had no issues with it. I lost 50 pounds when we were going through fertility stuff, and I was doing great. I had no issues with it because my RE told me I needed to lose weight to have a baby and I wanted that dang baby SO. BAD. I would have done anything for my baby. I was like a rabbit on a treadmill chasing the carrot on a fishing line.

Today, I just don’t want to diet. I don’t want to hate my body. I don’t want to see pictures of myself and cringe. I just want to be able to sit here and accept who I am and where I am right now. I am so fucking tired of this narrative that runs through my head every time I look in the mirror.

I have so much going on right now, and it feels like keto was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I had no idea it was going to open the flood gates of childhood trauma, but it did and there’s no going back. I need to find a way to deal with it now. Preferably a way that doesn’t involve hiding boxes of pop tarts behind the almond flour and flax in the pantry.

(Catch, if you’re reading this please know that I support you 1000000% in whatever you do. Always. My issues are not your issues.)