Thursday, April 29, 2010

2010 is turning out to be not my year

One day I may look back at this moment and shake my head and laugh. But at the moment I just want to shake my head.

So Wednesday I get woken up at 12:30 in the morning. John is crawling on the floor hyperventilating. He's in pain. Lots and lots of pain. I help him to the extent I can for the next couple of hours - but at about 4am he asked me to call 911. He was in so much pain he didn't even think he could make it to the emergency room in my car.

Turns out he's passing a kidney stone. It has now been a day and a half later and the stone is not out yet. My mother came into town on very short notice to help watch SchmoopyBaby so I can work Thursday and Friday. John is drugged up and in bed most of the time, but needs help getting food, and when the pain hits him he needs help getting into a hot bath, which provides a great amount of relief.

My attention is constantly being pulled in 4 different directions, and I haven't slept for 2 days.

We're supposed to go in to the apartment on Saturday to finish the lease paperwork and pick up the keys so we can start moving. I have no idea if John will be up for it.

Primal scream for this week... GAAAAAAHHHHH!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Making It Fun - The Power of Play

This post is written for inclusion in the Carnival of Gentle Discipline hosted by Paige @ Baby Dust Diaries. All week, April 26-30, we will be featuring essays about non-punitive discipline. See the bottom of this post for more information.

My little guy is not fond of getting his hair wet. He loves being in the bathtub and he loves splashing around in the water, but when it’s time to get his hair washed, he would scream and cry when I poured water over his head. I felt horrible and guilty after the crying and screaming, and was determined to find a way to make hair washings more tolerable for everyone. One night I tried something new. I turned my ‘silly factor’ up a notch. As I poured the water over his little head, I started squealing “Doot Doot Doot!” in a silly singsong voice, put my face up to my toddler’s, and wiggled my nose next to his. My little guy smiled and giggled, and I knew I was on to something. I peaked at him from under the pitcher, made faces, and planted kisses on his now grinning face. Hair washing from then on was a transformed experience. It was fun.

This is the power of play.

I will confess right off the bat that I have not yet read the book Playful Parenting, and in fact only heard about it through other parenting blogs. That being the case, I tend to think that I might be particularly suited to this style of parenting because I have a tendency for being, to use the technical term, a goofball. I have been known to spontaneously start skipping in parking lots, and it has long been a pastime of mine to come up with silly lyrics to popular songs.

There are times that I want my toddler to do something he is unsure about, or flat out doesn’t want to do at all. Sometimes I can allow him to do as he wishes. Sometimes not. And sometimes, all he needs is a little bit of the right kind of encouragement. Here are some other ideas that have worked for me.

When I sit him down on the potty, I typically sing this:
(sung to the tune of I’ve Been Working On the Railroad)
You can sit down on the potty, if you would like to
You can sit down on the potty, like the big boys and girls do
You can sit down on the potty, if you think that it is fun
Oh you can sit down on the potty, you’ll have a nice clean bum!

It also helps to clap my hands and toss my head from side to side like a muppet.

My kiddo also hates having his teeth brushed. One thing that works is the following: I start by “brushing” (tickling) his ears with the toothbrush, then his forehead, his nose, his shoulders, before proceeding to the teeth with another song:

(sung to the tune of Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush)
This is the way you brush your teeth,
This is the way you brush your teeth,
This is the way you brush your teeth,
So they stay nice and clean

Is it important to me to have dinner together as a family at night, but sometimes my little schmoo is more interested in tossing around his books in the living room at dinner time. One particularly effective way of bringing him to the dinner table is bringing out a few pieces of a yummy dinner-friendly snack (grapes are my little one’s temptation) and pretend I’m a train taking the grapes to the kitchen table. Of course there are lots of fun sound effects and dancing around a bit as I make my way.

Could I pick him up off the floor and storm into the kitchen while yelling, “I said it’s dinner time! That means you come when I call you! I’m your mother and you better learn to respect me and do what I say!”? Well yes, I suppose I could. I could put up with a lot more crying and screaming and anger and frustration. But why would I choose screams when I can get giggles? And how would that contribute to the positive family vibe I am trying to create by having dinner together in the first place?

Do I need to put up with some screams in order to get respect? Do you feel respect for people who constantly pull the authority card and force you to do what they want? Fear maybe, resentment maybe, but respect? I know I have a very hard time respecting someone who doesn’t show respect for me. Why would I expect my child to be any different?

I have found that making it fun (whatever ‘it’ might be) is remarkably effective at encouraging my toddler to behave in a way that satisfies my own needs without struggle and the energy drain associated with conflict. It can be an easy way to allow everyone to win, and thereby enhance the connection between me and my child. Plus there’s the added bonus of… you know, fun!

Gentle Parent - art by Erika Hastings at to the Carnival of Gentle Discipline

Please join us all week, April 26-30, as we explore alternatives to punitive discipline. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month in the USA and April 30th is Spank Out Day USA. In honor of this we have collected a wonderful array of articles and essays about the negative effects of punitive discipline methods, like spanking, and a myriad of effective alternatives.

Are you a Gentle Parent? Put the Badge on your blog or website to spread the word that gentle love works!

Links will become available on the specified day of the Carnival.

Day 1 - What Is Gentle Discipline

Day 2 - False Expectations, Positive Intentions, and Choosing Joy (coming Tuesday, April 27)

Day 3 - Choosing Not To Spank (coming Wednesday, April 28)

Day 4 - Creating a "Yes" Environment (coming Thursday, April 29)

Day 5 - Terrific Toddlers; Tantrums and All (coming Friday, April 30)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Positive Thought for the Day

This is the "Daily Kabbalah Tune Up" for the day, that I received in my email this morning. Thought it was a nice message so thought I would share.

Living with a positive intention sets the tone of your day. Today, allow yourself to walk around with one that brings a smile to your face.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Big Shoes

I've got tons of pictures of SchmoopyBaby wearing John's and my shoes and have been meaning to post a couple for quite some time. This would probably be better as a Wordless Wednesday post, but I'm too impatient to wait until Wednesday. ;)

Ah, such style at a young age. Those crazy purple boots are sooo very 80's, but I love them! They are my favorite thing in my closet right now, and unlike my now deceased Fabulous Boots, I can wear them anywhere - even to work! heehee.

(See Mom, I still post fluffy fun stuff! I'm thinking about you! =) )

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Of Depression and Appreciation

Yesterday I felt it creeping up on me. The desire to sit and stare at my computer, immobile and nonfunctioning… for hours. The spontaneous episodes of tears coming out of my eyes. Depression. I don’t want to indulge it. But I lack energy or motivation to fight it either. This is not the first episode in my life, and no doubt it will not be the last. I know it is situational. I know it will pass. I know there are perfectly good reasons for it this time around.

Nonetheless, I really don’t have time to succumb to it right now. I don’t have the time to be unmotivated. I have to move in a few weeks. I still don’t know exactly where I’m moving , but I do know that I am moving. Preparations need to be made. Boxes assembled. Six years of accumulated crap packed away. My child needs security, consistency, comfort. His world is about to be turned upside down. His parents are stressed out. He knows this but doesn’t know why, and it is affecting him – his body and his behavior all show that our stress is affecting him.

This is not ok.

I need to snap out of it.

So, number one – I started out with a list of things I appreciate. All the good, the blessings, the joys. Things I have that I can feel grateful for, to remind myself how full my life is and how fortunate I am. This worked. Between writing out all the things I appreciate, plus a bit of a good talk and cry last night with John, I am feeling much more functional today. So here’s my “happy” list:

1. John – He loves me and wants to make me happy. He didn’t want to sell the house. He was perfectly happy to stay here forever, but he knows I wanted to move so he agreed because he wanted to make me happy, despite the stressful mess I feel like I’ve plunged us into.

2. Schmoopybaby –He is such a delight. He is talking now, it seems like every day he tries out at least one new word. Every time he says “Bye bye Mama” and blows me a kiss as I leave for work I have a smile on my face for a long time. He is so cute and affectionate, my heart could just explode.

3. My job – I really like my job. The work is really interesting and rewarding, and I work with a great group of guys (the only other woman is on detail in another department until her retirement in 2 months). I love the security and stability of my job, and the flexibility and family-friendly culture.

4. Health – At this time, I have no health complaints to speak of. My vitamin D deficiency is taken care of by supplementing with a daily vitamin. I am currently off all pharmaceuticals and have been since I gave birth (I was almost going to say since before I was pregnant, but I forgot about that little stint with PIH necessitating blood pressure medication throughout my pregnancy. whoops, how could I have almost forgotten that!?)

5. Family – My family is a little bit smaller than it was less than a month ago, but what we lack in quantity, we more than make up for in quality. I don’t always see eye to eye with my mother and sister (ok, almost never) but they are mine and I love them. They love me and have always been there for me and would do anything they could to help me if I needed it.

6. Financial Stability – As I mentioned above, my job is very stable and secure. We have a good quality of life, always enough to cover our bills plus eating out or getting takeout about twice a week. We are thrifty and are able to save, so we can afford to splurge on a ‘big’ purchase every now and then (typically electronics equipment, which John is a junkie for). We are moving by our own choice, we are not being forced out of our home like so many other less fortunate people in my city.

7. Opportunity – It is easy to fall into the trap of feeling like I am going from a stable, secure environment of owning a house to an unstable, insecure environment. House prices may go up, interest rates could go up - we may not be able to afford the house we want in 6 months. But this is also an opportunity. Now that we will not be encumbered by a mortgage, we could go anywhere! We could look for jobs in California and go back there, near my family and most of my close friends. We could go to the mountains of Colorado, to the east coast, to Canada, anywhere. Rather than getting overwhelmed with stress, why not choose to be overwhelmed with excitement?

That last point is particularly challenging for me, given my natural temperament. I crave stability, security, consistency, predictability. I live a boring 9-5 style life and that’s the way I like it. I don’t do drama. I don’t take big risks. I don’t like roller coasters or horror movies. I may live in the gambling capital of the country but I don’t gamble. I may very well be the most boring person on the planet and you know what? I’m ok with that.

But there I go digressing again. My point was to share something that helped get me out of a depressive funk. The next time one of you, my dear readers, get in a funk, perhaps you can remember this exercise. Hopefully it will help you too. Make a list of all the things you appreciate in life – choose to focus on the positive, what you have rather than what you have not. It actually works sometimes.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dear Universe: WTF?!

Is it just me, or does it feel like the universe is squatting over the planet, pulling apart enormous celestial butt cheeks, and taking a cosmic dump on us? I mean, seriously, 2010 has pretty much sucked @$$ since it started and it’s barely ¼ over! WTF?!

Let’s take an inventory, shall we? And lets count in 3s because sh!t always happens in 3s, right?

In the past 3 months, there have been 3 major earthquakes - one in Haiti, one in Chile, and one in Mexico.

In the past 3 months I have had 3 major losses - one child due to miscarriage, my father, and now my grandmother.

We have sold our house, and have made offers on 3 houses - one we realized was too expensive and we pulled out fairly quickly, one we were out-bid, and this last time (which absolutely kills me because this was THE house) the listing agent screwed up and, despite the fact that we had the first offer in, the seller likely never even saw our offer and accepted another offer the following day. So now we have about two weeks to move out and we currently have no place to go. Stress, anyone?

Tomorrow I am flying in to California for my grandmother's funeral, and I'm leaving John with Schmoopybaby at night for the first time ever. John is in no condition to deal with any of this on his own.

I cannot wait for 2010 to end. Better yet, can we please go back in time to January 1 and just start over from scratch? I need a do over.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Too Thin?

This post is participating in the Body Image Carnival being hosted by Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! and MamanADroit who will be posting articles on themes pertaining to body image all week! Make sure you check out their blogs everyday between April 12-18 for links to other participants' posts as well as product reviews, a giveaway, and some links to research, information and resources pertaining to body image.

I am a naturally skinny woman, daughter of a naturally skinny mother, and mother of an apparently naturally skinny toddler.

So what? Is that a problem? Isn’t that the ideal? Well yes, and no. Yes for the obvious reasons. I have never known outright societal discrimination. I have never been called hurtful insulting names. I cannot begin to imagine how hard it is to be a person of size in this culture.

No for the following:

Being thin is considered an asset. Being skinny is not necessarily. And certainly not when you are the skinny mother of a skinny child. Being skinny puts you at risk of eating disorder/mental disorder stigma. Being skinny with a skinny toddler puts you at risk of whispers, “That woman has an eating disorder and body issues and she’s pushing her neurosis onto her child.”

A little background…My mother grew up during the post WW2 1950s, in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in which there were so many holocaust survivors, my mother grew up thinking that all old people got tattoos on their arms as a matter of course. My mother was chastised regularly by my grandmother that she was so skinny, she looked like she just got out of a concentration camp. Add the fact that the ideal of feminine beauty at that time was the curvaceous, decidedly non-skinny Marilyn Monroe, and it is safe to say my mother had body image issues growing up. Body image issues she did not want to pass down to me. So she never said a word to me about my weight. If I wanted to eat nothing but fruit and cottage cheese for lunch, that was fine by her. I knew I was thin, but by the time I was growing up, thin was “in”. I was lucky I could eat whatever I wanted and not gain a pound. That is, I was lucky until I started being accused of having an eating disorder. When I was 18, I got my first position dancing with a professional ballet company. I shared an apartment with another young dancer who in fact did struggle with anorexia (among other things). People would ask her if I ate, what I ate, and if I kept down what I ate. They didn’t know that every night when we got home, she would lock herself in her room and chain smoke while I cooked and ate dinner, coming out only after I was finished cleaning my dishes.

Fast forward over a decade later, my ballet dancing days long passed, I am still thin thanks to the high metabolism I inherited from my mother. Oh dear, what that high metabolism did to me while pregnant! It totally went into overdrive. Some days I couldn’t go more than a half hour without putting something into my stomach, lest I become painfully, violently ill. I was actually looking forward to keeping about 5 pounds of baby weight on. I wanted my figure to look more womanly and less 12 year old boyish. I was thrilled when breastfeeding caused my breasts to swell large enough to require something more than a training bra (although I have been known to, ehem, indulge in a bit of padding now and again, pre-kiddo of course. What? It helps to fill out clothes, which are designed for women who look like women and not boys, you understand). However, breastfeeding also helped every pound I had gained disappear quickly. By the time my 3 months of maternity leave ended, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight. Within the next few months I was 10 pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight, where I maintained for over a year. I was so concerned about the weight loss, I went to my doctor to have my thyroid tested. Turns out my thyroid is fine. Everything is fine. I just have small bones and a high metabolism, just like my mother, and my body was (and still is, although to a much lesser extent) burning extra calories creating milk.

I will admit, when it comes to my son I have much more fear and insecurity than I ever had about my own size. Although self conscious about my ribs prominently stickling out, in my dancing days I was vain about my shapely legs and derrière. Plus, as we all know, in general women are rewarded in our society for being thin. Men and boys, on the other hand, are generally not. Skinny boys are called “weak” or “sissy” and are considered easy targets for bullies.

I think I’ve done a good job at nurturing my son’s taste for nutritious food so far. A little too good a job I fear sometimes. I blame it on the daily spinach and kale salads, and daily gallon of super greens I consumed while pregnant. If my little guy is offered a plate with macaroni and cheese with carrots and peas on the side, he might taste a noodle before proceeding to finish off all the carrots and peas. Grilled cheese sandwiches have been tossed on the floor in favor of sliced cucumber and apple. Thank goodness he likes nuts and doesn’t have allergies; otherwise I don’t know how I would get any fat into that kid!

From a nutritional standpoint, this is good (if not somewhat unusual, what toddler doesn’t like mac n’ cheese?!) This might be fabulous were it not for one thing – the nagging worry constantly pulling at me that he is too skinny. I see his ribs standing out clearly and my stomach turns. At every visit to the pediatrician, I wait with anxiety as his weight is compared against other children his age and his percentile read to me. Lowest tenth percentile.

I fear what would happen if his weight would drop even lower on the scale. I fear the words “Failure to thrive.” What would happen? Would they call Child Protective Services and accuse me of starving my child? Of failing to meet my child’s most basic physical needs? And what would I say if that happened?

Can you just imagine me crying, “I try feeding him buttery mashed potatoes and whole milk yogurt! But all he’ll eat is raw vegetables and fruits!”

It sounds ridiculous. I know. Especially coming from me, his skinny mother, who loved snacking on celery as a kid and whose favorite lunch growing up consisted of canned peaches and cottage cheese.

For a lifetime of good health, I think some key things I can do for my child is to encourage both healthy eating habits and a healthy body image. So, I know I need to let go of my too-skinny body hang-ups. My pediatrician is not worried about my son’s weight, as he has consistently gained proportionally since birth, so I shouldn’t worry either. I am starting to relax more when I see my toddler fill up at dinner time on raw sugar snap peas, baby carrots and grapes, pushing away the avocado and hummus wrap or throwing the stir fry as far away from him as his little arms can throw it. I am learning to take a deep breath and try to trust that he knows what his body needs, just as my mother trusted that I knew what my body needed. And when I see his little ribs under his skin, I need only look in the mirror to remind myself that a person can be skinny, healthy, and undeprived all at once.

Friday, April 9, 2010

This is how I know I’m getting old

A young woman came into my office today and met with my manager along with several of us to learn about the kinds of work we do and inquire about any potential entry level and student positions that might be available. She is about to finish her bachelor’s degree and has already applied for graduate school in the area. She had limited time because she was also here for a school engineering competition down at Lake Mead. She came into our office wearing short shorts and flip flops.

Seriously? You’re here at a government office to inquire about potential employment as a civil engineer and you show up in shorts and flip flops?

Is it just me? Have I become such a conservative fuddy-duddy that I frown upon people showing up in beachwear asking for a job? I mean, for crying out loud, she was on her way to the lake to participate in a concrete canoe race – shouldn’t I cut her some slack?

In the plus column – she clearly has initiative. She scheduled ahead of time and made a point to come to the office even though her teammates were waiting impatiently (as I assume from the texts going back and forth towards the end of her visit). She’s got enough drive and discipline to aim for a master’s degree, which most civil engineers don’t require to get decent work. I like initiative. It tells me that she wouldn’t sit around the office all day waiting for someone to hand her something to do, but would go out and find a way to be productive.

But showing up in beachwear shows poor judgment, in my humble opinion. We actually have quite a bit of interaction with stakeholders in this office. We need people who are going to represent the organization well. If someone represents him/herself in beachwear when asking for a job, I think it does throw into question how the individual would represent him/herself and the organization to stakeholders.

I’m not saying she should have showed up in a formal suit or anything. I think that would have been a bit much, I mean this was not even an interview – just an informal meeting and request for information. But I do think jeans and sneakers at a minimum would have been more appropriate. She could have changed into her shorts and flip flops in the bathroom just before she left for the lake.

Am I being too judgmental? Am I really just an unbelievable conservative fuddy-duddy when it comes to office matters because I think one should try to appear “professional” when dealing with prospective employers? Am I too old school? Am I just getting old?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

One more thing I may not have mentioned

We're selling our house! As of April 30 we will officially be homeless. We're looking at houses this Saturday. Cross your fingers we find something!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

In Memorial - Sam "Schmulic" Goffman

This is my dad at my wedding, which is the last time I saw him healthy. The following week he got the biopsy that confirmed his cancer diagnosis.

This is my dad 6 years later with his grandson, the last time they got to visit with each other.

He went peacefully at the hospital on March 28, 2010, surrounded by his wife and two daughters. This is the eulogy I wrote and recited at his funeral. (Yes, I stole one paragraph from a previous blog post ;)
Thank you to everyone for coming today. My dad would be so touched to see so many people here, coming to say goodbye. I think he would say, if he saw all of here, "You like me! You really like me!"

My father had many sides to his personality.

He was a trooper and a fighter. My father had a lot of health challenges these past years. Serious, life threatening health challenges. Nonetheless, he viewed most them as minor inconveniences. "I'm gonna outlive half these doctors!" was a common refrain around his house.

He really loved nature, and was the first environmentalist I ever knew. He taught me that the earth was special, that nature could be magical. He held a spiritual connection to nature, which he managed to pass on to me. When my dad picked up bonsai as a hobby, he told me about a Shinto belief that spirits would find beautiful places in nature to reside. It was his goal to create a bonsai tree so beautiful that a Shinto spirit would honor and bless him by making one of my fatherís trees its home. He seemed most at peace outside, planting and tending to flowers, concentrating on trimming his bonsai just right.

Sometimes, after spending a few hours outside working, he would then come inside with the family, and proceed to tell fart jokes... at the dinner table. My father was definitely not one to put on airs, even (or especially) when there was food involved. And he was certainly not one to give up an opportunity for a laugh.

He loved tradition and ritual. Fiercely proud of his own religious heritage, he still saw beauty in the rituals of other faiths. Growing up going to a Catholic school in Shanghai, he was told he would make a fabulous priest, and was a little miffed that they wouldn't let him be the only Jewish alter boy.

Most of all he loved family. His favorite times were when he had his family around him. He was so delighted to become a grandfather almost 2 years ago. He wrote me an email a few months after Justin was born that I kept. I would have liked to quote it exactly, but it is on my computer at home in Las Vegas, and I haven't seen it in a while. I do remember that he wrote "The fact that he is here means I was here, and that gives me such comfort and happiness. I sleep better at night just knowing he is alive." The last time I was out visiting about a month ago, I got a few cute pictures of my dad with his grandson. When I first got in to town on Friday and visited him at the hospital, he held those pictures and smiled. I think that is one of the last things he was conscious of remembering - his wife and daughters by his side, pictures of him and his grandson smiling.
Good bye, Dad. I love you. You will live forever in my heart and mind's eye.