Thursday, February 23, 2012

Portraits! Portraits! Portraits! Squee!

I took the kiddos for their first professional portrait session! (Thank you, Groupon!) Here are some of my favorites.

This one I got a couple of 10 x 13 prints for the grandparents.

The package came with one collage. I rather like this, and had a hard time deciding whether to get the large prints of the one above or the one on the bottom right.

I die of cute for the following. I have a big bruise on my forehead for all the times my head went THUD as I passed out from cute attack. :)

THUD - Ow, there I go again.

More of my beautiful boy

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

His Mother's Child

SchmoopyBoy was recently moved up into a new classroom at his preschool. He is now in the room with the older children – 3 1/2 to 4, with a few as old as 5 if they’ve had a birthday during the school year. It is a slightly more structured preschool environment as compared to the room with the 2-3 year olds. He was promoted along with his best friend, a vivacious, outgoing, gorgeous little girl who I’ll call Leah (not her real name), which is helping to ease the transition.

Last Tuesday the school had a special Friendship Day event. All the parents were invited to join the classes for snack time. It was the first time since his promotion that I’ve been there. It was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to see him in action, per se, in the new environment. He is slowly adjusting. Very slowly. Big kids intimidate him a little. Groups of big kids that all know each other intimidate him a lot. The only child he wants to play with is Leah.

There are a lot more girls in this class than their previous class. Lots of little girls at the same level as Leah. She is, of course attracted to them and is starting to branch out and increase her circle of friends. SchmoopyBoy wants to play with her only. He wants her to play with him only. When she plays with another girl he feels rejected and lonely.

I don’t know how to help him branch out and become friends with other children in the class. Whenever I suggest it he tells me he only wants to play with Leah. I asked the teacher what I can do to help and encourage him, and she told me he just needs to find his way. I mentioned that he has told me that the bigger kids scare him. She pointed out that there are other children his age and size, but they have a “different energy” than SchmoopyBoy. They are extroverts, they are doers. SchmoopyBoy holds back. He observes. He wants to check out the scene and feel comfortable before he ventures out. He prefers one on one interactions with a few special friends to large groups.

What's important to note here is that everything I have written above describing SchmoopyBoy might as well have been written about myself at his age.

As I was observing the scene, something was triggered inside me. I don’t know if I was transported back to my own preschool days and was reliving my own social anxieties through my child, but I was overcome with emotion. I cried the entire drive home and then some.

I don’t want him to be like me. I don’t want him to have my social anxieties, my insecurities. I don't want him to know the loneliness of self-imposed isolation.

Of course I initially fell into the mother-blame trap. Perhaps if I did something different he would be more comfortable and confident in new social environments. But then, I am his mother for crying out loud, genetics have got to account for something, is it really so surprising that he is so like I was at the age of three?

I was talking to a very old and dear friend on the phone over the weekend and telling her about how I was feeling. She said to me, Yes, if he is like you he may not have so very many friends. But look at the friends you do have. Once you make a friend, it is a friend for life. Your friends love you, would do anything for you. Would it really be so bad if he is like you after all?

Go figure, just as I am feeling so low about myself and what I have imposed on my offspring by nature or nurture, my oldest and dearest friend tells me just what I need to hear.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Preschool Crafts - Bugs!

"I am an artist" SchmoopyBoy tells me. Indeed. We literally have bags full of sheets of paper and posterboard with his drawings, paintings, and miscellaneous crafts that he has brought home from preschool. I finally figured out what to do with all of this artwork - recycle it into craft supplies for home crafts! Here are a couple things SchmoopyBoy has made recently.

Butterfly Valentine

This is what we made to give to Daddy for Valentine's Day. I got the idea here, and just adapted it to the supplies I had on hand. SchmoopyBoy picked out the color of tissue paper he wanted for the body, as well as which of his paintings from school he wanted to use for the wings. I created a heart shaped template from an empty cereal box. At first I had him draw the face with a sharpie, but then I remembered we had googly eyes and offered those. What 3 year old can resist googly eyes? I think they add a fun touch. I wrote a valentine message ("You make my heart flutter", in case you can't read it) and SchmoopyBoy added his own message (on the right it says "I love my butterfly" and on the left it says "Happy Valentines Day" in case you were wondering). It was a big hit.

"Three-Eye'd Butterfly-Bee" Box

This does not look the way I had originally envisioned it. I found this craft here (scroll down to the Cereal Box Valentine Card Holder Craft). I had intended it to look more like the original pictured. But SchmoopyBoy is "an artist" and far be it for me to stand between an artist and his vision. I picked out a smaller box and figured he could put toys or knick knacks in it. At first SchmoopyBoy said he wanted it to be a bee. He found a school craft that was a piece of orange construction paper covered in glitter and chose that as the body and head. When we were looking for another sheet to use for wings we found another piece of orange construction paper, this time covered with stickers. He insisted the wings be square and I commented on how the wings make it look kind of like a butterfly. He agreed and declared his creation a Butterfly-Bee. Eyes - there had to be three. Had to. Then, two arms and two legs. Of course.

I love how he took ownership of this craft and made it his own true creation. I tell you, I wish I had a fraction of the imagination of this kid. I was the kid who always was trying to make my stuff look "right". SchmoopyBoy currently doesn't have such boundaries on his creativity. I hope I can nurture this as he gets older.

Fun, easy to do, easy to clean up - my kind of crafts.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Gratuitous Fluffy Post about Nonsense

I hadn't bought new shoes in over two years. For real. My nice work shoes were looking... well, not so nice. So, I'm so excited about these I had to post a picture.

Oooooh, shiny.

I felt so snazzy I even put on lipstick when I left the house.

sigh, I am such a girl sometimes. If this keeps up I could lose my crunchy street cred.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Gratitude Post - 2/6/2012

I’m in kind of a bad head space at the moment, so I need to remind myself of the many things I have to be grateful for. Here are this week’s top 5 things for which I am grateful:

1. Baby smiles and giggles – no explanation needed, I think.

2. Food blogs – I get so many fantastic recipes from food blogs. Whenever I need a new idea for dinner or baking all I need to do is search online.

3. Cardboard moving boxes that we never threw out – Sometimes holding on to clutter is a good thing. These are simply the best toys for imaginative play. Currently there are two boxes in my bedroom that make up SchmoopyBoy’s dinosaur train. Hours and hours of entertainment.

4. Non-toxic nail polish – SchmoopyBoy has been into my nail polish for quite some time. I found some non-toxic nail polish marketed for children that don’t have a lot of the icky chemicals and doesn’t stink horrendously and bought some as a holiday gift back in December. One of the few gifts that still gets his attention, and I am much more comfortable with him using these.

5. My Maya Wrap ring sling – My favorite of my three ring slings, this ensures that I can go anywhere and Lil’ Schmoo can get a decent nap.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Defining Womanhood

Be honest: are you consciously writing your own definition for womanhood, or are you using a definition that was written for you? And what tangible item most defines what you do or don’t want to become? ~Melissa Ford

This post has taken me over a week to finish because, you know, time and sleep-deprivation-induced brain power are limited these days, but nonetheless I thought it was still worth posting once I finally completed it.

Mel at Stirrup Queens wrote this fantastic article about who defines womanhood in the context of reviewing the movie The Iron Lady. The Iron Lady is about Margaret Thatcher (hmm, this is the second time Margaret Thatcher has come up in a post that fascinated me in a week, is the universe trying to tell me something?)

A few paragraphs worth quoting:
At its heart, the movie is dually about men’s inability to separate women from the adjectives they use to describe women, and the fact that WOMEN can’t separate themselves from the adjectives others use to describe women. That we allow others to define what it means to be a woman, and we go by a long-established, patriarchal definition for womanhood. Yes, we are sometimes conscious of that fact and rail against it, but just as often, men still have expectations and assumptions (popular ones: all women want children, women want to get married, women know nothing about sports) that they then tweak when they get to know the actual person, and women question themselves (even if it’s just in passing) if they don’t fit into these preconceived notions about women.

...all will walk out of theater wondering if... we are allowing the traditional definition of womanhood to guide our decisions, or if we are eschewing the expectations the world has for women and making our own choices. Are we marrying because we want to or because it’s the next logical step? Same with family building? Same with career choices? Margaret Thatcher is just the receptacle for holding all these enormous ideas.

And moreover, when we write the definition for ourselves and state emphatically in our hearts what we do or don’t want to become, are we staying strong and following our dreams, or are we being sidetracked by self-doubt when others voice their opinions on our choices? How can we tune out the judgment; which when we boil down judgment to its essence is simply other people trying to define our lives for us, to write the dictionary of our selves.

I am a mother. Furthermore, I am a crunchy, attachment-parenting-leaning type mother. I am also the primary income earner in my family, and I work in a male dominated field. As such, I am constantly negotiating and renegotiating gender roles and expectations. My own expectations, my parter's expectations, my co-workers expectations, even my own mother's expectations. These expectations are based on traditional definitions of womanhood and the role of women in the domestic sphere.

My negotiations have not always been pretty. What I'm about to admit will probably piss off everyone - stay-at-home moms and hard core feminists equally. But, it does illustrate the conflict I've struggled with along my journey.

When I was pregnant with SchmoopyBoy, my mother told me with great certainty that I would be quitting my job to stay at home with my child because I "wouldn't want some stranger" to raise my child. Of course the idea that my husband, my child's other parent could possibly stay at home wasn't an option even considered because of her preconceived notions of the male gender role as bread-winners and bumbling incompetents with babies. At the time, rather than engage her in dialogue, I reacted angrily and sputtered that there was no way I was going to give up my education and career to be "some man's scullery maid". Yep, that's right people. Not my proudest moment. How many -isms are implied in that statement? I don't even want to go there now. I am so ashamed I ever used that comparison.

My world got turned upside down once SchmoopyBoy was born. I cried every day for two weeks before my maternity leave ended and it was time to leave my baby and return to the office. Once I returned to work, I judged SchmoopyBoy's development. Every time I observed something that didn't meet with my pre-determined (and completely cluelessly unrealistic) expectations, I blamed my husband. Clearly, I thought, if I were the one at home full time everything about my child would be perfectly in tune with what the books said should happen. After all, I am the mother, no one could possibly know how to do things better than me. When SchmoopyBoy's sleep habits fell apart at about 4 months of age (which is completely normal and common by the way - they don't call it the 4-month wakeful period/ 4-month sleep regression for nothing) I once angrily blurted out "Why don't you be a real man and get a real job so I can stay with him". Yep, that's right people. Another not-so-proud moment.

Traditional definition of (white middle class) womanhood - FAIL.

Feminist definition of (white middle class) womanhood - FAIL.

When it comes to black and white definitions of womanhood, I fail. I end up bouncing back and forth between extremes like a ping pong ball being swatted across a table in a game of Gender Role Dichotomy Table Tennis. I cannot and would not be willing to live like a 1950's housewife, taking 100% of the child care responsibilities and cleaning up after my husband as he lazily sips a frosty beverage at the end of his oh-so-hard-boo-hoo-for-you day. Nor can I be a female version of a 1950's father going off to work and coming home expecting my house to be neat and dinner prepared by my husband who would then of course taken on the role of 1950's househusband. While I do think that redefining manhood is a necessary component in redefining womanhood, trading traditional gender roles is not redefining womanhood or manhood, and is not my idea of what feminism is about.

Defining womanhood for me has involved embracing a traditional definition as nurturing mother, because to some extent I find that role with my children to be very natural. But it also has embraced non-traditional definitions because I find that I am indeed ambitious when it comes to my career, and I find tremendous satisfaction and experience greater mental health and self worth in the professional realm. I do struggle with balancing the domestic and professional aspects of my life, and frequently beat myself up for not performing either role to the best extent that I believe I can and should, but finding balance in life is rarely easy for anyone. So, to answer Mel's question, which I printed at the top of this post, I am creating a definition of womanhood that draws from definitions that have been previously written. That definition continues to evolve as I travel this life's journey.