I Always Feel Like... Somebody's Watching Me!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Cleaning Conspiracy

 I always find clipping coupons to be very satisfying. While I may use only a few and probably waste more time than the $1.00 off warrants... it is somewhat of a ritual. I also spend that time laughing at the insanely cheesy "gift" advertisements that are thrown in with the coupons. Steelers Christmas ornaments in July, real-as-life baby dolls (I do NOT want to think about who is buying those), weight-loss pills and full-body cleaning aprons.

 Which leads me to these pictures... I am certain that no person, especially a mother, approaches cleaning her house with this kind of zest. Gregory and I just spent the entire day on Tuesday trying to dust/ pick up the first floor because we were having our first dinner guests. And the house was disgusting. Toys everywhere, nestled among dust bunnies, dirty laundry, Easter candy and cat fur. Cleaning in itself used to have some sort of satisfaction. That is no longer true with kids involved. They are magnetically drawn to the exact spot that was just wiped clean. It took us all day because along with cleaning up the grime of every day life... we were still picking up the seemingly ongoing spills and trails left behind the kids.

So why would any cleaning company think that these kinds of advertisements are going to work? They just make me angry and confused. Is it an attempt at brain-washing? Look at that Mom... she LOVES cleaning with her kids right by her side....don't YOU? A conspiracy, I tell you...

Is it necessary for this kid to be aiming the hose at his mother's face?
"Get your effing hands OFF the window I am cleaning!"

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Toilet Cat

 Her name is Dragonski and the bathroom is her domain. Mostly anyone who uses the bathroom in our home has to suffer the indecency of Dragonski waiting next to the toilet impatiently or trying to bust through the door.

 Our bathroom here is much smaller than the bathroom in our house. Mostly because the bathroom in our rental house is a normal size as opposed to grand ballroom size. So.... Dragonski's lair has downgraded a bit. She isn't hanging out in the bathroom all day anymore, but she certainly still busts into the door as soon as she hears the hint of a flush or even if I'm just washing my face.

  And before you think we are gross - letting our cat chill in the toilet - it is cleaned almost every day and really, I think she just likes to splash. She splashes violently and then might lick her paw. Very dainty. Our beautiful toilet dweller.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Genes Count for Something

  The month of April is always a difficult one for me. It has nothing to do with taxes or the neverending winter. Not to be a downer, but I spend the first half of the month dreading the anniversary of my father's death and then the second half of the month in disbelief that another year has passed.

  Here I am, 30 years old and it has already been thirteen years since he died. Nearly half of my life. I was an annoying, self-involved teenager the last time I saw him - what a strange thought to have as I am now transformed into a "responsible" wife and mother to three children. Would he even recognize me? Am I even the same person? It is downright weird.

  It goes without saying that I often feel the absence of a father in my life. It's the singularity of the relationship that makes it the hardest. Most of us only get to experience that father/daughter relationship once in our lives; even in the case of remarriage and step-parents. Even if another man had stepped into my life, trying to fulfill that role, I wouldn't want it. It is fleeting and seems insincere to try and replicate it. I had more years with my father than some have, but also many less years than others.

  What I mourn is the personal loss, the loss of stories that are no longer told. I won't pretend that everything would have been rosier and perfect if my father was still alive; but I'd still have my father. He would still be recommending what movies I should watch (the classics! Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Little Shop of Horrors, Pulp Fiction) and critiquing their remakes. He would weigh in on our home improvement projects. I would have another perspective on my childhood and his piece in making my random quirks make sense.

  I told him once in high school about a nightmare I'd had. I was trying to walk down the alley beside my house in Sewickley, but I couldn't get my grip on the gravel and seemed to be running in place. There was a huge storm looming in the sky, closing in on me. My dad then told me that it must have been a lingering subconscious memory. There had been a time when I was a baby, that he was walking with me and my mother, that we had been walking down that same alley and a thunderstorm was beginning. The loud sounds and lightning had scared me then and apparently surfaced again in a dream about sixteen years later. Of course my mother probably has that same memory, but everyone's rememberance of that past is different - and I miss that I don't get to hear his perspective now.

 His genetic influence on me still pops up in unexplainable ways. Being a weirdo, I always like to take pictures of my feet when I go on vacation. Looking through our honeymoon pictures, there are at least ten shots of my feet on the boat, in the Panama Canal, covered with sand in Acapulco.

  I honestly thought this was just something funny to do... and then I found this picture of my father's feet in an old album. I don't remember seeing it before, and it may just be a coincidence; but I don't know that many people who enjoy photographing their own feet. 

Like father, like daughter? I don't know. In many ways that is NOT true, but his genes are a part of me whether I realize where it surfaces or not.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Boys will be Boys

Boys can wear dresses too.

 Boys will be boys. Girls will be girls. Saying that "boys will be boys" and "girls will be girls" is often an excuse for bad behavior. Think about it - when I stress that Jackson is a year older than Ayla was when she was potty trained, most women are quick to say that "boys will be boys" as a viable reason. What? Boys are somehow expected to poop in their pants longer than girls? (Ha ha, that might be true!) But even at the tender age of three, boys are already given a pass that is not as excusable for girls? When I discuss the level of drama, backtalk and mood swings that I encounter with Ayla, here comes the response faster than a toddler temper tantrum; "girls will be girls". Why? Because girls are naturally unreasonable?

 How about people will be people? Doesn't have the same ring to it.

 But I prefer to think of my children in that light... as people. Not merely a girly girl and rough and tumbly boys. I am not mapping out their personalities based on a prescribed agenda that girls and boys must follow separately. They are individual human beings, products of both nature and nurture, that I can help develop from small, helpless babies into mature adults. Help, not control. I want them to explore every aspect of life, not be confined to what is acceptable within their gender.

We as a human race have a problem with this. With gender roles, expectations and extreme efforts to mold children into Extreme males and females. I remember watching a video in a college psychology class about how adults treated the same baby very differently when told that the baby was a girl and then a boy. The adults coddled the girl, told her she was pretty and spent time preening "her". With the same baby, now believed to be a boy, the same adults put "him" on the floor, encouraged "him" to explore and let the baby get into more dangerous situations.

The video was from the 1950's, one could say that we have evolved since then. In some respects, we have. Title IX gave equal funding to women's sports in educational settings: ending the unfair assumption that girls should be given less money in the realm of tough, physical, competitive play. In some circles, a man can stake his claim as a "stay-at-home-dad" and get genuine street cred. Even the change in Disney movies has depicted the overall shift in gender neutrality; from helpless, cleaning-obsessed Snow White (1937) to empowered, strong, brave Rapunzel (2010). Women have the ability to save themselves - and men can still love them for it.

 I've written about this before, and I could go on for pages now. But what brought this up, yet, again, was an article shared by a friend of mine. A person who would rather not be confined to any specific label. You can follow their blog and thoughts here.

 The recent upsurge in gender obsession was caused by a J. Crew email that was sent out, showing the creative director's son with long, blond curly hair and pink nail polish. Can you see where I'm going with this? It literally could have been a picture of my Jackson. Only instead of me painting his little toenails - (twist!) - it is his father. This article discusses the backlash from so-called accredited news pundits.

 The article does a great job debunking Dr. Ablow's criticisms. I don't care about his degrees and success (a book with Glenn Beck? success?), his opinion on this matter is simply moronic. His criticisms of a mother engaging with her son are absurd. He seems to allude that she and J. Crew have an "agenda". I guarantee that this mother did NOT force her son to put on pink nail polish. News flash!: you pretty much cannot force toddlers to do anything that you want them to do. Should the mother instead be arm-wrestling her son into watching WWE and throwing a football in his face? Maybe that's exactly what they did after painting nails.... we can't assume that they didn't. But what the picture does depict is a bonding moment between a mother and child. It is sickening that a man who knows nothing about the individuals is trying to turn it into a social debate.

 Another point in which he (and a lot of people) are entirely confused is with the use of colors and their gender-appropriateness. I read a fantastic article in Mothering magazine about the historical and social contexts of color. Of course I can't find it now - but it discussed how recent our obsession with dressing only girls in pink and boys in blue was quite the opposite 100 years ago. Pink was a royal color reserved for boys and blue was the choice for baby girl clothes. So, any assumptions that a boy in pink will somehow turn out "wrong" or gay or confused is ludicrous. WE have made these claims about color and gender-specific behavior in the current culture - should we expect that each and every individual child will adhere to that?

 In my house, we couldn't care less about what girls and boys are supposed to be. Jackson has an older sister, which dictates a lot of the current activities. Am I concerned that Ayla dresses him up in tutus and they perform Swan Lake? Hell no. I couldn't be happier, especially if that is the one activity that keeps them from fighting. As for the pink toenails in this house - Gregory painted his nails (1) because Ayla did it first and (2) it kept him sitting on the potty long enough to actually use it! If that is a parenting fail, so be it. I hope Jackson is always secure enough to want pink toenails.

  Jackson's long hair is staying long, even though he is called a girl at least once a day. Elliot is going to wear pink pajamas because I already have them (and he is so beautiful in a pinkish hue). Ayla will continue to watch Star Wars and other "boy" movies. Are they any less physically boy or girl because of those desires? Am I damaging their future abilities to navigate the world?

 Children, and people in general, need love and acceptance above anything else. We are raising our babies in the hopes that they will be strong, confident, real people. Not a girl who doubts her interest in science or airplanes or sports. And certainly not boys who can't show their "feminine" side.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

New City, New Zoo

Yep, that's what we did over the weekend. It was one of the first really pleasant days we've experienced here in Buffalo AND it coincided with Gregory's day off. Amazing.

It is a short drive to the zoo - which is going to be a lifesaver this summer. We purchased the season pass and I have a feeling that I will spend many hours roaming the zoo with the kids as an attempt to keep us from murdering each other without school as an outlet!

As for first impressions, the Buffalo zoo did not fail to make a statement...

 We walked into the admission gate, turned the corner and voila!: mating season. Apparently we are all perverts and a huge crowd was standing and watching these poor bears. Ayla and Jackson didn't ask questions - so it must have gone over their heads. The rest of our trip was PG, so you can read on without worry.
Carrying 21 pounds of Elliot goodness!

A smile! Inside the tropical rainforest

Silly faces.

The new baby gorilla - so cute it hurts. We were lucky to see him this day because the gorillas have been split up recently. The baby's aunt keeps stealing it from the momma!
The playful otters.

Friday, April 8, 2011

I don't like it, I just don't like it!

 Instead of discussing the bigger issues going on today with our government, I feel like complaining about other things. Of course I could write a long post about the sad state of politics and how out of touch our representatives are with real people, and conversely, how out of touch we are with how our government works (let's be honest - a lot of people don't vote or have a freaking clue what the constitution really says). I want to write instead about the prevailing personality traits and behaviors that cause situations like this and other yucky stuff in our lives.

1. Self-absorption. (Says the person posting a blog about her life on the internet). We are all narcissists in some way or another; but some people just take it too far. I live with three major narcissists right now: but I will give them through elementary school to grow out of that. Adults that behave as if they are the first to discover religion, parenthood, wealth, sickness, etc. really get on my nerves. They don't see themselves as a person passing through a particular part of the lifecycle; they are everything at that moment. How do you know if someone is self-absorbed? They talk incessantly about whatever ailments or revelations they recently encountered and act as if it is world-encompassing. They also never ask YOU how YOU are feeling. We are all moving through life, at one stage or another, and shouldn't pretend like we are the only thing that matters.

2. People that talk for others. Instead of saying, "I feel...", they always have to make it into, "We feel...". Families do it, political parties do it, churches do it, parents do it. They make generalizations about how their particular group should feel about issues, and refuse to believe that the world has changed. It doesn't matter how your family or group or church did things 10 years ago, new members have joined, the world has evolved - so now it's your turn to move on too! I know it can be lonely to feel as if no one understands you or that you might be alone in your feelings - but that's life. Speaking for others, and trying to rally everyone behind you when it's not genuine just causes problems.

3. Lack of empathy. This also means to me a lack of understanding or compromise. Good God! If we could only realize for a minute that the person on the other side of the "fence" is not evil, that not every situation is black or white, we could actually speak to each other.

4. Men that talk with disdain for their wives/families. Of course this ties into the greater issue of lack of respect for women. (Okay, women do this as well....I hate snide ladies room remarks about men-hating, it's stupid too!) Need I say more than strip clubs near elementary schools?

 But one of the most grating comments a man can say about his wife... reference to the "honey-do" list. oh SHUT UP! The "honey-do" list is supposedly what a woman asks her man to complete on the weekends or his time off from work. Such annoying tasks as fixing items in their home, spending time with their kids alone, making collective decisions together. There is nothing honey-do about it - just because she is asking you to keep up with your life that she supports too, doesn't mean you have the right to complain about it. It's an annoying catch phrase to accompany an annoying sentiment. Your wife is not trying to bother you, she is trying to get you to take care of your shit. (FYI: This is not a veiled complaint about Gregory - he is quite the opposite of this type of husband. But then again, he's a rarity.)

 So, those are the things that really bother me. Or at least a few of them.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Who needs toys?

 Along with her numerous developments in preschool (recognizing letters, counting more and more, Lego-building skills, taking turns, dressing one self proficiently) - Ayla's drawing has gone from mere circles and blobs to people and storytelling. At least for me, her devoted parent.

She clearly loves to draw, whether it is at the table with markers or on the computer. The girl gets up early every morning and quietly goes to her "drawing table" and creates mounds and mounds of art. I went through the pile of papers tonight and sadly (since I don't want to become a hoarder) I threw most of it in our recycling pile.

But here are a few for posterity. I think they are beautiful.

The range of emotions!
Clearly, we have been watching a lot of "Tangled" recently.
A princess having dreams?
Perhaps Swan Lake... we like ballet around here.
This one is my favorite. It looks like a Mommy swinging her baby around, joyously.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

There's one in every town

I'm sure there is actually more than one in every town. There could be thousands. But there is usually one that is more vocal than the rest. I'm referring to the crazy zealot in your town/borough/block. The one who loves to make a political comment about everything, spout about the how "the gays" are ruining his rose bushes and complain that the Republicans are the reason s/he can't get a job at Target. You know the one. They know more about everything than everyone else on the planet: except they don't and they are super annoying. Yet, they always find the perfect way to spread either their hatred or illogical thoughts.

Who would give a platform to such a person? Week after week? Your local newspaper, of course. The resident crazy person loves nothing more than to write letters to the editor because they often are published on those last pages where space needs to be filled. I'm hoping that is the main reason - as it is scary to think someone thinks they are making valid points.

Living back in Leetsdale, we received a free copy of the Sewickley Herald every week. My favorite section was the police blotter, which I've talked about before. But I could always count on the same guy to make racist, outdated, politically-fueled rants in the opinion section. Whatever he wrote was always mean, judgmental and basically unnecessary. I get the feeling that people in his life told him to shut up years ago and the only thing that would listen was his letters to the editor.

 Case in point: the same week that there was a tragic death of our neighbor (I don't want to post his name although most of you in Sewickley will know who I'm referring to). He was in his early twenties and died in his sleep. This crotchety opinion-giver had just written a nasty letter in the paper, claiming that anyone who didn't have health insurance was basically a degenerate. I think it tapered off into some weird blame put on people who have HIV. Anyways, the next week, the aunt of the young man who had died of a heart condition wrote an awesome rebuttal to this a-hole. Our neighbor, being a recent college graduate without a job that offered health insurance, was NOT a loser and his aunt really stood up for him. It was beautiful writing and really put this guy in his place. She basically told him to stuff it and keep his stupid opinions to himself.

 Did it stop him? Not in the least.

 I don't think the newspaper should refuse any letters from the public, but it gets to the point of indulgence. These nerds get off on the public forum and I'm sure feel vindicated that their words are in print for the entire town to read. Even if the entire town reads it and thinks to themselves, "What an ass."

 Our new small town of Lancaster is no different. I pick up the free copy of  the Lancaster Source at our library every once in awhile. I finally found my local crazy person! His name is Jeff and he had THREE comments in the "Steam" section a few weeks ago. Yes, three, and each was better than the last. I'm sure he won't mind if I quote some of his most poignant points.

 About funeral homes: "You know when you die, apparently it costs $5,000 - $6,000 for the funeral...? It seems no matter where you drive... the funeral homes have two names on them.... get rid of all these names."

Jeff is really mad about business partnerships.

About Japan: "... the tsunamis are supposed to head towards the U.S. I don't have the television on, if they already hit, they hit, I don't know.... The mad scientists, they know what's going on. It's like a clock.... (he goes on to explain what a clock looks like) If you turn the clock where 4 is on top and drill straight down to get oil, you are drilling to where 12 would be and intersect with that. We don't have to fire a shot above ground anymore; just drill down below."

 Whhhaaatttt? Maybe Jeff is 14 years old and pretending to know what he is talking about. Maybe he's drunk. But I'm enjoying Jeff's Lancaster crazy much more than the old racist Sewickley man.