Plug for new blog

In my massive 2012 self-rewrite, I have decided to split my creative tasks a bit. The big piece of my reorganization involves more fiction and academics. Less client work. Less social media. Less of the stuff I don’t need.

I’m also honoring my split personality by giving each of the voices in my head a blog. (I’ll begin with just voice-amplifying blogs, because some of the people in my head are just horrible and don’t deserve to have any more power than they already do. In fact, drowning them out with productive, creative, awesome work is a damned fine reason for another blog.)

Check out my other side, the logophile who rarely mentions children. (Except for the fact that they inform who I am and what I write, research, and read. You know: the little things.)

Find my professional, less frazzled writing persona over at ChristineHarkin.com. Lots of glitches still, including evidence of the egregious mistake of having register.com handle my domain. That mistake will soon be remedied (and if you’re curious about who should register your URL, check out this review at LifeHack, which I found after hating register.com. Lesson learned, again: do not search Google for tech stuff. Search Google for reviews of tech stuff and trust only established experts.)

Anyway. Follow and comment and join the Me who is creating a space for Me now that I know more about Them and how wonderful and self-eroding They can be if I don’t force my way into some personal headspace.

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Conundrum

A post in which I tell the story of 2012: prioritize, realign, whine, pout, self-chasten, turn to gratitude journaling, feel grateful *and* defeated.

***

December was a month in which I made list upon list of priorities and goals and dreams so that I could begin 2012 realigned, making choices I could fee good about and avoiding the detritus I had been mired in for too long.

Because I chose to stay home to raise my kids, my life got shoved into a closet, where it sat unused, unexamined, and devalued. Each time we moved, my hopes, dreams, goals, and interests got pushed further and further into the dark, cobwebby spots of our lives. Any time the old me called out from the dank recesses of the attic, the utilitarian me shouted her down.

“QUIET back there! You have no right to raise your voice to me! You chose this, so you have to do it really, really well 100% of the time!”

I wasn’t allowing myself time or space for my mind or body because I harbored this secret belief that, if I decided to do my best to raise my kids, there was absolutely no room for doing what I wanted. My job, 24 hours a day, is my little boys. Putting myself first, even for an hour, meant compromising and giving them less.

And it was driving me mad. Seriously. Both the insane and angry connotations applied. I have been losing it and just barely hanging on for almost six years. But this winter has been hard core. I’ve been climbing out of my skin, wasting time berating myself for every poor decision I made pre-kids because now I have nothing to show for my life. Oh, sure, those, but they’ll leave me and hate me and tell their therapist about how I was an empty shell of a zombie Mom. Or, rather, and empty shell of a zombie Mom who’s trying strenuously hard yet seemed to be failing miserably at just about everything, from personhood to motherhood.

So I reevaluated. I decided to find a sitter for the toddler a few hours a week so I could blink. I finished some client work and turned down new projects to focus on my own work. I convinced Spouse to be with the kids at 6am so I could start running again. I made manageable lists of short and long term goals with small steps to get to each one. I put one foot in front of the other. And I ditched facebook.

So far so good. On paper.

But I didn’t find the sitter. I checked out a few home-based daycare centers and read ads for sitters and remembered why we didn’t have anyone stay with Peanut (except my parents, and only a few times a year) until he was 4: I don’t want someone else raising my children. Until the boys can speak for themselves and express their needs and feelings, I don’t think someone else can do the best job with my itty bitty people. That’s just me, but it’s how I feel. Yes, I want to be with them because I want to see and hear everything in their day. Yes, I don’t always sound as though I do want to be with them. Yes, I think being a full time parent is important but I also feel it’s necessary to prove I’m not a freeloader absconding from my other jobs to do this job. I’ve already mentioned, I believe, my borderline insanity and obvious tendencies toward perfectionism that are ill-suited to my current role as Court Jester of Chaos, right? Okay then. Now I can mention that I don’t think I deserve to hire help when this is my job. The battle of the boxed goals and the utilitarian judgement are at it again, deeming who is worthy and who doesn’t deserve.

Good times.

So I’ve been whining about how hard it is to have a toddler and a kindergartener and a Spouse who works long hours. How very, very difficult it is to not blink for 13 hours straight. Boo hoo, big deal, people seem to parent with debilitating diseases and in the midst of trauma and major depressions, so I can take my withering hopes and dreams and shove them up my unfulfilled goals, right?

And someone offered to help me. Sweet Mary, Mother of my Cousins, someone offered to help me.

Normal people might sigh with relief and take a friend up on a sweet offer of help.

Ah, but I’m not normal. Instead, I felt chagrined that I’d complained so loudly. I vowed to start a gratitude journal and practice saying thank you for all the great things in my life. I promised myself I would focus on hopes and dreams and goals in my spare time but would refocus on my current, unpaid, disrespected, thankless, maddening, amazing, exhausting, important job.

And I heard this interview on KQED’s Forum, in which Chip Conley explained that more important than having what you want (oh, how I want and want and want) is wanting what you have. Appreciating all that is rather than longing for what might be.

So I spent the day being present and mindful and grateful. And by 7 p.m. I was in tears because I still don’t like being with my kids all day every day forever and ever amen without cease or break or freaking showers. I don’t want to make or serve or clean up food ever again. Ever. Ever ever ever again.

So I’m torn. I want to be happy with what I have. But I need. I have hopes and dreams and goals that are not well suited to tightly wrapped boxes in the back of the closet.

How do you balance being grateful for your life and still want desperately to change at least 12 things right now?

Blerg.

http://www.kqed.org/assets/flash/kqedplayer.swf

Blood and gore

Good gravy. We’ve had my first real week of “Welcome to the World of Having Two Boys.”

I mean, we’ve had five and a half years of whirlwind that doesn’t stop and that plays only cackling, destructive games.

And we’ve had four years of banging things with sticks and picking gross stuff out of the street.

And two years of shooting at everything with imaginary guns.

And a year and a half of trucks and trucks and trucks. Good gawd with the trucks.

But this was the week of multiple calls to the doctor to ask “does this need stitches?”

The older one found a barnacled mollusk shell, put it on a board, stood in front of it, and stomped. Shell embedded for a moment, then fell off, leaving a one inch horizontal and one inch vertical cut in his forehead. Stitches? Probably needed it, but it was Saturday at 5pm, there’s no urgent care here, and I have iodine, skin glue, and butterfly bandages. No stitches.

The younger one climbed on a dining room chair after a long day with no nap (don’t blame me; I tried everything to get that boy to sleep). Fell off and bit through his lip. Two beautiful, hard-won teeth made two nasty cuts into his beautiful lower lip. Nasty. Deep. Blood everywhere. Stitches? Doc says we don’t stitch lips unless there’s a flap hanging or the hole on the inside of his mouth is so big food will get caught in it. I wiped away my tears, threw up in my mouth a little at the description of how it would heal, and agreed: no stitches.

So I guess, it was a good week? Oh, wait. It’s Tuesday. Gulp. Four days, four gashes, no stitches. Seems like I’m doing a good job? [Grins like the cat that threw a seashell at a canary then pushed it off a chair.]

Why Parents Hate Parenting

Oh, boy. There are a big steaming bundle of quotes in this New York Magazine article on the huge pile of crap that is contemporary parenting. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

Did someone say their emotional life is “a high-amplitude, high-frequency sine curve along which we get the privilege of doing hourly surfs”?

Yes, yes she did.

Did somebody remind us of the research that shows “Most people assume that having children will make them happier. Yet a wide variety of academic research shows that parents are not happier than their childless peers, and in many cases are less so”? Yup. Same article.

Hmm. “As a rule, most studies show that mothers are less happy than fathers, that single parents are less happy still, that babies and toddlers are the hardest, and that each successive child produces diminishing returns,” you say? Tell me more. Despite believing firmly in attachment parenting, in offering a supportive, firm, and respectful environment, despite being on top of the current child development research on how discipline means teaching and therefore must be gentle, this article sings the refrain of how much parenting sucks.

The article mentions that people seem skeptical of this data, seem to pity those “for whom” this is true. Those must be the lying liars on facebook who claim life is always a bowl of cheesy-poofs.

Or, did I mention, they’re lying liars. Before Spouse and I had Peanut, my OB said, “avoid anyone who tells you parenting is bliss, wonderfully rewarding, or a blessing. Parenting is rarely joyful. Children can be delightful. Parenting is a hot steaming bowl of stress thrown on your favorite couch. While you’re on it.”

Some people, as one researcher notes, want children and think they’ll be happy, only to find that offspring “offer moments of transcendence, not an overall improvement in well-being.” The moments of bliss are opiate. And the rest of the day is 23.5 hours of drudgery.

Because, as the article quips, as industrialization led to sheltered childhoods (rather than apprenticeships and farm labor at a young age) children “went from being our staffs to being our bosses.”

I bristle at the suggestion that it’s organizing projects and scheduling children that makes parenting difficult. Luckily, the article clarifies that it’s actively paying attention to children rather than ignoring them that is so freaking exhausting. Soccer and ballet aren’t the problem. Knowing that discipline means teaching gently and consistently, listening and responding empathetically teaches emotional maturity, attachment leads to independence, and subverting your desires to help your children become model citizens is simply way more work than any paid job.

And this parenting job sucks the life out of parents who work at home or who work outside the home. “Today’s married mothers also have less leisure time (5.4 fewer hours per week); 71 percent say they crave more time for themselves (as do 57 percent of married fathers). Yet 85 percent of all parents still—still!—think they don’t spend enough time with their children.”

Not surprisingly, those societies (I’m looking at you, Holland) that value nurturing children, that pay for a parent to stay home with babies for over a year, that support breastfeeding, that pay for good education and health care, and that offer quality childcare to all workers means parents are less exhausted, stressed, and angry. “Countries with stronger welfare systems produce more children—and happier parents.” But we’re buying Baby Einstein crap instead of lobbying for social changes that will actually produce smarter, healthier, more self assured children.

This article makes me want to shake every person pining for a child and show them that: “Children may provide unrivaled moments of joy. But they also provide unrivaled moments of frustration, tedium, anxiety, heartbreak.” Parenting is not all buttercups and rainbows. And it’s not just the vomit and the late nights and the filthy carseats. It’s soul DRAINING, emotionally WRENCHING, personally EXHAUSTING bullshit day in and day out that leaves icky stains on life.

And yet we smile for the ten seconds each hour that our children are joyful, those crazy-making little monsters for whom we sacrifice what seems like everything.

Worth the co-pay

My first visit to the therapist this weekend resulted in this bit of wisdom:

All parents find that to be good—really good—at raising a child, some part of them needs to go underground. Some people let their hobbies go, some let their careers go, some let their marriages go. But something needs to give. Just be careful what you sacrifice because the stuff that gets pushed underground may never come back up.

Damn. That was totally worth the $20.

Because for the first three years of Peanut’s life, I thought that I had closed all the doors to my future. Instead of choosing what went subterranean while I made the sacrifice to parent full time, I shovelled everything under. I was not willing to choose a few thing to die so the other bits could thrive. I just jammed it all in a box labeled: Do Not Open until 2011.

But framing the choice I’ve made in terms of pushing a few priorities to the back burner and shoving some effectively off the stove and into the trash is enlightening. I knew I wanted to fill each hole that arose as my family grew less and less needy with bits of me that I had stuffed in that box. But I didn’t (and don’t yet) have a plan for what comes out when. Just bringing dribbles of *everything* whenever there’s a spare moment will not work. I need to make room in the fridge and bring myself back a gallon at a time.

So I’m going to spend the next few weeks thinking about what I’m willing to toss, what I want to keep on hold, and what could slip back into my life, in one gulp not tiny sips, so I’m more of a person than I’ve been for a while.

What are you letting go underground while you do your most important work, and what are you carefully guarding and tending so it won’t get buried as you do your “have to” and “should”s?

Still ambivalent after all these years

Simon and Garfunkel sang that, didn’t they? Before the crazy version, there was being stuck between a rock and a sheer-faced cliff? Thought so.

Since the inception of this blog, I have wrestled publicly with the dilemma that I love my child and rather dislike parenting. Love, love, love the kid. Don’t get me wrong or send angry emails. Love the child. Dislike the job. It’s not a popular riff, and it’s not often said, so I feel like I’m talking to a (rather horrified) brick wall when I explain to people who ask, that I’m experiencing a range of emotions about being a breeder (ooops, there’s my problem right there, because Americans know the correct answers are “Fine” to “How are you?” and “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done” to “How do you like being a Mom?” regardless of how you feel. But I always forget that social rule and actually hear, process, and answer questions as they’re posed. Silly, poorly socialized me.)

So when someone the other day asked if I was excited about the new baby, my initial response was typical for me, caught between the headlights of social expectations and my still unabashed tendency toward truth:

Blink. Blink. Blink.

Don’t make me say the obvious: of courseyes and nosort ofI think soabsolutely…blink blink blink. Here’s the thing, at least for me. The dive into parenthood, at least the first time, is like asking a solitary, heliophilic (lover of sunshine, not bleeder, though that might work, too), claustrophic acrophobe (nasty fear of heights…bear with me) to live the remainder of their life as a bat.

YES, there are beautiful sights to take in while you’re flying. Glorious smells and sounds and vistas unknown to humans. At…uhem…night. In the sky. Kind of high. Admittedly, there is awesome fruit to be had. A thousand times, yes, I love mangoes. Back at home, though, my small, cramped cave is filled with lots of smelly others who insist I hang upside down from the ceiling and avoid the sun. So admitting having mixed feelings seems less revolutionary than honest and, well, mandatory.

The whole foreign country/alien planet thing I’ve heard from other moms about the upending shock of plunging from independence and coherence into the unblinking and rapid-fire world of parenting implies that the surroundings have changed. Nay. Same place. I’m just living upside down. At night. By new rules with new people whom I simply don’t get. Their way is totally right for them, and it makes sense, and it’s quite lovely. But it’s godawful uncomfortable for me.

And the thought of doing it again really, really soon means less shock and more…upside down, claustrophobic, ceiling-clinging, guano-filled days. I know where to find the fun, but I don’t know how to escape when the not-so-fun threatens to overwhelm. Because you know what? (And I risk being a bit overdramatic here, but I defy you to prove me wrong….) there is no escape.

[Maybe that’s why our culture makes such a big deal about bats. It’s not the three out of, like 400 species of otherwise frugivorous bats who drink blood. It’s the fact that we know, deep down, that I’m totally awesome at similies and metaphors, and that a lot of us are living, at once by choice and against our will, in caves filled with other upside down mammals.]

So I’m learning and I’m flying and I’m having copious amounts of fun. But home isn’t home…it’s claustrophobic and smelly. And going outside is different and new and overwhelming. That sense of displacement, of not just where did I go? but where did the world go? is a little disconcerting.

Once or twice. AND twice.

Consider that next time I just stare at you and blink blink. Blink.

Blink.

There are days…

Oh, boy, here comes my most boringest post ever. But if they still don’t like me, boring or funny, serious or ruefully tongue in cheek, then f— ’em, right? Okay, then, here goes:

There are just days like this. When I’m up late worrying or grousing or fretting or frenetically doing, and when I wake up slowly and painfully at the ungodly hour my kid demands (and he read in his bed for an hour before dragging me into the kitchen today, so yay four hours instead of three).

Today’s one of those days. And we can’t go anywhere because they’re ripping out a window in Peanut’s room and making it much bigger so it’ll meet fire code. Yay fire safety.

So I made a huge pot of play dough, and we’re going to town. Because all those things I worried about last night—all those people I wanted to excise from my life—they don’t matter. This little whirlwind of learning and growing does.

Plus he kisses me when he’s been rude, which is more than I can say for the rest of the planet.**

in a big pot stir:
4 C flour
1/2 C salt
1/2 C cream of tartar
then add
4T oil
4 C water

Cook on low/medium until it’s not sticky.

**You’re damned right. I just got all perspective-y then posted a playdough recipe. I’ve gone soft in the head. So? Ya wanna fight?

I don’t wanna

I’d love to write an erudite post about how the online community is reading Infinite Jest this summer, and how I welcome their inertia so I can undertake Read Number Two. http://infinitesummer.org/archives/215

But I’m just wiped out.

I’d like to enjoy my trip with family to do one thousand things with old friends  while Spouse attends to business. But I’m just too tired.

I’d love to be witty and silly and roll my eyes about how hard parenting is. But I just can’t find the energy right now.

Geez.  I’m not able to be a poser, an activity director, or a snarky whiner? That must be some serious exhaustion. Borne of only three nights of pint-sized knees in my back, A/C wars with Spouse, and running around from place to place trying not to keep the Tazmanian Devil in a hotel room for more than 30 minutes at a time.

and we’re here for another two days…

Bright side Dark side

Peanut is a great traveller. Loves new sights, sounds, places. Sits patiently in the car for long rides, behaves well in public, carries his own luggage.

But oh, the nights. He wouldn’t eat until we  got ready for bed (new things kill his appetite and he didn’t eat all day and said he was hungry at 8pm Gee, you think?) and then threw a two hour tantrum last night and, as a result, went to bed three hours late. He woke and threw a meltdown fit at 2am. Yelled and cried for about 15 minutes that he never got his stories. He woke screamingly angry at 4am and revved up for a long fit about needing to brush his teeth (but Spouse caved a few minutes in because we’re in a hotel and it was 4 am and Spouse has low tolerance for early morning tantrums. Pussy. I’ll be paying for that choice for weeks, but oh well. That’s the luxury of the weekend parent. Not that I’m bitter.)

So, of course, Peanut work promptly at his usual time. 5:00. He’s had approximately five hours sleep. He’s trapped in a hotel room with a mother who has had approximately five hours sleep. He’s mad he couldn’t go with Spouse on his little jaunt of peace and quiet this morning. Apparently most of this anger is directed at the pricier items installed in this hotel room for people with taste, rather than children.

And I am faced with a day of fun, with people we love, and highlights of my favorite LA outings and the potential of either  Dr. Jekyl Travel Dude, the happy-go-lucky go anywhere friend or Mr. Hyde Nighttime Guy, the spawn of Freddy Krueger, and my worst nightmare.

Quandry

I’m trying to decide whether to have a full existential meltdown, or just analyze away something that’s digging away at the corners of  my mind. Let’s see where I wind up after telling you this:

A new mom, amazing person with lots of early childhood experience told me this week, “I don’t get it. This is a lot of work, but it’s just not that hard. Why do people say this is so hard?”  Cut to a few hours later, and a professional, kick-ass mom who is quite open about not finding her reason for being in parenting,  said, “There are just some women who are meant to do this. I’m not one of them.”

So I’ve been thinking, incessantly: am I cut of non-parenting cloth because I do find it hard, or are we having a difference not of opinion but of semantics? No, it’s not hard. It’s exhausting, not hard. It’s  draining, not hard. Parenting full time is more work than I’ve ever done, but it’s not, she’s right, actually hard. It is hard to do it all day every day, but the work, itself, is not hard. Hard to make it through behaving properly, but not hard to do. Fine.

A five-year veteran who doesn’t think she was  cut out for parenting has always made me feel like I’m doing okay. Now I’m rocked by a mom who has tons of pre-baby experience with children and has spent two months with her own babies and doesn’t see why people warned her it would be hard.

Maybe my phase with a newborn was different because our first four months were colored by intense breastfeeding pain. But every new family has issues that make things tough, though, so I can’t write off my lack of pleasure  as resulting from early pain.

Maybe because I start thinking, about an hour before nap and all the time after nap, every day since my child was six months old, “when are you going to sleep?!?!!!”, maybe I’m not cut out for this  work. I’ve known for a long time that my child probably deserves a more patient caregiver, but that I can’t fathom having someone else raise my child. Why have a kid, I’ve always reasoned, if someone else will spend  more time with my child than I will? But that new mom, who doesn’t think life with a newborn is hard, makes me think maybe I should have someone else do this for me. Because I don’t always like this job. In fact, I rarely like this job. Love the kid, loathe the work. The not-hard work.

I can’t get over that it’s not just the language.

Of course, I didn’t feel put out by motherhood until six or seven months. I didn’t feel completely out of my element until past a year. So maybe if I wait this out, that new mom will come over to the side of those of us who think we were probably made to do something else.

I doubt it though. She’s probably just going to be one of those who do it all well, easily, and with a smile.

Lucky babies.

Moms gone wired

Clearly, these people who accuse mothers of small children of being “at risk for Internet addiction” and who belittle the habit of switching tabs from Twitter to Facebook to blog to email and back until someone responds are not whip-smart blogging mamas. (Okay, yes, I read the article, and yes, she is exactly that. But she’s a quitter, too, because she dropped her four blogs because they were taking time away from her kids. Um, hello, that’s the point.) And the authors and publishers and contributors and  promoters have it  out for mom blogs. (Forget for a moment the article is written by a mom who spent as many as eight hours online a day while the kids were awake. Lady, do you know how much I could get done if I got to be addicted like that? Why can’t I have that personality instead of the “eighteen projects sitting half done because I can’t bear to ignore my child-rearing job” personality?)

They don’t understand that we have finally,  in blogs and twitter and facebook, found forums in which people who understand us and empathize flock to our feet to hear our pearls of wisdom. At home/work we’re ignored. Yelled at. Shat upon, literally. Online there are others like us, feces-covered and chagrined, wishing someone would hear us and tell us we’re worth a shower. Online we all respect each other. Dote on each other. Celebrate each other.  I think these people at CNN are mamablogga haters. And we don’t allow the word “hate” at our house, do we mamas?

People who bandy about the term “addiction” do so without acknowledging that it’s a relatively new term (twentieth century) that basically applies to any activity that takes you away from the socially mandated priorities of work and family. If we were a culture who valued laughter above all else, alcoholism would only be applied to nasty drunks. Silly drunks would be contributing members of society. Since we are Puritanical believers in work and family, online activities that take you away from work or family for one, two, or nine hours a day allegedly represent problems. (But somehow, work that takes you away from family for twelve hours isn’t a problem. Oh, right. That’s just for men. Work that takes women away from family for one, two, nine hours gets a big ol’ judgemental eye roll, too. Lady, do you know how much work I could get done…oh, wait, I’ve already pulled that in this post.) If we were just a society that valued Twitter (don’t hold your breath, for that would be an even more despicable society than we have, really), maybe then moms who spend one, two, nine hours online would be contributing members of society. You moms who Tweet every freaking thought, stacking seven posts on top of each other (which, for the record, is a blog, not Twitter, so stop it and compose your thoughts into something longer and more coherent) would be the superstars of our society, overpaid and overappreciated for your prolific online contributions.

So let’s be honest. We use/dabble in/devour facebook and Twitter and blogging and online shoping and email because it’s almost like being a whole person and having friends who can actually make it to the dates you’ve had to cancel three times, mutually, for sick kids or sleepless nights or filthy houses or school projects.

As one of my friends (whom I would not know without the glory of the Internet) said, she takes all the facebook quizzes just in case the results will reveal a deep understanding of herself she had never achieved by other means, and will save her in therapy and life coaching fees.

Being at home with a small child (or more, heaven help you ladies and gents ‘cuz I’m barely making it with just one) can be frustrating and anger-provoking and stifling and unwelcoming. Those of us used to doing eighty things in a day, being respected, being listened to, being creative and logical and articulate and productive have a hard time, since the product of our labor will be unpaid for twenty to thirty years. Not until we see who our children become, what they love and whom they love and how they love will we know if our work was done well. Not until our children send a Mother’s Day card like the one my brother just sent my mom, apologizing for every single hour of sleep he ever cost her, does the job pay decent wages.

So if we spend a few extra hours on our blogs, or spend one third of our otherwise billable Saturdays off scheduling seven blog posts to arrive each morning, just as though we were productive members of society (ah, crap, I just gave away the secret of my prolific blogging), maybe you’ll cut us some slack and not call us addicted. As long as we promised the padooter will only go on when the wee ones sleep, who does it hurt that we’re on facebook at midnight?

Ah, hell, what do I care if they call me diseased? As long as you’re reading my blog, I don’t care what they call either of us. Cheers, readers. Hope something on the padooter makes you feel a little less stressed at whatever issues your day brought.

*for the record, the CNN article is actually pretty gentle, even if it’s groossly sponsored by pediatric fiber tablets and full of links to sunshine and buttercup links about how to enjoy parenting.  Treacle. But mocking their gentleness is not as much fun as hyperbolic mamablogga hating.

Roller coaster of optimism

Standing in shower, rushing, because there have been three solid minutes of quiet rather than shrieking and screaming and interruptions and fits.

In walks a thumping Peanut. Draws back shower door.

P: I’m eating cheese!
M: Heeey! That’s a big deal, buddy. You opened the refrigerator and took out cheese and opened it all your self?
P: Yep.
M: you should be proud of yourself.

And I close the door. And decide to brave shaving. He’s occupied, proud, and not screaming. I mentally wrote a blog post about lovely children and wonderful strides in growth and independence. A heartwarming “You go, Peanut!” post.

Stomping. Door opens again.

P: I’m eating one egg!

And he’s standing there, with a quarter-sized hole in the shell, licking a raw egg.

Oh, my god, I was thrilled with your independence for, like, one whole minute. Now I realize you don’t know very much, even though you can open doors, and with each development there’s a whole lot of hazard and a whole heap of nastiness in store.

Am I supposed to say, “At least I shaved?”
Or “how did you get just the corner of a raw egg opened”
Or “thank god you didn’t eat it like a mongoose?”

I think so.

Awesome children’s books

After reading this AP story on gender-biased children’s stories, and after hearing a compelling feminist reading of the Berenstein Bears books at the Southwestern Popular Culture Association conference a few months ago, I’ve redoubled my efforts to find rocking children’s books. (I’ve already posted about how, in our house Ming Lo’s wife has a name, not just “Ming Lo’s wife” and dads appear in stories that are only written about child and mum.)

One new title in our library, after hearing friends’ laments about princess bullshit and distress over the Barbie dilemma, is The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. The short version? Princess rescues the prince, and when he criticizes the paper bag she had to wear to get there, she heads into the sunset without him.

Between thid princess and finishing Flux, which reminded me that, though Spouse and I negotiated roles before  getting married and before having Peanut, we need to revisit the discussion to readjust the “default” setting of mom doing everything related to anything. So I’m going to hand off all the domestic duties to Spouse (haven’t told him that yet) because I’m trying to raise a feminist, and that can only happen if I do more of my freelance work and less housekeeping. (You may TOTALLY borrow that justification for yourself. It’s genuinely why I’m slacking on housework [starting now; before this I was trying desperately to do a decent job because of social expectations] but intentional transition of work avoids being shirking and will teach the whole family a lesson *only* if Spouse actually picks up the slack.  Otherwise we just become a penicillin experminent gone awry. I’ll keep you posted.)

CNN thinks it’s groovy to leave a job for another job, but not to parent.

So this article beatifies those who leave a lucrative career to follow their gut. The people profiled left jobs with great benefits for…other jobs.

There is no mention of the hundreds of thousands of women leaving really good jobs to make a difference in their children’s lives. Those, for instance, who leave simulating and lucrative careers in advertising to be more useful to society as the parent of a decent human being. Or the child-free idealists who leave corporate america to teach or be a voice for the voiceless.

Apparently, leaving because your gut tells you to raise your own kid or save the world doesn’t count as news. Way to show your priorities, Turner Corporate.

Well, now, that explains a lot.

Existential crises call for desperate measures. So do two major moves in two months. At naptime today, therefore, I pulled out the Feng Shui book (yay for reclaiming my books and yay for Ohmega Salvage’s awesome collection of recycled craftsman built-in bookcases and yay for sixteen boxes of books unpacked and out of my freaking way) to see if it could fix my life.

Now, I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to Feng Shui. Can’t even pronounce it, though I try hard. And I don’t know if it works. But I know it feels, in a desperate “clinging to guns and religion” way, like I have control of the uncontrollable if I have tall rectangles in the east and round metal accents in the west. It’s one of those “can’t hurt, might help, just don’t tell anyone you know or they’ll laugh at you then have you taken off their ‘call when in need of rational and logical help with personal dilemmas’ list” kind of things.

So today’s discoveries put into perspective a few, um, issues in my life. First, we keep finding houses where our money and romance are figuratively in the toilet. This is the third residence in which our bathroom sits squarely in the west, the tiny corner of our universe in which our income and lovin’ ought flow. Instead, there’s a steady stream of waste, dirt, crayons, and nonsense flowing down the drain. Explains mucho about the continued ease with which we lose what little money we have.  [Thanks financial sector a–holes. Like being a stay-at-home mom wasn’t detrimental enough to my future retirement. In 2054 I’m finally gonna have to break our Wal-Mart boycott so I can get a job as a greeter and support myself in the squalor to which I’ve become accustomed.

So my money and my marriage are in the crapper. (Sorry, Spouse. But you saw it coming in the wedding ring fungus, didn’t you? It was nice while it lasted. But the feng shui book says our love’s being flushed down the drain, dude. And you know that if I read it in a book, it’s the law. So plan on having dwindling affection and interest soon…oh, the ring around my finger under the ring around my finger already did that? You’re creeped out by a little rash on my third finger? Well, It’s you’re fault it’s there. Yes it is. Yes, it is. Yes. It is. Are you hearing me? Yes it is. Don’t pull out your logic with me, Mister. Fine, it’s your fault our money and marriage sector is in the bathroom. No I didn’t. No, I didn’t. No. I didn’t. True, but that’s because…I’m done with this. No, the garage isn’t in our marriage sector. Oh, ha ha. Yeah, maybe if you’re in there things WILL get better. Bah.)

Just after that eight direction, nine ki number pronouncement that we’re poor and nasty to each other because of the sewer placement, I found this lovely tidbit:

“Maybe, for example, you find that you are edgy, irritable, and tense quite a lot of the time….It would be wise to avoid spending a great deal of time in [the north-east and south] of your home. If possible, position your bedroom in the west where chi energy is more settled and contented.”

Hmmm. So I should stay out of the living room, dining room, and bedroom, and sleep in the shower? Makes perfect sense. My irritability doesn’t stem from 32 months of interrupted sleep and full daylight hours focus on a wild, strange, and often irrational creature. I’m not cranky because I’m having trouble adjusting to a reality where my life is not my own, my time is not my own, and six of my greatest hopes and dreams are on hold for the honor of raising a loving and caring human being. Nope. It’s ‘cuz I live in a house where the dining room makes me “feel on edge”  and “impatient,” the entryway makes me “tired from lack of rest,” and the bedroom leads to “slow progress in career.”  So I need a house without a north-east, east, south-east, south-west, and west. I’ll bet I can get a good rate on renting a piece of paper, because it’s the only two-dimensional structure I know that will eliminate those issues.

The bigger problem? The placement of my son’s room apparently makes me “overly controlling of others.” Oh, yeah, that‘s the problem. ‘Cuz I’ve existed on that plane since, well, since…oh, yeah. 1972. I don’t think there’s a crystal or mirror remedy for that one, feng shui friends. It would seem that I exist in a vortex where there is only northwest. Mmm. Maybe it’s good we didn’t pick Portland. I might have exploded from the vortex created between my need to control and my relative powerlessness. Or I would have had 17 cats. ‘Cuz they listen, right?

Tell you what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna embrace my inner incomplete task, my perpetual on edge, my tiredness from lack of rest (I’m sorry, how is that not a cause and effect clause all unto itself? Do you really need a room in the wrong quadrant of the compass to be tired from lack of rest? Is there anyone who is revived from lack of rest? If so, will they take over nights at our house, with nightmare-y kid and attachment parenting central, and cats who yowl for people to come to them instead of seeking heat and food themselves? And, while you’re at it and up at 3am anyway, for all the other perfectly normal children in the world who don’t sleep well until they are three or four? ‘Cuz there are a bunch of them, and that one bastard who’s thriving on lack of rest really owes the rest of us.)

So call me, rested person. We need to put you in my bedroom while I sleep off my marital fungus and controlling irritability in the bathroom.

In the midst of flipping through the book to find cheap solutions to increase tree energy and decrease me energy throughout the house, I found a lovely little gem: the chart of prevailing influences for the year and position of my nine ki number. And with a little math I realized that this year’s existential crisis is not due to an inbalance in my needs, nor an extended, yet normal transition mothers experience in which they new and different priorities smash violently into old happiness and self-actualization. No, no. I’m having a tumultuous year because it’s part of a universal cycle. Like the Fourth Turning, only on a personal level. So this is like another Strauss and Howe Crisis season and ancient Chinese centre year. Yeah. See, for people born Feb 5ish through the following Feb 4ish of 1918, 1927, 1936, 1945, 1954, 1963, 1972, 1981, 1990, and 1999, this is a uncomfortablly flux-y year. Like your chi has gas. One of those “put off decisions ‘cuz you’re in for a whirlwind of changes and nothing will be the same next year” kind of years. Oooooh. Yes. I see.

Next year is a year to plan and organize. No point in that now. 2010 is for romance (fungus gone, maybe?). 2011 is for ambition. 2012 is for passion. 2013 is for studying. 2014 is for progress. 2015 is for starting something new. 2016 is for more progress. See? in eight years I’ll be making some progress. Gee. That’s all I needed. To be reassured that it’ll only take a decade. Ah. All better.

Except that I’ll have a teenager in my house. Not sure that bodes well for progress, but we’ll see.

Thanks feng shui. For the new sleeping place and the new outlook. I’ll have several books published, a PhD, a new job, and some sex by 2016. All I needed was a plan mass-produced with absolutely no knowledge of my life other than my birthday. How wonderful to know that, like, 10% of us are having a crappy-ass year but have nine years to go before it happens again. Yay. Feng shui, you’re the best. Remind me to get a crystal to hang over my calendar. ‘Cuz we have another couple of months of Indecision 2008.