Sunday, November 27, 2011

Five Parenting Magazine Stories I'm Tired of Reading

Like all moms I read a whole lot of crap about parenting when I first had my kids. Let's face it, I had no idea what I was doing. Most of us don't. They just hand you this baby, just let you take it home and wave from the hospital doors. You can almost hear them chuckling at your expense as you drive away with your newborn completely unprepared to navigate the rough waters ahead.

So we moms pick up parenting books and subscribe to parenting magazines and read every word in hopes of finding solutions that will actually work. Our sleep-deprived minds read and re-read everything and anything that might help us figure out what this squalling little bundle of dubious joy wants, how on earth we can make him/her go to sleep and stay that way, what we should do about that fever, that cough, that funny noise he/she is making.

I am currently subscribed to two parenting magazines, and after 4.5 years of reading each issue as it comes it I have come to the conclusion that the people publishing these magazines don't know anything more than the rest of us. Basically, they publish the same crap over and over and repackage it make it look like new information. I have read the same story so many times I should be writing them instead, at least I could add something new.

So without further ado, in homage to the "top # things" stories those magazines love to splash on their covers, here are the 5 parenting magazine stories I really wish they would stop publishing.

1. This Celebrity Mom is Just Like You!!!!
This is the article in which they interview some celebrity mom and add splashy pictures of her looking well-rested, happy, and enjoying motherhood to its fullest in her beautiful, spotless home. Apparently because she has a child, this celebrity mom is just like the rest of us! Sure, except for her millions of dollars, jet-set lifestyle, vacations in the South of France, two nannies, housekeeper, personal trainer, stylist, enormous house (cleaned by said housekeeper) and closetful of designer clothes, she is just like me.

What I would love to see is a celebrity mom looking like crap with spit-up on her shoulder, dark circles under her eyes and stretch marks on her flabby belly. But even then, the millions of dollars would be kind of hard to ignore.

2. The Quick Fix for Your Discipline Problems!
First, this article implies that there actually is a quick solution for disciplining your kids. Second, it implies that the same method will work for every kid. Also, it is the same useless advice over and over. I particularly enjoy gems like "keep your cool!" and "try to see your child's point of view".

In the parenting magazine world, everything just sort of falls into place. The minute you "stop using the word no", look your child in the eye and tell him or her how you really do understand how they feel and speak to them as if they are capable of rational conversation, there won't even be a need for discipline. Because your kid is just going say "well, since you put it that way, mom, we're cool."

Have these people actually tried to have a conversation in a calm voice with a four year old having a meltdown because you won't buy him a Hot Wheels?

3. Sleep Solutions that Work!
This article should be called "let's rehash a popular sleep theory that doesn't really work." This article will be one of two things: a no-cry sleep plan or a cry-it-out sleep plan. Either way, the odds of it working are really just a crapshoot. This article preys on the desperate need of the average mom for more than an hour or two of sleep at a time.

I've got news for you: unless you are one of the incredibly lucky people (and I hate you all by the way) who has a miracle baby who sleeps all night from an early age and also takes nice long naps during the day (even the good sleepers usually only do one or the other) you had better invest in a good coffee maker and a heavy concealer. Babies don't give a crap what the experts say about their sleep, they'll sleep when they're good and ready. Some never do. I know, I am up with my 4 year old every night.

4. Fun Crafts you Can Make With Your Kids!
Screw you Martha. Who the hell has time or energy for crafts? And if you do, don't tell me because I hate you almost as much as the people whose kids sleep.

5. The Latest Super-Scary Way Your Kid Could Die or Be Maimed for Life.
Because parenting isn't scary enough with worrying about SIDS, allergies, bullying, milestones, and getting them to do the most basic things such as actually eat and sleep, we need this article like a hole in the head. These are either articles about really odd accidents that have happened that we can now add to the Many Dangers of Everyday Life list, or they are about rare diseases the five people on the planet have but whose symptoms exactly mirror that of the common cold and you are now completely convinced your child has.

I think I am going to subscribe to Star next instead. At least then I can be guaranteed to see some celebrities looking like crap, and I can roll it up and use it as a quick discipline solution too.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Conversations with....Nolan (entry 1)

Welcome to my all-new spectacularly fun feature in which I share with you, my lucky readers, the confusing, hilarious, nonsensical and inexplicable conversations I have with my kids. Today's entry was a conversation enjoyed while the kids were having a bath.

Nolan: Is it dark inside my bum?
Me: (laughing) Um..yes I guess it is.
Nolan: Is it really dark?
Me: Yes.
Nolan: Is it dark like a cave?
Me: Yes, like a cave.
Nolan: Are there monsters in there?
Me: (tears flowing) Well, you could call what comes out of there a monster. Stinky poop monsters.
Nolan: (squealing with laughter) STINKY POOP MONSTERS!!!!!!!!

And now you are all forewarned that Nolan has a new poop reference, and yes, it's my fault.

Blessings of Ingratitude

My kids are ungrateful, self-absorbed and completely oblivious to the troubles of those around them. And you know, I think I'm ok with that.

Yes you read that right. I think it's ok that my kids are completely unaware of how much they have to be thankful for. It's not that I don't want them to learn gratitude and thankfulness for everything they have been handed in life. It's that I am thankful for the ability to raise children who have no idea how shitty life can be.

Perhaps I'm still not making sense. It was all so clear to me this morning as all three of us were snuggled in bed and Nolan said to me "Mommy, I'm thankful for a nice warm house." It was one of those things that are so sweet to hear, and yet I know that it's a rehearsed line handed to him by myself, his dad, and by his teachers at preschool. Because Nolan has no idea what it means to live anywhere but in a warm house. His four year old brain doesn't have the capacity to understand that his life is not the life enjoyed by all.

And I realized that my kids having no idea how lucky they are is really what makes them so lucky. Or some sort of similar logic.

They don't know any other life but one of safety, warmth, happiness and security. They can be told to be thankful and repeat back by rote what they are thankful for, why they have so much to be thankful for. But they don't have the slightest clue what that really means. Which leads me to a different rant.

Guess what people? We are all the 1%. Everyone in this country. We are all living a life that much of the world can't even imagine. Do we have some poverty? Yes. Do we have problems. Sure. But our problems don't begin to compare to what others face every day in places torn by war, disease, famine and the daily face of death. So for Thanksgiving, stop acting like my preschoolers and acknowledge it. Put down the picket signs and see the life you live.

When you're 4 and 3, as my kids are, you should be able to live a life where you don't really understand why you should be grateful. But as for me, even in the face of financial struggles and difficult decisions for our family, I know that I have everything, absolutely everything to be thankful for. As for me, I'm thankful that my kids have no point of reference for gratitude, and thankful for the ability to give them that life.

And that's my Thanksgiving thoughts. Serious moment over, it's time for turkey.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Twitter Killed the Telephone Call?

A few days ago, one of my favourite musicians, Matthew Good, decided to hand over the job of posting to his Facebook page and Twitter account to his staff. You can read his reasons on his blog. It, along with the comments people left, got me to thinking about the backlash against social media that is becoming the trendy thing to do these days. Where once you were uncool if you weren't on Facebook, it is slowly becoming cool to bash the use of it and other social media.

"What ever happened to face to face interaction?" "People don't really talk to each other anymore!" "We have no idea how to communicate in person anymore." "The internet is so impersonal and cold."

Just a few of the common phrases thrown around by people who are probably pissed off that they don't have more Facebook friends or nobody "liked" their status recently. Backlash that follows a common thread: the nostalgia for a "better time", the years before technology came along and changed everything. Video killed the radio star. The internet killed the art of conversation.

Well, yes, the internet changed how we communicate, along with texting on our smartphones. Yes, some conversations are held in a digital form today where once they might have been over the phone. Of course, even further back those conversations would have taken place via hand written letters that travelled sometimes for months to reach their destinations - at least when it came to having a "conversation" with someone far away.

Your circle of friends was a lot smaller, and they didn't have access to your everyday thoughts and ruminations. Maybe life was better that way; I don't know. I do know that it saddens me to think of the many wonderful people who are in my life now that I would never have known but for that cold, faceless form of interaction known as the internet. And it saddens me to think of all the people whose lives I would not be a part of if not for Facebook.

"Just call them on the phone to catch up with them!" is the response of the backlash crew. Sure. I will find the time in the life of a work at home mom of two small boys, a wife, a mother, housekeeper and cook, to call all of the over 200 people on my Facebook page.

It's not that I need over 200 friends. I have the close friends who live here, and those people I do see and talk to regularly. But for the people who live far away, from whom I am in many ways distanced but who still hold a place in my heart and life - how would I have any connection to them if not for online? And what about the people I have actually met online who have become incredible, say, my husband for one.

In the case of Matt Good, well, I have been a fan of his for nearing two decades now. When I first found out he was posting on his own Facebook page and interacting with his fans I was really excited. Not only has social media given us the chance to connect with people far away, but it has also given us the chance to connect with people who were once completely out of our reach. Being able to respond to Matt and others like him whom I have admired for a long time and to feel that sense of interaction with them is just plain cool, especially when you have been a fan of that person for a really long time.

It's not that I think Matt or anyone else has some obligation to be accessible to their fans in such a way, but prior to social media that opportunity just didn't exist at all but for a lucky few. Matt said in his blog post that he is here to make music and not to be constantly available to people on the internet. But making music and living the life he does is a direct result of people like me supporting him, buying his albums and buying his concert tickets. He says that he would continue to make music even if people stopped buying it, but I am fairly certain that it was the people buying his music that have enabled him to buy his farm, support his family and continue doing what he loves to do in order to make that a reality, instead of getting a different job.

I was surprised that few people responded the way I did to the post. Instead most jumped on the "yeah, technology sucks!" bandwagon. Does Matt Good as a musician and a person owe me an online interaction? No, he doesn't. But I thought it was really cool of him to do it, and while it may not be what he signed on for, it was a sign of his respect and love for his fans. It was really cool, and I'm sorry to see it end.

As for how social media has impacted communication, well, I think the backlash is kind of funny really. Especially since much of it appears in comments on blogs, Facebook posts and even Twitter. The way we communicate has changed a lot since the days of letters carried for weeks, months on horseback to reach their destination. Like most nostalgia, the truth is that we don't really want to go back to that. The truth is that it sucked.

The social media backlash is just another example of hipsters trying to go against the grain. By and large, social media and the internet in general have enriched my life and brought me new friends and the chance to reunite with old friends.

Maybe we could all stand to unplug a bit more and talk to each other, but that doesn't mean internet interactions are meaningless or cold. There is room for both in my life.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Doernbecher and Decisions

Today is Nolan's cleft team visit. We're down to yearly visits now thankfully - he is doing so incredibly well. I like to say Nolan is the poster child for cleft repair and I don't think that's exaggerating. His speech is excellent and he has had no therapy at all. His hearing is good although he has had a few problems with ear infections. His lip and nose look so good most people have no idea he wasn't born with them.

But he remains under the supervision and care of a team of the best craniofacial experts Oregon has to offer, and I may flatter them a little by saying perhaps some of the best in the country. I have seen many, many cleft repairs and Dr. Kuang's work is definitely top-notch. It has been my great pleasure and great amusement to tell people who comment on how cute he is that he has a fabulous plastic surgeon. You should see them attempt to assimilate this information and figure out what on earth it could mean.

Though he is doing amazingly well I am nervous about today. For one thing his recent trips to the doctor have brought out the worst of his defiant tendencies and he already declared this morning that he doesn't want to go. Packing emergency supplies in the form of Halloween candy as bribes to hopefully keep him going. He sees five different experts this afternoon. Not sure if the pediatric dentist is on tap for today...better hide the candy if so.

For another thing he always seems to have nightmares after a visit to Doernbecher. Everyone says babies don't remember their cleft surgeries. I think he has some sort of sense memory tied to that hospital that causes him to unconsciously know something painful happened there. I suspect the awful smell of the hand soap they use as the culprit. Scent is powerful. Seriously, read Jitterbug Perfume.

And finally, I am wondering about another surgery in the near future and the worst part is, Shaun and I have to make the call. His plastic surgeon stated a year ago that if we wanted to do another rhinoplasty to straighten his nose and round out his nostrils, we should do it before he starts kindergarten.

I waffle on this. Everyone says he looks great, and I agree. He does look great and over time his nose has become less flat. His nostrils are still oddly shaped, but his lips are very good. It's not that I care about imperfections in his face, they are as dear and as loved to me as every part of him. He is perfect now just as he was perfect when I first saw him and his cleft.

I am not willing to pretend though that everyone will always see him as I do. And I know that as he grows older the kids will get crueler. I have been there. Kids don't need much excuse to make fun of someone, and when there is an excuse they are all over it like adorable little thoughtless vultures.

I don't want to put him through a surgery he doesn't need, but I want him to be happy and I want to avoid as much of the pain and struggles of the teen years as I possibly can. I know I have been over and over this; I am sure I have already blogged about this. But I am still there, in mommy limbo. And the decision needs to be made soon, before open enrollment ends for health care this year; if surgery is on tap we need to consider higher coverage levels.

I laughed the other day while telling my sister in law, who is pregnant with twins, that the worry doesn't end once the pregnancy is over. It goes on and on. I know that my mom still worries about me; she's probably worrying about me right now. It's what we do. So whatever decision we make, there will be worry. Worry about surgery or worry about future teasing? I don't know.

What I do know is that I love my little guy, in spite of the fact that he is probably about to put me through a miserable afternoon of feeling like a failed mommy and being stared at by other parents whose kids aren't refusing to get on the scale or whatever it is he will be defiant about today. I just want what is best for him, like we all do. But what is that? Does anyone really know?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

New and Improved

It only took five months or so, but here I am. Hope everyone enjoys the new site, new name and new look. Actual blogging will commence soon! And stay tuned for the new cocktail blog Shaun and I are working on!!!