Friday, July 27, 2012

14 months!

I've been told lately that with an increase in serious political posts, my loyal reader(s) are missing the cuteness. Consider this post a remedy. :)

Miss Eleanor is now 14 months old! How in the world has this happened? She's developing quite the personality, and every day seems to bring something new out in her. Here's her the rundown...

Eating: Ellie is apparently a typical toddler in her appetite. Some days she seems to be fine with nothing but crackers and the air she breathes, other days she's famished and eats enough to feed a teenage boy. When she's in the mood she'll eat anything - lentils and smoked salmon are new favorites (not necessarily together). She's still enthusiastically nursing, and while I don't expect this to change anytime soon, I do see that some days she's more into it than others. My plan right now is to let her wean whenever she wants to and is ready (yes, I realize that could mean several more years of this!), so I'm pretty curious how this'll play out.

Sleeping: hahaha. She gives us the runaround on this one. Some nights she's great decent, others she's not so decent. Usually she'll give us a couple of great night sleeps before she comes down with something, so if we wake up fully rested, it's a pretty sure sign that she's about to spike a fever. I'm thinking that it's high time we do some sort of sleep training, but I just don't wanna. So, my laziness means that we're avoiding fixing the problem, which is kind of the lowest form of parenting. Still taking two naps a day, but on days when she wakes up late, we're starting to transition to one nap. We'll see how this goes. I'll miss the second nap, but I'm hopeful that this will help bedtime. I'm sure it'll backfire on me somehow though.

Playing: All the time! Loves outside, loves parks, loves "swimming" (I use the term loosely, of course). Turns out, she loves the zoo, as well! (no surprises, as she generally goes bonkers over doggies and kitties...). Loves her grandma and her daddy, her friends and, of course, her Monty, who generally loves/tolerates her back. She's into grabbing our fingers lately and pulling us to where she wants to go (almost always this is outside). It's so sweet though that she tends to get her way.

Size: Ellie's still a big girl! Size 2T, size 5 shoes and diapers. My arms are looking stronger and leaner than they have in years, so I'm thankful for her 25+ pounds which like me to lift her up frequently. :)

What else? She's generally hilarious. Loves to make faces at us and is starting to really get when things are funny. She joins in on the laughter when appropriate, and is always happiest when surrounded by "her people." She's learning to talk, slowly but surely, and is collecting a handful of words (not that she likes to use them unless prompted however. Why talk when you can always get your way by gesturing and pointing?). Words include: mama, dad-dad, dog-dog, night-night (she likes to scream this in my face as a diversionary technique while I'm trying to actually get her to go night-night) "mmmm" when food is tasty, no (of course), balloon and her latest "Gabey" (although she says it "day-day" which is pretty cute).

All in all, still the light of our lives!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Mindless Menace of Violence

Peter and I sat in silence together last Saturday evening, holding hands with tears streaming down our cheeks as we watched the movie Bobby. We cried for his life, cut short, for the other victims of the assassination and for the  millions of other lives which were changed that day; both by the act of murdering this light in such a dark time, and by the altered course which history undoubtedly took with the passing of Robert F. Kennedy. My week started in this grief, and ended in a grief much greater. 

When tragedy strikes, I tend to sit back and watch the influx of news and social commentary silently, without adding my own voice to the mix. I have my reasons for holding back, but tonight I feel the need to add to the dialogue. Yesterday's theater shooting was the largest mass shooting in American history. Words aren't enough - not enough for the victims and those directly effected, and not enough for those of us indirectly effected but deeply and profoundly saddened.

My week started with tears of anger and sorrow over a tragic act of violence, and ended in the same way. This speech was given by RFK the day after the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. We listened to it intently last weekend through our tears, and listened to it again tonight. 

I share these words and encourage you to read each one in remembrance of lives lost through victims of violence.

Robert F. Kennedy
April 5, 1968

This is a time of shame and sorrow. It is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity, my only event of today, to speak briefly to you about the mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives.

It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one - no matter where he lives or what he does - can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on and on in this country of ours.

Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr's cause has ever been stilled by an assassin's bullet.

No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of reason.

Whenever any American's life is taken by another American unnecessarily - whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence - whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.

"Among free men," said Abraham Lincoln, "there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; and those who take such appeal are sure to lose their cause and pay the costs."

Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far-off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire whatever weapons and ammunition they desire.

Too often we honor swagger and bluster and wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach non-violence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them.

Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.

For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.

This is the breaking of a man's spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all.

I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and mastered.

We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community; men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear, only a common desire to retreat from each other, only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this, there are no final answers.

Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is not what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts that leadership of humane purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.

We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of others. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.

Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanquish it with a program, nor with a resolution.
But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.

Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men, and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once agai

Friday, July 20, 2012

Beautiful Girl

I've been mulling over this topic for a while, and had the chance to "talk it out" with my big sister, but I'm left wanting more discussion. So, please please, dear reader(s?), bear with me as I sort some things out...

I read an article that made me sick yesterday. The title was something like "Two Thirds of Six Year Old Girls Aspire to be Sexy." I wanted to vomit, and most of all, I wanted to shelter, protect and cocoon my girl from ever - EVER - aspiring to be sexy. As a parent, I have a very strict "no sexy" policy, and you may laugh at this, because my daughter is only 14 months old, but sexy clothing starts very, very young.

For example: newborn size onesies reading "This Is My Little Black Dress", onesies with an outline of a voluptuous female body, even bathing suits for babies with gatherings to emphasize their "bust." String bikinis on a baby? On a child? I can promise you, my child will never wear a string bikini until she's out of the house.  I digress though.

I am so troubled at the emphasis on looks and beauty when it comes to raising daughters. Even things meant to be light hearted and playful - painting your baby daughter's toes, for example, teeter on the edge of pushing our daughters to value beauty, and do so at an early age. When I was expecting, and would explain to people that we didn't know the gender of our unborn, I'd get the same question almost every time - "how will you decorate the nursery then?" Cue: dead stare. Um, in color? With great, inspirational posters and art on the walls, and books in the bookshelf? (For the record, Ellie's sheets are blue and green, her crib skirt is red, she has a framed picture that says "HOPE" on the wall, an embroidery her great grandmother made me of the ABC's, and a painting of the United States. Lots of books, and a white dresser with clutter. She shares her room with her dad's office). My point: the genderification (what's the word I'm looking for here?) of our children starts young - pre birth for most babies - and the inherent value we, as a society, place on our girl's beauty starts well before they start play pretending with their mama's makeup.

This morning on my walk, I started a list of characteristics I value and would want to teach my daughter to embody. As I walked and thought about this, I realized that the list is exactly identical to what I'd value in a son. Here's a sample of what I wrote down: Compassionate. Nurturing. Joyful. Curious. Honest & Forthright.  Determined. Confident. I'm hoping this is a list I keep and add to as I think more about it.

(Okay - thanks for bearing with me as I ramble through these thoughts... I'm getting to my main point - slowly, and via a meandering way...) :)

With this list, I realized that it is on ME as her mother, her main female role model and primary caretaker, to embody these characteristics and model them for her. Yes, it's on her father as well, but it's a different responsibility he carries. I take the responsibility of raising this child seriously, and in mulling this over, I realized that I need to challenge myself to daily, and in everything I do, ask myself what I am modeling for my daughter with my behavior and actions. What am I teaching her with my actions? Does every action exemplify a characteristic I want my daughter to someday develop?

Obviously, this is quite a challenge, and obviously I will stumble and fall short. I am not always kind, I am not always confident and sometimes I am a raging, lazy, hormonal wife. But, I think this is a good starting place. A challenge to myself to lead by example.

And - here's where I really struggled, and what I'd like to ask for some help with. I struggle with vanity. I do my makeup and style my hair. I pick out outfits based on what I think looks good, feels good and compliments my body. What does this behavior teach my daughter about valuing our looks? Am I, with these beauty related rituals and despite my resistance, teaching my daughter these things are important? I don't want to be a part of the messaging that she's going to be, and already is, inundated with just by being a member of society. Is there something wrong with valuing 'pretty'? How can we teach our girls that we are more than what we look like, when we ourselves have spent time and money getting ourselves to look "better" by some external standard? 

If I consciously resist things that teach my daughter that what she looks like and how "pretty" she is matter in any way whatsoever, am I erasing this effort? Honestly - I'm not sure I can quit the makeup and hair, quit wearing clothes I think look nice, and only wear practical clothing which suits the purpose in which I wear it.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Writer's Block

I've got it. Writer's block. Normally it wouldn't be such a problem, but I've been working lately on a project which requires me to write, so... I'm feeling a little unproductive. Plus, little Miss El has decided to stop sleeping, so my "breaks" (ie, nap time) lately are spent snoozing and/or zoning out until she wakes up. I suppose the other "clever" name for this post could be "Random Things Only My Mom Cares About" (although, really, she's got a life, and I doubt she cares that much!)

Mostly though, all this silence comes from a lack of major events going on in my life right now. We're trucking on as usual these days, but made a hundred times better by warm temps and sunny skies which have descended upon Seattle. It's days like these which make up for the 300+ days of grey a year, and explain why we natives decide to stick around. It's been perfect weather for playing outside, which we're really taking advantage of. Plus, we've learned that Ellie is a serious outdoors girl - always wanting to play outside. Saturday morning I was in the kitchen and realized it was strangely quiet in the house. I peeked outside and saw El and her dad walking up and down the street outside, just enjoying the morning. Did I mention it was 5:30am?
swing high little girl!
so lucky to live in the beautiful PNW
Oh hey. Super cool!
We've been hitting up at least one park a day lately, sometimes two, going for lots of stroller walks, playing with friends and even exploring the beach. Girl loves the water, and I'm so excited to start swimming lessons next week with her. She's a little fish, and hopefully, these early signs of being a water baby will translate into future summers with long days spent in the water.
splash park!
peaceful mornings on the lake
bff round 2!
She's also fearless, both in and out of the water. This means hyper-vigilance for whoever is watching her at all times. She's climbing on absolutely everything in sight - big toys at the park, coffee tables, crib railings, baby gates, you name it. Last night Peter asked if I thought she'd wait to climb out of the crib until after she figures out about gravity, and I laughed. I highly doubt it! I'm betting she won't last until the end of the year in her crib as it currently is... sigh. big girl!
waiting for dad to get off work at South Lake Union
future medical professional
All in all, nothing too exciting. :) Peter's staying busy with work, my garden is growing, the house could be cleaner and I need to go hop in the shower so I'm ready to go to the park when the kid wakes up. Happy Monday!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Thoughts on this day

I wrote most of this yesterday, so the title was accurate. If I were to pen it now, it'd say "thoughts on yesterday"... but. I'm keeping it as is. :)

She's been sicker than this before, I've been more exhausted and Peter's had more on his plate. But this day felt long, and hard. I'd really like a do-over, and I so hate feeling like that.

She fights for what she wants so hard these days. She fights to get into kitchen cupboards, to go outside, to reach for the sharp object, etc. She fights to pull the tails of the pets (luckily, they haven't fought back, yet!), and for me to stop whatever I'm doing and pick her up. Sometimes that's possible. Sometimes it's not. Now she's fighting against this damn cold to get good rest and to breathe easily. This makes her fuse extra short - she feels like crap, she's unhappy to not get her way, she can't breathe well and she likely has a headache. She coughs and coughs and whines and stumbles and falls more than usual. Sweet girl, but, man - exhaustion inducing for everyone.

And I? Instead of being the extra patient and extra kind mother as I should be when she isn't feeling well, as the day wears on I begin to unravel. By the end of the day I feel completely worn down and like this day, and her mood, had gotten the best of me. Defeated. Peter's had a rough couple of weeks, so bless his heart, but he wasn't able to step up tonight. Poor guy had to come immediately home from the office and log right back on his laptop and work until bedtime. No rest for him these days - I wish I could take some of it off his plate.

So here we are, a run down family, none of us feeling or acting like our best. I'm ashamed at raising my voice at a 13 month baby, and ashamed to admit it probably won't be the last time. Bedtime was a battle tonight, and as I was about to go downstairs for who knows what round of the battle, Peter offered to do it for me. I would have loved to take him up on his offer, but knew that if I didn't end this day on a positive, warm-fuzzy-feeling note, I'd go to bed feeling even worse. So I went downstairs and rocked my girl, and watched her finally stop struggling against her cough and drift to sleep in my arms. And I realized I know her. I know almost everything about her. She rubs her hand against my arm as she falls asleep, the other hand tucked behind my back scratching it. She fits in the crook of arm still. She trusts me and loves me. Shame on me for letting her down with my lack of patience when she needed me today. I'm her mother, I owe her better than our day today. I kissed her head and told her I loved her, and promised her that tomorrow would be better.

And, today - is better. Still a little rough around the edges, like we're hungover from yesterday's cranky-bender. She woke up early and took a very short first nap. But as I dutifully made muffins this morning with the bananas that needed to be used today, and she whined to be picked up, I remembered my promise. I didn't pick her up, but brought the bowls and batter to the floor and sat with her as I walked her through what I was doing.

"See El, you put the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix it up. It'll be lumpy, but don't overmix". She was fascinated, and peered curiously into the bowls as I stirred. She reached her hand in (a little too quickly!) so I asked her to sit on her bottom, please. She sat obediently, as she licked her fingers, and I promised her that when she's a little older, she can help me stir.

And then I realized that my years of waiting for this very moment were coming to fruition. I am baking, with my daughter.

And when the muffins were done, we ate them together.

The rest of the day might be difficult, or it maybe not, but I will try my hardest to uphold my promise to her last night that today will be better. And it will be. :)