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You

09 Sep 2014

I used to scoff a little bit at mothers writing to their babies in the second person. “You are 6 months old, and you are the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen. You tasted cauliflower for the first time today.”

I get it now. I constantly fight the urge to compose notes to Lydia’s future self. Because all day, every day, she is right here with me. But at the same time, she’s not really here. It’s like she has reverse dementia. Every day she becomes a little bit more herself, and will slowly be able to form more and more memories. But right now every moment that feels sweet or funny or frustrating or precious, it only exists with me.

So I understand the urge, but I still prefer the fact that as my mom kept track of our childhoods, she didn’t address her memories to us. “Brenna was up six times last night.” Rather than, “You were up six times last night.” I think my issue with the directed-to-the-baby phrasing, is that I am no longer that small baby that tortured my parents at night. I might enjoy hearing about that baby, but I now more closely identify with the mother getting up again and again, than the baby crying in the crib. I am not that “you.” I’m also not the “you” learning to potty train, or cutting my friend’s hair, or playing at the beach. And I prefer reading about my mom’s parenting experience of this small stranger that was me, than I would reading something directed at “me”–a person who no longer exists.

It’s just a style thing. I don’t begrudge anyone the sweetness of writing directly to the small amnesiac that shares their days. Here, I’ll join. Lydia, you are 9 weeks old, and today (like almost every day) we walked to Trader Joes. The whole way there, you stared at me with utter intensity, like someone falling in love.

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Growth Mindset

29 Aug 2014

I’ve followed Carol Dweck’s work on growth vs. fixed mindset for a long time. She has done a ton of research around children being praised for their innate skills versus their effort. My older sister, a kindergarten teacher and lover of educational research, has put this into practice in her classrooms: “I see the way you built a tower out of all red blocks.” “Look at how you practiced sounding out that word, you just kept working on it until you figured it out!”

Kelly texted me the other day and let me know that fixed mindset is especially damaging for high achieving girls, so I better not screw up her niece by praising her for who she is rather than what she does. I asked for an example of how to model this with my 7 week old, who spends most of her days sleeping, crying, or laying on the ground like an adorable slug.

She offered: “Lydia, look how your smile just keeps getting bigger and bigger. You must really be working on those mouth muscles. You didn’t used to do that on purpose, and now you can!”

In response, Matt offered: Lydia, you survived another day. Good work.”

Kelly offered: “Lydia, I know some people say that babies aren’t good sleepers, but you can learn to sleep all night long. Don’t let stereotypes define  you.”

The next day, Matt was practicing again:

Matt: Lydia! Good job taking your medicine! …I mean…I observe that you take your medicine…

Brenna: Lydia! You used to hate that medicine and now you can take it no problem! Way to keep trying.

Matt: …because you are our special snowflake.

Close enough.

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Answer: Many, Many Times

29 Aug 2014

Matt: Does my chest smell like spit up? I washed it, but I think it might still smell like spit up.
Me: staring blankly
Matt: What?
Me: Do you know how many times a day I get spit up on?

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Mind Games

12 Aug 2014

1. In the middle of the night, when I’m starting to feel really frustrated about being awake, I’ll think to myself, “Man, I am getting so many points for this.” Who is giving me these points? No idea. How are the points tracked? They aren’t. Yet somehow thinking it makes me feel like I’m part of a big game. And if new parenthood is a game, then 3am baby soothing is surely equivalent to beating the dragon master beast or whatever. Or going ten rounds undefeated in Super Smash Brothers (Matt just helped me with this analogy).

2. Today I pushed her feeding time a little too far, and found myself driving home with a baby who was losing her mind. It was the kind of screaming where you think the baby might stop breathing. Totally heartbreaking. So I pretended that instead of crying in sadness and hunger, she was actually screaming obscenities at me. Which made me laugh, which kept my nerves together enough to drive us the remaining 5 minutes safely home.

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Zen Master Training

10 Aug 2014

Two nights ago: baby was up from 1:30am-4am straight. Matt and I traded off rocking, bouncing, walking, feeding, swaddling, diaper changing, re-swaddling. My thoughts: We’ve got some bad habits to break. I should’ve been working harder at creating a routine. She can’t self-soothe. It’s going to be a long week/month/life.

Last night: baby went to sleep by herself in the crib at 9:30pm. Woke up at 2:30am to eat. Went back to sleep by herself. Woke up at 6:30am. My thoughts: …alright then…

And so continues this life where I’m continually shown just how little control I have. Also, relax, she’ll probably figure out (fill in the blank every day of her life) like two seconds after I  become convinced she never will. Also, ridiculous because it’s not like she’s working out her sleep patterns on her own volition, but I felt SO PROUD of her.

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Journals

06 Aug 2014

My parents are up this week, easing the transition now that Matt’s back at work. My mom brought her journals from when the three of us were babies. At first I started reading the journal from when I was a baby. It was fun to hear about myself, but a little disheartening from a new parent perspective. I was on a great schedule by six weeks. It seemed like such a smooth transition. I gained weight quickly.

Last night I started reading the journal from when Kelly (baby #1) was a newborn. Ahh, that’s more like it:

4 weeks: “Every day is so different. I’ll feel like I’ve figured something out, and then it just changes.”
5 weeks: “She wants to keep one of us occupied at all times.”
6 weeks: “Her first night in the crib was so traumatic, I could barely sleep without hearing her breathing and little noises.”
7 weeks: “It takes me 6-7 times to pump 4 ounces of milk, but those little bottles in the freezer feel like freedom.”
8 weeks: “Someone said today that it doesn’t get better, it just gets different. So true.” (Hah. Must have been a rough day.)

Sounds about right.

There’s also lots of lovey dovey stuff about how she’s the most beautiful baby. Her dad is so smitten. Strangers always say how cute she is, etc.. I feel all that too, of course. But the best part of the Kelly journal is the new parent self-doubt, the voice that wonders if the baby is okay, if you’re okay, if life is going to be okay. It was, and it is.

And in 13 years, I’ll be ready to face the teenage children journals…

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B: Wait! Don’t drink that!
M: Why?
B: I dipped a spit up rag in there.

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Matt in Three Acts

14 Jan 2013

1. Breaking Brenna

Matt is sitting on the couch with a tablet and headphones as I enjoy my blog reading in peace. He removes his headphones and looks at me with sorrowful eyes.

Brenna, say I was a high school chemistry teacher. And say I got cancer and the prognosis wasn’t so good. And say that we didn’t have the money for treatment. And say that I didn’t want to take money from the wealthy friends that offered, because it’s a complicated relationship. And say instead that I got into making drugs (say meth, for example) and working with one of my students to sell it on the street. And say I lied to you about it for years. But I didn’t expect to lie for so long because I thought I wouldn’t live very long anyways. And then say I decided to come clean to you and tell you everything and then never lie about it again. Then would you leave me?

I looked at him. Blinked.

Yes. I would. Don’t do that.

2. Sweater Snipe

Matt and I watched this funny and vulnerable video of Lindy West telling the story of internet trolls finding out she is fat, and then making her cry every day. Some of trolls Lindy was dealing with came from the PUA community. Pick Up Artists. As in guys who spend time on internet forums figuring out strategies to pick up women. As you can imagine, this is a really emotionally healthy bunch of fellows.

You know what I had to do next. I had to read PUA forums for the next few hours, and recount to Matt scripts that will guarantee he goes home with a woman’s number. Don’t worry, I stuck to the classy PUA forums, and only the most tame comment threads. Some of the strategies were actually pretty good. Like how to start a conversation with a woman who has headphones on. Ask her what she’s listening to and then when she inevitably says some cheesy pop song say, “then it’s a good thing I interrupted you.” Sure, it’s lame, but it’s harmless and I can see it leading to a conversation.

Of course, most of the threads had a clear undertone–or overtone–of misogyny and aggression. Like all the women described with number ratings. Or the liberal use of “feminazi” referring to women who refused to pass out their number to men who sounded like creeps. Or just the whole concept that women can be easily tricked into sleeping with men they would not otherwise be interested in through subtle manipulation.

And then there is the concept of “negging,” a tactic used to knock confident, beautiful women down a peg in order to make them insecure and eager to boost their self-esteem by gaining your approval. Now, negging should only be used on women who are 9′s or 10′s. Although you may also need to use it on a girl who is especially self-confident, or is in an area where because of the context she might be the prettiest girl around. The headphone example above was actually gentle negging, knocking the girl’s taste in music. You could also do the “oh, you’ve got something right here” move, indicating the woman has something stuck in her teeth. Or, “You have really big ears. Don’t worry, I think it’s cute!”

This is all a super long intro to Matt and I manning the visitor table at church Sunday morning. Service had started, so we were waiting for stragglers before heading inside.

M: I’m going to try to “neg” you.

B: Okay, go for it.

M: *thinking*

M: That’s a nice sweater you have on, is it wool or synthetic?

Ouch! How dare you you damage my self-esteem by questioning my…clothing fibers.

3. Feeling Lucky

Matt scratches my forehead.

B: What are you doing?

M: You’re a lotto scratcher…I WON!

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Houses and Pilates

06 Aug 2012

Here are some things:

1. Matt and I spent Sunday afternoon looking around open houses. “We should do this more often,” said Matt after house two, “it’s fun and free!” “Yes, until it becomes very, very expensive,” I said. I wish I had pictures of the least expensive (still very, very expensive) house that we looked at. There was the mismatched linoleum floor and the rotted out cabinets. The sink was covered with rust and filled with steel wool, its faucet covered in duct tape and a sign that read, “DO NOT TURN–sink leaks.” The agent showing the house explained that the bathroom sink and toilet also leak. Oh, and the wiring is all original. Inside one of the bedrooms I peered into an open, empty closet, “Are those…dead cockroaches?” “They’re some kind of large dead bug,” Matt assessed. Upon further inspection, “Yes. Cockroaches.”

2. I started taking pilates a few months ago. I’ve wanted to try it ever since I nannied for a pilates instructor back in college and saw all the cool machines and bands and other toys. But I always feared making an utter fool of my uncoordinated self. I finally ponied up for private lessons so that I could make a fool of myself in front of only one person instead of several. Matt had to practically push me out the door for my first lesson. After I was deemed ready for groups sessions, he had to push me out the door again to go to my group class. Now the class time I’ve been attending doesn’t work for me, so after my last class I signed up for a session with a different instructor. I was telling a friend how the new teacher will probably think I’m terrible and will be mean to me. What’s the normal advice you get in response to a ridiculous irrational fret like that? “Oh, you’ll be fine. I’m sure you really aren’t that bad.” But instead she said, “Well, you might be terrible, and they might be the strict/push you kind of teacher, but they will be nice to you because you pay them. They couldn’t keep clients if they weren’t nice.” Awesome.

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How to be a Person

28 Jul 2012

Six months ago I got a new job, and everything else went away for a little while. Life was stripped to the mission critical tasks: eating, sleeping, (occasional) laundry, (shoddy) cleaning. Over the last few months I’ve slowly emerged from the fog. I love my job, or at least wholeheartedly like it, but it’s really nice to feel like a person again. Things that make my personhood list:

  • Cooking dinner. Healthy-ish dinner. Made out of ingredients that don’t cost a million dollars because I’m too tired to chop vegetables.
  • Reading books. Blog reading is so low energy that I manage to keep up that habit no matter how crazy life gets. But book reading, that’s another story. The Hunger Games series were the first books that I could manage to keep my eyes open for. I must be making a full recovery now, because I’m sailing through Hillary Clinton’s memoir. I’m also sailing over the boring parts, but still, progress.
  • Having friends. Outside of work friends. The upside and downside of working from home was that I became close friends with lots of moms, who tended to be available during the day. Those friendships take a bit more flexibility now that I’m 9-5 (or 8-6). A coffee date here, and an early morning walk there, and suddenly I’m feeling like I’m not the last stop on the life-info train.
  • Baking. I’m fairly sure I feel like the truest version of myself when there are cinnamon rolls in the oven. Although…maybe it’s a good thing this one decreases, because…
  • …Running. The only thing that kept this from going entirely out the window was the fact that I was in the middle of training for a race when I took the job. Once the race was done, so was any tenuous commitment to exercise. So I signed up for another race.
  • Writing. Hello, again.
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