Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Topics I like to avoid before I’ve had my decaf

This entry is oozing out of me, but I’m hesitant to write it for so many reasons. Number one, it could come off as political, and overall I think politics are overrated and used to define, classify and divide too often. Also it may make me look like I assume I know what all people in one religious group believe on an issue, and I don’t nor do I claim to. Plus, it’s indirectly about a topic I hate and, almost eight months pregnant, don’t really want to talk about: abortion. Because today before 10 am I had the responsibility of fielding questions about back alley abortions from 8th graders. Yeah, just another day at the office.

It started out as a normal day. We’re reading a book we’ve read for five years, a girl gets pregnant, is sent off to have the baby somewhere else because it’s the 1960s and that’s that. But this year it didn’t stop there. Students in two of my classes raised their hands and asked if there was abortion in the 1960s to which I answered it wasn’t legal then. One student continued by asking if the dirty, back alley kind were an option in the 1960s. I repeated my previous statement about the legality issue and moved on.

But this entry isn’t really about abortion or the shock I felt about the casual way a 13 year old discussed it or that there was not even a collective surprised gasp when the words, “dirty, back alley abortion” flew from a girls’ mouth like the words “pink lip gloss”. It’s about lines and boundaries and who we are at our chosen professions and who we really are, and which one is actually real.

I don’t agree with abortion and I do connect that to my faith, not that I think if I was an atheist I would suddenly be okay with abortion. But my pro-life stance has been intertwined with my faith ever since I can remember because they are both what I have believed in for so long. Should that have come into play in my response? Should I have, as my husband recommended, said “the destruction of innocent human life wasn’t politically correct yet” instead of my neutral “it wasn’t legal”? Same thing, but not really because words carry meaning, and the first statement would have left no doubt about where I stood. With my students politically, religion, and issue wise, I always leave doubt. I’m not here to tell them what to think, I’m here to teach them how to think. None of them could tell you whether I’m a Republican or Democrat, pro-death penalty or against, pro-life or pro-choice. What’s a little scary is none of them could tell you if I’m a Christian or not, largely because I’ve kept it that way.

I am a huge supporter of the separation of church and state and that’s always been my defense. I do not want anyone’s religion running our country, period. I am a Christian before I’m anything else, but that doesn’t mean other people have to be. However, when did I become a droid, if that’s what I am? Because honestly it goes a little beyond wanting to make sure I wasn’t teaching kids what to think. I didn’t want angry parent phone calls flooding the principal’s office, and that crossed my mind in the brief time before I answered.

Though I did momentarily think of making a comment like my husband recommended, and I rarely let offending people get in the way of being sarcastic, I weighed the cost of that kind of comment and decided it was too high. Was that the right decision? Could parents have really been upset because I expressed more than neutrality at eight months pregnant with my son kicking inside of me about abortion? Who knows, but it’s easier to not rock the boat when there are hundreds of parents who I have seen get offended over much less.

In a place like where my husband works, a Christian organization that holds chapel every Monday, I would have had no problem expressing my opinion. But in a diverse school where people could be offended but also maybe positively affected, I hesitated. Is that Christian relativism? It’s not like I had to preach a sermon about it, but would have expressing where I stood and therefore a little more about who I am have been appropriate? Am I willing to be who I am and express my beliefs only when it’s safe or is it just going back to my belief that students need to know how to think, not what I think? I don’t know. I either failed miserably today or succeeded grandly. I don’t know which. And can you succeed at your job while failing as a Christian? If so, is it really succeeding at all?

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Second Time Around


The second pregnancy is different. Some things are the same: I’m still referred to as the happy, pregnant woman, I’ve still never had morning sickness, I still didnt have to shop for maternity clothes(thanks Amy). God has seen fit to bless me with easy, wonderful pregnancies both times, and I am so very grateful for that. The difference this time is more in how we’ve prepared for Sammy’s arrival, or not prepared.

With Wren we had four showers and the child had more clothes than Dennis and I combined before she was born. We spent $500 on a crib that has now become a glorified doll holder since we co-sleep. We took natural birthing classes for eight weeks. During the first pregnancy, we had time to do these things because we didn’t have a child yet.

Yesterday I bought Sammy clothes. This puts him up to a total of six pairs, more than enough I say until we see if he actually needs the newborn or zero to three months size. Sammy is getting a bassinet from my sister that she received from a friend because we know another $500 crib would be empty anyway since he will be in our room for night feedings and, when he’s big enough, our bed. We haven’t even been able to squeeze in a refresher course for our birthing class, but thankfully our birthing coach from last time has offered to doula if we need her. Between that and reading our birthing book from last time, we’re considering ourselves ready to go.

It’s not that we care less about this pregnancy or this child; it’s just a more mellow attitude the second time around. Sleep deprivation? Been there, done that. Putting together a nursery my child spends no time in because she’s attached to us all the time, which I love? Did that too. I have friends who decorate for fun, but I decorate because people walk in my house and think we’ve lived there for two weeks instead of over two years. It does not rank high on my priority list. If I thought Sammy would be in his nursery a lot, we’d be working on turning the office into a nursery a little bit faster. I know where he’ll be though; attached to me nursing or riding in his baby sling so he can hear my heart and get acclimated to the outside the womb world in his own time.

This time around, I want no showers. Wren’s clothes are now separated into three bins: two are full of clothes that still don’t fit and one is full of clothes she outgrew before the tags came off. I’ve already given away two bins of never worn clothes. When Sammy is given toys, we will have to start using our kitchen cabinets as storage space because Wren’s are already flowing freely out of her room and to every other corner of our house. Plus, most of Wren’s are unisex, so Sammy will have his fair share of toys just waiting. Dennis and I feel like we’ve hit the jackpot because my school has offered us diapers and wipes in leiu of cake and punch, and being second timers, we know how awesome this offer is!

I think for us it comes down to seeing our reality. Despite the fact that Wren has been showered with material possessions, and I’m sure Sammy will be too, it’s not what means the most to her. We mean the most to her. Our time spent working on puzzles, reading books, chasing her around the house, going to the park, is all she really wants. It may just be that she is too young, but so far she has never attempted to take a toy she likes from the store. She plays with it at the store, puts it on a shelf and walks out with nothing more than mine or Dennis’ hand and never throws a fit about it. If we were to detach her room from the rest of the house, I think she would honestly care less. As long as dad’s there to play and I’m there to sing, she might not even notice.

Our reality looks different than I expected because I was more of a boundaries person before we had kids. I thought there would be places in our house that were off limits or grown ups only. I cannot imagine it being like that now. Somewhere in between feeding a child from my body, watching her sleep, and obsessing if her temperature was 99 instead of 98.6, I lost all boundaries. I am like one liquid woman who feels connected and flowing through every member of our house. It’s amazing. Dennis and I were watching her sleep last night and he said he couldn’t imagine her not sleeping in our bed. Me either, and I know the time will come when she doesn’t want to.

I don’t want Sammy to feel like the hands me down baby or like we didn’t care enough to do all the first baby things with him. It’s not that way at all. Like I said, it’s just a mind set difference and the fact that we were so overly prepared with Wren that we can still use what we have to avoid being wasteful. Sammy and Wren are already distinct, unique, perfect little beings on their own, and any difference in how we prepare for them is not a reflection of our love. It’s just us meeting their needs. Every child is different. You don’t prepare for them or raise them exactly the same. It doesn’t mean you love one more than the other or expect more or less from one than the other. It means you are looking at them as individuals and making your decisions accordingly instead of adopting the one-size-fits-all version of parenting. Though I’m sure we’re destined to make mistakes everyday, I am comfortable with where we are now and how we got here. And I can say this: the excitement of adding another person to our family is just as awesome the second time around.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What's Scarier: Zombies or Stripper Poles?

There are maybe 45 random blog entries I could write at this exact moment. Life has been rewarding, interesting, and full lately and the fuller the life the less time I seem to make to write about it. I’ve been reprioritizing, and finding a time to write--something I do for nothing more than selfish pleasures right now--has been difficult. But that’s a whole different blog entry.

The main thing occupying my mind today is my students, what I see in them, what is good, what is scaring the crud out of me as someone who will be old and helpless when they are running the world. What parents choose to allow their kids to digest into their bodies and minds is their business. I am only speaking as a somewhat objective outsider who grades creative short story assignments. My thoughts: turn off the tv, video games, and any music that includes the words “ho”, “pole”, “disco stick”, or any reference to “capping someone”. I think zombies as an entire genre should also be outlawed. Quite frankly, at seven months pregnant I almost couldn’t get through some of the “stories” I had to read due to nausea. I had to soldier through so I could let the students know exactly why they would be rewriting their rough drafts. I told them from the beginning to make them school appropriate and was pretty specific on what that meant, but I finally realized something this year: this IS what they consider appropriate. When you can see strippers, shootings, and someone getting their throat slit (sorry Lost, I loved you but this is primetime before kids are in bed tv viewing and I almost puked seeing the throat slitting) before 8:00 and this is “family time”, the word appropriate takes on a whole new meaning. When the only radio stations I can turn on with my daughter in the car are Christian stations, 98.7 KLUV, or my classical station so my child won’t learn four letter words or slang for sexual favors, something is not right.

I’m not that old, I’m completely AGAINST censorship, and I am for parents raising their kids, not society. I’m just wondering why we don’t stop pouring our money into this kind of entertainment, which only allows it to thrive. At the very least, can we stop buying it for our kids or letting them view or hear it?

I’m sure none of this is startling to anyone who is ever around kids. I just think most people in education see things on a larger scale, and that’s what makes it alarming. You think kids aren’t affected by violence? Yeah, that’s the problem. They don’t flinch when people are stabbed, shot, or eaten by zombies. They could write screenplays that are more gruesome than most of my nightmares. It’s so second nature for them, as is a completely casual attitude toward “hooking up”. Doesn’t the fact that they aren’t outwardly phased mean they have somehow been affected in a more permanent, more disturbing way?

Lest you feel this blog is coming from a home where only pure things enter our minds, don’t be mistaken. Honestly, we rarely, and I mean almost never, turn on the TV at our house. However, Dennis and I do have a show we watch that has some gruesomeness in it, and that’s Fringe. Do we watch it when my daughter is around? Never. We order the Netflix videos after the season has been released and have a date night on the couch. Am I becoming a more intellectual human being watching this show? Probably not, but I still do it. It’s one of my few pointless outlets, and it’s viewed on an extremely limited basis. But there are still temptations everywhere you look, and even though I’m not as impressionable as a child or teen, I still don’t think some habits benefit me. Reading trash magazines while I wait in line at the grocery store? Probably killing brain cells I might need one day. Accidentally listening to a Kesha song where it took me a full minute to realize she was encouraging me to get “my drunk text on” and take my clothes off because I was so distracted by the beat? I don’t even want to relive that experience it makes me feel so stupid. But I know better than to defend this behavior. I can acknowledge it and say, with Christ’s help, I’m really trying to eliminate things that in no way could ever be seen as glorifying to Him. My students on the other hand actually attempted to defend watching The Real Housewives of wherever(never seen it) because of the lessons you can learn from it. Lessons? Don’t go on reality TV because you only end up looking stupid? Do you have to actually watch reality TV to understand that lesson?

The truly scary part: I have amazing kids this year. The kids are not bad; they’re just a true reflection of what our society chooses to value and promote wrapped in 13 year old bodies that serve as a startling reminder of how off track our priorities are now. Believe it or not, I would like my children to be surprised, alarmed, and appalled if they see anyone shot, stabbed, or eaten by a zombie. I want my daughter to slap the first guy who refers to her using any terms I’ve heard in a rap song. Maybe violence is not the Christian answer, but if anyone besides her husband mentions anything about a “disco stick” around her, so help me, I will probably slap them myself. And for ladies even attempting to date my son, you are not immune. Don’t show up at my house wearing stripper heels. I’ll knock you off the porch steps.

There’s enough scary, questionable stuff in the world. Kids don’t need to have seen most of it in some form before they hit puberty. It goes back to being an intentional parent, and yes, it’s exhausting. I think it’s worth it though. From where I’m sitting, I can tell you the cost of not being intentional is pretty high. Our kids are paying it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Going to the dogs

It was supposed to be a peaceful walk. I even left my ipod at home so I could just focus on the sounds of the night, maybe meditate a little bit (if you can technically meditate while moving) on what God has been teaching me and de-stress from the day. That’s what I was looking for last night when I started my walk around our neighborhood about 8:30. It was a little late, but I stayed close to the house. Turns out, being within 20 feet of your house does not ensure safety.

I’m not the kind of person who dislikes animals. My family has an unfortunate history with pretty much every pet who made its way into our home, but I like animals. We just don’t have the time or desire for a pet right now. However, we are pretty much situated in the middle of pet crazy neighbors who think that if one dog is good, five is even better. That’s fine with me, but I do believe that leash laws and pick up your own animals’ poo laws still exist. So I am never too happy to find my foot in a vaguely recognizable mess within my own yard, and I was especially perturbed when a dog came running towards my toddler last week leaving her the option of being attacked or jumping into the road. The owners were right behind the dog holding the leash. Unfortunately, if the leash is not attached to the dog, it doesn’t work. Who knew? Dennis grabbed Wren in enough time for the dog to realize it was a three on one fight and for its owner to jog over, put that pesky leash back on its collar and giggle. No harm, so I grumbled a little and forgot about it.

Then last night I encountered Cujo. Walking on the sidewalk across the street from my house, I heard a dog barking and growling and then felt it breathing on my left calf. It had jumped out of a dark alley and was inches from my leg looking for a reason to strike. I’m seven months pregnant, holding my car keys and pretty much frozen to the pavement at that point. I cannot remember what to do if a dog attacks, or how to keep one from attacking. All that keeps going through my mind are the bear safety videos Dennis made me watch before we went hiking in Oregon. I vacillated between rolling into a ball and playing dead and trying to find a tree to climb. That’s all I could remember, and I couldn’t get straight in my head which one to do when because I got bored halfway through the videos and told Dennis all I had to do to be safe from a bear was run faster than him. So, for some reason I put my hands in the air like I was being arrested and backed away saying stop in a relatively calm voice. I made eye contact, decided against it, looked at the pavement, kept backing up and realized Cujo was following me, still growling. This dog was not huge, maybe up to my knees, but it had teeth. If it can bite me, I don’t really care how big it is. Plus, it was not in a particularly good mood, so I was not having positive feelings about this situation. And I’m not sure how good my fighting skills would have been since it’s getting hard to punch around my ever expanding belly. The car keys seemed like an option, but that’s all I had. I kept backing, and when I decided to back into the street and try to get to my house, it didn’t attempt to come with me.

Once I made it to the hallway, fear evaporated and anger replaced it. This was supposed to be my relaxing walk. This is my neighborhood. I pay HOA fees! Why do I have to worry about dog attacks? Maybe the owners didn’t know the dog had escaped from its yard, and that’s the only thing that kept me from leaving a message on Animal Controls emergency line. Most of the other walkers had disappeared by the time I was chased into my house, so I figured the owners would realize Cujo had escaped the next day and deal with it before he amputated anyone’s leg.

The thing is, Wren likes dogs. I don’t want to teach her to be scared of them, but we do teach her that you don’t run up on them or touch them. We ask permission from any owner before we go near them because I understand that people can be as threatening to animals as animals are to people. I’m just looking for the same thing and really hoping the poo, leash-less animals, and attempted dog attacks don’t escalate. All of this has happened in about a two week period, so I’m praying it is a coincidence and not a sign of things to come. I don’t want to be the person who reports someone’s dog. I also don’t want to be the pregnant woman in the hospital unable to receive very much medical treatment because I’m pregnant. What happens when a dog bites you and certain antibiotics and pain meds can’t be used due to risks to the baby? Not finding out the answer to that question would be great. And even worse than that, I don't want to be the mom of a child who is attacked by a dog. My mind won't even go there.

I’m trying to think as a Christian how I should handle this, and I know it’s probably to talk to the owners personally first. However, I don’t have the ability to link the poo with the correct dogs DNA, and I am not going around a blind alley corner to find out whose yard Cujo resides in. We’ll see. I’m attempting another “relaxing” walk tonight, but I may have my pepper spray in hand this time. I don’t usually carry it because I’m just stupid enough to accidentally spray myself, but I’m willing to take that risk if Cujo goes into full attack mode. Maybe I need to find an indoor relaxing activity.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Rubber Ducky, You’re the One


I tired of the idea of multitasking months ago. Honestly, I believe that I can have 10 things on my to-do list and I will get them done faster if I work on one at a time, not five at the same time. What I finish is actually quality, and I’m not losing my mind trying to juggle returning a phone call while answering email and cooking dinner at the same time. I usually end up emailing the wrong person while not listening to the person on the phone and burning dinner. It’s not quality.

Apparently I even need to stop multitasking on some of the tasks that should be somewhat intuitive, at least while I’m pregnant. This realization came courtesy of an unfortunate bathtub incident on Sunday. I was running bath water, stepping in the bath water while having a conversation with my husband and trying to reach for my daughter who wanted in the bath with me when it happened: I was violated by a rubber ducky! Wren has about six rubber duckies, so I’m not completely sure who the culprit was, but I sat my tush on a ducky beak, flung my whole body backwards and sat in shock. Luckily, this fall did not lead to contractions and an emergency room visit, though it did lead to some laughs from husband and daughter.

It was amusing, but it did bring back the thought that multitasking is a myth. The brain needs to focus on one thing at a time to truly comprehend. It’s safer(that’s a shout out to all you crazies who text while you drive) and I feel healthier when I’m not doing the chicken-with-my-head-cut-off dance. It took me a long time to realize the root of my disorganization was just my tendency to take on too much and not prioritize what needed to be done first. Even if I could get it prioritized, I still never felt like doing one thing at a time was good enough, like I was cheating because I wasn’t 100% stressed and ready to scream. Luckily, I’m over that feeling.

I have to credit one huge change in our lives that has helped me eliminate the need for multitasking and that is pretty much doing away with our cell phones. I know, this is blasphemy for most people, but it is absolute bliss! We installed a home phone in June, went on a prepaid plan where we have so few minutes a month available that it has to pretty much be emergency only and life became much simpler. Here’s why:

People can’t find you, therefore they stop looking:
I remember when my phone would ring and it always seemed like I had to answer it. There was a sense of emergency revolving around the fact that someone was calling me right then and what if they needed something. Even if I didn’t answer, I had their voice message or text just waiting and this lent a feeling of needing to respond when a need wasn’t really there. Now, people call my cell, it’s usually off or not with me, and then they call the home phone if they really need something. I check the home phone at the end of the day and call back who I want when I want. And when people don’t really need anything, they stop calling and this frees up a ton of time you spend calling them back just to find out they only called you because they were bored.

Relationships are better when they’re not casual:
Speaking of people who call when they’re bored, don’t you just love the people who call because you’re their from here to there person? You know, that person they call on the way to the grocery store or to pick up their kids? They don’t need to talk to you, maybe don’t even want to, but they are so used to doing something all the time that sitting in the car in silence or with only the radio freaks them out. They call you, fake interest until they reach their destination, and then you don’t hear from them again until they are going somewhere else and happen to see your number in their phone. Yeah, these aren’t quality conversations. I am now a fan of the old school style phone conversations that involve putting my child to bed, getting something warm to drink and having a conversation with a person where this is no predestined time for it to end. Those are good, and honestly, I don’t have as many phone conversations as I did before giving up the cell, but they’re better when I do.

Texting…I just don’t have words:
I hate it. I am not a technology hater, but I hate texting. I realize this confession will make me unpopular with 99% of the population, but I'm ready to be honest. I hate it because 8th graders think you spell you as u, and cause as cuz, and they get seriously offended when this is not accepted on a formal paper in my class. I hate it because on a regular basis I am having conversations with people who then pull out their cell phones and respond to a text from someone else. By the way, this is not multitasking, it’s just rude. Really, if I bore you that much then just walk away. It would be less irritating. I hate it because by the time I type out one text, I could have called and said what I needed to say therefore making it a huge time waster. I just hate it.

Anyway, that’s my rant for the night. Rubber ducky bum violation = bad. More time with family doing one thing at a time and not living glued to a cell phone = good.