Two year anniversary

Apparently, according to a little notification I just received, this is my two year anniversary with WordPress.  It doesn’t feel like it, perhaps because I took a multi-month hiatus from writing.

In the two years since I started this blog, Wildling has grown and matured, and is becoming an amazing person (but still retains all the characteristics that led to me nicknaming her Wildling).

Mellow has gone from a calm mild-mannered baby into an extraordinarily sweet and kind mild-mannered child (with an occasional dramatic meltdown).

Will hasn’t changed a bit, though his hair and beard length fluctuates depending on his mood and which guard he puts on his electric shaver.

And me? Two years ago I started blogging because I wanted to do something for myself. I was overwhelmed with taking care of everybody else, and balancing a part-time job and  not sleeping and never having a moment free.  I started by pledging to write five minutes a day, as a way to ground myself and force myself to think.  Since then I’ve given up my job and transitioned to stay-at-home parenting, partly to save my sanity, partly because of health problems (hello, vitamin D deficiency),  and partly to make life easier for the rest of my family. It’s working out. I’m happier now.

So cheers. Happy anniversary, WordPress.  Sorry I didn’t get you a present.  Maybe next year.

Putting a ring on it

I learned something new from reading the New York Times: apparently, my beloved husband is actually unable to commit to me and seeks his freedom.  Crazy, right? I wouldn’t have believed it, but that’s how an actual psychotherapist sees Will’s lack of a wedding ring. It’s a symbol of “an inability to fully commit or a desire to be free.”

I’m going to admit that the only reason I clicked on the article was because I knew it would piss me off.  With a headline like Men Who Don’t Wear Wedding Bands – and Why, I suspected the ‘why’ answer wouldn’t be as simple as ‘he doesn’t like rings‘ or ‘he works in a field in which a ring could get his finger caught in a machine and rip the digit right off his hand‘ or ‘he has a metal allergy‘ (note: only the first of these things is true for Will). No, there had to be a deeper more dramatic reason.

The psychotherapist who was quoted in the article stated that not wearing a ring “…may unconsciously signal availability for adultery, either actually or in fantasy.” Really?  Maybe someone seeing my husband without a ring may make that person think that Will is available, but so what? What happens then? They hit on him? So? Quite honestly, if someone hits on my husband, he’s going to be oblivious to it (sorry sweetie, it’s true, you just don’t notice these things). That doesn’t mean he wants to cheat.  That doesn’t mean he’s available for adulterous liaisons.

The truth is, neither Will nor I regularly wear our wedding rings.  I wear mine when I want to feel dressed up or if I’m going to a professional event – it’s like armor that keeps older men from hitting on me. He wears his when we’re about to go out to celebrate our anniversary and I say something like “Hey, let’s put on our wedding rings!”

Neither of us like wearing rings, though we do like the actual physical rings.  They are titanium bands with a personally significant design made by an artist that Will befriended – Will bartered for them with some custom built LED lights, an old hobby of his.  They are our second set – I still have my original wedding ring; Will’s was destroyed six months into our marriage.  True story – he dropped a big stack of disk weights on his hand.  His ring, made from Tungsten Carbide, shattered, but was strong enough to save his hand – I’m pretty sure that if he had not been wearing the ring on that particular occasion, he would have ended up in emergency surgery and the doctors would have had one of those ‘we’re not sure if we can save your hand, where would you like the amputation‘ talks with him.

Sometimes Will talks about what his next wedding ring will look like.  He’s picked out some ridiculously expensive metal that he thinks looks cool.  For me, if we get new rings again, I want stainless steel. I like the look of it.  I once mentioned to my dad that my next wedding ring would probably be stainless steel and he got really angry with me, because apparently whatever ring you exchanged during your ceremony is your only wedding ring for all time and you can never change it out.  Jokes on you, Dad, thanks to a mistake in sizing, we didn’t even have Will’s real ring for our ceremony. It was a stand-in that looked nothing like it.

I once had someone (other than my father) get upset with me for not wearing a ring. I was talking to some guy outside of a bar study course, and we were chatting about the legal market and my unemployed status and he thought my outlook was very refreshing (because I wasn’t freaking out over not being employed yet).  He asked me a few more questions and was being rather complimentary, and then I said something about ‘well, my husband blah blah blah’ and the guy immediately got mad and asked – in an accusatory tone – where my wedding ring was.  I shrugged and said I didn’t know, probably on my keyboard at home because I hated wearing rings. The asshole started acting like I had been deliberately leading him on, and he walked away. I take full responsibility though – I had thought I was having an innocuous conversation with a colleague and did not realize that because I am a woman and he was a man, any such conversation should inevitably lead to sexual relations, if I am not wearing a ring to signal that I am closed for business.

Rings are nice, if you like wearing them.  But if you don’t, it doesn’t symbolize a deep dissatisfaction with your relationship.  In fact, maybe it means that you are so satisfied and secure in your relationship that the impressions others may have of your empty ring finger are irrelevant.  I don’t need a ring to know I’m married, and I don’t need Will to wear one to pledge that he’s mine.  We’re the ones who matter in this relationship.

Under the control of a toddler

It’s good to feel loved and needed, right? It’s a nice secure feeling when someone, without saying it, demonstrates that they can’t live without you, that they need you and only you, always.  Or is that some kind of emotional abuse? Is it actually a small tyrant exerting control over your life?

Like when your two-year-old will not let anyone else do anything for her, not even open her car door.  If someone like, say, her papa, opens her car door, she screams ‘No, Mama do it,’ and if the door is not immediately closed, breaks down into heart wrenching tears. Because surely, only Mama knows the correct way to open a door (it involves pulling on the handle, in a manner that is – in some undetectable way – different from the way anyone else can do it).

Like when your two-year-old trips and falls, mere feet away from her loving adoring Papa, who wants nothing more than to console her, but she backs away from him, screaming, because only Mama is allowed to pick her up, even though Mama is on the other side of the house, fully occupied with other tasks.

Like when your husband is able to successfully transfer your sleeping toddler from the car, carries her into the house and settles in with her on his lap, staring at her adoringly, but she wakes and sees whose arms she is in, and a full on meltdown occurs, because only Mama is supposed to hold her, and she makes that hysterically clear until Mama runs in to rescue the sobbing mess and the poor man who is trying to deal with both the physical contortions of the flailing child and the stabbing emotional pain of knowing that he cannot console her.

It’s harder for Will than it is for me.  I can sigh and bow to the whims of the little dictator, I can fulfill my role as the only butt-wiper and wound-kisser, and I know it is only temporary, and one day she will be a teenager and reject both of us.  It is poor Will who suffers, poor Will who just wants to be able to interact with his child without being faced with screaming rejection.

Is being two a good excuse?

Me: Mellow, please get out of the bathtub.

No response.

Me: Mellow, it is time to get out of the bathtub.

Mellow: <glaring balefully> I’m not going to do that, so just stop talking about it.

She’s two-and-a-half.  I suppose her response was a bit nicer than the “Tough crap, I’m doing it anyway” phase that Wildling went through at the same age.

 

Is this on your eating plan?

Before I was diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency, and was attempting to use Google instead of a medical professional, I self-diagnosed as having adrenal fatigue. It very neatly checked off all of the boxes for what I was feeling and what I knew to be wrong.  Of course, there still could be adrenal issues (though my bloodwork tells me my thyroid is just fine).

My self-diagnosis led to a massive change in my eating habits.  I read a few books and blogs and decided to follow an adrenal fatigue diet, which is fundamentally incompatible with veganism. I’ve re-incorporated eggs and poultry and fish into my diet, and I’ve stopped referring to it as cheating when I have dairy.  I’ve eliminated all processed sugars and refined carbohydrates like bread and pasta.  I’m eating small meals/snacks every three hours.

Overall, I think I’m getting healthier, and I’ve continued this eating plan even after getting my vitamin D deficiency diagnosis.

But here’s where I have to be careful: I can’t call it a diet. I can’t say “I’m following an adrenal fatigue diet” or “that food isn’t ok on my diet.” I have two young girls, and I’m raising them in a country full of body issues, where you’re shamed if you don’t fit a size zero, but you’re also bombarded with ads that say things like ‘real women have curves.’ What’s a girl to do? Starve yourself skinny and be told you aren’t a real woman? Gain weight and be told you aren’t pretty because you aren’t model-thin? Stress over your food and measure every calorie? Workout so you’re allowed to indulge in a piece of cake? Constantly worry about what you can and cannot eat?

I want my daughters to be healthy. I want them to feel good about themselves and their bodies.  Will and I often preach moderation, yes you can have cookies, in moderation.  Focus on healthy foods to help your mind and body grow. Sugar, yes, in moderation (especially at Grandma’s house). Run and play and climb because it’s fun, not because you need to work off your food.

I don’t want them to hear me talk about being on a diet. I don’t want them to grow up thinking that going on diets and depriving oneself is a way of life. I don’t want to normalize the concept of ‘dieting’ as deprivation.  I don’t want them to look back and think ‘oh, my mama was always on a diet, that’s the way it should be.’

So I tell them I’m trying a new eating plan, and I’m trying different things to get myself healthier.  And they ask me if things are on my eating plan.  I was at the grocery store with Mellow and she held up a bag of lollipops and said “Mama? Can you have these? Are these on your eating plan?” and of course I told her they aren’t on my eating plan, but they are on hers, as long as she doesn’t eat too many at once.

 

Singing to my children

I admit it: I can’t sing. I’m completely tone deaf, and my singing voice makes that very clear. But I love singing. I love singing along to the radio, I love singing with my kids. If I could change one thing about myself, I’d give myself a beautiful singing voice (and then I’d exploit the hell out of it and everybody would be so sick of listening to me).

Every night, Mellow requests that I sing her a song.  Someday, she’s going to grow up and tell me never to sing around her again. Someday, she’s going to call me an embarrassment.  But now, as a two-year-old, she thinks my voice is beautiful (or at least, I assume she thinks that).  Her current favorite lullaby fluctuates between ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ and the horribly depressing ‘Rock-a-bye Baby,’ or, as she calls it, ‘Wocka Wocka My Little Baby.’

I’m not a fan of singing about creepy men spying on my kids to determine how nice they are and whether they’re sleeping (seriously, Santa is a creepy concept!) or about babies falling out of trees, presumably to their deaths.  But, hey, if that’s what my only willing audience wants, that’s what she gets.

 

Emerging from the depths of vitamin deficiency induced depression

I told myself that I would know I was getting better when I started to be able to write again. And so here I am.  I don’t know if I’m actually getting that much better, but maybe psychologically, if I force myself to write, it will help bring me back the rest of the way.

I’ve been dealing with health issues.  I ended up in a dark spiral of fatigue and depression. I lacked all motivation and energy. I couldn’t complete tasks.  I was always living in with my brain in a fog. I couldn’t sleep, but I needed to. Even when I did sleep, I woke up exhausted.

It took months before I was able to admit to Will that I wasn’t handling things, that I did need help.  I thought I could fight through the fatigue on my own – I’ve been dealing with it for years. But then I realized I had crossed over into depression. I realized that I was unhappy, and miserable, and I took no pleasure from anything in life.  Will hadn’t realized it was getting that bad for me.  I think he still doesn’t quite understand.  He kept telling me to call the doctor and get some bloodwork done, to see if we could figure out what was causing all this.  He didn’t understand that I couldn’t overcome my inertia enough to even make that phone call. Eventually though, he did it for me.

And it turns out I have vitamin D deficiency.  That’s it.  It seems almost trivial to write that.  Yeah, I just needed a vitamin, that makes it all better.

It’s not that simple, of course.  I’m taking a massive weekly dose of vitamin D, plus a daily multivitamin.  I’m getting more sleep.  I’ve changed my eating habits to make sure I’m eating every 2-3 hours, to keep my blood sugar level.  I’m turning off all electronics at 9:00 so that I can go to be at 10:00 and actually fall asleep.  I’ve re-introduced fish and chicken into my diet.

Slowly, I’m getting better. I can feel myself improving. My hair isn’t falling out in clumps anymore, and I have the energy to do things around the house and take Willow on outings.  But if I exercise, I’m fatigued for days afterwards. Will keeps telling me to ride my bike more (before the weather gets impossibly hot), but when I do, I feel like I’m taking a step backwards in my recovery.

I’m working on it though.  I’m also working on dealing with a little bit of anger. Over a year ago, I had a physical with bloodwork.  And the doctor never shared the results with me, so I assumed everything was fine.  At that time, what they failed to tell me, was that not only was I vitamin D insufficient, just a step above the deficiency I’m being treated for, but my levels were so depleted that I was literally .01ng/ml above deficiency.  I can’t help but think that if they had just told me that, I would have started taking vitamin D supplements way back then, and I wouldn’t have spent the past several months suffering and miserable.

But I can’t go back and change that, so I’m trying to just focus on now.  I’m just focusing on healing myself, so that I can be healthy again for my family.

Ornamental Saga

Three years ago, my mother-in-law Kathy brought over a couple of ornaments for us.  One of them was a little mouse sitting on a candy cane.  Wildling loved it.  Each year, when we decorated the tree, she got so excited to find the little mouse and hang it up.

This year was no different.

Wildling pulled out the mouse ornament and exclaimed “I remember this one! It’s my favorite!” Of course, that meant Mellow, who is suffering from a terrible case of the terrible twos, wanted it very badly.  So Wildling very carefully hung the ornament high on the tree “so Mellow can’t break it!”

This led to Mellow throwing a massive tantrum, which involved hiding behind the tree and screaming, a scene that she will gleefully reenact if you ask her (“I behind tree screaming.  Me screamed like this ‘wah wah wah'”).

But we didn’t give in to the tantrum, and the mouse remained safely out of Mellow’s reach.

Until two days later when she asked me for it, and I figured what harm can she do?  And of course, she broke the mouse off the candy cane.  “Mama, this broken.  Papa need glue this.”

“Oh no, that’s Wildling’s favorite ornament!” I said.  She looked at me solemnly.

“Wildling be so mad at me.”

And Wildling was upset, but that night Will glued the mouse back to the candy cane, and all was well…or should have been.

The next day, the repaired mouse ornament was sitting on the table, when I set my water bottle down next to it – and my bottle fell over, crashed into the damn mouse, and knocked it off the candy cane.

That evening, when Wildling was already in a fragile meltdown state, not only did Will foolishly surprise her with the knowledge that her favorite ornament was once again broken, he also revealed that one of it’s paws was missing.

The desperate search for the paw (which, incidentally, revealed how many small white objects are on our tile floor) was set to a soundtrack of screaming, because Wildling just couldn’t handle it.

The search was fruitless, and we needed to put an end to the madness. Fortunately, I have mad google skills, and a copyright Hallmark 1981 was imprinted on the side of the candy cane. Within a few minutes, I had found several available ornaments (and discovered it originally came with a bell), and bought one for $10 on Ebay.

Not five minutes later, I walked into the kitchen, and there on the ground in plain sight was the damn mouse paw.

 

Compassion is needed

When I drop my daughter off at preschool each morning, I know that I will pick her up that afternoon.  I don’t fear that her school will be hit by bombs and I will have to identify the pieces of her body.  When I go out to a restaurant with friends, I don’t scan the people around me to see if anyone looks like they have something strapped to their chest that might explode, I just go and sit and eat, and tip well when the meal is over.  I don’t go to concerts very often, but a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to see one of my favorite bands, and not once did I fear that I might get shot.

I walk down the streets with my children, and I’m not always scanning for doorways to dive into, just in case. I can go to markets, and when I leave, I know I will be walking, not running, and the buildings behind me will still be standing.

I know where my next meal is coming from, and the one after that, and the one after that.  If all the nearby grocery stores were suddenly emptied, I could feed my family for a couple of weeks with what we have in the pantry.  Sure, we’d be sick of beans and rice, but we’d survive, and we’d be pretty well fed.

My husband goes to work each day.  Not once have I feared that he will be kidnapped along the way, that I will get a ransom note, or have to watch a video of him being beheaded.

Tonight, I will tuck my daughters into their beds.  And when I kiss them goodnight and walk away, I know that in the morning, I will be able to wake them up.  They will still have a bed, and a room.  I do not fear that I will have to look for them in the rubble, because I do not fear bombs at night.

I have this safety, these advantages because I had the good fortune to be born to American parents.  I didn’t earn my safety. I didn’t have to work for it.  I was born in the United States, and I have benefited from that every day of my life.

It breaks my heart when I look at pictures of Syrian refugee children, sleeping on the ground, cold and dirty and scared.  These children don’t have the same advantages mine do, simply because they were born somewhere else.  While my children are fed and bathed and sleep on soft mattresses under a solid roof, these children fear their pillows and worry about their parents, and mourn their lost siblings.

When I look at my Facebook news feed, I see a lot of smug self-righteous people saying hey, don’t let those refugees into my country.  Make them take a religious test first.  Only let in women and children, send the men back to fight and die (or join the enemy for self-preservation and end up killing more innocent people). We shouldn’t allow them to come here, because we don’t have the resources. If we don’t help our homeless vets, why should we help anyone else?

What do you mean we don’t have the resources? True, we have an unequal distribution of wealth.  There are billionaires eating caviar and pouring out thousand dollar bottles of wine in their private jets while families with small children line up at food banks and our disabled vets eat from soup kitchens.  But we do have the resources to help.  As a whole, we are fat and happy and healthy.  We are rich. We are safe.  If we don’t help our homeless vets, the fault isn’t with the refugees but with us, with our unwillingness to pay taxes, with our condemnation of the poor and the addicted, with our lack of compassion for the least among us within our own borders.

I’m not afraid of Syrian children.  They aren’t out to destroy my way of life. The only harm they can cause me is that looking at their pictures makes me cry, and I don’t like crying. I’m not afraid of their parents either, or the other thousands who are fleeing the violence.  Is it possible that a terrorist can sneak in with the refugees? Sure.  But is it something we should fear? Is that a weapon we should use against the poor broken people looking for safe harbor? Sorry, a bad guy might sneak in with the rest of you, so you’ll all have to fend for yourselves. Best of luck, but stay on that side of the fence.

Why are so many people asking “how can we stop them from coming?” rather than “how can we help them?” Why isn’t the discussion what we should do, rather than if we should do anything at all?

Why do I see so many people claim that because some people from a religion are terrorists, therefore every other member of that same religion is also a terrorist and should be harassed and shunned and sent off to die in a battle not of their choosing?

What happened to compassion? What happened to knowing that we are all in this together? We only have one world.  We only have one life on it.  We shouldn’t spend all our time immersed in fear and hate.

I don’t have the answers. I just know that we have a choice to make, and it is important, because it will decide our future. And if it were up to me, I would choose compassion, and openness, and spreading love rather than hate.

 

Turbie Mistakes

I made a terrible parenting mistake the other day.  It was the kind of thing that other parents would shake their heads at and quietly mutter “rookie mistake.”

Backstory:

A couple of weeks ago, Wildling came running out of the bathroom post-bath, dripping wet and carrying her towel.  Miraculously, she did not slip on the tile floor and bash her skull open.  She had decided she wanted me to dry her off, not Will, who had been the one who actually gave her the bath.  So I dried her with the bath towel and then wrapped her hair up in it like a turban.  She’s quite small, and the towel was large and heavy, so she had to steady the turban with her hand, but she just loved it, it was the greatest, funniest thing ever.  Of course that meant that every night after that, a dripping wet child, followed by her dripping wet toddler sister came running out of the bathroom looking for me so I could give her pretend hair again (because, obviously, a large bath towel is like a wig of fake hair, in Wildlingland).

So I thought I’d be a good parent and also make things easier on myself by purchasing towels that are intended to be used as hair-drying turbans.  I went to the store and found the Turbie Twist Towel.  Perfect.  They were small, lightweight, intended for hair purposes, and they came two in a box (plus I had a 20% off coupon).

I bought a package with one blue and one pink.

Parents, have you discovered my mistake yet? If you noticed there were two different colored towels in the box then yes, you noticed the mistake. But it gets worse.

I washed the towels before use, because I always do that.  Then I had a great big pile of laundry on the couch and it was almost bath time, and I was somewhat proud of myself for making the purchase, so I said “Hey Wildling, come here. Check out what I got you.” [mistake #2].  I grabbed the first Turbie Twist that I could find in the pile [mistake #3] and showed it to Wildling and put it in her hair as a demonstration.  It was the blue one [mistake #4].  Mellow, of course, came running up saying “Me too! Me too!” so I dug out the pink one [mistake #5] and gave it to her (she wouldn’t try it on).

Wildling immediately wanted the pink one.  I explained that both Turbie Twists belonged to both girls, and they could wear whichever ones they wanted and take turns or whatever.  I told her the towels were a shared resource [mistake #6].

To Wildling, this meant that she was in charge of towel distribution.  She decided on a pattern, in which she would get the pink one night and the blue the next.  Can you guess which one she wanted first? The pink, of course.

Mellow is two.  She did not understand Wildling’s planning and patterns and so all she understood was that her sister was taking away her new towel! Mama had just given her a pink towel and now someone was taking it away! The horror! This was a situation that could only be resolved through violence, mostly in the form of biting.

This was not a singular event.  The towel battle, inevitably leading to screaming and tears, takes place every other night, when Wildling uses the pink towel.

It is my fault.  I overestimated the reasoning skills and under estimated the possessiveness of children.  Also, I failed to understand the desirability of pink towels.

I’ll do better next time, I promise.