Monday, June 27, 2011

Those Women

Those women make it look easy. They are put together, well-groomed. Perhaps they have even accessorized. They never say things like "Shit, I forgot the sandwiches," or "Brilliant, I left my cell phone at home."

They hand their child a water bottle just as it is saying it is thirsty as they laugh out a dazzlingly witty comment about mothering and its strictures. They never lose their tempers in public or look the least bit frazzled while parenting in a crowd.

They plan menus and cook meals. Their houses are clean and their gardens tidy. They have accomplished careers are and respected in their fields.

I hate those women.

No Mood (Or, the last of the queued and never-posted pre-vacation posts)

Once you are a parent, you hope that you will no longer be on the receiving end of lectures. And unless you have meddlesome in-laws, this is a reasonable hope.

Recently, I was reminded that I am not afforded this luxury, when I heard one of our day care providers say, "Oh good, you're here. You can see what Finn did on the porch on Friday." Here I was, hoping he had accomplished some feat of pre-school engineering through the use of wooden blocks, and M- was astonished at his dexterity and ingenuity.

Alas, vain hope, you are a flighty and tempestuous harlot of day dreams. My child is not going to be a brilliant engineer who figures out how build sustainable urban centers that are both attractive and imaginative.

"Finn, come here. I want you to show your Mommy what you did on Friday. [to me] Finn and B- were playing so nicely on the porch that Other M- decided to leave them unsupervised, and here is what they did. Either B- or D- or Finn are responsible for doing this." And he showed me a series of wooden-framed blocks that all had cracked plexi-glass panes and the sad remnants of colored sand rattling around inside their shattered hulls.

I may have stopped listening at the word "unsupervised."

I wanted to say, "Well, they are a 3-year-old, a 4-year-old, and a 5-year-old, all boys, and you left them alone with something breakable and many breakers. Too bad, you lose, take responsibility for your inaction and deal with it."

Sure, they should not have done it, and one of the boys should have known better, and someone should have told M- or Other M-, but perhaps a grown-up should have been there. I held my tongue, though, knowing that a larger discussion would ensue, and I would never win.

Instead, I plodded and fumed to my office, thinking that it's not even nine-o'clock in the morning, and I want a do-over. Last week sucked, and I don't need a repeat, one that makes me want to quit it all, throw my own tantrum, and shirk all responsibility in favor of beer and comfy pants.

I don't have any blocks to break.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The View from Whine Country

A paper published in the Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology has shown that listening to whining can make us bad at math.

Yes. Whining is more distracting than a randomly screeching power saw.

Parents already knew this, but it's nice to have data to support our observations.

Researchers set up an experiment in which both men and women, parents and non parents, were asked to solve simple subtractions while being subjected to different sound environments: whining, infant crying, motherese*, neutral speech, machines, and silence.

Whining won.

First off, in a grand exaggeration, the only thing I might find more annoying than whining is terms like "motherese", but I don't have to listen to sociologists and psychologists while I am chopping carrots in my kitchen. Secondly, what a pitch for participation this must have been: “We're going to make you listen to whining while doing math. Sound good? We'll give you an M&M for every problem you get right.”

Unless you are a parent. The parents were given tickets for a raffle of gift cards at a toy store. Brilliant. Parents should have been given drink tokens for a local bar and vouchers for undergraduate babysitters, not the possibility of a whine-filled trip to the toy store to get a whine-encouraging toy. Wrong whine.

Humans use sound to attract attention and get results: infants use crying and two to four-year-olds use whining (and crying, often in a delectable tonal mix). This article states that whining, crying, and motherese "are all part of an attachment vocalization system that exploit[s] an auditory sensitivity shared by humans."

Key word being “exploit.”

Supposedly, we are in the middle of peak whine production, which is between the ages of 2.5 to 4. I hope we are at the pinnacle, and it will be all downhill from here, but I am not going to count on it. This is whine country, and the grapes are sour.

Attachment vocalizations are supposed to "bring the attachment partner nearer." I am assuming this means nearer to the vocalizer and not nearer to insanity, crime, and alcoholism. It's interesting though, and I wonder if mothers get whined at more than fathers. Daddywhumpus has said that "he didn't whine at all while you were gone," when I have returned home to find my boys reading a story, and smaller boy looks up, immediately whining me. It doesn't make me feel better to think that I am the catalyst for the majority of the whining we get in the house, but after all, that is only anecdotal data subject to the interpretation and memory of one adult.

Aside from making me scribble 4 - 2 = “9” or “yellow”, whining brings out the Bad Mommy in me. It has made me want to flip him off more than once and has made me lose the power of intelligible speech numerous times, reducing me to prolonged, one-syllable shrieks of frustration.

Interestingly, they used an adult voice for the whine, instead of a child, because it is difficult to get children to act out extended whining in a controlled environment. It's that “controlled environment” bit that is most important to note, as most parents of a preschooler will tell you that their sonorous little demon is decidedly capable of sustained whining in the chaotic environment of the family home. Still, I think they could have gotten a solid minute out of a little whiner if they had persisted in ignoring its pleas. They will often continue for quite some time under such circumstances.

I have to admit that I stopped paying attention to the article when it began discussing results in terms of calculations and variables. I did not even need whining to distract me. I did notice that they used the term “acoustically designed” regarding attachment vocalizations, which I think is inappropriate, especially considering the journal in which the article appears. Certainly, “evolved” would be a better term.

And when it comes to results, do the results that children receive reinforce the effectiveness of whining and encourage the behavior? If any response is the correct one, which is often the case with children, then probably yes. It certainly gets responses; it’s very hard to ignore. Whether or not it brings the attachment object closer in proximity to the whiner is arguable.

It makes me want to leave the planet.

* “motherese is the child-directed speech parents use towards young children to sooth (sic), attract attention, encourage particular behaviors, and prohibit the child from dangerous acts.” It is also one of the most annoying terms I have heard in a long time, and something that probably warrants its own post. If this is what I think it is, it’s something we have actively tried to avoid doing to our child.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A good day, and other items

Yesterday was our first box full of delicious, super-fresh vegetables from our local CSA, so here are a couple gratuitous food shots:




And while I am at it, purely for the heck of it, here are some other gratuitous images:

Breakfast and Hairdos:


A Boy and his Ho:


New sandbox, constructed by McCauley Men:


A completed train layout that lasted all of seven minutes before Finn decided he was "done" and took it apart. Merciless tyrant. I was just trying to play. Kids ruin everything:


Posing with birthday card from great-grandparents, Jim and Mary:


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sick of Myself

It's a little late in the calendar for Spring Cleaning, but it's not quite too late in my life.

A few weeks ago, I was trying to get ready to go to a show at which my dear friend was performing. Getting ready to go out has become a chore because I don't fit into most of my fancy or interesting clothes. While I used to make the excuse that this was mostly boob-related, as this is where most of the trouble had arisen, my "can't wear because it's too small" pile is starting to seep into my every day clothes, and nothing about that is OK.

I thought I could go with wedding corset and jeans or slacks, but nope. I could not lace it up in any way that would have been remotely comfortable or look anything like good.

Here's some math.

Take one pregnancy (P), add one preemie (p). Multiply by three years (3), subtract time for meal planning , lunch packing, exercise (-t), add drinking at home (+C2H5OH), and you get 150.

or: (P+p)(3)-t+C2H5OH=150

I signed up for Weight Watchers for Introverts, also known as Weight Watchers Online, because I will never, ever go to a meeting. It's not that I would rather die, because that's a little extreme, and having a preschooler leaves only a few minutes a day for personal drama, unfortunately. I just know that going somewhere for weigh-ins and any sort of support would be entirely mortifying to me. Though, the extra stress it causes might be good for more weight loss, it won't be good for the stress-management side of things.

The first thing I did was look up beer. Specifically, Guinness. It's not in their database, so I must be the first one! Since that is certainly not the case, I went outside and Googled "guinness weight watchers' points" and found numerous links. On the Weight Watchers discussion page, it's quite a back and forth, with anything from 1-5 points for a Guinness. I'm going with four.

Now that this is cleared up, I can proceed.

At the same time, I signed up for a 10,000 steps program through my work health insurance and strapped on a pedometer. Which means I leave my desk and go for walks. On my first walk, by the river, I saw flowers and birds and trees and sky. I also learned about a wilderness trail practically right out my office door.*

The benefits of being sick of myself are so numerous, that I have lost six pounds, gotten outside every day, and am no longer sick of myself.

Well, not entirely.

*The Winchell Trail is a multi-segment hiking-only trail on the west bank between Franklin Avenue and 44th Street. Unpaved paths break away from the main trail along the bluffs and cut into the woods, allowing you to really experience the lower gorge. One section drops down to the sandy shore of the Mississippi River and another takes you through an oak savanna restoration area. Some sections are rugged and others are closed for vegetation restoration, so follow the signs and stay on the path. These unpaved trails can often be muddy after it rains and have a number of stairways--some dating back to the 1930s. Between 38th Street and 44th Street the Winchell trail doubles as the paved,pedestrian-only segment of the separated bike/pedestrian trail along the bluffs. Here pedestrians can slip away for West River Parkway and descend into the gorge.

The Fear

How do you get The Fear? Our three-year-old, being three, certainly does not have it. So how do you get this small being to do what you want it to do? After all, he is just starting to figure out the will of his own, form opinions, remember events, and really process information.

How do you get that small being to listen?

Maybe it's not even about fear and consequences. After all, the fear of consequences doesn't work on adults all the time, either. People just do stuff and worry about what happens afterward. Cautious people might go through an if/then scenario in their heads before they embark on a task, but a lot of things happen without conscious thought, so can I expect my son to freaking listen to me?

Different things work for different people. Fear works for me. Consequences work for me. The possibility of looking foolish, doing something wrong, failing: all of those work to keep me in line. So far, I don't think my son resembles me as a child, so fear is probably not going to work in the least. In my case, I generated those things all on my own, I think. It's just part of my personality. Finn is relatively care free and energetic. He's definitely sweet and inquisitive. And he's three.

Rewards might work for some people.

Find the thing a person cares about, and use that. Money, TV, power.

In this case, I think our only weapon is Bunny Fruit Snacks.

Book Blurb

Not only do I wish I had written this f@#ing book, but now, Samuel F@#ing Jackson is narrating it.

This goes right along with my earlier post including Tim Minchin's Lullabye.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Spring Cleaning

I am thinking I am ready for a change. A new lay out for this space. Of course, that would involve time and commitment, neither of which I seem to be possessing in abundance these days... In any case. I might get around to it soon, and I might even include kittywhumpus, though that might be a stretch...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Parenting Skillz

We haz dem.


Backyard Joust

I don't work at the Renaissance Festival anymore (princess hats at home not included), and even when I did, I never saw a joust, not in 20 years. Fortunately, I have a son, a patio, a Mater and a ho.


Days Like This

It's days like this that are perhaps best kept to ourselves. It's better that the outside world believe that it's either 102 degrees, like yesterday, or -20, like it sometimes is in the winter. They don't need to know about the 77 degree, sunny, lush days like today, which, when accompanied by a light, refreshing breeze, can make one quite affable, to the point of smiling at strangers.

Which is something that we don't generally do here in Minnesota.

But it's the weather that keeps us together. Long winters, excessive heat, humidity that makes you almost gasp for air, bone-chilling cold: these things draw us into conversations, even if it's in grumbling commiseration. Days like today, even if they are not mentioned overtly, make us all feel a little better about ourselves and our fellow humans.

My son is still too young to know that the reason he was a miserable wreck yesterday while outside and then turned into a rambunctious, uncontrollable demon once inside our air conditioned home was because it was stinking hot outside and refreshingly pleasant inside. I asked him if he was hot, and he whined out "Yeaaaaaah," but he is not a reliable source of information about himself and will often answer yes or no to a question based merely on his capricious moods.

Today is a good day to get outside and walk, work in the garden, sit on the porch and watch the neighborhood go by. It's not the best day to sit in a windowless, air conditioned office, but I'll make it work.