Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bye-bye, Time Out

With this post, I am not about to tell you that you're doing it wrong.

I'm not going to tell you that your method for disciplining your child is inferior to mine. 

I'm not going to suggest that you change what's working for your family. 

I'm just going to tell you about something we've done recently in response to an ever growing problem of finding an effective means of discipline and instruction for our child. 

Time outs don't work for The Boy. They do not teach him anything but to get angry with his parents. His immediate thought when placed in time out is not "what did I do wrong?" or "how can I avoid getting a time out next time?," but "How do I get out of here?" and "I'm really pissed off and I don't know why."  This is despite the fact that we tell him why he's being put in time out.  The problem is that he's so upset and in such a heightened emotional state, he can't understand us.  He hears us, but the intelligent, comprehending part of his brain is not the part that is engaged when he gets a time out.

So it doesn't work.

There is a lot of screaming. A lot of crying. A lot of pleading and begging. A lot of drama.


There is no evidence of changed behavior after time outs. No, day in and day out, it is nothing but more of the same behavior with the same ineffective means of "discipline," the time out. 

Like I said, time outs don't work for our kid.

And they don't work for my husband and me either...besides the obvious that they have proved to be an ineffective means of behavior correction for The Boy, they increase our anxiety because his anxiety is increased.  He gets upset. We get upset. No real communication occurs in the time out process. Only punishment.  For the whole family.

So we needed a different way.

Enter No-Drama Discipline by by Daniel J. Seigel, M.D., and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.  Seigel is a child psychiatrist.  Bryson is a pediatric therapist/social worker.

In the book, they teach that discipline is not about punishment, but instruction. You teach when you discipline. And when an individual, parent or child, is in a heightened state agitation, no teaching or learning can take place. No discipline occurs.

I'm not going to describe, chapter and verse, what we've done differently. But we don't generally do time outs anymore.  The few times I've resorted to one after reading No Drama Discipline, I've regretted it. It's been just as ineffective as they always were before.  The urge is always there, to just toss him into time out, but I have to remind myself that I need to do what works, not what is easier for me to do in the moment. 

The point of no drama discipline is to connect emotionally and intellectually with the child so that you can calmly give instruction and the child can calmly receive it. If it sounds like more work than a time out, it is. It's a lot more work.  But who said parenting was easy?  And, frankly, I'm happy to put in the extra work to effectively discipline The Boy rather than to continue with the ineffective time outs. 

So instead of time out, we do what my husband has taken to describing as "an aggressive hug."  We sit down with The Boy, and we hold him until he calms down. Sometimes, this involves saying, "I know, I know. I know you want to watch Ninjago right now, I know," (or whatever the issue is). The point is to chill the kid (and yourself) out so that you can proceed with effective instruction.

So when he's calmed down, we redirect his energies and focus onto good behaviors and better choices.  We talk about what happened. We ask him what a better choice would have been. Sometimes, if appropriate and possible, we give him a do-over to make the better decision.  This doesn't mean that he ultimately gets his way all the time. He's still often disappointed. But it does mean that we have engaged him intellectually and emotionally to refocus his brain on appropriate behaviors, responses and problem-solving, rather than heightening in his base, negative emotions that lead to further bad behavior.

Is he a perfect angel?  No.  He's a little boy who is still learning. But his behavior is better, so much better, than it was before we started implementing the No Drama Discipline techniques.  Even his teachers sent a note home last week noting his improved behavior and problem solving skills.  We're seeing real change in his behavior because we changed our response to it.

No drama discipline has worked to bring more calm to our house, and has reduced the number of tamtrums and outburst from The Boy.  He's learning how to use his intellect, rather than his reptilian emotions, to navigate the world.

Does this mean that he won't occasionally burst into singing the Chuck the Truck theme song at volume in the middle of a restaurant? Or throw a tantrum?  Or make pouty demands?  No, because he's three.  He's still learning correct behaviors. But it does mean that our approach to handling that situation will now be more effective at changing the negative behavior.  We're optimistic that more good things are to come.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Breakfast Club

That's right. The movie. 

My husband and I were talking recently (well, a couple of months ago -- I'm just getting around to writing this now) about movie nostalgia, both the nostalgia for movies from a bygone time, and movies that are, themselves, nostalgic for a bygone era (like American Graffiti, for instance, a 1970s movie about the 1950s).

Anyway, naturally, The Breakfast Club came up. 

Because that's THE film for every 80s teen, right?

Before I go on, let's stipulate that it's not a cinematic masterpiece. It's not beautiful. And it's got no groundbreaking cinematography. The actors are good young actors, but no Oscars were handed out here. 

Still, it spoke to us. The "types" depicted by Claire, Brian, Allison, Andrew and John -- the five kids in detention -- were meant to be "us."  We were meant to pick one and identify with him/her. And then, in the end, we were supposed to come together and know that we are all the same because we all have problems and being a teenager is hard. (And we DO, and it IS.)

Laaaa lalalalaaaa lalalalaaaa lala la lala lala lalalaa

When I first saw the movie, I was in a quandary. I wanted to identify with Claire. But I wasn't prom queen material, really.  (At least, I didn't think that I was....)  Truthfully, I should have identified with Brian, but I didn't want to acknowledge the ugly hubris that comes with being a smart kid who knows it. And, ironically, my incredible insecurity (also natural to a lot of smart kids, and teens in general) made acknowledging that insecurity by identifying with Brian impossible. I obviously wasn't a jock or stoner, so Andrew and John Bender were out. So I was left settling for Allison. The Freak. But that was wholly unsatisfying because...well, that scene where she makes it snow on her drawing with her dandruff is gross.  And that wasn't me.  I'd never do that.  I wasn't a freak. I was a Princess Geek. 

So maybe John Hughs was right and we are all a little bit of each character.
I mean, frankly, lately, I've been feeling a little bit like Mr. Vernon, the principal, trapped in his often unsatisfying, stultifying, grown-up existence. Even sometimes I feel like Carl, the Janitor, who dreamt of being John Lennon, but ended up the school janitor.
The movie isn't about several different "types," after all.  It's about one type, one universal human theme:  the desire to break out of whatever existence you've got and feel free, and the related understanding that no matter what existence we may have we all, sometimes, feel a little trapped by it, a little too defined by it.

The movie is, as it turns out, about potential. The five kids are full of it. The two main adult characters (and even the parents), demonstrate what happens to that potential when it hits the air outside of high school. So hope, that's what resonated with us when we watched it almost 30 years ago. Hope that we, the teenagers, would do better than the adults around us did. And, as adults, some of us still are able to dream those dreams, and hope those hopes...even if we've wound up being a little bit like Carl or Mr. Vernon. 
Richard Vernon:  What did you wanna be when you were young?
Carl:  When I was a kid, I wanted to be John Lennon.
Richard Vernon:  Carl, don't be a goof. I'm making a serious point here.

Please abolish these words and phrases.

I'm cranky.  Here, then, I shall crank about languages for a few lines.

1.  "Disruptive/disruption," as in, cutting edge businesses and people are "disruptive."  Being disruptive is supposed to be good but, just like Steve Jobs -- the ur-disruptor -- it can also be kind of annoying, kind of self-important, kind of only-eats-fruit-and-wears-black-turtlenecks.  It's not necessarily all shiny goodness to be disruptive. Moreover, everything "new" is not disruptive.  Some things are merely innovative, which is still cool, right?  We are not all the contingent from Alderaan challenging the Empire every time we have a new idea.

2.  "Eating clean." -- You are not "eating clean."  You are eating healthy food, as defined by someone who may or may not be you. Frankly, I have seen "eating clean" described variously as food that excludes carb and/or fat and/or refined sugar and/or processed foods and/or organic foods.  So ubiquitous is the phrase, therefore, that it has lost whatever sliver of meaning it may have once had.  In other words, the judgy phrase "eating clean," communicates nothing but that you think what's on your plate is better for you than what you used to eat (and perhaps what others around you are presently eating).  "Eating clean" is just another way of saying "I'm on a diet." Just say you're skipping the pasta and dessert, or whatever it is you're doing, else soap be served next dinner. 

3.  "Just sayin'...." -- Yo, just say it, man. No need for that little verbal underline to signal that you think that you're being pithy or snarky or cute or whatever. If you actually were pithy or snarky or cute, we'll know without you "just sayin'" so. 

4.  "Helicopter parent" -- I am not an overprotective parent because I stand close to the monkey bars in case my three year old decides to launch from the height of six feet in the air. I am a parent who would prefer her child not get a concussion. I promise I won't do his homework for him when he's 11.

5.  "Life Hack" -- I get it: tips and tricks to make life easier, but when I hear you say "life hack," I think "life hairball."  Foul phrase....

6.  "The War on ... " --  There is no war on Christmas, Women, Men, Cantaloupes or Persimmons. There IS a war in Syria. And it's scary.  Approaching 200,000 people have died in it, many of them noncombatants, many of them children.  Stop calling your personal offenses "wars" against your favorite things.

7.  "With all due respect...." -- That really just means "F-you," right?

8.  "YOLO" -- Carpe diem. Seize the Latin.

9.  Similarly, "boho."  Just say bohemian.

Aaaaaand....  Well, I'd written the number 10 there thinking I'd surely have an even 10 linguistic crimes to crank about, but there's honestly not a 10th one I wish to abolish. So there. Be gone, Words of Irritance to The Working Mom!

(P.S.  Irritance is not in Merriam-Webster online.  I checked, to see if I'd spelled it correctly.  And replied, "The word you've entered isn't in the dictionary. Click on a spelling suggestion below or try again using the search bar above."  And then it gave me a list of words that I don't want.  These are not words of "radiance," for instance.  So, not a real word?  Hmm.  And yet, it's not on my list of irritating words and phrases and I persist in using it, even though the use of a non-word should by all accounts be pretty annoying.  The Working Mom is a fickle creature.)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Get Out of the Office and Into the Kitchen

There's a study out that the suggests that the home cooked family dinner, idealized by the likes of Michael Pollan, Ann Romney, Michelle Obama, and June Cleaver alike, might not be all it's cracked up to be if you're the mom doing the cooking.

From the abstract:

Sociologists Sarah Bowen, Sinikka Elliott, and Joslyn Brenton offer a critique of the increasingly prevalent message that reforming the food system necessarily entails a return to the kitchen. They argue that time pressures, tradeoffs to save money, and the burden of pleasing others make it difficult for mothers to enact the idealized vision of home-cooked meals advocated by foodies and public health officials.

To a certain extent, I reject the study authors' suggestion that a reform of the food system does not entail a return to the kitchen.  Mass produced, restaurant food is, by and large, not that great for you.  You're better off making it yourself.

But I take their point:  the burden, disproportionately placed on women, often outweighs the benefit.  There are many problems:  picky eaters (including the adult men in their lives!), time, physical exhaustion, food prices.

I am lucky enough to be well-off enough that, though they are concerning, high food prices are not an obstacle to me cooking a meal.  But I feel the pressure of the foodie culture too.  I want to have a delicious, nutritious, sit down, home cooked meal every night with my family.  I think it's better.  It's the one time in the day when we're all together.  We can talk about our day and share, you know, good old fashioned family time.

Although, if I'm honest, the everyone 'round the table, every day meal from my childhood that I remember the most isn't dinner.  It's breakfast and that bowl of oatmeal and glass of orange juice and Flintstone's vitamin next to my spoon.  My mom may have had dinner on the table every night, but it's the mornings I remember.

And that's Point Number One that I'd like to make:  It doesn't have to be dinner.  If breakfast works better for you, why not bowls of cereal and a little morning conversation?  But if breakfast and dinner aren't feasible, well, maybe a snack.  Or maybe your family just doesn't share a meal together.  But the family meal to me is more about the family and less about the meal.  Finding a time to be together as a family without the TV blaring for about 30 minutes a day is really important.  No family time, no family connections, no family.

And so that's my Point Number Two:  If you only have thirty minutes free in which you can either cook a meal or spend time with your family, I vote you throw a frozen lasagna in the oven, open up a bag salad, and spend those thirty minutes hanging with your family.  Yes, good nutrition is important.  But careful label reading can steer you towards healthier pre-packaged options.  If feeding your family something quick gives you more time to have a conversation with them, do that.  (And, by the way, The Working Dad pitches in and cooks too, and his fajitas rock.)

Which brings me to my Point Number Three:  Holy smokes, give yourself a break and take some short cuts.  Some people make a lot of crockpot meals.  That's never really worked for us, but if it works for you, do it.  And I hereby give you permission to buy prepackaged stuff.  Just read the labels, friends.  Mrs. Dash even has sodium free marinades, for instance, that are pretty good.  And it's okay to make Kraft Macaroni & Cheese every once in a while.  It won't kill your kids, just like it didn't kill us.  Use canned food.  Use frozen vegetables.  It's okay.  (Obviously, if you've got food allergies, lots of the prepackaged things are irrelevant to you, or even dangerous. But not all of them. If this is you, though, you're probably already a good label reader, so keep doing what you're doing.)

As much as I love Martha Stewart, I understand that Martha has a whole staff backing her up and bringing her her farm fresh eggs and "best" vanilla.  When it's just me in there, I'm okay tossing a bag of frozen, tail off gulf shrimp into my quick creole that I will serve over Uncle Ben's boil-in-bag rice.  Go ahead and order in or carry it out every once in a while.  You've worked all day.  Sometimes, there's not the energy, even if there is the time.

So to my Point Number Four:  Dads, if you aren't helping out in the kitchen, you need to start, particularly if your wife is a working mom.  That you do not know how to cook or that your wife is a better cook is not an excuse.  She works hard at her job just like you do.  She's tired when she gets home from the office too.  Give her a break:  learn a couple of tasty meals that you can reliably cook once or twice a week.  (What?  You can't grill burgers or chicken breasts and toss some frozen veggies into the microwave?  What kind of man are you, anyway?  Just kidding . . . a little.)  She will appreciate the effort you make, and the opportunity to play with the kids while you cook, for a change.  Trust me.  I relish every bite of The Working Man's excellent fajitas every time he makes them.  (And the great thing about his fajitas:  I can't replicate them.  I can make my own version, but not his.  His are far superior.)

So, I may not have all the working parents' culinary solutions. But I've got a few. If you take nothing else from my little tirade tonight, take three things:  relax, help each other out and spend time with your family. Somewhere in there, you should eat too, but don't let Michael Pollan make you feel badly about your canned green beans. You're doing okay. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Procrastination Tips From A Professional

Have a big project?  Are you working under a deadline?  Clearly, you need to procrastinate. Here, I present to you in real time (sort of) procrastination tips from a master:

1. Organize the papers you're going to be reading today for your project. Organized papers are much easier to read. 

2.  Aren't your nails a little too long?  You should trim them now.

3.  And file them.

4.  Arrange the first paper you need to read in the manner in which you plan to read and take notes on it. Something like this:

5.  Good. You need coffee. 

6.  For Heaven's sake, check your email. This is a law office!  (Or wherever you work....)

7. Obviously, you need to respond to at least one of these emails, probably lots of them. 

8.  Oh, look!, an interesting news article related to your field of employ (or not). You should email your two good work buddies about that article. It's important to be engaged in the discourse of the profession. 

9.  Once you have read about half of that first paper you arranged earlier, you should probably start a blog post, if you haven't done so already. 

10.  And it's probably time for a potty break too.  (You should get more coffee on your way back.)

11.  Are you a trial lawyer?  Have you checked the docket today to make sure you haven't accidentally forgotten about a hearing you need to handle?  Don't you think you'd better had?

(Approximately one and a half hours of productive reading and thinking later.....)

12.  Hey, lunch!

13.  Back at the desk after a refreshing lunch break, it's time to stare at the computer screen until it tells you what to write. 

14.  Hey what's up on your Facebook feed?

15.  And Instagram....

16.  You need to play a word in all seven of your Words With Friends games. You can't let your friends down. They might be procrastinating too. Don't be selfish.

17.  You should probably add something to that blog post, now.

18. Um, potty?

19.  If you haven't done so already, text your spouse/friend/significant other/child about dinner.  Or at least plan it out in your head.

20.  Better write it down. 

Okay, time to get serious:

21.  How about a snack?

22.  You should stretch your legs.

23.  And get some water. 

24.  Do you need to go visit your friend up on the 14th floor?

25.  Gawd!  Look at the size of your in-box. You'd better archive and delete some of those emails before you run out of space and all of your emails bounce back to their senders.

And, now, with nearly two-thirds of the work day gone, your mind should be well aimed on the task at hand. Now, you can think like you've never thought before; you can think like it is impossible to think when you have hours and hours of time on your hands (like this morning). Now, your brain is so keenly and sharply focused by adrenaline that, were you not working furiously on your project until the end of the day, you could surely shoot laser beams from your eyes.  And, hooray for you!, you've managed to write about five good pages of your (let's be honest) pretty dry work product that will nevertheless (we hope) please and impress your boss (once the entire thing is completed...because you still have loads to do). 

You're Welcome. (But, let's do a little bit less of this tomorrow, okay?)

Friday, August 8, 2014

I'm on my way, I'm on my way, Home Sweet Home....

That's right. I quoted a Motley Crüe power ballad.

I'm not much of a heavy metal/hard rock/hair band girl, but who doesn't love Motley Crüe?  (Favorite song:  Dr. Feelgood.)

But this isn't about hair metal bands;  I'm coming home!  Hooray!

It's been a hard week for The Working Family.  The Boy's been sick. Dad's not feeling well. Dad was over-stressed with the solo duty with a sick kiddo, and handled it all like a champ. (Love that guy.)  And I, I worried and worried about them both, feeling (and mostly being) helpless, from afar.

But The Boy's doing better, now, and Dad's doing what he needs to do to feel better too.  And Mom's ever so glad. 

The last couple of days' work was pretty productive, but I'm happy to be coming home to continue the job.  This hotel living is for the birds.  Or maybe it's for the birds and the young and childless....  It's not for the 43 years and 11 months old mother of a three year old.  I feel for the frequent business traveler. 

I nearly had a heart attack just now because I thought I may have lost my "Mom" bracelet going through security. Fortunately, it was in the last place I looked ( ;-) ), and I have this beverage to bring my heart rate back down.  (Why does every glass of wine in this town cost at least $12?)

I'm bringing home with me a sore throat and a cough (always happens when I travel), presents for The Boy and The Working Dad, a new understanding of how my department works at the national level, and, mainly, joy that I'll be with my boys again.

Also, random:  apparently my plane will be filled with a bunch of Brazilian teenagers on their way home, and me. Hmm. 

I do like my job. And I think the new assignment that brought me here is going to be really interesting. But I'm ever so grateful that the job can be mostly done from my desk at home.  Ever so grateful....

I'm on my way, so set me free...Home Sweet Home. 

(After a glass of wine, those lyrics actually make me tear up a little.) 

P.S.  Aisle seat!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Bus-man's Holiday

I've never understood the people who enjoy business travel. They're out there, I know. And I know some of them. But I am not one of you, friends. 

You're in a bed that's not yours, with unfamiliar sounds and smells. You're away from your family. Your body clock is off, but it doesn't matter because the garbage truck or some other racket outside your window will wake you up at what feels to your body as 4:15 a.m.  Then you go and work for 8 or 10 hours and do whatever it is that you do. And maybe the people you're working with want to go to dinner or, God forbid, drinks afterwards, when all you want to do is get back to the hotel, get a quick dinner (at ridiculous room services prices -- $43 for a hamburger, salad and glass of red wine?), FaceTime with your family, and go to sleep because you want to get onto the next day as quickly as possible so the trip will be over.

But if you're one of those people that likes business trips, then you don't feel that way at all do you?  You're shutting down the hotel bar every night after work, bless you. 

Still business travel in DC -- at least, in theory -- offers some unique opportunities, especially if your hotel is only about three blocks from the National Mall, like mine is.

However, the aforementioned after-hours socializing has, until tonight, hindered my after-work efforts to see some sites. But tonight, I finally got to visit a museum, the coolest museum ever, definitely in my top three favorite museums, if not #1. (And, importantly, I got the opportunity to shop in its store for my main men at home.). Wish I'd had more than an hour, and wished my guys were with me the whole time.  Where did I go?  Here's a hint. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Getting Lost on Your Business Trip.

Washington, D.C. is a nice city. A neat city. A great city to visit. 

But, alas, it is not user-friendly.  This whole wagon-wheel thing is for the birds. 

So I got lost walking fom the hotel, where I'd dropped my bag off, to the office that was theoretically easy an 11 minute walk away.

Thankfully, it was in a nice part of town...because there can be some scary parts to this city too, for the uninitiated, like myself. 

One hour later, totally stressed, with a lump in my throat (and, not to mention, a bit of a sweaty glow), I hailed a cab. 

Funny how a cab is not to be found when you desperately need it. But, eventually one drove past and I threw up my arm.  And the driver was very nice and gentle with confused, frustrated, embarrassed and frazzled me.

I finally arrived in the office. The people were lovely and sympathetic. 

I did some work. I participated in meetings. 

And then I walked back to the hotel the right way, and it took about 11 minutes. 

Now, I'm about to settle into the most expensive hamburger and glass of wine I've ever had (did I mention that getting lost meant I missed lunch).

Ah well, tomorrow is a new day. (And one day closer to me being home with my guys.)

P.S.  The book I chose to start on the plane was Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey. 

Business Trip

As I write this, I'm on an airplane somewhere between Dallas and DC at, according to the captain, about 33,000 feet above the ground.  (As you read this, if you read it the date of its posting, I am likely in my hotel room ordering room service, missing my boys, awaiting a call from them for FaceTime, and possibly writing another blog post...or reading.)

I don't travel for work that often, other than driving to the courthouse (which doesn't really count), both because my work doesn't require it and because I hate it.  So I try to avoid it as much as possible. 

I hate it because being away fom my family...well, to be inartful in my 

And I hate it because I'm a terrible flyer. I'm a bit phobic, in fact.

Here's how a trip begins for me:  I wait at the terminal trying to distract myself from the scenes of downed and hijacked airliners that play round my subconscious from decades of news-watching. If it's not too early in the morning (like today -- 7:40 a.m. flight -- too early), I'll probably get a drink to take the edge off.

Eventually, we'll board and I will inevitably have the middle seat because (a) I don't fly that much and (b) government contract travel is not known for its posh accommodations. Today, my middle seat isn't so bad because the people on either side are quite good at staying in their allotted square footage.  Small mercies.

Once seated and buckled in, I'll develop a lump in my throat and my eyes will get hot like I'm about to cry. Except, I won't cry, by dint of will, because that would be uncomfortable for everybody. But I do want to cry. I'll stow my purse beneath the seat in front of me, glance through the Sky Mall magazine, look at the emergency card to find my emergency exit, and finally fold my hands and try to breath normally. 

As we taxi to the runway, I squeeze my hands tightly and clench my teeth. As the plane leaves the ground, I gasp slightly and tears well up to rim my eyes, but don't escape. Once we're actually flying, I calm down, the horrible images mostly receding. I'm able to function relatively normally, reading a book or magazine, or writing a blog post or whatever.

I rarely sleep on airplanes. I can never relax that much, and this despite getting up at 4:30 Central time this morning and waking up every hour on the hour last night because of nerves. 

If I'm lucky, the person in front of me will not lean his seat back. I am not lucky this morning.  And I find myself wishing I'd brought earplugs with me. I'd forgotten how loud airplanes are, and the fellow to my right has been snoring since before we left the gate. He smells as if he does not have the same personal prohibition against the early a.m. tipple that I have. Good for him, I suppose, but not good for me, my ears or my nose.

As soon as the drinks cart passes, I'm going to annoy my seatmate on the aisle and make my way to the flying loo. This always happens too. About 30 minutes into a flight, I feel like I need to pee like I've never needed to pee before.  And this is so, even though I went 15 minutes before boarding.

I do try not to converse with people.  Best for everybody.  I'm just generally bad at small talk, for one, and, for two, who knows whether a Malaysian Airlines or World Trade Center or Lockerbie comment might accidentally escape my lips.  Best to stay mum.

So, presently, I've set my watch to Eastern time, and it looks like I've got about an hour and 45 minutes until we land. Landings are a little less horrible for me, but I still tense up, tear up, grasp my hands, and hold my breath on the approach until we're on the ground.

But for now, I'm going to fire up the Kindle app on this iPad to read a book. Will it be Oscar and Lucinda or Lucky Jim?  Perhaps I'll let you know in my next post.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


The Boy has been going to a new school for about a month, now.

Over the past several months we had considered moving The Boy to a different preschool.  We had increasingly felt that he was not being challenged, that he was bored.

I know. He's three.

But a bored three year old is a disruptive, potentially destructive, force.  It's serious business.

Plus, we want him to develop as much as he can develop in a way appropriate to his age.  And if he's bored, that's not happening.

We would discuss moving schools here and there in off-hand sorts of ways, and occasionally more seriously, but would always decide against it, mainly because of friendships -- The Boy's and ours. The Boy had gone to his old school since he was about 10 weeks old. It took me three days to even be able it leave him there. Then, when I did, I sat in our living room crying, sobbing, "I want my baby!"  It was incredibly difficult. 

But in time, it became okay. We developed trust of the teachers. And they loved our boy. 

And The Boy loved his friends he made at school. His buddy, The Dude, who I mentioned early on in this blog, remains one of his best friends.  Around age 2, he developed a strong attachment to a petite, loquacious, wide-eyed, intelligent girl.  Another girl with an affinity for Lightning McQueen, just like him, became a friend....  A boy with tremendous brown eyes and a sweet smile....  A girl with miles of gorgeous dark curls, who frequently went "lion hunting" with The Boy....  And others that we, his parents, didn't get to know as well, but The Boy did.

So whenever the idea of moving schools came up, it was soon packed away again because we didn't want to take The Boy away from these friends. The idea of it, in fact, made me extremely sad.

And, too, change is difficult.  And you get used to what you know.  You're not sure if the change will be better or worse.  And, well, there's a lot of bother to it.  The lazy part of you doesn't want to change if everything else is pretty much chugging along more or less harmoniously.

But, without going into detail, a series of concerning events at his old school, in late May and early June, caused us to, once again, consider changing schools.

In fact, we did withdraw him from his old school in mid-June.

It was an incredibly emotional thing for me. I cried. I fretted. 

All his little friends!  Some of them, we'll keep friends with -- the ones whose parents have become our own friends, like The Dude and the other kids mentioned. But the rest of the class, with whose parents we've not become close, they are in all likelihood lost to memories. It's the worst thing about the move.  But, as The Dude's mom said to me, kids are resilient.  He'll make new friends. 

And so, here we are, a month later and The Boy has thrived in his new environment.  He's actually, honestly very happy. One day this past week he said, "I'm excited to go to school, Mommy!"  That is something I have, frankly, never heard him say before.  I was elated!

It makes me wonder, now, why I was so upset and sad about the move.  We humans get comfortable in situations.  We develop loyalties that are difficult to break. Those are good traits that lead to stable society.  But they also make necessary change very hard.

Our change has yielded great results for our little guy.  The Boy seems engaged and more focused at his new school. (This is in the context of what may be expected of a three year old, of course. He's not suddenly doing calculus eight hours a day.)

Too, I honestly feel like he's even a little better behaved at home, now (the tantrum about Legos this weekend notwithstanding).

And he has made new friends. And many our old friends -- The Dude, and the rest -- are all still there too.

This has been, to take Martha Stewart out of context, a very good thing. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Why Don't You Just Bake Off?!

My office has an annual Independence Day bake off. 

Two years ago, I made red, white and blue swirl cookies.  I even blogged about the process of making them. 

I got, I think, second or third place for Most Patriotic Dessert that year.

Last year, I made some oatmeal, flax and dried fruit concoction under the guise of "healthy," and got a second or third place, for, er, something or another category. 

Undaunted, this year I present to you, and mainly to my office mates, these:

Red, White and Blue Cookies. 

They're not red, white, or blue, you say?  Well, they are and they aren't.  Essentially, they're chocolate chip cookies, but, instead of semi-sweet chocolate morsels, you use 1 cup white chocolate chips, 1 cup dried cranberries, and 1 cup dried blueberries.  See?  Red, White, and Blue.

I basically followed this woman's recipe, except that I used 1 cup dark brown sugar instead of 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated. 

The brown sugar makes a chewier cookie with a bit more caramel-like flavor. 

After you scoop the dough onto the baking sheet, you sprinkle them with a little kosher salt. 

That makes 'em classy.  All classy desserts feature the salty/sweet contrast in these our modern times. 

The Boy really liked them....

...until he hit a dried blueberry. Not his thing. But The Working Dad and I liked them, dried blueberries and all. 

But how did they fare in the bake off, you may wonder?





Seriously, I did get Honorable Mention for Best Tasting Dessert, and got these nifty prizes!

And five different people asked me for the recipe for my cookies, with many others telling me that they liked the cookies.  That's never happened to me before with the bake off.

So maybe competition this year was just particularly fierce.  (Still, participant, y'all?  Not even Third in one category?  What, was I half the office's second favorite, thus garnering no votes? Always the bridesmaid . . . .

But I've come to terms with the green ribbon and I am trying to look at it this way:  Now, I just need one more ribbon to have a complete set. 

Better luck to me next year!  And you'd better watch out, You-Know-Who-You-Are.  My Kitchenaid mixer and I are coming for you

Happy Independence Day, Y'all!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Facebook Ennui

I'm having Facebook ennui.

No offense to all you FB friends of mine out there, but it's gotten less interesting lately. 

There are more ads for stuff you're selling. 

There are more links to articles you endorse or find interesting. 

There are more repostings from George Tekai or the Texas Democratic Party or Veterans for Truth. 

There's less of actual you:  your cute kids, your thoughts, and adventures.

I know. I'm guilty of it too. 

But what do we do about it?

I don't want to hide my friends. (Which I find weird:  if they're "friends," why would I hide them?) 

But I don't really want to be bombarded by political cartoons and memes and ads to buy your amazing anti-cellulite-youth-vitamin-breakfast-burrito-shake. 

You're probably tired of seeing me post about Dear Prudence or the bajillion quizzes that I do or McSweeny's or, or, or.... 

The answer doesn't seem to be get off of Facebook. I think it's here to stay. Like a public utility....

But manage it better, maybe?

I don't know. 

One thing I've done to enliven my feed is to "like" some different Facebook pages like Science Dump, The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, and io9.

But you're not io9. You're you. And I want more "you."  The real you.

Is it possible that I'm searching for a more authentic Facebook experience?

Oh, irony!  You have just as many letters as ennui . 

Friday, May 16, 2014

My Boobs, My Choice

Why is it that, in some circles, when it comes to abortion, women's bodies are sacrosanct?  She's granted complete sovereignty over her person when it comes to the embryo or fetus within her.  She alone gets to choose.

But when it comes to breastfeeding, those same people who trumpet a woman's right to choose on the front end of the pregnancy also act as if, once the baby's drawn breath, there's no choice, no sovereignty of the body anymore. 

Lady, if you brought that child to term, you must breastfeed.  You don't have the right to choose what you do with your boobs.

Let me tell you a little bit about my experience:  I was 40 years old, fresh off a month of bedrest.  My breasts have always been plenty "full," but they were not -- they were never -- full of milk.  I starved my son for the first five days of his life trying to offer him a nearly dry teat.

And then, AND THEN, the lactation consultant came.  She made remarks about my nipples, their quality and type, even their ethnicity.


She encouraged me to use the breast pump to stimulate milk production when my child was not feeding instead of, you know, holding and bonding with my baby or taking a nap.

She even suggested that I use some weird contraption involving a catheter threaded from a bottle with formula or, preferably, expressed milk, alongside my own breast down to my nipple and into my son's mouth so that, even if he was not getting milk from the actual boob, he was still sucking it through the effing catheter.  (You should imagine me typing really hard on that last bit there.)

Because the only way to bond with your child is if he's sucking your teat.


I went along with the pumping-all-the-damned-time-thing, but the catheter was a bridge too far.

I'm sure the lactation consultant felt I was an utter failure for having rejected the ridiculous catheter trick.

What not a single professional said to me -- not the pediatrician, not the lactation consultant, not the OB/GYNs -- was that it was okay to let go.

No, the breastfeeding was too important:  More important than me getting rest.  More important than me sitting and holding my baby.  The agenda was more important than me.

And I bought into it.  I pumped incessantly.  I worried about there not being enough milk.  I gloried in the mere six ounces a day of anemic breast milk that I brought home from work each day.  (Until, at age six months, my son rejected both boob and breast-milky-like substance, mercifully freeing me from that sucking machine.)

If I had to do it all over again, I'd tell that consultant to walk on by so fast.  I would enjoy my maternity leave.  I would actually sleep when the baby sleeps.  I would allow that having a newborn is stressful enough without adding to the stress by trying to make happen what was clearly not going to happen.

I would relieve myself of the daily humiliation of half-disrobing in my office four times a day to pump while I worked.  I would also relieve my co-workers of the awkwardness of finding my bag of sterilized pump parts in the microwave where I'd forgotten them after a harried pumping session.

I would give myself a break, even when no one else would.  And in so doing, I think, I think, I would have been a more present and better rested mommy of a new human.  (But who knows, right?  Because newborns are challenging even when no breast pumps are present.)

One thing I know for sure:  I wouldn't feel betrayed and bullied by a system that means too well.  Breastfeeding is not so important to the bonding process that we need to pretend that we're doing it by means of a catheter.  That's just nuts.  I know the intentions are good, but someone needs to say, "Enough is enough, if it's not working, use the formula, lady.  It will be okay.  You'll still love your kid and your kid will be fine."

Because new mothers are as vulnerable as newborn babies.  We want to do everything just right.  We don't want to screw up.  We're terrified we'll accidentally harm this precious gift we've been given, our baby girls and boys.  Someone in the breastfeeding establishment needs to say, "You tried.  It's okay to quit."

Hey, if your boobs work well, and breastfeeding your child is a breeze, more power to you.  I am envious.  It wasn't easy for me.  I wanted it to be, but it wasn't.

But if you're having trouble, if you're feeling wrung out, if you feel like a slave to the breast pump, if you just don't want to do it anymore or at all (even though your boobs work fine), it's okay to let go.  I give you permission.  They're your boobs.  It's your choice.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Where's my AARP card?


I'll be 44 this year. 

I've written before about certain sometimes age-related issues:  infertility in my late 30s; bifocals; ill-advised 40-something cartwheels; my skin on my face feeling loose sometimes; being middle aged.

I've written ad nauseum about struggling to lose weight. 

So want to hear some more TMI?

Lately, I've been having other weird symptoms....general irritability, hot flashes, trouble sleeping, bloating, moderate to severe cramping....oh, and a period that's been absent for going on three months (which followed years of an irregular menstrual cycle).   And some other symptoms that I won't go into great detail about that involve dryness. 

Are you feeling uncomfortable by my over-sharing yet?

This is kind of worse than when I owned my stress incontinence, I admit.  (Which is totally gone, by the way.  Whoop!)

The problem is that these symptoms can indicate a lot of different health issues and the only way to figure out what's wrong is to go to the doctor.  You could have thyroid disease. You could have a food or chemical sensitivity. You could have a hormonal imbalance.

So when you do go to the doctor, you need to be clear about your symptoms and your suspicions about your condition.

So that's what I did a few weeks ago.

And he talked to me for a long time about my symptoms and my distress about them.  He told me his suspicion, but didn't immediately diagnose, because only blood work could tell us for sure what was going on.  So he took lots of blood (lots of blood) for lots of blood work.  And he ordered what turned out to be the most grueling sonogram I've ever had in my life to ensure all the internal girl structures were tumors, etc.

And in the end, I got a diagnosis:  everything about me is normal...for a  perimenopausal woman.

My estrogen level was extremely low.  My lutenizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone levels were quite high.

This is my reproductive system doing the job of dumping the remaining eggs from my ovaries in preparation for my senescence, in which I will buy a comfortable rocker, place it on my front porch and wave my cane at those darned kids that keep getting on my lawn. 

Oh, wait. I have a three year old. So none of that's happening before at least 2040.  (I hope.)

But this is the beginning of the end of my fertile (I use that term loosely given my history) years.

That's all. 

Perimenopause can last for years, the doctor said.  A decade, sometimes.


You can still get pregnant during perimenopause. 


Perimenopause isn't menopause. It's the slow and annoying approach to menopause.

But there are treatments.

Oh yeah, I'm talking about hormone replacement therapy.

Sure, I'm worried about the increased risk of breast cancer if I take hormones.

But when you're constantly irritable and in moderate to severe pain from the cramping more often than not....

When you have to check with your husband whether the room is really hot or you're just having your own personal summer....

When you're pissed off all the time....

Well, you think you might give HRT a whirl . . . at least in the beginning.

Fortunately, for me, for now, all that means is that I now take a low dose birth control pill.

And it has made all the difference in my well-being:  more energy, less cranky, no hot flashes, no more cramps.  Everything has improved.  So, for now, I'm happy as a middle-aged clam to be back on the pill.  (Hey, and thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it's absolutely free!  Bonus.)

The one thing I can tell you for certain about my reaction to this new stage of life that I'm entering is that I'm not sad about being perimenopausal. This is a normal part of aging.  And I'm fine with aging. 

Hey, some people go gray or bald before they're 30 or 40.  So I'm heading into "the change" a tad earlier than others.  Big deal.

I don't feel less female.

I don't feel less valuable.

I don't feel less attractive.

I'm just getting older.

And that's okay.

 I'm still me, and I like that.