Perspective

As I watch portions of my childhood home burn, I cannot think of words to describe my sorrow. It is sad, unfair, unthinkable. It is happening whether I want to believe it or not.

I am watching from a short distance – close enough to see it on the news, too far away to be of any real help. Every news update is a knife to the heart: over 70 homes burned, 80, 92. There is nothing I can do or say now, while the fire rages. But when flames finally, finally die, I will find a way to help, and I will act.

Dear friends in Black Forest, you are in my thoughts. Structures may burn, but our memories are precious and present.

20 feet from the church I grew up in.

20 feet from the church I grew up in.

What makes someone a “good mother?”

Aside

What makes someone a “good mother?”

I have found motherhood to be immensely harder than I ever imagined. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. I look like a decent mother on the outside – my child is clothed, fed, and sheltered – but I feel myself falling short in every other area. Sometimes friends or family will make comments like, ” Oh. your are a good mother because you do x.” or “You’re a good mother because you don’t do y.” But they only see a tiny sliver of my life as a mom. I sometimes think that if they saw me as I really was, or if they saw me at my worst – no sleep, stressed out, and on the verge of emotional collapse – they would not be so quick to hand out the title of “good mother.”

Some days I just want to quit. I just want to run away and never look back. I wonder if other mothers feel this way, or if I’m just uniquely unequipped to take care of a baby. Either way, it’s a terrible feeling.

Today, the only definition of “good mother” I can live up to is, “One who doesn’t leave when it gets hard.” It’s a pathetic, but it’s all I have the energy to strive for at the moment.

NPR’s Coffee Week – Day 4

Thursday of last week, NPR published three coffee-related articles. I’m featuring Step Aside, Gents. Witness the Rise of Women in Coffee. The article discusses the correlation coffee_and_coffee_beans_closeup_boutique_picture_167075between coffee and poverty, focusing primarily on the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA).

I couldn’t find much on the web in the way of charity ratings for IWCA, but their website has some good info, including their annual report.

Though completely unrelated to coffee, this story reminded me of Bead For Life, and organization I have supported in the past. They are not strictly a charity. They teach women to make beautiful jewelry BeadForLifeNecklace_Thumbnail_2out of homemade beads, which they create out of paper. The jewelry is beautiful – you won’t believe it’s handmade. The women get a fair price for their product, which is sold primarily via “Bead Parties.” Think of it like a tupperware party, but for jewelry. It is a fun way to help women out of poverty without just writing a check and hoping for the best. If you can’t tell already, I’m a fan.

Random thoughts for the day: I just realized I mentioned tupperware and fair trade in the same post, two days in a row. I’m sure Freud would have something to say about that … Also, Miguelina again!

NPR’s Coffee Week – Day 3

For Wednesday, NPR again has two coffee articles. I’m featuring Coffee For A Cause: What Do Those Feel-Good Labels Deliver?

This story made me think of my mom, who is a big proponent of Fair Trade coffee. It causes something of a divide in the parental household. My mom has always been socially conscious and environmentally friendly. I think of her sometimes as an unintentional hippie. She’s an Evangelical Christian, never lived in a commune or worn anything made out of hemp, but she will reuse every plastic Cool Whip container until it no longer retains its shape and will (lovingly) place a guilt trip on anyone who does not recycle. My brother and I did not realize this was not normal until we went to college, where our friends made fun of us for washing our Ziploc bags.

My dad, on the other hand, does not see the sense in reusing every single plastic tub that graces the kitchen. As far as he is concerned, global warming is great big question mark, and anyway, why not just recycle the plastic yogurt cups and just buy some tupperware? And if a plastic bag “accidentally” ends up in the trash can, well, that’s what landfills are for, right? As for fair trade coffee, my dad’s opinion is that you pay twice the money for half the taste, so it’s basically a big scam.

The Cup Winter Coffee

This pic is from The Cup’s Facebook page. Caffeinated Winter Wonderland!

My parents have a great marriage, but they embody in every way the phrase “Opposites attract.” I take most after my Mom – which is probably how I ended up in The People’s Republic of Boulder, drinking coffee from The Cup, the hippie-est of Boulder’s hippie coffee shops. They serve fifteen different types of coffee from twelve different countries, all organic. It’s one of the coffee shops the article mentions, where you can pick which coffee you want to drink based on the inspirational stories of the coffee’s origins, complete with pictures of the farms where the coffee was grown. Which is probably why it’s so expensive!

So, as you can see, this story gave me a lot to think about: my family, my city, the environment, lattes. Mmmm, lattes. I may have to visit The Cup tomorrow – assuming I can decide which type to get!

NPR’s Coffee Week – Day 2

Coffee Image From All-Free-Downloads.comNPR actually posted two coffee-related articles last Tuesday, I’m featuring Journey Of A Speciality Coffee Bean, From Cherry To Cup. If you’re going to overpay for a cup of coffee, at least it’s nice to know you’re helping someone, somewhere besides corporate America.

P.S. If I ever have a daughter, I want to name her Miguelina.

NPR’s Coffee Series – Monday

coffee_beans_highdefinition_picture_170752

National Public Radio (NPR) did a great news series last week on coffee. I’ll be posting a link to one story per day.

The Monday’s article, How Coffee Brings The World Together, talks briefly about a shift in the global supply-demand dynamic of coffee.

You can click the link above to read or listen to the story. I highly recommend listening, because there’s a fun pop-culture quiz at the end that’s not in the article text. I got 6 out of 8. How’d you do?

“Sleeping through the night”

Whenever we talk with other parents of babies, I’ve noticed a pattern of conversation. It can pretty much be summed up in the following questions:

What’s his/her name?

How old is he/she?

Is he/she sitting/crawling/standing/walking?

Is he/she sleeping through the night yet?

The last question is asked, at least by me, out of desperation. I’ve been SO TIRED for SO LONG and all I want is just 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Heck, even 6 would be amazing. No matter how delicious and life-giving coffee may be, it only helps to a point. Even a triple-shot tall latte is no substitute for a good night’s sleep.

This situation has caused our little family much anxiety. My now one-year-old son still does not sleep through the night. He wakes up an average of twice a night and starts crying. Sometimes it’s a legitimate reason: he doesn’t feel good, he’s too cold/hot, his diaper leaked. Nine times out of ten, though, there’s no reason. He just dropped his pacifier, or woke up and realized he was alone. On the good nights, my husband or I stumble in, give him his pacifier, and he’s asleep again in no time. On the bad nights, one of us is walking him in circles around his room for the fourth time in three hours, on the verge of screaming, because he WILL NOT SHUT UP AND GO TO SLEEP LIKE A NORMAL PERSON.

I recently reached breaking point on one such night, and it prompted some changes in our family dynamic. These changes only occurred because I finally realized three things:

1) I cannot do it all, and THAT’S OK.

It turns out, if I let someone else help, this does not make me a bad mother. This may sound like a silly revelation to a lot of parents, but I really have to consciously struggle against the thought that I have to be able to do it all. That I somehow don’t deserve to be happy if I’m not personally overseeing every aspect of our domestic lives.

I’m really no sure where I get this compulsion to be Super Mom, especially since I’m so bad at it. I think it’s partially because of my personality. I’m a perfectionist. I have to to everything right the first time, and I HATE making mistakes. When I do make mistakes, I beat myself up over them until I get it right. Which has made the last year incredibly difficult, mentally and emotionally. Because I’ve made a LOT of mistakes.

Also, I think it has to do with the fact that I have such amazing role models in my life. Both my mother and my husband’s mother are two of the smartest, most nurturing, hardest working women I’ve ever met in my life.  I’m always trying to live up to their example, and I’m always falling short. What I have to continually remind myself, when I get really down and full of self loathing for not being perfect, is that they’ve each had 30 years more experience than me. Of course they are better mothers than I am. They’ve had more practice.

2) If I don’t take care of myself, I cannot take care of my child.

Again, this may sound pretty obvious. I’ve read this is pretty much every baby book or magazine out there. But no matter how many times my doctor, mother, fried, husband or favorite child-reading tome said I needed to take care of myself, I didn’t understand how important it was until I practically had a nervous breakdown. I thought if I took care of myself, I was being selfish, but that’s not entirely true. If I don’t take care of myself, it turns out I’m even less equipped than usual to take care of my child.

Also, taking care of myself isn’t all sleeping late and pedicures (I actually don’t get pedicures, but you get my drift). It means eating right (blah), and exercising (double blah), going to bed early, and limiting my intake of alcohol and caffeine (I just cried a little). Which, in case you can’t tell by my comments, are things that are not always fun to do. But they are necessary, and I have to try.

3) Not all babies (or toddlers, or older children) sleep through the night.

When my son was first born, and we took him to doctor for his one-week checkup, our paediatrician gave us a book written by one of his colleagues at the practice, all about how to get your baby to sleep through the night. The book laid out The Schedule parents should follow in order to get their children to sleep through the night. If you followed it exactly, the book claimed, your child would sleep soundly through the night at some point during the first year. If your child WASN’T sleeping through the night, well, then you must not be following their suggestions to the letter. The intentions behind the book were good – our pediatricians wanted to promote breastfeeding by creating a steady, predictable schedule for mom and baby. And a lot of the suggestions in the book were very good. But my baby wasn’t sleeping through the night, and I was OBSESSED with following The Schedule to make it happen.

As it turned out, it was almost impossible to follow the book’s suggestions exactly. For one thing, my son was either being taken care of by my mother-in-law or in daycare, and they all had their own ideas (or just not enough time) to follow The Schedule exactly. Also, setting a schedule is one thing. Getting baby to follow it is something else entirely. I would practically hyperventilate whenever I thought about The Schedule and our failure to follow it exactly. In hindsight, I probably should have just taken the books suggestions with a grain of salt and moved on (which is what we eventually had to do anyway).

Recently I had a conversation with some coworkers where, for once, I wasn’t the person asking, “Does your baby sleep through the night?” As it turned out, EVERYONE in the room with children had at least one baby that did not (or still does not) sleep through the night. Suddenly, I was just flooded with this huge sense of relief. All this time, I’d thought I was the one doing something wrong. That my son’s failure to sleep through the night was somehow a reflection of bad parenting. As it turns out, it’s perfectly normal; this one thing does not singlehandedly brand me a “Bad Mother.” This sounds awful, but it really made me feel better to know I wasn’t the only one suffering through prolonged child-induced sleep deprivation.

So, the bottom line is, we’re making some changes. They may work, or you may get another post from me in a month bemoaning the state of my bleary-eyed existence. Either way, it won’t be boring.

One Year of Parenthood

My son turned one over the weekend. He stuffed that little face so full of cake I was sure he was going to get sick (he didn’t, thankfully) and ripped open his presents (ok, he mostly just ripped up tissue paper) and afterwards it hit me – I have been a mom for a full year. It seriously feels like a decade. I look back on the person I was before he was born, and I think, wow, that girl really didn’t know anything did she?

That girl wasted a lot of time, assuming she’d eventually get around to knitting that sweater / writing that book / reading War and Peace. That girl thought she could read a few Dr Sears books and have a decent head-start on the whole parenting thing (ha ha ha). That girl thought she knew what she was doing. THAT GIRL was an idiot.

That’s not to say that I suddenly know everything now. I’m still an idiot. It’s just that NOW I know how little I actually know. I STILL have no idea what I’m doing 99% of the time. And the 1% of the time I DO feel like I know what I’m doing, I’m usually doing it wrong. I’m thinking of having another kid if only so I can correct all the mistakes I’ve made (and will make) the first time around.

Still, I would not trade this last year for anything, sleepless nights and all. I may not be the world’s greatest parent (ok, I’m DEFINITELY NOT the world’s greatest parent). But if I can learn from my mistakes, kiddo will hopefully turn out okay. He’s definitely going to keep me humble, which is good because pride is my Achilles Heel. And thanks to my chubby-cheeked little bundle of mischief, life will never be boring. For which I am profoundly grateful.

Here’s to a pretty great year of raspberries, tickle monsters, sweet little baby kisses, and all the craziness that comes with them. I love you, kiddo.

Top 10 Reasons Star Trek Voyager is awesome

I have refrained from full-on geek-out in this blog thus far, but it’s time for some nerdiness. In honor of Hulu’s free Stark Trek offering (for a limited time only), here are –

Top 10 Reasons Star Trek Voyager is awesome

star trek voyager

  1. All the women kick serious ass.
  2. Creepiest bad guys. Case in point: the Vidiians, kidney snatchers of the galaxy.
  3. They fight the Borg. A lot.
  4. They also have a Borg on board, who also kicks serious ass. Also, Borg children. Basically, there’s just a lot of Borg.
  5. It’s the only Star Trek with a Native American as a main character.
  6. The Doctor.
  7. Many episodes involving time travel – before J.J. Abrams made it cool.belana
  8. They don’t kill off the expendable crewmen – I mean, Harry Kim.
  9. Their Scotty is a temperamental half-Klingon with a killer punch.
  10. Janeway, janeway_needs_coffee_by_hermione_of_vulcan-d4o162k bitches. Recognize.