Saturday, March 24, 2012

9 and 35

Yesterday was my birthday. Halfway through my 30s, 34 seems so different than 35. I had that weird feeling for a while, and I'm mostly over it, but a few nagging thoughts lingered. In some ways, I'm not where I thought I'd be. I certainly didn't see myself unemployed, but that's a finite situation. When I put that up against the amazing husband and son, caring family, and fantastic friends I have, it doesn't seem important at all. Honestly, if I allowed my job to solely define me, I'd have serious problems. Right now the job of full-time motherhood is a gift, one I recognize as such every day, partially because that, too, is finite. So yesterday I got to spend time with J, feel like a celebrity with all of the birthday wishes on Facebook, go to dinner and a movie, and get a secret gift from T even though I told him neither he nor J could get me a present. He told me Penny had done it. Oh, Penny.

Yesterday also marked J's nine-month birthday. To borrow from Amalah, as of now, darling boy, you have been in the world as long as you were in my tummy. You have grown and changed so much, more than I ever even had a concept of. My mom asked me, "Did you ever know you could love something so much?", and I replied that I had a vague idea, of course, but I didn't know. How could I? You look like a perfect combination of Daddy and me, we think, even though in certain pictures you look more like one of us than the other. You have Daddy's height, hands and feet, and long eyelashes. You have my multiple sneezes, the tons-of-hair gene, and chin. We can't decide whose eyes you have, but, kiddo, they are gorgeous.

You don't say anything yet, but we know you can express yourself, and we suspect that once you start talking, you won't stop. Nobody can resist your ready smile, especially when you combine it with immediately hiding your face on my shoulder, little flirt. You delight Papa now that you recognize him on Skype, and you seem to find your older cousin Charlotte not quite as intimidating as of late, although her louder squawks still make you cry. Lots of loud noises do, but before you know it, you'll be the one making those loud noises yourself!

 Crawling like a little speed demon, you charge Penny, chasing her and shrieking with delight as she scampers away, only to return and give you kisses. With growing skill you pull yourself up on any surface you can, and the doctor says you may well walk before your first birthday. We find this both thrilling and terrifying. You love Cheerios, seem to like cheese, and aren't quite sure about pears. If you could sit and make things spin while playing music all day, you'd be perfectly content.

My dearest little man, I can't wait to see what you will do next. I love you more than mere words can begin to express, and I'm so proud and lucky to be your mommy.

Friday, March 16, 2012

This and That

First of all, if anyone knows someone at the University of Buffalo who can help me get this job I just applied for, I'd really love the help. It's a job as a student advisor, and it basically entails me prodding students to make sure they do what they need to do for graduation, get organized, and talk to parents. And some paperwork. Oh, I've had plenty of experience with all of that. I can do that 'til the cows come home. I wish there were some way I could call and just talk to someone about how kick-butt perfect I'd fit this position. But I will keep my fingers crossed and keep looking for other stuff in the meantime.

In other news, we've tried lately to get J more interaction with people and places outside our house. He still startles easily and cries, scared by a loud crow from his cousin C, a sharp bark from a dog, or loud crying from another kid. Last week I took J to a music class held in a smallish, echoey room and he did fine, probably because I had him in my lap and a bottle in his mouth the whole time. I know it just takes time and exposure, and I dislike seeing him cry, but I have to remind myself that it's all a part of him getting used to the world. Watching him figure it all out fascinates me. A few friends have told me he'll outgrow it, and I just have to keep giving him experiences. It's not as though he'll cry when he's in middle school and hears a dog bark. It's just that now he cries actual tears (they hadn't quite formed yet), so he just looks so sad, it tugs at my heart a bit. But then he'll see that same dog run after its bone and start laughing, so I know it's one more phase to go through. Pretty amazing, actually.

Today I went over to a friend's house so she could give me a bunch of her boys' old summer clothes. I love the fact that J may well wear them starting tomorrow...and we may even [wait for it] take off the storm windows. Ye gods! Could spring actually stick around? We've got a record-breaking temperature week coming up, so I want to get outside as much as possible before we get hit with at least one more arctic blast. I wouldn't be surprised if we got one more round of wet snow before spring and summer truly hit, but in the meantime, I'll just try to enjoy outside and the time I get to spend in it.

Happy weekend, everyone, and happy St. Patrick's Day!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Say what?

Just recently while watching a commercial on TV, I thought to myself, How cheesy that is!, and immediately followed with, How on earth would I explain "cheesy" to a non-native English speaker? It doesn't translate directly. I can't tell the person it's akin to "sappy", because then I'd have to explain that. Besides, "cheesy" doesn't really equate with "sappy". They're more like distant cousins. Let's see...when something makes you roll your eyes when it tries to be too sweet and heart-warming. How's that? Feel free to help me come up with something better.

Language is such a powerful tool...this is why, when I taught, I urged my students to use as many different words as they could in their writing. They (we) too often limit themselves to the handful they hear all the time. This is why English teachers have handouts such as "50 Alternatives to 'A lot'". That phrase gets overused by students a lot. Too often. Many times. To the point of absurdity. Tons. Quite a bit.

As I teach J to speak, I have to repeat myself to get him to say basics, of course. I repeat the words "hi", "Dada", and "Mama" myriad times (a lot). "Penny" also gets a lot of play. As he begins to listen, learn, and parrot, I want to remain conscious of words and phrases I use around him. What will he pick up? What will he pick up that I don't want him to? What do T and I repeat without even realizing it? It all just makes me think about language and why I love it and all its levels and nuances.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Hey! Been a while. Sorry. This has become a bit of refrain: Every time I think about beginning a post, I feel guilty that I should be doing something else like looking for work, playing with J, or cleaning the house. It's so foolish, I know. One of my mom's sayings I've always remembered is, "Guilt is a wasted emotion. You can almost always do something about it." She's right: I can do something to alleviate it about 90% of the time. Not to mention a decent portion of that guilt is self-imposed by something I feel I haven't done or should do or could have done.... And where does it get me? Nowhere, with a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach, mentally beating myself up and not helping myself in any way. I have always been far too hard on myself, but I also know I'm a person with excellent intentions and poor follow-through, so the cycle continues.

I think a lot of media taps into that. It's great for marketing:

You shouldn't eat that/you should lose weight! Why aren't you making yourself healthy for those who love you?!?!? Buy our product/join this gym, and it will all change!

If you feed your baby crummy food, he'll develop ADHD! If you don't breastfeed for X months, he'll likely develop allergies! Why do you feed your baby bad food and formula?!?!?

Post "I want breast cancer to end" as your status and then what color underwear you're wearing. Obviously, if you don't do this, you don't care about ending breast cancer. This is the most obvious way to support this cause! Why aren't you doing it?!?!

And so on. So much of guilt simply has to do with our intentions and the way we view it: If, at the end of the day, you can look back and say, "OK, I did most of the things on my to-do list and those I didn't, I'll tackle tomorrow," that's fine. Or my friend M, as a mother, tells herself, "I'm not being the best mom right now and there it is. In 20 minutes/tomorrow, I'll do better," and then doesn't beat herself up about it because she's a human being and therefore, fallible.

Recently I went away to the Hudson Valley for my sister's bachelorette (16 women renting a house: Lots of great meals, fascinating conversation, a bit of debauchery, and lots of love for my sister). Her one friend K is working on helping people 1) become aware of their present surroundings, in terms of not focusing so much on the past or future. As she put it, we too often focus on our unhappiness because of something in the past or something we're striving for in the future that we don't have. Focus on what can be done in the present instead. 2) make intentions realistic. She gave the example of her mentor in this project asking her a goal she wanted to accomplish and K said she wanted to work out four times that week. The mentor replied, "OK, what's the percentage of likelihood for that?" When K thought about it, she realized it was about 75%, if that. The mentor said, "What about three times?" 85%. K then figured it was 100% likely that she'd work out two times, and then she'd reach her goal and likely surpass it. We too often have goals that are too lofty, then we beat ourselves up for not achieving them, and the cycle of negativity continues.

I read another article recently that talked about goals being SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. All of this helps narrow down what I want to accomplish and helps alleviate that stupid guilt. No matter how often I use it, it's not a terrific motivator. If I break things down, it's more likely things I will cause things to occur rather than waiting for them to somehow manifest with no help.

So now that I've rambled for a while, I hope some of this makes sense. Any of you ever deal with this? How do you manage to get rid of your own guilt and treat yourselves gently? If you don't do so, please try. And don't beat yourself up if it takes a while.