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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Day in the life - February 12, 2016

Every year I do a "day in the life" or DITL. I started doing them on Valentine's Day, back in the days when holidays weren't all that different from normal days, but as the girls got older, it became clear that Valentine's Day was not going to be representative of our normal, daily lives, so I switched it up to other random days in mid-February. They'll all be attached below, and it's interesting to see how our lives have changed over the years (well, to me, anyway. It's my family, after all).

We wake up super early because the kids start school at 7:45 a.m.

I hate waking them up so early, but the puppy helps me.

Then he has to go outside, but he doesn't like it.

The girls are getting dressed and making beds, and I'm doing last night's dishes.

We remain unimpressed at the hour.

While they eat breakfast, I get dressed.

I grab some coffee for the walk.

Off we go!

Waiting at the loooooong traffic light before turning onto the school's road.

When I get back from dropping them off, I get that shower I didn't have time for.

I'm trying to be healthier, so instead of another coffee, I grab some water. I relax a minute on Words with Friends while I drink it.

Then it's time for some work. I pitch some articles to some publications.

My coworker insists on sitting on my lap.

Before long, it's time for breakfast. I make our usual. Toast, tea and fruit.

Daddy goes to work around 10 a.m.

Time to take the dog out again, but he'd rather play than do his business.

We set back up in our second office, the couch. I usually put a crappy movie on in the background while I work. Today's was "I love you, man" with Paul Rudd and the guy from HIMYM.

Lunch is leftovers. Vodka penne and a pork chop. Fletch approves.

I actually am doing work. Right now, I'm researching academic studies on children who grew up on No Child Left Behind going to college, and what the effects have been. I'm also coordinating interviews with some teachers I know on the subject. It's going to be a good story.

For the first time in months, my head and neck are really bothering me. An old injury: herniated disc. I lay down for just five minutes before picking the kids up from school.

But today is the day I finally get my car back from the shop (it's been two months), so before I grab the girls, I clean out our mess.

Ahh, the car line. My favorite part of the day.

Girls had a Valentine's Day party at school, and they're showing off their loot.

Instead of going home, it's time for some errands. Life as a freelancer means I have to deposit checks once a week or so--old-school.

Since I'm now teaching at university and seeing people in a professional capacity two or three times a week, (and since I only have one full suit, and one extra jacket), we also have to go to the dry cleaners once a week to switch out professional wear.

We had to stop here, too, because last week, my suit pants got a hole in them. What the hell, pants. You had one job.

At home, Dulce wants to play on her new VDay toy with me.

The girls have to read for 20 minutes every day, but they have trouble concentrating while sitting across from one another, so one comes into my room and we read together. I'm reading "Lost and Found" by Katrina Leno. It is excellent.

Of course, they're getting really hungry, so we reorganize and they eat a snack while finishing reading time.

Usually we go to Capoeira on Fridays, but it would have been too much to squeeze in, today. Plus, we got some 'tude over reading, so I give the girls a chore to complete. One cleans the living room, the other the bedroom.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to clean out my closet a bit, so I try some old stuff on and ask my friends what I should toss. The to-go pile is growing.

Time to pick up my car, finally. This is our last moment with the rental.

I get my lovely Honda back home and realize I left my garage door opener in the rental. Great.

We pick up Wendy's because I'm not cooking today. It has been a hard afternoon of errands and cleaning with the girls.

They love the food, at least.

Meanwhile, I have the day's dishes to do. I swear, I spend more time in front of this sink than anywhere else.

It's Friday, so the girls and I have time to play a board game before they go to bed. We chose "Frozen Slides" which we'd never played before. It was meh, but the company was awesome.

Fletch needs to go out one more time, but he would prefer to play inside.

Finally they go down for the night, and we do it all again the next day.

Here are our days from other years! A lot of the selfies of me are missing because as I keep publishing, I need to keep a lower profile.






Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Parenting without Power Struggles, Susan Stiffelman -- Review

I've just finished my third book of the year, and it was a parenting book. I started it more than a year ago, and have been plodding through it slowly, when I need it, and I need it often.

My kids are very spirited, and very loud. And it was hard for me to get them to do what I needed them to do without resorting to yelling or bullying of some sort.

And I hated it.

There are a lot of crap parts to this book. A lot of false dialogue, a lot of scenarios that will never happen in real life ever. A lot of her proposed solutions would not work in the way she wrote it down.

But, some of the core basics were very solid and things I needed to hear.

I needed to hear that I didn't need to hammer home a canned parenting point every time I spoke to my kids. The book spends a lot of time on separation. First help the child get the thing they need to do done. Don't talk about it. Or when you are saying no. Just say no. And let them feel how they feel. Do not spend a lot of time explaining it, thinking they'll come around, see things your way, or understand the logic. They won't and they can't and to try to get that whole message through at the time will result in disaster.

This has happened so many times to me.

What she advises is talking to your kids long after the direct order.

Another good thing in this book was the concept of coming alongside your kid when they feel negative emotion or don't want to do a thing.

Think of three reasons why they shouldn't want to do that thing, she wrote.

Now, I don't want to do that because dammit, do the thing, kids. But she's right.

One of my main mistakes with these kids is that I come at them from a state of irritation. Because why can't they just see the things the way they need to see them? Why can't they understand things and do them and behave?

I've noticed that when I do allow them their feelings, even if I'm impatient about it (in my own head), or I think their feelings are misguided, or downright wrong...if I give them the space to feel, they will come around on their own.

The biggest thing I learned, though, is that parenting without power struggles means getting rid of the bargaining.

I wanted my kids to be able to debate me and be heard and make their points, but that was absolutely the wrong way to go (at their young age). Right now, they need to know that "someone is in charge of the ship" as the book says. They have to hear in my voice that I mean what I say when I say it, and that they can trust what I say. If I leave what I say open at all times, they can never trust me. They don't know if I mean it or not, or if I'll change my mind with a little wheedling. They need me to be solid for them. Even if that solid says no.

Anyway, I recommend the book. Like I said, there's a lot of blah in it, but there is a lot of good in there too.

It helped us. It really did.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The last debate

I'm here, watching the last Republican debate before the Iowa caucus, and I'm looking at all of these men talking about immigration, and I'm still just as boggled as I was three months ago when this all started. Why do none of these people know what they are talking about?

Listening to the Republicans versus the Democrats, and it's like they are talking about two different countries, with two different sets of issues. And the Republicans keep talking about issues that don't exist. Or, the issues exist: immigration is an issue that is very important.

But the solutions don't address the problem.

Like, building a wall, stopping people from coming in, not trusting those born in other countries, using them as scapegoats for hate and fear. These are the solutions to immigration that they're talking about. And they're arguing over who wants to be the most extreme about this.

Meanwhile, the Democrats talk about the middle class and how to fix our ailing infrastructure, what to do about climate change, how to stop ISIS, you know, important things.

The most of this debate, as with all Republican debates, is a sniping match between the candidates. They spend all their time pissing on each other. They are all scurrying around as if their fellow Republicans are the scourge of the Earth. The only thing worse than the primary opponents are the Democrats.

They are looking so desperate right now. Why are they so frantic and testy? Why aren't they calmly telling us what they would do for the country?

Why is the Republican Party its own reality show this year?

Donald Trump isn't even there.

This isn't a debate. It's a pissing match.

There is no winner here.

Just seven desperate, angry men making themselves look bad.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Mommy, why would white people want to let Black people be equal? And other stories

So, my kids are learning a fair bit about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as they should.

Their limited world experience and faint grasp on big-picture ideas, however, combined with curriculum that could probably be improved, has thrown them for a bit of a loop.

Last week, one of my kids came home talking about this amazing "lesson" their teacher had them learn.

"Mommy, he split the class up in half, and he put us in two groups, then he told one group we were going to have a party, and he told the other group they couldn't come. They had to sit in another classroom. I was in the party group. I was sad because my friend was in the not party group. I was almost crying. But then he didn't do it, mommy. He didn't do it. He told us it was just a lesson."

Now, something sat funny with me about this lesson, but coming from my white-person frame of reference, I couldn't put a finger on what it was. So, we talked about what the lesson was supposed to be, and how unfair that would have been, and we applied it to the political, social and cultural backdrop of that time in history.

A wonderfully patient woman online soon explained to me why this lesson is off-base.

The approach is incredibly white-centric as it assumes that all the children in the class need to learn the lesson of discrimination through a cutesy classroom activity. It assumes that all children in the class don't already know how this might feel. Meanwhile, children of color already experience this on a daily basis throughout their lives, and don't need to play-act it to get an idea of what discrimination could possibly be about. And it's certainly not about parties.


Flash forward to today when my children were talking to each other about how funny Dr. King's voice sounded during his famous speech. I cut in to explain that he spoke fervently to evoke passion in his listeners and get support for the very important action he was trying to help facilitate.

We talked about how brave he and others were for standing up to the status quo without any power to do so, and without any guarantee of their safety. We talked about how very important it was to stand up for equality for all people, no matter where we fell on that spectrum.

Then one of my daughters comes out with this, after sitting silently for a moment, thinking it all over.

"Mama, why would the white people then want to give equality to the Black people? You know, since they had it all? They would want to keep it."


So, that was a really insightful and legitimate question. I answered with a grandiose speech about how all people were very important and the white people who were kind and good and thoughtful and smart knew that it was wrong to treat other people like they were. And they wanted to give equality because it was the right thing to do, and we must always do the right thing.

Another brief silence.

Then this:

"But, mama, you always tell us that life isn't fair, and that we can't make it fair."


And, man, can I just tell you I am not smart enough to be a parent?

I thought a while about how to simplify the different between fairness on an individual level and equality on an institutional level.

Eventually I settled on telling her that even though life wasn't fair in many, many things, it was up to us every day to try to make it more fair for those around us who had it harder. And I threw in a few "plus, that's a totally different thing, it's just the words are the same," for good measure.

The world is hard. Concepts are hard. The fact that we still live in a world where discrimination, inequality and oppression exist is hardest of all.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Reasons my kids couldn't possibly go to sleep before 10 p.m.

The girls slept late this morning because of the holiday. And tomorrow, we're up at 6:30 a.m. again. Do they care? Noooooo. They do not. They do not care that tomorrow at 7:15, I'm going to be tearing my hair out trying to hurry them up, putting on their shoes they suddenly can't find even though I laid them out tonight, combing their hair in a frenzy as they dramatically scream in fake pain, and force feeding them cereal via high-powered watergun. OPEN YOUR MOUTHS.

No, they do not care.

Here are the reasons they absolutely couldn't possibly have been asleep before 10 p.m. tonight:

1) They had to play a game of balloon volleyball in the living room because daddy told them they could.

2) The last point in that volleyball game was super contentious it totally DID OR DID NOT touch the couch before going over to the other side. This required mental replays, various explanations, three near tantrums, and seeking out a neutral party to decide for them. (The decision, by the way, was GO TO BED).

3) They had to finish their chocolate milk that they didn't even like at dinner time.

4) They NEEDED dessert. They were so so so so so so so so so hungry. Even though it took them nearly ninety minutes to eat dinner. Can't argue with the stomach, I guess.

5) They couldn't tell if they needed to go number two or not.

6) Brushing teeth is harrrrrrrrd.

7) They wanted to change their underwear randomly.

8) They needed to talk in bed. They had things they forgot to discuss in the 16 hours they were awake and together apparently.

9) They were suddenly so itchy. They needed to turn the lights on to examine their itchiness and call me in to check it. (It was invisible, by the way.)

10) They needed more water. They drank it all. For the first time in six months.

11) Wait, was that a ghost, mom?

12) Well, if it's the dishwasher, it's too loud. They can't sleep with the dishwasher on. You know, like they did last night. Or the night before.

13) They needed the closet door shut. But they needed it shut by a grownup. Just in case.

So, like, tomorrow, they'd better be walking to school before I even wake their little butts up. Because GO TO SLEEP.


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