Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Princess and the T

I really thought that, having a boy, I would get to avoid the whole "princess" thing. I know it's heterosexist, but it's the truth. My thought process wasn't quite a conscious, "Yes! Princesses are for girls. This kid is a boy! Dodged that bullet!" but it was close.

No such luck on the bullet-dodging.

Every morning for the past some-number-of-days (it feels like forever, honestly), Rob has freed Westley from his pajamas and overnight diaper only to be met with the request, "Wet's put me in one of your shirts!" And as soon as it's on his body, that T-shirt is suddenly a dress, and Westley, inside it, is a princess.

Do not - I repeat, do not - attempt to address him as anything else. You will be sternly corrected:

Me: "Come here, please, Westley."

Him, sternly, prompting me: "Come here my wittle princess."

One morning when my mom was over, Westley explained the situation to her. "I decided I was a princess," he said.

My mom attempted to explain that princesses were girls, but you know what? You could be a prince!

Westley shot that down so fast, and with so much ferocity, you'd think she'd just tried to tell him that all the cookies on the planet had suddenly disappeared.

"NO!" he shouted. "I A PRINCESS!"

"It's all right," I assured him. "You can be anything you want to be."

But inside my head I was thinking, But why a princess, buddy?

It's not Westley's imagination that I have a problem with. I cannot express how much I love that his world is still so magical. All it takes for him to be transformed is one of his father's T-shirts. It doesn't even matter what T-shirt! It could have words or pictures or some work-promotional-material on it, but it's still a princess's dress to Westley.

The problem, for me, is semantic. I don't want to address my son as "princess." If I had a daughter, I wouldn't want to address her as "princess," either. I don't want to address anyone as "princess" unless she's an actual, honest-to-goodness princess. As in, that's her title. The thing that would be printed on her business cards, if, for some reason, she needed them.

The word rubs me completely the wrong way. It's my own narrowmindedness talking, but when I think "princess" (as in the "dress up and make-believe" kind of princess), I think of someone who waits for a prince. Someone passive. Someone whose job is to be beautiful and appealing to a prince.

Admittedly, Westley isn't primping in front of the mirror, warbling to his woodland creature BFFs about how some day his prince will come. He's tearing around the house in a ridiculously-too-big-on-him T-shirt, wanting me to call him "princess." And I want him to be who he really is, and play how he wants to play. And if he wants to do "girl things" instead of (or in addition to) "boy things," I think that's wonderful! I want Westley to do what he loves to do, now and in the future, regardless of gender roles. I don't want to interfere with his imagination. But something in me wants to crush the "let's call me a princess" thing, based solely on my associations with the word.

I realize that this is my problem to work on. I remind myself that it's just a word, that this is about me and my stuff, that Westley isn't playing princess on purpose to bother me. And I'm trying to enjoy the cute of all of it. How sweet and wonderful it is that Westley doesn't care what's "for boys" and what's "for girls." That he can play and do what he likes without thinking about what is and is not "acceptable" or "appropriate" according to his peers and society in general.

That to him, being a "princess" means wearing a floor-length dress and living in a cool-looking building called a castle - no handsome prince and "happily ever after" narrative required.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Downtown

I really didn't want to move out of Seattle.
Street
Not Seattle.

I was working downtown and finally starting to feel acquainted with the city when Rob and I bought our first house together and moved to the suburbs. For most of the time that we lived in that house, we both worked in downtown Seattle, and ended up spending a bunch of time in the city.

Father's Day Walk
When we moved the second time - when I was nine months pregnant - it was back to Seattle. Well, the northern edge of it. Still, we had a Seattle address, and that was enough to satisfy my city mouse self. But as our little family started to outgrow our apartment, and Rob became firmly settled in his non-downtown job (and it became clear that I would not be returning to my job), my dream of a home of our own in the city started to evaporate.

I made Rob promise me that we wouldn't become those people. Those people who move to the Eastside and then never go into Seattle again. Too much trouble...it means going over the bridge...and so on.

We've done pretty well. Most of our old city-haunts aren't particularly friendly to the small-child or gluten-intolerant set, but we've crossed the bridge for several lovely meals at our favorite brunch spot, all-vegan buffet lunches, and hard-to-find treats.

And while we're waiting for Westley to grow into the symphony and the theater, it turns out we have our own, lovely little Eastside downtown to explore.



Family Portrait

Just the right size for a little dude.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

If His Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Assessment Doesn't Show Intuition as a Dominant Function, I'll Eat My Hat

I called my parents' house this morning, hoping to arrange a date with my dad's pick-up truck to do some furniture-shopping. And I was also secretly hoping he'd have some time to talk financial issues with me.

But Dad wasn't home. My mom answered the phone, and when she asked how I was doing, I had to tell her. (I can't lie to my mother. She almost always finds out anyway.)

Mom: "How are you?"

Me: "Oh, pretty good. But I looked at the budget this morning, and I'm feeling kind of like, 'Aah! How am I ever going to be able to buy anything ever again?!""

I didn't hear my mom's reply, because a little voice interjected, "Don't worry, Mommy."

Westley didn't look up from the game he was playing at my feet. He just pressed his cheek into my shin for a moment, and went on playing.

I told my mother what Westley had said, and then leaned down and kissed the top of his head. "Thank you, buggy. Everything's okay. I'm not really worried, bud. I'm just thinking about some Mommy stuff."

Thinking I was now clear to have a (short) adult conversation, I turned my attention back to the phone. Except that the little voice at my feet started singing:

"Baby don't worry...'bout a thing/'cause every little thing...gonna be all right."

After I picked my jaw up off my bra (my two-year-old is singing Bob Marley, ohmygodohmygod toocutecan'tbreathe!), I told Westley what a sweet, dear guy he is.


This is exactly what I needed to hear today. Thank you for reminding me, punky.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Living From Scratch

Cherry-filled loaf

I was talking to my mom yesterday about how hard it all is sometimes - being responsible for the day-to-day, the nitty-gritty, the care and feeding of a family and a home and a marriage. She listened as I unpacked my overwhelm, frustration, disappointment. She sat quietly while I pressed tear-soaked lashes into the back of my hand.

Then she said, with fictional-character wisdom and a smile, "When you cook from scratch, your garbage really stinks."

Sponge

It took me a minute to understand that she wasn't just talking about food - since we had been talking about food, among other things.

Cherry cherry boom boom

Food prepared at home, with care, from whole foods is wonderful in so many ways. It's almost always the more healthful, less expensive option. I believe it nourishes on a level that packaged, commercially prepared food does not - and can not.

I cook everything I can from scratch. It's a lot of work, and meals - planning, shopping for, preparing, serving, cleaning up after - take up most of my time. But doing it like this feels non-optional to me. In a way, I worship at "kitchen church," where kneading dough is meditation, stirring soup is prayer. It's not quite by accident that the only two religious images in my home (both the Virgin Mary) reside above the stove and above the kitchen sink, respectively.

Cherry-filled loaf

So there's all this love and light, feeling frugal, feeling healthful that goes into cooking from scratch. But, as my mom says, the garbage stinks. Vegetable trimmings rot, grain sours, bread molds, and don't get me started on the odors that cooked-from-dry beans emit when left to languish in the fridge! There is no (cooking) light without darkness, as it were.

Of course, my mom wasn't talking about cooking from scratch. Well, she was, but she was talking about combining the ingredients of your life. The time, the energy, and the caring that go into parenting from scratch, building a marriage from scratch, and running a household from scratch have a dark side, too: the stench of frustration, anger, disappointment, and sadness. Bad days. "One of those days"-days.

Cherry-filled loaf

I'm absolutely in love with the garbage analogy as a way of re-framing my negative thoughts and emotions. Cooking the way I do, I get hit with the good/bad, tasty/stinky balance every day. It feels so unusual to treat negativity as a waste product of something (a life) that is mostly positive. Anger and depression are the onion skins and carrot tops. Everything else is the stew. (Kind of like "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger," only with less killing and more nourishing.)

Most comforting of all, however: onion skins and carrot tops, when left out in the open, will break down and, in time, effectively disappear.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Falling in Like

Back in April, I attended two very different weddings that had one noteworthy thing in common: both couples started off their relationships as close friends.

Listening to their family and friends toast them and their great friendship-into-marriage transition, I felt absolutely flooded with envy. Instead of celebrating my friends and their happiness, I was suddenly awash in my own unhappiness and insecurity about my own marriage. Because Rob and I? Did not start off as friends.

I realize that that italic makes it sound like we started off as enemies, screwball-comedy-style, but that certainly wasn't the case either.

When Rob and I met, we simply had nothing in common apart from long periods of involuntary celibacy, the desire to get married some day, and a mutual friend who thought we should be together (possibly to remedy the first two commonalities).

Five years ago today we were married at the Seattle Justice Center. I carried a bouquet of miniature roses purchased at a grocery store on the way to the courthouse, and I remember placing it on the conveyor belt to pass through the X-ray machine. We took our engagement rings* off before the ceremony, only to put them back on in lieu of our wedding rings, which we'd either decided not to bring or forgotten (I don't remember which).

It was a funny, strange day. Looking back, it was a pretty good representation of us as a couple.

Five years later, Rob and I still don't have much in common. Owning things together and having a child who is biologically related to both of us helps put us on the same team (in theory, at least). We certainly know a lot more about each other, but I wouldn't say we're friends.

I wrote this last year, and it still holds true (emphasis added):
[T]hings are tougher in a lot of ways, but I like us better.
Things are tougher because we don't have that starry-eyed "Oh, thank God you're here to keep that horrible Alone Monster away" thing going on that was so consuming in the beginning. We have more serious discussions and disagreements. But we're also better at problem-solving together, better at supporting each other, more comfortable letting our idiosyncrasies and hypocrisies and obsessions show. Five years later, I can genuinely say I enjoy spending time with my husband.

On the one hand, it sounds like a "better late than never" story. On the other, it's just the perfect ending to our screwball comedy courtship: we are, in many ways, completely wrong for each other, and that's exactly why we ended up together.

Happy Anniversary, Rob. You're the imperfect person for me, and I like you. (I might even like-like you.)


*Rob also had an engagement ring. It was sterling silver and I had something sappy engraved on it that I will not repeat here.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Over the Rainbow

Yesterday we took Westley to the Seattle Pride Picnic. It was the first one they've ever done, and I hope it becomes an annual tradition. I have never had so much fun at a family-friendly event.
Bounce House, Pink Mouse

Pride Picnic

Pride Picnic

Cookie Face

Pride Picnic

Bounce House

Pride Picnic

Nothing is more family-friendly than including every family.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

File Under "Bibliophile"

Every once in a while, we get this little pamphlet in the mail from the state that discusses whatever developmental stage Westley is going through.

I don't know why, but I really enjoy getting mail from Washington State about my kid. Maybe it's because these little pamphlets say things like, "By now, your baby will probably be crawling/acting shy around strangers/abusing the cat/whatever." And then I get to go, Why yes! He is doing all of those things!

It's ego-boosting in a "this-doesn't-really-have-much-to-do-with-me-directly-but-I'll-take-the-credit" sort of way.

So this most recent installment is about being 2 1/2, which, first of all, let me just say, Excuse me? I have a 2-1/2-year-old? Could he be growing any faster? Slow down, little man!

Apparently, one of the big focuses of 2-1/2-year-olds is reading. "Read to your child," the pamphlet advises. "Make it fun!"

The State of Washington clearly has no idea what goes on in my house.

Let me explain something. There are books everywhere around these parts. Partly because we don't have enough bookshelves, but mostly because Westley loves books. Loves reading, being read to, all of it. It's kind of nuts.

If I had to estimate, I'd say that between us, Rob and I probably read to Westley a minimum of an hour and a half a day. Which feels like a lot of reading. The amazing thing is that Westley is attentive almost the entire time. Of course, it's the same few books over and over again for days at a time - which I suppose makes it even more noteworthy that Westley sits, rapt, with a "What's gonna happen?" look on his face while I read a story he's already heard twice that day.

I don't know where Westley's interest in books and reading came from. I certainly didn't do anything on purpose to "make it fun," as my little pamphlet suggests. For a while, reading was a big Daddy-and-Westley thing, but now it seems to have become an everyone-and-Westley thing. Which is fabulous! Westley's learning tons of new words, and becoming more of a storyteller in his own right every day. I guess I just got very, very lucky on this front: Westley apparently came into the world believing that reading is awesome. And may it ever be so.

Now if only the state could tell me where I'm supposed to store all of these books that my toddler loves so dearly.

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Writing Through Depression

On Monday I posted pictures of a cake, because I didn't know how to write about what Monday felt like.

My postpartum depression is mostly under control. And by "under control" I mean that if I eat what I'm supposed to, don't eat what I'm not supposed to, exercise, take my vitamins, drink enough water, get enough sleep, manage my stress, have open and honest conversations with my husband, and attempt to remember what my hobbies and interests are, all on a daily basis, I'm basically okay. More or less.

But if just a few of those things fall away - because, you know, life gets in the way - it's way too easy for the rest to fall away, too. And then I go from feeling basically okay to thinking dark thoughts about sharp kitchen knives and hot teakettles.

My dark thoughts exist solely as thoughts, with the occasional morbid fantasy. Still, they're pretty fucking dark. Which frequently leads me to the conclusion that I'm a bad person - instead of just a person in a bad mood. False logic from the Dirty Tricks Department of the mind.

Whenever the Dirty Tricks Department of my mind is acting up, I desperately want to talk about what I'm feeling - and I do, at length. (I'm certain Rob knows more about my emotional life than he ever expected to.) For some reason, however, I find it very difficult to write about. Perhaps because the thinking is so irrational and disorganized, it doesn't lend itself well to grammar and sentence structure. Or perhaps I don't want to be depressed in public.

When I told my mother how awful I felt and how I'd been having terrible nightmares that I didn't know what to do with, she said, "Put it in your writing."

My first thought was, "Hell no. I'm not telling my blog readers that I keep dreaming about bleeding to death at wedding receptions." But one of the reasons I started this blog was to write my shit out. And I say "out" because I think coming out about whatever the thing is - whether it's sexuality, mental illness, or how you really feel about your postpartum body - is important. I value the "over-share."

So, very simply: I had a terrible mental-health day on Monday. I hated myself and I hated my child. I think I even yelled at the cat.

Mature, I know.

After apologizing (to both Westley and the kitty), working out, and eating a couple of extra-super-mega-healthy meals, I feel basically okay again. Which, when compared to the dark of Monday, looks completely brilliant.

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Cake Makeover

This is what Rob's cake was supposed to look like.
Half-Birthday
Only chocolate instead of lavender. But that was basically what I was going for.

Fortunately, I nailed it for Westley's half-birthday celebration. The half-birthday boy himself thought so, anyway. He'd watch me bake it, but the finished product still came off as a total surprise.
Half-Birthday
Westley didn't wait for me to cut him a piece. He decided to help himself while I was getting plates and a knife.
Half-Birthday
In keeping with my baked-goods-as-self-portraiture theme, though, the inside of the cake (which was supposed to be lovely, marble-y, swirly deliciousness) was a total mess.
Half-Birthday
But it was delicious, and it reminded me that I really can make a cake from scratch without having a complete emotional breakdown.

And - most importantly - it made a two-and-a-half-year-old boy very, very happy.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Westley Version 2.5

Westley is 2 1/2 today. I'm a big fan of celebrating half-birthdays, but I didn't get my act together enough to have anything like a party for him today. Instead, I decided to interview him.
Photobooth Phun
Me: Westley, can I ask you some questions?

Westley: Uh-huh.

Me: How old are you?

Westley: [lowering his eyes] But I shy.

Photobooth Phun
Me: What's your favorite thing to eat?

Westley: I wike watermelon.

Me: What's your favorite thing to drink?

Westley: I fink it's water.

Me: What's your favorite kind of music?

Westley: I wike dancing.

Photobooth Phun

Me: What do you want to be when you're bigger?

Westley: [silence]

Me: Do you know?

Westley: Yeah...but I shy again.

Me: What's your favorite movie?

Westley: I...wike...Shrek best.

Me: What thing do you like most to do?

Westley: I wike Shrek and Fiona and Donkey.

Me: What makes you happy?

Westley: I fink Shrek and Fiona and Donkey make me happy!

Me: What's your favorite animal?

Westley: I wike a giraffe!

Me: What's your favorite book?

Westley: Hmm...I wonder what my favowite book is...I wike Shrek book.

Me: Is everything about Shrek today?

Westley: Ev'ryfing is about Shrek and giraffes...and dragons and bees and panda bears. [beat] Mommy, sing a Fairy Godmother song [from Shrek II].

Me: I don't know all the words to that song.

Photobooth Phun

Westley: Sing "Crocodile Rock." Do you know all the words to "Crocodile Rock"?

As it just so happens, I do.

Happy Half-Birthday, sweet boy.

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