Monday, May 30, 2011

What and Why

First off, thank you all for the kind words here and on Twitter. The shared anger and good wishes really do help keep me afloat. I hate that virtual hugs don't work, even on touch screens.
* * *

I did in fact have a bottle of wine (and half a pear) instead of dinner the other night. I don't recommend this, regardless of how broken you think you want to be. Alcohol is a depressant, after all. Two downers do not make an upper.

I'm getting very tired of writing about depression and heartbreak and insecurity and worry. I'm becoming a downer myself. And while I feel nowhere near "done" with my current cocktail of less-than-pleasant emotions, I'm giving myself the rest of the night to mope around. After that, I have to Do Something. Even if it's just plan some healthy meals for the rest of the week and resume flossing.

The thing I can't seem to stop asking, over and over again, is: What am I supposed to learn from this?

Everything is an opportunity to learn something, but I can't imagine what this lesson might be. I wish God or the Universe or whomever would just come out and say, "Look, kid, here's the deal," and lay it out in some format that I could understand.

Meanwhile, through all the crashing whats—What the hell is happening? What's the lesson? What next?—I have vowed not to ask why. For every exploration into why things happened the way they did, there is a shaming because waiting to be uncovered. Why? Because of you. Because of something you did.

What seems all right. Why is just another opportunity to attack myself. And the answer to "Why me?" is almost always another question:

Why not me?

.....................................

Thursday, May 26, 2011

In Praise of Broken

Two days before Rob's birthday, I peed on a pregnancy test. I don't know what possessed me to do it, other than my back really fucking hurt, and sometimes when I'm in pain, my judgement goes out the window. Oh, and I'd had a really scary, vivid dream the week before that involved Alia Shawkat as a spy, and men with guns, and a giant, death-grey, headless Jesus-Dragon Man falling from the sky. (I woke up from the dream and thought, "I wonder if this means I'm pregnant," even though there's no reason it would. Usually, after the unprotected sex but before the positive test, I have one good, long, hideously pornographic dream. Low-budget experimental German stuff. Very sick. Anyway...)

So I took a pregnancy test. And stared at it. Then I wrote Rob a note and set the test and the note on the bathroom counter, and I went back to making curried split pea soup.

"I do see what you see," Rob said when he came out of the bathroom later.

"Hmm," I said.

"Mmm," we said together.

||

I didn't tell anyone but my doctor about the positive test. Not because I was superstitious or afraid. I was pointedly not afraid. Rob and I had promised each other we wouldn't be afraid. That we'd celebrate. But I didn't feel like celebrating, either. I just felt like a crazy person, because I hadn't had a period yet, and my best guess-date for conception seemed too recent to already be producing double pink lines. My doctor suggested an ultrasound in a few weeks - "because if you did conceive on the fourth, all they'd see at this point would be a yolk sac" - and I basked in the light of the image I imagined: a glowing kidney-bean fetus with tiny, beating heart.

I'd carry my ultrasound results home like a straight-A report card. Guess what, everyone!

Yesterday, after just 10 days of (mildly agonizing) secrecy, I noticed some brown spotting. I was just about to work out, and for a moment I froze. Is exercise a good idea right now? Should I rest? I quickly decided that if whatever was inside of me was healthy, no amount of regular exercise would make it come out. And if it was going to come out, no amount of rest would keep it in. Twelve hours later, I was bleeding.

There's a moment early in Away We Go, my favorite-ever pregnancy movie, where Burt asks Verona if she agrees with her friend Lily that "everything's destined for failure." Verona responds, "I really hate that attitude, you know? 'Everything's already broken so why don't we just keep on breaking it again and again.'"

I usually subscribe to Verona's philosophy of life - that broken doesn't equal doomed, that with a little bit of joy and creativity, even a sickly old orange tree can grow melons and pineapples - but not today. Today, I just want to keep on breaking it. I want to drink a bottle of wine instead of eating dinner. Smoke in bed. Have anonymous, condomless group sex. Throw a party in honor of my wrecked-up uterus by destroying my body completely! Everything about me is broken! Hooray for failure! Miscarriage is the new black!

+

I have to wonder if my recent depression was, in fact, prescient. (Depresscience?) I wonder if my pre-test nightmare was trying to tell me something. And of course I wonder Why, and What the hell, and Where am I supposed to go from here? In fact, I don't even know what else I want to write about this.

I keep struggling to look through the grotesque fantasies of self-annihilation - see beyond the auto-schadenfreude - and name the true feelings there. But I don't know if there's a word for this. Anger comes close to expressing it, but I really want something that encompasses rage, frustration, heartbreak, and despair. There has to be a word like that. (It's probably in German.)

I'm also beginning to think I should seriously consider re-naming this blog.

.....................................

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

WOstudio

..

As a child, I could spend hours drawing. My mom furnished me with lots of butcher paper and later, these wonderful hardback sketchpads that I haven't seen in art stores in years, and I would create characters, elaborate ballgowns, scenes from dreams. The art supply store was more exciting than any toy store, and I basked in the elementary schoolyard fame that came from being "a really good drawer."

...

I assumed that any children I had would share my early fondness for putting pencil to paper and creating something - or nothing. And, of course, because I assumed, I found myself proven wrong almost immediately. As soon as Westley understood "drawing," he developed his own definition of the activity. Westley's idea of "drawing" (and also of "coloring") is the two of us sitting together while he tells me what to draw. When I suggest that he draw Wall-E or Shrek, he says he can't.

... ...

I tell him, "You definitely can't if you don't try" - the kind of thing I swore I'd never say to my child because I detest it so - but he continues to insist that he can't. I get frustrated, he gets frustrated. And so not much drawing goes on in our house.

... ...

Photography is a different story, however.

On Mother's Day, I got out my camera and, as always, Westley wanted to see it. And, as always, I was hesitant to let him touch it. He broke our first digital point-and-shoot a little over a year ago when I foolishly let him play with it unsupervised. In just a few minutes it had been rendered "unfixable" (which I felt especially awful about, as the camera had originally been my wedding gift to Rob). Of course, taking pictures is super-fun - especially with the instant gratification of digital photography - so I decided that rather than hand off the camera and hope for the best, I'd teach him how to use it.

...

...

...

He picked it up remarkably quickly, handling the camera like he'd been doing it for years.

Unlike with drawing, which frustrates Westley immediately when things don't go just so, taking pictures always pleases him. He doesn't care if the image is cropped oddly, or the subject is out-of-focus. He flips the camera over to "view" mode and proudly displays his prize: "Look at this beautiful picture, Mommy!"

I'm surprised by just how beautiful they are.

...

I know he's just goofing around with this fancy, grown-up toy (that happens to look more like a gun than anything else I'll bring into the house). But even if his images are accidental, I can't help but feel that I'm looking at something incredibly pure and personal when I scroll through Westley's pictures.

I feel like I'm looking at the world through a little sliver of his soul.

...

.....................................

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Attitude Adjustment

Whenever I got pissy and irritable growing up, my mother would tell me I needed "an attitude adjustment." This usually changed my perspective on things only insomuch as it made me want to scream at her. Because my mother was also the one who was all about identifying and discussing feelings, the "attitude adjustment" comment suggested that my feelings of wanting to throw bricks through windows were unfounded.

On Sunday night, for no apparent reason, I had a slobbering-sobbing-mess meltdown. (Rob held my hands and said, "They said this would happen. That we'd feel crappy and not know why." He was referring of course to the miscarriage.) Yesterday, I wanted to throw bricks through windows - and worse. Westley walking through a giant mud puddle two minutes after we arrived at the park brought me right to the edge of tearing up. Everything in my life was broken and wrong. I was angry at the air.

The (mom-)voice in my head said, "You need an attitude adjustment." And instead of telling her fuck off, mind your own business, I thought, "Yes, I do."

4 Eyes

But one thing my mother never got to was how to change an attitude. All the prescription eyewear in the world won't change the view that says everything is fucked. When I tilt my left ear towards my left shoulder, my neck pops; but I can't crack my emotions. (Wouldn't that feel amazing?)

I'm told everyone has these eight-shades-of-awful days (though I'm not really sure I believe that). So, I ask you, how do you do it? When everything looks awful, or even just "off", what brings you out on the other side?

.....................................

Friday, May 20, 2011

Post-Kid Kitchen: A Birthday Dinner!

Rob's birthday was the 18th (happy birthday, baby!), and when I asked him what he wanted for his birthday dinner, I fully expected him to say Tofurkey and mushroom stuffing dressing. Thanksgiving in May! I started picturing the dirty-dish pile-up.

But instead he requested black bean curry, which, in addition to being really tasty, is completely easy to make. It also calls for a tablespoon of oil per serving. The fat boosts the flavor of the dish, but it's not strictly necessary. You could get away with as little as a tablespoon of oil here, but in that case, I'd recommending watching the onion-garlic-ginger mixture like a hawk to make sure it doesn't burn.

I make this recipe in a big cast iron skillet and use a pizza pan to cover it.

Rob's Birthday Dinner

Black Bean Curry
Serves 4

3 1/2 cups cooked black beans
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 large onion, diced fine
5 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp salt
2 tsp your favorite curry powder
2 cups water, bean cooking liquid, or vegetable broth
(if using vegetable broth, omit salt)

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot (but not smoking!) add the mustard seeds and cover. The seeds will begin to pop. When the popping has stopped, add the onion and cook until light golden brown. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for about a minute more. Add the black beans, curry powder, salt and water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and let simmer for 20 minutes. Serve with brown basmati rice and roasted cauliflower!

For dessert, I made Susan's Cherry-Chocolate Mousse Pie.

Cherry-Chocolate Mousse Pie

This is not a gluten-free, nor a soy-free recipe, but I had been promising Rob this pie for months. And since I'm not in the I-This is not a gluten-free, nor a soy-free recipe, but I had been promising Rob this pie for months. And since I'm not in the I-will-die-if-I'm-in-the-same-room-with-my-allergens camp, I don't have a problem making things I shouldn't eat.

Instead of the graham cracker crust, I went with a chocolate cookie crust. A whole box of these (pulsed to crumbs in the food processor) plus 3 tablespoons melted of Earth Balance margarine did the trick. I mixed that up, pressed it into a pie plate and baked at 350 F for 12 minutes. Next time I might use a little less margarine, or make the pie in a spring-form pan, or both; the crust mixture didn't adhere well to the sides of the pie plate, and we ended up with a bottom-heavy, difficult-to-cut crust.

For a gluten-free pie, there are gluten-free sandwich cookies (I hope) with which to make your crust. Or, simply make the filling without a crust. I plan to experiment with this for the next big family get-together. The mousse holds its shape really well when refrigerated for several hours - just cut and serve!

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Film Festival: 'School of Rock'

When parenthood hit me full-force, I could never watch movies that involve families or children the same way. I tried to watch Sleepless in Seattle a while ago, and that scene at the end where Tom Hanks' character finds with his son at the top of the Empire State Building? Destroyed me. The idea that your 8-year-old son would fly across the country by himself without you having any clue is horrifying, but it was all within the realm of fiction for me until the young actor, Ross Malinger, yells, "Dad!" and runs to embrace his father. And then I felt like someone had ripped my heart out of my eyeballs.

(By the way, Sleepless in Seattle is supposed to be one of those quintessential, genre-defining romantic comedies, but on this most recent viewing, it didn't strike me as very romantic or very comedic. More on that at a later date, perhaps.)

The one exception (so far) to new approach to movies featuring children seems to be School of Rock. This was one of my go-to comedies in college, an opportunity to not think after hours of analyzing the work of Agnès Varda and Maya Deren. It's my cinematic junk food.

But School of Rock is better than that. It's incredibly formulaic - so much so that at one point, Rob addressed the screen: "Dude, your character development is showing" - but it uses the formula well. The exposition is crystal clear, and "training" montages are delicious, and the soundtrack feels like a playlist that might be running through the hero's head at any given moment. When the plot twists in School of Rock, you know what's going to happen next, because you've seen this kind of film a million times before. But when a film has created such a strong and consistent world for itself, you don't actually mind that you know how it ends. Or, at least, I don't.

The film's one plot surprise is its lack of romance. For a scene or two, it looks as though Jack Black's faux substitute teacher and Joan Cusack's school principal are going to hook up. But the two never do become a couple. This non-coupling doesn't make much sense in terms of American cinematic conventions, but it strikes me as much truer to the characters in question. Interestingly, because the (male) protagonist makes it to the end of the film without a (female) partner, there's not the opportunity to create the Traditional American Family that most films strive to achieve, even if it's just in the film language. (See, for example, the end of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Indiana Jones and Willie Scott, who don't particularly like each other, embrace, surrounded by hundreds of rescued Indian children. It's in no way a family portrait, but it resembles one closely enough to satisfy an American narrative, which craves the heteronormative closure that comes from [re]establishing the father-mother-child[ren] family ideal.) In fact, adult women are completely absent from School of Rock by the time the credits roll. In the final scene, we hear 10-year-old Summer say goodbye to her mother, who the audience doesn't see in this scene, while exiting a car and walking by herself into the newly-formed "School of Rock" after-school program.

I'm starting to think that School of Rock is way more problematic in its relationship to women than I originally realized. Of course, I should've caught it right away; it's done as innocently as possible, but there's still something wrong with Jack Black designating three 10-year-old girls as "groupies."

Still, I don't have the viewing relationship with School of Rock that I do with other movies featuring children (and families), possibly because the roles are reversed here: the adult protagonist is childlike and irresponsible, while the children seem mature and industrious. Situations that could be spun as horrifying - a man who is lying about his identity sneaking a group of fourth graders into his van - never come close to creepy, because there's no threat. School of Rock is completely without danger. It represents, very clearly, a particular kind of male fantasy.

(So could someone please explain to me why I still like it so much?)

Other fun things about School of Rock:
  • Joan Cusack's uptight school principal character always wears gray.
  • The children's parents are in the film more as props than as characters. They're more or less interchangeable (with the exception of Zack's father, who the film portrays as a bully), as represented in part by the fact that they all drive Volvos.
  • The font used for the title of the film on promotional posters and DVD boxes is the same font used by Rolling Stone magazine.
.....................................

Monday, May 16, 2011

My Body Forward

May11

After Westley was born, I never wanted to "get my body back." The expression offends me in its suggestion that the body is something a person can lose. (How stupid do you have to be to lose your own body?) Or perhaps the phrase is supposed to evoke the idea of theft? Pregnancy can steal your body! If only you'd been paying better attention...

Whether it was lost or stolen is irrelevant; my pre-baby body was not something I was interested in getting back. That body - the body I think of as "my body" - was not so great. It was stretch-marked and saggy years before it grew and birthed and nursed a child. And it was always Fat.

I say "the body I think of," because my actual, physical body - the body I had when I got pregnant with Westley - was fairly new to me. I had recently starved away 20 pounds, and I still wasn't used to the idea of being a "normal" size. My mind, and the voice within it that had made starving seem like a good idea in the first place told me I was fat. Disgusting. That I could never succeed at losing weight. Never mind the fact that in February 2007, a few weeks before I conceived, my weight was the lowest it had been in my adult life.

Who are THESE people?
Circa 2003 - 185 lbs. (At least I look happy!)

I think of my adult life as occurring in 20-pound increments. Instead of reflecting on events, my mind goes first to numbers on the scale. My weight when I got my acceptance letter from my first-choice college. My weight when I met my closest friends. When I kissed Rob for the first time. When I got married. When Westley was conceived, born, weaned...

While my weight has ranged well over 205 lbs. (after my first year of college, when I gained my Freshman 15 and someone else's besides) down to 135 lbs., I think of myself as weighing 185 lbs, 165 lbs, or 145 lbs. These are My Weights. And they're all Too Much.

June06
July 2006 - 165 lbs. (and a very unflattering green dress)

I remember the first time I stepped on the scale in the morning, as I do every morning, and the number was in the 160s. I was eating single-food "meals" (a plate of pineapple chunks, a plate of scrambled eggs, a plate of lunchmeat) and exercising 2 hours a day, torturing myself in preparation for my wedding and subsequent life of martial bliss, and I was still absolutely incredulous. It's not possible! I weigh 185 pounds. Why does the scale think I weigh 168? But I soon got used to the idea, and suddenly, 165 wasn't small enough. I needed to lose another 20 pounds. So I did.

March08
March 2008 - 165 lbs. (and more unflattering green)

May09
May 2009 - 155 lbs.

I used to think of 145 as my "ideal weight." It's a healthy weight for my height, not too large, not too small. At 145, my body is no longer "plus size" and it's relatively easy to find a bra without going to a specialty store. I spent years believing that when I finally got to 145, if I got there, I would (could) finally stop losing weight. But the morning the scale actually displayed 145, I decided I needed to lose another 20 pounds. Not five, which might fall within the confines of "a reasonable goal," but 20! Shortly after that, I discovered I was pregnant. But I was dieting until the day I peed on that first stick.

I gained 38 pounds while pregnant. By the time Westley was 18 months old, I'd lost 43 pounds. And I had no intention of stopping.

Aug10
August 2010 - 135 lbs.

For years I believed that all of my problems would go away if I could just lose enough weight. I still believe to one degree or another. But the truth is that I've had moments of true happiness wearing a size 16, and I've been completely miserable in a size 6. (See fake smile and awkward pose above.) I am always starting a new diet "first thing in the morning," bingeing in the middle of the night, punishing myself for ever having been a Fat Girl.

It doesn't matter how many 20-pound units I run or pedal or starve away; I will always have been, at one time, a Fat Girl. And years later, I'm still punishing myself for having committed this fundamental female sin.

But no amount of weight lost now will change my body then.

* * *

I gained some weight with my recent pregnancy. You know, like you do when you're pregnant. Not much weight, but enough to put me at odds with my current wardrobe. Enough that I see the difference every time I pass a mirror.

Aug10
Summer 2010
(I have no idea why I took this picture, but now I have it to make myself feel like shit for comparison purposes.)

May11
Spring 2011

My doctor told me not to try to lose the weight, because it really isn't very much. "But," she added, "given your history, I know 8 pounds is a lot." (And this is another reason I love my doctor so much. She can say things like "given your history" without even a tinge of judgment.)

Eight pounds is a lot. It's more than Westley weighed when he was born, for instance. But I'm trying to muster up the belief that it's not worth torturing myself over. I'm surprised by what a difficult task this is.

"My eating disorder is old enough to vote!" I realized out loud to Rob recently. He just nodded.

"My eating disorder can get married! It can buy cigarettes," I continue. "Which it would probably do. And then it would convince me that smoking just once a day wouldn't affect my health too adversely, and it would suppress my appetite--"

I stop myself mid-thought when I notice Rob's face. He looks like he's in actual, physical pain, listening to me. Like his heart hurts. I guess my heart would hurt too if someone I loved were talking about her uncontrollable urge to destroy herself.

I see things through his eyes for a split second. I've spent the past two weeks getting up while it's still dark outside, flogging myself with weights and crunches and aerobics, disgusted by the state of my body. But he's been smacking my ass playfully whenever I pass him in the hallway, and kissing my neck while I'm brushing my teeth. He doesn't give a shit about eight fucking pounds.

I take a breath. "This has to stop."

This really, really has to stop.

.....................................

Friday, May 13, 2011

Post-Kid Kitchen: I Love Leftovers!

Leftovers

My parents "don't eat leftovers," according to my mom. To which I say, How is that even possible?! Especially since my mom is in the habit of making a zillion portions of whatever she cooks. You don't know how many times I've gone over to my parents' house and been greeted with, "There's lots of soup in the fridge! It's really delicious!"

At my house, leftovers are the staple of our diets, now/"post-kid" more than ever. Most recipes yield four or six servings, and as Westley hasn't been keen on the dinner offerings for what seems like years, Rob and I can count on dinner providing us with lunches for the next day or two. In theory, we could be freezing these leftovers for use at a later, I-don't-feel-like-cooking date, but our freezer is teeny. There's barely room in there for a bag of flaxseed meal and a tub of overripe bananas. Not to mention that I put things in the freezer and promptly forget they ever existed.

In the absence of a freezer's "make your own TV dinner"-potential, here's what I do to make living off leftovers awesome:
  • When I plan our meals, I avoid similar flavors from one dinner to the next. Unless you're Rob, who would happily eat curry for every meal, tasting the same herbs and spices at lunch and dinner, day after day, can be pretty uninspiring.
  • Air-tight containers are your friend! If you eat up your leftovers quickly, you may be able to get by with whatever containers you have lying around. Otherwise, find an air-tight container you like and get a ton of 'em! (We currently use mostly glass canning-type jars, food storage containers from Ikea, and plastic Lock&Lock containers. But I'm lusting after these glass beauties.)
  • Serve every serving. When I'm assembling dinner plates, I also grab as many containers as I have "extra" servings. That way, the next day's lunch is ready to go before the dishes are even done! This also helps with clean-up and portion control.
  • Switch up the starch. Anything you serve over rice will probably also be good over pasta, quinoa, or a baked potato. Leftover curry + baked sweet potato = serious yum.
  • Leftover grains or potatoes are perfect on top of salads or tossed into soup. Or make leftover casserole! Basic formula: carbohydrate + soup, stew, or chili to moisten; cook 30 minutes at 350 F.
  • Those strawberries that you sliced up so beautifully for your son? And then he didn't touch them? Will make your morning that much more healthful and delicious!
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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sight Unseen

Movie night was cancelled this week.

Westley is on the verge of another growth spurt, and despite desperately needing sleep, he couldn't get comfortable in bed. The bedtime-athon - which was really just regular bedtime times three - ate into most of the evening. Rather than starting a movie and falling asleep in the middle of it, Rob and I watched Lady Gaga's "Judas" video and talked about women-and-water in visual media for a while.

"Dude, how often do you see women in or around water in the movies?"

"OMG, like, all the time!"

Unfortunately, we were exhausted, and didn't conclude much more than the usual sex/birth/death/rebirth stuff. Oh, and, "It looks pretty!"


It's probably just as well that I didn't watch a movie and try to write about it. After years of seemingly perfect vision, my eyes have now decided to junk out on me. In fact, you should imagine this text about four times bigger than it is. That's how I've been writing and attempting to read blog posts for the past several days.

So, I'm getting glasses. These little beauties. Two weeks from now, I expect to look like a less beardy, longer-haired, slightly more feminine Seth Rogen. Okay, so nothing like Seth Rogen. But I say, Bring it on! Let the dorkification commence!

(As though it hadn't begun already.)

* * *
Other fun things about my suddenly worn-out eyes:
  • That eye-exam chair? Is from hell! Okay, maybe not quite hell. Just outside hell. The waiting room of hell is full of those eye-exam chairs.
  • Naturally this would happen just as I have a book to finish, knitting to work on, and a new cookbook!
  • I honest-to-God asked Rob a D&D rules question the other day. The glasses are taking effect on my dorkiness quotient and I'm not even wearing them yet! (And I just used the word "quotient.")
.....................................

Momnesia

(I generally hate "mom" as a prefix, but this is one instance I can get behind.)

Rob's 2 Babies

Yesterday I was looking for a particular old photo. And as always happens, because I'm not terribly organized in the digital photography department, I ended up looking through hundreds (thousands?) of photos.

2 Months

I kept staring at photos of itty-bitty Westley, vaguely confused, awash in feelings of "I don't remember that." I remember specific instances, like standing on tip-toe on the edge of the bed to photograph Westley, Rob, and the kitty napping together.

Nap
I remember picking out the camo-skull swaddling blanket that's bunched up below Westley's feet, here. I was hugely pregnant, fairly certain that the little life inside of me was a boy, and desperate for something not blue-with-trucks.
(I later gifted that swaddling blanket to a favorite Starbucks barista and his infant son, Zephyr Westley.)

Casual Lean

What I don't remember is the day-t0-day. What on earth did I do every day with that little guy? I don't really remember how it felt to hold him or bathe him or change his diaper. I don't remember doing his teeny-tiny laundry. And I want so much to remember.

Swingers

If I sit very still and quiet, asking myself to go back and be in that time again for just a moment, I crash into a wall of sadness. I don't see Westley; I see myself. I remember how isolated I felt, how overwhelmed and unsupported. I remember the tightness in my chest every day as I anxiously wondered, "What am I going to do?" About the day, about Westley, about my life...

And then I look at the photos, and my heart breaks. I had such a beautiful, healthy, happy baby. But I was too miserable to enjoy him...or even remember him.

They match!

Fall, and...

Good morning, Internet

It's hard to acknowledge that until about a year ago - maybe closer to a year and a half at this point - I was terribly depressed. And while I think I remember the pain I was in - just as I think I remember the pain of labor - I don't and can't remember it fully. To do so would be paralyzing.

Fortunately, things are getting better all the time. Slowly, steadily, I'm winning the race. (I think.) And there are things I do remember, maybe not about Westley's babyhood, but about his third year. Good things I can hang on to when that wall of sadness starts to build itself up.

.

.

Half-Birthday

Photobooth Phun

Bounce House

I don't know why the temptation to dwell on Past Me is so strong, or why I still find myself mourning What Could Have Been. If only I hadn't been so depressed when Westley was a baby... But I can't fix that. I can only fix now. And right now, things are actually pretty good!

I'm going to try to remember that.

.....................................

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mother's Days

I.

I'm standing in my doctor's office, waiting to pay when I hear Westley's voice behind me.

"Mommy? What can I get you for Mother's Day?"

Courtney, the receptionist, shoots me a your-kid-is-flippin'-adorable look. Totally, I eyebrow-raise back.

"I don't know, Buddy. You might want to talk to Daddy about that."

II.

"Happy Mother's Day, Mommy!

"Thank you, sweetie. But it's not Mother's Day yet."

"But there are lots of Mothers Days."

III.

At dinnertime, Westley explains to Rob that he wants to get me a Mother's Day present "from the Mother's Day store." He's very, very distressed when we explain to him that there is no "Mother's Day store."

After a long series of questions and answers, I figure out that he's imagining a store full of wrapped presents, similar to one Steve and Blue visit in an episode of "Blue's Clues." I explain Where Presents Come From: items come from stores, ribbons and pretty paper are added at home.

His tears gone and interest in gift-giving renewed, Westley decides he wants to buy Mommy a Mother's Day present right now. Rob takes him to the thrift shop, where he chooses a muffin tin and a sci-fi novel (Rob: "I don't know, Buddy. Mommy doesn't really like science fiction books." Westley: "She will like this one!").

Westley presents the gifts to me unwrapped, tags still on. He's beaming as he thrusts the muffin tin into my arms, saying, "Happy Mother's Day, Mommy!"

I want to hug him forever and kiss him all over.

IV.

"Daddy, I want to get Mommy a birthday present and a Christmas present!"

.....................................

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Post-Kid Kitchen: Down with the No-Plan Meal Plan!

Last week, for a reason I can't remember, I didn't make a meal plan (hence no Post-Kid Kitchen last week). This week, I made a plan but changed my mind and slothed out on Tuesday and abandoned it. And this is the last time I do either of these things!

I know there are people who rarely (or never!) plan meals, and after the past couple weeks, I don't know how they don't go crazy. Asking myself "what's for dinner?" every afternoon and then trying to cobble together something tasty and nutritious from a hodgepodge of ingredients is exhausting. Not to mention expensive! I manage our household budget by logging purchases and crunching numbers at least twice a week, and abandoning meal-planning was a great waste of time and hundreds of dollars. Yes, hundreds, plural.

That's the end of that: from now on, I will never, NOT EVER shop without a meal plan. And I won't wuss out on my meal plan once I've made it. Because meal planning? Saves a ton of time and money! And contrary of what many non-planners think, it's not that difficult.

There are meal-planning tips all over the place, and most of them will advise you to plan your dinners from the food ads in the newspaper. This doesn't work for me, as supermarket specials are often on things like pork chops, cow's milk, and packaged snack "foods." If I find a coupon for something I was going to buy anyway - fortified non-dairy milk for Westley, for instance - I certainly won't turn my nose up at it. But letting supermarket sales govern your planning can result in some less-than-healthful meals.

I do most of my meal-planning the night before I shop. For me, that means Sunday night. My process looks a little something like this:
  • Shop the fridge and the pantry. Are there any vegetables left over from last week? How's the supply of milks looking? Do I have beans, rice, quinoa, oats, rice pasta, or anything else that might serve as a jumping-off point for a dinner? How long has that been in there?
  • Round up notebook, pen, and a few cookbooks. I make my shopping list in a little hardcover spiral-bound journal. This keeps me from losing my list, keeps the list from getting crunched to death in my bag, and gives me the option of looking back at previous weeks' lists and meals for inspiration.
  • Flip through the cookbooks for ideas. Sometimes I'll search the index for an ingredient that's overflowing in my pantry (a particular kind of bean, for example). I aim for six planned dinners and one night of leftovers. As I choose entrees, I write them down in my notebook, along with the cookbook name and page number, and note the ingredients I need to buy. When Rob and I were first married and we shopped almost entirely from one grocery store (together, holding hands and making eyes at each other among the eggplants) I organized my list by supermarket aisles. Now, I just make two columns: Produce and Not Produce.
  • Ask for input from Rob and Westley. Is there anything that sounds especially good for dinner? Are we out of an ingredient and I didn't notice?
  • Go to bed!
  • Monday morning, after breakfast, it's time to shop - with an open mind. Sometimes an ingredient I'd planned on isn't available, and I'll have to find a substitution. I'll also substitute (or stock up) if I find a great deal. Local Granny Smith apples for 69 cents a pound? Yes, please!
  • Return home and put groceries away. Decide which dinner I'll make on which day. Risotto is better suited to a weekend afternoon, when Rob can entertain Westley while I stir, constantly, for an hour. Lentil chili that I can cook at breakfast time and reheat later in the day is perfect for a busy day with lots of afternoon outings.
That's it! There's the actual cooking, of course. And things like remembering to soak the chickpeas. (I'm a terrible bean-soaker - or is it bean-soaking-rememberer?)

The next step, which I have yet to take on, is recycling meal plans. I keep fantasizing about coming up with a list of 30 or so inexpensive, healthful, relatively easy meals to fall back on when I still find myself asking, "What's for dinner?"

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Film Festival: 'Whip It'

Whip It is one of Those Movies. As in, I saw the trailer, decided I had to see it the second it came out, and then didn't get around to watching it until last week. Oh, well. Better a year-and-a-half late than never!

I really mean that. Drew Barrymore's directorial debut is a funny kind of of sports-film, wherein "action" sequences aren't so much about showing the game - in this case, roller derby - as they are about revealing the relationships among the characters. And the relationships feel very real, even in their "movie-ness" (successes and failures come at dramatically appropriate times, a quick chat with a friend makes things all better, and so on), because everything that the characters say and do and wear fits so seamlessly into the world of the film.

In fact, only one moment pulled me out of the story completely, and that's the the food fight scene. When that first "shot" gets fired in the form of a French fry, I think, "This isn't going to end up being a food fight, is it?" And then it looks, for just a minute, like the fight isn't going to happen. But it does happen. And it feels particularly movie-like, as it helps to cement protagonist Bliss's transformation into "Babe Ruthless." Old Bliss would smile and turn the other cheek; Babe Ruthless fights fry with pie. To me, it feels a little heavy-handed. But perhaps I only think that because the rest of Whip It takes several of those well-known movie moments and works them out the hard way. Bliss's conversation with team captain "Maggie Mayhem" about Bliss's mother is a fantastic example. Maggie, herself a mother, doesn't back down, and suggests that Bliss consider things from her mom's point-of-view.

Apart from the food fight, the only problem with Whip It is that I don't want to break it down or analyze it shot-by-shot. I just want to use it as an excuse to talk about women and movies.

* * *

Many little girls are willing if not happy to identify with the boys in a piece of fiction. They'll imagine themselves in the shoes of Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter. I was never one of these girls. I didn't connect with male heroes and always looked for the girls and women in movies and television shows to see what they were up to. My favorite characters were often chosen simply on the merit of being female.

At 16, as a budding lesbian separatist feminist, I vowed to watch as many films by female directors as I could find. I discovered some of my favorite movies this way. (Coming soon to a blog Film Festival near you!) I suppose I was an auteurist before I knew what auteur theory was; I was convinced that a female director would "author" a film that told women's stories. And I was after women's stories.

But your preferred restroom door - and whether it features the Pants Man or the Skirt Woman - has little to do with the presence of women in your films! For that, you need to consult The Rule, which originally appeared in Allison Bechdel's comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. The Rule is is actually three rules:

One, the movie has to have at least two (named) women in it;
Two, they have to talk to each other, about,
Three, something besides a man.


As Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency puts it, a movie following the Bechdel Rule is "not even a sign of whether it's a feminist movie, or whether it's a good movie. Just that there's female presence in it, and they actually are engaging about things other than men."

This comic strip that originated this the Bechdel Rule - or test, as it were - is as old as my brother. And it's still relevant! Of the films we've touched on so far, only one, Away We Go passes beautifully. Surprisingly, Amélie, a film ostensibly told from a female protagonist's point-of-view, just barely passes (we see Amelie's mother, Amandine, teaching her to read). Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and The Iron Giant both fail.

Whip It is Bechdelicious. The variety (and tone) of female conversations was real enough to make me miss my girlfriends terribly. I wish I could watch Whip It with my 16-year-old self.

* * *
Other fun things about Whip It:
  • Before adopting the derby name "Babe Ruthless," Bliss's nickname (from her father) is "Blister." The opposite ideas suggested by "bliss" and "blister" are perfect in a film about growing up and finding your passion - or following your bliss, as it were. The heroine's name/nickname relationship suggests a kind of pleasure-and-pain idea, though not in a sadomasochistic way: more of a "every rose has its thorn" or "no pain, no gain" way. Additionally, blisters, when subjected to the same kind of rubbing every day, often go on to form calluses. You know, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
  • During Bliss's (self-)training montage - and who doesn't love a good sports-movie montage? - we see her standing in front of a full-length mirror, wearing a tank top, shorts, and brand new skates. She sways and does a brief, grooving-to-the-music-style shoulder roll before flexing with muscle-man arms. The moment lasts only a couple of seconds, but it's such a great character moment: Bliss seeing herself as seductive and (physically) strong - and being seduced by her own strength.
  • I just happen to own those shorts in the same color combination, though mine are a leetle snugger on me than Ellen Page's are on her. I always find it a little strange to see stuff I own on screen.
  • The relationship between Bliss's parents feels very real. This is somewhat unusual for a coming-of-age film, where parents are usually caricatures, serving mainly as obstacles for the protagonist to push against. Even though we don't spend much time with Bliss's mom and dad, they're clearly a well-established couple who, despite their differences and difficulties, are still in love.
Other fun things about The Bechdel Test:
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Monday, May 2, 2011

What He Knows

"Mommy?" comes Westley's voice from the back seat, "If you attach two telescopes together, it makes binoculars!"

How does he know these things? I haven't a clue. Yesterday, out of the blue, he asked me about umbilical cords. That makes a little bit more sense, as there are several babies-getting-born books in our house. But still.

Westley knows that kangaroo starts with "K" and Chewbacca starts with "C-H." He can sing "The Farmer in the Dell" by himself. He knows how to pick a perfect avocado. I didn't teach him any of this directly. He picked it all up on his own. He's always, always listening and watching. (And some things he just seems to know. When my back is really bothering me, Westley uses the radar in his hands to find just the right spot to pat.) But he knows almost nothing about world events.

Last night I was so glad that Rob and I are not news-watchers. Our television is reserved for movies, and NPR is turned off when Westley is around because "I don't wike all dis talkin'!" Westley knows that love is not controlled by gender, and that we believe in kindness and gentleness for all people and animals. But when Rob's and my conversation veers too far into the political, Westley interjects, "You guys are talkin' serious!"

On one hand, I want to raise a child who is aware of current events in the world around him. On the other hand, I struggle with the idea of trying to explain to my son things I can never fully understand. Things I often don't want to think about. Talking about sex? Not so challenging (in my experience). But war, killing... I wouldn't know where to start.

I want to be a filter for my son, to help him know and see the world. But how do I do that through my own uncertainty?

Westley drums on a helium balloon with his finger and declares, "I'm making the balloon to be music." And then, a moment later, "This is music. Balloons are music."

This is what he knows, right now.

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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Tidepool

Aquarium

As we walked from the car to the aquarium, he talked about octopuses and sea otters. But as soon as we passed the front desk, he attached himself to the tidepool exhibit.

Aquarium

Aquarium

He carefully one-finger touched all the anemones he could reach on his own, barely noticing the chill of the water. Every now and then he'd up through his eyelashes at the blue-polo-shirted naturalists who tried to engage him in conversation. But nothing on dry land could compare to these planty animals, right there for the touching.

Aquarium

Aquarium

He would have stayed there all day if we'd let him.

Aquarium

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