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Thursday, March 21, 2019

Our 6th Anniversary

Our 6th anniversary is in about a week and a half, and I only thought of it (like since our last anniversary) last night. We don't have plans; I don't remember what we did last year. I'm afraid we might be the worst at creating big celebratory traditions that our son will remember forever.

It's interesting, because I see this happen in so many facets of our lives: The way we live, "big" things can be challenging. What do we get the kids for Christmas when we pretty much get them everything they need and most of the things they want when they ask? How do we differentiate this birthday cake from the cake I made two weeks ago? How do we mark a day to celebrate our marital union when we live every day with so much love and partnership and sometimes even cool meals out?

(On a personal level, the borderline obsession I used to have with menus and novelty food is much diminished now that I feel free to eat whatever I want whenever I feel like it.)

Six years. Sometimes it seems fast, and other times it feels like we've been together (and raising a second child) FOREVER.

It's longer than my first marriage... of which I remember very little. When you don't have someone with you to share your memories, they disappear. So much of my 20s is a blur. It's weird.

It's about half as long as my second marriage. We did hit 13 years, but it was already over by then.

Much like Ross Gellar, I never wanted to be "that person." You know, the one who was divorced twice. And every time I hear people (I admire very much, usually) bemoaning how some Christians can support Trump (I'm not a fan) when, among other things, he's "twice-divorced" or on his third spouse, I'm like... welp, that's me, too. Guess I'm just a big old slimy scumbag.

That was sarcasm, actually. I know my life; I know what I've done and why I did it. It wasn't always pure and blameless.

However, while there are individual things I would be tempted to tweak if given a do-over, where I've ended up is pretty spectacular. In a quiet, comfortable way.

I'm sitting at my dining room table while Mal watched a video and D sleeps. There are two pigeons out on the flight deck of the loft, and about 4 birds (a cardinal couple, a Carolina chickadee, and a house finch) at the bird feeder in the back yard. I can see it all from here (except D). Dinner is in the oven and there's a dog barking outside. I'm vacation planning as I blog, and I'm ready for James to come home.

It's pretty great.

Granted, marriage can be challenging at times. James and I feel like ships passing in the evening/morning in ways that never happened when D was little; Mal just requires more of everything, so it can be a trick even to have a conversation, much less alone time. But there is no drama. There is no waiting for the other shoe to drop. To put it in Harry Potter terms: My scar hasn't hurt in more than six years; all is well.

Happy anniversary, baby! Here's to another year or two, minimum.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

"Losing" Ourselves as Women

Maybe it's the new(ish) year? Maybe it's the cabin fever? Whatever, I'm noticing an extreme uptick in "inspirational" social media posts (Twitter/Instagram; that's all I'm on) about women, moms specifically, forging a path to "find" themselves amidst the business of being a parent.

This idea that becoming a parent (again, typically this is exclusively a mom thing) pulls you away from your true identity, or that it takes over so much that who you were is gone is... actually, that last one is fairly accurate. But not in a way that requires re-calibration.

Most of the women I know personally who post things like this are people I know to love their children immensely. These are women who thoughtfully pursue ways to connect with their children and expand their lives. They might work outside of the home, or they might be at-home parents... but they all value motherhood and their children's well-being as paramount.

So why do we feel "lost"? Why do we feel the need to take concrete steps to "self-care"? Why do we feel that, in order to connect with our truest selves, we necessarily must separate from our children?

Don't get me wrong: My second child is A LOT (my first child is a lot, too - most kids are - just in a less hands-on way). I am tired A LOT. I put my hands over my fact A LOT. EVERY DAY. I shoot James "the look" about a dozen times a night, as if to say, "See? This is my life. This is the entire ten hours you are gone. This is what I do. This is what I handle."

So I get the fatigue. I get the need for a breather. I usually take showers in the morning when Mal is asleep, just after James has left for work. I took a shower last night, though, after James got home from work, because I needed like four minutes where I wasn't trying to filter out a loudly-babbling preschooler or becoming dizzy and stressed from his constant whirlwind of movement and potential injuries.

But do I feel like, in the business of caring for him or my teenager, that I am somehow "losing myself"? Do I feel that, in not having huge swaths of child-free time, I am unable to connect with who I truly am? NO.

Because, even though I like to write, and I love making videos, and I wish like crazy that I could sing, and I enjoy spending a lot more time and effort on baking than I can right now, and none of those is available for me to do in any capacity as much as I'd like, the fact is what everything I do, everything that occupies any given moment of my day, IS, necessarily, part and parcel to who I am.

And being a mom is not a compartment within my identity, something to be shoved aside as somehow "less" than the sum of my parts. I AM a mom. Even if I take a cooking class, it's not bringing me closer to who I truly am, apart from being a parent. I'm still a parent. I am, and it's not a thing that is in competition with other hobbies or passions I have for the soul of my truest self.

It IS my truest self.

I am often tired and cranky and hungry and not doing what I'd rather be doing (which is likely pushing my kid on a swing instead of sitting on my butt, my truest passion). But in those moments of "sacrificing" my own preferences to do what needs to be done, I am definitely my best and most honorable self.

When I hear people urge women (why don't they urge men? That's a whole other conversation) to make time for "self care," or I hear "You can't pour from an empty cup," I feel like we, as moms, are acting an awful lot like martyrs. Like we're doing this thing that is so draining that we have earned a "clock out" to pursue something that's not as mundane.

And I feel for the special needs moms, who might never have the luxury. And for the moms grieving lost children who would give up every outside interest they have to have their child back. And for moms who have to work two jobs, and feel guilty that they have so little left over for their kids at the end (or beginning) of the day.

I don't know.

On social media, a take is that your kids will thrive, seeing you pursue something you love, as an actual whole person. But I wonder what that says to them. I mean, you're still their mom. You can't separate from that. They can't separate that from the other stuff you do, and you wouldn't want them to.

When I was younger, my mom was in a local singing group. They practiced once a week or every other week or something. I don't think she ever thought, "I've lost myself as a mom and teacher; I owe it to all of these kids to take time for self-care." I think she just liked singing, and it was something our family was able to swing.

That might not sound different, but, to me, the semantics are important here.

Do what you like. Make time for things you care about. But maybe stop holding it up in contrast to your being a mom? Why can't we be moms who like having dinner with our girlfriends? Or moms who make YouTube videos? Or moms who climb rock faces?

Why is it insulting to be "Mom"? Why do women want to be known for "more"? If it's a sexist thing, then society needs to work on valuing moms more; in the meantime, we need to find a way to get over that, and honor ALL of ourselves.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Our new pigeon house


First and foremost, just in case you aren't familiar with the design standards, birds are complete idiots that shit all over everything.

We had to buy special feeders to try to keep them from shitting in their own food. (They work, as long as you stay on top of it).

I'm pretty sure there's a scene in "Fight Club" where they scatter bird seed on rooftops to get the pigeons to shit on executive vehicles.

I'm also pretty sure that some plants (like the jalapeno) evolved a neurotoxin that's supposed to discourage mammals from eating it because we destroy the seeds, while birds just pass it right through and shit it right back out.

Some companies actually make pigeon diapers that allow you to let them loose inside your home.

My teenager wants to do that. Despite the fact that we own 3 cats, and we *know* that 2 of them are bird-killers.

The kid thinks it'll all be cool.

So far, I'm in belligerent "Nope. They're staying outside" mode.

Well, sort-of outside. That's a different topic. I'll get there.

We've only had the birds about a week and a half. In another 2-3, they should have enough visual recognition to allow us to let them fly and expect them to come back.

We got "rollers" which means they'll do this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZYFDhrc3J4 My wife claims that some of them will even roll across the ground. I haven't seen those videos, but it sounds hilarious.

I didn't want to get pigeons at all.

My kid's been asking for them since before I married their mom.

I wanted chickens.

I really like chickens.

They produce eggs you can eat. The feces leads to good compost. If you wind up with a rooster by accident, they taste great.

We bought a house in an area with no covenants specifically so we could have chickens.

We put in an order for a chicken house last year. Support your local business sort of thing.

$1700.

Holy shit.

But it's a really nice house that's solidly built out of cedar with lots of protection from things like the local raccoons.

We've had crazy issues with those raccoons. (We live in the middle of their habitat, and it's getting mowed down for
housing).

We bought a bottle of fox urine to try to scare them off.

They stole it.

Anyway.

We were committed to buying a $1700 chicken house. Yes. That's a lot of money. But, honestly, the last time I had chickens, they had a setup that was even nicer. And being able to walk in and scrub it down is a huge benefit. And keeping out the raccoons and fox and surviving the Texas heat and...blah, blah. It really wasn't terribly reasonable as a long-term investment.

Somebody looked up the local city ordinances and realized that we aren't allowed to own chickens.

When we moved here, a neighbor definitely had a rooster.

They don't any more.

But nothing says anything about birds like pigeons.

Now, personally, I feel like a pigeon would probably be happy in a cage for a Guinea pig. Let it out to fly around whenever it wants, and it'll probably come back.

Since I've been educated a bit more, I've learned that they're monogamous and need to pair up. You don't have to. I've seen a few videos of people who spend enough time with their pigeons to act as surrogate mates. But, really, homosexuality seems to be easier on them than any sort of cross-species bonding.

In general, pigeon love seems to be a pretty serious thing.

2 of them need more space than you'd give a Guinea pig.

But not much, right?

Well, we were coming from the perspective where spending $1700 on chickens seemed to make sense.

We floated that basic price point past a guy for a pigeon coop instead.

He told us that $2500 was more realistic.

For what he built, it was.

Actually, he hand-crafted this crazy thing out of cedar planks and 2x4s.

After he spent a week building it, I feel guilty about how little we actually paid him.

And then we wound up populating it with 4 pigeons (that normally cost around $10 each) that we got for free. (Props to the breeder who decided their positive traits didn't offset their negatives).

I think that's some pretty serious...I'm not sure what you'd call it.

What's the opposite of slum-lord?

Whichever. We now have a ridiculously beautiful pigeon loft that seems like a "forever" investment.

Bachelorhood, Day 2

Laura took Mal left me and D to fend for ourselves.

It's utter chaos, and we're starving, of course.

She left us with a bunch of instant meals. They burned in the fire.

Then raccoons sneaked through the broken windows and stole the toilet paper.

We didn't notice because we were too busy huddling together for warmth.

There's only one cat (Carol, of course...the pigeons ate Rudy, and the less said about Aish's fate the better) left alive, and I'm going to have to do the dishes so I can feed her in the morning.

She somehow managed to save *her* food.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Afternoon at the Park

Laura took Mal to a cake festival this morning.

I sat up until all hours of the morning writing and watching Netflix. I got up just in time to tell them good-bye. I went to brunch, then went back to bed.

After they got home, Laura asked whether it would be okay for her to go to Trader Joe's to pick up meals for D and me while she and Mal are gone for a couple of days.

Very shortly after that, Mal had an idea.

So he and I went to the lake. Several families were there. Mal had a couple of bad times, but mostly it was positive.

In the pavilion next to the playground, a woman with one family group was organizing a bunch of toys under a towel. I tried to compliment the artwork on her leg, but she ignored me.

When we headed into the playground, there was an old guy (I suspect a Greek patriarch...more about that later) climbing out on the tree limb that's basically horizontal. It has a support post helping with its weight. The "rude" lady with the artwork chastised him in sign language that he was going to break it, so he hopped down very nimbly.

Soon after that, she took a Sea Patroller and tucked it away under the towel, then they wandered away.

Mal really wanted to play with that Sea Patroller. I told him he'd have to find the owner and ask. He asked one little girl (who was part of the suspected Greek guy's group), and she was down. As long as he'd tell her what rules were.

He took her to show her. I cut it off when he pulled up the towel. He told me that I was making him very sad.

Then we followed that family to the volleyball pit.

Along the way, I met a guy named Randy. He said he enjoyed the 70s a bit too much, has survived tongue cancer, recently got divorced, and is looking for a new place to rent. Oh, and he's really scared of ghosts, so he wouldn't want the place across the street. He's been in the area for 20 years now and has some property around town.

He also has a daughter named Sandra, who just turned 5.

They were there with her cousins. One of them, Zane, is just old enough to have a few words. His sister (whose name I didn't catch) is fiercely protective.

We went through the basketball court to get to the volleyball pit. Someone had been there with sidewalk chalk. It was quite well done. In the middle of more "normal" stuff, someone had written an alphabet containing several Greek letters (hence my suspicions about that patriarch's origins. I'm not sure they were behind it, but they were the only family there speaking a language that was neither English nor ASL).

In the volleyball pit, Mal played with the rest of the kids I suspect are Greek. He was more interested in the boys who were trying to hit a volleyball over the net than in the girl who was going to play Sea Patrol with him at first. At felt bad for her when he basically snubbed her when she tried to play. I think she may have had a double whammy: she may have been both the youngest and the only girl.

One of those boys told Mal that he didn't want to get down into the sand because he didn't have any clothes to change into. And he doesn't like getting dirty. He warned Mal that maybe he
shouldn't get sandy either. Mal told him that he has spare clothes in case he poops his pants.

I wound up getting a foot cramp from walking around in the sand (or maybe it was the little foot race that Mal proclaimed he won, even though I'm pretty sure he didn't. Then again, I was looking the wrong way when we crossed the finish line, so I can't be sure) and sat down on the grass to massage it away.

I didn't see what happened next. But one of the mothers suddenly started yelling that everybody was done and had to get out of the sand. And she was picking the little girl up and dusting sand off her.

I think one of the other boys tried to blame Mal, but she insisted that they have to pay attention and be aware of what's going on around them.

Once they were there, Mal decided to go from there to the basketball court.

We first ran into Zane for the first time there. He was hanging out with a couple of older boys. We let Zane escape, and one of those boys took him back to his mother.

Mal wanted to go home and get our basketball. We'd settled into the car when he saw Zane, Sandra, and the nameless sister playing with bubbles and decided he wanted to join them first.

That went fine until the sister found a big stick. It resembled an old broom handle. She played with it for a bit, then Mal demanded a turn.

And, being Mal, he got crazy with it and nearly hit Zane.

They told me, and I told him that he can't just swing things around like a crazy person. He apologized deeply. They didn't accept that as enough and wandered away with the stick (one of the mothers told Mal that she'd eaten it...then got really amused when he halfway believed her) He decided that he needed one (he called it a tapper) of his own. And his own bubble machine.

We ran into one of the kids who'd been playing with the volleyball who hooked Mal up with an awesome stick that he'd found in the muddy shore.

After I washed the stick off, Mal headed back to the sandbox where the girls and Zane were playing happily.

They were *not* happy to see him. They (especially Zane's sister; I don't think Sandra's old enough to care much) told Mal that he's no longer their friend and that he can't play with their  toys or them.

He went crying to me. I did my best to soothe him, but it didn't help.

After a while of that, they relented and decided he could be their friend again. He yelled "Yay!" and apologized yet again. They said they were sorry for making him cry. He told me that he got to be their friend again, and I added my own "Yay!"

And then it was all good.

They worked on filling up a bucket of sand. After a while, the older sister had Mal ask me to join them. He did, and I told them "No thank you" because I didn't want to risk another foot cramp. She goaded Mal to tell me. So he did. I again told them "No thank you." She had Mal demand "Now!"

I laughed and asked whether that works with her dad. She sheepishly said yes.

Then she said "please," so I did.

They got the bucket about half full, mixed it thoroughly, added the last of the water from my bottle, switched to mixing with their feet (Mal asked for a turn at that, then forgot about it), and then tried to flip it.

The older girl was strong enough to pick it up and move it, but not to flip it over. So I handled that part for them.

Then they moved on to burying her feet and legs. But only up to her knees so she wouldn't get her shorts dirty.

My contribution started with little handfuls of sand that Zane brought me.

After her legs were covered, Sandra decided that looked like fun. So she pulled up her pants legs and sat down next to her and started working on burying herself. I pitched in with a shovel.

Meanwhile, Mal was having fun jumping over the "sand castle."

He started humming, which impressed Zane's sister. She asked if it was the Mario theme. He informed her that he was Mario and it's the Super Mario Brothers song. They insisted that he is not Mario. I saw the look in his eyes and warned him not to destroy the "castle."

He said he really wanted it to be a Goomba, so I warned him sternly not to jump on it. One of the girls asked what a goomba was. He explained that it's poop. She proclaimed that sand can't turn into poop. Then she looked at me and asked whether it could.

I helped finish burying them, and they started yelling for their mothers to rescue them. Mal offered to save them, but he simply wasn't strong enough (they insisted they had to be dragged out: he couldn't just unbury them).

He boogied out of there when their yells got too loud for him to handle. Their moms thought the situation was hilarious when they got over their first panic.

The family group with that first deaf woman was running around with an electric car. Mal joined them. There was an empty seat. So, when it stopped, he hopped aboard.

Very shortly after that, a mother demanded he get out. She warned the kids that they had 2 more minutes. And the two year old who actually "owns" the car hadn't gotten to ride at all yet.

Mal was disappointed, but he went along when I convinced him that she was talking to him.

They all took turns between running around the car's vicinity and hopping on back to ride along.

Then that mom decided that the 2 year old should have a turn behind the wheel. Her passenger (who'd been driving) handled the accelerator.

She ran over one of the other kids, and her mom decreed that they shouldn't get too close to the car after that. And that they should probably stay out from in front of it completely.

This lasted until they hit a traffic cone and high-centered.

It made for a precious picture (the driver was winking). I wish I'd gotten her to send me a copy, but my phone's battery was dead.

Shortly after that, she let Mal have a chance to drive. He did pretty well, though I did have to back him up from a rock that was too big to just roll over. Then another, older boy showed up, she decided it was his turn, and he took off.

Shortly after that, Mal decided that he was finally ready to go home and get the basketball.

I told him that it was getting dark, and I was getting cold.

He insisted that he wasn't cold, but accepted that I was.

On the way out, we said good-bye to Randy, Zane, Sandra, et al. Randy reiterated his desire to stay in touch. They were just settling in to eat crawfish (which at least 3 of them had offered to share).

On the way home, Mal decided that he wanted both oranges in a can and fruit snacks.

As soon as we got home, Mal settled in with his Kindle.

Laura got back from shopping about 10 minutes after that.

We're both a little sad about the way the split day worked out, but it did let me be an engaged and energized parent just about the time that she was ready to call it quits.

Friday, February 22, 2019

On the Other Hand...

In contrast to yesterday's weird exchange with a dad at the play place, the other night at Target, I had a totally different experience, but worth noting if only for the eye-rolling opportunity.

Mal and I were in the toy department, when I overheard a mom saying, "You already have a lot of toys. We're not buying something just to buy something."

Oh, goodness, lady, yes, I've been there. 

She went on, sharply, with disdain, "...and this is the girls' aisle. We're not buying any of these." Then she hurried her son to another aisle. 

Again, I was too dumb-founded, and it's really her choice as a mom how to handle that kind of thing, but WHAT THE HECK??

Target actually changed their toy labeling a few years ago to eliminate the "girl" and "boy" distinction. Now it's true that the aisles with toys very obviously marketed to girls are ablaze with pink and purple, but... what makes a toy a "girls' toy"?? It involves a kitchen? Glitter? Now, don't get me started on the edible make-up because NO ONE NEEDS THAT. But otherwise... why is that a designation that carries any weight?

Anyway, I'm sad kind of for that kid, but a lot for his mom. I can't imagine being so closed off to something that might bring your kid joy. *shrug*

Today, Mal and I went to Central Market while D was at an appointment (and we'll never do that during the noon hour again, because it was bonkers).

When we approached the bakery case, of course Mal noticed the cupcakes. There was one topped with three of those chalky candy Legos, and he asked if he could get it. It was huge and only $2.99, which is a bargain compared to the $5 minimum you can expect to pay for gourmet cupcakes around here. So I said yes. 

Then Mal noticed another cupcake that had sprinkles blanketing the icing. Did he want that one instead? Someone offered to help us. I asked him which he preferred. He saw one he liked even better: It had a sparkly sugar crown on top. "The crown one!" he pointed.

So I ordered it: "One princess cupcake, please."

Even though it's a "girls'" cupcake.


I think he's going to be okay.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Methinks Thou Dost Protest Too Much

Today, Mal and I were leaving Little Land when a guy watching Mal bop along behind me said, "Girls are so much fun." I just smiled and nodded because, ya know, we're never going to see this guy again.

But he wasn't finished.

He went on: "I have a 4-year-old daughter, and she's the smartest thing. My 22-year-old son? He's an idiot." Um. Congrats? I just kept heading for the door.

More: "Women are just so much better than men; they're the future. I swear, if you guys were physically stronger than men and could have taken over first, it would be so much better."

At this point, I wished I'd corrected him. But I also didn't want to engage. So we just left.

But, seriously, what was this guy trying to do? It was pandering, if we were both female, and since he had mis-gendered my son, he was basically insulting my child to my face.

Listen, I'm all for smashing the patriarchy, but not because men are stupid or I hate those jerks. It's because I oppose systemic favoring of one gender (or nationality or ethnicity or religion or body type or... etc.) over another. Period.

I happen to know and love a lot of smart, fun, men: My dad, my husband, and the son this guy singled out as being a "fun" gal... Pretty neat folks to know.

I need to develop a script to have my response ready next time someone, especially some DUDE, starts off on a condescending diatribe about how awful males are, because this isn't a zero sum game and everyone gets to be as awesome as they want to be. Any suggestions?