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Friday, October 30, 2015

NaNoWriMo! coming soon...

It's that time of year again, and I'd really like to just switch gears and switch all my creative juices over to telling a story. We reminded Daphne tonight that it's coming up.

I have a vague idea about a story that I think might be fun to tell. It's based on a nightmare I had a month or so ago that, from a waking perspective, mostly just seems like a cheesy old horror movie.

Then again, Stephen King made a very lucrative career out of those. I don't have any interest in trying to replicate all the cocaine he did during his "glory years," but I really don't believe that makes you any more creative.

I know the Grateful Dead disagree with me, but they aren't a role model I consider very enticing either.

The problem is, I don't really have any creative output left.

NaNoWriMo is a marathon that really requires hours a day. You can slip behind a bit and catch up on weekends. And there are amazing people who crank out the entire thing in one sitting...then go on to reproduce that output night after night.

I simply cannot type that fast. Well, OK, I *can* type that fast. But I really need to spend a little time thinking about what I'm typing. It feels like cheating when I ditch my story to do things like write this blog post. It's all fair game, but it just doesn't feel kosher.

I fight hard to get an hour a day to myself to work on some sort of personal project. It's the piece of my daily TODO list that I fail to accomplish the most. Well, second-most. Guitar practice is the one that slips the most (as in basically never happens). It's something I need desperately, and I'm trying to come to grips with the basic reality that I simply will not have this luxury for the next few years.

I'm starting to understand why my father spent pretty much all his spare time tinkering around in his workshop. It's not that he didn't like us (well, I've gotten the impression that he didn't like his wives all that much, and I'm delighted that I didn't screw up that one). I think it might have been more of a "I'm doing dangerous things, and you'll screw it up anyway if you try to be involved."

When Mal wakes up from a nap and wants to play with my laptop, I think I almost feel that sort of frustration. I'm obviously not worried about the table saw slicing off his fingers, of course. But he gets pretty destructive with laptops.

I'd like to let him play with mine. Last time I did, the battery died. Totally not his fault, but the timing left me a little gun-shy. Laura let him play with hers today, commenting that she needs a replacement. I've been trying to convince her to replace that clunker since about 2 weeks after she bought it, but she's attached to the stickers.

And that's all just dodging the point. Nanowrimo is really a social thing. I'd either have to drag Mal out to events where I'd spend the entire time shepherding him instead of writing (and I don't really have anything to write), or I'd have to spend a huge chunk of the month away from my family.

That isn't an option. I spend too much time away from them already.

I just don't think we're in a position where I can seriously pretend that I have the sort of spare time this requires. Heck...I've been trying to find time to finish one book since we moved here in June. Admittedly, it's a really long book, and I've read a couple of others for work in the meantime, but...

It crushes my soul a bit to admit this.

Nanowrimo helped me get through one of the most difficult times of my life. I sat in a back bedroom writing while my father watched one of the last basketball games he'd ever get to see with the rest of his family. I really thought that I'd made the commitment to myself that I would finally start writing seriously and regularly.

I just have to remember that I'm working on something much more important.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Romance vs. Reality, Halloween Edition

Lots of people have been posting their pumpkin-carving pictures (at first I didn't hyphenate that, and the thought "pumpkin carving" pictures is interesting and marginally terrifying to me) on social media. James actually got a pumpkin from his office last Friday, but we've been waiting to carve it until tonight, the evening before his work Halloween party.

They're having a costume contest (adult and kid divisions), pumpkin carving contest, Halloween-themed treat contest, and a trivia game. There are prizes in each division, and I had a great idea for the treat contest, the prize for which is a cooking class at Whole Foods!

I had big plans for our entries and for our evening. Our first family Halloween activity! (Last year, we were too tired.)

My first idea was to make a Hello Kitty cake. It'd have white fondant, I'd pipe Hello Kitty on the top, and write, "Hello Kitty," then surround the cake with red frosting stars to match the kitty's bow. People would see it and think, "Well, okay. It's cute, but not really Halloween-themed." Then when it was time to eat, I'd cut the first piece and it would start "bleeding." I'd act like it wasn't supposed to do that, and try to staunch the "blood" with my hands, continually touching the cake so that the white fondant would end up covered in "bloody" fingerprints. Then after I'd cut the piece out, all that would be left of the writing would be "Hell Kitty."

GENIUS, right?! Well, except that when I moved the cake (it depanned fine), it cracked. I thought, hoping against hope, that if I used a thick enough coating of frosting, maybe I could make an escape-proof container for the blood. A lot of examples I saw online used plastic bags, but I really didn't want to put a plastic bag in my cake. Now I see why they did. Because it was fine... I poured the blood in and topped the cake. It held. But when I plopped the frosting down on the top, I guess that did it. The crack separated and... Well, the effect was pretty awesome.

So I immediately decided for Plan B, I'd make the cute "candy corn" fruit cups I'd put together a few weeks ago for Rework.

Probably wouldn't win a prize, but would be a cute entry. I didn't have time to go to the store, so I ordered from Instacart. Then I missed the shopper's call and got her voice mail when I called back. The store didn't have any ghost Peeps. Whatever. But she said she needed to replace the pineapple tidbits with crushed pineapple. I told her that wouldn't work and I would rather have chunks than crushed (I used chunks in the above example), but I guess she didn't get the message in time. We were in the middle of carving the pumpkin when the delivery guy came, and I realized then that I had 8 (8!!!) tiny cans of crushed pineapple. They made it right before I caught it, refunding the money for all of them. However... they also didn't get clear cups like I asked. They got those cheap plastic translucent cups. I will use all of it because I don't have the time to go to the store to get what I need (or I would have done that in the first place) and I hate to throw bad money after good. So, grr on that. Whatever.

As for our super fun family activity, we converged on the patio. Once James had taken the top off of the pumpkin, the two of us dug in. Daphne would only reach in wearing foodservice gloves, and Mal was having none of it. When D was his age, she at least went for it a couple of times.


...Yet Satisfying.
Good grief, that was more than 13 years ago. Anyhoo... Not Mal. He stood on the goo and slipped around. He tried to stir our pumpkin seed cache with his sand box tools. But no hand go in.

Yeah... no.
While we were doing this, I realized that Mal had a dirty diaper. Like, it-has-to-be-changed-now-or-else dirty, so I carried him in... carefully. I didn't hold him to me or put any pressure on his backside because, eww. I realized as I was lying him on his changing pad that my left hand was still covered with pumpkin guts. Oh well. I cleaned him up as best I could while he cried, miffed that I'd taken him away from the fun, and he ran back outside before I could get the diaper on. Daphne was not amused, making it a point to look away.

She drew the eyes and mouth for us, then James decided to get his drill out to make removing the face holes a little easier.

Daphne went inside at this point to do something, and Mal retreated to the other side of the patio. He does that when I vacuum or use the blender sometimes, too, so I wasn't concerned... Until a few moments later, he kind of approached me and I could see that his bottom lip was quivering and he was terrified. I put my arms around him and held him, and he started crying for real. The drill was traumatic for him. I put his head against my shoulder to cover one ear, and covered the other with my hand. I assured him that it was okay, but he was so so sad. I decided to bring him in for a quick bath while James finished up with the power tools.

D asked if she could stay inside until we went back out, but I asked her to see if James needed any help. Mal was distracted during his bath. I tried to keep the water on pretty full blast, but he could still hear the drill and was torn between being scared and wanting to climb out of the tub, I suppose to help save his dad.

After Mal's bath, we went out to finish decorating the pumpkin. My idea had been to use candy corn for teeth, and I was hoping to find these gummy eyeballs that Daphne got one year for Halloween.

Two days before this sweetie turned 5.
But, no. We couldn't find those. So, once again, we had a Plan B. But we hadn't counted on the dang candy corn being so picky and splitting when we tried to impale them on the toothpicks. And our idea to use drill holes for the Red Vines hair didn't really pan out, either. Daphne had a headache or something, so I eventually cut her loose. And Mal wanted to eat a lot of candy corn, but I cut him off after two pieces, not just because he seemed to think it was fun to chew but then just spit it out on the patio. I told James that, in hindsight, the pumpkin carving might have been something to do after Mal was in bed. Except for the drill part. That will likely give him nightmares as it is.

So, anyway, we ended up with a janky Rastafarian pumpkin. I know someone's going to have like a 3D rendering of Ron Burgandy or something, and we don't have a chance of winning either of the contests now, but whatever. All of you people with Pinterest-worthy posts... good for you. I guess that's just not how we roll here at Team Dave's. Even if we wanted to.

Terrifying on so many levels.

Stumbling into Your Destiny

This weekend, Daphne will turn 14. We shot this video in July 2009, when she was just seven years old.

In 2009, I'd never heard of "unschooling." I knew we were a lot more laid back than some of my other homeschooling friends.

In fact, once I was talking with one of Daphne's good friend's moms (follow that?) when she mentioned that they were really getting burnt out, because doing all of the coursework outlined in their curriculum was taking 8 or more hours per day. She said that they were working well after dinner, and that they were both just exhausted.

I said, "So, don't do some of the stuff." She looked puzzled. I said, "Just.. if your daughter clearly has something mastered, don't run it into the ground. If it's taking too long or is frustrating, just bag it for a while. No one's forcing you to keep their suggested schedule."

A few weeks later when we spoke again, she said she felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of her shoulders. She said they'd let go of their "finisher" mentality and were so much more relaxed, and having so much more fun.

At the time, we didn't have a set curriculum. Actually, we never had a set curriculum. I'd buy one of those all-inclusive "2nd grade" books at Sam's Club or on Amazon, and we'd be pretty good about hitting math at least three times a week. I think I tried doing spelling with Daphne for a few months once. We did a full course of "Harry Potter Science," and we did it in like two weeks because it was amazing.

I tried to teach her history, I really did. But she didn't like it, and I wasn't happy putting her through the motions and wasting my own time and energy, so... we didn't. (And before you're too shocked at how ignorant she might be about our human past, just know that my husband and I are both products of the same educational system and he knows a lot about history, whereas I'm as dumb as rocks. Difference isn't what we were taught, but our interest. I had none, he did. So he remembered.)

I tried studying science theoretically, but she wasn't interested in what she couldn't see and touch and study before her.

We did learn multiplication tables, mostly because of a super obnoxious CD set I bought. The 3, 6, 9 skip-counting song still pops into my head unbidden at times. Math was the only thing I ever really "pushed," and now I wish I hadn't. She cried a lot when she was little. I thought she was being lazy, staring off and taking 45 minutes to avoid a sheet of paper I knew it would take her 10 minutes to complete. Ugh. What a waste of our relationship. If I could go back and do anything over, it'd be officially unschooling from the beginning.

Oh, and bed-sharing. But that's a whole other thing.

Anyway, for the most part, I wasn't too concerned about "schooling." I wasn't going to teach Daphne cursive, but at some point she wanted to learn and asked. When she'd get frustrated, I was able to remind her that she is the one who wanted to study it, and she could stop if she was over it. She ended up sticking with it and can read cursive and write it about as neatly as I can, which is to say not very.

We went to the library and checked out books all of the time. She loved crafting books, and I liked them okay, but when I'd look at all of the materials we'd have to buy, it overwhelmed me. Not the price, but just finding every little thing in some big hobby store. Ugh. So when she decided she wanted to learn how to make balloon animals, I loved that idea! Balloons and a blower-upper I could do. (Oh, but in that video, you can see a couple of her crafts hanging on the wall.)

She spent hours for a week or so figuring that stuff out. It's noisy and the cats didn't much like it. There were a lot of burst balloons. There was a learning curve about stretching the balloons first so that you could manipulate air bubbles better and that kind of thing.

It never once occurred to me to: 1) Tell her to finish her "real" school before she did this. 2) Make this an official part of school and then force her to continue balloon-folding once her interest waned.

The result was that she had fun, she learned something on her own, and mastered it enough that she felt she could pass her knowledge and experience on to someone else.

To me, her doing that on her own was one of the more important lessons she's ever learned. Not that she can make stuff out of envelopes of air, but that if she's interested in something and wants to pursue it, she has all of the tools on her own to do what she needs to do.

After my divorce, when I had to work (and, seriously, I can't say enough how grateful I am and was for the opportunity to work for the Hejnys, who provided a private office for Daphne so she could come with me), it forced us further into the unschooling mode, as Daphne was mostly left to her own devices. She did some Time4Learning then, but she also made videos like this one.

I never showed her how to use my laptop like this; she just figured it out and kept herself amused. It's amusing to me, too. Sometimes, she'd need help with something, but I'd necessarily be busy, you know, working. I'd tell her that as soon as I had a break, I'd check it out. Very often, by the time I got around to assisting her, she'd have figured out the problem on her own and remedied it.

It helped me get even more comfortable with the reality that Daphne didn't really need me in order for her to learn anything. She just needed me to be around, to make opportunities happen, and to give her a hand if absolutely necessary. It's rarely necessary anymore.

Now, hopefully, I am making up for the hesitancy to buy things to fuel her artistic bent when she was younger. As Daphne spends the majority of her time drawing, and has for more than three years, we have stepped up her tools. First, a couple of years ago, we bought her a desktop (to replace her weakening laptop) and an upgraded graphics card that would handle both gaming and animation and drawing apps. Shortly after that, we got her a sort of entry-level electronic drawing tablet.

Then, for her birthday this year, we got her a tablet that actually has its own display. Setting it up and getting it fully functional took a couple of days. First, we had to get a USB extension. Then, we had to get HDMI-DVI converter. Twice because, well, long story, but anyway... it happened to render the USB extension useless, by the way, so if anyone needs one of those, or a male/male HDMI-DVI converter, hit me up.

Once she was finally displaying as she was supposed to, the only way we could figure out to make the tablet work right was to mirror her computer display, because when we tried to make the tablet an extension, the pen's "mouse" would only work on the computer screen. This seemed wrong, since the whole point was to be able to write on the tablet, and even when she was mirroring, the mouse was still on the screen instead of the tablet, even though it reproduced whatever she was doing on the tablet, as well.

I figured out how to configure that to work, but then on her drawing app specifically, the pen's mouse appeared about three inches below her pen point. I was having to do something with Mal for a while, and a bit later, Daphne hollered, "I'm not the only one who's had this problem!" And a bit later, "I fixed it!"

I was bragging on her to James, that she got her workstation up and running, and she joked, "Now I just have to learn how to draw."

She knows how to draw. She's taught herself. Through watching cartoons and videos and finding online skeleton references and base models. Through practice, practice, practice... she has a whole bookshelf full of used sketch books.

In fact, I put her in a total of one official art course, two summers ago, and she said that she didn't want to learn techniques from someone else because she liked developing her own style. Lesson learned. No more "classes." It's amazing how long it takes to break one from that habit, once you've subconsciously bought into the notion that if someone more expert than you doesn't pour their knowledge into you, you might not be learning it "right."

(And, honestly, my main thought was that the art teacher would have so much more stuff than we did - charcoals, paints, etc. - that Daphne might enjoy switching it up. She doesn't.)

That there is the story of how we came into full-fledged unschooling. I'm sorry Daphne had to endure the process as a first child. I'm interested to see how it plays out in Mal's life. And I really can't wait to see a picture off of that super amazing tablet...

Monday, October 26, 2015

Random Musings of a Sleep-Deprived Mind

Yea! Fall is here, and it's finally cooling off, Austin-style, meaning that I can wear socks and something other than a tank top in the mornings.

Lots of stuff is happening, and I wanted to take a minute (we'll see how many I can sneak in... Mal slept over 3 hours before waking the first time last night, but has already awoken once this evening) to note some updatey things and some mental note things. You know, junk and stuff.

First of all, this evening, I had this very panicked feeling that I'd crossed over into "old lady" territory for reals. I was going into Mal's room to pick some stuff up as James was on his way home. I was wearing skirted leggings and habitually make sure the skirt is covering my bootay. As I did this, I realized that the pants part under the skirt... it was soaked. My first thought was< "Did I pee myself and not even notice?!" And I might have had a brief thought of something I've heard of called "anal seepage" which might actually be a dog issue, but I wasn't necessarily thinking rationally, as I pondered what the heck this meant for my future and my marriage and my parenting my kids into adulthood. Then it hit me that, although today has been a gorgeous day, it did rain all weekend and I had just been sitting on the patio furniture and the cushions have not had nearly enough time to dry out. But isn't it fun where our minds go? (Not so much fun when our minds go.)

Last week, I had taken Mal to his "gym" to play and a couple of people were asking how old he is.

Allow me to interrupt myself here to say that twice last week, different people (both older) referred to Mal as a girl. I don't even care; you can't really tell with babies. I think it's just going to get worse as his hair grows out. I would have corrected the lady at the gym if I'd realized that we were going to end up talking for half an hour, but whatever. I'll probably never see her again. However, she did say something interesting...

To continue, when these people found out that he was 13 months (or 1 year, 1 month, as I promised Daphne I wouldn't be one of "those moms" who says "He's 41 months;" James says we should say it as a fraction, as in: "We're 13/216 done."), they were surprised at how agile he was.

The above-referenced grandma was really getting a kick out of watching "her" climb and run around so adroitly. At one point, she said, "I think you're going to have a gymnast right there."

That struck me because someone made a very similar prophecy over Daphne when she was just a little older. Of course, that girl wasn't a grandma. She was actually a gymnast from Russia who was teaching a community tumbling class in Las Vegas, and I took her a little more seriously. Anyway, it will be fun to see if Mal is at all interested in gymnastics as he gets older. Goodness knows he has the energy for it.

There used to be a Special K commercial (or a series of them) about how you were a Fatty McGee if you could "pinch an inch." The answer, of course, was to eat their very nutritious *sarcasm* cereal and drop that flibbity flabbity floo so that your stomach region was ungrabbable. Well, I have to tell you that I've pretty much all my life been able to pinch at least an inch, and I have at least one person who is really glad.

When I nurse with a "pull up" top (as opposed to a "pull down" top), Mal likes to knead my stomach. It's actually quite a relief, because otherwise he often wants to play with my other... um, side. It doesn't seem fair. I feel that the off-duty side should get a break, for goodness' sakes. Or sometimes, especially if he's really sleepy, he'll put his hand in my mouth, which, okay, whatever. Until he starts scratching my gums with those razor blade fingernails of his. So, yeah, pinch an inch, dude. Not many nerve endings down there.

I've been very emotional about some things lately, and today had several cry moments listening to "Free to Be You and Me" streaming on Spotify. When I was little, we used to check this record out from the library like several times per year. Then when D was small, my mom found a copy of a book that was made to go along with a CD, and we listened to it quite often. It means so much more to me now that I have a teenager.

Okay, first, this is a silly little poem, but it made me choke up a little bit, and I'll try to explain why in a minute:

Don't dress your cat in an apron
Just 'cause he's learning to bake.
Don't put your horse in a nightgown
Just 'cause he can't stay awake.
Don't dress your snake in a muu-muu
Just 'cause he's off on a cruise.
Don't dress your whale in galoshes
If she really prefers overshoes.

A person should wear what he wants to.
And not just what other folks say
A person should do what she likes to
A person's a person that way.

And then here's the title song. Oh, my gosh, it's such a hippie.

Then there's the story of the princess Atalanta and her evenly-matched would-be suitor. And "William's Doll." "It's All Right to Cry." "Boy Meets Girl." Just do yourself a favor and go listen to the whole thing on Spotify. It really is fun. Your kids will love it. If you don't have kids, your cats will love it, too.

The album came out the year that I was born, and I couldn't help but wonder as I listened to it today how much of my laissez-faire attitude about kid stuff started fermenting with these ideas, repeated over and over, and echoing in my memory.

Here's the thing: I don't really know how radical this album was when it came out, but I do know that today's world is very different than the world in which my parents grew up. And I know that some people lament the passing of the "old days." But, can I tell you, I don't? I appreciate the freedoms we have to make decisions so much freer of the narrow gender expectations that were placed on the generations before ours.

As the parent of at least one gender-nonconforming kid (and with Mal's love of hair products, fascination with make-up, obsession with cleaning, and enjoyment of "cooking," who knows), I am glad that the world is so much more accepting of people who might be outliers in the gender Bell Curve.

Also, I'm so grateful to live in Austin, where people don't really care what you wear or whether you're made up or whatever.

Now... I had thought of one more thing but can't place it now. Besides, Mal has awakened again, and I don't want to be a distraction. Also, I should probably get sleep. I wouldn't trade my kid or my circumstances for anyone else's, but, dang, I'm ready for him to be able to go to sleep/stay asleep/go back to sleep without assistance. I look forward to seeing how, if at all, this affects our future relationship. I plan to remind him of it often. :D

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Free Advice for Guys Who Want to Marry a Trim, Petite Lady

This week, Mal and I listened to the "Hairspray" soundtrack while I cooked on two separate days. It was emotional for me on many levels, but I wanted to address one of them today.

There's a great line in one of the songs when Wilbur sings, "You're old and fat, but, baby, boring you ain't."

Seriously, the most romantic song from any movie ever.
He's a guy who loves his lady because he loves her. And he always will.

But some guys really want a thin or conventionally-accepted-"athletic"-looking woman on their arm. And if that's you, young man, I have a couple of tips for you.

First, understand that this is no guarantee that once you marry your woman that she'll always be trim. Life happens. But you can stack the deck in your favor by employing the following techniques:

1) Marry a thin lady. One might think this could go without saying, but, no. Some men marry a lady they think they really love, except that she's kinda pudgy, and believe it or not, guys, women eventually pick up on this resentment. You might think, "Naw, babe, I love you even though you're fat" is flattering, but I can assure you that it is not.

Fat is an ethically neutral thing. It's not good. It's not bad. It just is. Some people have no desire to alter their bodies through diet and exercise (and often extreme diet or insane amounts of exercise), and that's a-okay. But if you find some extra flesh a little ookie, then just don't. Just keep walking. Or at least talk to your lady about it and figure out what you're going to do before you're all nuptualized and things get really complicated.

2) Learn her history. Even if your woman is a wee little thing, find out what her life has been like. Has she always been thin? Or has her weight fluctuated through adolescence, stressful seasons of her life, etc.? How many diets -- ahem, lifestyle changes -- has she tried? How does she feel about the gym? Has she ever had an eating disorder, or does she wish she had the willpower to develop one?

If her relationship with food, exercise, and weight is complicated, and it's super important for you to be married to a small woman, she's probably not the lady for you (in the long term, even if she looks "smokin' hot" now).

3) Look at her family. Are the older members of her family, female or male, waifish people? Or are they all pretty substantial folk? She might not like the idea that when you're looking at her parents, you're looking at her future, but genetics would indicate that this is so. And her body might be an anomaly, or she might be controlling genetically-predisposed weight gain through meticulous means, but that doesn't mean it will be successful forever.


Now, there is some room to talk about women "letting themselves go," and I get that it's not fair to do a bait-and-switch on a guy. It's important to take care of ourselves. But, also, when you get married, you both continue aging. Especially if you marry in your prime, it stands to reason that you're not going to carry around that flower of youth forever. If, as a woman, I'm made to feel like I have to compete with every other woman who is two years or thirteen years or twenty years younger than I am, it's not going to make for a peaceful, balanced marriage.

But what do you do if you're a man who married someone you found attractive at the time but now you find vaguely (or totally) repellant because of how her body has changed? I won't go into asking questions about whether she's carried your children, or how she's taken care of you over the years, or loved you through some ugly times. I really won't. Because if you have this problem, it really does need to be taken care of before it ruins your marriage.

First of all, I implore you to try to remember things you love about your wife. If you've been married for any length of time and can still manage to find yourself completely turned off by this person because of how she looks, I believe that you're not in love with her soul anymore. Love can cover a multitude of trespasses, with that whole "beauty in the eye of the beholder" thing being very real.

Try, really try, to love her unconditionally. Look at her and ask yourself, "If she never changes, will I still be able to love her?" If you can't answer that wholeheartedly "yes," even if you haven't said anything to her, I promise that your resentment is palatable and she knows something is wrong.

My advice would be similar to what Dr. Meg Meeker tells fathers of daughters: "Don’t remark on her weight—EVER. No pet names for parts of her body, no calling her sexy, and no telling her that she is chubby or that she could stand to lose a few pounds. No matter what you say about her weight, she will hear in her mind, 'My dad thinks I’m fat; therefore I am ugly.' Since you can’t win, avoid this. I can’t tell you the number of messes that I’ve been involved in undoing with daughters whose fathers have innocently commented about their weight as they grow up."

You're not her father, but you're someone who is supposed to love her unconditionally. Better or worse and all that. Dr. Meeker's advice is, if you're looking at this person you love and you're concerned in this way, go outside and get active with her. Oh my goodness, if you ask your wife to go hiking or on a walk or, if you're up for Husband of the Year, to a Zumba class with you, I can almost guarantee you that there will be squeals of delight. "Build strength," Dr. Meeker advised. "Not diminish." In other words, the goal isn't to make smaller, but to make more powerful.

It has to be.

If you're a man, unless you're gay or maybe have just had an extraordinarily difficult time of it with weight in your life, I don't think there's any way to understand how damaging to a relationship it is to have the one person who is supposed to love you unconditionally tell you, whether as verbal diarrhea or even in a super nice way, that your appearance is disappointing. It's not impossible to come back from this, but it will cause a rift in any feelings of trust and security that you have built up, and it's extremely difficult to build those back up.

So, if you're pre-marriage and this is an issue, I'm asking you on behalf of women everywhere, just go. And don't feel guilty. Find a woman who's better suited for you. Believe it or not, there is a man out there who will love the woman you've left (better off) not in spite of her weight, but who will even find all of her attractive. So you're really doing everyone a big favor.

P.S. I'm not kidding about that Zumba thing. My husband went to a class with me before we were married, and he was all in. He had no idea what was going on, or how to keep up, or any of it, but he threw himself into it and was exhausted and sore and sweaty and all of that good stuff, and I'm telling you... it was amazing. Also, if you're a single guy and want to meet women, there are very few dudes in those classes (the one's I've attended, anyway). That's some extra free advice. You're welcome.

Monday, October 19, 2015

"I hear the secrets that you keep..."

My husband warned me early in our relationship that he talks in his sleep, often responding to questions, and apparently often without a filter. He said he had a girlfriend who used to pump him for info when he was dozing off, then she'd get mad about his answers.

There have been many times he's said things that made zero sense when seeming to wake up in the middle of the night. But last night's was the winner so far.

As a follow-up to my previous post, the HDMI adapter I'd ordered was the wrong one (we needed a pass-through and somehow I'd mistakenly ordered a cable with two male ends, so... grrr), so I knew that I was going to have to go to Best Buy to pick up the actual thing, plus I'd wasted two orders to Prime Now on things we didn't need, PLUS Mal was waking up every 20 minutes, which he continued to do most of the night, with some longer stretches in the 2-4 AM timeframe.

Anyway, I was pretty discouraged and cried a little for my poor naive self who thought she'd get to lounge lazily after a good night's sleep.

A couple of hours later, James came to bed. He fell asleep and was snoring, then seemed to wake the next time Mal woke up and I had to readjust (moving a nearly-30-pound kid from one side of me to the other is an increasingly difficult work-out; also, now that we can use covers, it's staticky and binding). I had just started to doze off but hadn't fallen to sleep despite having been in bed for nearly three hours.

Once again, I gave into pity and said, "This is the 11th time he's woken up, and I haven't gotten to sleep yet. I am going to go crazy."

To which James replied, "The first stage is to figure out why I haven't been able to go to sleep."

"Excuse me?"

"Stage One is to figure out why I haven't been able to get to sleep."

I'm laughing as I write that, because it's so out of character for my husband. And I realized, of course, that he *was* asleep when he was talking. My brain said, "I'm sorry, Snory McSnortface, but I'm pretty sure you HAVE been asleep, and thanks ever so much for the compassion."

So... is this just a case of his having zero filter when he's sleeping and that's really how he feels about my whining? Hmm... It had the desired effect, if so. I didn't say a word the rest of the night, and I barely got any sleep. But it ended up okay.

Mal and I got out this morning to get the adapter, and we even stopped by to look at some pumpkins, but I need another hand with me to manage the kid and some big squash. Anyway, rest assured that Daphne is still having issues with the tablet, so it's a work in progress. James is safely at work, no bruises or anything. And I'm clearly choosing to do something other than sleep when the baby sleeps, so I must not be dying.

My two favorite guys, even if one makes me lose sleep and the other is indifferent about it. :D

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Failed Sabbath

Today wasn't a bad day, but, man, am I weary.

Mal slept "in" both days this weekend, meaning just past 7 instead of his usual hitting the ground running at 6 deal (which I hope sticks, because DST ends soon, and I won't want to be up and at 'em at 5!). I had planned to get to work on some of James' grandma's sausage balls first thing today, but Mal needed some attention.

First, he'd consumed a lot of liquids overnight, and just before we got up, his diaper must have reached critical mass. I grabbed him and pulled him into the bathroom and changed his diaper, and we got started on our day.

After spending some time playing in Mal's room, we went into the kitchen for me to start on the sausage balls. I also decided to make some chocolate chip pumpkin bread to take to the potluck. In the meantime, James got up, and we took all of the sheets and the mattress cover off of our bed because they needed a wash, thanks to Mal's little incident.

When the sausage was cooked, I put the pumpkin bread in, but it became obvious that it wasn't going to be ready before I left. I asked James to take it out when it looked done, which made him nervous, so I set the timer. It turns out I didn't set it for long enough, but that wasn't apparent until later.

I moved the first load of laundry into the dryer and started the second, then got enough stuff together to (hopefully) keep Mal entertained while we went to the last New City service.

Actually, Mal did great. The music was louder than he's used to at our church now, so he was kind of clingy during the song service and even a bit after. When he started to get restless, we just sat down on the floor in the back and he did fine. He was getting more bold about going to see people and wanting to run around just as the service ended, which was perfect.

At that point, it was time for his nap, but he was doing well enough that we stayed for the pot luck.

First, I'm glad James had the idea for me to make his grandma's sausage balls (which weren't actually balls, but mounds because I was running short on time and lazily used the cookie scoop, which led one guy setting out the pot luck food to put my sausage with the desserts) because there were chips and some fruit and a salad and only one other meat item and then plenty of sweets. Incidentally, someone else made chocolate chip pumpkin muffins, so my bread wasn't missed at all.

We left at about 1:30, and of course Mal fell asleep in the car. When we got to the apartments, I stopped by the office to get Daphne's tablet, which had come in the mail yesterday but apparently was too large for the boxes at the mail house. There was only one person in the office, though, and she was in the middle of selling people on renting here. I waited seven minutes and didn't feel comfortable leaving Mal in the car any longer (even though I could see him where I was standing).

Once I got him upstairs and settled on the couch, I asked D if she wanted to go down with me to try again. Mal's been having some great naps; Friday, he even slept well over an hour before he woke up the first time. Saturday, he slept two and a half hours, only waking once. I felt confident that, given his level of exhaustion, it'd be fine for me to step out for a few moments.

We went back to the office, and this time she was out. We ate some Starbursts and I used the restroom and finally she came back and unlocked the door so I could get the package. Then we headed back and... as we rounded the corner to the apartment, James was out on the stoop with Mal, getting ready to put him in the stroller. Ugh. He woke up while I was gone and was hysterical, so James was bringing him to find us.

I brought him in and tried for half an hour to get him back to sleep, but he wasn't going. He slept only an hour, and I knew then it was going to be a long afternoon. When Mal is awake but should be asleep, he cries at the drop of the hat, even if there's no hat or no dropping. He just weeps. Sobs. Fusses. It's exhausting.

I'd taken him outside to have Naked Patio Time, but Daphne needed help with her tablet, so James played with Mal while I went to help her. Mal didn't like this and would come to the baby gate and cry, then let James distract him, then come back to the baby gate. After a while, I let Mal into Daphne's room because I couldn't take it.

We realized she needed a USB extension cord, so ordered from Prime Now. While we waited for that, I dried the second load of laundry, emptied the dishwasher (with help from James, who'd run the dishwasher for me because he's awesome), and put the pumpkin bread, which I'd realized was still liquid in the center, back into the oven.

Mentally picture all of this happening with Mal happily playing at my feet, then crying or biting me or screaming every, oh, two minutes or so, for two hours. I tried several times to lay him down and nurse him to sleep, but he kept wanting to get up.

James and I teamed up to make the bed, and I put away the other laundry. After a while, James, exhausted, lay down for a nap and I just took Mal into his room to give him undivided attention for a while. He is really raw in the diaperous region, and he was very busy on that front today, so... good times. Good, good times.

But he was sweet... he's trying to figure out kissing, but right now, there is a lot of teeth and some tongue stuff going on. So there's room for improvement. Anyway, he was blowing zerberts, trying to bite my nose, and attacking my face like a monster some of the time. Then he had me get out the "James, age 5" doll his grandma made, and we put clothes on it and set it up in his room... but he wanted it to play with him, so I got to be a puppeteer for a while.

Finally, James got up and joined us and I can't remember being more happy to see him in a long time!

When the USB extension cable got here, we were still having problems with the tablet not showing graphics, which is the whole reason we got this one to replace the one she had before, on which she could use a stylus to draw, but the picture would only show up on the computer, not the pad. After a little research, we realized that she actually also needs an HDMI/DVI adapter. So I ordered *that* from Prime Now and we're still waiting on it.

Meanwhile, Mal was in Daphne's room while we worked on the tablet issue, and he was just crying nonstop at this point. It was about 6:30, but I decided that his day was over. I brought him to bed and nursed him to sleep, then I was able to get a shower and help Daphne some more before he woke up the first time. He's awakened two other times, but now that it's actually a little past his regular bedtime, I'm hoping he'll just stay asleep.

At some point this afternoon, I told James, "I think I tried to do too much today." He asked, "You think?" It didn't feel like too much when I was setting out to do it, and I hadn't planned on the two loads of laundry that had to be done or else we'd have been sleeping in pee tonight, but I was also counting on a good long nap for the boy. It's crazy how much the day is changed when that falls apart, isn't it?

Aww, but look at him... So, so worth it.

Now I'm looking forward to tomorrow, and just staying home, and not having to do anything on any given time frame. Hoping Mal sleeps well tonight, and we'll try getting our Sabbath rest tomorrow.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Review: Clinique All In One Colour Palette for Women

Um, I'm not sure why this is "for women." I just noticed that. Anyway, I'm sure if you're a dude and you need some makeup, this review will work for you, too. Read on, pretty gents...

I have to make a confession to you: Over the past three years, my "beauty regime" (which has never been terribly high maintenance) has degenerated a lot.

First of all, I moved to Austin. Where it's almost always warm and more nearly almost always humid. Ten minutes outside, and that gorgeous hair style of mine is flat. I have naturally straight hair, and here in Austin, it defaults to that as soon as I leave climate control.

Secondly, soon after that, my honey moved to Austin. He's super affectionate. I like that about him! However, I also used to like deep, dramatic colors of lipstick. But I got tired of wiping hot pink smears off of James' face before he went to work, so I dialed that back a bit, too.

Finally, I had a baby. Oh my goodness. I have hot-rolled my hair four times in the past year, and forget about the perfect little ringlets I used to create with my ceramic "wand." I won't get to use that until my one-year-old is out of the house, most likely. If you ever see me with curly-ish hair, it's because every other night, after I wash my hair (I'm totally a morning shower person, but, again, the baby changes things, and nighttime is apparently the right time for my all-over hygiene at this point), I put on a headband and wrap my hair around it overnight.

Oh, speaking of that: Since I had Mal, some - not all - of my hair has developed waves. Not pretty waves. Not waves that I can wash and wear and look like I maybe did something with my hair. No. These are located in the back of my head, a swath about three inches across and four inches deep. Just enough to look like maybe I slept on a crow bar or haven't run a brush through my hair yet. Yeah. Yay, hormones.

Anyhoo, my point: I was tired of my big old make-up bag taking up real estate in my purse. I don't use much makeup and I wanted all of it in one compact, if that wasn't too much to ask. Apparently it wasn't.

I went to Facebook to look for suggestions, and my friends had many. I ended up getting the above-referenced Clinique product, for just under $60.

It's tiny! I love that!

The top has a travel-sized mascara (good, because I rarely use it... makes my eyes itch, even the hypoallergenic kind), five lip colors and an awesome retractable brush, four eye colors and a brush/sponge thing.

The bottom is powder with a sponge, and blush with a brush. I can use the top as a mirror if I need to. Until it inevitably gets dirty.

All of it in its glory.

Okay, so first we're going to post a picture of me with a freshly-washed face. No make-up. Oh, but what I like about the picture is that you can see where the hair I lost after I had Mal is growing back... actually, maybe more so in the second picture. Anyway, my hair is pulled back in the aforementioned head band wrap thing, and I had put a bandana over it because I was running errands earlier that day.

Okay for 43, right? Well, anyway. I don't do super dramatic makeup, so I was happy with the results.

Still me, baby fringe more pronounced, and just a little more polished. Later in the day, I went a bit more dramatic (little little) because we were going out to dinner. Here is that picture.

Basically, just a darker lip gloss and a touch more mascara.

Now side by side so you can compare.

Do you see why I'll never cut my hair short?

Anyway, I'm pleased with the bit of polish this gives my look without taking up a lot of room. My one question is: Will each piece last long enough to make this worth nearly sixty bucks? Like, if the powder broke apart tomorrow, I'd be pretty disappointed. So check back! I'll let you know... As long as it "wears" evenly, I'll be pretty jazzed about the whole thing!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Phone Indecision

I think Laura started disapproving of my phone (a Samsung Galaxy S3) the day I bought it about 3 years ago. Not the phone itself, mind you. Just Verizon's overpriced service.

Back then, I worked for a company that required me to have a regular working phone (which is the only reason I got one in the first place), and they paid for it. So it made some sense to get a big, extravagant, over-priced phone. At least to my mind. It also made sense when I bought the one before that, about 5 years earlier (that was one of the last of the Windows phones that might have been worth buying. It was before Android. Apple had just started taking over the market. My anti-Microsoft bias isn't because I don't try their products...I just generally don't like them).

Shortly after we finished moving, (so probably mid-July), Laura convinced me to switch. She'd found an awesome plan through Wal-Mart (*shudder*) that uses T-mobile. Somehow, it's cheaper than the basically identical plan offered by T-mobile. When Verizon called me about an overdue bill (I think we'd just canceled the credit card we were using for that bill after the number got stolen, or something along those lines), I just decided to bite the bullet and told them to go ahead and cancel my service when that billing cycle ended.

I figured there couldn't possibly be a better incentive to convince me to just pick one.

Our wires got crossed a bit during the conversation. She wound up cancelling my service in the middle of the call.

So I started researching frantically. The Wal-Mart plan's good, but I wanted to check out other possible options.

Google Fi sounds awesome. I'm tempted to sign up for a slot. But service was only available through the Nexus 7 when I was looking, and that didn't appeal to me at all. Khrys reminded me recently about my excitement about getting a gmail invite. This seems very similar.

Researching that led me to Republic Wireless. Which looks awesome. Except for the requirement to buy a phone that locks you to them. Actually, I'm still very tempted to try out whatever their bottom-end phone is these days.

I actually settled on them. I was all set to buy whichever model of Moto X was their top-end at the time. I had my phone all designed and customized (if you haven't played with the Moto X Builder, it's a very well-done web site). I just couldn't get it to accept my money.

I spent a week dealing with tech support, capturing things like network logs to show them that the problem really was on their end. The day I decided to give up, I finally talked (yes, on Laura's phone) someone who admitted that they were having problems with their Discover gateway.

Well, that was easy enough. I wonder why no one had thought of that before. "Try a different card" makes worlds more sense than "Our server's sending you a 404 error? Have you tried clearing the browser cache?" I'm not sure I would have believed that explanation at first (why would "Card declined" result in a 404?!), but I jumped at the opportunity.

And the phone I wanted was out of stock.

So I decided to dig deeper. I started looking at pure unlocked phones.

I'm surprised this has never really occurred to me before. I blame my youth. You buy your phone from the carrier you're going to use. I still think it's liberating that you can actually buy the phone rather than just renting it.

But, still. I'd really been thinking in terms of "Buy a t-mobile phone, then switch to Wal-Mart's network." Until I visited a t-mobile store and they told me how long I'd have stay on contract with them (no matter what) before they'd "allow" me to switch.

I think it's 45 days. It seems like it might have been 60 or 90. One would have been too many.

I drove home from that experience in a snit and started searching Amazon for unlocked phones.

I was thrilled at all the options available. And a little disgusted at all the choices I had to sift through.

Their best-sellers were appealing, but none really reached out and grabbed me.

I was very tempted by the Amazon phone, even though it was ancient. I know how much Khrys loves his Kindle. (He told me later, at this point in the story, that he'd have preferred an Amazon over his iPhone, if it had been offered on a carrier with better service in his area).

I think I was probably looking up reviews for that when I started finding ones about the OnePlus One. It had been out for over a year, and it was still considered one of the best phones on the market for the price.


I looked it up on Amazon. The only way to buy one seemed to be through shady resellers from China. This piqued my interest. (I'm not sure I like what this says about my personality).

So I did more research. And it turns out that the "real" way to buy one is through their website.

Oh, and the next generation model was about to be released soon. They'd just opened up the sign-up list so you could get in virtual line to get an invitation to buy one. With preferential treatment for people who already own a One, have been long-time supporters, or are active on the forums.

I'm a sucker for that sort of thing. I signed up around spot number 64000.

They also have a thing where you get to bump up in line if you convince other people to sign up through your affiliate link. I think, at one point, I was up to around spot number 61,000. I've been moving steadily back ever since.

They've done a few social media races. Things like "Be one of the first 1000 to like this post on Facebook and get an invite!" I think the last of those (something like the first 7000 shares on instagram) wrapped up in under 15 seconds. The people who own/want this phone are rabid about it. I've been meaning to blog about the brilliant marketing.

One of their head honchos recently posted a public apology on their forum about how badly they've botched this roll-out. They've been plagued by every problem that a little startup is going to face. Especially one that's dealing with hardware. I can't remember the last time I saw a corporate exec eating crow for over-promising and under-delivering. Not in terms of quality, but quantity. And the problems are because they are so dedicated to quality. (People with more insight than I have written much more about the nuances behind this particular marketing tactic...this guy probably knew exactly what was going on every step of the way).

Anyway. I haven't been moving back as fast as the line's been growing. They passed over 4 million reservation spots about a month ago. No one knows how many of those are legit, of course. I've read a lot of forum posts complaining that there wasn't any profit in getting an early phone because they have no resell value.

As I said, I've been watching my spot in line dwindle for quite a while now.

In the meantime, Motorola's released the next generation version of that phone I really wanted originally: the Pure.

The stats look pretty sweet. My boss strongly urged me to get one. He said he'd love to jump on it, but can't quite justify replacing his old Moto X quite yet. Reading a lot of reviews tonight, it seems to be a slightly better gadget (does anyone really care about the phone part these days?) than the One Plus 2. It's definitely the only thing comparable in that price range.

I'd given up waiting on the OPT. I went back through the Moto X Builder design page. But, honestly, the color combinations I want just don't mesh well (this is the price of offering too many options to your customers). And they were out of stock when I tried to order (to be fair, the phone had only been released a couple of days earlier, and most articles recommended just settling for the default ones available on Amazon...if even those were available).

At this point, I'd basically been without a phone for at least 2 months. (We did get a cheap little Go phone from Wal-Mart for emergencies...Mal thinks it's awesome. Somehow, he's managed to figure out how to unlock it and burn through lots of prepaid minutes browsing the web). Waiting a little longer wasn't that big a deal.

And the new Google Nexus phones were probably going to be announced on Sep 29 (spoiler alert: they were). Neither one wowed me, but they gave me a baseline for my next waiting period.

They're supposed to be available (with Marshmallow) on Oct 16. Motorola's widely expected to update soon after that.

So I figured I'd hold off and get a Pure sometime after they update. Maybe they'll offer a color combination that I'll appreciate more by then.

I have a daily reminder to check the OnePlus forums for random invites (since I just might luck out and do so in time to actually win one...maybe they'll have one on a social media forum I actually use, like github). And to check my place in line.

I started out the week around 100,000. I've been moving back by about 1000 a day since. This morning, I was around spot 104,500.

They've recently announced that on Monday, Oct 12, between 12-1 (time zone varies depending on source), they'll sell phones to everyone who wants one. It seems to involve going through the India version of Amazon. Which would probably work. But...maybe I'm turning into an old fogey.

This afternoon, Laura sent me an IM over gmail. I went ahead and checked it at work, since she knows to only send me important stuff. I noticed a weird email with the subject "You're Invited." "That's weird," I thought, "how did this get past Google's spam filter?"

I almost marked it as spam before I realized that it's the OnePlus Invite that I've been waiting on for so long.

It arrived 10.5 hours ago, so (at least in theory) I have another 13.5 hours to use it. Through an account that has a password I really hope I saved when I created it.

And I'm sitting here wondering "Is this *really* the phone that I want to be using for the next 3-5 years?"

When I told Laura about my indecision, she told me that I make her sad. Like a cat that thinks a cricket is interesting, but not interesting enough to actually do anything about.

I think my problem may be commitment issues. I'm reminded of playing Dungeons & Dragons as a kid. When I had a potion, I'd always save it for later. Actually, I pretty much still do that when I play Nethack. When I played a magic-user, at low levels, I'd always save my one or two wimpy little spells until it was too late for them to matter.

This may have something to do with the fact that I waited so long to get married.

I hope Laura will take this in a positive light: I'm serious about commitments, so I want to be sure before I make a choice. Since I really don't change my mind once I'm committed.

This is why I love colby jack cheese. It lets me enjoy both great tastes. I like sharp cheddar better, but I can't really go with that for everyday working cheese. It's more of a special occasion sort of thing. The same goes for, say, Brie, in the opposite direction.

And that doesn't even get into the really good cheese s. To quote Mal: "Yum!"

So now I'm down to about 13 hours. Honestly, it's time to fish or cut bait.

I just thought this story might be amusing enough to justify a little procrastination.

EDIT: I ordered the phone. It should ship within 5-10 business days

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Whose kids are these, anyway?

It's October, and you know what that means! It means that Jimmy Kimmel is gearing up for another round of "tell your kids you ate all of the Halloween candy and video their response!" High-larious! Lie to the children about something that will probably upset them a lot, then belittle or make fun of them when they melt down. Honestly, I don't get why parents are willing to do this, not one little bit. If you think it's funny and harmless, you don't need to tell me why that is. I am one-hundred percent certain that we will not come to an agreement on it. Also, if you're my friend, I still want to like you, and I have a feeling it would be difficult for me to feel truly fondly of anyone who would sell out their kid's joy for a gag... or support parents who do.

Hey, here's a funny prank idea: Let's tell an old person we love that hackers broke into their bank and stole all of the savings. Film it! Hilarity will ensue!

If I sound overly-touchy, it's probably because I am.

During the past week, I have been inundated with things (stories, videos, news items) in my in box and over social media that show zero respect for or protection of the little people entrusted by God to us. A lot of it is done with the best on intentions, but that doesn't make the means correct or beneficial or healthy.

First of all, a blog to which I am subscribed had an entry whose name I had to get past just to read it, but I tried to have an open mind. The main idea was that, over the years, the lady writing it had not always been consistent in her application of "discipline" (means different things to different people).


"[My] friend... walked me through putting that now toddler in her first-time out. [We] were on the phone... My end involved a toddler’s temper tantrum and my own frustration and bewilderment on how to approach this new behavior.

“'Put her in the crib. Don’t smile.' [she] instructed. 'Firmly tell her no and then walk out of the room. She’s going to scream.'

"I did as I was told and two minutes later... 'Okay, it’s time to go get her.'

"No rocket science involved. No matrix of crime committed times age of criminal, I mean toddler. No over explaining the offense or the consequence... It was pretty pure and simple.

"I wish I could say it’s been that smooth since, but no such luck."

My stomach. Oh, dear god, my stomach. This was held up as the ideal disciplinary interaction.

How many words does a "toddler" have? Let's say she's at max two years old (still having a crib and all). Maybe 30? Maybe fewer? Maybe a bit more? Okay, let me ask you this question: Have you, with your 20,000-word vocabulary ever been so frustrated or so upset that you just screamed? Or hit something? Or couldn't talk and felt like you had to do *something* or you'd explode? Now let's say the person you love most in the world was there with you. Would you rather they close the door and leave you to your misery, or come over, offer to put their arm around you if that's what you wanted, and maybe just sit there with you until you could work through your feelings?

Honestly, I get that sometimes we need to make a phone call. I have a one-year-old. You know what else? I have abruptly ended many calls because he was starting to fuss. He's not fussing to be rude. He's not fussing because he's trying to manipulate me (although me might be trying to get my attention and get me off of the phone, but you really have to be in a position of power to manipulate someone else). He needs something, or thinks he needs something, and he can't meet the vast majority of his own needs. That's why I'm here. That's my job.

Shutting someone out when they're "overly emotional" tells them, "I don't like you/want to be around you when you're feeling extreme." And maybe even, "It's wrong for you to be very angry or very sad." You might say, "No, I'm trying to teach her that she can't pull up the carpet and throw a chair at the wall." Well, that's fine. Tell her that. But then sit there with her and work through it. Parenting is difficult. Do children need to realize that sometimes we're on the phone and they need to be quiet? Sure. But often in that moment of high stress and acting out, it's not the best time to play "enforcer" when they genuinely need an ally.

Incidentally, "time out" is a behavior-modification method originated by B. F. Skinner for use with rodents and birds. Its full name is "time out from positive reinforcement." The fact is that withdrawal of apparent love (you might say, "I love my child unconditionally!" but how you feel doesn't matter; what matters is how your child perceives your actions, and you're basically ignoring them when they're "naughty") has long-term negative effects on kids, and I don't believe it can help in the short term, relationship-wise. If you're losing control because of how mad YOU are, then by all means, excuse yourself to collect yourself. But heads-up, your child might follow you. And then, guess what? You are the adult so you get to act like the grown-up and behave properly.

I'd posted this picture, an excerpt from "Unconditional Parenting" by Alfie Kohn, on Facebook yesterday.

Then, coincidentally, for the first time last night, I saw the 30-second commercial version of this video.

"I don't think our kids have ever been that quiet!" Let's buy this car with wi-fi so we NEVER have to hear from those troublesome buggars again, honey!

In the other car: That obnoxious girl is using her imagination and playing the air guitar! PUT SOME EARPHONES ON HER AND GET HER GUITAR HERO POSTHASTE! She's harshing my vibe!

(Also: Carseats have gotten ridiculous. I know that's not a popular opinion, but it's not just my opinion. It's supported by data. The girls in the "good" car especially... they're old! Why should they be in a cocoon? That's a tangent. It's irrelevant and I lost a bunch of people just now. I should learn when to shut my mouth. Moving on.)

My point is: this car company is basically telling us that without a distraction like 4G LTE in your car, your kids are going to be awful and annoying, and there's really little worse than having to, you know, deal with your kids that you had on purpose (more or less) and are supposed to love.

Now, you can probably see in the preview panel what this is, but if you close your eyes, you just might think you were listening to a video about a dog trying to take cheese before it was time or something.

I would like to point out that this video won at least $10k, so hopefully they started a college fund for this kid. The comments are all about how smart the kid is, but I think this is just a child who really wants to interact with his mom, and who is distracted when she shouts out, so he stops what he's doing... then when he loses her apparent attention (yelling), goes back to what he was doing.

I can say this pretty confidently after watching my own boy. He will run to an outlet, look at me, and smile, knowing... that it's a no-no? Mmm, maybe. But I think it's more likely that he knows he gets a reaction out of me when he tries to unplug stuff. So you know what I did at home? I bought outlet locks for the couple of outlets that I use often and that aren't behind furniture. You know why? Because barking staccato syllables at my child isn't my idea of a good or nurturing time. Hey, lady, put your water up where your kid can't get it, and pay attention to him for his own sake. There are plenty of things we can't move and that we have to get the kid away from. This isn't one of those things. It makes me tired to watch it, and more tired and sad to hear it.

And don't even get me started on this one.

Yes, I get it; it's supposed to be a joke. Yes, I have a sense of humor. Yes, it's often inappropriate and immature. But even I can see that this is in poor taste. It violates what I used to tell my daughter when she was very small: It's only fun (or funny) if everyone is having fun (or laughing). The kid isn't in on this joke; it's making fun of him. It's exploitative. It's getting a laugh at his expense. Can you imagine explaining this to him? "Well, see, son, it's funny, because it's acknowledging that  you're so difficult to be around that your teacher might need to leave school and go home to a mood-altering beverage. I know! That's how bad you are! God, you're awful. Isn't it hysterical?!"

Now... I wrote most of this a couple of days ago, after I'd given myself a day to calm down. Well, the good news is that I'm even calmer now. Not quite so riled. And I have an anecdote to share.

I am by no means a perfect parent. Having this baby boy I have now has been such a challenge, I have read book after book about parenting because I was feeling so stressed about so much pretty much from the week he was born (what with the crying and the more crying and the never sleeping except when I was holding him and all), and although a lot of that has gotten a lot easier, there are new challenges every day. Reading all that I have, my viewpoint has changed loads. I ache for some of the things I did with Daphne, but fortunately have another half decade or so to rebuild with her.

But something happened this weekend, and I think I probably would have handled it a lot differently if we hadn't gone to the unschooling conference in April, and I hadn't started getting to know people who are "gentle" parents, and I hadn't been directed to so many amazing books.

Yesterday morning, Mal was playing quietly in the kitchen floor by himself, very involved in what he was doing. I took the opportunity to read an article, standing right there in the kitchen in full view of him. But I got pretty absorbed in my reading, and a few minutes later, my subconscious brain said to me, "Hear that? It's cat litter. You know what else? It sounds like it's being dumped on the floor."

So I looked over to the laundry room (right off of the kitchen) and, sure enough, Mal had the pasta ladle and was scooping litter out of the box and onto the vinyl flooring. Ugh.

Do you see how much that looks like a litter scoop?

Now, when D was little, and maybe even half a year ago with Mal, my thought would have been, "He can NOT keep getting into the litter, and I have to make him learn that, so to make an impression, I need to get into his line of vision and say, 'NO!' in my deepest voice a few times, just to make the point. He might even cry, but at least he should remember it."

But this time, I wasn't even mad, and I knew without a doubt that this sweet little kid was trying to help. I mean, it's not like I enjoy extra cleaning, but I don't have to extend the benefit of much doubt to see that Mal genuinely believed he was doing what his dad and I do with the litter box, cleaning it out.

So instead, I said, "You don't need to clean the litter box; that's a grown-up job." I was pleasant. I took the ladle from him and started sweeping up the litter.

He said, "Blehh."

I said, "Yeah, it's pretty gross. Blehh."

When I had my pile of litter, I reached over to get the dust pan and, guess what? Sweet kid tried to help again, by using his hand to scatter the litter, thus eliminating the "blehh" pile, certainly making that one specific portion of the floor cleaner.

This time, I did say, "You're actually doing the opposite of helping, man," but I was still pleasant to him. I wasn't mad. I didn't feel any tension in my body. I was at peace.

"Let Mommy sweep it into the pan, okay?"

After two or three tries, he let me.

Did he learn anything about how to behave? I have no idea. But we shared chores, and we talked together, and I modeled joyfully serving someone you love, and all of those are more important to me than whether he gets litter on the floor. Which I will keep asking and sincerely hope he'll stop doing after a while.

Also, though, I told James the other day: Carol doesn't seem to know the difference between her litter boxes and Mal's sand box. Maybe he doesn't get it, either. All we can do is keep reminding him, kindly, that it's icky and he should stay out. Also, same application to toilets, especially ones in public restrooms. Do you know how many of those don't have lids? And I now have a kid who understands he can crawl under the stall doors and walls (shudder) to gain access while I'm occupied.

But I digress.

Kids are humans. They are people. I feel like we need to reconsider how we think of them. They're not possessions to be ridiculed or despised or molded to our will; they're gifts and responsibilities to be led into finding out how best to channel the will that they have been given by God. 

I'll leave you with an article that another friend posted on Facebook recently. This one, It makes me happy, and it rings true (i.e. no Pollyanna stuff).

Thanks for hanging with me on this post. I needed to get that out of my system.