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I know, paranoid. I just felt too vulnerable with a last name that could be found so easily. So, shhh, I'm anonymous now. I've moved to McBlog.net. Come on over. Have some organic tea or something.

Love,

Shannon

(oh, and my email changed, too: shannon@mcblog.net)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Bring on the 'Dozers!

My family is going to have a field day with this. I can hear my youngest sister laughing uproariously at my expense already. I have just turned the corner from mildly eccentric to (figuratively speaking, of course) gunz-a-blazin, tie-me-to-a-redwood-please, greener-than-an-organic-banana, she’s-off-the-chain-folks-just-look-at-her-go, what-a-nutball.

That’s right, I just took all my soaps, shampoos, hair products, and deodorant – not to mention household cleaning supplies – out to the garage, their final pit stop on the way to the dump. What, you might ask, am I using instead? Baking soda. Yep, you heard me, baking soda. Oh, and vinegar, olive oil, coconut oil, herbs from my garden, and colloidal oatmeal (ground in a coffee grinder for those of you who always wondered what colloidal meant – as I did until just this week when I began making it myself). Supposedly baking soda and vinegar would have been enough, but I had to replace all my feel-good/taking-care-of-myself (cancer causing) toiletries with something!

All this from a woman who (I cringe from the shame of it) has still been using disposable diapers. And what happened to bring on this tsunami of change? It was as small as a tube of children’s toothpaste, my friends. Before the occurrence, I was sort of greenish: I mostly bought organic food, I joined an organic co-op, I recycled, I tried to conserve, but basically, I believed that it wasn’t that bad out there in consumer-land. Don’t ask me how I kept my head in the sand for as long as I did. When it comes to my kids though, I can get crystal clear vision pretty fast – and it tastes just like chemical sweetener.

I posted about our camping trip just recently, and that’s where my awakening happened. We were getting ready to go into Savannah our second morning camping and I went to the bathroom by myself (yay for me!) to do my hair or something, I can’t remember now, and brush my teeth. When I got there, I realized I didn’t have my toothpaste. As I was digging through the bag looking for my toothbrush, I found the kids’ toothpaste. “Ah hah!” said I, and proceeded to begin brushing my teeth with it.

The second I tasted it I knew something was wrong. When I checked the ingredients, there it was – saccharin in my children’s toothpaste. There are not words to describe how pissed off I was. Saccharin in the toothpaste that my children swallow every day. While I’m worrying myself sick about what’s in their food and whether this one or that one is about to need stitches from the latest acrobatic (or not) feat, I’m tenderly poisoning them with lotions, soaps, shampoos, and toothpaste. And now diapers, too! (Which I now know thanks to my friend Natallia and my new friend Jeff.)

“What’s that white film all over the sink?” my husband asked me when he came home.
“Umm, baking soda.”
“So we’re cleaning our dishes, our laundry, our countertops, and our bodies with baking soda?”
“Uh huh.”
“And what are we supposed to use for deodorant?”
“Umm, baking soda.”

He’s been reduced to sighing a lot, shaking his head, and wondering why his life gets ever more complicated the longer he knows me.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Is There a Grown Up in the House?

If you are less mature than the average two year old, please raise your hand. (Picture my hand in the air waving.) My daughter spent the night at her grandmother's last night, and, it turns out, got less than a sound night's sleep. Unfortunately, I was not aware of this until after the darling thing went to bed tonight; I just thought she'd been possessed.

After a perfectly lovely time at the bookstore playing with the other kids and the train set, etc., we were on our way to the area's best playground to play with some more kids and meet some friends when both of my darling (can you feel the gritted teeth) children began wailing at the top of their lungs. Now the baby's wailing did not alarm me - except that it was in tandem with the much louder 2 year old's.

I went down the checklist. Were they hungry? No. Tired? Not that I knew of, we had a good nap. Pinched in a seatbelt? No. Just rotten?

So what did I do? First I tried reason. Pah! Then bribery. Toys. Offers of food and drink. Music to soothe the savage beasts. Windows down to blow them into submission or at least distract the little fiends. Threats (no park). No deal. The screaming continued for 20 minutes. I said to myself (aloud no less), "Do not lose it. Shannon, do NOT lose it." And immediately thereafter joined in on the yelling. (Also to no avail, I might add.)

The emergency stop for sticky rice (a particular favorite around here), followed by the park with hero Daddy did the trick, but I have yet to recover. I am a big moping heap of parental failure.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jog


I'm too tired to think, much less write, so don't expect literature here. Today's long and erratic blog is just a pathetic excuse to post fabulous pictures, thereby accomplishing bragging on both beauty of children and parents' expert photography (much aided by the model subjects and a memory card that holds 3000 pictures).

We just had, hands down, the BEST vacation we’ve ever had, going places we’ve been to so many times before that they could almost be considered second homes. The difference: the mother of all tents occupied by these two, my soft, soft, lovely children.

We arrived home from our vacation late last night with a dramatic flourish, much wailing, gnashing of teeth, and general angst. Maryn woke up as I was carrying her into the house and had a terrific fit at the realization that we were, in fact, actually at home instead of at another campground. Though we had told her we were going home, she apparently didn’t believe we would continue with our nefarious plan once she’d registered her strident objection and complete antipathy (this would be the mongo temper tantrum that occurred prior to her finally falling asleep in the car – seven hours of driving hell, poopy diapers, traffic jams, punctuated by frequent fits; we thought we were in Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day). She’s still a bit pissed about it today even. I talked with her about it tonight. “So,” I said, “you were pretty upset last night when we got home.” “I don’t want to be home,” she replied. “I know, honey. Mommy and Daddy weren’t ready to come home either, but it was going to rain.” “But we had a ca-brella, Mommy.”

The only one not overly traumatized by our abrupt return home was Conner, as she could finally roam where she pleased and eat all the carpet fuzz and old cheerios she could find. While she enjoyed our sojourn greatly, her explorations were somewhat curtailed as she likes to taste everything she touches and I took exception to her tasting objects from the ground where untold numbers of unknown feet have trod. And, yes, I am a total germaphobe, an obsessive/compulsive illness I picked up after the birth of my first child that has been compounded by my mother’s illness – not that my newly agoraphobic tendencies (I am just full of phobes) have prevented us from getting at least one head cold or throwing up illness a month for the last two plus years.

For friends and family, consider these pictures a wan preview of the slideshow you’re about to receive. We got an extra memory card for the digital camera and took, literally, almost a thousand pictures. Slideshow, movie length. Be afraid – there will be a quiz later.

We are a family of complex contradictions. Our campsite (and we had no electric, mind you) was on the beach; the only obstructions to our view were the occasional bird, strolling fellow camper, and a couple wandering deer (no kidding – one of them passed by less than 20 feet from where we were standing). But we brought (and found a way to use) our somewhat expensive coffee pot and the grinder. I was forced to heat my milk in a pot or walk to the camp store to use the microwave, but camping requires some sacrifices.

We spent about half the trip with nature (if that can be said while grinding gourmet coffee beans for breakfast) staying at a couple of truly wonderful state parks, and the rest walking a couple of our favorite southern cities: Savannah and Charleston. We scheduled the trip to coincide with the jazz festival in Savannah and the first Friday art walk in Charleston. Neither event worked out very well, but the trip was still a smashing success, so much so that I’m planning to harass all of my family members into joining us for future campouts. I started with my sister Chris when I spoke with her earlier today. She was not an immediate convert but I am not giving up – let the familial bonding begin!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Oh So Po'

I was reading Toddled Dredge last night and Veronica talked about being poor and having children. It got me thinking, first about my own childhood (I've been thinking about that a lot lately anyway) and the impact of poverty upon it, and second about the norms and dictates of American society.

We were quite poor when I was a child, not initially, but by the time I was 7 my father's alcoholism had taken whatever means and trappings we'd begun with and reduced us to squalor, for lack of a better word. I mean, I had friends and classmates who had dirt floors and some who had no shoes; we had more than that and what we had looked good, thanks to my mother, but, still, we were pretty darned poor.

We lived in a small southern town, primarily black, and very, very poor. Our house bordered the black side of town, i.e., our side of the street was white and the other side black, and if the white side of town was considered a step up economically and socially, it was a barely significant one. The whole town, with the exception of a handful of old houses on the main street, was bleak and ugly. Our house, a saggy shotgun house that has since been demolished (as has the house we lived in after), was infested with fleas, doily-size wood spiders, palmetto bugs, and rats, probably roaches, too, but I can't remember for sure. The spiders are indelibly imprinted and I have an enduring terror of them. We ate a lot of beans, the bag kind costing pennies a package that you have to soak and cook all day for them to be edible. This was my kind of poor, not we can do without it poor, but frozen shampoo in winter poor.

Still, we had our mitigating factors: my mother came from class (class, baby, real class), both my parents had at least some college and, presumably, both were intelligent (I have my doubts about my father, but, of course, by the time I could really make an assessment, his brains, such as they were, were quite pickled), and my sisters and I were all of above average intelligence and fairly cute. The cute part shouldn’t make a difference, but in our world it does, so I list it as a redeeming attribute here. Most important, my mother loved us, had a great sense of adventure and play (even given the rather dire circumstances), and she had fantastic taste. She was also truly an expert on the English language. She later became an editor and an award winning reporter. Her skills did much to alleviate the substandard education we received.

While the poverty certainly had an impact, most notably on our education, the much greater determinant of the wholeness of our psyches was my father’s alcoholism and propensity for beating and degrading his family. Had it not been for that, I could have been perfectly content with my lot in life. Ultimately, poverty did no lasting damage. Perhaps my sisters and I would have attained much greater status given greater advantage, but we’ve all managed to become successful enough regardless.

As for my own parenting decisions relative to economics, we have decided to forgo financial advancement in favor of time with our children. While we are not poor, exactly, we are close to it. We go backward almost every month, taking from our savings to pay the bills. I chose to leave what could have been a satisfying and lucrative enough career path to stay at home with my children. I know our lifestyle would probably be an unexpected choice given my history, so it proves the greatest illustrator of what impact poverty ultimately had on me personally.

Maybe I’m a dreamer, but I have hopes that it may turn out even better for me career-wise doing what I want to do from home. My husband is working as little as possible, too, so he can hang out with us. We’ve talked about it at great length and many times and we’d rather spend the money on quality time with our children, especially during these formative years, than at retirement. We figure our prime earning years are still ahead (hopefully). There’s plenty of time to make money, if that’s what we choose. Our children’s childhoods will never come again. We cannot make up for lost time – and lost opportunity – with them. I have confidence, perhaps unreasoning but I don’t think so, that they will be more than able to get as good an education as their intelligence and innate abilities permit when the time comes.

While thus far my childhood scars have prevented me from being the kind of parent I would really like to be, I think I’m getting better at the job. Even with my personality glitches, I believe my children are going to have a better childhood than most of their peers in our materially preoccupied society. I know that my children know they are loved and even perfect strangers have remarked upon their confidence and wisdom, traits I believe stem from their secure positions as the centers of our universe.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Comic/Tragic

Drat! Here I am again. No posts in weeks. I can't keep up and the little over achiever inside is screaming. Naturally this post is inspired by the fact that I'm supposed to be working and am reading blogs (Bub and Pie, Owlhaven) instead. Truly, I've been goofing off all day (at least as much as I can). My living room, though sporting a new couch and chair, is a disaster.

Finally we are trendy, other than the two cheap slinkies, bathroom hand towels and pile of books on the couch, the books, cheerios, cracker crumbs, toothbrush (one of my daughter's peeps - see Owlhaven's Saturday question), misc toys, pillows and stray bookmark scattered about the room and the strikingly chic potty chair by the lounger.

(It's a good potty chair, my daughter says, even though I don't use it. Will she ever use it, I wonder. But why won't she use it? It's a good potty chair.) I dare not show the kitchen sink, and you are taking your life in your hands if you go into the bathroom.

On another note (mainly to those who know us), our second child turned a year old on Saturday (just another excuse to post pictures of the dazzling duo).

We threw a party and a great time was had by all.

Most amazing, Conner knew the celebration was for her. We sang happy birthday to her when we first woke up while still in bed. She smiled and applauded, for us or for herself I’m not sure.

She was a fabulous and gracious hostess. She crawled up to visit with each of our guests, resting a chubby hand on one friend's arm, leaning on another's knee, asking an unintelligible question of a third, playing, kissing, laughing, flirting, acknowledging each and every one with some subtle, intimate gesture. I've never seen anything like it. She absolutely worked the room. Scott noted that her genius is personality (among many genius traits to be sure). So now we know – a politician and a Supreme Court justice. Though we originally thought her name was perfectly suited for the Court, it turns out she’s a born schmoozer and Maryn is showing a definite lawyerly bent.

I intended to write a long post about her dramatic impact on our lives - and it has been dramatic, and wonderful - but I'm quite mixed up lately, all in a lather, so I'm forgoing comment for now. Why am I sporadically such a mess? (And well might you ask. Don’t think I haven’t been asking myself that very question!) I do not know. As my husband would say, I'm full of angst. I suspect it's one too many weeks without a break from the children, several days of fighting with my spouse for little or no reason, possible PMS, too little support, too many resentments, and too much introspection – something I’ve unfortunately been wont to indulge in before my mother’s still continuing bout with leukemia and the ensuing reflections on her life and mine, which now border on all-consuming. With Conner’s first birthday comes the anniversary of her diagnosis and near death in my living room while stubbornly (though admirably) trying to welcome and care for her eighth grandchild and daughter rather than taking herself to the emergency room. Such navel contemplation.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Okay, Am I Just Being Paranoid?

Am I reading too much into this or is there a bit of woman-hating or some emasculation fears going on at the New York Times? Why was this article the main article on the front page (online) a couple of days ago? This is not the first such article, by the way - take a gander at this one: One Thing They Aren't: Maternal. Societal trend? Emotionally challenged editor(s)?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Oh Forbes, You Wicked Bastion of Old School Rhetoric

Okay, I know, the topic's been b/flogged to death - not to mention that I'm quite late coming onto the scene (see Toddled Dredge, Hummingbird Mind, Not So Humble, God bless them, just to name a few). But I've read the article and thought about it quite a deal, and I have something to say about it.

When you get beyond the inflammatory headline, Michael Noer presents some interesting and discussion worthy statistics. Of course, he not only fails to address the underlying societal issues, he totally misinterprets them, leaving it at just the shallow and immature surface debate (reminiscent of high school) so predictably continued by Elizabeth Corcoran. “Smart girls are bitchy.” “Boys are stupid.” “Ow! That’s my hair you’re pulling!” The real reason this article deserves attention is that it serves as a perfect illustration of the fallout finally occurring after the feminist movement of the 60s and 70s. Cultural change moves at a glacier’s pace (and that would be the before-global-warming pace).

First, some qualifiers, I fall squarely into the category of professional women as defined by Mr. Noer; and I have personal experience with most if not all of the statistics he cites: I have made more than my husband, I almost didn’t have children, I have chosen to stay at home with my children and not work, and I have chosen to work while my husband stayed at home. I have suffered emotional distress in the pursuit of both paths. Currently, I am at least working part time from home as the primary caregiver for my children. My husband is also self employed and works as little as possible in order to spend as much time as he can with the kids, too. So far, we all find this arrangement quite satisfying. We have decided that we’re okay if we maintain our current financial condition for the next few years, or even if we go back a bit – retirement be durned. I’m sure most of the contributors to Forbes magazine would disapprove. Ah, well.

Please note: Mr. Noer lays the blame for these marital problems of professionals squarely on career women. Frankly, there aren’t words for my outrage. My temper is only slightly assuaged by the fact that he clearly has no clue how offensive it is to complain that women aren’t willing to put in a full week at work and keep up with all the household chores and child care, too. Not that this isn’t exactly what many women do, but it seems quite clear to me why they might be getting a bit peeved about it. I can also see why this might give some women pause in considering taking on the responsibility of children. Luckily there are some men out there smart enough to have figured out that it probably isn’t a good idea to come home, put up the newspaper do not disturb sign and expect candlelight dinner and a foot rub from wives who’ve put in just as many hours at the office as they have. Otherwise, the human race might just have had its last boom.

Women are now availed of the opportunity for education beyond Home Economics and Dinner Table Etiquette and the resultant more intellectually challenging and satisfying careers. This is really good as it takes two incomes to maintain the average standard of living (i.e., 2 car payments, balloon payment on house and/or home equity line, dinner out 3-4 times a week, collection of strappy recognizable brand name sandals in sparkly vivacious colors, tool-time envy gadgetry collecting dust in garage for lack of use). Mr. Noer boils much of the problem down to the lack of specialized labor at home: a dirty house. Now, I don’t know, perhaps I’m missing something here, but I see a pretty simple solution to this that should be more than affordable to these two (childless?) professionals – hire a maid. Put those intellects and dollars to use, people.

Referencing Mr. Noer’s statistics about mothers being unhappy at home with their children, I wonder that it has not occurred to him that many successful career women might be more than a bit unhappy at being forced to make the often unnecessary choice between working and providing appropriate care for their children. And, at least in part, because the role of motherhood is not valued, it is hard to feel productive and contented in the job – I would say particularly for a “career” woman, who has attained some measure of gratification from employment. However, it is an evil fiction that women can’t have careers and children simultaneously. The reason that most women can’t do both is that so many employers are still stuck in the dark ages – greedy, inflexible, and suspicious, trying to wring out that last minute of work and convinced that they’re being cheated – that they needlessly (and stupidly) run mothers out on a rail.

This is somewhat of a separate (but related) rant, but the fact is, our society does not value children. We do not value their care; just look at the lack of status accorded to their caregivers: day care workers with no special skills or training making not much above minimum wage to referee as many children as the law will allow. It is no mistake that motherhood is known as a thankless job. Child care is hard work without much in the way of kudos and practically nothing in the way of support. This society does not value women, either – unless they exhibit the traits and drive historically attributed to successful* men, and preferably a propensity to eat their young (*think about what our society considers success here – it ain’t stay-at-home dads).

To me it seems a no-brainer why women would be more likely to get divorced the more hours they worked. Have any of these supposed social scientists Mr. Noer quotes looked into the division of the home and child care load? I’m not a betting girl, but I’d bet a bucketload that these divorce-happy unfaithful career women aren’t unloading husbands who pull their weight at home. The reality of equality is that we have not yet attained it. I find it quite astounding that the inequity in the balance of labor has gone on as long as it has after the feminist movement – and with so little fuss from said feminists. Even more remarkable, as evidenced by Mr. Noer’s article, the word has not spread to the dead weight sitting on top of the glass ceiling that the free ride on the backs of their wives may finally be ending.