Saturday, December 6, 2014

Dreadful Parenting

I am struggling as a parent. Perhaps just struggling as a person.

Sleep training Ira is failing, potty training Ishmael is failing, my general composure as an adult is failing. We might all just poop our pants into adulthood around here.

Although I've come a long way, and I'm proud of my progress, I do not feel particularly well cut out to parent young children. I expect them to be able to reason like adults, and they don't. I stay home with my kids because I believe that it is my role as their parent to coach them into functioning little humans, particularly in such formative years, but I find myself filling my stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) life with other things than my children because 24/7 childcare is mind numbing. Obviously, avoiding my children while at home really wasn't the point of quitting my other jobs to be with them. I thrash around against the fact that I can't do anything without being interrupted. Sometimes I just let my kids sit in their poop or cry uncontrollably while I do my own thing for a few minutes, and sometimes I think that's fine, but other times I feel guilty about it (God forbid someone else see me doing it!) and it makes me stressed out or try to rush through whatever I'm trying to get done because I can't handle the crying or the poop. I also feel guilty when I think that if I were doing a better job of training them, maybe they would be able to listen better or entertain themselves for a little bit while I make a phone call or try and do some other task that doesn't involve them. In the end, nothing is accomplished effectively, and something needs to change.

I know that most parents struggle with their role - it is a huge responsibility, and probably the most difficult job any of us will ever undertake, particularly because the subtle moments can be the most important ones. There is something very comforting about knowing that countless others understand the feeling of both the lowest lows and the highest highs in this business. Yet, in days or weeks when I can't shift my focus from the avalanche of "downs" I'm dealing with, I can't fathom how it came to be that so many people do this day in and day out. I see my friends who don't have children having more fun then me - there's no nicer way to spin that, they definitely do have more fun than I am having. My mom noted that the difficulty of parenting is probably a large factor in why people have far fewer children (or no children at all) in modern times than they used to.

A lot of people are disparaging about comments like, "I just want to feel like I'm putting my time to good use" from SAHMs, because raising children is a good use of time. I do believe that, but it's not always enjoyable and the reward is far off, which makes it feel less impactful than some other things I could be doing. Furthermore, the weight we are expected to bare as modern parents will so quickly result in burnout that it makes us into desperate and miserable people, and desperate, miserable people aren't the best parents. If we have no way to collect ourselves and instead feel constantly at the end of our rope, of course we can think of nothing else but how to get out of this job as soon as possible.

I know this is exceptionally Freudian, but sometimes I get so overwhelmed with frustration that I bite binkies. If I pick up Ira, I usually need both hands, but want to bring his binky along too, so I put the rim in my mouth to carry it. I find myself chomping down so hard on that rubber to relieve some tension. This is motherhood, people.

Parenting small children doesn't generally stimulate my mind, and that makes me feel like I'm missing out on adulthood. While I think it's good to realize that raising children truly is worthwhile, SAHMs don't need additional guilt over wanting to feel more a part of "real life". I think the fact that so many SAH parents can speak of little else but how defeated they feel says something legitimate about the state of parenting we're faced with. Personally, it gives me dreadlocks. I'm not kidding, I have two dreadlocks. I have been so frazzled and miserable trying to adjust to my new normal, so much that I've neglected my hair majorly. Large tangles got coached into dreadlocks, making me an officially a dreadful parent.

I have asked myself, "am I - and my peers - so pathetic that we can't handle what people have been handling for centuries before us"? I've been thinking about this for two weeks (rewriting this post over and over during nap times), and I've concluded that there are two main societal blockades today that make good parenting exceptionally difficult. I know this sounds so hippy-dippy, but the first thing that I think we've lost that majorly complicates raising small children is communal living. Most of you know that my husband and boys and I are currently living with my parents. This doesn't solve all my problems, but it's worlds better than when I was alone before, because I really was alone so often when we had our own place. My husband - like many husbands and wives - works 40, sometimes 50+ hours a week to take care of us, and on top of that, he goes to school three nights a week. The reality of this situation is that I am effectively a single parent most days. The pressure of being the sole care-giver and instructor of 2 small humans is crushing, and I don't think it was meant to be that way. When we're expected to go it alone and love it (or be good at it), it's a tall order. Looking at history, as well as many other cultures around the world, young parents have immediate access to large extended families as well as their larger community, in a way that many Americans don't.

I found myself so depressed when all my siblings went back to school after the holiday, because when they are here (along with other friends and family), my boys can bounce from one person to the next, not exhausting any one person, and yet still happy as clams and stimulated and loved to their hearts content. All that help allows me to accomplish a few things that I need to get done, as well as be calm and energized when the occasions do arise that I need to step in and discipline them. This segways nicely into the second component that I feel is missing from modern parenting - instruction.

I've really been wracking my brain with the question "how do we learn to parent?" In a healthy communal situation (which I realize is not available to everyone), you have the opportunity to learn from your elders who have experience parenting. So much of what I'm working through in this post is a result of my mom helping to train me as a parent (thanks mom!). Of course, the goal is not for grandparents or anyone else to actually raise your children for you, but their advice and knowledge is a resource that we have forgotten to tap in to in this day and age.

A side note on communal living before I continue: it is looked down upon in Western cultures because it's so often connected to grown people mooching off of others, but that's a broken communal situation. In a healthy community, people are responsible, but help share one another's burdens and get to share in one another's triumphs. Downright Biblical, if you ask me.

Back to learning to parent - is it overwhelming, or is it overwhelming?! No matter what information you absorb before having children, you can not truly understand its meaning until you actually have children, and then much of the time, you change your mind about what you heard before anyway. That, and have no brain cells left from hormones and lack of sleep, so you can't remember what you read.

The "simple" answer to learning to parent is to read about how to do it, right? That is hilarious to me on two levels - first of all, I am a person who loves to read, but have read approximately 2 and a half books since having children because I have at least 12 other exceptionally pressing things I have to get done every day before I could sit down with any kind of book. Secondly, do you have any idea how many parenting books are out there? Possibly a billion, not kidding. Along with the internet, there are so many options that I end up reeling back and closing my eyes instead. I can Google a question as well as the next person (but is what some stranger posted on a message board at 3am really what I want to use as parenting advice?), but then I also end up being bombarded by 10 mini parenting dilemmas a week (should I let my child refuse kisses during the holidays?!?) that I would not have been worried about at all had I not been presented with the question in the first place. Thank you, internet. For the record, I think that article is probably good advice, but I am up to my eyeballs in good advice these days, and sometimes it conflicts with itself.

(this is me right now) 



I have never read a "how-to" parenting book on any subject in its entirety. I'm wary of self help books because I don't believe life can be boiled down to a set of 3 things to remember or the number one thing to avoid. Multiple methods can be found to do just about anything when it comes to parenting, and my general strategy has been to avoid seeking written advice because every source seems to contradict the last, and if you look even one generation back, so many aspects of parenting turn out to be fads. Knowing all the possibilities before I'm faced with a dilemma only makes me more anxious about all the things that could go wrong. How am I supposed to be confident about what the right course of action is when I'm confronted with 10 options, many of which sound reasonable? I end up having to make a judgement call about whether I think what I read makes sense or not, but I don't feel like I have a good enough foundation as a parent to be able to gauge what good sense even is! I try and look at things critically and ask myself, "do I agree just because it's logical or counter-cultural or well written, or is this something I truly think is a good idea"? Ultimately though, I have become unsatisfied with doing nothing because I don't know what to do. Not whole-heartedly pursuing how to be a good parent ends up making my life more difficult because, for instance, sometimes I don't even realize that whatever behavior or situation I'm dealing with is a THING, with a name, that happens with other people's kids too, and therefore I'm not aware that there are tools out there to help me deal with said behavior.

There seems to be no 1 (or even 2 or 3) main schools of thought on parenting today (I feel that there was, when my parents were young). Well, actually, what I've gathered is that there is attachment parenting, and then there's everyone else. I fall somewhere in the "everyone else" category, because I believe that letting your child believe they are the center of the universe doesn't do anyone any favors. It makes me feel like I'm dying when I structure every moment around my children.
I do need to make training them my utmost priority, but not let them control me through my responsibility to them. I realize that's a pretty pointed statement (many, many of my friends do attachment parenting), which leads me to the overall parenting philosophy I hear, which is "do what works for you". I think this is a nice sentiment, but let's face it - not everyone's kids are really that great, so "whatever works" probably isn't true or just isn't actually working. I often hear that "whatever you decide to do, stick with it", and I do believe that children crave consistency. However, I also used to think that that basically meant that all (well, many) parenting roads lead to relatively healthy adults, and it only takes about 5 seconds in the real world to realize that that is a filthy lie. Some people make it, and some get really messed up, you know? It's not like you can just cross your fingers and hope for the best with kids.

A further note on attachment parenting - I'm not saying that I think attachment parenting necessarily leads to entitled or otherwise messed up adults, but I do think giving your child everything they want when they want it will leave with you with no self left, only a slave to your offspring in the body that once was you. Of course that makes people miserable. I also think that attachment parenting has the potential to rob marriages because when everything is child-centered, there is no room to invest in your spouse. Similarly, I think that living in hatred of your role as a stay at home parent can chop your marriage off at the knees (who wants to come home to a constantly miserable, exhausted and spent zombie?), and that's one of the many reasons I'm trying hard to turn this ship around.

Back to parenting philosophies. When people say, "do whatever is right for you", isn't that a thinly veiled "what you're doing sounds wrong to me"? I hate millenial bashing, but seriously, oh millennals, why must we all be so offended by... everything? (This trend actually got a name, it's called outrage porn). I got home from a play date with a friend and her two kids the other day and found myself wondering, "when I was saying how hard it must be to feed her daughter several times a night, did she think I was judging her"? I'm constantly trying to tip toe around every parent or would-be-parent or non-parent that I know, trying not to offend or impose my ideas. Similarly, I find myself getting all bent out of shape when people try and tell me what I should be doing differently. Here's the thing: sometimes we need to be able to hear good advice and consider changing aspects of our parenting, other times, people are crazy and we need to let their crazy roll off our backs. Give me a call if you figure out a no-tears system of telling those two apart.

When it comes down to it, I can be quite confident in some of my parenting choices, but inevitably, someone else thinks it's the most heinous choice I could have made, and then I either question myself or live in fear that other people will think I'm ruining my children. I think the line between "it's none of your damn business" and accepting constructive criticism is made out of spider web silk. I want to be someone who doesn't isn't swayed by every passing breeze, but I also think people who never listen are so arrogant.

Sometimes I crave a situation in which someone would just tell me exactly what to do. But, only stuff I like and agree with. Basically, do all the leg work for me and make me think it was my idea. Wouldn't it be great if there was a step by step, foolproof guide? But I know that if I had that, I'd challenge it and balk at formulas.

What I've come up with so far in parenting 101 is that first of all, you have to come to the conclusion that you have no idea what you're doing and that you need change/help. I have been parenting one situation at a time (which was my intentional parenting philosophy at one point!), but that becomes a problem once your child is a toddler, because they start getting a bit smarter and you have to preempt their behavior rather than run around putting out fires all day. I feel like trial and error is so dangerous when parenting, but even when I do have a plan, I can not dictate my child's every move, and so there remains an aspect of trial and error.  I'm becoming much less of a fan of going in completely blind, though, because you only get one chance sometimes. I can think back to some words that were said or things that were done in my childhood that may have been no more than a passing thought spoken aloud on behalf of the adult speaking to me, but their words or actions shaped me and have stuck with me into adulthood. When I think about that, I'm often terrified that my boys are picking up everything I say and do, and some things that I may do without thinking are sinking in very deeply. Nothing feels more "ready or not, here we go" than parenting.

I'm beginning to see that not having a strategy to follow or a specific goal to reach results in meandering parenting, where everything takes me by surprise, and then the moment is gone and I've lost the chance to teach my sons how to be a responsible, loving, pleasant human beings. Instead, they learn that if I haven't made up my mind about what to do, it's up to them to make the rules. I'm trying to learn to think more long-term and address the myriad issues of each day in such a way that I'm instilling character ("we need to be good stewards of our property and not be wasteful") rather than making ten thousand small rules ("do not stand on that book. or that one. or that one.") to try and corral them into obedience.

Small fixes are at best temporary, because children never agree to stay the same once you've figured them out. I find that when I'm wrestling mightily with my boys' behavior, it reveals my own inner ugliness and my own shortcomings as a parent. I become so lost and frustrated that I want nothing more than to escape my role as a parent, when the real remedy is to lay down my own adulthood where need be, and pour myself in to raising them to be less selfish than I am. My adulthood will resurface eventually, but we can't get their formative childhood years back later. As they are molded into more disciplined beings, I predict that I will feel less compelled to escape them.

I've already realized the truth in this when it comes to disciplining Ishmael. When I am trying to deal with every little situation instead of the behavioral heart of the matter, it is impossible to tell him "no" about everything, so he gets away with a lot, which reinforces to him that anything goes. Eventually though, I become frustrated enough to discipline him after he's disobeyed multiple times in a row. Not only is it unfair to him to discipline on some occasions and not others, it also leads me to discipline out of frustration, and he experiences me losing my temper. Not that I use excessive force or anything, but I've always held that disciplining out of anger is wrong, yet I couldn't see a way around it until understanding that I need to focus on the bigger picture and remain calm and firm when he tests me, rather than letting things slide (because seriously, most of it really isn't a big deal) and then swooping in and laying down the law every 10th incident.

Another major tenant of mine in learning how to parent is to seek the advice of parents with children you admire. My friend Cara told me that we feel like our own situation is the most challenging because we aren't dealing with other people's situations. My friend Jessa assured me that I don't have to find playmates that are exactly Ishmael's age in order for him to be benefited by the company of others. My friend Heather suggested I take Ishmael to the library to help him learn to sit in a group quietly. She also taught me the HALT acronym to run through during a child's meltdown - is he Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired? She even suggested a book to me that I might just read. ;) Many people have commiserated that going from 1 to 2 children is the most difficult jump there is.

My husband kindly reminded me that it is okay not to enjoy parenting all the time - the point is that I do it anyway, and that's what makes a good (and perhaps 1% less selfish?) parent. Similarly, a wise woman at my church told me that I do not have to feel like a good parent, only strive to be one. I do not have to live under the burden of trying to feel happy or accomplished as a parent all the time. How I feel doesn't change the fact that my boys are loved and cared for at the end of the day.

While there is a grain of truth in this, I can be haunted by the notion that if my child does something wrong, it's my fault for not teaching him otherwise. In reality, it is my responsibility to equip my children to know right from wrong, and then it is their responsibility to make the right choice.

Lately, the concept of grace has been presenting itself to me everywhere I look. Simply the idea that I can never be good enough - or even good. But I don't know how to stop trying. I don't know how to divorce the doing the best I can from relying on my own strength, and frankly, the struggle gives me dreadlocks. Although I think I understand the concept of God's grace, I don't understand how it's free to me, because free stuff always feels stolen to me, in some sense (yet so good...). You know what I mean? I always feel like I got the best of someone when I get something for free, and it seems wrong to do that to Jesus, even though I know he's powerful enough not to be robbed by me.

For today, I combed out the dreadlocks and only bit a binky a little bit. That's a good start, right? And I keep trying to remember this: Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. {image credit}

Monday, December 1, 2014

November 2014

I take notes throughout the month so that I don't forget anything important when I look back on my month, and November had so much packed in to it! Some of it feels like it already happened a long time ago. Parenting has had some rough patches this month, and it can be hard to get even the simplest tasks completed, thus the lull in general blogging. I always make sure to do these end-of-the-month posts though, because if nothing else, this blog is my journal.

[winter sketchbook image, even though it's been in the 70s here]

Heard: I am crazy about TV on the Radio's new album, but pretty much everyone is. Here's one of my favorite songs.



Watched: I managed to watch a lot of things this month! Before I forget, the documentary Fruit Hunters is now available on Netflix, and you should go watch it. I watched it in parts on Youtube last year, that's how much I love it. // We got "A Million Ways to Die in the West" from Redbox because the trailer looked hilarious, but it was a total dud. The humor was so low-brow, that is just wasn't funny enough - we didn't even make it half way though the movie. // I watched The Rabbi's Cat, which I quite enjoyed! It's based on some comic books, which helps explain some plot jumps in the movie that were a little abrupt. One of my favorite parts was when one of the characters, a painter, explains to the cat that "painting nature feels like eating a bird: the original was better, but you can't help yourself". This movie has a lot of cultural, relational, and spiritual (as well as cat-ty :)) topics that is incorporates. I liked how it showed friendship between people of so many different backgrounds in a tumultuous part of the world (at least, we in the west think of it as tumultuous, rather than realizing that most days are normal there, most likely). The cat itself cracked me up. // Similar to Chicago, and adapted from Broadway, I bought the movie Nine because I love parts of the soundtrack, but the story was a little bit slow. Marion Cotillard was as stunning as ever, Kate Hudson can't sing, and Sophia Loren looks quite elderly. // Edge of Tomorrow: Live, Die, Repeat almost lost me in the first 10 minutes, but then it suddenly got remarkably entertaining, and stayed unpredictable enough throughout the entire film. In the last minute or so, they wrap everything up in a way that makes absolutely no sense, but the majority of the film was good enough to merit a watch if you haven't seen it before.

Tasted: For Thanksgiving, we cooked an Indian feast! Instead of mashed potatoes, we had samosa. Instead of stuffing, we had biryani, etc. It was a fun twist on things. I made a cranberry pavlova for dessert, which was a little tricky, but I'm hooked on the idea of pavlovas in general! The best new recipe of the month was this creamy ham and rice soup, all the better for being very easy to make. I'm also helping my sister Annelise plan her wedding menu, which I love. I went to a Pampered Chef dinner and had an amazing fall risotto as well as a pepper-pecan brie dip.

Browsed:

Experienced:
  • On the 9th, we celebrated Ira being 100 days old (a Chinese tradition) with friends, family, food, and a pinata. It was lovely. 
  • A friend from church commissioned me to make some Christmas decorations in Hebrew and Arabic for her, and I ended up selling some more to help raise money for my classes as well. 
  • I almost got scammed on Craigslist by someone trying to buy my parent's pool table, but figured it out in time! Beware of cashier's checks, that's the take away. 
  • I voted for the second time in my life, though I didn't have particularly strong opinions about anything this time around. 
  • I started a second-hand shop on Instagram called Retro Riot. Follow me to see all the cool stuff I'm selling. It's also my favorite way to buy awesome clothes for my boys. 
Boys: Ishmael loves bugs to death, quite literally. He calls them "cuuuuute!" when he finds them, but they end up squished from all the love. He's starting to say his own name sometimes, but it can sounds more like "acho" than anything else, at times. He calls Ira's binky the "pink", and when you play hide and seek with him and he pops out of the blanket, he says, "I found me!". I realized that I often ask him to do things rather than tell him to, because he now says "no" (so I have to rephrase it as a non-negotiable). Potty training has basically failed. // Ira now imitates people when they blow bubbles or make some other shapes with their mouths. He's very ticklish, enjoys playing with over-hanging toys in his play pen and the singing mobile, and likes peek-a-boo. He's fascinated by anything flavored that you put on your hand to let him suck on. 

Loved: Having multiple occasions on which to guzzle Martinelli's, having my siblings home from school, and being able to eat dairy again (especially since we're in to the holidays now!). 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Etsy Gift Guide

Too early for Christmas trees? Um, yeah. But not too early to start strategizing about gift giving! This year, I thought I'd share some of my favorite Etsy stores to inspire your holiday shopping, and in true Karissa-fashion, nothing over $50. People love handmade gifts, right? I'm giving them my best effort yet, this year. I'll probably write more about that in another post if my projects go well.

Marbled stuff is a bit of a fad right now, but it is awfully pretty. The shop Natalie As Is has some beautiful marbled stuff available, such as these ribbons. Perfect for the decorator or hostess with the mostess in your life (she'll use it to tie gifts or make a photobooth background, for starters). Five ribbon patterns for $15.


Tea towels ($10-16) from Girls Can Tell are perfectly unisex. They will add personality tucked in to the apron of any friend who loves to spend time in the kitchen.



I don't know very many people who would actually use these, but edible decorations from Andie's Specialty Treats are truly incredible. They could be a perfect gift for a bride who may not want to drop $50 extra dollars decorating her own cake. I think the ferns are my favorite, though they break my gift guide price rule. 50 buttons for $42.50.



I've loved these rock poems from Cori Kindred for ages! I never buy one though, because I know I could make one for myself that would be completely customized to my tastes. I love her idea of using a stone and a word to convey a feeling - how easy to DIY for a friend and make them feel so loved that you put thought in to who they really are. They're about $25 if you don't want to make your own.


Let's not forget something for your cool college-age brothers from Deck Stool! $30 for a wall hook made from an old skateboard.


Another genius gift for guys, $35 for a set of custom grilling rubs from Purpose Design.


For the modernist in your life, consider this lovely decorative bowl (only $15!) from Etco.


Bertie's Closet has a bunch of fun cases for electronics, a great gift for the students in your life. I really like this city-apartment fabric.



If you know anyone with little kids, I guarantee you they will love a fancy tote from Love Joy Create to store their kid's toys in so everything looks a little less hit-by-a-tornado. That's worth $34, right? (Or get them for like $10 at TJ Maxx, just sayin'). Another gift for kiddos that I really like is these custom sheet sets!


And finally, if you like to give a Christmas ornament every year, here are two beautiful options. One from One Clay Bead (they have some other fabulous items as well) and one from Yevginia (another favorite shop).



Do you have a gift buying strategy this year? Share with me your favorite Etsy shops, too! 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

October 2014

With 4 birthdays in the space of 1 week in our family, October really kicks off a fun time of year for us. Plus, people stop focusing on fall and start talking about Christmas - fine by me! ;)

Heard: I love a creative cellist.



Read: I'm attempting to read every children's book we have (many, many) to Ishmael, and reviewing them here as we go along. I also had my first article published in print in the Cleaver Quarterly! Honestly, I think it's far from my best work, but I'm so honored to be a part of the magazine and I'm already working on bettering the process so that my next piece will be stronger. Here's a picture of the cover of my issue (Issue 2). Can you guess which of the stories at the bottom is mine (click the image to enlarge)?

Watched: I'd been wanting to watch Belle ever since I saw the trailer months ago, and while I'm glad the story is out there, it wasn't all that entertaining as a movie. It was very Pride and Predjudice-y, which will make many of you want to run and go see it (and you should! :)), but sometimes those movies leave me rolling my eyes that I just spent 2 and half hours watching conflict over whether a woman is going to marry for love or money. I at least appreciated the added aspect of abolition in Belle. // I also started watching the new show "How to Get Away with Murder" and I love it! It's been quite a while since I binge watched anything out of excitement, and then I dreamed about the show all night! I'm really enjoying the way they're showing you strands of several story lines at once without revealing how they're all related yet.

Tasted: Of course we only discovered this the day before we moved away, but the tacos at El Taco de Mexico on Broadway (near the corner of Jones street) are BOMB. The staff and pricing less so, but I'd still go again just for those tacos. // We also did a DIY Korean BBQ night for the first time with the Gees which was a lot of fun.

Browsed: 
1. These photos of the underground railroad route at night make that journey seem so much more real to me. Look at them slowly, and imagine yourself in the scene.

2. I love the way ink dropped in water, chocolate stirred into batter, or barely mixed paint looks. Feast your eyes!



Experienced: This month, it's kind of like, what didn't happen in our lives? At least I feel like I'm getting into a routine again though, which feels great.
  • First of all, we moved out of our apartment of two years and back in with my parents to save money to finish school. No big deal. The move was pretty stressful, but the living situation is great. 
  • Shortly there after, I quit my office job of 5-ish years to stay home with the boys, though I continue to do small jobs from home. 
  • I got to be a part of my sister and her fiance checking out a venue for their wedding in the Santa Barbara area that they decided to go with in the end, so that's exciting! Annelise also found a wedding dress she really likes on that day. 
  • I met a new mom-friend, Heather, from a Facebook group we're both in for fans of a parenting podcast we listen to. She just moved up here from LA and I'm really enjoying her company and insight. Yah, the internet age! 
  • I attended my first PCPA costume sale. Wasn't quite as wonderous as I was expecting, but I bought a coat that is in the wash after a DIY dye job as I type this - we'll see how it goes. 
  • I road-tripped with some Pampered Chef ladies to a meeting in Oxnard and got pretty jazzed up for a new kind of show we're doing. I've been working on getting back in to the swing of the business after having Ira. 
  • Halloween got rained out, but no one minded too much because it was our first rain in over 6 months. I saw some great costumes on Facebook and was secretly happy to have an excuse not to have to dress up or dress my boys up. There's so much pressure to have an amazing costume and I'm never into it, even though I like to dress up in general. 
  • My dad turned 50 and Annelise turned 22! 
  • Ishmael turned 2, and it was such a wonderful day. We took him to the zoo which he seemed to enjoy, but cake and presents that night were a total joy-fest all around. I made him french onion soup and grilled cheese for dinner (so he could dip all he wanted), watermelon, and a popcorn cake. He was so thrilled about the candles and kept asking us to relight them so he could blow them out again. Punch balloons were also a hit. My heart melted all evening. Jonas bought him a drum which he plays excruciatingly loudly quite early in the morning, and I got him a backpack, which he likes to put on and then say goodbye to me. I had been planning a watermelon themed party for next year, but something better came up, so I used the watermelon stuff I'd already collected this year. I'll have a picture of the table set with all the watermelon stuff, but lest it go to waste, here's a little inspiration board of the watermelon themed things I'd been collecting. I think it's a really cute theme, especially for a kid who loves watermelon, like Ishmael! 

Image credits: watermelon vans, watermelon favors (brilliant craft, I want one), watermelon pinata, watermelon (or strawberry?) balloons, frozen watermelon on a stick (I want to try this), adorable cake-pops. Oh, and of course you'd want to have a watermelon eating contest too. :D 

Boys: Ishmael address everyone by name now ("mom! mom! mom! mom!.... ball" when he wants me to play ball with him). He loves watching hockey on TV with my dad and the other day he came downstairs, still groggy in the morning, went up to my dad and whispered in his ear "hockey...". I giggle every time I think about it! He sometimes asks to hold Ira and then puts a blanket over both their heads, mimicking me situating my nursing cover-up. When Ira was crying the other day, he ran upstairs and got Ira's binky. Potty training isn't going great, but it will eventually happen, right?! When he's upset, he runs funny - either he gallops or crab-steps away from you. He's as sweet and rambunctious as ever. // Ira went through another pretty fussy phase, but had/has the most amiable personality on either end of that spell. He hiccups when he laughs, and I love the shape of his nostrils, like little commas. He was sleeping through the night for a while, but we're back to some middle of the night feedings. // 1. One of my favorite foodie companies, Mouth, launched a collection for moms! What a great gift idea! 2. 50 reasons your toddler is awake right now is pretty hilarious.

Loved: The heat wave, followed by the first rain.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Love Letter to Our First House

I realized as I was thinking of a name for this post that this place isn't even our first house! Well, it is our first house, not our first home. When Jonas and I first got married, we lived in the apartment upstairs from this place, and then moved to a larger apartment downstairs right before we had Ishmael.



I forget that we ever lived upstairs - the downstairs apartment is where we brought both our sons home from the hospital, where we painted the walls, where we bought our first couch. This home had a lot of love poured in to it, and I will miss it very much.

My brothers came over for a visit recently and remarked that driving up the alley makes you feel suddenly like you're entering a third world country. The road is unpaved, there are dumpy wooden shacks full of trash, wild plants, stray cats, a cat's cradle of electrical wires...and our house. It was in a neighborhood that was thought of as sketchy, but we were set far off the street and though our [almost worthless] cars were broken into a few times, we never had any trouble with our home, even when we accidentally left the door open all day when we were gone at work once.

Here's a picture of the outside of the house. You can see all the windows upstairs in our first apartment, and then downstairs, our front door was up the steps on the far side of the bay window. The door in the foreground led to our laundry room, but we didn't use that door often. You can see the gate to the side yard and then one of the windows into our bedroom with the red curtain. The bay window looked into our living room, and the window to its left looked into our kitchen.


The house was a farm house, built in the 1920s I think. I so wish I could have seen it as one big home (it had long been divided into three apartments when we moved in), and I do hope that I can go to the library or public records office and find some old photos of it someday. The home is so old now that although it's address is Broadway, it's no longer on Broadway because buildings have been built between it and the street. This made it very difficult to find on GPS.

The shops right around our house were a smoke shop (with police constantly outside), a Spearmint Rhino club, and a tattoo parlor, though it was run by a very cool couple from our church. We were also right around the corner from a fire station, so there were constant sirens. Once, a car crashed in to the bank sign on the other side of the fence from our house in the middle of the night, which was terrifying. There was also a neighborhood taco truck (which I never saw) that had a very eerie song that it played. We were in a prime spot to hear midnight mariachi bands at the dance hall across the street (the police ended up showing up for that too), and mere steps from the curb for every manner of Santa Maria parade. A block north was the Santa Maria farmer's market, which I miss greatly.

I loved living in an old home, and I definitely want to own a home like it someday. Especially in the apartment upstairs, there were so many storage nooks and crannies of the weirdest shape built into all the tilted attic corners and backs of closets. Right before we moved in downstairs, our landlord refurbished the downstairs apartment and paid Jonas to help him. They replaced the original windows, which were beautiful, but not very efficient and took out this custom made fruit drying system from under the house. Apparently it was decrepit, but I wish I'd gotten to see it first, it sounds so cool!

In the kitchen downstairs, there was this skinny closet door that opened up to let down a wooden "breakfast nook" table. It was so very charming. Another of my favorite aspects of the house were the very tall ceilings. The few things I didn't like about the house were the teeny tiny Jack and Jill bathroom (with no storage and no ventilation) and that the kitchen was so separate from the living room.

It never looked as good as it does in these pictures while we lived there - I spruced it up for the camera and sent the children out of the house. The walls were plaster (hated that) which made hanging anything on them an ordeal beyond my DIY skills, so they are sadly lacking of picture frames.

For everyone who never got to visit while we lived there, here's a little tour.

When you walked in the front door, this was the view. To the left of the desk is the kitchen door, the door in the back led to our bedroom. I bought the antique white desk for $80 out of the money I made working as a graphic design intern at Hardy Diagnostics - my first real job. The shelf-lamp is shoddily covered in some Japanese-character printed paper from the San Francisco Japan Center that we got on our honeymoon. The cowhide rug is from Ikea, and the couch as pictured here is two end pieces of a vintage sectional that I bought off of Central Coast Exchange.


This is more or less the same section of living room, but viewed from the kitchen doorway. From here, you can see the doorway into Ishmael's room and part of our grey accent wall. The original doors had been taken out, but the door jams were still pretty solid.


Here's our study area behind the couch. The glass desk never looked that clean in real life - it was just a place for my "piles" as Jonas calls them (papers, projects in the works) and I did my actual studying in bed. I like that little laptop desk though, it's from Ikea. Jonas actually did use his drafting desk to draw. The neon chair was one of my half-finished projects. You can see that I colored coded our books, which was pretty, fun, and surprisingly easy to navigate. My "inspiration board" is made from string pulled across a large embroidery hoop.


From behind the couch, facing the front door, you can see the mid section of our couch, which fit nicely in the curved window bay. We rolled the blinds all the way up and I nailed those Ikea curtains to the window frame because I didn't want to hang curtain rods. I liked my little basket of "show quilts" (blankets too pretty to use) next to the couch, but it was generally used to hold the curtain back or Ishmael would sit in or and/or dump everything out of it. The antique desk was Jonas' gaming station. You can also see partway into the dining area in this picture.


The original fireplace in this house was taken out, but I wanted a mantel so bad, so my friend Jessa found this white "mantel" for me at a thrift store. I really liked fresh flowers and artwork up there. It was also a handy spot to store living room toys, and before Ishmael was mobile, I styled all those little shelves too. You can see in this picture how our front door didn't seal very well, which allowed a bunch of dust from our unpaved driveway to constantly drift in.


Below are a few of my favorite details from the living room and Ishmael's room - original hardware on Ishmael's closet door, the pulls from the antique desk, and the gold animals from our wedding parading across the doorway into Ishmael's room.


Next is the dining room/kitchen. I'm so bummed I didn't get better pictures of it because it was one of my favorite spaces in the house. It was also the hardest to pack though, so by the time I got to packing it, I was out of time to get it looking perfect and take pictures. I didn't take pictures of the laundry room (which never really looked great) either. Here's the view from above our kitchen table, pulled from a blog post about painting that table. The lower left hand corner of the photo points toward where the doorway into the living room is. Then there's a window in the upper left corner, the grey door to the laundry room, and the rest of the kitchen is to the right of this photo. Our dining room chairs were a wedding gift from my in laws from World Market.


I spent so much time in this kitchen. I actually wasn't a big fan of the remodel or layout, but there are still a lot of great memories here. I bought that Dio De Los Muertos paper garland to make that huge space above the stove - which used to be more cabinets - look less bare. From there, the whole kitchen took on a bit of a Mexican flare, which I loved. People were always asking me about all the bunches of chilies and other stuff hanging up and drying, and I loved that little burro pinata, too. Those alcoves built into the walls were amazing - the one shown here had lotus pods from my wedding bouquet in it, as well as a Turkish tile trivet. The China cabinet was something I had before I got married and one of the few pieces of furniture I cart with me everywhere I go. It was so nice to have a dishwasher in this apartment, even though it didn't work all that well.


This picture was taken right before Ishmael fell off the counter and hit his head - one of the scariest parenting trials so far. The boys were dancing up there after seeing me hop up to take a picture. Oops. :( The left window and doorway were shared with the laundry room (which was mostly windows and a door leading out the side of the house) and the right window looked into the side yard.


Now for our bedroom. I loved having those moody curtains up, but they did throw off the light, so these photos are on the red side. If you were to walk through the door in the living room that was to the left of our desks, this is where you'd be standing. Jonas bought me the Indian wall hangings as a gift when I had Ishmael. Our bed and bedspread, rug, and bookshelf are all from Ikea. The dresser is probably vintage, another thing that I lug around with me when I move, but it needs to be refinished. The mirror leaning against the window at my "vanity table" takes the cake for moving around with me, though. It's this beautiful speckled glass mirror that I found in a junk yard in China when I was probably 12, and I've been packing it around ever since. I also end up painting at least one wall blue in almost every place I live.


Again, this is pretty much the same part of the room, but you can see the door to the bathroom and the other bookcase (the bottom part became Ishmael's fort on most days). You can see our collection of Chinese love knots (the red tassels) hanging up too. To the right of the bookcase was our closet door. The window pictured here looked out on to a fence that we shared with a bank parking lot, and the window to the left (in the photo above) looked into the side yard.


Finally for the bedroom, here's the view from the foot of our bed. I think this wall was sorely lacking in decor, but I wasn't facing it all that often. I build a bed canopy out of PVC pipes which was totally what the room needed, but the dimensions weren't quite right, and I never got around to fixing it and putting it back up. The ceilings were too high for me to hang stuff from by myself, and I inevitably got around to decorating when I was home alone. My bedside table NEVER looked that good in every day life. The door pictured led into the living room.


Some extra details from our bedroom: The second shelf on the bookcase was our "love shrine", which was memorabilia from our relationship. I try and make something like it wherever we go. On top of the dresser was our framed wedding vows, which worked well to hold necklaces, too. And you can see this in the other photos, but I kept my fancier shoes under the dresser, an open invitation for Ishmael to kick them over or play dress up.


Standing in our bedroom, this was the view of the bathroom. More blue walls, and toilet to the left of the window (which looked out on the bank fence). The door you can see leads to Ishmael's room.


Pretty much the only other thing in the bathroom was the bath tub - I took my time in finding a shower curtain I really liked, but finally hit upon this one from Urban Outfitters. Why are shower curtains so expensive?!


Last but not least, is Ishmael's room. This is what you would see if you came in the door attached to the living room. The door at the back of the room led to the bathroom. I loved the green ceiling in here (the color was called "chopped chives", though I was going for a jungle theme) and the sun lamp from Ikea was cool, except that it made everything in the room look yellower, which I was not a fan of. The larger rice hat on the wall was one I picked up on a missions trip in southern China.


Ishmael slept in the vintage blue crib before he moved into the toddler bed, and Ira wasn't old enough to be in the crib before we moved away. We kept most of our jackets in this closet since Ishmael's hung clothes didn't take up much room, and it was one of the only storage spaces in the house (compared to upstairs, which was nothing but storage space!). The "trust" banner was another souvenir from southern China, and finally, the angled door led back into the living room. 


Pretty sweet digs, right? When we left, I felt so sad and worried that I'd never find another place as charming as this one, but I started noticing how many old homes still exist in different pockets of cities I visit, and that made me feel a little bit better. God knows how we'll ever afford to live in an old home in a decent neighborhood, but I'm just not going to worry about it for now. Some of my favorite things or memories about our home was cooking with Jonas and having friends over (eating with my gold-tone flatware from ebay, of course! ;)), my collection of indoor tropical pants, the difference hanging curtains made, the community grapefruit tree, buying a vintage couch I loved (even if I paid more than I should have, gulp!), our love shrine, the palm trees in the bank parking lot that brushed up against our windows and made it look a little bit like we lived in paradise, the vine-engulfed wall in front of our house that made that view less ghetto, fresh cut flowers from the wild plants in our "cul de sac" or from farmer's market runs, having "big girl soap" (foaming, nice smelling) at the sinks, and planting a thriving garden in the side yard next to the mini koi pond that Jonas built. And of course, I can't forget Ishmael learning to walk up and down the front porch steps and all of the other milestones in this house.

We will miss you, 415 S. Broadway, Apt. C!
Thanks for taking the tour. :)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Look With Your Eyes: Makoto Fujimura

Things have been quiet on the blog lately, if you haven't noticed. I go through phases of feeling that there's a lot I want to say and share, and then phases where I have 113 post drafts, but don't feel inspired to finish any of them. More basically than that, I've been barely hanging on trying to manage my school-load on top of the rest of my life. I just finished my class though, so hopefully I can get back into the blogging saddle for a bit. I actually started this art series as easy filler posts between posts that take me longer to compose, and yet I still don't get these out very much. Anyway, here's one for you, and hopefully I get to share more often in November!

My friend Kevin saw an old painting of mine that I instagrammed recently and then suggested I ;ook up this artist, Makoto Fujimura. I like his style a lot (so much gold!) and he even has a series based around the greek word "charis", which is the root of my name! I'd love to get back to making abstract paintings.



His work reminds me of a painting I saw in a textbook once, but for the life of me, I can not track down the name of the painting or the artist! All I remember was that it was a large scale painting (my favorite) that was entirely blue. Sometimes I'm tempted to think, "I could paint that" of that type of work, but the thing I loved about this particular blue painting was the artist's explanation of its meaning. He said it was a representation of God's robes, His glory filling the temple, which was so profound to me. I got this image of incredible blue, flowing robes, and the "frame" of the painting (as in, the "frame" of a photo, not a wooden picture frame) was the robe billowing over your field of vision for a moment, so immense it filled everything. I'm so taken by those moments in which I can visualize an aspect of God that I've never imagined before.

It's funny to look back on the progression of my artistic taste. I had a Russian Ballet coloring book when I was 10 or so, and I insisted on coloring the costumes in no more than 2 colors on the entire page, and they had to be analogous colors. I also had no appreciation for abstract art or modern art. Nowadays, there's no such thing as too many colors on one canvas for me, and abstract art is my favorite, especially when it plays with texture as well.

How have your preferences in art changed since you were younger?
Have you ever seen an abstract painting that made you feel something powerful? 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Chamoy Granola

Breakfast is the hardest meal for me to get behind because I'm not a fan of most breakfast staples, such as eggs, cereal, most yogurt, milk, wet bread, oatmeal, etc. When I add my no-dairy diet on top of that, most of the things I can tolerate for breakfast are out too! No cheese on anything, no butter (though I break that rule), no coffee with creamer, no baked goods with butter or dairy (I brake that one too). So what's a girl to eat? Granola with coconut milk, that's what.


I only call this chamoy granola because chilied mango is an unusual ingredient to add to granola, but it's optional. I like the interest that a bit of chili adds to my breakfast, but regular sweet dried mango is delicious too. I like Trader Joe's bagged fruits and nuts - any combination of the items in that section would be great in this recipe.

I hope you enjoy it!

Time: ~1h 10m

What You'll Need:
Dry Ingredients -
5 cups of rolled oats
5 cups dried fruits and nuts of your choosing, chopped. For this batch, I used coconut strips, sweet shredded coconut, dried cranberries, chili (chamoy) mango, pecans, and cashews
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients -
2 egg whites
3 ripe bananas
8 tbsp of honey, maple syrup, or a combination of the two
6 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400F.

2. Mix dry ingredients in a LARGE mixing bowl. (Here's a visual of the dried
chili mango!)


3. Lightly whisk egg whites and set aside.

4. Mix remainder of wet ingredients together, mashing bananas into a paste with the back of a fork.


5. Pour egg whites into wet ingredients, and then add to dry ingredients, mixing gently. It will be kind of "glistening", but not particularly clumpy.


6. Divide between two cookie sheets and bake for 40 minutes (or until golden brown), turning with a wooden spoon at least once.

Friday, October 10, 2014

September 2014

Oh September, you really dragged me through the dirt. It felt like there were a lot of days where I just wanted that day to be over whether it was because Ishmael was being extra testy or we were in the middle of moving. But I think we're coming out on the other side finally, thus my late month-end post.

Heard: I am loving Jessie Ware. I hope the few singles she's released recently mean a new album is on the way. I love that background echo-y(?) guitar.



Read: A great list of business-growing tactics for introverts. I'm in the middle of like 10 actual books (and have been for a long time...), so one of these days I'll have an real book to report on.

Watched: I'm really enjoying the show, "The Mind of a Chef" (PBS) on Netflix. It's been following David Chang of Momofuku as he learns about different fermented foods, introduces people to the many types of ramen, and shares his recipes for gnocchi made from instant ramen (!) and the ssam burrito, which I started making at home and love! I really love how willing to learn Chang is, and in turn how innovative he is. He doesn't have a big head from being such a successful chef. // I also started watching the new show "Forever" with my welsh-crush Ioan Gruffed starring, but it remains to be seen whether it's actually a good show.

Tasted: Other the ssam burrito, I think the only thing of note that I made was this gumbo and my sister-in-law Gina's pasta salad, but you're gonna have to wait for my someday-cookbook for that recipe. ;)

Browsed:
Clouds from space; doesn't get prettier than this.


A subscription goodie box for your period! What a lovely idea.

In other awesome girl news, Rejected Princesses - badass ladies from history who are too edgy to be Disney-famous. Both Boudica and Hypatia were recently featured. If you don't know who those ladies are, educate yourself!

Introverted cat lady forever. Check it. (p.s. I want this bag)

I'm rooting for my beloved HK these days. These are some beautiful vintage photos from my favorite city.



Experienced: 

  • My first neice, Bree, was born on the 18th! Love, love, love. 
  • I  took Ira to a Dr.s appointment in LA to get his hernia checked out. Turns out he probably doesn't have one (yah!) so I got to enjoy some time with sister Annelise in LA. We meandered through a Korean market, laughed our butts off about funny habits our fiancee/husbands have, and all around had a great time. Every time I'm in LA, I fall a little more in love. 

Boys: Ishmael got to go to Disneyland with our friends the Youngbloods, and loved it (yah!)! He knows a ton of words (new ones every day) and even asks "what's this" for the ones he doesn't know. He says "go!" when he wants you to get out of his space, but is generally very, very polite. He loves to play "ping pong" with any ball and any two remotely oblong objects (plastic banana, anyone? Or plastic horseshoe, perhaps?) and drums on everything. He spent a lot of time this month testing all boundaries and throwing tantrums (I'm sure the craziness of us moving hasn't helped his little world), but generally he knows who's boss and does a good job listening. // Ira has no hernia (hooray!), says "goo" and smiles his little dimples off any time someone gets close to his face. He's sleeping through the night more often than not now, and half the time cries bitterly when you put him down after holding him. // Links: 1. Definitely feeling some hive-pride about this hilarious tumblr started by a woman in a mom FB group I'm a part of. 2. A beautiful poem about motherhood by Billy Collins. 3. Major cryfest over these pictures of births. 4. I liked these guidelines for talking about sex with your kids. Number 3 seemed particularly novel - don't encourage daughters to hide their crushes or feel ashamed of what is natural by all the "daddy with a shotgun" talk. 5. A great reminder that American parenting isn't as effortless as French parenting can appear to be. Can you believe that the U.S. is one of the only countries in the world that doesn't guarantee some kind of maternity leave?! That puts us on par with Swaziland, for God's sake (no offense, Swaziland). I expect this to change ASAP, and I hope I get to be a part of it.

Loved: Brunch with my best friend and a thoughtful gift for Ira from another friend at church. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fall-Hating, 5th Ed.

Unfortunately, it is now officially Fall. I don't think anyone who reads this blog or knows me is unaware of my disdain for kale, pumpkin spice, or the season of Fall. This is my 5th annual post about fall-hatred, and this year I'm back to highlighting the few (or simply alternative) things I can muster appreciation for in this foul time of year. I know you've all been waiting with baited breath, so let's do this thing...

But wait. First, I must get a little bit of hatin' off my chest. I found this deplorable "fall bucket list", which only reminded me more of why I hate fall. Even the color scheme is yucky, yucky, yucky. Besides "drink fancy coffee" and "go on two dates" (let's be real here, those things have nothing to do with fall) and perhaps "apple picking" (because: food), everything on this list could be replaced with "slit your wrists" in my book.

Here are some less wrist-slitty things though.


I'm so proud of myself for liking these things. I can only explain my draw to the first image being some combo of old-world and gold. As for the second, nuts and berries are a level of fall that I can handle. {images: 1, 2}


As for these, again, food. But I actually think these are both thoughtful fall color pallets. Don't you agree? And don't they feel so much more fresh and alive than "the Starbucks pallet"? {images: 1, 2}


I'm not in to flower crowns or knits either (humbug!) but I manage to find this first image charming. I think it's the colors. And I do really like flowers. Also, I love me a statement coat, especially in my favorite color. If you're smitten for this color like I am, check out this beautiful lip stain. {images: 1, 2} P.S. In our ongoing pillow-talk questions game, Jonas recently asked me "if you could be the patron saint of anything, what would it be"? One of my answers was the patron saint of black pointy-toe heels. Swoon.

If I'm being honest, one of the things I like least about Fall is the mass hysteria over it. I feel like everyone falls (no pun intended) for what I call "the Starbucks pallet" or cozy warm colors and hot chocolate and pumpkin raviolis and apple pie. Not that those things aren't wonderful - it's just that for some reason, this season in particular seems to be represented by a very narrow set of images and the lack of creativity in it all makes me insane.

One craft I saw in Martha Stewart magazine that I did think was adorable are these candy corn on the cobs. My mom used to make popcorn-candy cakes for our birthdays - they're so delicious because it's slightly salty, the perfect amount of chewy, and you can customize what candy you want in it. I never thought to shape them into corn cobs and wrap them in brown paper though, which is probably why I'm not a millionaire yet.



I would slink off in a bad mood to hibernate until December 1st, but the thing is, California doesn't even have a Fall season! Which is awesome for me. And yet... people (ahem, women of facebook) feel the urge to remind everyone that it's fall somewhere in the world. L.A., I'll always love you. So far, global warming is working in my favor making California a bit warmer, but I might have to break up with it (global warming, that is) if it every brings real fall to L.A.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Two's A Lot of Company

You know how motivational speakers are always bagging on people for answer inauthentically to the question, "how are you?". Granted, it is kind of lame when people say, "fine", because we all know that usually means "not fine", but seriously, most of us are not up for spilling our emotional guts to every person who asks, "how are you", which happens to be most people you run in to. My go-to answer to that question, in an effort to sound like I'm really responding to the question, but without burdening the person with my real problems is "tired". It's almost always true in one sense, and it's a totally acceptable mom answer. I just may not divulge that "tired" might mean "I'm really, really damn tired of trying to make my toddler eat one bite of regular food" or "I'm tired of being stressed out by working three jobs and still not making enough money to pay my bills" or sometimes just "so physically tired that my eyesockets curse the day they were incorporated into my body. They're so sore from tiredness".

But recently, "tired" isn't even cutting it. Now, I respond with a peppy (inwardly rueful), "surviving"! And that sounds like a generous statement sometimes. Some days, parenting makes the fact that there's still air circulating in your lungs at the end of the day a miracle. It's one of those "I laugh, only to keep from crying" things. Another new favorite response is, "taking it one day at a time," delivered as if that's the most delightful state a person could wish to be in. People usually smile and nod, and back away slowly. I don't blame them, I smell like fermented milk.

The kicker is that both my boys are great kids. It's just that there's two of them.
If one of them is even remotely troublesome, things get cray, 'cause you have to deal with the one, yet there's another one, just waiting in the wings to start crying or choking or sticking their fingers in electric sockets since you clearly don't love them if you're not staring them straight in the eyes.

I've always thought it was sad, maybe even a little lame, when parents act as if two kids is all they can handle and decide not to have more. Ha. Ha. Ha. I'm on my way to do penance at the alter of what-an-ignorant-person-I-was-and-I-owe-all-parents-a-sincere-apology-if-I-ever-made-them-feel-like-they-should-suck-it-up-and-have-more-kids.

I know it's too early to make this decision, but I'm feeling some "all done" vibes. Yet I know that this time will pass and I'll forget how grueling it is, and decide I want more kids, and the whole thing will repeat itself. God was real tricky by making "mom brain" a real thing after you have kids - I think it's a coping mechanism/conspiracy so that we keep the human race alive. If I weren't considerably more scatterbrained and forgetful than I used to be, maybe I would remember the hard moments more vividly and decide that having 4 children (if we decide to try that) will probably kill me. The author of this article in Slate recalls talking to a friend about how difficult her four-month-old was, and the friend responded by telling her that when her child was really giving her a run for her money, she and her husband had a running joke about all the ways they could blow up their genitals so that this would never, ever happen again. Sometimes little kids are the best birth control.

I'm a part of this mom's group on Facebook that I love, not least because it reminds me every single day that other people are also spending a moment here and there ignoring their screaming children in an effort not to strangle themselves with the nearest swaddling wrap. I love the solidarity, but it also makes me wonder, how is it that so many of us are doing this, around the globe, when we all feel like crying and gnashing our teeth over it? I know the answer, but sometimes it's hard to feel it: ultimately, having kids is SO worth it. It just hurts real bad, sometimes.

Another cliche I always rolled my eyes at was that being a stay at home mom was a "real job." Well, I'm here to prostrate myself at the altar of I-used-to-be-a-real-idiot once again, because I'll be darned if being a stay at home mom isn't 30 times harder than any "real job" I've ever had. There is no escaping my maniacal little bosses, and you know that your lunch break is over when someone decides to vomit all over the floor.

I find myself wishing there were tranquilizer darts for children. Not to totally knock them out, because I immediately start missing them when they're not ripping my hair out, but maybe just to take things down a notch, you know? Two problems: totally illegal, and also, it would be so addictive. You'd start out saying, "wow this is most insane they've ever been, probably a good time to reel this in *thwak [that's the sound of a miniature arrow leaving the poison dart gun]", but pretty soon, you'd be telling yourself how every day was the craziest yet (just to get that peace and quiet that came from using the little darts), and you'd either run out of darts and have to readjust to all the crazy, or you'd be able to get some really quality sleep, and we just couldn't let parents be having that sort of thing. It's frightening when you realize that the only difference between you and the crazy people in prison is the grace of God and that last minuscule shred of self restraint that keeps you from acting upon the feelings of occasional rage and utter at-the-end-of-your-rope-ness.

I call this illustration, "LALALA, I can't hear the all-encompassing mayhem that is my life right now!"



I should be so good at this mom thing - my boys think each other are the best (hooray!), for now, and despite a rough first month, Ira has turned out to be a super chill baby. I'll be darned if he's not actually a HAPPY baby. So. much. smiling. (Adorbs). And Ishmael is doing great listening and is so darn tootin' cute and funny. It's just that his energy levels are through the roof. I probably say "no" 100 times a day, and that's when I'm in lazy mode about keeping his limbs from breaking. Just now, I didn't even tell him to stop licking the mirror and then rubbing his fingers in the residual slime. Oh, and now he's licking my feet. He's not even being bad most of the time, he's just being, you know... two years old. I somehow expect him to be this refined miniature adult who would enjoy sitting cross-legged next to me on the couch and sipping cocktails while reading the New Yorker. I don't really begrudge the fact that he'd rather straddle the back of the couch and ask me for juice no less than 72 times, I just don't know why it continues to make me feel inconvenienced. You think I'd be over feeling put out by the requests of my children (I mean, it's so selfish! But I'm being real here), but sometimes I just feel an urge to drink alcohol in the morning. Which must be a cultural reflex, because alcohol doesn't make me feel relaxed or dull to real life or anything like that. Maybe I just realize that it's something I can't share with children, and therefore it sounds like nirvana.

It's not that I don't adore my kids and think they're great. I think it's more that I don't feel like a great parent a lot of the time, and it's a drag to be daily reminded of how human and petty and impatient I am.

Another thing that's difficult about having two kids is that the guilt level goes up. I'm trying to keep them both (and the husband, and the house) in a tolerable state of existence, but I end up feeling like I can't give anything as much attention as it craves or deserves because I'm spread a wee bit thinner than before. If you're the parent of two or more, I think you will find this apology letter to the second child worth a read (it's funny and sweet at the same time). "Dearest second child, I'm sorry I don't know any facts about you..."

Sometimes it feels humiliating to be so defeated by such tiny people. Ishmael naps for about an hour in the mornings, and sometimes I spend that whole time calming down from the before-nap period. Most of you have probably heard me grumbling about how infancy is not my favorite stage. I feel kind of guilty, because Ishmael is at an age where I daily have a heart-crushing pang of love for how sweet and funny he is, and I want those moments to never end. I don't get those moments with babies (even the ones I enjoy, I'm okay when they're gone). Except when I feel the exact opposite. Now that Ira is all coos and big smiles, I want more of that and less of Ishmael's telling me he needs to use the toilet AFTER pooping in his pants. We almost made it the other day, but instead, a big ol' poop log landed on the floor in between the diaper and the toilet. And then I stepped in it.

If we don't have more kids, I know I'm going to regret not having more later down the road. But if we do have more kids, well then... we have more kids to deal with. The question becomes, have them all in close succession now and grit through the terrors of it (and probably be completely frazzled and unable to give any one of them enough attention) or wait until the first two are older and then start all over again when we have even less energy than we have now.

When I do open up and tell people how frustrated or exhausted I am with my lack of supermom skills, they say, "why don't you just ask for help?!" Girl, I AM! The other day, I got to the point where I was like, "okay, today, I need help with these kids, it's been a while since I've called in reinforcements." Then I realized it had only been two days since I'd had someone take at least one of them for a large part of the day. Come to think of it, I'm never completely alone with both of them from the moment we wake up to the moment they go to bed. If Jonas isn't home, 80% of the time a friend comes by for a few hours or we go visit the Grandparents, or the Grandparents take one or both kids for the afternoon (or even overnight, as the case was a few weeks ago when Jonas and I were both super sick!). I seriously have a village of support and STILL feel like I'm losing my mind 60% of the time of the 20% of time I spend alone with them. That makes me feel kind of pathetic, and makes me want to do this on my own a little bit more (but oh dear God, not really). Why is it that children always act way better around other people anyway, leading everyone to think you're complaining about parenting the two sweetest angels that were ever deposited on this planet? I'm not lying, people, sometimes they really get wild.

Well, I'm off to continue wrangling my two tiny mammals to the best of my ability. Ishmael just woke up from his nap, and I'll be darned if a little bit of good sleep doesn't cover a multitude of sins. Maybe Zen Mother of my dreams is only a few nights of good sleep away after all... 
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