January 26, 2012

Thank Heavens for Little Girls

Since rediscovering Gigi as a teenager, I've found this song somewhat... disturbing.

It is much more so in the movie- the lead up to the song is Maurice Chevalier ogling mature women, younger women, barely pubescent girls, and then a small child.  At which point he breaks into this song.

The meaning is pretty clear.  Little girls are awesome, because they turn into sex objects.

But where the line is between "little girls get bigger every day" and "I'd like to hit that" gets blurred more and more and more.  I write this now, not just because I recently read and very much enjoyed a post about the ridiculous over sexualization of small children by their own parents, but because an old friend of mine posted a video of a group of seven year olds in a dance competition to facebook.

I know, I'm hormonal and pregnant-crazy right now, but this video GENUINELY upset me.

Take a peek.

God, I wish it wouldn't immediately suggest equally disturbing child dance routines.

Let's skip right past the part where we talk about how impressive it is that all of these girls are such good dancers.  Because yes, they perform very well.  Let's skip past the part where lip-synching to the inappropriate lyrics is the problem we want to talk about.  ("Pull me into your arms, say I'm the one you OWN?"  Sorry, I said we'd skip that bit...)

Let's just talk about what we're telling these girls about the value of female sexuality.  Because that's a puzzler, right there.

On the one hand, this is a song that, don't ask me why, is frequently touted as an anthem of modern feminism. This song is, in fact, about using your sexuality to get back at a man who didn't marry you in order to validate you sexuality.  And to a parent that didn't actually bother to actually listen to the song, you might assume that this girl-power kind of mega-hit might be a good thing for your seven year olds to dance to.

But who the hell approved those moves?

And who on EARTH justified those costumes?  Because what they're wearing is basically the same thing that this model is showing off for Frederick's of Hollywood.  I found this image by going to the Frederick's website, clicking the category "Ultra Sexy," and then downloading one of the first images that popped up.  All it's missing are the fishnet stockings.

I suppose I should just be grateful those girls weren't also in garter belts.

It's one thing to have little girls dressed up in lingerie.  I get little girls- for seven year old girls, dress up clothess are pretty much dress up clothes. But that isn't what was happening here.  This was something different.

This was putting seven year old children into lingerie, having them bump and grind to lyrics about adult men humping them on the dance floor, and then having them perform those actions in front of a screaming crowd.

That is giving little girls a complete message, intentional or not.  And that message is, "You are a sex object."

Not, "When you grow up you will be a sex object."

Not, "Your worth will be tied up in your success as a sex object... when you're a grown up."

Maybe I'm old fashioned.  Maybe I'm hyper-protective as a mother of small girls.  Maybe those children won't hit high school, determined to be the most risque dancer at the Prom, or obsessed with how many boys want to see them with their clothes off.

So, as I asked before, what are these children learning about the VALUE of their sexuality?  Because let's be frank, female sexuality is valuable.

Female sexuality is the basis for conflicts world over.  Female sexuality is a constant concern for both women and men here, in the developed world, where women enjoy nearly equal rights with men.

It is something that can be used against women by men, and by other women.  It is something that our culture tries very hard to get women to use against each other.

"All the Single Ladies" has always bothered me because it insinuates that the only use for female sexuality is to attract a husband.  And I have a huge problem with that.  It's the flip side of the problem I have with abstinence only education- it ignores an entire world of sexual experience and empowerment.

What this dance routine teaches the girls about the value of their sexuality is that it only has value if it is displayed, and that it already exists.  That, despite being seven years old, those girls are sexual beings.  And that their sexuality is something to be constantly shown off- proven.

These children are learning that they hold power over adults, adults who scream and swoon and clap and cheer for them, because they are all sexual beings.

And as horrifying as it is, they DO hold that power over adults, because those adults might actually consider the seven year old girls in lingerie to BE sexual beings.

And no seven year old girl, despite how cute she might find Justin Bieber, should hold that kind of sway over somebody who has achieved conscious sexuality.  Those are the lessons that validate every Humbert Humbert, every adult who believes that children lead sexual lives and are capable of consenting to sexual acts.

So in some sick way, this dance routine may have empowered those girls to protect themselves from the pedophiles of the world.  To disarm the Humberts and reject them as adults, conscious of the sexual nature of their interactions.

But that's about power, not value.  And when somebody uses their sexuality as a weapon, they aren't acting as though they value it.

And how can you value your sexuality as an adult, when from the age of seven you used it for petty gain, and without regard to your own real needs and wants.  What happens when they attempt to maintain an emotional relationship that involves sex, and cannot separate sex as an expression of love and sex as an expression of power?

CAN they ever learn to see sex as an expression of love?  Are they then doomed to use their sexuality as Beyonce encourages, just to make men jealous of each other so that one will eventually "put a ring on it" and then "own" her?

The two moves in the dance routine that bother me the most come at the beginning and at the end.  At the beginning, the girls strut with their hands to their chest, as though pushing forward their completely non-existent breasts.  It is an acknowledgement that they just are not physically mature enough to properly represent all of the sexuality of their routine.

At the end of the routine, the girls shake their hips in a humping motion at the very front edge of the stage, with looks of defiance and anger on their faces.

They seem to be actually taunting the imaginary subject of the song- "THIS is what I'm going to give to somebody else, just to get back at you."

What bothers me the most about that moment is how they must have been coached.  What their coach MUST have had to say to them to get the results they wanted.  How at least one of those girls had to have asked why they needed to make angry faces.  What message that tells them about sex.

What it tells me is that you USE sex to punish people.  And that is just plain unhealthy for anyone.  No matter how old or young.

But this is their induction into the world of sex.  This is their framework.  When they do start becoming sexual beings, as adolescents or adults, the world of sex will be to them one of a constant battle for power.  Of vindictiveness and ulterior motives and above all, a need for attention.

I don't believe in lying to my children.  I won't be telling them that sex is something that only mommies and daddies do, or that it's a magical thing that happens when two people love each other.  I plan on telling them the truth, that people does it because it feels good, but that it means MORE than that.  And that you should never treat your sexuality as a weapon, or as a burden.  That your sexuality is simply a part of who you are, and you don't need to show it off to know it's there... but that you can do what YOU WANT to do with it, that nobody else can or should dictate what you do with it.  Even if they're just implying, or pressuring you to do something with it.  It's yours, it's your private property.  And if it is your wish to display it, you must do so respectfully and consentually.  That when you use your sexuality as a weapon, it IS an act of aggression against another human being.  That there's a difference between games and an attack.  And that whenever you use something beautiful to hurt another person, you damage that thing irreparably.

That's a lesson for boys and girls alike.  Regardless of sexual orientation.

But the girls in the above dance routine may never understand that.  They may never understand that they have power over their OWN bodies, instead of their bodies simply holding power over others.

I am sad for those girls.  I am furious at those girls' parents.

I'm sad for women everywhere, who nobody ever taught to honor and respect and treasure what their bodies can do for THEM, to own their sexuality and take pride in it, and VALUE it.

And, for the love of God, not to impose it in this way on children far too young to understand.

January 25, 2012

Top Ten Pregnancy Offenses

This being my second time down the pregnancy trail, I've learned a great deal about the power of selective memory.

That, and how drastically my own pregnancies can differ from those of other women.

This pregnancy, my SPD and my heartburn are MUCH better than last time around.  But I am SO MUCH MORE TIRED!  This time, I've had more friends go through pregnancy, and I've been up close and personal with a lot of other women dealing with the kind of crap that pregnant ladies have to go through.

Every pregnancy is different, even for a single person who gets pregnant on different occasions.

But there are some universal pregnancy facts- nay, warnings.  There are things that, no matter what, you should never ever ever say or do to pregnant women.  And here, for your enjoyment and in no particular order, are the worst of them.

"You look great!"
1. Do not comment on a pregnant woman's size.  Period.  No, "Oh, you're barely showing!"  Or, "You're so big!"  Or God help you, "Are you having twins?!?"  Nine times out of ten, regardless of your intention, you're going to be being an ass.  I cannot STAND it when people tell me I'm barely showing.  Yes, I know to you it looks like there's not much bump there, but it IS- it's just cleverly camouflaged by my rapidly swelling breasts.  Yet another thing I do not need you to comment on.  So while I merely look like I've put on a bunch of weight everywhere, I haven't.  It's all right in the front- in those female parts that get bigger when there's a baby on board.  There is, in fact, only one thing you should EVER say to a pregnant woman about her appearance.  "You look great."  Whether or not it's true.  Whether or not you have any idea what she looked like before.  "You look great," or a similar variation thereof, is ALWAYS a compliment.  But it is more than a compliment, it is also a validation that despite probably being exhausted and probably having vomited recently and probably feeling entirely un-cute in her pregnancy- and not necessarily MATERNITY- clothing, she looks great.  So that is what you say. Period.

2. Never touch without being first invited to do so.  There are some implicit invitations.  If you are invited to the baby shower, and you are AT the baby shower, you may touch the belly.  It is relevant.  If you are doctor who is likely to be attending the birth of the baby inside of the belly, you may go ahead and touch the belly.  If you are absolutely anybody else- you MUST get permission before attempting to touch the belly.  Lucky me, this was never a concern.  No strangers ever ran up to rub my belly.  Perhaps this was because I always looked so angry and irritable and ready to eat lone strangers that they avoided me.  And if they had put a hand on me without my permission, they would have lost it.  No matter how well you know a pregnant lady, ASK before you touch the belly.

3. Never make a negative comment about a name.  No matter how dreadful you think it is.  It is just not any of your business what somebody names their child- so unless you have something nice to say you just keep it to yourself.  I could be planning on naming my child Wadsworth Daffodil Bumbledum, and you have no business telling me that it is in any way a bad idea.  MY child, MY reasons, MY preferences.  Yours just plain do not matter.  Do not tell me that my preferences for names are to "ethnic."  I'M ethnic.  Do not tell me that my choices for names are too old-fashioned.  They are probably the names of deceased loved ones, who thankfully, died in their old age.  Of COURSE they're old fashioned.  Do not tell me that you once knew somebody by that name and they were a big jerk.  I forgot, everybody named Caitlin or Matthew is an enormous d-bag.  I'll change my selection immediately to suit you.  Do not tell me that my child's name is "weird," I promise you that I think there are weirder names out there.  Do not tell me I should change the spelling, or use a similar name from a different language.  I have not just pulled a name out of a hat.  I have put thought into this, and you are criticizing something with a lot of personal meaning and import.  And for the love of all that is decent, do not tell me that my other child/ren have beautiful names, and it would be a shame for only one to have a horrid ugly name.  Not. your. place.

4. Do not make fun of pregnant ladies for their flatulence, frequent urination, heartburn, or acne.  If the pregnant lady in question is a friend of yours, and SHE makes fun of HERSELF, that is one thing.  But do not instigate these jokes.  She is undoubtedly sensitive about how awkward it is to be pregnant.  Like being a teenager.  Only pregnant.  And without the stamina.  Give her a break.

5. Do not smile knowingly while she complains about how miserable she is.  If she is telling you that she is in pain, or that she is uncomfortable, or that she is unhappy, don't patronize her and tell her to enjoy herself.  She knows that pregnancy is temporary.  She also knows that she is NOT ENJOYING IT.  That is precisely what she is telling you.  If she tells you that she is having a bad time, SYMPATHIZE, tell her that when it's all over it will so worth it, and then move on.  Don't act like you know better than she does how "precious" this time is.  She knows.  She also knows that her heartburn is peeling the enamel off of her teeth and that she has stretch marks that will forever keep her out of a bikini.  She's an adult, not a kid who didn't get the flavor ice cream she wanted.  Wipe that smirk off your face and tell her she looks great.

6. Don't make blanket statements about the possible appearance of her baby.  No, "Oh, wouldn't it be a shame if it had your hair," or, "If it has it's grandma's nose, it better be a boy."  First of all, there is no doubt she has her own preferences in this department.  She probably has all sorts of her own issues with her appearance, and she doesn't need you reinforcing them.  Second of all, nobody can control what the baby will look like.  And even if the baby comes out with six eyes, nine legs, ambiguous genitalia on both of its feet and an extra mouth in the middle of its stomach, you will be obligated to tell the parents how cute it is.  And that will be much harder if you have to eat your words.  Pretend it's already here, and however it looks is adorable.

7. Do not smirk at the other children of the pregnant lady in question, and remark, "Looks like you're going to have your hands full!"  As anybody with ONE child knows, she's already got her hands full.  As any woman pregnant with her first child knows, she is about to have full hands as well.  Every woman knows that a baby is a lot of work, none better than a woman who has had a few already.  And reminding her that things are about to get much more complicated for her family- which as you stand there smirking already consists of several children who are covering themselves in their lunches and running amok in the grocery store- is just not nice.  If you must say anything, tell her that it seems she really has a handle on her incredibly well behaved children, and the next one will be a breeze.  Lie, if you must.

BWS tips button8. Do not criticize her parenting choices when it comes to the new baby.  If she's having it at home, don't tell her that she's stupid.  If she's planning to formula feed, don't tell her she's abusive.  If she's planning on starting it in music classes when it's four months old, don't tell her that she's crazy.  No matter how much you disagree with her, do not tell her that she is doing the whole parenting thing wrong.  We all go into this blind.  If she's trying to do anything genuinely nuts, she'll figure it out soon enough.  And if not, you're just making things harder for her by criticizing her in advance.  Lay off.

9. Never regale her with tales of births gone wrong.  She doesn't need to hear all about your friend's aunt who died because she couldn't deliver the placenta, or your mother's cousin's great-niece, who got septic from delivery and lost three of her limbs, or your dentist's brother's daughter-in-law who's baby got stuck in the birth canal and is now blind and has some sort of palsy.  I promise you, she already has enough birth related anxiety.  If there is ANYTHING AT ALL that she is actually in danger of suffering, her medical provider and personal medical history will have warned her.  You do not need to make birth terrifying. For most pregnant women, it already is.  Just keep your mouth shut.

10. Do not ask her when she'll be getting pregnant again.  Just let her get through this one, and when she's ready to talk about starting the whole magical show all over again, she'll let you know.  If she wants to. Because once again, this is just not any of your business.

Now, me and all the other pregnant ladies can go crawl back under our rocks.

Pregnant- again.

January 24, 2012

Potty Training the Becoming SuperMommy Way

Warning:  This post is all about poo and pee.

"Potty Time with Abby" and "Everyone Poops"
It finally happened.  The morning sickness and fatigue mostly passed, the anxieties over travel and the holidays faded, and I buckled down.

It was time to *really* potty train my children.

Almost a year ago, I made the same decision.  They were walking, they were kind of sort of talking, and they were holding in their bodily functions until massive outpourings occurred.  The time seemed ripe.

We potty trained for a week.  During that week, both girls peed in the potty.  A few times.

And then stuff started happening again, and we sort of gave it up.  But the potties have remained out, objects of occasional curiosity, playtime, or even inspiration.

So twelve days ago, I took the plunge.  I called the diaper service and told them to cut our diaper order by two thirds.  I bought a bag of conversation hearts (the girls love hearts and they love candy) as bribes and rewards, and I got a new Swiffer.

The time was nigh.
Who wouldn't void their bladder for one of these?

On MLK Day, rather than work to benefit my neighborhood, country, or planet, I undertook the great community service of potty training my children.  (Yeah, that's a total cop out.  I was just happy to have a whole day where I was free to stay home.)

How does potty training work?  I have no idea.  I have no clue how most people do this.  I only know what made the most sense to me, and that was why I had put it off so long.  I figured that the best way, perhaps the only way, to potty train my children was to keep them naked.

That way, if they peed or pooed, they would KNOW IT.  That way, if I said, "Run to the potty!  Go go go go go!"  They wouldn't need to worry about the whole pants issue.  That way, they would figure out pretty darn quick how many advantages there are to going in the potty, rather than in a diaper.  Or... you know... on the floor.

Our first morning was utter chaos.  We marched straight away to the bathroom. For nearly an hour, we sat.  Me on a stool, the girls on their potties.  We sat, we read an entire library of potty-themed books, and we drank chocolate milk while we waited.

Eventually, both children peed in the potty.

SUCCESS! thought I.

I relocated the children to their highchairs-cushions removed and replaced with Sham-Wows- to *finally* eat breakfast.

SI finished the meal by declaring in a state of panic that she needed a clean diaper.  I plopped her onto the floor and told her to go to the potty, now!  And I checked the disaster that she must have left in her chair.

The cause for much celebration.
There was none.

As I was confusedly marveling at the entirely mundane sight of a dry Sham-Wow, SI returned from the bathroom, ecstatic.

"Mommy!  I make yellow poo!"


"I make yellow poo!"

"...you did what?????"

I followed her into the bathroom, and lo and behold, my child had gone to the potty.

There was much celebration.  Hugs.  High fives everywhere.  Candy hearts.  A ticker tape parade.  Skywriting.  It was epic.

DD wanted in on this.  She sat on the potty.  For what felt like the rest of the morning, she sat.  When I finally freed her, she immediately peed on the floor.  And burst into tears.

I tried to tell her that it was okay, and that mistakes happen, and that was okay because learning to use the potty takes time.  SI promptly used the potty again, and began her refrain of, "I make yellow poo!"

DD rallied to congratulate SI, and eventually calmed down.

And then she peed on the floor again.

SI began to take outrageous delight in announcing, "Debbah poo on the floor!"

This whole pee/poo distinction obviously needed some work.  But every time SI mentioned it, DD would begin to cry again.

It was not quite time for lunch.  I had planned on skipping lunch, opting instead for a constant availability of beverages and salty snacks, mostly goldfish crackers.  They weren't hungry.  And just as I was wondering if, without lunch, it might be nap time, SI ran away.  A few moments later, she came back into the room, whining as though something very upsetting had happened.  My heart dropped.  "What's wrong?  Did you have an accident?"  She nodded and whined, and grabbed my hand to lead me to... the bathroom.

Where sitting in her potty was a gigantic turd.
Paper on the floor- good for puppies and toddlers.

I was beyond ecstatic.  I threw her in the air, hugged her, high fived, everything I could think of, while I chanted, "You pooed in the potty!  You pooed in the potty!"

...parenting is so dignified.

Once SI figured out that the thing that had just happened to her was not, in fact, a sign that her ability to make "yellow poo" had somehow transformed into something sinister, she joined me in my jubilation.

DD promptly peed on the floor again, setting off her next bout of woe and misery.

By the time the day had ended, SI had one- just one- accident outside of the potty.  And it was in her chair.  DD had four, but managed to pee into the potty twice.

And so it continued for another three days.  SI peeing and pooing in the potty like she'd been doing it forever, and DD peeing over and over on the floor.  Each time, she obviously felt humiliated and wronged, and at the same time very, very guilty.

Dear readers, I never- NEVER- told her that it was a bad thing to pee on the floor.  Never.  I tried and tried to tell her that it was okay.  That we all make mistakes.  That it would get easier, and that she was learning.

She didn't believe me.

I started putting big sheets of newsprint on the floor.  I figure, hey, it works with puppies!  It was SO MUCH EASIER to clean up those messes when they were already being absorbed, and the girls were happy to spend all day playing with crayon on the "big paper."  It was, I feel, a stroke of potty training genius.  I still wish I had considered how many pairs of socks we might go through in this process, though.  It turns out, a lot.

And then the turnaround day came.  Only one accident, and halfway through, she stopped, ran to the potty, and sat down.

It's hard to be grateful for steps like that when it means you have to wash the hallway rug, but still.

This child is seriously pleased with herself.
And since then?  No accidents.  None.

She still won't just up and go to the potty in the middle of playing.  She still needs to be reminded, and occasionally argued with in order to make her stop playing with crayons and sit down on the potty for a while.  But once she's there, she knows what to do.  It takes her a little time, but she does it.  And then she gets SO EXCITED!  She gets SO PROUD!  She pumps her little fists in the air, high fives everyone a hundred times, and then demands a treat.

It's a nice change.

Tomorrow, we switch to training pants.  An obstacle between the bodily functions and the potty.

But after training pants come underwear, and after underwear?  My children get to wear clothes again.  They are SO EXCITED about underpants, you'd think I bought them some made of gold.

We're still using diapers at nap time and at night, and those are the ONLY times that DD will poo.  She must be so backed up!  I don't know how long it's going to take to get through that, but I'm confident that it won't be too long.  Perhaps we timed potty training with a growth spurt- she never really poops a lot during a growth spurt.

And me?  My pregnant legs are KILLING me!  All those hours, crouched on a stool in the bathroom.  The pregnancy leg cramps have been a problem.  And what with the constant availability of salty (and, sadly, fatty) snacks all over the house, I have been eating badly.  My poor gall bladder is furious.

But I haven't had to change more than six diapers a day in over a week.

It's amazing.

Hopefully, we'll be out of diapers entirely, or at least during the whole day, before Baby X gets here.  The girls have almost six months to get good at this, so I'm pretty confident.

I've never had only one child in diapers.  I wonder what that's like...

A note: I had been considering writing this post all week, as it was happening, but I just couldn't decide about whether or not putting pantsless pictures of my kids on the internet was a good idea.  So... more pictures once we're in training pants or underpants.  Until then, cute naked butt pictures are staying offline and family-only.  I may dedicate an entire wall to pictures of the girls with no pants.

Probably when they're about 15.  :)

January 23, 2012

On Losing My Husband's Grandfather

DeLloyd with his great granddaughters
On Friday morning, my husband's grandfather passed away at 77 years old.

It was remarkably unexpected.  He had been in ill health, but through several surgeries had been improving greatly.  Thanks to the doctors at the Mayo Clinic, he had saved his legs and, it seemed, his heart from the ravages of diabetes.  However, there was "hibernating" tissue in his heart that put him at very high risk for cardiac arrest, or rather, if he HAD a heart attack he was not likely to survive it.  And so the plan was made to schedule him for a surgery to reawaken the hibernating tissue.

It wan't open heart surgery, it was as non-invasive as heart surgery gets.

They put him under anesthesia and inserted the catheters with their scopes for performing the surgery, but before they could even begin the procedure his blood pressure tanked, and his heart stopped beating.

The entire family is in shock.

It's not just that it is hard to lose a loved one.  It's that this came during what seemed to many of us to be his recovery.  He did not look or, so far as I know, feel ill.  However, he let those family members that went with him to his final procedure know that should anything happen to him, he was completely at peace with the outcome of that.

My husband's grandfather was a pastor.

The first time I was to be introduced to him, I must confess that I was terrified.  Here I was, the Jewish girlfriend, being introduced to the family patriarch, the Reverend.  Although M tried to comfort me with the idea that his family was just having your run-of-the-mill Christmas party, I shouldn't worry about people trying to talk about Jesus to me.  When one branch of the family arrived wearing, "Put the Christ back in Christmas" t-shirts, my nerves heightened and I became, if possible, more skeptical and frightened of what might happen.

DeLloyd administering the sheva bruchot
But DeLloyd was never the sort to intimidate, or to behave in any way that might be seen as frightening or imposing.  He looked to me like Santa Claus with a Van Dyke beard rather than the full Grizzly Adams.  He was kind, he was sweet, and he immediately made me feel welcome and even loved.

I have almost never felt less than welcomed by M's family.  As much as I might feel occasionally foreign or exotic to the clan of Minnesota Lutherans, I feel at the same time loved and respected for my differences, as well as for what we share.  And I believe that much of that has to do with the family having DeLloyd for a patriarch.

When M and I were married, he didn't officiate our wedding.  Rather, he assisted by performing a traditional part of the Jewish ceremony- the sheva bruchot.  Our asking him to do this was something that he found not at all odd, or offensive.  He was delighted to do it, and did so without any hint of disrespect towards us or our friend who had been ordained online for the purposes of officiating the majority of the ceremony.

In a time and a place when Christianity is frequently used as a platform for condemnation and even hatred, DeLloyd always represented, to me, the very best that any Christian can be.  He did not cast the first stone, he seemed to constantly exude an aura of love for everyone around him, he listened and he smiled and he acted as though he knew that God had a plan, albeit mysterious, and that the plan was fundamentally good.

In short, he was a wonderful man.  I always looked forward to seeing him.  I never again felt anxious about what he might say, or even think.

What I learned about him since our first meeting only proved all of what I initially felt about him.  He dedicated most of his life to a school in a downtrodden part of St. Paul.  He didn't believe that it was the Lutheran school's job to proselytize the African American and Latino children, to impose any trappings of his own faith into the school.  Rather, he believed it was the job of the school to educate them, and hopefully to encourage their own love of learning.

SI, DeLloyd, DD, and DeLloyd's wife Barb
I think the moment that he and I shared that showed me how incredibly sensitive he could be, how incredibly kind and understanding, was the day after M's brain surgery.  We had all just learned of M's diagnosis, and had stood quietly by while the doctor explained it to M, still confused and woozy from the painkillers and anesthesia.  DeLloyd offered to lead us in a prayer.

He did not directly ask me to join him.  He did not ask if it would make me uncomfortable.  He simply did what it was that he did- which was to pray for his grandson's recovery.  And in that moment, when I could have felt very much isolated from M's family, he mentioned me in his prayer.  He asked that God look after not only M, but after me as well- newly engaged to his ill grandson.  And he did this without any hint of unhappiness that I did not share his faith- he did it simply with the understanding that I had completely tied my life to M, and that I would be there with him and for him no matter what.  I wish I could remember the exact words that he used.  They were filled with love, not just for M, and for God, but for me.  The future granddaughter-in-law that he had only met a handful of times.

DeLloyd was the first person who, it seemed, really understood how much M and I meant to each other.  And I cried.  Not because I too prayed that God would protect my future husband, but because here- on this earth- a human being understood what I was going through at that moment.  And that human being was DeLloyd.

When I heard the news of his death, I went into shock.  It had only just happened, and Grandma called me in tears.  She didn't even have to say what had happened.  I spent a few moments utterly numb- completely unable to figure out how to do anything.  Once the shock wore off, I pushed my grocery cart the fifteen feet towards the flower section of the grocery store that I had *just* stepped into, and I prayed.  I closed my eyes, and standing over my empty cart, I recited the Mourner's Kaddish.  I tore the hem of my skirt, and I went into the store to pick up my groceries.  What should have been a ten minute trip took me an hour and a half.  I just kept circling the store, unable to figure out what to do.  My impulse was to buy all the food I could think of.  Because people have to eat.  Because I needed to cook.  My impulse was to just sit down with the grapefruit and be as alone with my thoughts as one can be in the produce section of Whole Foods.  I bought a ridiculous amount of food.  I went home.  I baked a cheesecake and a chocolate cream pie, which was on the agenda anyway, I talked myself out of cooking a steak for M, I scrubbed but didn't bake a whole sack of potatoes, and I rearranged the refrigerator.
DeLloyd, SI, Barb, M, and DD

We all mourn differently.

As M's aunts and uncles post facebook messages remembering DeLloyd, I can't help but find myself thinking about all that he, as a man I did not know nearly well enough, had meant to me.  And in M's sadness, and their sadness, and my sadness, I find some comforts.

It comforts me that he died completely at peace, knowing that he would go to heaven.  We should all be so fortunate.
It comforts me that he would have understood the sadness caused by his death, and known what to say to make everyone feel more at ease in their grief.
And it comforts me to know that his legacy is one of love.  That he taught forgiveness and acceptance rather than condemnation and fear.  And those lessons are like seeds, that once planted grow and continue to spread.

M has quoted scripture to me that he says describes his grandfather's teachings, and everything I ever knew of DeLloyd echoed those words.  "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." 

The last thing that I can't help thinking of, as I mourn for DeLloyd, are the words of Dumbledore.  I know, my obsession with Harry Potter knows no bounds, but there you have it.  As Dumbledore said, "Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all those who live without love."

It is a sentiment that I am sure DeLloyd would share.

Rev. DeLloyd Wippich, 1934-2012

January 22, 2012

Marijuana as Medicine and Illegal Parenting

I'm linking up again with Secret Sunday- this time for my End of the Month Controversy!

What feels like an extremely long time ago, I wrote a post about women's health issues and marijuana.

I didn't write that post because I'm some sort of enormous pot head.  I didn't write it because I had been looking for an excuse to be stoned my whole pregnancy with the girls.  I wrote it because the information I found about cannabis as medicine was utterly fascinating.  And learning all about something that could have REALLY helped me get through a very difficult pregnancy made me very, very angry.
Every time a major study has been done to look for all the bad things that marijuana is supposed to do to people, it finds the opposite results.  Yet it is still illegal in most of the United States, and in states where it IS legal the judicial branch of the government is doing everything in their power to keep people from having access to it.

I think about hyperemesis gravidarum, which can kill the women suffering through it, and knowing that something as simple as a gram of marijuana a week can practically cure their symptoms makes me so angry.

I think about women at risk for pre-term labor, and the fact that maternal use of marijuana helps a fetus develop its lungs- the last organs to completely form before birth- seems incredibly important and helpful.  How many preemies might get out of the NICU sooner, or avoid it all together, is they had properly developed lungs?

And then I think about myself, and all the pregnant women I know.

Women who are unable to keep food down, or who can't maintain their appetites.
Women in constant pain, who are unwilling to take narcotics that have been proven time and time again to be dangerous to a fetus.
Women who are trying to deal with depression and fear, and who can't use traditional anti-depressants or anxiety medications.

And I would like very much for all of us to be able to smoke a bowl and feel better.

Sadly, that isn't going to happen.

Despite the fact that pregnancy lasts for nearly a year, it's just not considered a "chronic condition" like cancer, or MS.  So even in states where medical marijuana is legal (and more importantly- SAFE), no doctors will prescribe it to a pregnant woman.

Despite the fact that studies done of childbirth in pro-cannabis cultures show that infants have a higher survival rate when the nursing mother uses cannabis (which stimulates the infant's suck reflex and as a result causes them to nurse more effectively), doctors in medical marijuana states will not prescribe nursing mothers cannabis either.

Still, doctors prescribe drugs to pregnant women that are NOT safe.  Antibiotics that can build up immunities in the fetus, pain killers that can cause addiction, and even Tylenol has been proven less that harmless.  (For those of you unaware, several years ago research concluded that showed Tylenol use in pregnancy can cause infertility in male fetuses.  While that might not be directly dangerous, I would certainly say that being infertile as an adult may have a serious impact on happiness and quality of life- so no thank you, I'd rather not risk it.)

I'm pregnant, and the fact of the matter is that I am just plain dreadful at pregnancy.  Between the constant pain of my symphasis pubis dysfunction, the appetite and nausea problems caused by my pregnancy-induced gall bladder disease, and the incredible stress of simply being pregnant while taking care of two toddlers and going to school- not to mention the continual melanoma related anxiety- is enough to make anybody truly miserable.

And having read those studies, all those carefully monitored and vetted and peer reviewed articles, after spending years seeing the news of new things they've learned that THC can do to heal human bodies...

It makes me angry that there is SAFE* medicine that I can't access.

That even if I lived in a state where medical marijuana was available, nobody would give it to me.  Although it's probably the safest and healthiest medicine I could possibly use during a pregnancy.


I have always believed that people are generally best at governing themselves.  That there are some good laws, but that the majority of them are simply in place because groups of people- not people on an individual level- are idiots.  Speed limits are set because people feel the need to compete on some absurd level on the highway.  Most people by themselves are responsible drivers who know when a car is going as fast as it safely can or should go.  In fact, almost every public safety law pretty much conforms to that idea.

But drug use is sort of different.  There ARE drugs that people can't self-regulate.  And, sadly, some of those are the legal ones.  Alcohol is deadly in large doses, tobacco is deadly in much smaller doses, and caffeine has hosts of health problems it can cause or exacerbate.  Prescription drugs, so easy to legally obtain, can be even worse.  And frequently are.

Among the illegal drugs in this country, there are some that are indisputably bad.  There is no single person on this planet that can responsibly use crack cocaine.  And the likelihood that somebody can actually self regulate the use of powder cocaine or heroin is borderline laughable.

But marijuana?  Marijuana can kill people, yes, if you bludgeon them over the head with a bong or choke them on a plastic baggie.  But the plant itself literally cannot.  The human body only has THC receptors in places that do not effect critical function- you can only react to THC with parts of your brain that have no relation to your autonomic nervous system, and your uterus.

Seriously, if you haven't you should read my review of Women and Cannabis.

So we continue to lock people away for years and years for using a substance that is, in fact, harmless.

Not just less harmful than alcohol, HARMLESS.

Yes, I would very much like to be stoned through much of my pregnancy.  I would like that.  I would like to be using a medicine that allowed me to function pain free and relieved my anxiety and restored my appetite.

But if I deliver a baby, and I or the baby test positive for marijuana?

Then I go to jail, not just for having used it, but for child endangerment.  And that, as absurd as it is, is something I am simply not going to risk.

I have always said, the things that you do to make yourself a good parent are GOOD PARENTING.  But what if those things are illegal?  What if in order to get through my day, to take care of my children while M is at work and then at school, I must break the law?

Is it better for me to be a good parent, or to make sure that I am with them rather than in jail?

And what kind of example am I setting, obeying a wrong and arbitrary rule when all fact and evidence and necessity prove that the rule is wrong?

I don't know.  I don't know if it's better to be hungry and in pain and angry when my potty training children are peeing on the floor, or to smoke two hits of pot and get down on the floor to clean up those puddles without crying or swearing when the consequences are that severe.

But the laws against marijuana as medicine are bad laws.  And the ideas we have about using marijuana as treatment for chronic conditions need to include conditions, like SPD, that last 8-10 months.  Or like hyperemesis gravidarum, that lasts the entire duration of a pregnancy.

When studies show that day old mice with their THC receptors blocked die 100% of the time, it's time to consider that maybe we have those THC receptors for a reason.

And when studies show that THC can not only alleviate the symptoms associated with cancer, but can actually CURE cancer, we have to start thinking differently about marijuana as a "drug" versus marijuana as a "medicine."

I would like to treat my medical condition, pregnancy, and the very unpleasant conditions associated with it with this kind of medicine.  But I can't.

And that is simply ridiculous.

*The only negative effects found in children of women who smoke during pregnancy were that with VERY heavy users- approximately 30 grams (an ounce) each day- the children of those pregnancies were approx. 30% more likely to develop ADHD.

January 19, 2012

Two Happy Things

...and here are two more happy things.  :)
Thank you all for the outpouring of support over my last post.  As I said, the internet is amazing the sort of connectedness is provides to us as human beings.

In order to ensure that today is a somewhat cheerier day, an anecdote and a dose of adorableness.

The other night, I was having some trouble sleeping.  Baby X is most active right after I stop being vertical for the day.  Active, but not aggressive.  Seriously, this is the most laid back fetus I've ever had the pleasure of gestating.

Regardless, having somebody roll over inside of your uterus in order to find a more comfortable position (I imagine Baby X is sort of like a dog that has to turn around three times before flopping over) is just not something it's easy to ignore in order to sleep.  On top of that, I was mentally going over notes for my first test of the semester.  M was exhausted.  He had worked all day, gone to class, and then to the grocery store.  Yet, he tried his hardest to stay awake for a while to keep me company.  I was sure he was asleep.  In a desperate attempt to get comfortable, I started to roll over.  This made him shuffle over a bit as well.  Perfectly clearly, he said to me, "I love you so much."  I was totally touched- here I was, waking him up in the middle of the night, and all he could think to say was how great he thought I was.

Had he been laying awake?  Thinking about how hard our last few years had been, and how much we had depended on each other?  Had he been thinking about how exciting the new chapter of our lives with Baby X was going to be?  Was he actually laying awake at night because he was just contemplating how important I was to him?  I choked up.  "I love you.  I would do every single day, the whole thing, all over again," I said.  Because I meant it.  M's response?

"That's a lot of cookbooks."

And then he resumed snoring- for probably the third time, my husband had been talking to me in his sleep.

I nearly woke hip up again by laughing.  But it's nice to know that he dreams about being in love with me.  :)

And here's your daily dose of adorable:

Yeah, those are videos of my kids singing while on the potty.  They're going to be THRILLED about that when they're teenagers, no?

With all the love and cuteness around here, Baby X is going to have a whole lot to live up to.  :)

January 18, 2012

Grief, Condolences, and My Worst Fears

The internet is a many splendored thing.  But for all the good that it does, I believe that none is greater than the incredible connectedness it facilitates between people.

Not just random people, but people you know.

I'm fortunate to have sort of reconnected with most of my old Girl Scout troop, thanks to Facebook.  The girls who were my closest friends when I was in third or fourth grade are amazing women these days, and I know this not because we've kept in touch, but because we have the ability to simply check in on each other.  We don't need to keep track of addresses, or phone numbers... we don't need to even really communicate.

One of those girls, who filmed a short biopic of William Penn with me for an elementary school class, writes a feminist entertainment blog that I find myself referring my "IRL" friends to on a fairly regular basis (she's The Funny Feminist).

It's not just people I know a long time ago, either.  It's friends who have moved away.  Or friends who I have moved away from.  I know all about the illnesses of children of my friends in Michigan, I get to see birth announcements, and nursing pictures from JS and her brand new baby girl.  I can joke with my friend stationed in Texas about Star Trek and Firefly.  I can let friends who just live on the opposite side of the city, which is much harder to get to than it sounds, know when I've seen an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba that reminds me of them.  With minimal effort, I can maintain contact.  Through blogs, through facebook, through twitter, and yes- even through email.

And let's face it, effort is hard to come by a lot of the time.  It's hard to muster up the time and energy to sit down and write a letter, address it, and stick it in the mail.  It's hard to find the time to have a real telephone conversation.  There are a million distractions, between the children and the homework and the housework and keeping up with your family and maintaining the more active friendships you keep with people you get to see on a regular basis.  And there are times when you do have a moment, and you just want to stop and BREATHE and not be inundated with any kind of stimuli for a few blessed seconds.

And so the internet allows you to be a better friend, and a worse friend, by letting you get away with a lot of friendly stalking in lieu of more conventional communication.

And I don't know if it's just my generation, or if it's a new standard... but for the most part it seems that we're very happy with this.  It's great to know that my art school buddy is doing such amazing things with her photography- particularly her food pictures.  It's amazing to hear when a friend I haven't seen in literally a decade finishes a novel.  I'm thrilled to know when my distant friends are pregnant.  I love seeing what their kids dressed as for Halloween.  I feel connected to them, even if I don't let them know every time I think that some development in their lives is fantastic.  Or even interesting.

At any rate, I have been particularly lucky to be connected to my friends in this manner for a very long time.  I was an early adopter of the stalking-instead-of-communicating friendship style, as the majority of my old friends are techies.  System admins, designers, internet entrepreneurs, that's what the bulk of the people I began stalking/keeping distantly in touch with did.

One of those friends, and once upon a time more than a friend, moved to Texas some years ago.  Via the wonders of the internet, we sort of followed up on each other for that whole period.  When he'd come to visit, occasionally he'd crash on my couch.  In fact, it was him that introduced me to almost all of the people I now consider close friends.  Sort of.  He was much braver about making friends from the internet than I was at that time.  He taught me a lot about judging (and not judging) character from a photo and answers to a lot of mundane questions.

I supported him morally, as much as I could, through his custody battles over his son.  I held my own little internal celebrations over his successes.  When he got married, I was so genuinely happy for him.

When his wife got breast cancer, I offered my support.  I knew what that felt like- going through the chemotherapy, the wondering, the fear...  M and I had already moved onto our post-chemo, time-to-start-a-family phase of life.

And she got better.  And they decided to have a baby.
"Lanes," from XKCD

...and then she got worse.

Despite not having ever met her, or exchanged any words- digital or otherwise- with her, I followed her progress as much as I could.  She blogged about it, and I confess I read infrequently.  I just couldn't process all of what I was seeing.

I was reading my own worst fears.

This past weekend, Reesa, my old friend's wife and the wife of their eight month old daughter, lost her battle with cancer.

Even typing it has me in tears.

I imagine what my friend is going through.  What all of their family is going through.  I couldn't help myself vividly imagining that situation over and over throughout my pregnancy with the girls, M finally being through chemo and still... wondering...

And through this pregnancy thus far, it has been a recurring fear again- only for myself.  What if I missed some mole somewhere, and there's melanoma growing unchecked?

I never used to fear death, but these days I do.  Not because of what it holds for me, but because of what I would have to leave behind.  What it would be like for M, raising our children without me.  What it would mean for our girls, to grow up without a mom.

It keeps me up at night sometimes, it truly does.

I'm not so self-absorbed that I believe that they wouldn't function at all, I know that they would find a new normal... but what?  How?

And dear lord, how much pain would it take to reach that?

My heart breaks for my friend, for his children.  I ache to just hug him and tell him how sorry I am and how deeply, how very deeply I wish I could somehow fix it.  Somehow.  I would do almost anything to make it untrue.  Or to make it in any way better.

I remember clearly every single moment that made up M's treatment.  I remember the moment, the day after we had gotten engaged, that his coworker called me to tell me that he'd been taken to the hospital.  I remember the look in his eyes- a combination of terror and pure relief- when I stepped into his little nook at the ER fifteen minutes later, already wearing my pajamas for the night.  I remember five days later, almost six days to the moment after I told him I would marry him, that his surgeon told me he had less than eighteen months to live.  And I remember the day that, confident that he had beaten those odds, and that he was as "cured" as he was going to be, that we decided to have a baby.

It's the most natural thing in the world- this post-cancer family building.  You spend so much of your energy making sure that you have a future... and suddenly, you do.  But you're already an adult, and your dice are mostly cast.  Most of the 20-something-and-cancer-survivor set that I know, and it's a remarkably large group, go directly from news of remission to starting a family.  You've already paired up- you've already made the decision that you WANT to have a family.  And now, every day is a gift.  You get to do what you want to do, and you have the sense that there just might not be very much time.  That it isn't a matter of "some time in the next decade I want to have kids," it's a matter of, "If the cancer comes back, how much time do I want to have SPENT with my kids?"  And the answer is utterly simple.  "Every single moment I can."

You don't know how long you're going to have.  You have this nagging voice in the back of your head that doesn't say "if" the cancer comes back, it says "when."

And as the spouse of the survivor, you are right on board.  You also want to give your spouse everything in life that they want, help them to make the most of each minute.  When that means starting a family, it means that you are one hundred percent invested- committed.  And that is terrifying.  I have spent more hours than I care to count contemplating the life I might lead- widowed, with two (now three) children to support without M.  Maybe without having completed my degree.  And my choice has always been the same- the older my children are, the better.  I want them to have KNOWN their father.  To have meaningful memories to comfort them if he should die.  To carry on in his footsteps, KNOWING that he would be proud.

I understand what my friend must be going through right now.  I don't know, but I completely understand.  I understand the choices that he and his wife made.  I understand their choice to have a child when they did.  I understand the constant second guessing and worry that accompanied a pregnancy.  I understand all of the post-partum choices that they had to start making as soon as their daughter was born.  I understand what the news that while she had been pregnant, the cancer had metastasized in her spine meant to them.

I haven't seen him in about three years.  I had never met Reesa.  But I grieve for her.  I grieve for the months that my friend spent without sharing the news of her progress, that she didn't blog about it.  When I thought all was well and I was wrong.  I grieve for every moment that my friend's family spent in the hospital.  I grieve for every day they have spent since Reesa passed, wondering and blaming themselves and feeling alone.

As much as I want to say otherwise, I know that my friend must feel alone.  Despite the outpouring of support of all of his friends and family, despite no doubt having planned for this awful time before Reesa passed... despite all of that, there is no doubt that there is nobody on this earth who can truly share his pain, because there is nobody else on this earth who could have loved his wife the way that he did, and who shared the deepest parts of his soul.

And all the friendly internet stalking in the world can't convey that.

If temujin9 is reading this, I love you.  I will always love you.  And you will get through this somehow.  And I am so, so, so sorry.  And I wish there was anything I could do.

And I pray that you find peace with what has happened.

And if there was any way to send a shoulder across the interwebs for you to cry on, it would be there for you now.

RIP Reesa Brown

January 17, 2012

Unintended Boob Job (And other mundane pregnant breast details)

Last week, I had that pesky spitz nevus removed.

They took off a nice big chunk of my chest.  Well, not THAT big.  But big enough to have a few definitely unintended side effects.

1.) I look like I have survived an ill-planned attempt to stab me through the heart.  Ill-planned because the would-be assassin stabbed me on the wrong side.  The stitches are gnarly, and healing really badly as that whole "don't lift more than 20 pounds" thing is impossible when you have two toddlers who weigh more than twenty pounds apiece.  Never mind that they just LOVE poking at your bandage and declaring, "Mommy have band-aid!  Got hurt underneath!"  And then tug at any bit of the sutures they can reach.

2.) I seem to have gotten a breast lift.

Note, that's not TWO breast lifts.  Just one.  Yeah, that's right.  My right boob is now definitely higher than the left boob.

No, I'm not going to put up an illustrative picture.  You'll just have to deal with that.

Okay, fine.

Of course, this is incredibly obnoxious.

I've been planning on getting a boob job for twelve years.  You see, I have very... ample... proportions when it comes to my upper body.  Starting when I was fifteen, my doctors began recommending that I get a breast reduction.  At that time, I was graduating into an F cup.

That was a long time ago.

I decided not to for two very important reasons.  One, I wanted to wait until I know what my "normal" was going to be.  At fifteen, with my breasts still growing and growing and growing, I worried that if I got a boob job they would simply grow back again.

The other reason was that breast reduction surgery- ANY breast surgery, for that matter- can cause all manners of complications when it comes to breast feeding.  And for my entire life I've known I wanted to have kids.  (Someday maybe I'll ask Poppa or Grandmommy to write a gust post on how he thought my preschool was brainwashing me on this topic.)  And for as long as I've considered such things, I knew I wanted to nurse them.

I also figured, selfishly, that after having and nursing several kids, I might use the excuse of a reduction to also have a bit of a REAL lift done.  Because... hey... I'm sure I could use that, right?

I imagined having the surgery once, and having it all be for naught.  Then I imagined being in my 30s, done with weaning, and with a nice pair of post-lift, post-reduction breasts- I'd look amazing!  So, I decided to wait.  I would wait until I was all done having babies, nursing babies, and weaning babies to get work done on my insanely sizable bosom.

So I waited.  And they kept growing.  I finally leveled out- hit an established size that was *my size*, and hovered there until my first pregnancy.

Allow me to share with you a blog post (from my old livejournal) from that time:
Just bought a new bra. My third new bra since my boobs have reached *truly* epic proportions.

It's a 34J. For those of you who have never conceived of such an excessive size, this is how bra sizing works:

The number is the circumference of your rib cage, BELOW the boobs, in inches. The letter is determined by measuring your boobs at the largest point to get the circumference around your body above the rib cage. Each increase in one inch relates to a step up in bra letter. Unfortunately, the bra letters are not so simple as just reciting the alphabet. Lots of double letters are standard, because after you hit about a D cup, the bigger they are the worse it really is for you. On top of that, different brands make bras differently, so frequently you might be one size in one brand but a different size in another- PARTICULARLY in larger sizes where one inch really doesn't seem to make nearly so much of a difference. Cup sizes increase in this order:


I have not been able to locate ANY bras- period- larger than a OO. For those of you not so quick at math, my breasts are now 16" larger around in circumference than my rib cage. I can wear this bra as a hat- and it comes down to my nose.

Oh- and my boobs keep getting bigger. They're likely to keep growing slowly all though this and the last trimester. Then when I'm ready to pop, all my milk ducts will flood with grubling juice and my boobs will swell up to an additional three sizes more. I am now expecting that when I am in need of a nursing bra, I'll be looking for a size N at least. Not to mention all the trouble I'm having trying to find a bathing suit for this summer.

They're deceptively enormous,
Lucky me, after the initial post-partum swelling, my breasts returned to that J cup.  And since weaning the girls, they shrunk down a bit more.  I've been rocking H and I cups since the girls stopped nursing.

Well, here I am again- back into those old nursing bras.

This time around, my chest has been KILLING me!  I didn't get painful and sore and miserable last time around, when I gained even more size.  But this time?  I feel like each night I get beaten across my bust with tennis rackets, or something like that.

So I have these wacky, gigantic, swollen breasts... and now one of them is about an inch higher than the other.

Go ahead and laugh.  It's pretty darn comical.  I do.  With my top off, I look like a cartoon by a hormonally charged and slightly cockeyed preteen boy.

...except also pregnant.

I don't know why M keeps acting like he thinks I'm cute.  It's absurd.

When I'm wearing a bra, I'm sure nobody can tell about my boob job.  But I know.

And now, so do you.

It'll all be worth it, in the end!

Pregnancy is glorious, isn't it?

January 16, 2012

Whole People

One thing they do have in common is how much I love them.
I really wanted to do this last night, but I was far too busy helping M put together our massive new collection of bookshelves and editing a new header for this blog (my babies are big girls now!).

I've been following PostSecret since I discovered the concept in Found Magazine.  I think that was probably nine or ten years ago now.  I anxiously waited until Sunday to check the livejournal feed every week, and there are secrets from the beginning that still haunt me.  I remember one, written on an unfilled prescription slip, by a person who couldn't find a way to tell his wife she was going to die.

PostSecret, 2005
And then there are some, like this Hitler secret, that still crack me up.

Living in the Central time zone is great, because it means that a lot of weeks, I actually get to read the secrets on Saturday night.  It feels like cheating, but it's something I still look forward to constantly.  I can't tell you how close I've been to sending in dozens of secrets, but each time I realize that my secret is something that shouldn't be a secret.  That I have people I care about that I can confide in, and that it's a healthy thing to do for me to take advantage of that.  I know how lucky I am.  I know how isolated and alone I felt back when I did lead a life full of secrets, and mostly secret pain.

I think that PostSecret isn't just an incredible art project, it's a public service.

At any rate, yesterday I discovered Mad Jackie's weekly event, Secret Sunday.  It's a weekly link-up and writing exercise.  You go through the week's secrets, pick one, and use it as a writing prompt.

I also freakin' love a good writing prompt.

Unfortunately, this week yielded a surprisingly small collection of secrets.  I think that's because Frank Warren, the creator/administrator/curator of PostSecret is still posting secrets from the short-lived iPhone app. So I went back a bit, I'm not sure how far, and picked out this one.  As it sort of speaks to something that I frequently find myself internally drafting diatribes about.

People feeling the need to label my twins.

I don't feel like in my family we split up "pretty" and "smart" genes.  We split up "crazy," "smart," "funny," and "creative."

Lucky us, there are more "crazy" genes than anything else.

But people really are determined to label children as soon as possible.

When they were newborns, and M and I would take them somewhere- say, to a restaurant or a hospital waiting room- bystanders would ask me, "Which one is the quiet one?"  "Which one is the social one?"

It's constant, and it has never stopped.

Because there are two of them, they must represent different traits.  One must be smart, one must be pretty.  One must be quiet, one must be troublesome.  One must be a good sleeper, while one must be a good eater.

I don't see people do this as much with singletons, but it still happens.  And the fact is, it's so pervasive that children do it to themselves.

My children aren't simply aspects of a person that opposes a different aspect.  My children are people.  That means that they have moods, they have funks, they have passing whims.  Yes, right now SI constantly asks for help.  That doesn't make her "the needy one," that means that she's figured out that when she says, "Help, mommy!" I might do something for her that she thinks is a little too much trouble.

DD is picking up whole phrases and using them in context right now, that doesn't make her "the verbal one."

They're both people.

They're people with preferences and quirks.

Just like anyone else.

Aunt Something Funny, me, and Aunt Genocide
I think they get it worse as twins, but this was the case with my sisters and I.  I always considered Aunt Something Funny to be "the smart one."  I always considered Aunt Genocide to be "the funny one."  At different times in my life, I was intensely jealous of them for that.  I tried very hard to present myself as "the creative one."

But Aunt Something Funny isn't "the smart one."  She's one of three girls, born within about three years, who are all very, very smart.  She was the best at telling adults when they were wrong, she did have the best ability to recall impressive vocabulary, or identify specific dinosaurs.  She got good at Scrabble first.  She was also the oldest.

Aunt Genocide isn't "the funny one."  She's one of three girls, very close in age, who are all very, very funny.  She was the best at clowning around for a crowd, she was the best with a biting comeback, or a hilarious one-liner.  She also felt from a very early age that there was no way she would ever be "as smart" as her older sisters.  Which is a belief that, I'm sorry to say, Aunt Something Funny and I encouraged.

I wasn't "the creative one."  I was one of three sisters right behind each other in school who had a variety of talents.  I might have had the most drive to perform, I might have had the most art supplies in my rooms, I might have listened to the most progressive music, but I certainly didn't monopolize creativity.  Aunt Something Funny is a brilliant writer.  Truly brilliant.  I've reread one issue of her zine, published about a decade ago, more than almost any other book I own.  Aunt Genocide is an amazing photographer.  Really.  Even if she's decided that her passion lies more with her "smart" pursuits in academia.

Not "the boisterous one."
And we're all crazy.  And yeah, we all have our opinions on who is the craziest.  But frankly, there are enough kinds of crazy going around that we can all have our own.

The idea of teaching my children that they are whole people, not defined by their similarities or differences to each other, has been important to me since I first learned I was having twins.  I see so many other multiples- and their parents insist on dressing them identically.  What does that say about them?  That they exist only as reflections of each other?  That in fact, they are only one social entity?

How would I have felt if I constantly matched my sisters?

I would have felt even more that I needed to identify myself- to be "the creative one."  Because aside from that, I would have had no other distinctions.  I would have been simply part in a collective person.

I wouldn't be Lea the individual, I would be Lea of "The Borenstein Girls."

Just as DD and SI wouldn't be DD and SI, they would be, "The Twins."

They'll probably never get away from being, "The Twins."  No matter what I do, it's going to happen.  Just as I was lumped into the unit of my sisters, they'll be lumped into the unit of their twindom.

And yes, I've been guilty of dressing them alike.  Or as complements to each other.  But only as a special occasion thing- only for a picture, or for a big family event.  For something that they will understand as "not the way things normally are."  But each time I do it I feel ashamed.  Because being a twin isn't just a cool trick they can do.  It's a facet of who they are.  And I have no right to make a spectacle of that without their consent.

No, she's not "the sweet one."
I'm sure that it will be easier for them to actualize as individuals being as visually different than each other than it would be if they were identical twins. But they're not- no more than I am identical to MY sisters.  They just happened to be born at the same time.  And that means that they are automatically perceived as being part of a set- incomplete without each other.

I just wish that the rest of the world would stop treating it as some sort of novelty act.  One person, with traits divided between two bodies.

They are TWO people.  In some ways similar, in others, not at all alike.

Just as any two people in the world might be.

...and for those of you reading through a platform that doesn't actually show you my blog- the new header:
"Becoming SuperMommy!"

January 12, 2012

Ask a Toddler- Daddy for President

I am happy to announce the return of our "Ask a Toddler" series!

Yes, after much renewed interest and a host of requests (okay, after two requests) we have brought together all of our resources in order to once again, Ask A Toddler.

Today, SI and DD answer questions about burning political issues.

I hope they manage to shed a little light on them for you.

...a disclaimer- DD does this thing when she's a little overexcited where she just stops making any sense.  The presence of markers is enough to make her reach that level of overexcitement.  Carry on.


January 10, 2012

Don't Panic

With thanks to Douglas Adams
This is advice I don't often need.

You see, I am VERY good in a genuinely bad situation.  I panic in Ikea, sure, but that's different.  You should have seen me the night that M was diagnosed with brain cancer.  When bad things happen, I shut them down.  That simple.  You have to be in control, on top of your game.  You have to be ready to make hard decisions and to do what needs to be done.

This is probably why my friends without insurance come to me to give them stitches and lance their MRSA abscesses.  But those are stories for another time.

At any rate, I am pretty good at keeping cool in the face of disaster.

Or so I thought.

You see, this weekend DD decided that it would be a good idea to test my mommy zen.  To find out how flappable I can be.  It turns out, very flappable.

M was busy assembling our new Ikea furniture (pictures to come, it's just wonderful!).  To distract the children from the unimaginable amount of mayhem they could create, I brought them into our room to enjoy our new television- another holiday gift from my doting husband.  As we watched Yo Gabba Gabba for hours on end, I had to keep coming up with additional distractions.  One of which was jewelry.

My little girls love playing with jewelry.  And I have a lot more than you might imagine for somebody who doesn't wear it terribly often, feels uncomfortable wearing much in the way of jewelry, and has allergies to most metals.  So I dumped out all my shinies onto the bed, and we played dress up with it for a while.

Finally, the girls were having no more of this.  They wanted to go figure out where Daddy was and what all that banging was about.  I made them put the pretties back on the bed, but DD was determined to take a few with her.

The jewelry she could not leave behind were three glass bangles.  The only glass bangles I have ever had, to my knowledge.  They were forged in Israel, at a rediscovered Greek facility some 2300 years old.  Which is pretty darn neat.

Apparentely, DD thought so.  She found them much more interesting than the necklaces, the beads, the wooden pendants... all of that.  So when she got off the bed, she insisted on taking the glass bracelets wither her.  I told her she had to put them back on the bed.  So instead, she removed them from her arm, clutched them in her tiny fist, and ran away as fast as she could.  Naturally, my very clumsy little girl tripped.

And as if in slow motion, I watched her fall.

Arms held in front of her.

Fingers splayed.

Giant peices of fucking glass clutched in her tiny, tiny little fist.

And completely unable to stop what was happening, I screamed.  "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

But it was too late.  My little girls crashed, beautiful glass first, into the floor.

The bracelets shattered.  Shards of colored glass everywhere.

And blood... God there was just so much damned blood...

Then her screaming began.  She sat up before I could reach her, shards of glass still sticking out of her hand.  There was blood on her face... on her clothes... and it was all over the floor.

M came running as I screamed for help.  First he hoisted her off the floor, making himself a bloody mess in the process.  I grabbed SI before she could run through the broken glass now covering the floor.  In an agonizing rush, I traded children with M and dashed DD to the bathroom to begin the process of de-glassing her.

Now picture it bleeding copiously.
I had no idea what to expect.  All I know is that I was PANICKING.  I was utterly terrified.  Would we need to rush to a hospital?  Was there glass embedded deeply somewhere?  I had no clue.

As I washed her hands, she screamed and screamed and screamed.  I know how much cleaning out a cut hurts, and there were REALLY NASTY cuts all over her hand.  But I became more and more confident that she was okay, that she wouldn't need to go to a hospital, and that I could take care of it.

As it turned out, the only really bad cuts were one on her index finger, and one cutting a crescent around what you would call her mound of Jupiter.  While they both bled like mad, neither seemed to be particularly deep.  She calmed down significantly as soon as I began talking about band-aids, and another five minutes later she was sitting on my lap, breath hitching but no longer screaming or crying, watching intently as I fixed up her little mitt.

Once she was properly patched up, I asked her if she wanted a hug.

We spent the next half an hour sitting on the stool in the bathroom, hugging.  I told her how brave she was, and how sorry I was that she got hurt, and how glad I was that she was okay, and how much I loved her.  And I told her that THAT was why Mommy wanted her to put down the bracelets, and that Mommy means it when she doesn't let her do things, because there is a reason.

She babbled occasionally, saying things like, "Thank you, mommy."  And, "I sorry, mommy."  And, "Me no sad, mommy make me happy."  And, "I love you."

And I don't know how much she needed that, but I sure has hell did.  I could have sat in that bathroom clutching her all freakin' week.

My heart was racing for hours.  As lucky as she was, and that kid was INSANELY lucky, so much worse could have happened.  With those shards of glass in her hand, she could have touched her eyes.  Or one of those shards could have cut her wrist.  Or it could have gone really deeply into her hand.  She was so lucky.

So lucky.

Which makes me SO lucky.

And if there was anything I could do to keep anything like this from happening again... I'd like to say that I would.  My gut impulse is to make sure that every possible danger is out of the way, that there is absolutely nothing in her environment that could cause her pain.

But I've already made my parenting decisions here.  I don't want her to grow up in a bubble.  I want her to experience some pain, some anger, some misery.  In short, I want her to experience life.  I don't want her to grow up with no understanding of danger, or having had the whole world handed to her in a safe, easy way.  No matter how much I love her.

No matter how much watching her bleed and scream was one of the most awful and terrifying experiences of my life.

I want her to grow up.

And a lot of that involves experiences that suck.

So I'm not going to keep her from ever playing with something potentially dangerous again.

But I can't promise that if something goes horribly wrong, I'm not going to panic.


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