Monday, October 27, 2008

And They Still Like Me

Here it’s Monday again and nearly a week has gone by since my last post. It seems that when things are going well and we are settled into our routine, I don’t have nearly as much to write about. I guess I like to write about drama and sadness. And I like to tell funny stories about my kids, and, I’m sorry to say, I think Luke is growing just a tad bit more conventional. Although he did yell this at Henry when he was angry with him for stealing off with a toy a few days ago: “Henreeek! Your stench is so bad I can smell you from 50 feet away!” You go with those metaphors, Luke! And word play, too! That’s my boy.

I can tell a funny story about myself, I guess. I told my two new-ish friends Tracy and Stacy this story the other day, knowing it could either make or break our friendship. I’m a risk-taker.

I was tidying up the yard the other day and I walked to the edge of the grass to pick up a few pieces of trash that had found their way onto our front lawn. I grabbed what I thought was a beer can, but found it was an unopened can of Bud Light. I brought it in so I could dump the beer and recycle the can, but then threw it in the fridge since I thought I could offer it to Craig as a joke. But then, later, when the afternoon stretched on and on and the boys were bickering and Craig still wasn’t home, I drank the beer. The beer I found in my yard. The Bud Light I found. Because I’m classy like that.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Where I Come From

Wow, this election has really made me think a lot, and I don’t mean about the issues. I’m from Eagle River, Alaska, just a fifteen-minute drive south of Wasilla, the town Sarah Palin governs. And then I became a mother and lived for six years in Hyde Park, Obama’s neighborhood. Our first apartment there was only two blocks from Obama’s current home.

And it isn’t just that I have ties to these two places, Alaska and Hyde Park, but that I feel like these two places formed me as a person and a parent. Both places are very unique, viewpoint-shaping sorts of places, which has been made much of in this presidential race.

I’m hoping to write a whole long post about how I had to move to somewhere like Columbus--a more neutral sort of place--to truly find myself as a parent. But I really don’t have the energy for that today. So instead I’ll link to a few of my favorite articles and websites that do a wonderful job of explaining my geographical past and perspective.

First, here is a great op-ed piece about Sarah Palin from an Alaskan woman's perspective on Literary Mama. In this essay, Nicole Stellon O'Donnell pretty much sums up my Alaskan feelings on Palin.

And Hyde Park. There is so much to be said about this place, and I've never been able to exactly put my finger on everything that makes this neighborhood on Chicago's south side so wonderful and unique. But then I found this great article that appeared in the Washington Post last week that does it for me. And here's the website of a place called the Experimental Station on the edge of Hyde Park that embodies the spirit of the neighborhood quite nicely. The year before we moved, we attended a little boy's birthday party here that involved playing mini-golf in an interactive art installation of Rube Goldberg-esque golfing challenges made from scavenged materials.

So there. Go forth and spend hours reading about the two weirdo places that I have lived so that you can understand my personality and background. I know you really want to.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Halloween, Round One


My kids LOVE Halloween. They enjoy dressing up all year round--although Luke's budding self-consiousness has prevented him from dressing up as spiderman for trips to the grocery lately. They also love all things creepy, crawly, and scary. On Friday night we hit the local community center's Halloween celebration, Luke going as a ninja and Henry as Frankenstein's monster. (Yes, my children DO know the difference between Dr. Frankenstein and his monster. I'm putting those degrees in English to good use, darn it!) These costumes are a great improvement over their original hopes to each go as the grim reaper.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

This and That


I think I may have misrepresented our experience with the psychologist just a little. I was trying to describe my emotional reaction to the visit, how unsettling it is to explain in detail the profoundly challenging and often upsetting experiences going on with my child. It was a fine visit, though. I like the guy well enough. He didn’t say, “Wow, you have one troubled little boy.” He basically just acknowledged that there are areas in our family life that are very challenging, and it has reached a point where we might benefit from someone helping us formulate a plan to deal with some of these difficulties.

* * *

When Henry and I were out walking the other day, he said, out of the blue, “When I am a teenager I am going to stay up all night watching horror movies and eating junk food.” Boy, I’m glad I have that to look forward to. I guess there are worse things he could do as a teenage boy.

* * *

Luke has brought a book home several times from his school library called Deadly Spiders and Scorpions. It is part of the Wild Predators! series, which is right up his ally. This is a kid, after all, who had the vast majority of a book called Animal Monsters memorized at age three. No wonder they didn’t seem to like him at his Waldorf preschool.

So the thing that I find a little disconcerting about this book is the fact that it goes into detail about the mating practices of each variety of spider and scorpion. I’m not a prude, and I will answer any questions that Luke or Henry asks me, but so far they just listen to the book. I guess what I find a little funny is cuddling down on the couch, sipping coffee, and reading aloud to my boys choice passages such as this:

As with giant trapdoor spiders, female funnel-web spiders rarely leave their burrows. But males, once they are fully-grown, abandon their burrows to look for a female. Males are attracted to a female’s burrow by the scent that she produces. When a male finds a female’s burrow he taps out a signal to the female. If she is ready to mate, she comes out and lifts up the front of her body, fangs ready to strike. If the male is not alert the female may make a meal of him. But he uses a pair of spurs (hooks) on his second pair of legs to hold on to the female’s fangs, stopping her from striking. He is then able to mate with the female.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Stripped Bare

I had a mole check with a dermatologist this week. It was something I have been wanting to do for a long time, since I have a lot of moles and very fair skin, and also because I had several really horrible sunburns as a child. I guess I knew that she would be examining my whole body, but wow, I was not prepared for the inch-by-inch scrutiny that my body would be subject to. It was a little hard to turn off the inner critic as she examined the fat roll around my stomach, my stubbly armpit, the sole of my foot darkened by walking barefoot on my dirty floors.

And then, the next day, Craig, Luke and I took a little visit to the psychologist. I have been not sure whether I should write about this on the blog, but here it is. I'll keep it general. It is something we have considered doing over the years with our creative, passionate, loving, but very intense and lately, increasingly angry eldest son. We finally decided to do it, because there is a warning bell that sounds in my head every time he gets angry, a small voice that sounds like this: we hear too much about angry boys in this society, and we don’t know what else to do to help you get a grip on these strong feelings.

And there was another quiet voice in the back of my head--a voice without words but more of a wish--that was hoping our visit with the psychologist would be like venting to a girlfriend. Deep down inside I was hoping that it would be all he is a boy, he is gradually gaining control, what great parents you are to him! (you know, basically like all of you wonderful people who comment on my blog) but I have to say that it was not so much visit with a girlfriend as I was subconsciously wanting. It was really much more wrenching and halting and difficult than I was hoping for.

I imagined what it would be like. I held a secret wish for what it would be like. But really, it was like stripping down naked and having a person we had just met look us over, inch by inch, examining every lump, every irregularity, every discoloration on our cold, exposed bodies.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Pooping and Palin


My throat is better now, although I haven’t been exactly steadfast with taking my antibiotics. I take half the prescribed amount half of the time, the full amount the rest of the time. That’s got to be better than nothing, right?

Henry is being a real pain right now. Every time we drive anywhere from mid-morning to lunchtime, he nearly falls asleep in the car. But as soon as I try to get him to sleep in his bed, it is a no go. At least he is pooping regularly again. I guess if I had to choose between regular napping and regular pooping, I would go with the latter.

And with that, on with politics! I don’t think I’ve ever talked politics on my blog. I don’t talk religion much either. I question why I’m shy about these topics, since I ramble on and on about pooping and nursing and other such subjects. Here’s the thing: I am a people pleaser. I hate to make people mad. I’m a mediator. So bringing up clearly controversial topics is hard for me. While poop might be personal, it isn’t exactly divisive.

But I swear there have been close to fifty people who have asked me about Sarah Palin, since I’m from Alaska and all. A few people have stopped by my yard, having noticed our Alaska plates on the Mercedes. I’ve gotten two emails from old friends back in Chicago asking for my special Alaskan viewpoint (hi Dina and Katie!). Really, I probably don’t have much to add to the general knowledge out there, especially since I haven’t lived in Alaska for a long time.

I do feel like being from Alaska gives me a bit more cultural perspective than most people, though, and at the beginning of Palin’s run this made me want to defend her in a few ways. Not politically, because I disagree with her politics. But I didn’t feel like she was so bizarre and extreme as some people had made her out to be—at least for an Alaskan. I know plenty of people who go hunting (many of whom, like my husband, do it purely for the outdoor experience and the free-range, delicious meat), plenty of people who don’t think it would be a bad idea for Alaska to secede from the union as it is purported that Todd Palin did many years ago. Alaskans in general pride themselves on being a bit “maverick” in spirit.

But I am sick of the word maverick. Because, at a certain point, I grew weary of Sarah Palin using this word to defend her bizarre statements. Perhaps it was when, during her interview with Katie Couric, she insisted on maintaining that Alaska’s proximity to Russia (and Canada, she added during the interview, as if to bolster the argument) constitutes foreign policy experience for her. Perhaps it was when, during the debate with Biden, she used her “maverick” spirit as an excuse not to answer the questions, but to “speak to the American people.”

Whatever. I know this has all been done to death by the political analysts. But there it is, the opinion of a former Alaskan (we are now Ohio residents!) and a “maverick” leaning Democrat.