Monday, October 28, 2013

getting rid of the "shoulds"


 I'm realizing that one of the benefits of running is that it is a time when I am doing something that feels good and productive (exercise! yay!) AND doesn't require a lot of brainpower, so I can let my thoughts wander. Which means I get the time and space to work and think through things that I otherwise wouldn't have the time or freedom for. It turns out this can be amazingly important.

I've been in a funk lately, just feeling tired and grumpy and getting irritated at the house and the boys and everything. And worst of all, getting irritated at myself for it, which is actively unhelpful in trying to snap out of this sort of a mood. Then this morning I went for a run that helped me think through why I've been feeling crappy, and then I spent some time hanging out with a dear friend who listened to me gripe and then he said some smart things in reply, and I realized that the biggest issue I'm dealing with (or one of them) is that I've been "should"-ing all over myself. Or, perhaps more accurately, "should not"-ing.

I should not feel this tired.
I should not be this irritated.
I should not be losing my patience and snapping at the boys this much.
I should feel refreshed after that awesome trip I just took. on and so forth.

This is not a good pattern. And it's really, really dumb to try to talk yourself out of things like feeling tired. That's not how these things work. So, the first step is to cut out the "shoulds" and just allow myself to feel whatever I'm feeling (this article also really hit home). Focusing on this today, letting myself be more patient with myself as well as with my kids, feels like it made a big difference.

The second step is realizing that I may be feeling emotionally drained because I'm not replenishing my cup, so to speak. So, I'm gonna try to work on that.

Sort-of related: I haven't done a "my wild things" photo post in a while-- first I was out of town, then I'd just gotten back into town and didn't get my stuff together to post in time, and this week, well, part of letting go of the "shoulds" is knowing when something like a photo challenge helps spark creativity and when it feels like another stressor on the to-do list. I want to get back into it for next week, but this was just not a good week for it. And that's ok.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

my boys and the macho superhero ideal

(alternate title: halloween costumes and another feminist parenting fuck-up)

This year for Halloween Donovan is dressing up as Spiderman, and Quinn as Captain America. They've had their costumes for weeks, adorable little things with the big built-in padded muscles, and they've been wearing said costumes pretty much non-stop. So cute, right? So adorable showing off their tough-guy moves and tough-guy poses and their BIG MUSCLES and they've heard me and countless other adults make such comments to and around them for weeks.
This morning as D wore his Spiderman costume yet again, and got set to wear it to a friend's (non-costume themed) birthday party, I asked him why he likes to wear it so much. "Because I like having these big muscles, Mom." Then he went to find thicker pants to wear under his costume so his legs would look more muscular, too.

My heart broke. I don't know why I was surprised by it, either, but I was.

And then later on this morning I read this post, which led to this one, about how there's so much talk these days about pinkwashing and princess culture and yet no one questions how our boys are being conditioned to be tough and strong and to glorify pirates and superheroes, etc etc etc, and what that might be doing to them. The pressure they may feel to fit that macho ideal. And it all hit me hard.

I feel like I'm fairly conscious about this sort of stuff, and yet here I am feeling blindsided. And maybe I'm blowing things out of proportion, maybe to him it's just for fun, I don't know, but the thought of my sweet, goofy, caring, skinny-as-a-rail Donovan who is just not gonna have the body type for big muscles, ever, that he may already feel insecure about his body or feel the need to look a certain way because that's what we're all pushing and glorifying, it just And I hate that I contributed to that. I feel so foolish for not having seen this as it was coming.

He and I had a brief chat about body types after his comment this morning, and we'll have many more of those over the next few days/weeks/years. The boys will wear these costumes through Halloween, and then the costumes might just go away... maybe I'll try to find non-muscle-bound versions of them, instead. Last week Zach and I watched the documentary Miss Representation, which got me thinking about all the ways I can help my boys see and fight against rape culture and the way women are objectified in our culture, which is a HUGE problem. I don't want to downplay the massive harm those expectations do to women and girls. But it's easy to forget that boys are also vulnerable to body image issues, to that pressure to fit a certain stereotype that is so incredibly, ridiculously limiting. It's overwhelming, feeling like I'm fighting against this massive tide of messages and expectations that come from everywhere so that even I don't always see them coming, and I don't know what I'm doing, and I'm just hoping I can help them be strong in knowing who they are and not needing to fit into unrealistic (or just plain don't-fit-for-them) expectations.

Monday, October 21, 2013

visiting sacramento

Last week I flew to California to visit Sasha, one of my dearest and most beloved friends. The trip was planned on a bit of a whim, a combination of good timing and good fortune and Zach encouraging me to do something fun for myself to help somewhat make up for his absence over the summer. And so, he spent 6 days solo parenting while I got to play and chill out.

Getting there was an ordeal, I think it took around 15-17 hours from door to door each way (to start with, the 3hr bus ride from here to the airport really puts a damper on things). However, after going on so many trips with young kids, any kid-free travel now feels practically luxurious. While sitting in the Vegas airport on my flight west last Saturday night, I made the mistake of tallying up how long I'd been traveling (14hrs at the time) and that's when the wave of exhaustion hit and suddenly all I wanted to do was crawl into bed and go to sleep... even then I felt very aware of how much easier it was to deal with that exhaustion when it's just me vs when I also have two kiddoes who hit that same wall hours ago.
Sasha picked me up from the airport that night and I was beyond tired and planned to just go to sleep, and then of course we opened a bottle of wine and stayed up for several more hours just talking and catching up. And it was wonderful. The wine aside, I felt almost drunk off this new freedom-- being able to just sit and talk with a good friend, not be interrupted, not have to worry about being woken up early in the morning by small hands with big demands. It is a rare treat for me, and I'm always surprised by how indescribably amazing it feels.

The next day, Sunday, S had to work so I was left to my own devices and again I marveled at this newfound freedom. I had most of the day to myself, and I could do whatever I wanted-- I could go walking, or use her car to go somewhere, or I could just sit in bed or on the couch all day doing absolutely nothing. Each of these possibilities was very tempting, but I opted first to go for a walk-- I was in my old neighborhood and it was a gorgeous day and I felt up for a stroll down memory lane.

We lived in Sacramento for two years. I was pregnant with Quinn when we moved there, and he was about 1.5 yrs old when we left to come here to New Hampshire. I visited the playgrounds where we spent so much time, walked by the house where we lived (and where Quinn was born), gazed up at the old trees towering over the old victorians and the streets laid out in their perfect grid that made it so easy to find our way around. So many good memories, and it felt so good to be back in that place and walking those same streets and remembering what it was like to live there.

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And it's kind of strange, really, because the time we spent in Sacramento was two really difficult years in our lives. I felt so overwhelmed with that transition to mothering two children and struggled with what I'm still not sure I would label PPD, but sure felt really, really shitty a lot of the time. Zach was stressed out about work and his career, the never-ending and soul-sucking job search, then switching jobs and traveling all the time. Basically, a lot about life really sucked then. So, why do I feel such positive emotions associated with that time? And I think it's because a) we really loved that neighborhood. We took many walks to our favorite coffee shop, restaurants, and parks, as a family or just Zach and I on occasional moments alone, and we just fell in love with the whole place. And, possibly most important, b) we were surrounded by some really, really amazing people who provided incredible support both emotionally and hands-on. And maybe that's why the positive association is so strong-- because at a time that felt in many ways so dark, I also felt some of the deepest connections I had felt in a long time, with people who made that darkness feel ok.

(and as I write this, I can't help but see parallels between our time in Sac and our time here in NH...)

I finished up my walk by getting an incredibly yummy iced latte from Old Soul, then walking back to Sasha's place. I still had a few hours before she'd be home so I curled up on the couch and watched Becoming Jane (I may not be a big Jane Austen fan but I do love Anne Hathaway). Again, it felt pretty amazing to just sit and watch a movie.
Lazying it up on S's couch

That evening S and I hit up Home Depot and I helped her pick out colors for painting her apartment (never got around to helping with the actual painting, sorry about that...). We spent the next three days shopping (Sacramento has real malls! And TARGET! Oh how I've missed Target...), and eating amazing food, and vegging out watching TV together, and meeting up with other local friends for wine and for tea (on separate occasions).  And it continued to be wonderful and amazing, and by the end of my visit I felt both exhausted and fulfilled.
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So with a last few, big hugs she dropped me off at the airport Wednesday night and I headed off for my red-eye flight back home. Sitting at the gate watching the other parents with their young kids I felt those pangs of missing my own little dudes. And then, the following afternoon, I got off the bus and met up with Zach, D, and Q on the green and when Q saw me his face lit up with the biggest smile and a look of such pure joy as he RAN to me with arms wide open, and I barely held it together. You can't ask for a better homecoming than that. D was also happy to see me, but more reserved (at least for the first few hours, sometime after bathtime I think he forgave me for going on my trip and was willing to give me big hugs and even a few kisses). 

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Needless to say, the trip was amazing and wonderful and oh so good for my soul, and it is also so very good to be back home my little family. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Gile Mountain Tower Trail

(at some point I'll calm down with the photo posts, but for now...well... yeah)

Last week Zach and I went on the short hike up the Gile Mountain Tower Trail. It was gorgeous and very, very pretty, and thus here are a bunch of pictures.

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Here's the fire tower at the top of the mountain. It was, um, very tall.
And the view from the top:
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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

my wild things {week 10}

This week's pics: Quinn looking amazingly adorable in his vintage-toddler get-up, while helping Zach fix something on his bike. The shirt is authentically old, it belonged to Zach and/or Andrew when they were little. (the levi's are just cute.)
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Snap circuits!
And what's better than driving trucks through dirt, right?
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See that giant patch of dirt they're playing in? We used to be bushes there. Sometime last week the community landscapers came by and ripped them all out. I hear they're gonna replace them with new bushes, but no word on when. Poor Nev cat is very distraught as those bushes were one of her favorite hiding spots. 

Saturday, October 05, 2013

saturday musings

We had a pretty low-key saturday over here. Quinn's finally come down with the fever that's been going around so wasn't feeling too great, but managed to sleep ok overnight. He went back and forth today between mopey, whiny, lying-miserably-on-the-couch periods and his usual bouncing-off-the-walls energy. The tired, droopy eyes were kind of a constant all day, though.

I managed to not only go for a run this morning, but happy timing coincidences meant I got to run with Jody. Which was great because a) I was feeling kinda tired and if I'd been on my own I probably would have wussed out and walked part of the way and b) it's always nice to get a chance to chat without refereeing kids at the same time.

Zach took Donovan to watch part of the Tuck rugby game today, then they picked up some costumes at a local sale. For the past month or two both D and Q have been really excited about dressing as Firestar (from the old Spiderman and His Amazing Friends show from the 80's) for Halloween, which I've been totally for. Then this morning he started waffling, and Zach and D came back from shopping with Iron Man and Spiderman costumes.  So I guess that's that.

It's still been relatively warm most days (at least by mid-day... we're in that weird time of year when the morning and afternoon temperatures can vary by as much as 30 degrees), but as much as it pains me I'm trying to get our winter stuff sorted so there are no surprises whenever it does get cold and/or snow. Last week I got the first newsletter from D's school warning of expected snow "sometime in the next month" and my chest kinda clenched up. I'm not ready for that AT ALL. We'll enjoy this mild weather while it's still here...

I'm continuing to be totally smitten with the new camera (as you can tell from all the photo posts), though also feeling a bit caught between wanting to take lots and lots of pictures with it and also overwhelmed by then having to DO something with them. Last night I worked through a backlog of photos that needing culling and keywording, now I have a set that I want to find time to really play around with (including some fun macros from in/around our bushes). It's fun, though, and it's really interesting noticing how this camera captures light and color differently from my older one. Interestingly, I also kinda feel like I'm on a roll creatively with my phone, feeling pretty proud of some of the pictures I've been capturing with it lately. Of course, it helps to start with a really beautiful setting. I'm really in love with these pics I took of the boys playing on the grounds at D's school last week (all processed with the VSCOcam app).

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