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Weekend Update

Not nearly as interesting as SNL, but something nonetheless. So, last Thursday was our four-year anniversary. I worked extra hours at work the previous few days, so I took the day off work (mostly). This allowed us to help out our community while doing some errands, and make a yummy meal. I was hoping to get to cookies, but that didn’t happen. Three loaves of banana bread, five loaves of sandwich bread, a chuck roast with vegetables, however, did happen.

And, then, I got pink eye. Seriously, PINK EYE. Currently, I am the only one in the house who has it. How I got it and no one else did is a mystery to me, but a relief thus far that I am the only one with this contagious disease. So, I didn’t do much this weekend except rest and read. But, we were out of mayo, so I did need to make that.

Mayonnaise is never broken. Repeat after me, “Mayonnaise is never broken.”

So, I mixed it up, whirring everything together with the remarkably faithful Black & Decker, and I realize that it’s not setting up the way it should. Oops! I forgot the acid: vinegar and lemon juice.

A food club friend coached me through unbreaking my mayo a few months ago, so I wasn’t worried. I took my two cups of broken mayo and poured into to my 4 cup measuring cup.

The contents thus far:

You can see the problem, can’t you? So, I started again. This time, with the pattern that has worked for me.

Standard ingredients and tools to make mayonnaise.
Image via Wikipedia
  1. Dry ingredients
    • 2 Tablespoons mustard seed powder
    • Salt
    • (no more garlic, I don’t want it overpowering)
  2. Acid (poured while the blender is blending)
  3. Egg yolks, two, dropped in one at a time
  4. Broken Mayo & 2 Cups oil
    • It is very important this part is drizzled in
    • I started with about a 1/4 cup of the broken mayo
    • I then filled the 4 cup measurer with 2 more cups of oil
    • I slowly poured this mixture into the blender until it was well blended
    • Seriously, can’t underestimate GO SLOW

Et, voila! We have mayo! And, now my husband was able to eat, in peace, his leftover burger since momma was doing no cooking tonight! Crisis averted.

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Summit: Wonders of Wang

Yes, I’m still reading it, but you know, I’m not the only one. So, tonight, we all got together at a local pub (Lucky Lab Tap Room), to discuss it. The Wonders of Wang. You know, our boys. Moms learning how to cope with raising boys.

Great to meet many of the neat moms in the local mom’s group, Mamanandas. Great to put names to faces. Fabulous to hear educators as mothers of boys, public school wives discussing their private school husband’s experiences  In many ways, we still talk about Nature vs. Nurture – is it environment, or is it genetics? Why do we do the things we do?

The bottom line, I think, is to be open, listen, and ask what our children need peppered with our instincts to guide us. I look forward to more Wang(ish) discussions!

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The Parenting Pendulum

If you’ve been reading this blog, you probably have gotten the idea that I like to discuss ideas. (Come on people, comment more!) Relationships, in their myriad forms, are at the crux of many of these discussions. Whether it be politics, religion, love, friendship, parenting, sibling rivalry – relationships are the basis of discussion. How we work together, how we decide together, how we live together. In a recent post, I discussed my skepticism of attachment parenting. Getting Levi in daycare, these past two weeks, picking up The Trouble with Boys, and just thinking more about how we raise our children makes me wonder about how we raise our children.

I was in kindergarten. We were living in Iron Mountain, Michigan. My school had two floors. We lived at the top of a hill. We lived there during winter. I would slide down the hill and climb back up (no fun), when it was covered with ice and snow. School was maybe two blocks away from home. There was a small main street, and I think the laundromat was near school, although that recollection is much fainter.

I remember having to sit with my head down, arms folded on my desk, the standard punishment when something bad was done. I remember my name being written on the board, the clue to how you knew you’d been bad. I remember sitting out recess and not being able to play with the toys. I remember being confused because for the life of me, I had no idea what I had done wrong.

I have asked my mother about this, and she rationalized that I was simply a brat at that age. So, what would make a 5 year old girl such a brat? Well, my father had left. I think that would have done it.

So, why do kids act out, and what do we do as adults to deal with it? 27 years ago, my name was put on the blackboard in the bad corner, and I had to sit at my desk (the ONLY kid) with my head down wondering what the hell I had done wrong. My adult brain wants a rational reason for being put in time out. My adult brain wants to discuss this bad thing, and certainly, simply know what that bad thing was.

Now, I am a parent. Now I employ timeouts and sometimes spankings. The frustration I feel when Levi doesn’t listen (something that is quite typical for the 3 year old) says talking out feelings doesn’t work all the time. Why? Because the kiddo isn’t listening. Watching Levi’s teachers and they patience the consistently employ is amazing. (The State of Oregon and ridiculous school policies will be expanded on when I have more energy.) I don’t have that kind of patience, day to day. I have patience, but I don’t have that kind of patience. There is a difference, and the reason why I haven’t explored teaching as a profession. Sometimes, as a parent, I need a quick, “STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND LISTEN TO ME.” So, I warn, sometimes I raise my voice, and sometimes I yell. It’s not that I’m angry, per se, it’s an attention getter for kids. This is what I don’t understand about attachment parenting (or rather my understanding of it).

In Attachment Parenting, it’s as if the prophesiers of the theory forget about kids not listening. As the adult, you are supposed to be calm, all the time, kneel, look the child in the eyes, and talk about your feelings until the cows come home.

As a child, I wished more people would have sincerely asked me how I felt. As a child, I didn’t feel listened to, and I am sure thats why I acted out. But, not all children act out out of frustration. Some do, and it’s not paid enough attention to (enter The Trouble with Boys). But, as a society, our pendulum has swung, and we’re missing some links in our chains.

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SAHM Transport

My favorite mode of transportation was walking to work. I enjoyed slowing down, seeing snakes, smelling flowers, and collecting my thoughts. Now, as a Stay-At-Home-Mom (SAHM), I drive our SUV when I drive and the bus is saved for a special occasion. This change is a little bewildering, and I still can’t wrap my head around it.

In 2005, I walked to work, took the bus to do errands around town, or reserved a Flex Car. I was in school, worked full time, and ventured to my evening classes. Sometimes, I would ride my bike to get around, but mostly I took the bus. I loved taking the bus. One of the reasons I own so many large bags is in part due to the bus riding I’m accustomed to. I need my planner, my phone, a book to read, a water bottle, and random toiletries to get through the day.  So, my bag was my survival kit. I didn’t often bring food except for easy fruits like apples or oranges. Maybe a few snack bars, like Clif, if I’d purchase them through Trader Joe’s. I ate out a lot more then, too. Now, we eat out once a month on a good month. Then, I ate out several times a week.

How life has changed as a SAHM. So, I’m no longer in school, so the need for gargantuan bags has decreased even if the use hasn’t. We bring a small person around with us, so the contents of the bags changes. It’s gone from notes, notebooks, books for classes, research topics to diapers, snacks, and changes of clothes. We used diaper bags for a while, but the transport is mostly around a car to places that aren’t very far away. So, daily “errand bags” aren’t as necessary. And, our daily events now work around nap times. So, afternoon trips are rare. A three-year-old requires fewer packing items than an infant, so the bag has even shrunk. Although, church on Sunday requires a certain number of cars and/or books.

I am an introvert. I’ve taken those web-based Myers-Briggs tests several times. Consistently, I test as INFJ. It has some different names, ranging from Counselor to Sage, (the tests acknowledge the wisdom I have I suppose). Introverts need refresh time away from intense social interactions. Those bus rides were my time to refresh. The bus rides were my time to reflect (and sometimes nap). Getting that refresh time is very different now. Sure, if Levi and I have errands to run, we usually drive quietly and listen to some classical music pointing out the important things like the white train house. This transport, though, that was one major way in which I organized my day. And, now, I still struggle with how to organize my day.

A friend shared an article that appeared in the Washington Post three years ago. Carolyn Hax explains to a reader what Stay-At-Home-Moms do all day. I often can’t put into words the exhaustion I feel, daily. Not just physically tired, but emotionally drained. I still can’t fall asleep at night because my brain whirs with all those thoughts that pop up during the day. Hax, though, puts it wonderfully when she explains what SAHMs really do:

When you have young kids, your typical day is: constant attention, from getting them out of bed, fed, clean, dressed; to keeping them out of harm’s way; to answering their coos, cries, questions; to having two arms and carrying one kid, one set of car keys, and supplies for even the quickest trips, including the latest-to-be-declared-essential piece of molded plastic gear; to keeping them from unshelving books at the library; to enforcing rest times; to staying one step ahead of them lest they get too hungry, tired or bored, any one of which produces the kind of checkout-line screaming that gets the checkout line shaking its head.

It’s needing 45 minutes to do what takes others 15.

It’s constant vigilance, constant touch, constant use of your voice, constant relegation of your needs to the second tier.

It’s constant scrutiny and second-guessing from family and friends, well-meaning and otherwise. It’s resisting constant temptation to seek short-term relief at everyone’s long-term expense.

It’s doing all this while concurrently teaching virtually everything — language, manners, safety, resourcefulness, discipline, curiosity, creativity. Empathy. Everything. (Hax, Caroyln. 2007 (May 23). The Washington Post, “Tell Me About It.

Transport. Touch. Talking. Now we drive the (paid off) gas-guzzler for our errands. One reason is for the kiddo because he can see out the windows better. We often listen to 88.9 getting in our relaxing classical music fix. I love my husband, I love my son. But, I had no idea how much parenthood and wifehood would affect my needs and where I put them. I miss my transport, I miss my bus, I miss my reading/napping time. I wouldn’t change it for the world, but I miss it.

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Balance – What’s That?

Illustrated Proverb: Balancing elephant with cat
Image via Wikipedia

So, what does a “balancing act” mean to me, anyway? Why the name change? I’ve had several names for this collection of thoughts, and none seemed quite right. I’ve had separate blogs for separate thoughts, merged, and separated again. I’ve written in journals, on my computer, and for all the public to see. The constant theme is how I make sense of the world, and that theme has evolved to balance.

In my “why“, I detail how I remember my thought processes changing and evolving over time. Family and the environment have been core priorities for me, my whole life. As one who doesn’t “make friends” easily, my family has been the constant in my life. The Farm has been the overarching constant and will always be my true home. My Aunt Betsy put voice to my environmental passions back when I was in 5th grade by gifting me and my siblings 50 Ways You Can Safe the Earth. The following year she gifted, only, me a short biography on Winnie Mandela, Nelson Mandela‘s then wife. Family, environment, and social justice clear passions from the beginning. Top those books on my reading list to the facts of life: a receiver of free or reduced lunch, a renter my entire life because my parents couldn’t afford to buy, the product of divorced parents. The passions of life have been central to my life.

Now, I’m a 30-something mother of a 3 year old with a 4 year old marriage. In between those changes I finally received my degree. So, what’s supposed to happen after you get that degree? You’re supposed to take what you learned and apply it to the world at large. To society at large. Funny thing happened in 2008. The market crashed. I walked in August, and we recall the Wall Street debacle in September, right? I tried for 6 months to find a job on my own, but was unsuccessful. So, in January 2009 I went back to what’s previously worked for me: Staffing Services. I had a few jobs through February. It was surprising to me how great it was to get out of the house. In March, I landed a longer term temp job to help a non-profit finish out their quarter. The job ended a month early. This was fine because Peter ended up getting into the apprenticeship and working days. A day shift meant we needed daycare. Levi loved being in daycare, but I didn’t enjoy his mood when we got home. He was crabby and expected the same level of stimulation he received while in daycare. It made me feel like an incompetent parent. Now, the jobs I was able to accept had to be at a higher pay-rate. The wage I received during the longterm job was $12/hour – an average starting wage for many of the interesting jobs I see now. But, $12/hr pays for me to work. It is enough money to pay for me to be out of the house because that’s how much it cost to put Levi in daycare.

The last year has been trying to strike a balance between what I think I should do and what I have to do. I have to take care of Levi. As a mother, he is my first priority. My immediate family is my second priority. Some would argue that I should put myself first because if my needs aren’t met then my family’s needs can’t be met. So, that’s what my writing is about. Balance. Finding that balance between self-centered gratification and what my family needs and where my passions drive me. Money balancing has always been a challenge to me. Putting a family spin on it makes it new, and sometimes exciting, but more often frustrating. The Environment, our stewardship of it, our respect of it… that’s a very tricky balancing act. For example, I enjoy being a meat eater, but we need to balance what we can afford with the best-tasting organic, grassfed option available.

So, this blog is about balance. How I try to reconcile my beliefs and passions with everyday realities. And that’s why it went from “My view, my family, my life” to “The (Green) Life We Live” to “One Mom’s Balancing Act.” It’s not just about family. It’s not just about green things. It’s not just about my views. It’s about how all the myriad of things intertwine everyday and how I find my place in it.

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