Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February goals progress

Back at the beginning of the year, I set 5 goals for this year. With February ending tomorrow, here is my current progress:

  1. I have done revisions on 2 more chapters. Not as far as I hoped to be, but these chapters actually involved quite a bit of rearranging and reworking, so I'm happy to have them done. I'm at nearly 45K words (my goal is ~50K).
  2. As with last month, I haven't worked on the screenplay this month since I've been pushing to get my novel done.
  3. I have read 9 books toward my goal of 40 this year. This puts me 3 books ahead of where I need to be.
  4. We saw several movies at the IU Cinema this month: Holiday, Oscar Nominated Shorts - Live Action, Oscar Nominated Shorts - Animated, and Pina in 3D. We also planned to see The Kid and Sherlock Jr with the boys, but Sam had a raging fever, so that fell through.
  5. His illness was also one reason we didn't make it to a state park this month. For such a short month, February was jam-packed with way too much happening. Our plan of hiking this past Sunday, when temperatures were downright balmy, were foiled by Sam's illness. If only.... but travel, bad weather and illness take their toll. 
All in all, I'm pretty happy with where I'm at. I would like to be another chapter ahead writing, but I am a sloooow writer. Especially when doing revisions. The screenplay isn't even on my radar yet because of the novel. Hopefully we'll do better getting to a state park in March. As long as we don't get a late season snow storm, the weather should be improving (who am I kidding? we haven't had winter!) so that will remove one obstacle.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

What I've been reading: Bringing Up Bébé

A few weeks ago, Chris and I heard this interview on NPR's Weekend Edition. Some of the principles sounded like what we've been trying to do and the rest made reasonable sense. So I bought Bringing Up Bébé. In hardcover.

I finished reading it last night (it's a pretty quick read). This is one of the few parenting books that I have actually liked. For one thing, it isn't dry. She also doesn't claim to have all the answers or to be a "perfect" parent. The book is about her journey toward becoming a better parent, highlighting things she learned watching French mothers.

If you can get beyond the assumption that all French parents do things this way and all American parents do things that way, there is a lot of sense and even science backing up what she observed. And she even points out that she is making a generalization based on the parents she saw.

Some notes I took while reading:

  • The French way of asking if someone is pregnant is to ask "Are you waiting for a child?"- what a nice way of putting it!
  • The French seek balance. Being a parent is only part of being a person. Mothers should have their own identities. It isn't healthy to "be in service to" their kids.
  • Calmness during pregnancy. The French don't have a culture of fear, searching for every little thing to worry about. Instead, they try to be reasonable and understand what is truly dangerous (smoking) vs. what merely needs caution (not eliminating foods, but taking precautions like preparing their own sushi)
  • "Observing the baby", also known as "le pause" - French parents wait a moment before picking up their crying babies so they can 1) allow the child to learn to self-soothe and 2) have a better idea of what the child needs. This allows most French babies to sleep through the night at 3-6 months old. No Ferberizing, no excessive sleepless nights, sleep teaching rather than sleep training... and the science of sleep backs up this method!
  • Education rather than discipline: the parents see their role more as teaching their children acceptable behavior, guiding them, than punishing.
  • Babies have rhythms, but so do parents and families. 
  • cadre - firm limits but a lot of freedom within that frame
  • Kids are people!
  • Listening to a child doesn't mean giving them everything they want, but a parent can explain better if they understand the child's view.
  • In regards to "dieting", French women talk about "paying attention" rather than "being good" or "cheating". It's actually a healthier way to lose weight, backed once again by research. This is one of the issues that the author is a bit ambivalent and even a little negative about - the pressure for French women, or at least Parisian women, to be very thin, even just a few months post-partum. But, she does appreciate the philosophy and the fact that they will eat anything they want.
  • It is normal and good to be a woman, not just mom. And that includes being a sexual person. French women generally don't give over their lives to their children at the expense of themselves. They love their children but find balance and don't have to go to extremes to prove their love. 
  • "Good mothers aren't at constant service to their children."
  • "mom" is not separate from "woman"
  • French mothers don't overbook their kids, allowing them time to be free. 1 extracurricular as opposed to something every day.
  • Balance the needs of children vs. needs of the partnership: Sacrificing relationship and sex life for kids is considered unhealthy. Once the children leave, spouse is still there and need to cultivate that relationship.
  • Things that help the French do this: no or low cost child care (high quality day care, free preschool), low cost health care and college. 
  • In regards to food, parents must teach a child how to eat, so keep introducing new foods. Kids must try one bite of each food, then they can move on to the next course. (This fits with our "one bite" rule.)
  • Don't offer replacement foods. Don't react to rejection. Explore food beyond like/don't like: there is no such thing as "kids' food" and variety is good. Visual and textural variety are important.
  • French kids don't snack. Meals seem to fall nationally at 8 a.m., noon, 4 p.m. (only snack), and 8 p.m. Kids are actually hungry by dinner because they haven't been eating all day.
  • One positive she points out for American parenting is the sense of community.
  • Parents are not raising obedient robots. They have authority; authoritative does not mean authoritarian. 
  • Let children live their lives.
  • French parents and teachers don't praise much. Excessive praise can distort motivation. Overpraised kids can become afraid to commit because they are afraid of not succeeding.
As with any parenting book, you take what you like and discard the rest. And author Pamela Druckerman admits that she has adopted some of the French practices, kept some American ones, and is still trying to find a balance. I really liked that she admitted to still having issues, but that implementing some of these practices has helped with her 3 kids and her relationship with her husband. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A one-car family

We are a one-car family. Will we ever get a 2nd car? We plan to, eventually. Is it easy? It takes some work and compromise. Is it hard? In a town with decent bus service, not terrible.

We made the decision before we had kids to downsize to one car. At the time, it made a lot of sense. We were both working at the university so we could carpool. The bus to campus went past our neighborhood, making it easy for us to use public transportation. The walk home wasn't that bad and was good exercise. Paying for insurance and registration on a 2nd car just wasn't cost effective.

That was 7 or 8 years ago. These days, with me at home with the kids and Chris going to work every day, it takes some planning. We have to compromise. Sometimes the boys and I are limited to places within walking or busing distance. Sometimes we trade the car partway through the day. Sometimes Chris has to plan his schedule around when he has the car.

Want to know what is within walking or busing distance? Quite a lot. We have walked to the park, the mall, the book store, campus. We have taken the bus downtown, to the library, to campus, to a friend's house. Yes, there are places we can't get to easily, but it's amazing how far we can go if we're willing to plan. (Summer is harder with the reduced bus schedule. Once an hour limits us quite a bit.)

We do plan to eventually get a 2nd car. It will make it easier with the boys being in school and having after school activities. As they get older, it is likely we'll be ferrying them around more. But for now, Chris and I usually know where the other is and we get to see each other more often than we normally would. The times during the week when we trade the car are an extra bonus time for us. And for the boys to see Daddy. We aren't just two cars passing as we come and go.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy I love you more day

Today is Valentine's Day. Chris and I don't make a big deal out of this day. Really, if we want a day to celebrate our relationship, we'll pick our anniversary. It's much more meaningful.

Having one day to celebrate love sounds like a good idea, but what about the other 364 days (365 this year)? And shouldn't the day we celebrate love have a reason?

Maybe I'm jaded. Ok, I am, a little.

Do you remember in high school when the boosters club sold carnations that were delivered in class? So everyone could see just how loved (read: popular) someone was? And how the same few girls got flowers  in every class, while the rest of us looked on in envy?

Yeah, I didn't get any carnations. Even though anyone could send a carnation to anyone else, it was usually the boys sending them to their girlfriends and a few popular girls sending them to each other.

In high school, it was humiliating. No Valentine to send me flowers. Sigh.

Once out of high school, I noticed the same pattern unfolding: Valentine's Day has become a competition to see who loves whom the most. The sincere lovers tend to be quiet.

Go watch a few commercials pushing Valentine's Day gifts: buy her jewelry because you need to spend a fortune to prove your love and flowers aren't good enough! or you must buy roses to be delivered at work so all her coworkers can be jealous! or come have a romantic dinner with special foods, including all these aphrodisiacs because you must have the best sex of your life tonight!

What is with all this pressure? The day to day little things mean so much more than any grand gesture. At least to me. Love doesn't come in a box, even when the box if full of chocolates.

So if Valentine's Day makes you happy, have a wonderful day filled with heart-shaped presents. But remember that there are loads of us out here (and not just singles) who just don't care all that much. If someone doesn't have a date or big plans, if flowers don't get delivered, it's ok.

The best Valentine? Loving yourself.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Take a stand

I didn't watch the Grammy awards last night. I had better things to watch and don't really know much of the current music.

Last night and this morning, I've been reading the Twitter/Facebook reactions to an abuser getting applauded for winning an award and the frightening comments young girls were making regarding him.

There have been several good articles written about this. I'd like to point to a few:

Want to know something I've noticed? It isn't just this incident. It isn't just this trend of sweeping domestic abuse under the rug, blaming the woman for "earning" the beating and forgiving the abuser. 

Pop culture is actually lauding abusive relationships, showcasing them as romantic.

Yeah, I went overboard on drawing your attention to that statement, but that's because it's all too sadly true. It's scary, too, because too many young people are learning that this is acceptable behavior. 

I mean, it's nothing new. In the 60s we had The Graduate, in which Dustin Hoffman's character is a stalker, but it isn't painted that way. The movie won several Oscars. In the 80s we had Every Breath You Take, a song which even Sting recognizes as a dark, stalker-y song. And it gets played at weddings with regularity. Yeah, and that song won a couple of Grammys too. 

Those are just examples off the top of my head.

Nowadays we have Twilight, perhaps one of the worst examples of glorifying sick, twisted, stalker and abusive behavior. I know there are other examples, but this one is the juggernaut, with not just teens but grown women lusting after the characters.

Disclaimer: I enjoyed the books - well, the 1st three, anyway. I recognized the problems in them, and the terrible writing, but was able to enjoy the story. I'm also an adult in a healthy relationship who can separate fantasy from reality. 

I've seen the way teens talk about these books, wishing for relationships like the ones portrayed there. And it frightens me that a whole generation is going to think sick relationships are normal. 

Then I see the tweets during last night's Grammys, where girls actually claim to want to be beaten. 

There are many, many more examples I could point to, but think about this trend. And then think about your reaction to the books and/or movies. And what message you want young men and women to take from them. 

And then think about real life situations and whether you applauded Chris Brown last night or were disgusted. Do you know anyone who has been in an abusive relationship? Would you stand up for them? Or would you stand back, claiming to be impartial, but intimating that "she must have earned it"? 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The dog finder

I like dogs. I just don't want to own one. I like our cats: they are independent yet cuddly, low maintenance, and don't escape. Usually. Of our three cats, one generally won't even venture out if invited because he knows he has a good thing here.

Then there are our neighbors' dogs.

They like to escape. Not just one neighbor's. Several neighbors'. I've caught 4 different neighbors' dogs running around in the last 6 or so months.

I guess I'm a dog finder.

The latest incident was today when a small black and white dog came running up to my car as I was driving down the street. She had been walking in the street in front of her house. I carefully pulled over and she ran right up to me. No one was home, so I called the number on her tag (I'm so glad she had a tag!) and left a message. I knocked on the next door neighbor's door to see if she knew if the dog was usually just in the back yard. Together we found a chain in the back to tie the dog to. (The owner called about half an hour later.)

Last week I found a dog wandering through yards a couple blocks away. I stopped to check, thinking it was a dog I recognized. He wasn't, but he also had a tag (yay!). I called the number and met the owner 3 houses down. He was very happy to walk along with me to his home. I did get to meet a neighbor I had only had email contact with previously, so that was nice.

Several times in recent months, I have found another neighbor's dog wandering in someone's yard. When I stop, he turns and runs home. He has a habit of jumping the fence and exploring.

Last summer our next door neighbors' dogs, 3 big dogs, somehow escaped while they were on vacation. Luckily I had a way to contact their dog sitter who came to help round them up. Two were hanging around the front yard, waiting to be let back in, but the 3rd had wandered down the block. We still don't know how they got out.

Over the 8 years we've lived here, there have been other neighbor dogs who have gotten out. I often recognize them, but not all are easy to catch or coax home.

One thing I have noticed is that the dogs tend to walk in the street or right along the edge of the street when they get out. I guess it's because they are trained to walk there. We don't have sidewalks in the neighborhood, so people walk their dogs in the street. I'm just glad I've been able to get so many dogs back home without a car hitting them.