Tuesday Open Thread

Good morning! How are y’all enjoying our new (temporary) digs so far?

Our baker baker posted this story on her facebook page and I couldn’t help but laugh. It’s Scary Mommy’s take on the whole “It gets easier” line of advice that new parents receive. She basically called bullsh*t:

It’s true: You won’t always be walking through life in a complete haze or sterilizing baby bottles for the rest of your life, but in my brief experience, parenting doesn’t get any easier. I look back on those days of schlepping around an infant carrier and complaining about spit-ups as the easiest I’ll ever have it. I’m sorry, new moms. Truly.

Some of her points are hilarious (“The bags under your eyes and the poochy stomach will go away. They will? Clearly I’m doing something wrong”) but overall, I found myself disagreeing. For me, it has gotten easier as my children have gotten older (and this is coming from someone who actually enjoys newborns and infants). I will say the sleep thing is probably 80% of it. But now that Maya is 7 and can entertain herself quietly without me worrying that she’s hurting herself or destroying our house, she seems way easy (check back when she becomes a teenager, I’m sure I’ll be eating my words!). Yes, I spend time schlepping her to lessons and practice, and supervising homework, and helping her navigate the social minefield that is 1st grade, but overall, it feels easy for the moment. Certainly easier than my 2-year-old who can’t sit through a meal, draws on the walls with crayons, naps when he damn well feels like it and can still throw a hell of a tantrum. Yesterday, he peed on the bathroom floor and when I looked over and realized what was happening, he had a shit-eating grin on his face. There’s really no other way to describe it. I was as appalled as I was amused!

What say you? Has it gotten easier as your kids have gotten older, or do you long for the days of the immobile, helpless infant who could be quieted with a boob or a bottle? Weigh in!

Also, this place in D.C. has created a cupcake in a cup, topped with frozen yogurt. I want to go to there. That is all.

What else is on your mind today? Chat away!


WWMTD – cleaner’s tragedy

My cleaner’s children’s father (her ex-partner) was assaulted last week and died on Monday.  How do I support her?

My cleaner’s ex-partner had been having problems with his housemate.  He called her the night it happened to say that he didn’t want to take their children for the weekend as scheduled because he was worried about this guy’s behaviour.  About nine hours later he got hit over the head and never regained consciousness.  The other guy claims self-defence, but can’t produce the weapon.  Why would you hide the weapon if it was self-defence?  All indications point to an escalating fight that went badly wrong.

I really don’t know how to support my cleaner without crossing the line between employer and employee.  I’ve told her to take all the time off that she needs and to let me know if there’s anything I can do to help, but she says that this is her job and she needs the money, so she’ll continue to work as usual.  So she showed up yesterday and cleaned my house.  The day after his death.

I can’t imagine what she’s telling her kids, who are about 11 and 8.  She’s such a nice young woman and a really hard worker.  I feel so bad for her.  I feel impotent to do anything, but she’s got family and friends around her.  I’m just her employer.  What else should I say or do except be flexible about when she works?  It’s not a rhetorical question.  I really do need some guidance on this, but I don’t know where to get it.


An Imposter in the Room?

I think we may have talked about this article on the imposter syndrome at some point when it came out:

It’s that sense that you don’t fully know what you’re doing and that you have fooled other people into believing that you’re more competent and talented than you really are.

I know that this is something that I’ve struggled with and it tends to come out when I’m the most stressed or being evaluated.  Needless to say, right now I’m feeling like I am a true imposter and don’t know how to hold things together.  I would love to get your reactions and advice.

As many of you know, things are a bit crazy right now.  DH is in a relatively new job that has him out of town M-Th (he is home a bit more for one week a month).  So that leaves me as the at-home parent during the week. I’ve tried to minimize the schedule, but the kids do have swimming one evening and Mira has drums one evening.

I am on the faculty job market – I’ve had one interview, have another scheduled, and then am just in “waiting game” for the rest of the applications. And so far, it’s ended up the times when DH is home, I’ve needed to be out of town for interviews.  I miss him and I miss our family all being together.  I really hope that there is a sense of “what’s next” by the New Year, but I also recognize that the process is long and could easily go into February or March.  I am very confused about what I want and how to compare various places – what is the value of research? teaching? tenure process? faculty community? salary? broader community? distance from extended family? The most important thing is finding something that keeps our family together – either through providing DH a spousal hire or a way to merge his current position with the program.  However, I struggle with when or how to talk about this.  And am very uncertain in the conversations about this.  And between us, the pressure from our extended family to stay close is just filling me with dread – there are so few positions and while I would love to stay close, the fact is it is unlikely and I hate the feeling that I am doomed to really hurt them.

I am also coordinating a few seminar series as part of my post-doc, have some undergrad RAs, and a few research projects.  But I feel like I’ve not been able to focus on any of it or make progress.

And I feel like I am barely holding it together.  I keep thinking that people will meet me on the job market and realize that I have “faked them out.” Or that the other parents or teachers will realize that I’m being a horrid parent – too much TV and junk food, a horridly messy house, too much yelling… I feel like I am running from one thing to the next and have no time for getting research done. Or being with friends, or having fun with my kids. I can’t remember the last time I exercised and at this point I watch what I eat only to make sure I don’t gain so much weight that I can’t fit in my interview suits! I’m terrified it’s all about to fall down – and I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to keep that from happening.  And I’m feeling a bit lonely in the midst of all this chaos.

So, I’m trying to tap into the MotherTalker support group :-) Logically I know that this is feasible. And I know things could be so much worse.  But I’m not managing this well and would love any advice or pick-me-ups.  What’s helped you when you’ve felt like this?  


MTers wisdom needed – sciencey questions

My godson is nearly 5 and still not speaking. His parents have some intellectual disabilities and significant social challenges (poverty culture, generations of abuse, generations of drug use [they have broken the use cycle, though]), but they are good people and love their son very much. The not-speaking thing has become a real problem and they’ve recently taken him for a whole host of genetic testing….which is where I need some help.

At first I didn’t think it was necessary. I really did attribute a lot of my godson’s challenges to their parenting, which is loving but not necessarily terribly skilled (to my untrained eyes). Due to their histories, they have a terribly hard time saying “no” in a meaningful way to their child or to put up with any sort of crying or tantrums. Which is one thing when a kid is 6 months but another when he’s nearly 5. They really are doing the very best they can in the circumstances they are in, however, and my godson is so surrounded with love that I’d hoped that could overcome some of their “deficiencies” in parenting (and we ALL have deficiencies, but I confess I thought they’d had more than average….I’m not proud of that, especially as you read on, but there you are).

Well, now I feel like an ass for being so judgy, because it looks like there’s a possible diagnosis of “22q13.3 deletion syndrome.” The more I read about it, the more it seems to fit, at least behaviorally. The physical characteristics I don’t necessarily see but I am not sure what to look for, exactly, so …..

Can y’all talk me down from Dr. Google? Or give me leads on how to best support a family that has literally no support system to deal well with this? They can accept that he has a disability, and they are the most loving parents one could ask for, but I worry about them, and him. How can I best support them? They’ve asked me to do a little research online (they are pretty afraid of the internet and by their own admission are not very discerning as to good sites, plus they would have a hard time understanding the literature – hell, I have a hard time understanding the literature!), and I’m doing so, but even still I’m worried for them.

Can I help them build capacity in their parenting this special-needs child, if it’s appropriate and they ask for such help from me? Can I help direct them to resources (other than/in addition to state support, of which they receive a great deal of assistance)? Can someone help me make sense of how common this is, and therefore if there are any support groups? What can I do?

And can someone help me make sense of what this diagnosis might mean, and what the future might hold for my godson and his parents?


Camping With Kids

I need advice!  This Labor Day weekend we will be camping with our kids at a huge gathering out on my uncle’s property.  It’s tons of family and friends, ATVs, a fire, scrabble games and drinking.  We went last year and did okay but I’d love to hear some tips from Mother Talkers.
We are planning on sleeping the kids in the back of the minivan and we will get an air mattress and sleep in the tent.  We are doing really simple foods and packing everything in rubbermaid bins so that it can be stored outside the van.  I’m nervous about the toddler, last year we had her in the tent with us in the pack n play but this year she’d climb out.  I’m a little worried she’ll wander off when we think she’s sleeping.  The activity at night is within view but not near where we’ll be set up.
Any advice?


What We Can Learn from Cuba about Oil Spill, Conservation

A quick google search tells us that BP has failed to cap the oil spill that has spread to Florida, and by now, possibly the Caribbean. So many barrels of oil have leaked into the ocean that we are looking at long-term damage to our food supply, ecosystems, and air and water quality.

All of this can make even the least-informed parent fret, which is why I don’t make it a habit to google oil spill news. But it has had an impact on the way I, and even my children, think. We have been walking to church — almost a mile away. We make it a point to drive only when absolutely necessary. As for me, the seafood lover that I am, I have kept my crustacean appetite in check. There is nothing to kill the mood at dinner than the thought of crude-covered shrimp.

As it turns out, children can be just as concerned as their parents when it comes to the oil spill and environmental destruction. According to an excellent column in Mamapedia (sorry, you must subscribe to see the article), one in three pre-teens fears an earth apocalypse in her lifetime.

Suzy Becker, a teacher, author and writer of the column, said she made it a point to address the fears of her 2nd and 3rd graders.

I put aside my lesson plan. We talked about the oil spill and the sea life for a little bit, and then I handed out some paper. I asked the kids another question: “If you were in charge, if you were the President, or a scientist, or an inventor, what would you do to clean up the oil spill?“

The kids began to write and draw. As each minute passed (maybe 15 in all), they grew less and less upset. They were “solving“ the problem. Meghan wrote, “I would get a big sponge and tie it with ropes to a helicopter. Then lower it down and soak up the oil.“ Kathryn wrote, “I would put suntan lotion on all the animals. Then take the water out, wash it in a washing machine and put it back.“

If your kid has seen any of the current crop of oil-covered marine life photos, you may want to start the conversation before the images have had a chance embed themselves in their memories without the benefit of your explanation. (A recent survey commissioned by Habitat Heroes and conducted by Opinion Research showed that one out of three pre-teens fears an earth apocalypse in her lifetime.) If you kid hasn’t seen the images, most experts (including the American Academy of Pediatrics) believe you can wait until your early elementary school-aged child initiates the conversation. After you describe the situation, explain what is being done to save the wildlife and that many people are hard at work on the problem.

Other suggestions that Becker had was to encourage the kids to collect items (paper towels, tooth brushes, mild dish soap like blue Dawn, etc.) being used in the rescue attempts of animals. Also, she suggested raising money for organizations at work in the Gulf, and to write a letter to state representatives asking for better laws to prevent future oil spills. Here is a list of all state reps.

While Becker’s column focused on small children, another suggestion for older children and parents is to conserve, to rely less on gasoline. A friend sent me a slim book published by Pacific Gas and Electric Company on 30 Simple Energy Things You Can Do To Save the Earth. (Thank you, Marlene!)

The tips ranged from the obvious like insulating the windows with duct tape and turning off the lights when you don’t need them. The harder things were to use a space heater as opposed to central heat, or a ceiling fan as opposed to central air.

Anyways, Marlene and I got into this discussion when we compared our trips to Cuba. She went in 2000 and I went in 2002. If you want to know what would happen if we ran out of oil, just look to our neighbor 90 miles south of Florida.

Cuba was forced to wean itself of oil after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the mid-1990s during a time they refer to as the “special period.” The average Cuban lost 20 pounds and faced great hardship, even eating cats and rats to survive. They had no electricity to power anything, sending many Cubans on rafts to the United States.

And while there is still scarcity, a lack of upward mobility and public frustration, there were some good things to come out of not relying on oil. Cubans started growing their own food in the way of local, organic gardens. I got to see one in my father’s hometown of Baracoa, Cuba, in 2002, and gladly ate from the trees as I was hungry. (When I was there, sometimes, the restaurants would run out of food.) The Cubans became vegetarian by default. Their rationed yogurt, milk and “beef,” became soy. There was a vegetarian restaurant in every street corner.

Also, the Cubans were in remarkable shape, walking everywhere and riding their bikes. There were hardly any cars on the road. (One caveat: the cars that were on the road let out thick, black exhaust. Not surprisingly, many Cubans have asthma.)

But I came back from Cuba lighter, well-rested and healthier, as I had never walked so much and eaten so healthy. Also, the Cubans are very proud of their resilience and ingenuity during this difficult time. I had a family member throw in my face that the United States has frightening high levels of air pollution — no doubt due to our conspicuous consumption.

Conserving is hard, especially in America. The other day, I realized that there was practically a gas station on every block in our neighborhood. And when I am running late places, I find it easier to hop in for a drive. But when I think about the oil spill and conservation, I would rather cut back voluntarily and not be cut off as the Cuban people were.


Thank you, MT (w/update)

Ladies, I’m at my wits’ end.  Every plan I’ve had has disintegrated, and I don’t do very well without a goal and a purpose.  I could use some advice.

See, I always knew I wanted to be a teacher.  From about the time I was eleven, I knew I wanted to teach middle school, and so I worked through high-school, then community college, and then UC Berkeley.  I amassed some loans, worked while parenting and doing school, slept just enough to stay alive, and graduated.  Faced with the impossibility of doing a traditional teaching credential program while staying at home with my kids, I opted for Western Governors’ University, because it was the only one the CA accepted, and it is NCATE-accredited.  

Well, after nearly three years in the program, I had to withdraw.  There’s no classes, no teachers, not even any lectures.  It really is a lot of “find it yourself, then write a paper, and hope you did it right.  If not, do it again.”  Spending the kind of money it costs, losing a whole term to their program changes, and having done an entire BA worth of Social Studies work later, I was faced with having to locate a school at which to observe students (on my own), locate a student teaching position (0n my own) and after completing the whole program, earning a Utah license.  Then I’d be qualified to apply for an Oregon license, with some extra tests and math exams, because I’d have an out-of-state degree.  After two and a half years, it was going to take me another three, and eighteen thousand more dollars in tuition, to get to where I could start looking for work.  I quit, supposedly with the option to come back later.

Then, in January, I started my Signing Time business, where I’d hoped to teach sign language to families and children who needed it.  It wasn’t my dream, but I figured this might be something I could do that would fill that “teaching” hole, as well as help people who have kids like my son.  So, I refreshed a bit in some online classes, certified at their highest level, and even ended up their associate director for the Northwest.  I also enrolled in an accelerated class at our local community college, with the seemingly realistic goal of taking one class every trimester and applying to the 2 year interpreter program in Fall of 2011.  For April, I scheduled four baby classes, with room for 10 kids in each class.  I also scheduled one preschool-aged sign/and/art class in May.  

All but one of my classes got canceled, and there are only two other moms in that class, so I’m paying for luxury of teaching it.  The summer camp I’m in only has enough kids to keep the first 2 weeks from getting canceled, and I have two people signed up for my one July class.  I’ve done a bunch of fairs and kids’ expos, and haven’t sold enough DVDs to come near to breaking even on them.  I’m tired, and after six months of this, it really doesn’t look like it is going anywhere.  I know most businesses take longer than that to get started, but DH still hasn’t found work and I’m feeling a lot of pressure to get a job, any job.  If he got a full-time minimum wage job, he wouldn’t make as much as he gets in unemployment right now, so he’s focusing on helping with the kids, taking care of Mary, and looking for a “real” job.  I love ASL, but feel like it is a vanity project or a hobby, not really a business.

I’m just feeling overwhelmed.  I owe tens of thousands of dollars for my education, which looks like it is going to end up useless.  If I could find a credential program that would accept me, I’d be starting all over again and have to find the funds for it, and I’d be 30 before I even got started looking for a job.  The same is true of the interpreter program, except it would cost a little less.  (I know 30 isn’t old, but I’m 26, have been doing all the “right” things, like going to college and working my way through it, and ending up 30 with a blank resume is distressing).  I’m also sort of afraid that I’ll never reach the kind of fluencey needed to interpret.  My Examiner writing, while cathartic, doesn’t come close to even minimum wage, and I’ve sold two art pieces in the last three years.  (I had a show at UCSD I was invited to be a part of this year, and I had to overnight a piece down for it.  DH sent it via FedEx, and didn’t pay for insurance, so when it arrived destroyed, I couldn’t even get the shipping refunded).

I’m not even qualified to serve coffee or wait tables, according to the craigslist ads I’ve searched, because I’ve worked retail since I was 14.  And paying of student loans with a job at Target doesn’t seem like a winning proposal.  The only other option I’ve got is nanny-ing, but I’m not terribly good at it, and watching the two kids I do only pays enough for Rory to go to school.  I feel like taking another serving-class job that I despise will break my heart, but I’m clueless as to what else to do.

I never wanted to be a SAHM and housewife, and I’m finding myself trapped in those roles.  I never wanted to be this overweight, or have this much wasted education, either, and it makes me feel like I’m becoming my mom.  To be happy, I need to feel like I’m doing something to make the world a better place, or helping someone, or doing something of value, and doing laundry and cooking just isn’t fulfilling for me.  Help!


Thank you all for your ideas and input.  

Healthwise, I’ll head back in and try to find a new shrink.  I’ve never really felt like I get much out of therapy, but I feel like I’m supposed to be going, so I’ll find someone.  My GPs my whole life have done thyroid tests (t3, t4 uptakes) and found nothing wrong with me, have made me keep food and activity journals…all to no avail.  The joint pain is caused by the new weight, as are new foot problems, but no one can figure out what to do.  I take Aleve and sigh a lot.

As for childcare, spending time with just Julian is fantastic.  He cuddles and toddles and signs at me, and we have a great time.  However, I don’t really get time with just him, because I’m kid-sitting in my home.  I’m not qualified to do head-start or work at Rory’s school, because those all require Early Childhood Education credits, which I do not have.  Not to mention, that if I don’t like three extra kids here, having fourteen extra kids doesn’t really sound any better.

I can’t afford to go back to school full-time, which is what the credential would require, can’t substitute teach, and since experienced teachers with credentials are having a hard time finding positions, schools aren’t really interested in the Alt-path applicants.  The catholic schools only want people who have experience AND a credential, and no amount of CL trolling has found any “in-the-field-but-not-teaching” jobs.  I’m looking, I promise, but all of them want experience, and I don’t have any.  Tutoring seems geared more to Math and Science, but I’ll go see about SAT prep.

As to my resume, though, ladies…it’s pet-stores, a bagel shop, and food delivery until 2005, and babysitting and baby-stores after that.  Oh, and keeping Andy alive.  Not very marketable, either.  :/  Even Examiner isn’t impressive, although I’m hoping to use it to build some sort of a writing portfolio in the event I find a paper willing to publish something that I say.

And I know I’m only 26, but the idea of agreeing to give up the next few years doing nothing, knowing I won’t even be working on getting to happy, is really hard.


Your travel tips here

Tell me your best tips (ok or your worst tips whatever) for flying with a very willful agile 20 month old who does not talk but who has discovered the top of lungs high scream.

Should i get a direct flight or take a couple hops?  Go at night or during the day?

What is the difference between a laptop bag and a carryon?

If I buy a seat for the baby does he get a carryon?

Can I bring the stroller and the carseat through security?  (it’s not a “travel system”; they are separate.)

um, I might think of more things.  I have looked at the TSA website.  We will be flying Delta probably or one of the majors, as the little Jet Blue types do not service our airport.



The Berkeley Soap Opera

You see, this is why I love reading the Berkeley Parents Network newsletter. We have the craziest — and best — stories.

Do you know of a divorced couple who still managed to live together? Read on:

Creative living arrangements when divorcing
My husband and I are considering divorcing. We have two young children (ages 5 and 8) and are struggling with the idea of having them going back and forth between two households. Has anyone had experience with the model of the kids staying in a home and the parents taking turns living with them and in another apt.? Also, I would love any advice about creative living arrangements. Any thing folks can offer. I also would like info about living together after divorce. We are considering this possibility. How does one explain this to kids? We have a basement that we could put a bathroom in but we would need to share the kitchen. Also, we own our house and it would be wonderful to not have to sell it. We consider this an amicable divorce and are open to exploring whatever would be best for our kids.

Then, there’s the mom who wants to know if she can draw up a will and have a friend take her son in the event something happens to her — and not the boy’s father. Read on:

Here’s the deal. I got pregnant by a man who is a nice person, but has some significant issues that make it hard for me (and anyone who knows him) to imagine him taking care of my son if something tragic were to happen to me. We are not married, my toddler lives with me, but he has a relationship with his father. We did sign the paternity papers. I do worry about my boy in case something were to happen to me. I would like my closest friend to be his guardian in case of the worst (she’s agreed). But legally, I don’t think this is possible? (I don’t know)

His father is unemployed and has been for most of his life and has never made more than 12K/year, has no college degree, a significant lack of maturity and judgement and general difficult time navigating anything practical (finding a job, applying for school, filing taxes, handling insurance, MDs etc). Also he is very addicted to marijuana, lives in a 100 sq. foot apt, and provides no child support. He is a 40 year old child. (Why I was doing sleeping with this fellow? Well, he was sweet and funny, I was re-bounding/not at all serious about the relationship, the condom broke and I decided not to abort — end of story) He is a good dad in that he loves his son and like to play But in many ways he’s more like a teenage brother than a father-figure.

I am stretched very thin with solely supporting my child, working, going to school and just being a mom. But I feel I need to make sure all my bases are covered.

How expensive and time-consuming is it to deal with these legal issues of establishing sole custody. I don’t want to cut off my son’s relationship with his father, but I do want to make sure my son is in good hands in case something were to happen to me. Can someone offer any advice, particularly if you’ve been in a similar situation. Many thanks!
afraid of the legal system

Ayayay! What would you tell these moms?


Carolyn Hax on Demanding Grandparents

Washington Post columnist Carolyn Hax doled out advice to new parents stuck in the middle of family members who want them to visit with the new baby. Here is the situation:

My husband and I live an hour from our families, and each lives in a different town. We try hard to spend equal time with each. Yet we are trapped in a constant tug-of-war between his parents and mine, and between my mother and father, who are divorced. We have an infant son whom they covet, but my mother can’t stand that I spend time with my father because of his wife (“that woman”), and my mother-in-law constantly picks at us for visiting my parents “too much.” It is starting to seem more like a competition than a desire to see their grandchild.

Hax recommended telling the grandparents to “respect our choices” and to come up with a visiting schedule. Overall, her advice seemed sound. But I would add that the new parents must be exhausted with a newborn; that these family members should consider visiting and lending a hand as opposed to waiting for the parents to get to them. I bet there would be a lot less insistence to see them if this were the case. That’s just my hunch. What do you think?