Sunday, January 26, 2014

A New Year


Inspired by the very impressive Katie at Marriage Confessions, I'm making a month-by-month goal sheet of increasing my happiness by way of well being. I will try to implement the changes from January through March in the designated month and keep them the whole year.

January: Family
-Make Sundays exclusively for my family. Things like exercise, going to church and reading books are okay - I don't have to be glued to them - but no outside social obligations away from my family, and no work.

February: Food Health
-Limit sweets to 3 sweet desserts a week.  If craving sweets, eat fruit on other days.

March: Body Movement
-Go to the gym at least 3 times per week- 30 minutes of cardio minimum, yoga counts.

April: Household organization
-Set up upstairs bedroom and clean out closets/drawers, keep it all clean.
-Bear down on finding childcare for younger daughter.
-Sign up older daughter for summer camps, if applicable

May: Finances
-Set up automatic 529 payments for younger daughter
-Be sure I am maxing out Roth IRA

June: Preparation
-Reflect on the school year using a template, adjust future lessons accordingly. If not teaching same subjects, share with another teacher who is.

July: Living in the Present
-Focus on spending the month with my kids. Be present with them, do not get distracted by wanting to surf the web, email/facebook/twitter. Enjoy the time with them.

August: Memories
-Set up a filebox for the kids' art
-Schedule a family photoshoot

September: Fun
-Make both girls' Halloween costumes.

October: Time Management
-Plan birthday parties for both girls and send invitations.
-Make a list of loved ones to check in with about Christmas and order gifts.

November: Gratitude
-Volunteer one weekend day - make sandwiches for the homeless, work at the gift wrap station - anything.
-Plan charities to donate to.

December: Reflection
-Take stock of the year. How did all of these plans work out? If not, why not?

Friday, June 22, 2012

My First Year Lessons

I wrote this when my daughter turned a year old but waited to publish it until I had reflected a little more. So this is nine-month-old writing, but still true. :)

Lord, babies, am I right, people? They are intense. They need, they want, they frustrate and they delight. Having had one now for a year, I need to write down things I've learned to try to do, so that I don't forget them if my baby ever has a baby.

1. Enjoy every stage. It is so tempting to miss being pregnant, when our baby was quiet and portable. And as crazy as it sounds, I miss that miraculous newborn smell. By the same token, right now, I can feel myself get impatient for my baby to be able to talk, and I dread her toddling towards stairs. When these feelings come on, I always try to remind myself that my daughter is fun and interesting as she is now - self-feeding, giggling, scooting and loving her parents more than anything. And this moment will come and go. If I make an effort to live in the present, I will never look back and accuse myself of wishing my kid's childhood away.

2. It gets ... better? We haven't hit the terrible twos yet. We are in the golden age. Newborns don't do much but cry, eat, sleep and politely request diaper changes (ha ha, they do not request politely at all). We smugly tell parents of two-year-olds that our baby is a perfect eater and sleeper and explain exactly what they are doing wrong (we do not do this at all). Starting around 6-8 months, a golden age happened upon the Pragmatic Idealist household. It was glorious. Fun, sweetness and light. Things will decrescendo eventually, but I was told by everyone that the night feedings and exhaustion eventually give way to this Pax Bambina. And they were right!

3. It kind of flies by, but it kind of doesn't. The first six weeks with a new baby felt like a year. I was exhausted, recovering from things I won't go into on a public site because no one who reads this would want to give birth after viewing it. Neither of us really knew what we were doing, because after our false starts, we could hardly believe that we had produced a real-live baby. So we were kind of in shock of it all. The first six months seemed long. Things she learned to do in that time frame were grow a little, smile, coo and sit up. We definitely had time to process these changes, no "blink and you'll miss it" aspect to that period. Things really didn't start picking up until six months. All of a sudden, she was babbling, crawling, squawking, scooting, standing, and making friends. After six months, the changes have seemed unbelievably fast and awesome.

4. Just relax and listen to advice. Almost all of it is well-meaning. Sure, some of it is incredibly dumb. Some of it is awesome. Some you may think is dumb at the time but comes in handy every once in a while. I remember my mother letting my baby sip from a glass - baby was about five months old, and my mother declared, "this baby likes to drink from a cup." Ridiculous, I thought. No five month old drinks from a cup. Three months later, what do you know? She disdains the sippy cups. They are for babies. She preferred to take the lid off the sippy cup (what I mean is wait for me to do it) and take a big swig of water, letting it dribble down her chin and clothes and essentially waterboarding herself. It was summer, so, she has a good time with it. She's grown out of that phase, but I wouldn't have thought to give her that moment of fun without my mother's idea.

5. Take time for yourself, your partner and friends. At first I thought, jeez, everyone takes their baby everywhere, if I don't I'm a bad mother! I still take her a lot of places, but I think it's important to spend the resources, to the extent we have them, to go out sans children from time to time. Like, more important that I thought it would be. When I was expecting, Mike3550 and I were all, "Date night once a month!" That didn't happen. But we do go on dates occasionally, and schedule some child-free lunches and dinners with friends. As she grows she will become less dependent on me, and will have her own social life - so in the meantime I need to cultivate and nurture my own friendships. This has been a huge challenge over the first year, so sometimes that nurturing happens over phone and by email. But I'm determined to have my own adult life that exists outside of parenting.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Whitewashing, a centuries-old chore of priming your to-be-painted surfaces, painting outdoor surfaces with a low-cost and temporarily effective paint, is a colloquialism that has evolved to mean a kind of window-dressing. Just as you could decide, instead of paying the money to paint your fence, to just whitewash it, you may decide, instead of investing in a quality plan to execute, to just do the minimum and hope no one notices.

[Blank]washing has not yet taken on nearly the level of buzzword status of as [Blank]gate (Watergate, Nipplegate, Rathergate, Weinergate) but in light of a lot of tepid do-gooder efforts, maybe it's time.

We've heard of greenwashing - Wal-mart has been accused of hyping its not-all-that-impressive efforts at sustainability even as negative aspects of its track record go unaddressed.

But over at In These Times, Josh Eidelson takes Starbucks to task for a different kind of [Blank]washing - selling little bracelets, and donating proceeds to businesses or non-profits in the hopes they will hire some more people. (Eidelson is a former co-worker who, in the interest of full disclosure, is awesome.) You should read the article to get the gist, but I guess you could call Starbucks' program Recoverywashing or Charitywashing, or maybe just Goodwashing.

A lot of things bother me about Starbucks' approach. I think what most infuriates me is that, in my memory, these types of bracelets originated with cancer awareness. It wasn't that you got a yellow, purple, red, pink or white bracelet and huffed around like you had done your part. It was a call to do more. Starbucks' bracelets are a way to say, "Yep, $5 with my AM coffee is enough."

Another message I get an earful of that troubles me is "Oh, at least Starbucks is doing something about the recession." No. What is actually happening is that you are essentially paying into a slush fund of a company that has taken over its market and whose success has driven others out of business. You are giving your money for a company to give to a company of their own choosing. Why not choose yourself? Why not take that $5 and buy something at a business you support on Etsy or Kickstarter? Or buy your coffee at a local place and pump money into the business of someone who could be your neighbor, or your kids' classmates' family?

I'll be interested to see who bites and gets the bracelet. Meanwhile, I'm excited to try Blessed Coffee for my next caffeinated treat. No bracelets there, at least.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tonight's Wikipedia K-Hole

Sometimes I get sucked in. Tonight's meanderings:

Mad Max 2 : The Road Warrior

Some nights, I will do this for hours and it usually involves European Royalty and/or Scary Stories. Tonight: both.

Ugh, I will NEVER finish Master of the Senate, and LBJ Vol. 4 is coming out in May, what am I doing with my life, good night.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Compendium of #OWS Backlash

Note: this is a "rolling" post. I'll probably add to this as I come across articles that hit home for me.

When all other forms of government redress fail, civil disobedience is a noble option, in my mind. I support the Occupy movement. What impresses me most of all is that while the movement seems organic, enormous, and leaderless (I write that word with no implied value), there has been a remarkably peaceful tone to it. I haven't heard any confirmed reports of violence perpetrated by the protestors.

The movement's opponents, however, to be getting really ugly. And it seems that the movement is its only ally. Government and media seem to have seized on whatever negative aspects of the movement they can, and have attempted to do it harm.

Some friends, journalists, bloggers, and others have posted or linked to really insightful pieces on the backlash to the Occupy movement. I'm compiling those here:

This sums up the police element for me.
This sums up the press element for me. Specifically, "bold political protesters abroad, stupid criminal hippies at home."

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Power (?) of Num nums

Please go read this brilliant piece right now, because it is so very spot on, and covers so many situations.

I scream-laughed. It is that good.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Truth and Consequences

As I grew up, always an annoying little question-asking gunner, I realized that my dad often made up answers out of convenience.

10-year-old me: "Dad, what's 'rape?' "
Dad: "It's when someone gets attacked.

12-year-old me: "How many years is a generation?"
Dad: "35 years."

me a few minutes later: "How many is 'a few?' "
Dad: "3."

me a few minutes after that: "How many is 'several?' "
Dad: "4."

14-year-old me: "What's the boundary between [two towns we grew up near]?"
Dad: "Your friend Kate's house."

The other day I was eavesdropping/listening to two kids on the train peppering their beleaguered parents with questions. I noticed that the parents refused to answer questions unless asked twice. E.g.

Kid: "Dad, why aren't we moving?"
Dad: [silence]
Kid: "Dad, why aren't we moving?"
Dad: "There's a train in front of us."

Kid: "Dad, where is Grandma's house?"
Dad: [silence]
Kid: "Dad, where is Grandma's house?"
Dad: "It's in California."

Granted, these questions were pretty easy to handle. But given the low energy level of these parents, I can only imagine how much more exhausted they would get if asked more challenging questions like "How does the train move," or "Why doesn't Grandma live with us."

For that next-level annoyance, I would highly recommend my Dad's patented strategy of making up simple, but false answers to hard questions, and delivering them with utmost confidence. "The train moves when the engineer kicks it." '"Grandma doesn't live with us because she is afraid of snow." I see nothing going wrong with these answers.

Too bad no one at work understands why, when they ask me for "a few copies," I make 3.