Category Archives: Let's Be Besties

One of the three year olds in my preschool class once gave a long and lengthy lunch-time prayer that went like this: “Dear God, Dear Father, Dear Lord– thank you for the birds.”

Every day, Maren says a simple prayer before her meals. She is so used to this tradition that we have to pray at restaurants– even fast food ones. At night, we say the Lord’s Prayer together and then one of us says, “God bless…..” And Maren makes a list of every person she’s ever met in her life, the cows across the street, Ole the Bow-wow (her grandparents’ dog), and sometimes her stuffed animals. On occasion, abstract concepts get a nod as well. She’s been known to ask God to bless sunshine, dancing, and the sky.

This year I actually did something for Lent for the first time ever. I’m friends with lots of people who give things up for Lent, including one dude who typically gives up being Catholic. I’ve never participated, because I’ve never understood it, to be honest. I thought Lent was about making a painful sacrifice, to keep us humble– and I’m not saying that I’m little miss humility, but I could just never think of anything good enough to give up.

Maybe carbs.

This year, I read this great article (sadly I can’t find the link now…) that talked about really digging deep into your relationship with God, and deciding what things were getting in the way of deepening that relationship. If soda, or chocolate, or watching basketball were seriously becoming a hindrance to your spirituality, than those would be good things to ‘give up.’ In my case, however, it’s not distraction type things getting in my way– it’s more things I’m not doing, or things I’ve left undone (holla Lutheran liturgy!).

So one of the things I’m trying to focus on this Lenten season is being a little more open about my faith. I don’t feel like I’m super secretive about it or anything– but I do feel like a bit of a double agent. I’d say a good 90% of my friends are not Christians, and disagree pretty heavily with Christianity in general. So sometimes I’ll find myself just not saying anything when religion comes up– because its easier not to fight about it. To be fair, my GOOD friends know how I feel about Christ and spirituality and would never say something that makes me uncomfortable, and I try to return the favor. But…. I guess lately I’ve been feeling like I’m better at communicating then I give myself credit for. And so maybe what I have to say wouldn’t really make people so uncomfortable. Which I guess is a long-winded explanation for why I am writing about this today.

Ahem.

Maren is so used to praying before meals and at bedtimes that when Mitch is out of town, we have to call him on the phone at bedtime so he can say his prayers with us. Typically, she says a few words of the Lord’s Prayer, and then a big huge AMEN at the end. And then the God blesses, which could take twenty minutes.

When we started praying with her, it was more of a habit-forming deal. Mitch and I are religious, obviously, and– to be quite frank– it’s pretty important to us. We’re the type of people who want to do things genuinely and authentically. We spend a lot of time thinking about our faith, and a lot of time discussing it. It’s one of the things I like best about our marriage.

Even as people who have been Christians for years, there are still topics that are hard for us sometimes. Prayer is one of them.

Here is the thing. I know that a lot of Christians feel like God is up there listening to our prayers and like… I don’t know. Handing out prizes like a genie in a bottle. I don’t think I agree with that particular visual. I do think that God is listening… but I don’t think that when we pray, we are waiting for our lucky sevens to line up so that whatever we asked for comes into our waiting hands.

Some people have had some amazing experiences– myself included– and believe that it is the result of God answering prayers (for example: ask me sometime about how I knew Mitch and I would get married a few days after we met). I don’t want to take away from the idea of miracles, because I’ve seen them happen. On the other side of that, I’ve also seen terrible, horribly sad things happen to people for no good reason. People I love have experienced tragedy. How does prayer fit into that? What can I say– that some people pray more? Or harder? Or BETTER? There is no answer for that. So then, you might say, why pray at all? If it doesn’t AMOUNT to anything, what is the point?

You know…. the older I get, the more comfortable I am getting with not having the answer to everything.

But I think my answer hinges on my own relationship with God. My idea of God the Father is so very similar to an earthly father– our Dads want us to come to them with our problems, even if they can’t fix them. They want to hear about our victories. They want us to tell them what we need— but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to GIVE that to us. I know the kind of father Mitch is– his instinct is to give Maren the skin off his back if it keeps her from experiencing even one moment of pain. But he knows that giving her what she thinks she wants all the time is not always what is best for her.

One of my clearest memories from being a young girl was the first time an adult that was not my parent yelled at me (and I mean really yelled!) and when I went home and told my Dad about it, he hugged me so tight that I can still feel his fingers on my back over twenty years later. He couldn’t change what happened. So he did what he could do. I think that God is like that. One time, I was singing a solo in high school where I had to pretend to be an angel singing to men fighting in the Civil War. I sang one note and then could distinctly hear my Dad starting to cry in the audience, because he could feel what I was feeling, and because he was so proud. I think God is like that, too.

And I remember one time when we were little, and our cat Butch died. My little sister picked up his dead body and carried him into the house to my Dad, and asked him to fix him with his tools. My dad took Butch from her and shook his head. “I’m sorry honey.” He had to tell her. “I can’t fix this.”

I think that God is like that. I don’t think he is up there, keeping tallies so that he can dole out rewards to people who pray more, or to withhold happiness from people who don’t (remember the prodigal son?). But I know…. somehow I just know that he is there. I think that the praying is more for US… not for him.

This idea started to form when I would listen to Maren pray. The reason we added the “God Bless” part of our prayer time was so that she had ownership of her prayers, rather than just repeating/listening to what Mitch and I say. And when I was listening to her prayers, I realized that she’s telling us all her favorite parts of her day. All her sadnesses and jealousies and disappointments are forgotten about, and instead she focuses on the sunshine and dancing and Ole the Bow-wows of her days. And then she lies back on her pillow and sighs.

Maren has no idea that her words are being lifted to a deity. Even if we explained it to her, she wouldn’t understand (or care, probably). But it makes her feel better– you can see it on her face. Just before bed she goes back through all the reasons she has to be happy, and they are most likely the last things she thinks about before she drifts off to sleep.

Whether or not you believe in God…. doesn’t that sound nice?

As a mom, my prayers these days are focused on the health and safety of my family. I can tell you honestly that each night as I drift off to sleep, the last things I think about are my husband’s breathing, my daughter’s smile, my unborn son’s strong and steady heartbeat. And I picture a bearded, flannel shirt wearing old man listening to me, blue eyes twinkling, and either saying, “I’m so sorry, honey,” Or “It’ll be okay. You’ll see.” Or something like that. Because that’s what my Dad would say.

I’m not much of a theologian, as I’m sure you have noticed. My opinions and ideas on religion have been based mostly on my life, and not on learning Greek and researching the original text. I know that praying makes me feel better– whether or not God is actually going to give me that brand new Honda CRV I’ve been asking about for the last few years. For me it’s not really about what God is going to GIVE me… or, put in other terms, how God is going to answer the prayer. For me, praying is more about being mindful of the things I should be happy about, and letting go of the things that I have no control over.

I don’t know if I’ve explained all of this very well. But I guess the point is– I want my prayers to be like Maren’s. Because there are soooo many miracles…. like dancing, and sunshine, and the sky.

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Filed under Let's Be Besties, Occasionally, I Am Just Me

After this, everything changes….

So last week I had my first OB/GYN appointment– technically, the first one I’ve ever had in my life, because the gal who delivered Maren was actually a family practice doctor, and then she was actually a first year resident (nothing against residents, but you should really tell your high-risk first time moms that you may or may not be able to actually be present at the BIG EVENT because of a very nasty rotation schedule. Just sayin).

Anyway– I’ve been having lots of anxiety about this whole process because of my terrible labor and birth experience last time. Usually, in this kind of situation I armor myself with research and get my book-learnin’ on and walk in guns blazing. But, for some reason, this time I’ve chosen the head-in-the-sand approach. I don’t even want to think about what’s about to happen to my body– and probably it’s because last time I did all the research and had the birth plan typed up, and my doctors were all “Oh, now isn’t that just the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?” While reaching for the epidural, forceps, and scalpel.

So at this first appointment, I told my doctor all of this. I told her that I was absolutely terrified for many reasons— my terrible experience last time, PLUS the fact that I have no idea when I got pregnant this time… so who knows what I could have been exposing the little nugget too. Those mistletoe martinis I greatly enjoyed over Christmas will now always be tainted by green shades of guilt.

She was very nice, very understanding, and did all kinds of checking and clucking and reassuring. She asked me about my tattoos, which is always nice from a doctor, and was interested in hearing Maren’s entire birth story start to finish– which is great because I like telling it and it’s four days long.

Then we did the exam, and I did a lot of staring at the ceiling and pretending that the lower half of my body belonged to someone else and the top half of my body was reclining on a beach. The ‘little pinch’ always makes me wonder if these doctors have ever had these exams themselves. Because if I pinched my husband like that, like, say, because he wasn’t wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day– especially DOWN THERE– I’m pretty sure I’d be in time out for a long time. And St. Patrick’s Day would be banished from our household. And possibly also the month of March.

Anyway– as she was feeling around down there, she told me that everything looked great, but that she was thinking I was probably only about eight weeks along.

I stared at her like she was speaking Klingon.

“But I had a positive pregnancy test more than eight weeks ago.” I said.

“Well, there’s a couple options here– and the most likely one is that I’m wrong.” She said straight out, which I really, really liked– there is no type of person on the planet that I detest more than someone who can’t admit that they have the propensity for wrongness.

We scheduled an ultrasound for the next week, and I went home to stew.

I figured that there were three real possibilities here. One, as she said, was that she was wrong. Second, maybe I WAS pregnant, miscarried, and then immediately got pregnant again– because that is TOTALLY something that would happen to me.

OR….. of course….. maybe this baby had stopped growing. So maybe I was about to get very bad news.

Part of Minnesota Adrienne’s new job is to be brave. I just read a book where the mom told the little boy that “Scared is what you’re feeling, but brave is what you’re doing.” And so the little boy started trying to be ‘scave.’ That is my new job now, because Mitch’s new job is a lot more demanding than his old one. It’s harder for him to come to appointments then it used to be, and it’s not as easy for him to come home early if I need him too. So I went to this appointment alone, trying to stay calm, and knowing that I might have to go home to my toddler and hide my sad and scaredness for the rest of the night till Mitch got home.

I laid down on the table and the Chatty Cathy ultrasound tech put the wand on me and pressed some buttons on her machine. Then she froze the screen and said, “Okay, you can get up and pee.”

I couldn’t look at her. If any of you have had an ultrasound before, you know how awful that sounded to me– I thought the ultrasound was over, they were letting me excuse myself for a moment and calling my doctor, and that was it.

I looked back at the screen and said, shakily, “Is….. is that heartbeat?” And pointed at the little flicker of beautiful in the middle of my baby’s chest.

“Oh, God, yes, I’m sorry!” She said. “Yes, their heart is beating just fine, beautifully! I just see that your bladder is very full, and you’re far enough along that we don’t need it to be that full, if you want to be more comfortable.”

I wonder sometimes what it is like to have this kind of job– where you have to deal with emotional crazy women all day long. Women who know that if it’s BAD news, you can’t say anything. I’ll bet that if that was my job, all I would do is find happy good things to say and I would chatter away the whole time.

And I cried, just like with Maren. The heartbeat was winking at me, a little miracle that biology has never been able to make plain to me. Mitch and I had a good night a few months ago and now there is a HEART BEATING.

I went to the bathroom, fought the urge to call Mitch, and went back and laid down. She put her wand on my tummy and I knew that I was looking at legs. And parts.

Because I’ve had a daughter, and because I’m an avid reader of STFU, Parents, I am familiar with ultrasounds– not that I’m an expert– but I can kind of reason things out. I must have had a look of dawning comprehension on my face, because the ultrasound tech said, very quickly,

“Um… if we can determine the gender, do you want to know?”

And I knew.

“Is that…. that’s a boy.” I said, and she laughed, and said:

“Your little girl is going to have a brother.”

And he moved, and turned his little face so it was facing the wand, and I could see the mask of my husband’s face staring back at me. Maren had it too, and when she was born she looked so much like her Dad that I used to put them next to each other all the time just so I could look at them. I wanted to put my hands around my belly and tell him– I see you….

Mitch is thrilled. I’m thrilled. Maren’s thrilled, even though we’re pretty sure she doesn’t know what it really means. Every other thought I have these days contains the words, “My son” in them. I close my eyes and picture my husband as a little boy– bright blond hair, huge rosy cheeks, and a huge gap toothed grin. So, basically how he looks now. Only slightly smaller. I keep thinking about my own brother, who was my best friend growing up, and my hero today. I am building that for Maren right now.

Obviously, what ended up being was that my doctor and I were both wrong. As it turns out, I’m more like 15-16 weeks along, further than either my doctor or I thought. I’m trying not to worry about any sushi or alcohol consumed before I knew I was pregnant, and trying instead to focus on the fact that almost half my second pregnancy is over. This is real life.

My official due date is August 25th.

Giddyup.

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March 8, 2012 · 9:44 am

Well, Internet, I think I am finally ready to have a child. Which is great, considering my daughter is almost two.

Something incredible has been going on here in Casa de Maren. The life of craziness– of late night classes, homework, and stress over deadlines is behind us. The much-less-stressful time of no income, Maren being away from me all day, and constantly being scrutinized, is on the downward slope.

And instead of being scared of our future– like we have been for the last several years– Mitch and I have found ourselves in a very weird place. You see, we’re eyes-wide-shut types. We live in this moment, right now– looking at each other and grinning. Pretending that in all the world, there is only this moment, only us, and nothing else can get in here and hurt us– because we love each other too much.

But now, we’ve opened our eyes– and we noticed something…. the world doesn’t look so bad. The future is looking pretty good. In fact… it’s almost a sure bet. We’re going to be okay.

Which has caused this most uncomfortable sensation for me.

Internet: I have a terrible case of the baby crazies.

Everywhere I go, women are having babies! Okay, okay– so I haven’t gone into my neighborhood coffee shop and discovered a woman with her feet up in stirrups JUST yet…. but trust me, it’s coming!

I remember when Maren was a baby, one of my friends told me that she really wanted to get pregnant.

“Okay,” I scoffed, in that I-know-everything sarcastic voice that only New Moms can really master. “Just be sure that you’re ready, you know? Because everything changes. Everything. Just as simple as wanting to run out for a cup of coffee is completely different now.”

“I know,” She said, “But isn’t that okay? I mean, do you really care about that?”

I stared at her like she was speaking Russian. I also, simultaneously, wanted to slap her.

“DID YOU NOT HEAR WHAT I JUST SAID TO YOU?” I wanted to scream. “It’s Saturday morning, it’s nine AM, you’re just waking up and stretching, and you think to yourself, Oh, Hey, you know what? A hazelnut latte and a cinnamon scone sound ABSOLUTELY FREAKING DELIGHTFUL. And so you get up, you put pants on, and you go and GET SOME. JUST LIKE THAT. But once you have a baby, you’re up at FIVE– IF you went to bed at all, the coffee you’re drinking is Folgers, and you made it yesterday– you hope– and now you’re microwaving it because you are ready to KILL someone for the caffeine under their fingernails, and you don’t even have time to DRINK it because the Light-Of-Your-Life is screaming at you because she’s hungry, thirsty, wet, pooped on, vomited on, or some combination of all of them. And if I sound really upset it’s because I AM.”

And then I probably would have dissolved into sobs.

I don’t want to scare you. I have always loved my daughter. But when you aren’t planning on having a baby, and then you spend most of your pregnancy feeling sorry for yourself, the transition to really truly loving motherhood is just really hard, even if you love your baby.

Recently, I’ve found myself in that cozy little space that most other moms are always talking about. I rush home at night so that I can be with her. I love looking at her. I have found myself, very recently, putting a paper bag on my head and waving my arms around in order to get her to giggle.

I hate that she’s growing up, but love how much she’s learning. I all ready know that no person who comes into her life will be good enough for her.

I want another baby. Actually, I think I might want another three babies.

I used to always say that becoming a mom didn’t mean that I had to end who I used to be. I think that’s kind of how I coped with the sudden change: the idea that I could still be me– just only sometimes. Most of the time, I was Maren’s Mom.

Not exactly a double life– mostly because of the crippling guilt. The few times that I crept away (usually during finals week) to sink slowly into a soy hazelnut latte with extra whipped cream, and the world’s biggest and freshest chocolate chip cookie staring back at me, all I did was think about what was happening back home. Sometimes, even if I was just in the next room I was missing her so much.

Now, I’m so jealous of all those Moms who got it right away– who understood immediately– that being their Baby’s Mama was the best thing that they could do for the world.

I feel that I’ve tipped my hand a bit. Moms aren’t supposed to admit that they had a hard time with the whole Mom business. I hope I’m not the only one. And I hope, if there are others, that they found themselves in this wonderful place, too. Grinning at their baby, their partner, and the next fifty years.

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Filed under Baby, Husband, Let's Be Besties

Oh, if only my elementary school teachers could see me now….

I applied for my first real teaching job last night. The new trend these days is to make applicants take a test called the ‘Teacher Insight’ which is a test developed by Gallup.

Now, my college program has been fantastic and so far I have found zero instances where I am totally unprepared for something that has come up. So when I saw ‘Teacher Insight’ on the agenda for a meeting I had last week, I breathed a sweet sigh of relief and uncapped my pen, ready to write down every word of wisdom that my adviser would bestow upon me.

“Okay, the Teacher Insight test.” She said, followed by the world’s heaviest hugest sigh ever. My pen poised over my paper, my eyebrows arched over my glasses, like the perfect student I somehow fooled everyone into thinking I am.

“Here’s the thing about the Teacher Insight.” She continued. “It’s not really something that you can prepare for.”

What.

Lady, give me the name of a book I can read, no matter how thick and dusty the tome. Let me know what to google. Tell me who to bribe. GIVE ME SOMETHING TO STUDY.

The Teacher Insight is one of those tests where they want to like…. I don’t know. Discover the real you, or something, so they hand you eighty questions and you have twenty seconds to answer each. They give you two statements, and you have to choose which one best describes you. Except that the statements aren’t opposites of each other.

So I’m staring down the barrel of these questions, and wondering, if I were an employer, what kind of honesty would I be looking for. Riddle me this:

Would an employer rather get a complete, imperfect picture of a person? Will they get a warm fuzzy feeling when they see that a person was honest, and thus may have unknowingly disqualified themselves as a teacher candidate? Or would an employer rather read a Teacher Insight test and think, “Oh there you go. This person obviously knew that they were in a job interview.

And these questions were tricky. Here’s one that I got:

People have told me that I am efficient.

vs.

People have told me that I’m a good leader.

 

Yeah. For real. What am I supposed to do with that?

Here’s another one:

Students have to earn my respect.

vs.

When I walk into a messy room, I immediately want to clean it.

Actually, when I walk into a messy room, I put my purse down and take my shoes off because it typically means I’m home. But I also don’t feel that students have to earn my respect. If I was a high school teacher, I might feel differently– but I teach the little ones. And I’ve had some turds, for sure. But I’ve never met a student that I didn’t love. Sometimes I even love the turds a little more.

My older sister is a social psychologist… so she could probably explain this all to me. But when I was taking that test last night, I kept wondering if there was a way that I could reach through the computer and just say to the superintendent of AnyTown USA, “Friend. I need a job. I will clean my room. I will take extra classes. Hell, I will teach extra classes. Please hire me, and I promise that you will not regret it. Promise promise promise promise wheredoIsign?”

 

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A diatribe ensues….

Something we get a lot of questions, suggestions, and criticisms about is Maren’s food habits– which always catches me off guard, because it’s one of those things that just makes sense to me.

When Maren was four months old, we started making her food at home (which you may remember). I can count on one hand the number of baby food jars we bought for her, and we never ever bought a box of that rice flake stuff (yes– we even made our own cereal AND our own yogurt). We loved it, and she loved it. We started out doing this mostly as a way to save money (and it did– bundles of it) but after we started making our own food we started being more conscious about what other ‘foods’ have in them. Those Gerber Baby TV dinners, for example. There are so many un-pronounceable ingredients in one of those boxes. It made me feel really good, whenever someone asked me what Maren was eating, to be able to say, “Broccoli and salmon.” And those really were the only two ingredients.

When she started doing solid food, her daycare (and most daycares) required that she be moved to the food program, along with all of the other kids. In our particular case, we were able to work it out and they made an exception for Maren. But when we moved daycares, we had to go through the whole process all over again.

For ease of reading, I’ll define ‘food program’ as I understand it. The USDA puts out rules about what kids (and adults) that are in care should be eating every day. I honestly don’t know what all the requirements are for toddlers, but I know there are two categories. One is food quantity, and one is food types. So like, for example, at breakfast Maren would have to have 3/4 cups of grains, accompanied by either juice or fruit, and a glass of milk. So, fruit loops, milk, and orange juice, or a breakfast fruit bar and milk. For lunch, she needs to also have a meat and vegetable component (each with respective required quantities), in addition to starch, fruit, and milk. The people who make the food fulfill these requirements in a variety of ways. For example, potatoes count as both a vegetable and a starch, but they can’t count as both in one day. But spuds are cheap. This is why, if you look at your child’s daycare menu, you will see them eating potatoes three to four times a week. Additionally, if they eat something like…. corn dogs or chicken fried steak… the breading on the meat counts as their starch. That might make perfect sense to some of you out there…… but not to me. Oh yeah, AND the fruit? Ever see a can of fruit cocktail, packed in either water or syrup? The water and syrup COUNT as part of a portion. So when they measure 3/4 of a cup, it doesn’t necessarily have to be all fruit.

Also notice: the requirements are food types and quantity….. not quality.

Additionally, there are no rules about food preparation. There are no rules about how much salt, butter, sugar, or preservatives can be added to any food. As long as food isn’t expired, it doesn’t matter how long ago it was prepared before it was served.

In order to be sure that their rules are followed– and, to be clear, I don’t really think there’s a problem with the USDA’s rules, per se– the government reimburses child cares for the amount of money that they spend on food. Then the schools go out and buy the food from outside companies– which is why we all had the same rectangle shaped pizza at school when we were kids. There are bunches of school food catering companies.

Here’s the thing: I don’t really think that schools are the enemy. With childhood obesity being such a hot topic right now, schools are getting handed a lot of crap for the food that they are providing the kids. I don’t really think that’s fair. I’ve never, ever met a public school administrator, kitchen worker, or teacher who discourages the kids from bringing their own food from home– but no one wants hungry kids, either. So if they aren’t sent with food, they need to eat something. The school does their best to keep costs down– for everyone. So they do what they can.

But day cares– for whatever reason– don’t have the same feelings, in most cases. Nearly every child care we toured for Maren required that she be on the food program. Required.

This did not make any sense to us, and we wanted to know why. We were told that if Maren had her own food, the other kids would try to steal it, and vice versa. We were also told that if we kept ‘coddling’ her she would grow up spoiled. We were even told that if we didn’t do the food program, she could get food allergies– which almost made me laugh out loud.

We were given a menu, but that didn’t make us feel better– because as an ex-child care employee and observer of school lunches by and large, I know for a fact that the meat balls they serve at lunch were NOT THE SAME as the meat balls that I made at home. The ‘salad’ was often a handful of shredded iceberg lettuce, often with ranch dressing mixed right in. There were never other vegetables in the ‘salad.’ The mac and cheese was so thick with cheese that you could shingle a roof with it– and when I asked about whole grain noodles, people wrinkled their noses and felt sorry for Maren.

Fresh fruit is almost nonexistent. Usually, bananas, apples, and oranges are it. Fresh vegetables are represented a little bit better….. but it kind of depends on your definition of ‘fresh.’

We observed a lot of lunches at a lot of child cares. We looked at our beautiful baby, who had only ever eaten food that I had made with my own hands, knowing every ingredient and exactly how it was prepared. In the end, we just couldn’t do it. So we refused.

Luckily, Maren’s in a daycare now where we can bring her food and no one says a word. It took some searching. In most places, when we mentioned that being able to bring our own food was a deal-breaker, the daycare agreed, and sent us on our way. This is shocking to me– really shocking. I can’t believe that the loss of tuition is worth participation in the food program.

We’ve been at this now for a year and a half, and like I said, we get lots of questions about our choice and our method. So I am here to tell you– you can do it! and its worth it! And your healthy happy adult child will thank you someday!

1) The hardest part: You have to actually make the food.

This was a hard adjustment for us, I won’t lie. When she was a little baby and just ate baby food, it was very easy. But once she got older and into solid foods, we had to change our eating habits, too. We’ve gotten used to that now. The hardest adjustment, I think, was switching to whole wheat pasta, and not adding salt and butter to everything (and for the record: I now completely prefer whole wheat pasta over white pasta. Sooooo much better tasting, so much more filling, and I need a lot less added stuff to make it tasty).

Every Saturday I plan our menu for the week. I have a few cookbooks that I love– my most favorite is the slow cooker book. We eat from the slow cooker at least once a week, sometimes twice, depending on our schedule. For the rest of the meals, I thumb through the books and seriously pick things that have the least amount of ingredients. I’ve gotten better at cooking this last year– but that doesn’t mean I like it.

The other night, we had tilapia baked with dill, salt and pepper. I mashed potatoes with real butter. I also steamed some broccoli without adding anything to it.

When I was dishing up, I got out a little lunch box we use for Maren. It has three compartments and a lid. We bought it at Target for like three dollars. I took out a portion of potatoes and broccoli right away for Maren to eat the next day. I baked an extra fillet of fish, and packed that up, too. So before we even sat down to dinner, Maren’s lunch for tomorrow was packed. Doing it this way means that it’s done, for one thing, but also that we won’t accidentally eat all the food and then be stuck having to find something else for Maren— which has happened before. Usually on spaghetti night.

For breakfast, we have three options. Oatmeal, which we make the morning of (takes about ten minutes on stove top), an egg with toast, or cereal. Maren loves her some generic brand organic Honey-Nut Cheerios. In the past, I used to make a loaf of banana bread (with applesauce instead of butter), or something like that, and send a piece for breakfast, but Maren didn’t eat it very well. She’s not much into sweets, I guess. Weirdo.

We also pack an afternoon snack. Maren’s favorite is a stick of string cheese and some fresh fruit– which takes zero time. Zero. We’ve also packed cottage cheese with fruit, veggie sticks (with no dressing. I’m a mean mom), or a sandwich. She also loves soy yogurt. Sometimes I pack something sweet…. but again, she’s not a big fan. Basically, we want to use things we would all ready have around the house for her.

People make a lot of different food choices for their kid– some do vegetarian, or limit carbs, limit dairy, what-have-you. For Maren, we basically just want to emphasize whole foods, organic whenever we can, local whenever we can, and prepared in a way that will keep as many nutrients intact as possible. I kind of try to alternate her proteins– so we don’t have cow eight times in a row– and try to have fish twice a week at a minimum. Mitch doesn’t like fish…. so… we do what we can. We don’t limit her calories, her sugar intake (although she is not allowed to have high fructose corn syrup), or anything like that.

Mostly we just want her to eat something real.

2) Be nice.

Having been a child care worker for many years, I know what its like to be on the other side of things. Especially in Maren’s age group, the kids are HUNGRY at lunch time. They stand at your feet and cry while you try to put their lunch together as quickly as you can. Lunch happens so quickly that by the time you have the last kid fed the first kid is done– and usually you need to get them ready for nap right away. The majority of the kids are all eating the same lunch– it’s frustrating to have to stop and remember one special lunch, especially if you have to microwave or open containers or put something together.

If you have to, pack a lunch that can just be kept cold– like a sandwich, yogurt, and fresh fruit. Get it into one container if you can. Do not demand or expect that the container will be washed before its sent home. And ask them how its working for them. Would it be better if we brought in a gallon of milk, or three sippy cups? Would it be better if we labeled the food? Would it work better if the food was as close to the other kids’ menu possible?

Try to be flexible. As long as Maren is presented with her food at the same time as the other kids, I try not to worry too much about the details. Maren has never cried for the other kid’s food, to my knowledge, or vice versa. And even if she did…. well… tough titties. She’ll thank us later. But when you’re nice and polite to the staff, they are a lot more willing to make exceptions and do the extra work for your baby.

3. Stand your ground.

Mitch is better about this than I am (shocking, I know). We try to be as courteous as we can be, but we don’t give an inch. Many people have tried to make us feel like this choice is not very important (it is). Most people have tried to convince us by saying that we’d save money (we wouldn’t).

Remember the bit about being nice? The nicer you are, the less ammunition they have. When I put Maren’s cold lunch into one container and tell them they don’t have to microwave anything, they don’t have to open anything else, they don’t have to put it on a plate, etc, then there really is no excuse. I haven’t made their job all that very difficult. And I’ve called them out, too. I’ve stayed professional, done my best to keep a cool head, but I’ve asked them, point blank– what’s the problem here? All I’m asking you to do is open a container for my kid. Is that really so hard?

Keep your eye on the prize. Remember what’s at stake here. Remember what’s at risk. Don’t let them talk you out of it.

Food is an issue that Mitch and I have kind of chosen to be our cross to crawl up on and die. Mitch and I are both overweight, and have been all our lives. Maren has never been overweight, in fact, she’s only slightly above average for her age group. She’s a very healthy toddler, and we’re hoping that these choices will train her taste buds so that she makes healthy decisions even after she’s started making some of her own choices.

Keep at it. If enough of us do this, eventually something will have to change. The reason that the food program is able to get away with making such terrible, cheap food for our kids is because we continue to eat it and pay for it. Don’t do it. Make a different choice.

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Filed under Because it needs to be said., Let's Be Besties, Occasionally, I Am Just Me

Is this real life?

The other day I was chatting with one of Mitch’s aunts about school. I was telling her about a particularly difficult children’s lit class (Right? This guy was such a tough grader that he seriously hurt my feelings) in which I had just turned in a final and wasn’t sure how it would go.

“But,” I said, waving my wine glass, “I mean… I suppose that nothing can really keep me from graduating at this point.”

I’ve been thinking about that phrase ever since I said it. It isn’t entirely true, I guess. But I’d have to really, really mess up student teaching. I’ve never even heard of someone not graduating at this point in the game.

Back in April, I had a meeting where I had to meet with one of the big-timers at my school, and she wanted to know what had brought me to teaching. I have a hard time with that question, even though people ask me that all the time. To me it would be like saying, “So… why do you love your mom?” Or, “Tell me, just what is so great about your favorite color?” I’ve wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. I don’t ever remember– really– ever wanting to be anything else.

So I kind of told her that, and did my best not to sound too Anne of Green Gables-y. And then I found myself talking about going to college– about going to class that first day. I bought my textbooks just before class, and when I sat down to my first college course the name of the book was “Fundamentals of Music and Musicianship”… and I remember very clearly trying to cover the grin that spread across my 18-year-old face and thinking: I get to read this whole book. I get to learn everything that is in. this. book.

And then I changed majors, after a very bad second semester. I don’t regret the change– whatsoever– but it did put a big damper on my progress. And then the gal at registrar messed up, and I got registered for the wrong classes and burned through an entire semester before I realized there’d been a mistake. And that brings me up to 200– the year I lost my scholarships, followed by losing all funding, followed by taking nine, or six, or three credits– here and there, wherever I could– for another few years.

Then in 2007, I decided to try something different, and I swallowed my pride and went to a community college to get an associates degree in early childhood education. I say ‘swallowed my pride’ because the stigma about going to community colleges is huge. But I have to tell you– I had such an amazing experience going to community college. Invariably, the students there are serious. I met so many kids who were first generation students, kids who promised with gritted teeth that they would be the ones who broke the cycle of poverty in their family. I sat next to so many middle-aged divorcees who had never gone to school, and then when their husband left them what else could they do? So here they were, taking their first math class in 15 years. I met immigrants, refugees from war torn countries and survivors of natural disasters, doing what they could to re-assemble their lives. I met women who’d had babies in junior high, and now they were doing everything they could to take care of their children. Only a handful of these people were academically gifted. Most of them had to work very, very hard. It made me so ashamed of every time I had slept through class, or skipped altogether, or turned in a paper that wasn’t my best work, or lied to a professor to get more time on an assignment.

At first, I had to work harder, just to keep up with them. Hard work came very easily to them, and they regarded education as a privilege. To them, college was not the recognized next step after high school. In fact, many of them hadn’t even finished high school. College was something that they had dreamed about. Having an education was something that they thought was for someone else. And now I was one of them.

So I worked harder. I didn’t want to be a good student, I wanted to be brilliant. I had never before in my life wanted someone’s approval before, not like this. I had come with a lot less baggage, and not nearly the challenges that some of them were facing. I wanted them to be proud of me.

Somewhere in there, I began to recognize the education system as a beautiful part of the community, as a fragile, delicate system. When I talked to the people around me, I started to see connections. I could see where the system had failed them, and also where it had succeeded. When I thought back to the students I’d met at the university, I could see the failures there as well…. even though they didn’t always look like failures.

And then I graduated. One day I opened the door to my mailman, who said there was an envelope that wouldn’t fit and said ‘do not bend.’ I opened it up, and there was my diploma. I had just found out only a few days before that I was pregnant.

And you guys all know what the last two years has been like– late nights, sleepless weeks…. postpartum depression, learning to be a mom, finding a way to make a balance between work, school, and loving this little girl who was just too wonderful to be believed. School was different this time for two reasons: I’d learned to work, and become ambitious. For two, I was now just like those women in my classes, working and working and working so that at the end of it they would have something valuable to give to their babies. As the economy got worse, and we saw valuable people losing their jobs left and right, Mitch and I felt this urgency. My education became of the highest priority.

Motherhood became consuming. I kept thinking, “I can’t do school right now, I need to quit.” And then a second later, I would realize, “How can I quit? She needs me to finish.” I became desperate.

And I pushed through. I brought my laptop with me to the hospital so that I could keep taking quizzes and turning in assignments during labor. I put off taking pain pills so that I would be clear headed for exams. I didn’t sleep for months because the only time I could work was when she was sleeping. I devoured information and pictured it being written on imaginary index cards, filed away inside my brain for later reference.

I pictured my days like stepping stones. Every day, I got to take another step. And now I can look back, and just barely see what it was like before I had Maren. And back and back and back, and I am four years old, going to the library with my Mom and being jealous and impatient that some of the books are too hard for me.

I must tell you that right now nothing seems too hard for me. I am 14 weeks away– 14 weeks with no classes, no studying, no tests, and no finals– to achieving a dream. A dream. How many people get to say that?

I said all of this to the lady at the college– only more awkward and abridged, because I don’t talk like I write– and she said,

“Wow. I want you to take a moment and think about everything you’ve been through. Just take a moment to digest it and think about this– because this is it. THIS is what you’ve been waiting for. This is what all your work has gone towards.”

This is real life, folks. This is happening.

I look back on all those stepping stones, and I want to take them all and press them into one big block. I want to plant that block in the earth. I’m going to use it as the foundation for the beautiful life that I’m going to build, wherein my children never ever let anyone tell them that they aren’t worthy of something that they really want. I want to always live with it close to me. I want everyone that I meet to see it and comment on it, and ask me what it is that makes me so happy and strong, so that I can point to it and say, “Oh this? I worked on this for half my life, worked harder than I thought I would have to, and worked harder then I thought I could. This is all I ever wanted. This is what it looks like when you keep going when people tell you to stop, and keep dreaming when people tell you its stupid, and keep working when you can’t see through your tears. This is my most valuable possession. THIS is what I made for my babies.”

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Wherein My Uterus Makes a Rather Awkward Re-Emergence Into Daily Discussion

So you remember way back when– back in those wild, reckless days– when Mitch and I got married, got tattoos (tatti? tattae?), when on a drinking tour of northwestern Minnesota (read: sat in our cabin and drank a lot)? And then remember how like, four days after that, we found out we were pregnant?

AND THEN do you remember how that pregnancy was awful and terrible and I cried a lot and had to be reminded to shower and brush my teeth, but still somehow got my act together and decided– hey– okay– okay– I guess– okay.

And THEN remember how the baby came, and she was beautiful, and then didn’t sleep for a year?

Well, apparently we forgot about all of that, because we decided to try to get pregnant this fall. Whenever I tell my other mom-friends this, I get one of two reactions. Either they are just SO EXCITED because Maren is just SO ADORABLE they can’t wait to see another one just like her. Or they look at me and say, “Have you lost your mind? Do you REMEMBER labor? THREE DAYS OF LABOR, ADRIENNE. DO YOU REMEMBER THAT?”

I know. I have no defense.

So way back in February, I gave my left butt cheek the very good news that he (yes. My ass is man. Just ask every guy who’s ever checked me out.) had been granted a reprieve, and there would be no stabbing for a very long time. To celebrate, I ordered myself and my ass some ovulation checker-ma-jigs, and then sat back and waited for the little red flag that it was GO TIME.

Except…. no dice. It’s been months now, and I’m not even spotting. NOT EVEN. Its as if, after ten years of my uterus and I having a fantastic relationship, just because of this one little argument that I had with her (I guess my uterus is a woman), she’s decided she’s not speaking to me. Which is kind of shitty, considering that this argument is stemmed from the fact that I got pregnant unexpectedly, which I think most sources would say is her department.

Anyway.

So I went to the doctor, which I detest doing anyway, and asked her what was wrong. She gave me one of her doctor looks and then told me that she’s not surprised that we’re having trouble. Given my current condition (read: fat. Huge fat.) she said she’d be surprised if I could get pregnant at all.

Guys, has anyone ever said something like that to you before? I mean, what kind of fuckery is this? We spend our entire adolescence and early adulthood doing EVERYTHING WE CAN to AVOID pregnancy, and then we decide we WANT to get pregnant and there’s suddenly a complication? IS THIS REAL LIFE?

And so, Internet, I come to you grieving. It seems as though I am going to have to undergo one of those Dr-Phil-esque lifestyle changes, wherein I have to eat cardboard and tell everyone, “NO REALLY, it tastes SOOOOO good!” and whenever I think about ice cream I have to stick my finger in an outlet. And don’t get me started on exercise.

I’m on vacation this week at the cabin (back at the scene of the crime) and I am under orders from my Doctor to NOT get pregnant until I’ve lost fifty pounds. FIFTY POUNDS GUYS. THE METRIC EQUIVALENT TO ONE LINDSAY LOHAN. So, since most of my plans for this week are now useless (ahem), I guess I’ll be spending the time getting my head on straight to get my body ready to become Kingdom of Baby. Which means, probably, lots of drinking and crying. Great material for blogging, no?

 

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Filed under Baby, Let's Be Besties