Thursday, May 31, 2007

Speaking of Mental Health

WHY in the name of all that's holy does my daughter INSIST on wearing EVERY DAY the thin, faded, cheapo clothes I bought her at Wal-Mart last year for $3 a piece? And every day it takes her forever to get dressed because none of her clothes are sparkly enough. And then she decides on the worn-out ones, unless they are dirty because she wore them yesterday, in which case she throws herself on the bed and "cries" (no actual tears, of course). I've made a drawer of clothes she is not allowed to wear outside the house because they're too faded/stained/small, but the clothes I dislike don't actually fall into this category, and at least she'll wear them despite their lack of sparkle. But every day we have an argument about her clothes.


Somebody kill me before she turns thirteen.

Please. I'm begging you.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Tagline Isn't Just a Joke

Tonight I took advantage of my pharmacy's offer of $10 in store credit for every 5 prescriptions filled. (The insurance companies limit the amount of times you can refill potentially addictive pharmaceuticals, so no one start planning to get high AND get a lot of rebate cash.) Before I got diagnosed with clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder, it would've taken me at least half a year to get my free money. Now, with two extra prescriptions a month, I'm raking it in, baby!

The last time I had pictures developed, which I was going to do anyway. Boring. Tonight I went and bought myself some makeup (L'Oreal powder blush in Precious Peach, to be exact.) I'm looking forward to the next time, when I plan to treat myself to a new lip gloss or something equally me-centric. I may be Crazy, but I can still look pretty. Right?

Hey, never let it be said that there are no perks to belonging to the Mentally Ill Club.*

*I feel compelled to add, being an earnest sort loath to offend anyone, that I don't mean to offend anyone. I'm laughing at myself, actually, because I still feel sort of odd that I need medication. I don't feel odd taking it, because basically my choices are: a) take it and feel normal, even great; or b) [want to] die. [Edited to tone down the melodrama. But seriously, it still sucked.] You don't have to tell me that depression is a serious thing. But all the more reason to joke about it, I say--from this side of the bridge that modern medicine built for me. And soon I will write a serious post about my "illness" (that seems so weird to say that).

Hey, the postcript was almost as long as the post.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

They Just Weren't That Into Me

Today I was thinking about my misspent youth—misspent in the sense that I never, not once, did anything wild and crazy, and a tiny part of me regrets that—and in particular about my relationships before I got married at the ripe old age of almost-22. Or maybe I should say my “non-relationships” or “fantasy relationships” because I had a lot of crushes on guys who never asked me out. I also had some dates and even actual boyfriends along the way, but not that many, partly because I was always mooning around over some guy who hardly knew I existed.

These guys were always Unavailable, either because they were taken or they were just way out of my league. When I think back, I cringe with embarrassment because I must have truly been a millstone around these poor boys’ necks, what with my total inability not to stare longingly at the object of my desire; and then when his eyes met mine, look away so fast that I almost got whiplash. I could live on this kind of yearning for weeks, even months—an eternity in Teenage Dating Time. I bet the guys wished I would fall off a cliff or something. (I’m sure my parents did. I once walked around outside our house in the rain—okay, it was misting—singing “On My Own” from Les Miserables, a song about unrequited love that, I failed to notice at the time, ends with Eponine’s death. No, I’m not making that up—I wish I were.)

Because really, what could they do to let me know nothing was going to happen between us—except not ask me out? What could a "nice guy" do to tell a “good girl” know he isn’t interested? Nothing, that’s what. But I didn’t want to believe that nothing was ever going to happen between me and my latest crush. I wanted to believe that one day I would walk into a room The Guy was in, and I would look beautiful enough that night that he would see me in a different way. Our eyes would meet, and I wouldn’t have to look away because I would see from the look in his eyes that he felt the same way that I did, and “Some Enchanted Evening” would begin to play…

Basically, I guess the moral of the story is, “Keep your daughter away from Broadway musicals. Also, all Disney movies with princesses in them.”

A few years ago, I heard of a book called He’s Just Not That Into You. I never read it, being married by that time (thank God!) but I understand that the gist of it is, if a guy doesn’t call, it’s because he’s not into you. If he doesn’t want to date you or commit to you, he’s not that interested, so go find someone who is. There are a lot of excuses that mothers and best friends will tell a woman to make her feel better about why the guy isn’t calling—he’s scared of commitment, he’s intimidated by your brains/beauty, some floozy has him hypnotized—but of course the women who love you best can’t imagine why some jerk doesn’t love you as much as they do. The truth is, as the author puts it, “if a (sane) guy really likes you, there ain’t nothing that’s going to get in his way.” I proved this in a totally scientific survey: I asked my husband, an actual guy, if he had ever not asked out a girl he liked, or otherwise let her know he was interested, and he said, “No. Never.”

I really wish I had learned this early on. I could have saved myself a lot of tears. I wish I could teach it to my daughter. Of course I know she’ll have her heart broken, much as I would like to prevent that. Still, I’d rather it be broken by a guy she has actually spoken more than seven words to. I’d like her to spend her youth having fun with the friends she has instead of daydreaming about true love, which will come along when she’s ready. Also, I would like not to have to endure the floods of tears and the mopiness and the sad love songs, now that I’m the parent and not the teenager. (Thanks for not sending me off to boarding school, Mom and Dad!)

But I know she won’t listen to me, because what do I know? I’m only her mother.

So I put it here, to document that I did learn something during my single years. What about you? What did you learn from dating (or not, as the case may be)?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What Will I Do Without TV?

We have been experimenting with less TV. It has been working out pretty well, once you discount the wailing, moaning, and gnashing of teeth. “I WANT TO WAAAAATCH!” was Miss Pink’s mantra for a couple of days. My thoughts were, Well, I wish you could watch too, because that means you would be quiet, but that is not what responsible parenting is about.

A little background: I never wanted my kids to watch a lot of TV. I grew up without a TV, and I had a lot of fun as a child. I was outside every possible minute when the weather permitted, playing on the swingset, sandbox, or making up one of my innumerable imaginary games in which I starred as Laura Ingalls Wilder or Nancy Drew. I rode my bike and—get this—played with neighbor kids! I know! Neighbor kids actually existed and were available to play, instead of staying inside with their eyes glued to a screen.

Also, childhood obesity was not a problem. (Not to mention we walked to school uphill both ways, in the snow, barefoot. Ahem.)

Old fogeyhood aside, I wanted to give my children a childhood like that. I wanted—still want—to give them the gift of being able to make their own fun instead of expecting others to entertain them. As I heard once, it’s only fun if you make it yourself. Anything else is just entertainment.

Besides, I’m a language arts teacher! I can’t accept that hours in front of a screen are good for anyone, much less a child with a developing brain. I’ve never forgotten the study that showed that your brain waves are more passive when watching television than when sleeping. That’s a problem, I think: I don’t want my kids to be passive consumers of information and propaganda; I want them to be critical thinkers who question what they view and read.

Before you start thinking that I’m going to say we should all have a TV-smashing party, let me say that I am not planning to get rid of our TV. For better or worse, television, movies, and the Internet are an integral part of our world, and our children are going to encounter them at some point. I don’t want to shelter my kids from any knowledge of what’s out there, just provide age-appropriate boundaries for them and teach them to be savvy consumers so they can eventually make their own entertainment choices.

Besides, my husband would never give up the TV. (And I’d go into What Not to Wear withdrawals.) So the TV stays.

So how had I fallen from my ideals? Well, Miss Pink had talked me into letting her watch “kid shows” (cartoons) while she ate breakfast. One show turned into two…which sometimes turned into three…while I cleaned house or dozed on the couch. I almost always got it together and turned the idiot box off by 10, and the middle of the day was taken up by lunch and errands and playing together, but by Mr. Blue’s nap time, she was asking to watch again, and I really needed a break…so on it went for a few more shows. Probably less than the national average, but more than I want. But I didn’t do anything about it since the baby was born, because let’s face it, I wanted the time for myself, and come on, I was recovering from postpartum depression, so didn't I DESERVE a break so I didn't relapse? (Yeah, I know it was a cop-out.) If I took TV away from her, I would be punishing myself.

So when I recently took away TV for a day as a consequence for bad behavior, her reaction was shocking. It really was. She bawled and squalled like I’d (almost) never seen her do, off and on for several hours. I think she actually said, "What will I DO without my TV?" (Remember, she's FOUR. The little stinker.) And I realized that she was acting like an addict who needed a fix. That’s when I knew that something had to change.

So the new rules are: no TV or movies until the baby’s afternoon nap. Then she can watch TV or a short video. So far I have been good about enforcing this, and despite a few whines when I can’t drop everything and play with her, she is doing better at entertaining herself. And on Saturday we were letting her watch cartoons, when she came in our bedroom and said, “I watched enough. I turned the TV off.”

I was so proud. Of her, and of me.

Friday, May 11, 2007


Today we went for a walk. We managed to get out of the house early enough that we weren’t stewing in the humid early-summer heat. It felt good to get moving.

Of course, every walk with Miss Pink is a nature walk. Along the way she collects flowers and other natural objects (I won’t let her bring home trash, and now she ignores it.) Today she collected a ton of “wildflowers” (i.e. weeds), a “sparkly” white rock, a battered pinecone, various leaves, and some little mushrooms. Don’t worry, we didn’t eat them. As a result, a thirty-minute walk with her involves about half that time of actual walking. The rest of the time I am waiting for her to pick dandelions, which she calls sunflowers. It must be no accident that her name means “blooming.”

During the walk she said with deep satisfaction, “The world is a garden.” For her, it probably will be. She already shows more aptitude at growing things than I do. Which, let’s face it, doesn’t take much—because I’ve killed every plant I’ve ever been given. I say “given” because I’ve never bought one for myself. I couldn’t knowingly subject a poor innocent plant to certain death. But people (mostly my mother) have at various times given me living plants and told me how easy they were to keep alive—and I killed them. So Miss Pink doesn’t have a high standard to beat in the horticulture department. On the other hand, I won’t be helpful, either. Still, she spends time with my mom, where we are gradually convincing her that she can’t pick all the flowers at one time, that she needs to save some for later.

Her class at school decorated flower pots for their mothers and gave us flower seeds to plant in them. Miss Pink decided the flower was a gift for her, so I helped her plant the seeds and she toted the pot outside. I haven’t had to remind her to water it one day, and all the seeds have sprouted. If I were in charge of it, it would probably already be dead. I’m looking forward to seeing it bloom. Just like my little girl.

Friday, May 4, 2007

You Know You're a Mom When...

This was given to the moms who attended the "Mother's Tea" at my daughter's school last night. Several of them made me giggle...and almost all of them have come true!

You know you're a mom when...

You want to take out a contract on the kid who broke your child's favorite toy and made him/her cry.

You hide in the bathroom to be alone.

Your child throws up, and you catch it.

Someone else's kid throws up at a party, and you keep eating.

You mastered the art of placing large quantities of food on a plate without anything touching.

Your child insists that you read "Once Upon a Potty" out loud in the lobby of the doctor's office... and you do it.

You hope ketchup is a vegetable because it's the only one your child eats.

You can't bear the thought of your son's first girlfriend.

You hate the thought of his wife even more.

You use your own saliva to clean your child's face.

You hear your mother's voice coming out of your mouth when you say, "Not in your good clothes!"

You stop criticizing the way your mother raised you.

You say at least once a day, "I'm not cut out for this job," but you wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

April Book Binge

All is revealed--here are the books I read this month. As you can see, it was quite a mixed bag of subjects and genres.

1. Firedrake's Eye, by Patricia Finney
This is an Elizabethan spy novel. It was hard to get to get into, but it spurred my interest to learn more about this era. Talk about political intrigue--not to mention you could be killed for being on the "wrong" religious side!

2. The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel. Meh. I thought I'd love this book but maybe I just wasn't in the mood for cryptic, ironic, minimalistic prose. Hempel's great at what she does, but I got tired of reading this book and kept putting it down for more exciting books.

3. The Solace of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel. Freaking amazing. I have never read a novel before that so effortlessly combined philosophical ideas with everyday reality--plus it was heartbreaking in a GOOD way, if you know what I mean, and I hope you do.

4. The Book of Jewish Values by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin. This book really helped me understand what Judaism is all about. It's divided into short daily readings that could be spread out over the year.

5. Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver. A great jump-start when you don't know how to start (or get back into) writing stories.

6. Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner. It was okay mommy-lit with a mystery thrown in and Weiner is funny. I had higher hopes for it, though.

7. The Three-Martini Playdate by Christie Mellor. Hilarious tongue-in-cheek "parenting manual" that is an antidote to too much earnestness. Mellor's serious point is that children should not take over your life to the exclusion of all adult activities. My favorite chapters were "Screaming: Is It Necessary?" "Bedtime: Is Five-Thirty Too Early?" and "Children's Music: Why?"

8. Mountain Man Dance Moves: The McSweeney's Book of Lists. I laughed a lot, but maybe I just have a weird sense of humor. To find out if you'd like this book, go here.

9. The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold by Francesca Lia Block (YA). A pretty typical rehash, putting fairy tales in a modern setting, plus the prose frequently got overheated.

10. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. This is one of the children's classics I had never read. I can see why it's a classic. But it's not just for children--there are some deep thoughts in there about relationships. Still, I don't think I'll ever reread it.

11. A Famine of Horses by P.F. Chisholm. This is by the same author as the first book on my list, but so much more exciting. It's a great adventure story based on the life of a real-life kinsman of Queen Elizabeth. I'll be reading the next books in the series.

12. About Alice by Calvin Trillin. A lovely tribute to his late wife. However, I was disappointed that I'd already read everything in the book in articles in The New Yorker. Unless you know his work (his family is featured in his nonfiction stuff), you probably won't be all that interested.

13. half of Hateship, Friendship, Loveship, Courtship, Marriage by Alice Munro (I'd already read the first half a month or so earlier). What can I say? If you haven't read Munro, READ HER.

14. The Girls by Lori Lansens (unfinished). It sounded good: a novel alternately narrated by conjoined twins. But I couldn't get into it. I applied the 50-page rule and bailed. Main complaint: the whininess of the main narrator, the twin who wants to write their life story. Plus, it was consciously quirky, and I hate that.

So there you have it. I actually didn't abandon too many books (of course, a book has to be pretty bad for me to stop reading it.) This was fun--I'm looking forward to getting some book recommendations.