Friday, July 30, 2010

Miscellanea

Random tidbits I wanted to share...

1. Matt and I have a new podcast edisode up, continuing our discussion of Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christianity.  This week is "The Authority Question," talking about what type of authority Scripture has.

2. My friend Michael, for whom I turned my blog into a meatmarket a few weeks ago, is a popular guy. Look what he did to my blog stats! I'm not naming specific numbers (a lady never reveals her true analytics :0) but holy cats, look at that spike!
Naturally, Michael's response to this news was "then why did I only get five responses?" I explained that many married women and/or women not from the Atlanta area probably checked him out just out of curiosity. Plus, as I said to my dad back in 2002 when he told me my criteria for men would yield me only five possibilities worldwide, "All I need is one." (BTW, Michael met up with one for coffee the other night! I'm keeping my fingers crossed!)

3. My mother-in-law stood behind Carrie Underwood in line at Whole Foods the other day. How cool and Nashville is that?

4. I installed a grab-code box for my Working Mom Wednesday button--on the first try! It's over in the right hand sidebar, so if you like the looks of that series so far, grab the button and do your own WMW post next week! Feel free to share your link in the comments. If a lot of people are interested, maybe we'll get a Linky going, but I don't want to be too presumptuous!

5. I finished the biography of Jackie I was reading, and started The Lolita Effect. It's really interesting--a little scary, when you think about all the influences facing even young children (seriously, playboy bunnies on onesies?? French maid costumes for toddlers??)--and challenging to think about how to handle all these issues with Kate. The author's main point so far is that our culture is too bipolar when it comes to sex, glorifying the concept in general, but getting really hush-hush and repressive when it comes to actually talking about the real issues surrounding it. I'll write a full review when I'm finished. Very interesting.

6. Let's see... what else? Here's a cute picture of Kate I may not have shared yet.


Have a great weekend!!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Kate at 18 Months

Kate turned 18 months old yesterday. We celebrated by going to Chik-Fil-A and playing in the play place. Kate enjoyed her nuggets and climbing around with the big kids. She had little interest in the toddler area, of course, and wanted to climb up the big steps and go down the big yellow tube slide all by herself. What a big girl! Here’s all about Kate at a year and a half old, interspersed with pics from yesterday...


Physically
Kate is 31 inches tall and weighs twenty-something pounds. (Her checkup isn't until next week, and she freaked out when we put her on the scale this morning!) Her eyes are hazel (brown with a hint of green) and her light brown hair has some adorable curl to it. She still has her “blond spot” above her left ear. She wears a size 4 diaper, size 4 shoes, and is true-to-age in clothes.

Personality and pastimes
Kate is still such an active child. My mom thought I was wild as a toddler, but according to her, Kate has me beat. She climbs on everything—most of the time with total ease, and if it’s not easy, she will huff and puff and try until she gets it. If you give any indication you are willing to catch her, she will jump off things at you, then climb back up and do it again and again.

Only recently has she been interested in sitting still to read books. She pulls books out of the basket in the family room or off the bookshelf in her bedroom, hands them to us, and then backs into our laps. (It’s cute how she stands a few steps in front of us and backs up to sit down, rather than climbing into our laps front-ways.) When we read Barnyard Dance, she claps and stomps her foot. She still plays with her blocks, CD player, stacking rings, and other toys, but books have been the main event lately. Her favorite song right now is “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” and she puts her fingers together to do the motions a little bit.

She is a sweet and affectionate child, but not extraordinarily cuddly, except when she’s sleepy. She gives us hugs and kisses (oh, the kisses—it’s the cutest little tight-lipped face!) and blows kisses at other times, but when she actually lays her head down on our shoulder, we know she must be very sleepy. She’s so independent, happily running into her day care classroom and washing her hands for breakfast, waving and blowing me kisses from the stool by the sink as I head out for the day.

Communication!!
Though Kate has developed motor skills before some other kids her age, she hasn’t been as verbal as some, and until the last month hasn’t really had many words at all. The “language explosion” we’ve been anticipating since her first birthday is finally here. In roughly the order she learned the words, she can now say:

Mama (still usually means “gimme”)
Dada (usually she calls him “Da” though)
Cheese
Shoes
Teeth
Uh oh!
Diaper (“da-ta”)
Mow-Mow (Sometimes I think she’s talking to me, “mama,” but no, it’s the cat.)
Berry (“bee” or “bee-yah”)
Apple (“pul”)
Yogurt ("yo-ur")
All done (“ah-da!”)


She has also mastered some animal noises. (It amuses me that we consider that such a crucial early skill!) She can do a monkey noise (“oo-oo-ooh”), duck (“back back”), cow (“oooooo”), cat (“mow-mow,” of course), horse (a laughing sound, so I thought she was just laughing at first, but then I realized that my “neigh” really does sound like forced laughter). She may also be making progress with sheep, chicken, and all the animals that say “rawr.”

She still does some sign language, including “please,” “thank you,” “book,” and “all done.” She also nods yes and shakes her head no. Usually, the “no” is just being silly, like when we ask for a kiss and she denies us, but the “yes” is a fabulous development, as she can answer affirmatively to questions like when we ask if she wants certain things. Awesome! She understands most anything we say, so she can follow instructions, like putting things in the trash can or heading to her room to put jammies on.


Potty Training
No, we’re not potty training yet, and when I set her on the toilet briefly before a bath the other day, she started crying, but she's gaining crucial skills in that direction--namely, recognizing when she goes in her diaper. Since she learned to say diaper ("da-ta") she has said it whenever we put her on the changing table. Then, more recently, she has been stopping, clutching her diaper, and saying it--presumably when she's going. The other day, when she did that, we asked if she needed changing, and she nodded "yes"!


Last thing: paci update.
We started moving toward a naptime/bedtime-only thing for her beloved paci a couple months or so ago, and she did very well. She doesn't have it at school at all, even for naptime. She kind of backslid at home in June and early July, when we were out of town a lot and her schedule was disrupted. We caved and let her have it during the day, and she got stubborn about it. We've started to lay down the law again in the past couple weeks. She sleeps with Raffi, Big Raffi (a larger, pink version of her main lovey, Raffi) and Paci, and for a while, she would always collect her belongings before I lifted her out of the crib in the mornings. Since we've gotten stricter, we take the things from her and leave them in the crib. She didn't like that at first, of course, but now she's learning, and will actually do it herself! She starts to pick them up, or puts down the Raffis but tries to keep Paci, and I'll remind her, "No Kate, paci stays in the crib for naptime," and she'll toss it down! A couple times, I've had to be tough and refuse to pick her up, saying "Ok, if you want to keep your paci, you can sit in your crib a while longer." She'll think about it a second, and then put it down so that she can get up. Smart girl!



18 months. Wow. She's been walking for half of her life. She's been out in the world twice as long as I carried her. She just gets more amazing all the time, and we love being Mommy and Daddy to this special little girl.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Working Moms Wednesday: The "New" Dad

Working Mom Wednesday
Kudos and blessings to all the single moms out there who work full time and raise kids without the help of a partner. You deserve our accolades… and a Starbucks gift card with free babysitting. As for me, I know that working full time would be a lot harder—emotionally and practically—if I did not have a husband who is such an involved dad. Actually, it’s condescending to even phrase it that way, so let’s just be out with it: he spends more time at home with Kate each week than I do. But I definitely wouldn’t call him a “stay at home dad.”

Rather, he’s part of a new breed that I was really excited to see written about in this month’s Parents magazine. The article “The New American Dad” was all about the growing trend of men who are “neither stay at home dads nor primary breadwinner, but who work. . . and parent . . . and likely spend a fair amount of time worrying about not doing so hot at either.” Whereas women have faced the anxiety over balancing work and motherhood for decades, men have not faced the same societal pressure to seek this elusive “balance” until recently. As more women get advanced degrees (61% of all masters degrees are earned by women now) and pursue full-time careers, and as cultural changes break down the expectation that women do all the cooking and housework, men are more likely to be dealing with the pressure to “pull their weight” both professionally and at home. The writer also notes that in the economic downturn, men are more likely to be downsized (because male-dominated industries have been hardest hit). All these are contributing factors to the reality of the new American family, in which one in four preschool-age children have Dad as their primary caregiver.
Though we didn’t foresee this type of arrangement when we got married, or even when we got pregnant, Matt and I have a very “new” (modern, non-traditional, etc.) work/home life arrangement. I leave home for ten hours a day to my work as an editor in an office an hour away from home. Matt is a pastor at a small church with no office space, so he works from home (or Starbucks, or the hospital, or wherever his congregants need him). Three days a week, I take Kate to day care on my way in to work, and Matt picks her up an hour or so before I get home. The other two weekdays, Matt keeps Kate at home, navigating that tricky task of getting work done while caring for a rambunctious toddler.

At the risk of providing fodder to traditionalists who might say “that’s why men should be the sole breadwinner and women should stay at home,” I will say that these shifting roles do cause some anxiety. Matt has to carefully plan what needs to be done on day care days and what can be done on Daddy-Daughter Days. Even on DDDs, he faces the guilt and stress of not getting as much done as he’d hoped if Kate happens to not nap well or to be particularly needy that day. And when Kate gets sick and has to come home from day care, he is the one whose plans go out the window in order to pick her up and take her to the doctor. (He wrote about this just last week on his blog, actually.) And then there’s the feeling of cultural pressure that as a “real man” he should be going off to the office every day in a trench coat and fedora. As for me, I face the guilt of “abdicating” my role as primary caregiver and fear being judged by those who may think I should be staying home. On one hand, it almost feels like it would be emotionally easier to have Kate in day care five days a week than to feel like I’m making Matt do what is “supposed” to be my responsibility.

On the other (much, much stronger) hand, I love that Kate can be home two days a week (though day care has been awesome for her). I love that I can work in a career I love and that Matt can have such a special relationship with Kate. Matt loves his Daddy-Daughter Days, and has found that Kate can actually be an asset in his work, when he takes her with him to visit the elderly folks in the congregation. I love that we are a family that can adapt to do what works for us, regardless of the norms culture has previously dictated for moms and dads.

How do you and your spouse split or share work and home duties?

---
Note: I got the Working Mom Wednesday button working in the sidebar (after much trial and error)! By next week, I hope to have the grab-code underneath it, in case you want to link over!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Project Life (July 19-25)

Happy Project Life Tuesday! Hope you've had a good week and that each day was special in its own way--that's what Project Life is all about. If you're here from The Mom Creative and her weekly Project Life link-up, welcome! Please come back for tomorrow's Working Mom Wednesday. And if you're a regular here at The Parsonage Family, thanks for reading! Here's the story of this past week:

Monday 7/19: My company is doing some creative-enrichment things this summer, so I joined a group on a little field trip to the art museum just a block or so from our office. The Frist Center for the Visual Arts has a wonderful exhibit this summer on "The Golden Age of Couture," featuring designers like Dior and Givenchy. I love historic costume, and the dresses on display made me want to return to my adolecent pastime of sketching antebellum ball gowns and such. I wished my mom had been there to tour it with me, and I dreamed of taking Kate to fun things like that. If you're in the middle Tennessee area, I highly recommend it.
Tuesday 7/20: Kate loves digging through my make-up drawer every morning while I'm getting ready. It's annoying in that I sometimes can't find the mascara when I need it because she's tossed it on the floor, but in general, she doesn't cause much damage or make much of a mess. This day, though, she managed to apply some lipstick. Glamorous, eh?
Wednesday 7/21: Up until recently, Kate has played with books like toys--picking them up, flipping through them quickly, and throwing them down. She would never sit still long enough to actually be read a story. I know she's young, but it kind of worried me, since I would hear about other kids loving to be read to and all. In the last week or two though, she has become a book fiend! She is constantly picking up books and sitting on our laps and wanting to be read to--over and over! Her current favorites are Barnyard Dance, The Nose Book, First 100 Words, and Baby MacDonald on the Farm.
Thursday 7/22: We love going to the park, and we would really rather live near a park than have a big swingset in our own backyard, but we decided Kate could use a little thing to play on in our backyard since otherwise, she tries to run toward the street! We got the Little Tikes Castle slide thing. She had fun on it at Becca's birthday, and it's really the most affordable decent thing out there.
Friday 7/23: I had been looking forward to this all week--making the cake balls for the shower I was hosting Saturday. It was harder than I expected; the candy coating was very thick and gloppy. Almond bark might be easier. Nonetheless, after the first ten or so (which went into the reject tupperware) they turned out okay and the shower guests thought they were pretty cool.
Saturday 7/24: I hosted a baby shower for a girl at church. The rubber-duckies-in-punch idea came from a blog linked up on Kelly's Korner Show Us Your Life baby shower edition a while back. The shower went well, and mom-to-be Brittney got stocked up for the arrival of baby Ellachase!
Sunday 7/25: Kate was enamored with the balloons I blew up to tie to the mailbox for the shower. I let her play with them afterward, and she had a blast, shreiking and tossing them around! She had seen me blow them up, so she keeps putting her mouth on the tied end, mimicking the blowing up action.

What was big in your life last week?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Baby Shower (with Cake Balls!)

I hosted a baby shower on Saturday, and while I'm sure the mom-to-be would disagree, my favorite part was the cake balls I made. Ok, maybe even "favorite part" is a stretch, but I was definitely pretty proud of them.
If you've never heard of a "cake ball" before, basically, you just bake a cake, crumble it up, stir in a can of frosting, refrigerate, make balls, dip in candy coating (or almond bark), and serve. Sprinkles and lollipop sticks are optional. I've seen these on a couple blogs and heard they were recently featured on the food network. The candy coating was tough to work with, but it was worth it and they were definitely a big hit.

But enough about my cake balls. I love hosting parties, and while I am by no means a big cook, I love presentation. My co-hostess and I did a color scheme of pink, yellow, and turquoise, with a minor rubber ducky theme. (I saw the idea of rubber duckies in the punch bowl on a blog too.) The mom-to-be's MIL made the little paper shoes filled with Jordan almonds. She couldn't be there, but sent them from Utah for the shower.

We played a couple games--baby trivia, and a memory game. Chocolates make a good prize, I think--cheap, but something people will enjoy and not clutter up their house.
On the practical side of shower-planning: it's a good idea to stash a notepad, pen, and trash bag nearby for when opening presents!
Here's mom-to-be Brittney cutting the cake...
...and opening presents...
...Grandma and Aunt gushing over a super-soft blanket...
Congratulations, Brittney! and Welcome Baby Ellachase!!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cuteness Clouds My Judgment

My heart melts at the sight of this little face.
But apparently, it also clouds my judgment.
Kate always wants to mess with our computers, banging on buttons and changing settings that we don't know how to fix, so we try to keep them out of her reach. But of course, after she is in bed, we may have them out on the coffee table, the couch, or the floor. So, if we don't think to put them on higher ground before going to bed, they may be accessible to little hands when Kate gets up in the morning.
Last Saturday morning, I got up with Kate while Matt slept in. (She was nakey because her jammies had gotten a little damp in the night.) My computer was safely away, but Matt's was still out, and Kate got to it before I noticed it or thought to put it up. Naturally, (and this is where the clouded judgment comes in) rather than thinking "Hmm, let me get that away from her ASAP," I thought "Me like cuteness. Me grab camera."
And the intoxicating power of toddler cuteness only got stronger as she pulled down the orange pillow to lay on while she punched random buttons. This is the same pillow Daddy lays on in the evenings while working on his computer on the floor. "Aw, she wants to be just like Daddy!" So sweet. Surely this makes up for the fact that she was doing goodness-knows-what to his settings and sending random e-mails of gibberish.
Daddy did not agree, of course. Soon after I came out of the fog enough to finally take the computer away from her and move her on to something else, Daddy got up and went to check e-mail or whatnot, only to find his keyboard wouldn't type. He was mad.

"Did you let Kate mess with my computer?"
"Um, yes.... but she wasn't pounding on it... just pressing random combinations of buttons gently..."
"How would you like it if I let her mess with your stuff?"

I had no good answer to that, but I did go move my camera to a safer location.

I was in the doghouse for an hour or so until he finally figured out what was wrong. And because my husband is sweet and forgiving, his mood immediately improved and he was no longer mad.

Only then did I show him the pictures.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Humble, Texas

We passed through Humble, Texas, on our way back from the prison we visited. Humble. (Though the town was pronounced "umble.") That's one way to describe our visit with the incarcerated women on the Find Your Way Home prison tour. (I blogged about this a lot a couple weeks ago, but if you're just tuning in, here's the back story.) Humble-ing, rather. It's a very strange, humbling feeling to realize that people who have been condemned and locked up are really not that different from you... and yet at the same time, you realize they inhabit a totally different world.

I know I'm a judgmental person and way too reliant on stereotypes, but it really surprised me to meet inmates who looked like they could have been my college classmates or my mother's friends. I spoke with one woman who looked a lot like this actress, and had beautiful green eyes. She and her equally "normal" looking friend both teared up as they told me how one mistake steered their lives off course. (I've heard that one should not ask an inmate about his or her crime, so I did not, but these two women volunteered "prescription fraud" and "drunk driving," which I assume meant manslaughter, since I doubt a DUI sans-accident would land you in prison.) Those women told me about how glad they were to have been accepted into the "faith-based" unit in the prison, where they could take classes and do other enrichment activities. While they spoke regretfully about their crimes, they seemed actually grateful for the opportunities for self-reflection and spiritual growth their incarceration had offered.

I studied their uniforms, willing myself to remember, since I was expressly told I could take pictures of those in our group, but not of the inmates. Their shirts looked like one Matt has--a boxy, white, short-sleeved shirt. The fabric looked like some of the white twill curtains I used to have up in our bedroom. They appeared to have a choice of footwear between plain white athletic shoes and black work boots, and some of the women (the ones in a certain unit, I learned) wore a green plastic wristband like what you would get at a club, only thick and hard and fastened with metal grommets, not weak plastic. They wore no makeup, of course, but could wear their hair as they liked. Lack of hair dye, however, revealed how long some women had been there, with their brown roots grown out to the shoulders and four inches of blond on the ends.

We distributed the book by Becca Stevens and the Magdalene women, Find Your Way Home: Words from the Street, Wisdom from the Heart, as the women filed in. As each musician and speaker in our group got up to present, they directed everyone to certain pages in the book, to read a particular passage that had touched them.

Before Don started things off with "The Gambler," he read a passage in the book about those who have been in the ditch being able to help others who are in the ditch now. Don said how he told Becca, "How can I share any words of wisdom when I haven't been in the ditch myself?" and Becca reminded him that of course he had--we all have--it's just a different ditch.
I'm still trying to process that--wondering if it's true--since I don't feel like I've been in the ditch myself. Sure, I've had rough times emotionally--depression, loneliness, etc.--but overall my life has been pretty easy and good. I felt so sheltered and naive as I listened to Tara, Gwen, and Katrina, the Magdalene graduates in our group, talk about walking the streets, having sex with men because they were so desperate for another hit, being arrested for drugs and/or prostitution, and falling into a wicked spiral of despair and hopelessness as they served their time but returned to the same life, unable to escape.
This cycle of abuse (most women engaging in prostitution were molested as children), drugs to numb the pain, then prostitution to pay for the drugs is so completely foreign to my life experience. I've never even smoked a cigarette, and yet they have seen and done and been through so much. The inmates nodded along, understanding completely the situations and emotions they described.
They were moved to tears by the songs our musicians sang--"Bless the Broken Road," "When You Say Nothing at All," "Break Down Here," and more. Luisa Lopez (pictured below with Marcus) played a gorgeous song off her new album "Cigarettes and Other Dirges."  
Becca spoke to the women about hope, love, and the power of community. She told them what Magdalene was all about, and how they could get information and apply to join the recovery community when they got out. She reminded them that they have community there in prison and that they shouldn't squander that, but rather love one another and encourage one another so they could break the cycle when they got out of prison and have a whole, healthy life.

The musicians closed with gospel hymn "I'll Fly Away," and we all had a chance to talk and mingle more before the women were dismissed. I think the women were really uplifted by our visit, and I know I personally felt honored--humbled--to meet them, hear their stories, and offer a word of hope and love. Hope may be in short supply in prison, but they had plenty of love to give us. People talk about "bringing God" to the prison (or another country, or some other place), but I guarantee you, God is already there.

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