Happy Pants

I just had to tell somebody... or every somebody.

I have recently submitted a few of my blog posts as articles to a website called Divine Caroline - they have articles about pretty much everything, and anyone can submit - and today/tonight I got an email that my article is being featured on the front page of their parenting section. It's the one I wrote about school pictures.

Check it out at divinecaroline.com. Click the little "I liked it" icon to show me some big love. The article is entitled "Say Cheese" by e.e.richards.


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Wipe the dust off your pants.

When I was a little girl we used to sing this song in Sunday School called "Oh What Do You Do In The Summertime?  It went a little something like this:  "Oh, what do you do in the summertime?  When all the world is green?  Do you march in parades, or drink lemonade, or count every star in the sky?  Is that what you do?  So do I."  I'm not sure who wrote this particular song but clearly they did not consult me or my sisters regarding the lyrics.  If they had the song would be a little less Twain  and a whole lot more Steinbeck.

My father, although a really pleasant man, did not view vacation time as a time to laze about counting stars and such nonsense.  Vacation time to him meant one thing and one thing only.  Free labor.  Every summer he had some kind of very extensive, very exhausting project that needed completing.  One year, when I was about 11 he wanted to landscape our "yard".  (It wasn't the kind of yard that we have here in Oregon.  The houses in Oregon are close enough together that if you need to borrow a cup of sugar from your neighbor you just open your window, reach into their kitchen and get it yourself.  In Montana, the yards are big enough to let everybody walk around naked with the shades up and not have to worry that you're gonna end up on "the YouTube" -as I like to refer to it.)  Anyway.  My dad's idea of a landscaping project was to line the entire perimeter of our  property with a three foot wide border of broken brick.  Maybe brick is supposed to have protective powers - ward off the evil eye or whatever and Dad thought that by surrounding the house he was keeping us all safe.  Probably he just liked the color contrast- he was an artist. Regardless, that brick wasn't going to break, haul and spread itself.

If you've ever seen pictures of an old school chain gain where the men are breaking a big pile of rocks, then you've got a pretty good idea of how my sisters and I spent the summer of 1985.  Just swap out the big sweaty men with big hammers for little sweaty girls with little hammers... and gallon size buckets - the kind cheap ice cream comes in.  Then, add in all of the neighborhood kids that found out that our dad would "pay" them with a huge soda from the Maverick Convenience Store and Truck Stop at the end of the day and so decided to volunteer for service on the Ecker and Daughters Demo Crew. (Where was Amnesty International then I ask you.)  Seriously, all I remember is a bunch of kids running willy-nilly around huge piles of brick, sweating profusely in the very hot Montana sun and swinging hammers left and right.  Luckily for my dad it was "back in the day"- which basically means that he didn't have to worry about little trifling things like sunscreen or protective eye wear or closed toe shoes.  Maximum productivity with minimal overhead.

I started thinking about this particular summer vacation as, (during this winter vacation), I was outside, alone, using my bark dust rake to break down and clear away the slushy/snowy/icy furrows that are giving my street an appearance similar to how I imagine the border lands between Pakistan and... whoever borders Pakistan.  I thought about how if I had been my dad I would not be the one doing the raking.  If I were my dad, I would've organized my three children into a work party and let them learn the benefits of some good, hard, physical labor.  I would've recruited their friends.  I would've had a big work plan.  But, in actuality, that's just... so hard.  It's so hard to listen to the complaining.  It's so hard to get them to complete their assigned tasks.  It's so hard to stop my three year old from converting his broom into some kind of Samurai Warrior's weapon and launching an attack on anyone within strike range.

 It's so much easier to put my kids in front of a computer game and just do the work myself.  I want so much for my kids to be hard workers like my mom (who one day, early on in her time working for UPS, loaded package cars all night, went home and literally had a baby), or my grandfather, the carpenter, who dug the basement of my father's childhood home - by hand.  (One of the other summer projects I got to do was install a sprinkler system with him.  I got to do the "by hand" digging that time. Big fun.)  But, when it comes down to giving my kids an opportunity to learn the principle, I shelve the "teaching moment" in favor of the more efficient "get the heck out of my way so that I can get this done already moment".

I never realized, as I was hauling that brick, that my dad had a lot of other options for getting that work done- most of which would've been easier on him than transporting and supervising a baseball team's worth of kids, armed with hammers and very loud voices around in a van with no seat belts, (which meant freedom of movement) very limited air conditioning and vinyl seats.  I never realized as I was working and no doubt, fighting with my sisters that my dad had to endure not only the labor, but the laborers. I never realized as I was savoring my Orange Crush at the end of each day, that it was such hard work to teach kids how to work hard.

You might think that I hated those days.  I did not.  My vacations are full of good memories of a father that spent time with us, that made us finish what we started, that had a plan for his children.  The plan wasn't always fun.  Now I know that it wasn't fun for him either.  But sometimes what's needed in a child's life - and in a parent's, isn't vacations full of parade marching or star counting or computer playing.  What's needed is a vacation full of a pile of bricks... or a road full of snow.
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Just sitting around in my baggy pants


Just a couple of quick things.

First - Seriously, not one comment on my global warming manifesto? I'm a little disappointed. I was sure that like me you would all have nothing better to do than be absorbed in all things bloggy because of the total absence of warmth, sun and the ability to leave the house. (The pitch of that crazy little voice in my head is getting progressively higher and louder with each passing day stuck inside with my children and I'm seriously considering the suicide by hypothermia thing. I give myself 8 minutes. Tops.) And...

I think that my bum might be permanently stuck to my yellow velvet wing back chair (that's right -yellow velvet wing back... awesome) because as I just pointed out, it is still snowy and icy and cold - (for real snow and ice and cold, not just the Oregon poser kind) and I have been sitting here, in the same spot working on my blog all day. (I'm becoming like that king in the Shel Silverstein poem that only ate peanut butter sandwiches and his jaws stuck together for 50 years or something - except it's my bum, sticking to the chair - like I already said). Seriously, my kids are eating cereal out of baggies and the last time I checked, only 2 were accounted for.

So. As many of you know I've been working on my doula certification for awhile and I really want to finish it up... so that I can start getting paid. (Not super benevolent, but there it is.) So. I've got a new blog : bellybirthblog.blogspot.com (and it turned out pretty well if I do say so myself) where you can find out what the heck a doula is, read about my journey toward full doulaship , and get info about all things childbirth (books, research, baby slings/wraps/carriers, lactation/breastfeeding, fertility etc).

So. If you know anyone in the Portland area that is looking for a really awesome and enthusiastic and FREE labor doula, I would love to hear from them. Just point them toward my blog or they can reach me at bellybirth@gmail.com. I am aiming for one or two births a month, and already have one scheduled for May, so.. chop, chop people. Go find me some pregnant girls and pass the doula love along. (Yes, it is legal.)

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Al Gore wears snow pants


Date: 12/20/2008

To:  Al Gore

From: E

Subject: fair warning



In light of your recent Nobel Prize success (good job on that by the way) I thought it only fair that you should be the first to know about the environmental campaign that I am officially launching today.  Much like your recent efforts as a global do-gooder, my campaign will focus on climate change and the catastrophic consequences each of us is facing if immediate action is not taken.  Unlike your efforts, however, I will be focusing my energies not on stopping global warming, but on hastening it.

Why such a radical departure from mainstream scientific thought, you might ask.  In the words of the TV weatherman - Arctic Blast '08.  (That's a snowstorm for all of you laypersons.)  Where I live it would usually be ripe pickin' for your global warming concerns, but seven days of snow can make even the most fervent tree hugging state demand immediate action.  Yes Mr. Gore,  I have learned a few inconvenient truths of my own recently, and none of them sir, no not one, have been associated with being too warm.
Bulleted List
I am calling my campaign "Warmer Is Better - A Way More Inconvenient Truth", and am furnishing you with a copy of our manifesto.

  • Way More Inconvenient Truth #1: Global Warming will alleviate undo stress to our healthcare system. Cold people are fat people.  Fat people - not super healthy.  This claim is based on a week's worth of research that determined that all I want to do when it snows is eat, work on my blog, eat, watch episodes of "Angel" on Hulu and eat -(and I've not exactly been snacking on the low carbs and veggie platter, Al.  Unless you count chocolate covered cherries as fruit.)  As for exercise - it's hard to breathe through frozen boogers, so running is out.  Also, I can't do sit-ups and eat at the same time, so...
  • Way More Inconvenient Truth #2:  Global Warming will save our public education system.  Cold people are forced to homeschool their children.  I know quite a few homeschooled kids and they are well adjusted, socially competent, and intelligent people.  My husband and I even considered homeschooling our oldest child this year.  However.  I have now lived through one solid week of school closures (in addition to staring down the barrel of a 2 week Christmas break) and I am sad to report that by day three I wanted to run naked through the icy street and pray for a quick death from hypothermia.  
  • Way More Inconvenient Truth #3:  Global Warming will stop our dependance on foreign oil.  Cold people need big SUVs with 4 wheel drive.  How else can they be expected to make it through the snow in order to perform essential tasks, like trekking to Target to buy snow clothes that your kids will only use once.  I think we can all agree that our dependence upon foreign oil will end only when we live in a world warm enough to drive one of those little tiny electric cars that might look all responsible, but won't get you down an icy road to the nearest MacDonalds.
  • Way More Inconvenient Truth #4: Global Warming will strengthen families.  I don't know about you, but I need a routine that I can control.  I need a routine that I can rely on.  I need a routine that includes my husband and children getting the heck out of my house - which they cannot do if there's 12" of snow in my driveway.  Don't get me wrong, I love them, I just want to avoid a Paris Hilton/Nicole Ritchie estrangement.  All I'm saying is that if those girls had cut down on the one on one time and broadened their circle of friends they might still be total BFFs.
  • Way More Inconvenient Truth #5:  Global Warming will save the arts.  Specifically my favorite television shows- which have all been preempted in favor of storm updates.  Apparently the viewing public can't get enough of reporters standing in snow and talking about snow and showing pictures of snow. 
This is of course, our first draft, and I would love to hear any ideas you might have on improving it or on waging a successful environmental campaign.  Also, if you have the name of those Nobel Prize people, I'd like to start networking now because that $1.5 million would go a long way toward spreading our message.  I know that you gave your cut to charity, but c'mon Al - a girl's gotta eat.  And if this snow keeps up eat and eat and eat.

Thanks for your support.  Together we can make a difference.

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Snowmen don't wear pants

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Liar, liar, pants on fire.

One of the benefits of having more than one child is that it makes it really easy to deflect responsibility for things which you might rather avoid. Like, for example, when your nine year old asks you what happened to the Necco roof tiles on the gingerbread house that she made during her special "all-cousins-overnight-gingerbread-and-toaster-waffles-extravaganza" at her Grammy's house. If you have more than one child you can say something like "I'm sorry, I'll talk to your brother about that. He's only three. Thanks for being so patient with him."... and as long as you can keep the concerned mother face, (the one where you furrow your eyebrows and nod your head slowly,) she need never know that it was actually you prying those sugary architectural embellishments from the facade of her little edible cottage. (By the way, if you ever find yourself needing to steal candy off of your own child's gingerbread house go straight for the non-spoon end of a metal baby spoon. You might think that a butter knife would be the natural "go to", but it's too round and slips a lot. The spoon is blunt for stability and slightly curved for excellent leverage. I'm telling you, that royal icing could replace the O-rings in the space shuttle. There's no getting through that stuff.)

Now, it may seem wrong to tell such a... well, a big old fat lie to your kid, but I'm a big believer in the concept of "net good", and I'm pretty sure that leaving my daughter with a memory of her mother sitting on the kitchen floor in her "sock monkeys and airstream trailers" pajamas hacking away at her gingerbread house with a baby spoon would not be good for anyone.

I find it interesting what we remember about our parents. My guess is that the stuff that I want my kids to remember is not what they'll remember about me. I picture them reading Charles Dickens'  "A Christmas Carol" to their children one day saying "Your Grandmother loved this story. She used to read it to us every year. As a matter of fact, it was because she so diligently read to us for at least 20 minutes a day, as suggested by the American Academy of Pediatric Know -It- Alls, that I was inspired to write that Nobel Prize winning novel last year." In reality however it will sound more like this: "I didn't know that Go Dog Go was so long. When my mom read it to me it only had 10 pages. Weird. Maybe this is a different version."

Aside from liberally editing annoying children's stories and the seizure of gingerbread house candy, there are other parenting moments of which I am not particularly proud. For example,
telling my three year old that although it was unfortunate that her binky was missing, she had surpassed the approved "binky use" age threshold and would therefore need to soldier on through childhood without it. (It worked well, by the way. She never asked for it again). Or,
insisting to my son that there was a Storm Trooper hiding in the basement so that he would embark on a "search and destroy mission" and leave me alone to write on my blog. (I know, weasely, but again, effective.) Or my running narrative of nearly every Disney princess tale where I inform my daughter that if Cinderella had stayed in school and gotten her Master's Degree she could've moved out on her own and not married the first boy that asked her to dance. (I'm sticking by that one.) Or my favorite seasonal lie - "I'm emailing Santa, not his elves, him. I'm sure he'll be interested to know that you think I'm a "total meaner" for making you fold your clothes." I can solicit all kinds of good behavior with that one.

Let's face it folks, a lot of parenting is just finding the smallest lie that works best at the time. Is it wrong? Almost probably. Is it effective? You betcha, and if you really think about it, believing tiny little lies are a lot of what childhood is about anyway. Sometimes lies sustain the wonder of the child (ala Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the belief that you really can grow up to be a Jedi). Sometimes lies, however, sustain the sanity of the parent. And when there is not much sanity to be found, I'll take it where I can find it. Even if it's stuck to the roof of my kid's gingerbread house.

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My pants don't come from Brass Plum

In December of 1982 I turned 8 years old.  I don't remember exactly what I got for my birthday, but the smart money says: scriptures, a CTR ring and a dress for my baptism.  The good thing about having a December birthday is that when you hit one of those years (like 8- for those of us baptized at 8) when you get "responsible gifts" you know that the "party it up gifts" are only 2 weeks away, unlike my sisters who all have summer birthdays and had to wait 6 months.  My "party it up gift" for Christmas '82 was... a Cabbage Patch Doll.  Her name was Carlotta Lotti (with my surname obviously) and she smelled like fake baby powder mixed with new plastic.  Because it was the first year that these dolls were available there was a lot of Patch envy and I was more excited about that ugly little doll than maybe anything else before or since - except perhaps, for my phone shaped like a pair of big red lips that I got when I turned 14 (I have shared my lip phone obsession before I think.)

Here's the thing - as you might remember from my previous sentence, I was 14 when I got that phone.  I was a full on teenager doing full on teenager things.  I was wearing high heels and makeup and had my very own bra and everything.  Do you want to know what my 9 year old daughter has wanted for the last two Christmases?  A phone - of the cellular variety - a distant and much uglier cousin to my rad red lip phone.  My daughter is not 14.  My daughter is 9.

My daughter is 9 and is now what might be referred to as a "Tween".  Let's get one thing straight right now.  This is not even a real word people.  (It's not. It's an unword.)   This is a word that is thrown about as though it is an actual developmental stage.  (It's not.  It's an unstage.)  This word is supposed to explain lots of things, and describe lots of things, and make you understand lots of things about your child that, as a member of an aging Generation X, you did not know before it was so eloquently explained by the advertising executives and magazine editors who made it up and can now parle your new parenting saavy into selling almost grown up things to the parents of people who are not even close to grown up.  This word is a marketing predator.  It is the assassin of an entire generation of children's... childhood.  (And last time I checked "childhood" is an actual stage of life).

Because the phone was a definite non-starter, I googled (made up word) "what to get for your Tween for Christmas" and not only did I not find a gift, but was shocked and awed (made up phrase) at some of the entries I found.  (Almost all of which were aimed at girls.  Hmmm.)  The worst of which was entitled "When to get your Tween her first bikini wax".  (In the spirit of full disclosure I must tell you that I did not actually read this article.  I'm allowing myself to imagine it saying something like this:  "If you are reading this you should really take the wax job money and start a therapy fund for your poor kid.  Trust us she's going to need it.")

 Just to be clear, I'm all for personal hygiene and I think that that includes hair removal - FOR ADULT WOMEN (and, let's face it, sometimes men) that are old enough to give informed consent to the very painful process that is having your hair smothered in hot wax and ripped out at the root.  I am not okay, however, with a horse pill sized dose of adult vanity (of which I have plenty - I use two different eye creams twice a day to keep the wrinkles on someone else's face) being allowed to ooze all over my kid.  If the Madison Ave people (or wherever they are these days) want to stick a cell phone in their daughter's hand, slap some lipstick on her and yell "call me when you get there" as she sprints alone towards her future, fine.  But I intend on staying no more than 2 steps behind mine for the foreseeable future.  Just in case.

I want my daughter to be a child while she's a child.  I want her to be a teenager while she's a teenager.  I want her to squeeze every drop of her youth out of life like one of those crazy Jack LaLanne juice machines,  (who knew that carrots had so much liquid inside them)  and then I hope she can close the door behind her and feel like she's arrived somewhere important.  I want her childhood to not only prepare her to be an adult, but to liberate her to be an adult woman.  I do not want her turning into one of those 40ish year old women that still shops in the "Brass Plum" at Nordstrom because someone made her believe that 17 is the only age that is acceptable and beautiful and worth being.  (Long story short ladies, just because it fits, doesn't mean it fits your age.)

My nine year old doesn't need her eyebrows tweased (well, she sort of does but she doesn't know that yet.)  She doesn't need her hair colored.  (She will, she's going dishwater, but she doesn't know that yet.)  She doesn't need high heeled big girl shoes.  (She will, she's probably not going to be much taller than me, but she doesn't know that yet.)  What she does need is as much time as possible to not change a single thing about herself.  She will find that there will be a multitude of lifetimes to worry about that.

What she needs most of all though is a mom who can figure out what to get a nine year old girl for Christmas.  Maybe I'll try to find my old Cabbage Patch doll and call it "vintage Tween".  I bet I could make millions.
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