Monday, March 23, 2009


Okay, so I have recently weaned Charlotte from the breast, after 20 months and thousands of hours. My leather couch has a divit in the center cushion that precisely the shape of my butt bones, plus or minus a few pounds. It will be there forever.

I cannot tell you how happy I am to have my freedom back. Don't get me wrong. Nursing my children is something I will never regret. But to have my body back after 4 years of being pregnant, nursing or both, feels wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.

To celebrate the end of this era, I ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon a few weeks ago. Throughout the race, I was half laughing, half crying, just reflecting on this journey and also the return to myself.

My energy level since I began to wean Charlotte has skyrocketed, even though it has been a slow, months-long process frought with mixed feelings and motivated by fright over the thought of still nursing this very vocal girl when she is old enough to have an argument about it. Many of my good friends believe in allowing children to self-wean. I say more power to you. But I am so darn glad to be at the next thing.

Then, today, I came across this article.

I found out about it because of an e-mail I got from some group I joined when I was hormonal and political all at the same time (not necessarily a good combination, mind you). Author Hanna Rosen is being witch hunted by zealots of the liquid gold that is breastmilk. But many of her points triggered what Oprah would call an "A-ha moment" in my soul.

She says,

"In Betty Friedan’s day, feminists felt shackled to domesticity by the unreasonably high bar for housework, the endless dusting and shopping and pushing the Hoover around—a vacuum cleaner being the obligatory prop for the “happy housewife heroine,” as Friedan sardonically called her. When I looked at the picture on the cover of Sears’s Breastfeeding Book—a lady lying down, gently smiling at her baby and still in her robe, although the sun is well up—the scales fell from my eyes: it was not the vacuum that was keeping me and my 21st-century sisters down, but another sucking sound."

And then,

"The debate about breast-feeding takes place without any reference to its actual context in women’s lives. Breast-feeding exclusively is not like taking a prenatal vitamin. It is a serious time commitment that pretty much guarantees that you will not work in any meaningful way. Let’s say a baby feeds seven times a day and then a couple more times at night. That’s nine times for about a half hour each, which adds up to more than half of a working day, every day, for at least six months. This is why, when people say that breast-feeding is “free,” I want to hit them with a two-by-four. It’s only free if a woman’s time is worth nothing."


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Anniversary with the Big Manky Mouse

Today is my ninth wedding anniversary and I am spending it at Chuck E. Cheese's. If you'd have told me nine years ago at this moment that I'd be getting two kids dressed to go to Chuck E Cheese's I'd have been pretty depressed. But it's not like that. David is in Washington D.C. on business this week and that's why I'm heading to hang with loud kids and a big, frightening lip syncing mouse. And I feel totally proud of myself because a week alone with the kids didn't terrify me. And I didn't have to fly to another state just so that I wouldn't be here alone with the kids. And we're getting along pretty well and learning a lot about each other in this time of just us. So, no, it's not the perfect way to spend your anniversary. But it's the way life looks like now. And I appreciate David in my life this week so much because I know what it would be like without him. Plus he sent me the most beautiful bouquet of orange roses with sculptural sticks, and only he would know how much I like sculptural sticks. Cheers, David, onward to double digits, lots and lots of them.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Your Roof

After Gustav, the entire city of Baton Rouge, it seems, has been replacing its roofs. This does interesting thing to a community. Fly into the city, and you'll see a crazy quilt of blue that doesn't have an equal hue, unless you count the skies in Colorado, of course. But even this western girl doesn't wish to see more of that color. Not now. At any rate, this past week, we joined our fellow roof replacement enthusiasts and watched (and listened!) as a brand new roof went up. We are so relieved that the job is finished and the work is good. Along the way, I have been intrigued at the kinds of conversations that have taken our city over. "You are getting architectural shingles, aren't you? They're the only way to go," my good friend tells me. "What's that?" I ask. That was a few months ago, and was only the beginning of my roofing education. Then we learned the difference between thunderstorm gray, Oxford gray and Colonial gray. Then we heard about the roofing nails. "Watch out for those," one of my husband's co-workers told him. "They walk around with a big magnet, but they can't get them all." This is confirmed, as I picked up two while talking to my neighbor a few hours ago. And then, the final, most scary admonition of all. "After the job is done, put a blanket under your attic door and open it. You will be amazed at the debris that falls out." We have yet to build up enough courage to take this step.

Scary, Isn't It?

Scary, isn't it? The long hair. The beauty queen crown. The lipstick. All atop the body of a 3-month-old baby. What truths does something like a child's toy hold about American society? If dolls are talismans that embody our feelings as a culture, and propel us forward, then what, I ask you what, is happening with a specimen like this? It showed up in a thrift store bulk toy buy. Charlotte has a love/hate relationship with it. First she wants to hug it. Then she tosses it aside. I know, I know I've written far too much about Charlotte and dolls in this blog. But I am fascinated and, I admit it, a bit obsessed with the lore of dolls. And, again, I say, when I look at this doll: Scary, isn't it?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

When there's no separation, not even in a sentence.

We are sitting in the lobby, watching our kids play at a train table. The mom across from me seems like a neat lady. I am fascinated by this woman who has adopted at least one child from overseas and is enough of a storyteller--or at least has a loud enough voice--that she is prone to wax poetic about the joys and traumas of raising a child from another country. I admire her. I want to be her friend. She seems really cool. Who else but someone who is really pretty cool goes overseas and adopts a child. How brave. How smart. How...

And then she says it. "We have struggled with allergies since we moved to Louisiana last year."

Thud. It's a small thing, I know, to pay so much attention to philology, especially among fellow stay-at-home-moms, when our numbers appear to be dwindling based on a nonscientific notation that I run into the same mothers almost every place I go. But still.

Because it is the linguistic representation of my biggest fear. That this job I am doing, this role I am fulfilling will become me. That these beautiful, huggable, almost always good smelling and sweet creatures I birthed will overcome me. And I, fair readers, will become a WE.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Postmodern becomes Postmommy

So this is the piece of art that I made called "Postpartum." It is, yes, a glass jar filled with broken doll pieces. My intention when I made it was to commemorate the feeling I had after I gave birth to Ryan. I made it when he was about 16 months old and I was expecting Charlotte. I sketched the idea when Ryan was less than a year old, though. It truly depicts my feelings as a new mother. I felt I didn't know what I was doing. My body certainly wasn't mine anymore. My ideas, my thoughts, my goals, heck, even my e-mails were jumbled. It was, I wrote in my journal, "as if my self had been handed to me in a box. All the pieces were there, but disassembled."

Now, all these years later, as I am beginning to relax, more or less, into my role as mother--yes it has taken some time. I guess I am a slow learner--this sculpture sits in my closet, just beneath my jeans and sweaters. It had its tour in various feminist venues. A few great weeks at the LSU Women's Center and an appearance at two performances of The Vagina Monologues. For me, making it was important. But as soon as I did, David, who supports me in all of my various creative pursuits and even helped to break the dolls with his incredibly strong hands, said, "Are we going to have to display this at home?" I never intended this image to be something I visited daily. I wanted to make this piece of art to help me move past the feelings I had. And now I have. I suppose I ought to donate the piece. But there it sits in my closet.

I can certainly hear God snickering, then, on a day-to-day basis as Charlotte, who is obsessed with babies and all things baby-like routinely fishes into the jar to pull out a broken doll that, it seems, she is determined to love back to wholeness. She walks around the house, their sad torsos and blond curls tucked beneath her chin like a violin. She rubs their headless backs lovingly with her sensitive fingers. She has the faith of a healer and I love her for it. We laugh, incorporating the broken dolls into her play. One, a Cher Barbie with no legs, David and I named "Iraqi Veteran Doll." Today, I heard David referring to "Vietnam Veteran Girl," another doll who was the victim of a landmine, as he tells it.

Yes, God is most certainly snickering, for it's true that Charlotte-plus-Ryan is what helped me move past the thoughts that I didn't know how to be a good mother, who made the snow phobic in me move to Antarctica and figure it all out once and for all. Charlotte, my baby with such a caring heart, who came with a vow to love all the parts of me that have been blasted apart by life. So I guess I'll be truly open to the artistic process and watch this work of art I have both loved and hated become transformed through the alchemy of family.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Post, Finally!

I didn't want to close out the New Year without a post. This has been a splendid holiday season, the best ever. One thing that having children has taught me is that you can learn to be happy without going anywhere or spending any money. That wasn't entirely the case with this family this year, but I feel I have learned a lot about being happy without moving around, both physically and psychically, so much. When I think back on the past four years, I realize and celebrate just how far we have come as a family.

Four years ago, David and I packed up our car and drove to Tucson, Arizona, land of my past and of many mistakes. To put it in a nutshell, Tucson is where I went after I received my undergraduate degree. I had a difficult time in Tucson in my early 20's, all of which was a manifestation of poor decisions made on my part. From disappointing relationships to lack of direction, it was there where I experienced a real dark night of the soul. So returning to the seat of my angst was difficult. The fact that it is where my parents chose to retire makes it a place where the universe wants me to return over and over again. Which is probably a very healthy thing.

On that trip four years ago, I was lying in what used to be my grandfather's bedroom when what must have been the voice of God struck me and said, if not out loud than booming to my soul, "You must have a baby." This was very confusing, considering that David and I had long said we would not have children. We were truly looking forward to being retired young with lots of extra money and freedom to travel with and have a great time. When I announced to David what the angel of the Lord announced to me, he was very puzzled. A bit angry. A lot scared.

Several conversations later--you can pack a lot into a trip across Texas--David was on board, albeit he still thought I was pretty crazy. And then, two weeks later, we were pregnant with Ryan. Our life has bloomed ever since. And, based on our experience, I'll bet if you asked a flower if it was easy to get from bud to rose, it would tell you it was painful. But also joyous. And oh so worth it.

Now I look at Ryan and Charlotte, too, who came to us like laughter from the universe, and I am so profoundly humbled. They are truly good people. I can see it already. I think God has a lot to do with that, but I think the community we have built in the walls of our 1500-square foot home here in Baton Rouge has also played a significant role.

As I look forward to 2009, my intention is to be nice to David, Ryan, Charlotte, and myself, too. It sounds like such a trite, silly wish. But I mean to be genuinely kind to them, not just in terms of having nice manners but also of thinking gently when I am considering what I would like them to do, or be, or not do or not be. And remembering to speak to them with love and reverence for the unique, cool loving people they are. To see, when I look at them, the very best Ryan, Charlotte, and David; the people they are on the healthiest, most balanced day of their lives. And to always be grateful to each of them for showing me who I can be, even when I think I can't be or do anything.

Blessings to all of you this New Year's Eve. Namaste.