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Archive for December 2011

Christmas Eve

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Written by GRSeim

December 25, 2011 at 4:05 am

Are children really effected by their playthings?

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Effanbee Little Lady/Anne Shirley doll, circa 1940.

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Girls attending their Jr. High School graduation in 1960.

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Troll dolls, circa 1965.

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Cyndi Lauper, 1984.

…it’s worth thinking about, anyway.

Written by GRSeim

December 21, 2011 at 7:58 am

Asking for help

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Someday, I’d like to be the kind of person who checks in on their blog regularly. Actually, while I’m dreaming, I’d like to become the kind of person who washes her laundry regularly.

Life is always getting underfoot, like a very affectionate cat whose constant shin-rubbing may or may not be intended to cause death and/or dismemberment.

Our latest bit of excitement has had to do with Darren’s struggles at school. The situation at school deteriorated rapidly over the month of November, with the teacher instructing children to get into Darren’s face and yell “like you’re really angry” whenever he hit them and sending him to time out over and over, and I ended up pulling him out of the program. He is devastated about the whole thing and was pretty depressed during his last week of school. We both cried when we said goodbye to our friends from class, and I have been feeling like a shitty parent for letting him go through this ordeal.

On the bright side, Darren’s difficulties in school at the age of three may prevent him from going through a more difficult time in kindergarten in a few years. Darren’s pediatrician and I have been trying to puzzle out which of his behavioral quirks are normal childhood idiosyncrasies and which ones he may need help to overcome. It has been a frustrating journey for me because I have had a feeling in my gut that something was off since I was eight weeks pregnant with Darren, but what I saw as early prevention, the pediatrician saw as me being paranoid. This was the first time she was able to see what I have been seeing all along, and I feel like we are finally on the same page. We started working with a therapist who specializes in sensory sensitivity last week, and Darren loves her and can’t wait to go back.

And me? I feel like an even shittier parent than before, because actually getting help from a professional for my child makes me feel like I’ve failed, like I should have been able to provide everything my child needs on my own, that his need for a kind of help that I can’t provide is a sign of a failing on my part. Like my sense of self-worth is so tied up in my children that emotionally, I can’t tolerate their mistakes, flaws and failures without berating myself for not creating “perfecter” people. Like I need to have that kind of control over how they turn out.

Darren and Darren’s needs aside, I think this has all been very good for me (in a “shoveling snow is character building” sort of way). I have listened to my gut, ignored my ego and it’s paying off. I am learning accept myself as less of a superhero and more of a regular mother who is doing her best to raise happy, healthy kids. Sometimes, that looks a lot like being Wonder Woman. And sometimes, that involves breastfeeding in a teal and plum waiting room that smells like lavender while my son plays with a miniature bowling set with his new BFF/therapist.

Glamor isn’t everything, I guess.

Written by GRSeim

December 20, 2011 at 10:40 am

Pet raisins!

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My son has a soft spot in his heart for nearly anything even remotely huggable. I have to be careful about taking him out on wet days, as we can (and have) easily end up spending our afternoon building little twig-and-leaf hotels for all the worms we find wriggling around on the sidewalk.

Unfortunately for Darren and his warm, gooey marshmallow heart, our apartment building is pet-free. This weighs heavily on Darren, so I was especially excited to share this activity with him!

To make pet raisins, start with the driest, thinnest, wrinkliest raisins you can find, and a gallon-size glass jar.

Fill the jar about 2/3rds of the way with water and white vinegar. (I am not careful about the proportions. It is easy enough to keep tweaking it as you go.) Next, add the raisins to the vinegar solution, and then slowly add baking soda. Watch as the vinegar fizzes and bubbles like soda pop, and explain that the baking soda and vinegar are reacting with one another to make these little bubbles of CO2. These are no ordinary bubbles! Watch as they collect on the surface of the raisins and slowly lift them to the surface!

Darren and I had a blast watching our raisins swim around in their jar. They kept moving around for at least an hour, until the raisins became to soggy and heavy to float anymore. We were sad to see them go, and can’t wait to try this activity again with friends!

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Petting our raisiny little friends!

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Written by GRSeim

December 20, 2011 at 10:09 am

L’Adaptation au Rhythme Moderne

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“A micromaniac,” Edouard de Pomiane explains in the opening paragraphs of his beloved classic French Cooking in Ten Minutes, “is someone obsessed with reducing things to their smallest possible form. This word, by the way, is not in the dictionary.”

Sometimes a line stands out to me as I read; it rattles around in my mind, demanding that I pause and let it sink in, let it hit me.

Sometimes, I’d really rather not. I’m busy. I’m broke. I’m overwhelmed. I want to get through a day without feeling angry and depressed about the state of the planet. Sometimes, I’d really just like to let things go.

But the rattling always wins, doesn’t it?

I can’t let this one go. I’ve spent weeks aimlessly browsing around the internet, trying to make sense of the vague feelings this humorous little line stirred up in the back of my mind.

I found some interesting images, and I wonder if anyone else sees the lunacy in them. Are we, in fact, a society of micromaniacs (whether or not the dictionary wants to admit it)?

This is how google images defines the word “cute.”

And here, you have the word “adorable.” Note that the formal definitions of these words do not state or even imply that these words should be used in relation to small things (although the word “cute” has taken on a meaning that implies smallness in recent history, but the etymology of that word will likely turn into a post of its own).

Remember the tiny cell phone craze? People used to laugh at me for griping about how the phone, held at the ear, rested against your cheekbone rather than extending to your mouth. Thank you, Steve Jobs, for restoring sanity…and for making it possible to hear and be heard on the phone again at the same time! (Lest you think this trend was a passing fad, however, see here.)

This may be the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen. Bite-size S’mores. Let that sink in for a moment. These desserts are called S’mores, because when you eat them…you want S’MORE. They are a dessert, a treat, permission to indulge, to forget about counting calories and hating your body and feeling bad about taking up space. They are your ticket to childhood, playfulness and fun. Making s’mores bite-size does not improve them; it robs them of their magic. When you eat a bite-size s’more, you are not remembering summer camping trips (or in my case, my big splurge after giving birth to my first child!). You are thinking about sticking to a diet. And you know what else? You are probably wishing that you were brave enough for seconds.

This is, in my opinion, where the micromania begins and ends, with the much-blogged about pelvis-less Bloomingdale’s model. Take a close look at this picture, and consider the implications. Although we are dealing only with imagery, the effects are disturbing and grotesque.

They removed this woman’s womb. They removed her sex. They obliterated her in the name of fashion.

Isn’t that where this has been heading all along? The body-hatred, the shame, the constant pressure to be small, speak less, ask for less out of life and the world and everything? Do you feel the pressure to disappear, to be invisible, to be those minuscule fairy tale creatures who willingly, happily, silently support and provide for the shoemaker, neither expecting nor asking for compensation? (That the elves are, in the end, repaid for the generosity in clothing fills my mind with little vignettes of my head exploding in an oven à la the Brothers Grimm and Sylvia Plath.)

It all feels like a mad obsession to me, if anything ever did.

Written by GRSeim

December 20, 2011 at 8:36 am

December Looks Like This (2011)

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Thanks to blue milk for the fun post theme!

December in Seattle

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Soaking up every bit of sun

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Decorating the tree

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Guerrilla art? (Someone abandoned this toilet on the street close to our home. We didn’t decorate it, we just think it’s awesome.)

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Bundling up

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Salt dough ornaments

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Ugly sweaters

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Christmas lights and stars

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Gingerbread house decorating party

Written by GRSeim

December 20, 2011 at 4:15 am

My Highly-Theoretical Christmas

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We are trying out a few new ideas this Christmas, and I’m a little worried excited to see how it all turns out. 🙂

1. We’re taking the Christ out of Christmas. That’s right, I said it. We have moved away from religion ourselves over the last five years and don’t feel comfortable including religious elements in our celebration anymore, so a few things are conspicuously missing from our Christmas get-up this year: the nativity scene, religious music, and the Christmas Eve candlelight service.

What we’re doing instead: A nature-themed tree, decorated with birds, stars, dried orange slices, popcorn garlands and anything else we think of before the 25th. An hour-long playlist of Christmas classics that range from “A Marshmallow World” to “Cool Yule.” J’adore! And it turns out you can buy obscene (…haha) quantities of candles at IKEA for a freckle and a hair past free, so I’m getting my candle fix. It feels different, but still a substantial step above the Christmas we spent hunkered down in a deserted Shari’s diner because it was the only place that was open on a holiday that we didn’t feel good about observing. (Side note, Jewish people have not had problems with consumers secularizing Hanukkah…and all they have had to do to preserve the sanctity of their holiday of choice is not demand that it be observed as a federal holiday.)

2. We aren’t pre-sorting the gifts. This one is sort of a social experiment I’m doing, and to be honest I’m a little nervous about it. In an effort to avoid subconsciously pigeonholing my kids into gender stereotypes, I am not buying them individual presents.

What we’re doing instead: I’m buying things that look cool or useful, sticking them under the tree and seeing who gravitates towards what. Obviously this year won’t be very telling, since Darren is memorizing the names of the planets while Melia is still largely immobile. I wanted to get the tradition established, though, so we’re doing it. Hopefully Darren won’t interpret this as a survival of the fittest situation. I did tuck some baby things in there that are very obviously only meant for Melia, so we’ll see how it goes.

3. We aren’t buying crap. My mother, bless her heart, gives the worst presents in the world. Really. We’re talking miniature keyboard vacuums shaped like pigs bad. I hated Christmas as a kid because I knew it meant I’d get a mountain of garbage that I really didn’t want, and then I’d have to spend the month of January writing thank you notes for all of it. My biggest holiday-related goal as a parent has been to use gifts to build my relationship with my children. I want them to feel the thought and energy that goes into selecting presents that they will appreciate.

What we’re doing instead: With all this in mind, I thought about jumping on the DIY bandwagon this year (yeah, okay, my addiction may have had something to do with it, too…), but when I started budgeting out the money I’d spend on DIY-ing crap that wouldn’t be reusable next year I decided to revise my plan. I am making things by hand when it is more economical to do so (mainly decorations and edibles), and putting the money saved toward buying better presents for the kids. A lot of the gifts are school-related; Inchimals and a piano keyboard are the big ticket items this year. I have also tried to select a few unique things that will be interesting to each kid, though. Melia is getting The Rattle (pics to come later, I’m in love with this one…which undoubtedly means she’ll break my heart by never playing with it…) and a pear. Darren is getting a keychain measuring tape, a stuffed hedgehog and a starship coloring book. Those may sound like we unusual Christmas gifts to you, but not if you know my son! My hope is that, years from now when my kids think back on the holidays we spent together, they’ll realize that those little things that made them smile didn’t happen by accident. This is my way of sending a message into the future, to let those future versions of my kids know that, whatever happens, I will be there for them, tuned in and engaged. I can’t be an A+ parent, but I will get my E for effort!

What will stay the same: I am carrying three traditions on from my own childhood: reading “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas” by candlelight on Christmas Eve, along with the promise of a $20 bill to anyone who can recite the poem from memory…three generations of kids in my family have now tried and failed to earn that money! We will also continue making gloriously gaudy gingerbread houses, and lovingly crafting Aunt Chick’s Santa Cookies for friends and family. We didn’t go all-out on the cookies this year, but eventually I hope to live up to my Nana’s legacy in that department. 🙂

What about you? Are you launching any new traditions this holiday season, or passing on anything special that you hope your children remember? I’d love to hear what you have planned!

Written by GRSeim

December 16, 2011 at 6:06 am