Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Secret Manipulator...ooops...Millionaire

There's a new show on Fox Wednesday nights called The Secret Millionaire. The premise is that multi-millionaires go "undercover" as poor people, live in a ghetto for a week on welfare wages, lying to everyone about who they really are, and then when the week is over, the put their Minolos back on, tell the poor people the truth and hand out big fat checks to the ones they deem deserving. The millionaires give out at least $100,000 of their own money on every episode, but the amount and distribution is how they see fit. I like the idea that people are giving their own money (not the network's) to the people that deserve it, and that these "Real Housewives" type women are seeing how poor people live. Daniel liked the show last week, so I decided to give it a whirl last night, even though I am morally opposed to shows that purposely manipulate my heartstrings to the max.
I stopped watching Extreme Makeover Home Edition, because it felt like it had become a competion of how pitiful and selfless a family they could find, and that was just too much for me--
"I'm Ty Pennington. Today's family is really deserving...both parents are veterans, one was killed in Iraq, the other lost both legs and one eye, they have 54 adopted children, 12 of which are blind, 16 of which are deaf, and 3 of which are both deaf and blind with stutters. But despite their obstacles, they manage to find 45 hours a week to devote to the charity they created to help kids with deformities learn to play the harpsichord. Their current house is 100 square feet, the children sleep in piles, and the walls are filled with deadly black mold, but that doesn't stop them from singing songs as they walk 15 miles to school each day..."
While I agree that many of these families seem to be very deserving, what's wrong with helping out the average family with a parent out of work who is trying to pay the mortgage on a small dilapidated home? Why does it have to be gold-medal suffering? Plus, I got annoyed at the fact that all of these families who could not pay their bills or fix up the dangerous aspects of their busted-down homes ran their own charities.
Do not misunderstand me, I am pro-charity, pro-volunteering, and pro-giving back--but let's get real here. As a parent, you have a responsibility to take care of your own children and keep them safe, and if you are leaving them alone in a shack filled with black mold (like every single house on the show seemed filled with) because you are running a midnight basketball program for inner city children full-time, you are not being a responsible parent! You should be taking the 40 hours a week getting a second job to pay for the mold removal, and then when your own family is safe and asbestos-free, then you can devote your free time (not all of your family time) to helping others outside your home. I am 100% behind teaching children that they are not the center of the universe, but I am 100% against teaching your children that every single person in the world is more important to you than they are. You are a parent, your child's well-being is the #1 responsibility you have. In the end, it won't matter much if you were gone single-handedly building churches or gone fishing with your buddies, all your children will see is that you were never there. I'm not trying to be bitter, I'm just explaining why manipulative shows lose my interest, and the trepidation with which I entered the viewing of "The Secret Millionaire."
My concerns did not turn out to be unfounded. The show, while commendable in it's purpose, is beyond lame in it's presentation. Firstly, the millionaires are no big "secret." They have these people take off their insanely large diamonds and put them in "poor people clothes," all of which are brand spanking new. I wear more run down clothes than that, and I'm not living in Watts, LA (where last night's couple went). The people they befriend try to act surprised when they find out that the couple they've known for a whopping 4-7 days is actually rich, but while the gratitude is real, the surprise is blatantly fake. And who can blame them? Some dude shows up in your neighborhood with disturbingly white teeth, brand new "ghetto" clothes that have creases in them, his overly-hilighted wife looks like she is terrified around every corner, and they claim to have moved in from the next ghetto over? Come on, these people are really really poor, not really really stupid.
Not to mention, the wife's nervousness is completely unfounded because they are being followed around by a film crew! You want to be safe in the country's worst neighborhoods, have a cameraman filming your every move. No one is going to mug someone on camera, even if they only claim to be filming a documentary about your lousy living conditions, not spouting your wealth. No gangster wants their face of film for the cops to use as evidence. The cameras are also why every person they meet tells their entire life story and talks about (surprise!) the charity they run. Last night, the millionaires were shocked that a neighbor stopped by to welcome them to the area, and they said no one in their area would do that. It's possible that she stopped by out of pure niceness, but I'd bet if they had moved into their mansion home with a film crew following their every move, someone would have stopped by, if only out of gross curiosity. People are nosy where ever you go.
Finally, I was irritated to find out that this guy was a self-made millionaire who grew up in East LA. How horrified can he really be if he was living in this type of neighborhood for most of his life? His wife, who looked like she was going to puke when she walked in their apartment, turns out to have a story of her own. Ten years previous, she was pregnant with her first child when her first husband was stabbed in the head right in front of her while trying to stop a shoot-out at the mall. If your husband was killed in a gang shoot-out in the mall, I'm going to wager you weren't in a mall on Rodeo quickly did these people forget what kind of world they came from? So, while it in no way diminishes the suffering of the people they met, knowing how put-on and manipulative the shock and disdain probably was kind of killed the show for me.
I enjoyed watching the poor people react to the generous gifts of these not-so-secret millionaires, and that's why people like the show, I guess. Ironically, this couple handed out 3 $50,000 dollar checks, but the guy last week gave out 4 $100,000 checks so Daniel yelled "that's cheapo!!!" at the TV. Interesting monster Fox created here, that someone handing out 150,000 could be considered "cheapo," and perhaps that's what bothers me most about the show. Do we live in a world where charity work has to be done on TV? Has giving to those less fortunate really become such a competition that the givers are not only in competition to be most generous, but the recievers have to be competing for "most deserving?" If you aren't on TV touting your woes, you don't deserve help you may desperately need? If you don't come running when a camera is around, are you left out in the cold? Can't we find a way to celebrate giving in secret, instead of giving in prime-time? Why can't we appreciate those that truly (not superficially) pay attention to the real needs around them and give according to what they see, not what parades itself in front of them? Can we someday reward the family that works day and night to keep their own kids off the street and off drugs, as well as the family that devotes themselves to strangers because their own child is already lost to violence?
So, Fox, I appreciate your efforts to turn reality TV into feel-good TV with a lesson. Truly I do. Maybe, however, it has come time to quit watching others attempt to make the world a better place while pushing their own agenda, and work quietly together with a single agenda--true charity, the pure love of Christ.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

You know your daughter's been hanging out with Daddy when...

She belches and then claps for herself.
She most certainly did not learn that from me.
Daniel has been trying to teach Samantha to clap, so anytime she does anything remotely remarkable, he claps and yells "Yeaaaa, Sam!"
Apparently, "anything remotely remarkable" includes bodily functions. As a woman, I was blissfully unaware of that caveat. Nothing warms a mother's heart quite like seeing her 7-month old cheer for her own burp.
Sam will be 8 months in less than a week and now we get to add to her quickly growing list of accomplishments--right next to having four teeth and cruising--"Classy lady."
Maybe we should have had a boy, because convincing Daniel that a little girl who can belch like a trucker and feel pride for it is the exact opposite of "totally awesome," has proved to be wasted effort.
Oh well, if I can't beat 'em, I should just go along with it I guess...
Do you think they make those T-shirts with bikini's printed on them in a onesie? Or, how about a hat that holds two bottles? Because hey, if you're going to do tacky, go all the way!
I'm going to go look at little ruffly dresses now, and try to think of ways to keep my little sweetie, well, sweet.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

This is Everybody's Fault but Mine!!!

We have an epidemic in the world today, and it is more widespread than any disease has ever been (including obesity, which is saying something in this McWorld). It's a syndrome of simultaneous blame and blame avoidance and it is spiraling out of control. Most people simply do not hold themselves accountable for their own actions anymore--and to make matters worse, it appears that the judicial system is condoning this craziness more than ever.
It turns out that the family of the Wal-mart greeter who was trampled to death on Black Friday is suing. Whatever, I didn't exactly expect a public death like that to go "unavenged" by some greedy lawyer well acquainted with the formula of immense grief plus public scandal equals huge payday. However, they are suing Wal-mart. Look, I'm a fan of fighting injustice as much as the next guy and I know Wal-mart seems like an easy target (no clever retailer pun intended), but I fail to see how this is okay. Call me crazy, but it seems to me that the only people who should be getting sued (and arrested) in this situation are the people that, I don't know, actually stepped on another human being and killed him. The family is citing the fact that Wal-mart's low prices on Black Friday cited "crowd craze" which caused the death.
So, what they are telling me is that if a company puts together a brilliant ad campaign, all my actions, no matter how inexcuseable, are magically excused? Are we so moronic as a human race that if a company tells me they will give me a good price on Guitar Hero, it is considered the legal equivalent of condoning my use of deadly force to acquire said deal? Do we even want to live in a world where no one ever has to think before they act because someone, somewhere in the great beyond might have inadvertently implied acceptance of any bad actions we take? I don't. I enjoy having free will and using it freely, with my very own brain and heart behind my words and deeds. I even enjoy consequences of my choices because the consequences are really what help me learn. When you make a choice, you choose the consequences, whether good or bad. That learning through experience is what shapes the next choice, and the one after that, and the one after that. It seems to me society wants to nullify the good consequences for good choices, and create good consequences for bad choices! I can just picture the skuzbags that stepped on that man getting home from the sale and saying "Hey honey, the bad news is that I possibly killed a guy today--the good news is--check out my awesome Wii!!!! The sucker that stepped around the guy on the ground didn't get there in time, wuss!!" I do not want to live in a world where playing dirty pays off big, and an innocent bystander with a deep wallet takes the bullet for another's bad choices. I may be a salmon swimming upstream on that one, but it's a battle I'm willing to fight all my life, for my child and yours. I want the world to be a more fair place, even if I'm the only one fighting the tide. I may be a lone voice shouting it in this world of "not my fault but thine", but I will say it anyway.

To all those with the "crowd crazies":
The value of a human life is in no way equivalent to a discount on any product in the known world, and to even imply that any amount of advertising could justify the removal of all humanity and thought from someone is deeply disturbing. If you can get so worked up by a sale that you are willing to hurt someone else, you are completely unbalanced and you should have the sense to stay as far away from stores as possible. Shop online if you have to. It's called utilizing your free will on something small to avoid making a gigantic mistake--try it sometime. I don't shop Black Friday anymore because I know it's going to be a complete frenzy, not worth the aggravation, and not a single Wal-mart employee showed up at my house, put a gun to my head, and dragged me down there to force me into the fray! Wal-mart didn't give anybody a problem, they had one already and every choice they made it worse.

I understand grief and the intense desire this family has to blame someone for a loved one's death. I've been there, and I remember feeling like there had to be something more tangible than the idea of "cosmic justice." If I was in pain, there had to be a bad guy to cause it, right? In this case, the families are lucky in one small way--there is clearly someone to blame and people who should pay a price for their actions. The fact that the people who actually committed the crime can not be determined (and it is a crime to kill another human being and continue running to the Cuisinarts), is one of the inherent problems in justice administration and in no way shifts the blame to the next closest entity. The inability to find the actual defendent does not thereby change the defendent. I understand the need for closure, but unfortuately, no one is entitled to closure. No one is even entitled to justice in this life, what you are entitled to is that our country will do their darndest to provide justice. If the search comes up empty, that, while tragic, is also nobody's fault but the people who won't come forward to own up to their actions. Unless Wal-mart put up a sign saying only those who step on an employee will recieve the sale prices, I fail to see how they are at fault here. There are those that say they should have protected their employees better. To them I say, hindsight is always 20/20, and how in the world were they to know that humanity was going to hit their new all-time low for avarice this year? The deals this year were lousy and projections for sales were lower than usual. How was Wal-mart supposed to know that sales would be down, but murderous violence would be up? There wasn't even a must-have item this year! No extra muscle around the Tickle Me Elmos or Cabbage Patch Dolls. Why do we always expect large corporations to anticipate the lows of human vices, yet remain consistently shocked and appalled by them ourselves?

What needs to happen here is that the lawsuit needs to be thrown out as frivolous. Our justice system simply can not become the world's most expensive grief counselor, to the detriment of all suits with merit. That isn't to say my heart doesn't go out to them, but every tragedy that befalls the human condition is not entitled to a monetary payout. Sadness can't be equated to dollars just because the reason behind the sadness is inherently unfair. If the police can find the people responsible for this, then go ahead and attempt some compensation. If you can't find the people responsible, learn how to accept that and move on before some really stupid people and their horrific lack of common decency claim your entire lives as well. The thirst for revenge causes many to drink poison daily. Do not let yourselves fall victim to it, and do not let any opportunistic lawyers reopen your wounds for the sake of their own pocketbooks. Losing an entire family to this tragedy would be injustice populated exponentially.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I can finally sleep, poor vampires can not.

Thanks to everyone that posted words of encouragement during the bloodbath that was getting Sam to sleep through the night. You deserve an update.
I don't want to jinx anything, but so far, so good on the sleeping. Sam went to waking up only once and crying for five minutes or less, and the last two nights, she hasn't woken up at all. I'd do a happy dance if it wasn't cosmically guaranteed to set us back two months. We're playing it cool, but on the inside, I'm enjoying this sleeping thing so much better than not sleeping. Sam enjoys the kisses and clapping she gets every morning. Daniel was able to return from the guest room on Monday night, which was nice, but he picked up the unfortunate habit of hogging the bed even worse than before, so that has resulted in him getting kicked in the shins every night so far. That's his problem though, he needs to respect my space or face my wrath.
All in all, a success. You guys were right, not seeing us was the key. It was unavoidable sometimes, since Sam now gets both arms over the side of the crib and gets stuck so that even if she tries to fall over or collapses her legs, she ends up hanging by her armpits and screaming in panic. When I'm being good mommy, I pity her and tear up along with her--when I'm being annoying mommy I laugh at her as I lay her back down. She looks so funny with her arms draped over the side and half-sleeping, half-yelling.
In other news, I went to see Twilight today, and have discovered the secret key to enjoying the film.
Ridiculously low expectations.
I really thought I would hate it and it would be completely horrible--going in with that attitude, how could it disappoint me without hauling in Gary Bussey? It was much better than I expected. Had I thought the movie would be wicked awesome (like a sister of mine who will remain nameless), I would no doubt be a bitter, pouty, disenchanted person (who still is nameless) today. I mean, bitter, pouty, and disenchanted about this, the other stuff I'm all those things about don't count. My unusually chipper attitude toward the movie is proof that the utter disappointment that was my excitement over Breaking Dawn was not in vain, because I learned from it. You can't regret something that teaches you a lifelong lesson to expect the mininum from authors of chick-lit, it's something that must be learned the hard way. Yeah, the movie wasn't fantastic, and the book is way better, but the movie could have been so much worse. It could have been a movie of Breaking Dawn.

May I just say also, that I am so glad I was sitting next to Rachel (who had also prepped herself for dire failure in the journey of page to screen), instead of a teenage twi-hard in an "Edward is my boyfriend" T-shirt, because every time something insanely cheesy happened and I started to giggle she was giggling to herself too. Plus I could whisper things like "why does Edward get covered in Vaseline in the sunlight?" and get a response like "I just thought he was greasy!" instead of "Shut up and die, in that order, you Edward-hating old hag! You're just bitter because he didn't write you a lullaby!" It is so calming to be able to let out a small snort of laughter to get through the velveeta moments without fear of being beat down by small purses filled with Bonne Bell lipsmackers. All in all, an enjoyable afternoon and an enjoyable movie, if you don't go in expecting Citizen Kane. I'd even see it again. I'm thinking of making Daniel go with me, just to teach him how a real man glitters.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Do They Know it's Christmas?

As part of my Christmas obsession, I am now listening fully to the Christmas stations on the local radio and XM. Three weeks into it, and I already have a proposal for any major recording artist from Europe in the 80's (because you know they all read this). If I promise to commit to do my part to "feed the world" will you talk to the radio stations about toning down the airplay of that song? Please?
It's a good message really, but how many artists signing on that record have since served hard time, should have served hard time, or fallen off the face of the earth entirely? It's depressing, and not just for the downer subject matter. Maybe some of them should have spent more money on feeding the world, and less up their noses (if you catch my drift) so they wouldn't need to keep playing the song 20 years later. I think Bono is the only contributor to that song that seemed to really embrace the meaning and run with it. Because Bono rocks, and even though I'm a republican, I'm down with Bono and his efforts to feed the world. You go, Bono.

At the very least, we should wait until a little closer to Christmas to play it. It drives me nuts to hear a song saying "Do they know it's Christmas?" when the answer is "Geez, not yet, crazy Anglos, it's not even December." I'm just waiting for an angry Ethiopian to respond by yelling "Do you know it's not?" Seriously, I'll give a dollar to the first Ethiopian to yell that in my earshot.
Which brings up my stumper of the week...
Thanksgiving is an American holiday, which is no secret, but I hadn't really thought about it much. Since Thanksgiving is the official kick-off of Santa and Christmas, when do other countries consider it "the beginning" of Christmas season? How "do they know it's Christmas?" If you know, leave me a comment, because I'm dying to know what the rest of the world does...

All these little peeves are not really what bothers me about this song. Like I said, I can appreciate the message, and who doesn't need a good dousing of guilt dumped on their Christmas cheer, every hour on the hour? All my angst with this song comes down to one line, really, and it must be sung in a mournful tone and with enough impassioned pity to make one sound like one is constipated (I'm looking at you, George Michael).

"And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime"

No way, really, tell me you're joshing me? No snow at Christmas? Why even have it? The way the song is written, it sounds like they're saying, not only do these poor people not have food, they don't even have snow.
Call me unenlightened, but I really don't see the problem with that. The no-food thing I get, but no-snow? Snow what!
Do you know where else there won't be snow this Christmastime? My house for one. Or Bethlehem, or Nazareth, or Galilee, or any of the other places that figure into the story of Christ and his birth. It's summer in Australia, New Zeland, and the rest of the Southern Hemisphere in December, for crying out loud! For a huge portion of the globe (yes, even the Christian portion of the globe), Christmas celebrations have nothing to do with sleigh rides and snowball fights.
Some of us like it that way. If there were snow in Africa this Christmas, I imagine several of the African people would be thinking what I was thinking my first "white Christmas" visiting my parents, which was "Holy Schiekies! I think I'm gonna die! I'm literally freezing to DEATH!" Luckily, I was wrong on that last point.
The image of a winter wonderland is one that fits the celebrations those living in snowy climates have created for the holiday to accommodate their local weather. It's become the norm for most of the country, and it is great, but in reality it's not an image of a "real" Christmas that others are missing out on and should be pitied for. It's just an image of their Christmas. I have my own images of Christmas. An Arizona Christmas consists of "Yeah, Santa brought me a bike, I'm going around the block!" as opposed to say, a Wisconsin Christmas that consists of "Yeah, Santa brought me a bike! In three months, I'm so going around the block!" We can have luminarias, we do put Christmas lights on cacti, and we never miss out on Grandma's Christmas cookies because the plows haven't come through. We don't get snowed in with a crazy relative. Some Arizonans go on hikes together for Christmas. Not me, but athletic people. Daniel and I have been known to eat Christmas turkey on his Mom's back porch, watching the gorgeous Arizona sunset while the kids swing in the yard and work off their sugar highs actually using their new scooters, bikes, and footballs. "Traditional" Christmas, no, but we love it. While a Currier and Ives Christmas is nice to visit sometimes, we don't miss the snow. You can't miss what you never had and don't need.
So, while there are many reasons to feel compassion for the less fortunate in Africa this Christmas, their lack of snow and cold-weather holiday tradition isn't one of them. I'm sure they have some wicked-cool holiday traditions of their own, too. I'd love to learn about what they are. The fact that a song that claims its entire reason for existence is to promote awareness of "the world outside your window," yet can't recognize that differences in culture aren't for pitying is too much irony for me. Feed the world, yes. Pity them for their lack of snowmen, no.
So I would really appreciate it if I didn't have to hear it every hour, unless they can do a 20-years-later directors cut with a little less condescension.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Universal means "one size fits all"

All right, all right, McCain lost. I can deal with that, it's not like I was in love with the guy, I'm just way more okay with a moderate republican than I am with a borderline socialist, so I'm a little perturbed. I'm not partisan enough that I can't appreciate the magnitude of electing the first African-American President and be grateful our country has come this far. I may wish it had come far enough to elect an African-American with something more substantial than oozing charisma to recommend him for the most important job in the world, but politics has always been a student council election on steroids, so I'm not surprised at the outcome. As my Grandpa used to say "If wishes were fishes, we'd all have a fry."
Yeah, I don't really get it either, but it seemed to fit--it has the word wishes in it.
In fact, I could have moved on with my life without saying much about the election at all if I hadn't found an obnoxious letter to the new President in my Parenting magazine for November. When I first read it, the election hadn't happened yet, so I wasn't too worried, but now that we have someone in office who might actual pitch the nauseatingly short-sighted, bleeding-heart but impossible-to-fund agenda in there, I've got to say something.
The letter claimed to be a parents' wishlist for the new president. It was mostly the usual "world the children" stuff that any self-respecting Miss America hopeful can recite in three languages, but one point really jumped out at me. It said to hurry up and get a Universal Health care plan in place. It would save all the uninsured children! Hurry up, Mr. President, save the children! Don't you care about the children!?
Excuse me, but I'm a parent, and the last thing I want is Universal Health care. I agree that something needs to be done to make health care more affordable for families, and that someone does need to help uninsured children. I'm not sure how to handle the logistics of it to keep people from riding the dole, but I do know it isn't the kids' fault if the parents don't have insurance, for whatever reason. I know the kids are the ones suffering, just like the kids are the ones suffering when parents choose to sit at home catching up on soaps and collecting welfare rather than working, or bring home a new "daddy" every three months, or when parents do any of the bonehead things they sometimes do. I do care about the children. It's because I care that I am opposed to Universal Health care.
I know to most people who don't know a lot about it, and the many "spread the wealthers" out there, it sounds like this: "Universal Health care means health care for everyone, hallelujah! We are all saved, and my skin will clear up like magic, and my puppy will come home, and my Dad will finally give me the approval I crave." It, like our new President-elect, will fix all our problems. Here's the trick. You're missing two vital words. The same. Universal Health care really means the same health care for everyone. Still sound good to you? Yeah, it probably does, equality and all of that. Equality isn't what I mean, however, and I will illustrate it for you from experience.
My mother emigrated from Canada when she was 19 years old, and half of her family still lives there. First things first, quit your giggling, it is possible to "emigrate" from Canada, and that's the proper word, it just sounds dumb because they're right next door. Second, you didn't know this about me because being half-Canadian isn't something I like to brag about, but now you've all solved the mystery of how someone who lived in the Valley of the Sun since she was a year old can have a skin tone middling between corpse and fish belly. Let's all drop it and move on.
My grandparents still live in Canada, where they have been plagued by health problems for the past decade or so. Because of this, I could probably write a thesis on why Universal Health care is the pits, but I will just stick to one example to prove my point.
About 10 years ago, my grandmother fell and broke her humerus. For those of you not addicted to medical dramas, that's the bone between the elbow and shoulder. It's a big bone and there aren't any other bones around to steady it. Nannie got to ride in an ambulance down to the happy Canadian hospital to get it fixed. The doctors decided to stick her arm in a sling. Now, I may not have followed through on that whole medical school thing, but I know a couple of things here: 1) When a 60-something-year-old woman breaks her arm just falling down (as opposed to riding the half-pipe on her skateboard like a 16-year-old two beds over), it's possible, nay, likely, that her bone density isn't exactly what it used to be, 2) this hypothesis can be proved by the place in her medical records where it states explicitly that she has osteoporosis (in other words, her bones are brittle and prone to breakage). I also know that sticking said osteroporotic arm in a sling probably isn't going to do jack squat to heal on its own. But that's what the Canadian doctors did. They gave an elderly woman with bone disease the same exact treatment they would give to the 16-year-old daredevil. The same treatment they'd probably give a wiggly 4-year-old whose bones would regrow and crooked on top of it without a cast. Then they set a follow-up appointment for a month later.
Thirty days go by and Nannie goes back in to the doctor only to get an X-ray and be told that her arm is exactly as broken as the day she fell. Fancy that! "Exactly as broken" you're saying the weak bone with regeneration issues that wasn't even steadied well in the first place didn't step up to the plate, kick that nasty density problem, and fix itself?! How rude?! I'll bet the 16-year-old was in better shape, because his bones know when to be a team player. Nannie had to go in and have a huge surgery with I don't know how many pins put in her arm.
Yes, she would have needed the surgery anyway, but she certainly didn't need to be in pain every time she bumped her poorly-set arm for a month prior.
So, why did they treat her the same way as a patient with an entirely different medical history? Universal health care, baby, the same health care for everybody. Translation: Doctors have no reason whatsoever to make individual patients happy or healthy. They don't get paid on performance, only quantity. They get paid lousy rates by the government no matter how wonderful they are at their job, which means they have no incentive to be wonderful. They are overbooked, which is why it takes them a month to get around to seeing the poor elderly woman with the busted limb again, or it takes them two weeks after the results come back to call and tell you that you have cancer (but that's another story for another day). Don't tell me it's free or "you get what you pay for" either, because after over 40+ years of paying downright exorbitant taxes, they certainly aren't getting it for free, nor are they getting what they paid for.
So, with all due respect to the pageant queens at Parenting, I'm a parent too, and I will fight tooth and nail to make sure that we don't end up with Universal Health Care. Find another way. Find a better way. Because I want Sam's doctors, and my doctors, and Daniel's doctors, and your doctors, to give a flying fig about what they're doing, and to treat the patient as differently as they need to be treated in order to be cured. I want their paygrade to hinge on doing their job properly, and I want them know that I will sue them if they slap my brittle-boned grandparent in a sling and leave her there for a month. Because I want my family to get good medical care, not just any medical care.
"One size fits all" has no place in the Hippocratic oath.
And that's one thing that I'm sure you probably feel the same about too.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Love is a Battlefield

So, we've decided to let Sam cry it out in the middle of the night, in the hopes that I might get a full night's sleep ever again in this lifetime. How can she go down for naps and bed no problem but come completely unglued in the middle of the night?! I just don't get it. I also didn't realize that "crying it out" referred to me. This kid is so stubborn, poor Daddy has been relegated to the guest room for the duration of the war. The parent who doesn't get up between 4:30 and 5am (read: Me) gets to listen to the screaming and go lay her back down every 10-15 minutes. Sam puts in between 45 minutes and an hour and a half of screaming each time she wakes up. So, I don't have my husband with me to share the frustration, I get to listen to heartwrenching sobs for hours on end in the middle of the night, and because she isn't getting good rest at night, I get a crabby little princess for a child the entire day following.
Why did I start doing this? Oh yeah, so I won't still be getting up in the night when she's 12. Remind me of that when I'm committed to the loony bin, which doesn't sound so bad if they let you sleep for 8 hours solid.
Even so, I'm pretty sure I'm losing the battle. She's going to get me to cave any time now, and she totally knows it. I'm afraid I'm going to start crying right along with her. Last night, Sam learned how to pull herself to standing in her crib, and that's even worse, because she stands there screaming, and can't figure out how to lay back down without me going in there and laying her down, which reminds her that she wants me to pick her up, which renews her screaming gusto....
Vicious, vicious, cycle.
In addition, I've learned that "I'm doing this because I love you" sounds even lamer spoken by me now than it did coming at me as a kid. It may be true, but still sounds dumb, especially over Sam's whimpers.
I've got to stay strong! I just have to!
They say whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger, so I guess I'll get a good night's sleep eventually either way, right?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

She thinks she's all grown up

This morning, I noticed Sam has a second tooth. I was just adjusting emotionally to the one that popped up 5 days ago, so we're both a little cranky today. She's annoyed at the razor sharp weapon knifing through her gum tissue, and I'm mourning for my lost little baby days. Sam's officially a mobile, newly weaponized, whirlwind. As much as I love her fun little personality, sometimes, I miss being able to lay her on the floor in the family room and go do the dishes without finding her next to me chewing the hem of my jeans or chasing crickets one short minute later. Sigh.
To help Sam feel better, I gave her a little teething ring from the fridge. It's a plastic snail and his "shell" is the cool, soft, teething part. Sam promptly stuck the hard plastic head in her mouth and started to gum that, as she always has since the day we bought it, despite a hundred demontrations of the proper place to chew. Upon finding it not that helpful, she grunted in frustration, and chucked it across the floor, only to change her mind and crawl to get it back. Again, the hard head goes in her mouth and fails to soothe, so Sam repeats her frustrated little dance. Bite, chuck, retrieve, repeat. She's still doing it ten feet away from where I sit.
It appears to me that the snail is the only one with a hard head around here.
As I raise one eyebrow and think, "Geez kid, you've got all the tools to make yourself feel better in your own hand, if you would just work them right," another thought enters my head.
I wonder how many times Heavenly Father has thought that about me. How many times have I been in possession of all the tools I needed to help myself and decided to chuck them across the room because I didn't know how to utilize them? How many times has He just rolled his eyes and let out an internal exasperated sigh as he patiently showed me yet again how to use something he's reminded me about a million times?
It's something to consider.
So now, instead of thinking my baby is being silly, I think "look at that kid, she's just like a grown-up! Can't follow directions to save her life!" Just like her Mommy.

Monday, November 10, 2008

'Til I die (or am minorly inconvenienced) I will not remove mine integrity from me

I've worked to ensure academic integrity for a long time now. As an academic counselor at UoP for a few years, it was my job to talk to students about plagiarism, make sure they understood exactly what it meant to have academic integrity, encourage them to do their work honestly, and report them to academic affairs if they were dishonest. Before I did that, I worked in the testing office at UofA, where among my many duties, I had to catch cheaters. And I caught a few. I was never so surprised as when we found 30 pages of notes being used by a girl wearing next to no clothing. Where in the world was she keeping them? Part of me wanted to wear gloves when we confiscated them, just in case it was somewhere gross.
After years of working my tail off in school to earn my own grades in addition to all my work experience, you could safely say that academic integrity is one of my pet causes. I despise cheating. Loathe it. I've seen every trick in the book--some of which border on beyond desperate like actually making yourself throw up to get to your stash of notes in the bathroom, and some of which are painfully uncreative--writing on your arm, really? I've heard every excuse in the known world. "If I fail, my dad won't pay for my Beamer." Oh, yeah, buddy, I'm crying with you on that one, I'll feel bad for you on my whole walk home. "I'll lose my athletic scholarship." Tough beans, and maybe a little more studying on the bus next time. "I was holding these for a friend." Uh huh. During your test, while she waited outside? I'm sure she'll appreciate the gesture. "My daughter had to write my essay because my internet was down." Excuse me? Are those two things even related?
Call me a Nazi, but I have no sympathy whatsoever. As a student, I didn't work for four years to get the same exact diploma as someone who switched places with their twin so they could pass their Biology final (I wish I was joking about that). As a representative for the university, I'm not going to allow a few bad apples to cheapen degrees from our institution for everyone else. Period. I'm hardcore and passionate about this.
The point of all this is that, never, not once in my entire life, did I encounter a cheater who didn't think they were the exception to the rule. Not one person who didn't think their reason was good enough to justify what they had done. Not one.
I bring it up at all because people who know me obviously need to know how I feel about this. Because lately, I've had more and more people mention or even brag to me that they do their spouse's homework. i.e. "John's final essay turned out great, if I do say so myself, I wrote it after all." It would be rude of me to launch into them then and there, so I'm posting my opinion on the blog without mentioning anyone specifically so they can read it and know unequivocally how I feel about this practice before they mouth off to me and get a stunned look and truncated conversation in return. Please, read how I feel before you say something that makes me lose a huge chunk of respect for you.
This is wrong. Wrong. Positively, absolutely wrong. Are we crystal clear about my stance?
I am even more upset by the fact that most (okay, all) of these people are LDS. We are supposed to be "honest in all our dealings," people. Do you think school doesn't qualify? What happened to "Til I die, I will not remove mine integrity from me." Hey, for you younger crowd, "I believe in being honest, I believe in being true." These are not just sayings, they are a way of life. Consistent integrity is the only way to build a good name in this world, and I might add, the next.
I know that nobody is perfect and makes mistakes, but why in the world are we bragging about said mistakes? Simply put, because none of the people I talk to seem to think it is a mistake. Most of the people that have mentioned it to me feel fully justified to cheat like this because they are supporting their spouse and allowing him to support their family. Excuse me, but I just heard "my dad won't pay for my beamer." Sorry, it's all lies and cheating to me, no matter how you couch it.
Don't get me wrong. I understand the temptation. I have never been so frustrated in my life as trying to tutor Daniel in Mendelian genetics for his Bio 101 class last month. I had a degree in this stuff, I could have done the assignments in 30 minutes instead of beating my head against the wall and answering endless "whys?" from my husband. Man, that guy is thorough. Drive me crazy! But I tutored him instead of writing it for him, because it was the right thing to do. And if I felt like I was starting to feed him answers word for word, I would walk away and he would continue by himself. Because it was right. And, no, it doesn't make me an unsupportive wife to expect ultimate integrity from the man I've pledged eternity to. He expects the same from me, and would be disappointed if I expected anything less. He wouldn't allow me to do homework for him , even if I would, and only requested I teach him. It's unbelievably hard to sit watching TV, bored, while my husband dragged home from a long day at the office and sat down to a long night of hitting the books. Especially when it's a topic that interests me and I know I could help with. Daniel got his reward on Saturday, however, when he walked in his graduation ceremony with a completely clear conscience knowing without a doubt that he earned that degree. The blood, sweat, and tears were all his, and he can hold his head high knowing that. Way to go, Baby! It was worth it, every last late night, to know he didn't lie to anyone, least of all himself.
Putting a name on a paper other than the author themselves is just that. A big fat lie.
The most common justifications I hear for this are that 1)it's not a class that matters, just a gen-ed or something, and 2) he/she really needs to get into medical/dental/law school, so he needs good grades.
To address this first one, I have to say this: There is no such thing as a class that doesn't matter. Because every last course, even if you will never use the material, is required for a reason. Maybe the reason is only to test your patience and integrity, but ultimately, that is the most important test of all, more important than course material If you're cheating, you're failing that test. Every class is an opportunity to be honest with yourself and prove that you have what it takes to be a good student and earn your degree. Take it for what it is. This is coming from a non-Spanish speaker who had to take Mexican folk music and learn songs phonetically, so don't even tell me I don't know what I'm talking about.
At the risk of sounding completely heartless about the next point, if you can't pass your basic classes of your undergrad singlehandedly, I don't want you as my doctor/dentist/lawyer anyway. To put it more bluntly, if you have to cheat to get into the program you want, you are unqualified for the program. If you can't do the work yourself, you DO NOT have what it takes, and I will not put my life or my child's life in your hands. I really shiver at the thought of going to a doctor who says "hmm, your child is congested, but my husband did that chapter, so let me call him and get back to you." Uh, can you say lawsuit?
It's not just the "important" jobs that need integrity. I don't want my mechanic, phlebotomist, pizza delivery guy, or cashier for that matter, to not have met the requirements for their job before doing it. For those of you going on to advanced degrees, hello, the undergraduate degree work is a job requirement. Do it. Yourself.
It's just a good rule of thumb that if a behavior can get you expelled, it's probably not the right course of action. Let's all remember that for future reference. Let's remember that we are asked to be honest in our dealings, not honest in our dealings unless we really really feel like we have a good reason not to be.
That's just one Nazi's opinion, though, take your chances with dishonesty if you wish. Just keep quiet about it around me, because now you know I hate cheating.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Crazy Takes a Holiday

Christmas, to be exact.
I grew up in a house where Christmas was truly the focus of our year. My mom would decorate every inch of our house on the day after Thanksgiving, including covering our 80-ft wooden banister with no less than eight (yes, eight!) layers of garland, lights, berries, and bows. We would take down nearly every framed picture in the house and replace it with a Christmas themed one. Basically our 4-day Thanksgiving weekend was one day of eating and parades, three of slave-labor as my mom's army of tinsel-bearing elves. I swear, I have a scar from shoving the super-scratchy garland in and out of the wooden spindles hundreds of times. I remember a visitor once saying "wow, it looks like Better Homes and Gardens threw up in here."
I think she meant it as a compliment. As picked on as I felt when other kids were shopping that weekend, our house was always beautiful at Christmas, and I loved it.
My mom started sneaking the occasional Christmas movie around July, and getting her Christmas music fixes regularly come October, as long as Dad wasn't home to mock her. November 1st was the magic day after which she could listen to Christmas music in the open, with my dad promising (but usually failing) to shut up about it and keep the teasing to a minimum.
As a result, I love Christmas. I really do, and not just because Christmas Eve is my birthday--I love how the excitement in our home becomes more and more tangible as December marches on. I loved acting out the nativity with my cousins when I was little and fighting over which sheet was more appropriate for a shepherd to wear versus Mary, and digging around for something shiny so the Wise Men could have a touch of bling. I loved how we eventually ended up with so many advent calendars going that it added 10 minutes to our morning routine to open the all. I love the movie A Christmas Story and can watch it again no matter how many times I've seen it that year. I loved the stress of whittling down our wishes to the two gifts we were allowed to request, only to find that on occasion, one of the desperately wanted but cut items would show up on Christmas morning anyway. I love the fact that Santa managed to find sealing wax for me the one year I got insanely into the olden days and decided I had to have it (all this in pre-internet time). I love how my parents always took time to teach us the true meaning of Christmas, and after all the debacle of the day--birthday presents, opening Christmas Jammies, leaving out cookies and "Santa drink" (my brother's name for eggnog), at the end of the night, Christmas Eve and Christmas day are all about the story of Christ's birth. I loved hearing my dad speak on Sunday as bishop, always talking about the importance and joy of the first Christmas.
In short, I'm no grinch, and I probably could rival any one of Santa's most ardent helpers.
But I try not to be loony about it. I try to give Thanksgiving its due, and no matter how excited I get, I try to remain normal as much as possible.
My husband has no such compulsion to appear normal. Since we will be gone for Christmas this year, visiting my parents in their own little Christmas boutique, Daniel decided we won't get to enjoy the full season of our Christmas decorations and that will never do.
So he decided to decorate early. Way too early. Last weekend, he unceremoniously yanked down the pumpkins and spiderwebs and put up snowmen, trees, and reindeer. Our garbage is full until the truck comes, so our whithering pumpkins are still on the porch while sleigh bells can be heard inside. Everything is up except the tree and outside lights.
We are psycho.
I just shrugged and went along with it because no one ever comes over anyway, and I love Christmas too. If I had visiting friends, I would have taken him on, but these days it's mostly cell phone calls and email. I went along with it until he hauled out the outdoor wreath.
I'm fine with us being crazy, but I see no need to broadcast it to the neighbors. We duked it out for a little while, but ultimately, he can reach the wreath holder and I can't, so I lost that one.
We are now the only house in the neighborhood with a Christmas wreath. I'm so embarrassed.
Not only that, but after 20+ years of my brother, sister, and me competing for the coveted title of "favorite child" (and don't you tell me there isn't one, because we know there has to be and don't want to hear we've wasted the effort), my husband has single-handedly stolen the top spot in my mom's heart. He is the new Christmas-nut, and I challenge anyone to take the title away from him. As embarrassed as I am, its adorable to see him talking to Sam about her first Christmas and showing her all our carefully collected decorations.
So, whatever, we're crazy. But we're just crazy enough to be fun, and that's okay with me after all. Nothing says Christmas like a 92-degree day in early November.
Happy Holidays.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Oh no, you di-unht!

So, now that my baby is over 6 months old I finally decided to get on the ball and buy a baby book to preserve all the precious memories I had every intention of scrapbooking. Too bad I never print pictures, I guess, because I'm exactly 6 months behind. I have 3 pages done. Ooops. Time for plan B.
I bought a cute little baby book at Target, it's pink, it doesn't look too intimidating as far as remembering dates and other minor milestones my Mommy brain forgot, so I decided to get started.
On the third page, I see this little snippet...
"While she was pregnant, Mommy gained ______ pounds and Daddy gained _____ pounds."
What the!!!???
They did not just ask me to put that in my baby book, did they?
There are two major problems with this line. First, the blank is not long enough for me to write "none of your business, Posterity" like I want to. I love my daughter more than anything and for her I have given up sleeping through the night (resulting in dark circles under my eyes only the Joker would envy), obliterated my once stretch-mark free stomach, turned my chest into an all-you-can-eat snack bar, and I am still weeping over not getting back into my pre-pregnancy jeans yet (or any time soon, since I fall into the teeny percent of women who do not lose weight while nursing, thanks again, genetic betrayal that is my body type). So excuse me if I draw a line in the sand and refuse to document how fat I got on top of it. I didn't even go over recommended amounts on my weight gain--I can't even imagine how ticked off I would be if I gained 100+ pounds or something. I feel like this is a book of Sam's accomplishments, not a chance for her friends to look back some day and say "Holy cow, your mom can really pack it on!" Let's just leave that nasty detail buried in a dark corner of my medical record to be found only if I fall victim to some malady only House can diagnose and my pregnancy weight gain turns out to be the pivotal key to my cure, mmmkay?
Secondly, Daddy gained zip, zero, nada, no pounds at all. Big goose egg. In fact, since we've been married, he's gained nothing in the weight department. Emotional baggage aplenty, but no physical weight. I've gained my weight and his. His biggest worry about his own body is probably that I will run out of chocolate and eat him someday. I'm pretty sure I can't put a big round 0 in the book next to "daddy"without following it with a vindictive and insulting name for him, and swearing does not belong in our cherished memories. Besides, that is only cutesy if Daddy gained anything, mom's weight gain next to dad's zero is just a little sad.
With all due respect to the people at Carters, I am crossing that line out!!!
That, and the line for Sam's social security number. This is supposed to be a keepsake to look through, not a bounty if some visitor low on cash decides to become an identity thief because we made it painfully easy to do so! Yeesh, people!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Off one soapbox, onto a happy one

So everyone, sorry if I've been getting all political on you lately. This election just has me (and the rest of the country) all nuts. The posts are my way of getting all mavericky on y'all.
How does that "I'm a pepper" song go?
I'm a maverick,
She's a maverick,
Wouldn't you like to be a maverick, too?

I stand by everything I say, but I will now move on to a subject that will get less people mad. It's okay now, everyone can look again.
It's time for....(drumroll please)

Carly complains about crappy commercials!!!

Yay! That's right, I've relocated my lousy-commercial gripes from my now private family blog to the public blog. Because a lot of people who could care less what my kid looks like covered in rice cereal (adorable, by the way) liked to read those posts. Welcome to your new home!

Today's victim:

You know all those commercials with that super dumb guy?
The one who is on the radio as well as the TV?
In the most recent one, he's sniffing the cars to see "which ones are used?"
He has another where he asks the sales man if any of the cars "shoot lasers" because he's got some "coworkers he'd like to *zap*"?
In one of the earlier ones, he keeps calling the fix-it guy to come to his house so he can look at the guy's truck, or faking the repairman's truck is his to impress his father-in-law. In another, he sees his neighbors are getting ready for a trip and have "room for one more" so he rips off his robe to reveal himself in full beach garb including floaties. Shudder.

If you haven't seen any of these, you are so lucky. I'll never get the cheese out of my brain, no matter how much I bend over and smack my ear.

I hate this guy. Hate him. He creeps me out. If I were the father-in-law, I'd shoot him dirty looks too.

Beyond that, I honestly don't know what Toyota is trying to do here.
If these ads had a slogan that matched perfectly it would be "Complete morons love our cars."
Huh? What's the next line? "Wouldn't you like to be one of those morons?"
I don't get it. They are the ones painting this guy as a total boob, but he's the one pitching their brand. Wouldn't it be so much more effective if this guy was the pathetic Ford owner down the street? I thought carmakers were supposed to showcase their drivers as discerning, wise, street-savvy geniuses, who know how to shop for a car--not as the reject canidates for "Beavis and Butthead." Do any of the cars shoot lasers! Are they kidding me with this?

If your reading this, Toyota, I honestly hope you got a refund from your advertising firm. Next time, call me. I'm way cheaper and I won't pitch "Merv the Perv" meets "Dumb and Dumber." I promise.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Do You Want to Touch? Uh, we'll pass.

Daniel and I were watching TV the other day when a commercial for the new HP with the touch screen came on. The first thought I had was, could this song have grosser lyrics for a computer commercial? Seriously, listen to it next time. Oogy.
Anyway, once I was done wondering why they are going for sex appeal on a freaking computer, I turned to Daniel and said "Would you even want a touch screen computer?"
While I was continuing with "I mean, wouldn't it be hard to work with close detail using your finger instead of a pointer?"
Daniel was simultaneously saying
"No way. The screen would get all smudgy."

Same answer. Totally different ways to get there. Each with reasoning that reflect our personalities perfectly.
That right there is a perfect representative sample of why we work.
Nit-picker and clean-freak, together forever.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Where have all the cowgirls gone?

I have this feeling this post is going to annoy some people. Okay, lots of people. Fine, just about everyone I know. Oh well, who needs friends? (I do. Really, I do. I just think certain things really do need to be said.) I also want to assure you that this topic has been on my mind for a very long time (like several years now), and I have had many conversations with my mom and husband about it during that time, and although recent conversations, debate, and events have brought it to the forefront of my mind--this is in no way directed at anyone in particular. It's just an amalgam of bits and pieces I've seen while roving the net.

I'm further aware that this post will probably also get me labeled with the one of the most despised epithets a LDS woman could receive. Feminist. So, let me be clear and say I'm not a feminist of the bra-burning, man-hating, Hillary-supporting, sort. Not remotely.
As I've stated before, I'm a big believer in the innate differences between men and women, and I'm totally okay with having gender roles defined loosely by society. I like it that way. I love being a mom and a girl, and weaseling out of pumping gas by pretending it's overly complicated. I am the one in the house who learned how to work the DVR first, however. The family is the central unit of society and messing with that principle hasn't brought us anything but bad. Gender is a huge part of that unit, and my life.
I wrote a while back about the disturbing trend that the new "holier than thou" is "busier than thou." Lately, I've noticed as I peruse Mommyblogs of friends and acquaintances, and friends of friends (geez, get me a life!), that at least in the LDS blogging world, it seems that the even newer "holier than thou" is "more helpless than thou." I'm not talking about people who state that they love their husbands and enumerate their good qualities on occasion--heaven knows if I didn't put that I love Daniel and he is wonderful before I make a post about some lame argument we got into, he wouldn't be speaking to me anymore for bashing him on the www. There is absolutely nothing wrong with loving your husband and thinking he's the best. I hope you do think he's the best, because you married him!
But loving your spouse or being publicly grateful for him is not what I'm talking about here. Sure, it can be a little hard to take after a while (he's wonderful, and never ever leaves dirty socks on your side of the bed, I get it, rub it in some more why don't you!), but more power to you.
I'm talking about posts that are so over the top disgusting, and seem to be composed only for the purpose showing your friends that your marriage is awesomer than theirs, and you know you've seen them...
"Today I took the kids to the store. Daniel went with me because I absolutely can not shop by myself. I get so lost and end up crying in the cereal aisle because I don't know whether to buy Marshmallow Mateys or spring for the Lucky Charms. Of course, he always tells me to spring for the name brand because he works 4 jobs on top of Medical school to pay for the name brand, and he is just the awesomest husband ever. When we got home, he unpacked all the groceries while breastfeeding the baby because he figured out a way to alter his DNA so he can help me out with that too!!!! O.M.Gosh! What a catch! After the kids went to sleep (and he read them the story, of course), he took 20 minutes in the bathroom and I thought I was going to DIE because he wasn't there!!! It's like he's my oxygen and I will choke to death without him. Every waking moment before he comes home from work is pure torture the kids and I have to suffer through. If I didn't have Daniel I would be a puddle of tears on the bathroom floor unable to eat or breathe or go to the bathroom on my own..."
I exaggerate, but only slightly. On top of being like some insidious Christmas brag letter that shows up 365 days a year, the content worries me. For one, it is not possible for men to breastfeed, because I would be all over that and slipping pills into Daniel's dinner if the technology were out there. Mostly though, seriously, ladies, when did being a pathetic damsel in distress become cool? Why is it that the less you state you are capable of doing without your better half, the better wife/mother/blogger you are?
We are the descendants of pioneer women! Rosie the riveter was only two generations ago! Where are all the cowgirls who can take care of themselves if they have to? When did "we can do it!" get changed to "only he can do it, but I'll be the cheering section?"
I blame the Twilight books for this. I love the (first three) books, but I think Bella is a whiner of epic proportions who has completely glamorized the weak woman falling into absolute pieces without her man right by her side to save her. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, while it's a good lose yourself story, but not the kind of character anyone should want to emulate. But so many of us do. We want to write the kind of romantic devotional passages that capture the obsessive captivation of a teenage first-love.
Hello, reality check! We are not teenagers anymore, and we have responsibillities. Very small people look up to us and we are making a competition out of being utterly helpless. What is up with that? Last time I checked, the adage was "Stand by your Man," not "huddle nervously, rocking back and forth at the feet of your man."
Token disclaimer: I do love my husband. I don't want to think about life without him, and we really do miss him when he's gone, but you already know that, because I've said it before. I don't feel the need to re-list his good qualities to prove my love for him before I say this next part.

Daniel and I are a team. A set, if you will. He brings strengths into the marriage and is the head of our family, but I bring strengths too. We are both strong individuals that become an unstoppable rebel force when united! We are not halves of a whole that can not function alone, we are two wholes that combined are greater than the sum of our parts. Chew on that, math peeps.
If, heaven forbid, a challenge came our way that caused us to be separated, for a season or the remainder of our lives here, I would do everything in my power to soldier on. I know the cool thing is to say I'd be unable to survive, and I've no doubt I'd feel that way on many days, but I would have to suck it up. I want my child to know that her mother is a strong woman, who will take any trial the Lord chooses to hand her with as much grace as she can possibly muster. Heavenly Father has given so many women throughout history trials that forced them to be without their husbands (the first missionaries spring to mind), and I really don't think those will be judged as better who put the most performance into falling apart, with the ones who chose to raise stalwart children in spite of circumstances and with nary a complaint on the bottom of the stack. Thank goodness Heaven isn't run by the producers of America's Next Top Model. Drama shouldn't always be queen.
Women like Bella, who fall apart when challenges come, are not my heroes.
These are my heroes:
My friend, who went to the ICU every single day alone for several months to be with her very premature son, while her husband served our country in Iraq. If I could handle half the challenges you did with half the courage, grace, and good cheer, I'd construct a monument to myself that would dwarf the statue of liberty.
Another friend, a widow with 6 young kids, who still goes through the trouble of teaching them all the traditions and values she and her husband worked so hard to establish, all while mending her broken heart, still making everyone around her feel like her best friend, flashing her million dollar smile, and wearing make-up every single day (a feat I don't even pull off with only one kid at home and my husband to help me out).
My mom, who didn't even flinch at being alone when a call would come in the middle of the night asking for the Bishop and my dad would have to go. A woman who doesn't flinch now, when business calls him away and she has to take care of everything in the house herself for 2 weeks out of 4.

So, lets give our young girls an example of strength to look up to. Who among us wouldn't be slightly nervous if our 16-year-old daughter said that some guy was the only thing worth living for and she'd die without him. I, for one, know I would have a massive fit, yet we talk like life is only worth living if we get to do it on our terms every single day. It's okay to be human, and admit that we have fears, weaknesses, and struggles. I really do hate going to the store by myself. I just think we need to stop acting like our weaknesses make us better than those around us. I joke a lot, but being better than others because of our problems is taking pride in our humility. While I have a lot of fears, being alone just isn't one of them--I could probably hurt any bad guy worse than Daniel anyway, he's so much smaller than me. That's what three years of living in the Tucson ghetto and walking to school between two bars will do to you. I got stronger, and had to leave fear behind to make room for being smart and wary. I hate to think I'd have to fake scared to have friends.
While I did miss Daniel while I was gone, I've got to admit, honing my airport trip so I got through security in 2 minutes or less all by myself with a happy baby made me feel like She-ra, Princess of Power. I even pumped gas today and I loved feeling independent and strong. Take that Rosie the Riveter! I can do it!
And you can too!
Strong women unite, and be the kind of women our awesome, helpful, hard-working, mondo-fabulous husbands would want to be married to!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

When did we all turn into whiny little wimps?

As much as I try to keep politics and such out of my mommy brain blog (okay, except for a shot at Obama a few weeks ago I couldn't help but take), lately, about a billion things have happened to me and around me that are getting under my skin. Besides, Mommyworld is the real world, and it's our lives that shape the world our babies will have to clean up someday, so I feel this is still relevant to the blog topic. Due to length and the extent of my frustration, I'm going to do two wicked-long posts. Today's topic is economic wussiness, and tomorrow's is gender wussiness.
A lot of my recent surliness has to do with the media's unrepentant attempt to create a worldwide economic disaster, putting me in a blanket bad mood. Now, I'm not generally the conspiracy-theorist-type, and have been known to relentlessly mock people (okay, husbands that may be married to yours truly) for passing along the latest cover-up forward circulating in the rumor e-mill, but I do believe in this one. I think it is in the media's best interest to induce panic. After all, their money-making is based on viewers, and the more terrified people are, the more they are glued to the screen. Reporting that everything will be okay might make people smile, shrug, then turn off the boob tube to go hug their kids and play a pick-up football game. We can't have that! Further into the conspiracy rabbit hole, if you'll permit me, I really do believe that the mainstream media has a liberal lean, and in times of economic trouble, people tend to turn to the party that supports handing out rich people's cash. I'm sure Barack "Spread the Wealth" Obama has gleaned many followers simply because a diet of government cheese has suddenly felt like a real possiblity to many people looking at their once awesome sub-prime mortgages as ticking time-bombs. Everyone wants to make sure there is enough cheese in the vault for them, should they need it. There won't be, no matter who you vote for, but one party has no qualms about promising the world. At the risk of sounding like Forrest Gump, the best advice I ever got from my mom was "always be wary of advice from someone who has something to gain from your decision." My mom is so smart, and never is that advice more needed than at election time. The liberal press is having a field day, and we're taking the bait.
hook, line, and sinker. The media is doing their best to ensure that every single person within their reach feels vulnerable--"you may be only one paycheck away from that proverbial government cheese, more at 10! "
Maybe you are, and hopefully you aren't, but that's hardly my point.
My point is--we (in the collective sense) are not in a depression. Times are harder than they have been in the past, but welcome to the economic cycle. It happens. I hate math and was a science major, but even I know that there are ups and downs in every economy. We have gotten so used to prosperity that we feel entitled to it. Is there anything that cries out for humbling more than a sense of entitlement? I submit that there is not. How do I know we are not in a depression as of yet? As this site put it so beautifully, a two-hour wait at the Olive Garden on a Friday night is not a sign of depression! We all like to complain about the economy, but until I stop seeing busy salons offering Brazilian bikini-waxes at completely insane prices (as if the wax itself isn't crazy enough), I won't buy the fact that most people don't still have money to burn. The fact that still exists proves otherwise.

Financial instability is scary, but seriously folks, don't look at your financial situation as intimately tied to the current world "crisis" unless it actually is. Daniel pointed out the other day that we are feeling the pinch these days, because of the rough economy. With all due respect to my intelligent husband--we are going on 6 months of one income and are finally to the point that we can not buy everything we feel like whenever we want. The stock market rising and falling has zip, zero, nada to do with that. Yeah, we're shelling out more for groceries in theory, but with eating out less and me being home to cook, clip coupons, and bargain shop, we're actually making out better with food costs. Our situation is not the economy's fault, it's a direct result of my choice to become a full-time mom and we'd be doing some belt-tightening right now even if everyone else was still kicking up their financial heels. Besides, we are hardly in dire straits even with one income, our 401K may be looking a little rough, but the fact that we are still watching Yo Gabba Gabba on cable shows that we are not down to the basics yet!
I'll bet that most of you out there are in the same boat. Bad spending habits or a feeling of liquidity are catching up to people, but for most of my friends and acquaintances that just means not buying the stuff they didn't really have the cash for in the first place. They are giving up a few luxuries, not moving into a cardboard box in downtown Phoenix and yelling incoherently at passersby. No one I know is a stockbroker who lost everything, they wouldn't hang out with people as broke as us anyway.
To be frank, I don't want the government owning my bank, home, and car because a few bad apples tricked good apples into craptastic loans and the whole country went nuts as a result. Panic is the poison, not the economy.
We will be okay. We are Americans and we are tough. We've been through worse, even if the media would like us to believe we haven't. If, as a country, we would have just heeded the advice of the prophet all along to live within our means, we wouldn't be in this mess. I'm convinced that if we start listening now, we can get out again, even if we made it harder on ourselves. We can't dig ourselves out by freaking out and huddling at home in full-on panic mode. We can't get out by sharing the latest "did you hear who went broke?" story, or by yanking our money out of the banks and hiding it under our mattresses. We can't get out by watching the news or screaming at the TV. No one ever got out of a hole by making it deeper--I've yet to meet a person who kept digging and actually got out in China, despite repeated childhood attempts.
It's time to suck it up and clean up our messes, America. We've been trying to get our kids to clean up after themselves, let's show by example this time around. Who is with me?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Samantha's #1 Fan!

So, I just got back into town last night after taking Samantha to Utah for a wonderful visit with my parents and sister for 4 days.
By myself.
That's right, I braved the airport with a six month old and without my court jester/loving husband! I was totally terrified about how she would behave. I've got to be honest though, I continually insist on underestimating Samantha. Every time we go anywhere (by car, foot, plane), I'm afraid she will melt down and she never ever does. I'm always prepared with a 20 lb diaper bag full of magic tricks to stop crying, and it always ends up being a moot point. Even when Sam is gearing up to make my life miserable and giving me panic attacks (say, by being cranky and fussy in the airport before departure), she always comes through when the chips are down. I can't help it though, come Christmas, I will be back in full disaster-prep mode. It's in my nature. My spine will crack before my will to prepare.
Sitting at an airport gate with an infant got me more dirty looks than if I had worn an "I hate orphans, puppies, and homemade cookies" T-shirt, and while it bothers me on a very small mommy-defending-her-offspring-level, mostly, I'm thrilled about it. Why? Because no matter how crowded the plane is, if there is even one available seat, it will be the one next to you and the baby. Which is good, because I need the space to hold the reject toys and my little cup of water Sam always seems to want to share, to disastrous and freezing results.
On the way there, a very nice lady came up and sat in the window seat while I was in the aisle. She said she knows most people hate sitting by babies, but she liked them, so she'd take the bullet. She talked with Sam for a while (which Sam adores) and once the red wine kicked in, she even jumped under the seat to retrieve her teething bee when Sam chucked it. How nice! The funny thing was, after the flight, all the people around us (seriously, 3 rows on each side) decided to hold court about how good Sam was on the plane. I was flattered that they all thought she was adorable and wanted to say hi, but felt super awkward at the same time. Seriously, I'm a little self-conscious about 10 strangers standing around discussing my kid's behavior, good or bad!
Then, on the way back, we tried the same trick, and parked in an aisle seat. I figured this way, since the flight wasn't crowded, no one had to sit in our row and if they did sit by us and Sam cried, they have no one to blame but themselves! I was trying to keep her dancing when a lady came up to me and said
"Hey, did you fly in on Thursday?!"
"Uh, yeah, we did."
"Oh my gosh, I was a few rows behind you! This baby was so cute and good! I usually hate sitting by babies, but I want to sit by this one, can I have the window seat?"
I was floored. Sam has a fan! I'm sure it helped that she wore her Halloween outfit both ways so she was recognizable, but how funny is that!?
A few minutes later, a business man came to sit in the row in front of us. Before sitting down, he said "Okay, I'll sit by you, baby, but you better not cry the whole time!" In response, Sam flashed her million-dollar smile. Before I could answer and assure him she was usually good, the lady next to me chimed in with "Oh no! Not this baby! She's adorable and cute, I've flown with her before. Don't worry!"
Huh. Okay, thanks for the endorsement, complete stranger!
Thankfully, Samantha came through for her fanclub and was good again. She kept trying to get the lady's attention and when she did finally look at her, Sam would flash a ginormous smile and jump. I seriously thought our new friend was going to melt. She also made friends with an older lady on the other side of the aisle two rows back when she was trying to win over a hot young guy sharing the older lady's row. That lady was so hilarious, Sam got the giggles. That made me laugh, so all-in-all, it was a pretty good flight.

Lest you think I'm making this up and only hilighting the portions of the trip that make us look good, there are a few cons to traveling with Sam.
1) She thinks my boarding pass looks delicious and spends the entire trip through security, walk to the gate, and wait before the jetway trying to get a taste of it. Frustrating when you are juggling a kid, a diaper bag, and the bottle of water to make formula you have to buy past security that simply has nowhere else to go. I apologize to the nice people at Southwest for the soggy corner on my pass both ways.
2) She gets so excited by both takeoff and landing that she squeals with delight at the top of her lungs until we hit cruising altitude on the way up or the gate on the way down. It gets a little loud for my taste, and usually also involves excited stomping and dancing on my lap--making it hard to hold on to her during landing. On the plus side, people are way more understanding about happy noises than sad ones, and everyone around us laughed at her instead of rolling their eyes while I tried desperately to interest her in a mute button (aka: binky).
3) Sam loves all people, and grins at every stranger she sees. People really dig this and almost always smile back, making her even more excited. If they don't see her or try to ignore her though, Little Miss Center of the Universe gets peeved and will yell in their direction until they comply. She does NOT cry--it's more like "hey! HEY! HEYYYY!" but it's mortifying and will not stop until her target notices her, or someone else jumps in and smiles at her instead. That someone else can not be me. Hot Guy in the next aisle seat learned this the hard way on the way home. She spent at least 15 minutes trying to get his attention, smiling, yelling, trying to reach over to him. Embarrassing! On a deeper level, I've never seen her work that hard or long on one person, and as a mother, I'm deeply disturbed that my daughter will do anything for the attention of a good-looking man. I sincerely hope she outgrows that before she hits her teens.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

We Have a New Winner

There is a new clear front runner in a very upsetting contest.
It's the "embarrassing statements I can't believe I had to say to my kid" contest I started with myself several posts ago.
I swear I am not making this up, I actually said this to my daughter just this afternoon. I managed not to yell, and I feel I managed to control my total panic and disgust for the most part, so I'm calling it a mommy victory, despite the clear failure to keep the situation from happening in the first place. I only wish my warning/correction/freakout had come out of my mouth in a more mature, sophisticated, classy, or allover less embarrassing way.
"No, NO, Samantha!!! We do NOT suck on old poo poos!!!"
Oh. my. gosh.
I had no idea parenting would provide me with the opportunity to say things like this when my kid is not even efficiently mobile. Yet here we are.
Not for the first time, I desperately hope the neighbors don't pick up our baby monitor's signal.
If you want to know the situation that led to me running across the room and making such a tasteful declaration, you'll have to let me know. It doesn't seem right to post yet another poo poo story on the web without fair warning. All I have to say was I did avert the worst crisis this brings to mind, and am not as bad a mom as you are thinking I am. Not my proudest moment, but it could have been worse. Way worse. Although it wasn't for lack of trying, Sam did NOT actually suck on poo poo.
I never thought I'd see the day where having a family member not put poo in their mouths was a good day, but that day is today. Hello world, it's my first day to truly understand the meaning of "small victory." Very small.
Once upon a time, not all that long ago, I never worried about someone in my realm of responsibility eating poop, or bugs, or pretty much any non-food items. Although Daniel has always considered them a weapon of permanent carpet-staining proportions, I never before considered a raisin a harbinger of certain death (shout out to "What to Expect the First Year" for the gift of my new psychotic choking phobia). Finally, it's true that I wouldn't consider mosquitoes and me to be friends--they treat me like a Vegas buffet-- but I never thought of one as my mortal enemy until I saw it hovering around Sam's cute chubby thighs.
It was only six months ago that I didn't have a hyper-intense focus on the literal minutiae of life. However, I was also absent the intense depth of feeling that comes with being a parent. I'll take the expansion of the "poop and bug avoidance" sector of my brain since its required with the love, compassion, and knowledge remodel I so desperately needed. The disgusting and highly stressful parts of Sam's adventures are more than worth it for all the wonderful her gigantic personality brings into our lives. Yeah, I'm a total whack-job, but I'm a parent, and we're all certifiable. It comes with the gig, and I can deal with it. I might have to chuck out the "what to expect" books before I invest in a Sam-sized plastic bubble, so if you are walking by my bedroom window, you might want to duck.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Change I Can't Believe In

Last night, I was washing dishes while Sam played on the family room floor quietly.
Out of nowhere she made three sounds in a row.

Hey, kid, watch it. This house is McCain territory.

I have always said that most of Obama's followers were too young and inexperienced to know what they are talking about, and that most of them still live with their parents. I just didn't realize how young and inexperienced.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

How does she know I'm crazy?

So, now that Sam can say both "mamama" and "bababa" she's decided she'd rather say only one syllable of each. Now she says "mom" a lot. I swear, she is saying "mom." One syllable, starts with an M and very clearly ends with a M. It is so stinking cute.
Today, I totally forgot that she doesn't know what that means, and we had our first conversation. If I answer her back while she babbles, she tends to stop talking and start smiling to try to make me laugh, so I've been trying to just let her talk without getting involved. It is super hard and I apparently suck at it.
Sam was babbling while I changed her diaper, when all of a sudden she says:
It was so abrupt, sudden and forceful, that I thought she was actually trying to get my attention. "What do you want to tell me, Sam?" I answer.
"A Baaaaa!"
I get all excited and shout (in goofy baby-voice) "No way! Where is the Ba?"
Sam just gave me this extremely confused and concerned look that can best be described as Sam thinking "How would I know? I don't know what I'm saying actually means, I'm just a baby! Why would you think I did? Are you okay, mom?"
Yeah, so even my nearly 6-month-old thinks I belong in a psych-ward. Isn't she too young to think her mom is lame? I'm a little hurt that at this young age Sam thinks I'm nuts. But on the plus side, we had a conversation! Woohoo!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Mommy's little piggy

We got a virus on our computer last night, and because I am the resident tech-whiz in the house (I know, very scary thought), the honor of fixing the computer so Daniel could do his homework fell to me. This meant Daddy had to feed Sam her rice cereal solo for the first time ever. I told him how to mix it, but didn't give him any of her little eating quirks before I dashed upstairs to conquer malware. I am Carly the virus slayer, all hail!
When I came down to check on them the first time, Daniel was holding her hands down. Sam likes to "help" feed herself by sucking on her hands with a mouthful of rice cereal. It's disgusting, and makes dinner a complete mess, but it's how she likes to help and I have more important things to worry about. "See," Daniel told me (a tad self-righteously, I might add) "she doesn't need to put her hands in her mouth. Dinner doesn't have to be a disaster every day. We're doing great." Okay, whatever, he's always been a clean-freak. If he wants to pick that battle with a five-month-old, more power to him. Back to the computer.
The second time I came down was towards the end of the meal. Sam had both hands in her mouth and was happily sucking away. She was wearing a bib and had the addition of a dishtowel (my only clean one) covering every other inch of her body. It had big blobs of cereal on it. Daniel looked a little frustrated, and as he got a bite ready, Sam started looking at it and whimpering. "Uh, she decided she wanted to suck on her hands after all, so I was cool with that." Daniel told me confidently. Uh huh. Point to Sam on that one. "and, I guess she likes big bites?" He asked me.
"Well, I always give her big bites, since most of it ends up on her face anyway, and I don't want to be here all day long while she spits out 90% of a million little bites. She seems to enjoy it that way." I explained.
"Yeah. She likes big bites. Every time I get a spoonful of cereal ready, she looks at it, and if there isn't enough food on the spoon she starts to cry!"
Sure enough, Daniel put a little bit more on her spoon, the whimpering stopped and she happily took a bite and shoved her hands back in her mouth. "She also keeps grabbing the spoon if I don't get it to her fast enough."
Oh, yes, the spoon grab. A trick I know well by now.
So, as it turns out, my baby is a pig. Maybe we should feed her with a serving spoon instead of a baby one.
Also, all my worrying about whether or not she'll take after me is rather moot. I like to eat too. Like mother, like daughter. That's awesome. We can have emotional eating issues together someday. I'm so glad she seems to get all her bad traits from me and all the good ones from Daddy. Good times.

Monday, October 6, 2008

IronMAN, BatMAN, SuperMAN, SpiderMAN--anyone else see a pattern here?

Three weeks before we got married, Daniel took me to see Pride and Prejudice. It's always been one of my favorite books and it was his idea to take me to the movie despite loud mocking from my father that he would have to "turn in his dude card" for going to the ultimate chick flick. I thought it was sweet of him--there he was, standing up to relentless mocking of his manhood just because he wanted me to be happy. We are so in love, ahh. Of course, he was mighty bored the entire time. I didn't feel too bad for him though--I went to quite a few movies I could not care less about because it was a date myself. That's what being engaged is about--faking that you think M Night Shamalyan (whatever) is awesome.
I didn't expect Daniel's willingness to go to chick flicks to last for too long after our wedding, but I did not realize that "I do" was actually shorthand for "I do not have to see a movie you pick out in perpetuity of forever as of this exact moment." I thought, at least occasionally, I would be able to guilt him into taking me to a date movie. It's been nearly three years, and no, I haven't been able to. Not even one time. I really wanted to get married to Daniel, and its been great, but part of me wonders if I should have had a longer engagement so I could get in a few more movie choices before my days of picking were unequivocally over. It's especially frustrating these days because I don't have any friends to attend chick flicks with, so I have to wait until girl movies come out on DVD and watch them alone like a loser. I should have done a better job of going out with other girls, but I've stunk at that since birth, so what are you gonna do?
Since our marriage we've only been to the theater to see action movies. Period. We've only rented action movies, with the exception of Dan in Real Life, which I watched first to make sure it wasn't too girly before he would watch it with me. The trouble with action movies is, that even the good ones, are extremely similar. Since our wedding, we've seen The Bourne Ultimatum, I Am Legend, Transformers (Oh, heavens, the number of times I've seen Transformers!), Red Eye, Flightplan, The Forgotten, Flight of the Phoenix, Live Free or Die Hard, and the list goes on. We've seen Batman Begins (and the Dark Knight,) Superman Returns, Spiderman 3, and even Cinderella Man. Yes, Cinderella Man is awesome, and does have human interest, but it's a boxing movie, so it covers both sports and violence and I'm still listing it as a man movie. Friday night, it was Iron Man, which Daniel had seen in the theaters at least twice, so he sat there the entire time watching me take in the awesomeness of it all. I think he was hurt that I didn't like it. I probably would have liked it, I've liked quite a few of them (especially Live Free or Die Hard), and loved a few (who doesn't love the DaVinci Code, seriously) but I think my action/comic book movie quota was just full. Sometimes I do want to see them too, but lately, I'm burned out. Been there, seen that. Maybe if I got a wee bit of a break from them for say 1 date night, I'd see it Iron Man again and give it the love it truly deserves. Maybe I'd see it through refreshed eyes and fall in love with blowing up terrorists. Or maybe I just don't like Robert Downey Jr, and I'll feel the same way the second time around.
When I'm not in the mood for them, action movies do one of three things to me: 1) scare me 2) gross me out or 3) bore me to tears. Special shout-out to Will Smith for hitting the trifecta with I Am Legend. That was a stinker and a half.
Daniel doesn't purposely leave out every genre except action flicks, he just hates wasting money on movies that don't look wicked awesome and the only movies that look wicked awesome to him happen to fall into that category. This weekend he told me he wants to see Eagle Eye, and "hey, isn't The Hulk coming out on DVD soon? OOOh, it has Tony Stark in it too, we've got to rent that!"
I'll agree that Eagle Eye looks good, but it's a moot point. I am on strike from action movies until I get to see a movie with some freakin' human interest in it! I am happy to go to Eagle Eye and suffer through The Hulk, but not until I've seen Ghost Town or Flash of Genius first. We are going to see a movie with no explosions in it together, just once, before we go back to another action film. It doesn't have to be a romantic comedy, a lot of those stink, but no one is getting their head chopped off by a helicopter blade, or driving down stairs in a small car for our next date night. If you don't take me up on Ghost Town, you'll be sitting through The Secret Life of Bees. I'm not bluffing here, we'll have a Queen Latifah marathon if need be. To really up the ante, guess who will be sitting through a midnight showing of Twilight if you don't change your macho ways and toss me a bone once in a while? That's right, I'm throwing down the ultimate gauntlet.
These are my conditions, don't make me pull out the vampire romance on you. I'll do it.