Category Archives: Personal

Teenage Struggles

My favorite Harry Potter book is Order of the Phoenix, which is strange because Sirius is my favorite character, and he dies towards the end of the book (spoilers?). I don’t think it’s strange, though, because it came out exactly when I needed it, in 2003, the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school.  I was 16 (Harry’s 15 in this one, so yes, I am the Harry Potter generation and basically grew up right alongside him.  Be jealous) and oh my goodness being a teenager was kicking my ass.

Harry is just such a teenager in this one, and 16-year-old me related to him in this book more than any other character in any other book I’d read to that point.  The whole world was against him, and he wasn’t being taken seriously, the adults were just patting him on the head and sending him off on his way, as though he couldn’t possibly understand the situation in front of him. Up till this point, he’d put a lot of faith in the adults in his life, that they were doing what was necessary to keep him safe & that he could trust them.  Order of the Phoenix is the turning point where he started realizing that the adults in his life are people, and they weren’t perfect, and they had flaws and weak points and he may not agree with them on everything.  He is angry, and reacts to it in a flawlessly teenage way, by being withdrawn and secretive and blowing up at people and generally clinging to the idea that nobody could possibly understand his struggles.

I was absolutely that teenager.  Without dragging my entire life story out, I have had a few times in my life when I had struggles with my mental health, and around this particular time, those struggles basically came out of the woodwork and vomited all over me and my life.  I’m sure I was an absolute joy to be around, but believe me when I say it wasn’t awesome being that person, either.

But Harry – specifically the Harry of this book – was the first character that I ever saw go through the same struggles that I did.  Obviously our lives weren’t a perfect parallel – dark wizards never attempted to assassinate me, and my godfather is alive and well to this day – but there were similarities that resonated with me. I saw him struggling with the idea that he was expected to take on adult responsibilities while the adults in his life still treated him like a child when it was convenient for them;  I saw him struggling with a sense of anger towards the world at large and an inability to control it or even direct it properly; I saw him struggling with the idea that even people who he considered “good guys” can be flawed and that there is more than one flavor of shitty person in the world – and I related to him going through those things.  I have been a voracious reader my entire life, and I had never – have never – related to a character as strongly as I related to Harry during Order of the Phoenix.

And that, my friends, is why Order of the Phoenix is my favorite Harry Potter book, despite containing the death of my favorite Harry Potter character.

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Adventures in Barnes & Noble

excited

I’m backkkkkkk, bitches. Woah. Too far.

So, after taking the summer off to, you know, have kids and stuff, I’m finally getting back into book club.  And seriously, I’m like unnecessarily excited about it.  I love book club.  First of all, I love reading and books and I love talking about books.  Then, of course, it’s just an excuse to drink wine and eat cheese and get together with a few of my close friends and talk about one anothers lives.  Seriously, I didn’t go to book club for a few months and I don’t think I’ve seen anyone.  Well, I’ve seen them, but it hasn’t been consistent or reliable and I miss them.  So, this month’s book is This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper, which you may recognize as the new movie that’s coming out with Jason Bateman & Tina Fey.  We are excellent at picking books based on movies, I’ve gotta tell ya.  But it’s nice, because it means we read the book before seeing the movie, and it helps us get a nice variety of genres in.

While that is all very well and good, and I’m OBVIOUSLY excited about it, that isn’t even the exciting part of my story.  So, first of all, I gotta tell you, FUCK non-automatic doors.  It takes me at least 5 minutes to get into anyplace that doesn’t open for me with this damn double decker bus masquerading as a stroller.  But I do get in, and move on with my day. I go to get the book, and I take the girls with me, which leads to a COMPLETE AND TOTAL MELTDOWN in Barnes and Noble.  Just as I found the book, Maddy started to fuss, and since we had stopped at the grocery store before the mall, I knew it was a wet diaper situation.  So I took them into the bathroom to change.  A very nice lady actually knocked on the stall door (their changing table is inside their handicapped stall, which honestly seems weird – what if a handicapped person came in while I was changing them?  I was NOT QUICK) and asked if I needed help, which was nice. Then I had to find a quiet corner to sit them on the floor (in their carseats, of course) to feed them both before they would settle.  So, I was all kinds of DONE with this trip by the time I got to the register.  The lady asked me if I wanted to renew my membership, and I said fine, because it’s only $20 instead of $25 and with book club it usually ends up being worth it.  And I have a gift card that I found in my wallet – I think someone gave it to me for my birthday and I forgot about it.  I assumed it had the usual $25 on it, so I got ready to pull out $10 or so for the book.  NOPE, THE GIFT CARD HAD $50 AND I HAD TO PAY $0 TO RENEW MY MEMBERSHIP AND BUY THE BOOK.  I was thrilled.  Like, unbelievably happy.

This is my life now.

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The Times They Are A’Changin’

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I was chatting with a friend recently, and I realized that while i have definitely been reading fewer and fewer books, I’ve been more than making up for it with online reading.  I’ve always considered myself a fiction reader, and really only “counted” books when I was thinking about what I’ve read.  Since having babies – and even before, since starting my current job, in an office rather than in retail – I’ve started reading online a lot.  Lots of blogs, mostly, although I’m not opposed to an article or two.  This marks a pretty big change in my reading habits, and it’s one that I think is tied pretty directly into where I am in my life right now.

For most of my life, I’ve been told what I need to read, and so all my personal reading was purely for pleasure.  I didn’t read any nonfiction because I didn’t have to – I only read what I wanted to during my personal reading time.  Now I’m still only reading what I want to, but I’m more interested in nonfiction – still not dry dusty histories or even biographies, but design and DIY tips to learn how to make our home nice without spending too much money, or parenting articles and advice – even parenting blogs written by non-experts give a nice perspective on how other people are raising their kids.  In a way it’s a less rebellious way to read – for a  long time I only read nonfiction when I was forced to, by school.  Now I’m free to admit that there is a time and place for nonfiction, and it’s absolutely in my life.

More importantly, though, blogs and articles can be read quickly.  Reading even one chapter of a novel can take twenty minutes, easily.  When do I have twenty minutes free to sit and read? (Spoiler alert: it’s during story time, IF I put away the laundry beforehand).  Reading online, however, can be done in short spurts that fit into my life.  Finish my paperwork with five spare minutes before I have to be on a conference call?  Thats enough time to read a new blog post.  Ten minutes left of my lunch break after eating and tinkering with my lineup?  Plenty of time to catch up with a few articles.  I can even read them on my smartphone while I’m snuggling with one of the girls.

So, it’s not so much that I’m reading empirically less these days.  I’m just reading in a completely new and different format.  And it’s one that even I don’t recognize as “real” reading.

 

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No-Cry?

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So, I finished Elizabeth Pantley’s The No-Cry Sleep Solution, and I have to say, I’m surprised.  I knew I was already using some of her techniques – specifically the bedtime routine (seriously guys respect the bedtime routine, EVERY SINGLE NIGHT that we get lazy and don’t do it the girls are up ALL NIGHT) – and I kind of expected there to be a lot more in the book itself that I enjoyed & found usable.  Instead, I found myself wondering who the hell this woman thinks she is to write a book – actually, a whole series of books.  She is a proponent of attachment parenting and co-sleeping, which I’m not super into – which is fine, except that most of the book is written as though OF COURSE you’re doing these things because you LOVE YOUR CHILD and only somebody who doesn’t LOVE THEIR CHILD would insist on them sleeping somewhere other than their bed (despite the fact that co-sleeping is famously controversial, all major medical bodies regularly flip-flop their position on it, and HELLO BB and I sleep in a  full size bed and have twins.  #sorrynotsorry).  Honestly, I’m all for attachment parenting.  You want to put your kid in your bed and have them attached to your boob for multiple years?  GREAT, I’M SUPER HAPPY FOR YOU AND HOPE YOU AND YOUR CHILD ENJOY YOUR BONDING TIME AND GROW UP TO HAVE A HAPPY AND HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP.  But I cannot do that.  I need my alone time, I need to have some separation and give my children time to bond with their father and grandparents and whatever, REASONS.  I’m absolutely not shitting on attachment parenting (in fact, I haven’t actually read the “official” book on it, but I fully intend to, simply to have a full understanding of what it is).

 

So, sort of went on a tangent there.  But honestly, I was underwhelmed by this book.  There was a lot of “You know best, so do whatever you want, even if it goes against what everyone is telling you” following right on the heels of REAL, MEDICAL information, like “babies must sleep on their backs because it reduces the risk of SIDS by over 50%”.  I felt like this was irresponsible, like she was giving mothers permission to do things that are LEGITIMATELY dangerous just because it seemed to work for their child.  She also openly says at several points that you should IGNORE advice from your PEDIATRICIAN if it disagrees with your motherly instinct – which, again, I think is exceptionally irresponsible.  If you’re finding yourself consistently disagreeing with your pediatrician, and he or she is not respectful or supportive of your parenting choices, you GET ANOTHER PEDIATRICIAN, not ignore the person who is supposed to be giving you medical advice.  I actually tried to look up Pantley’s credentials around this point, thinking that she must be pretty well-educated and respected to go about giving such ballsy advice.  She’s pretty cagey about her actual credentials – every biography about her simply lists her as a “parenting expert” and talks about the fact that she’s a mother and an author and parenting columnist and gives talks on the subject fairly frequently.  Nothing really mentioned about what credentials she had to get her to that point (besides the four kids), so I have to assume she really doesn’t have any.  I’ll let you know if I discover otherwise.

 

So, besides the fact that she comes across as super judgmental and kind of reckless with the type of advice she’s flinging about as though she has a right to do so, I also found her advice to be…useless?  That’s not really the right word.  But it was a lot of what I saw as common sense.  I did really like the idea of tracking your baby’s sleep patterns for 10 days, then looking back at the log & seeing when he or she is sleeping and where there may be problems; similarly she recommends logging what the baby does in the hour or so before bedtime to help determine if the baby is getting all wound up right before bed.  But beyond that, her advice is common sense – make sure your baby is sleeping the right amount for his or her age, because overtired babies fight more sleep.  Start a bedtime routine, and make sure it’’s quiet and in dim lighting and guides your baby to feeling sleepy and signals to him that it’s time for sleep.  Learn the difference between  your baby’s “sleeping” sounds and the sounds when she is actually waking up, and if he or she is simply making noise in her sleep – don’t wake her up!  Teach your baby to fall asleep in his crib (or basinett, or your bed, or wherever you want her to sleep) instead of your arms so you can do things while your baby sleeps!  I was honestly underwhelmed.

 

And that was how I felt about the book as a whole – when I wasn’t frankly offended by the tone she used or horrified by the irresponsibility of her advice, I was underwhelmed by the common sense nature of what she had to offer.

 

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The Sacrifices of Parenting

Me, all the time now.

Me, all the time now.

Normally I’m strictly a fiction reader (mostly fantasy, unless I’m forced out of my comfort zone by my book club), but these babies are forcing me to read non-fiction.  Namely, their refusal to nap and stay asleep past 2am is forcing me to buy and read baby sleep books.  I bought Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problem by Ferber (yeah, the infamous cry-it-out book) and The No Cry Sleep Solution by Pantley (which is basically an anti-cry-it-out manifesto).  Before I had kids I had no idea how many theories there were about parenting.  I thought it was basically, you know – keep them alive – try not to let them be assholes – profit.  But I guess there’s crying it out and attachment parenting and perfectionist parenting and if Bravo can be believed all kinds of extreme parenting ideas as well.  Apparently BB and I need to figure out what we believe and what kind of parents we want to be and until we figure it out our children will never ever ever sleep.  Of course, it’s a little bit difficult to find time to read when you’re working.  And parenting.  And your children are not sleeping.  So, we’ll see how long it takes me to work my way through them.


So, I’ll be back someday soon with my reaction to those books, and maybe some more.  If this was written on real paper instead of typed onto a laptop there would be coffee stains on the page.

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