Sunday, July 29, 2012

pink is strong too

when i was pregnant with shoshanna, i was so certain she was a boy that i only bought a few girly clothes - a brown and pink winter hat, a little shirt with purple owls on it.  when she was born on a bright sunday morning in may, i was so busy gazing into her face for the first time that i didn't even know whether she was a boy or a girl, until our midwife asked with a smile, "so...what did you get?"  who cares, i thought dreamily, this baby is perfect.  but i have to say, when we peeked and found out she was a girl, that was a pretty awesome moment.  A GIRL! we kept saying, as if she was the first girl ever.

still, there were many moments during her babyhood where i truly thought of her as neither girl or boy, but merely as a tiny soul new to this earth.  maybe it was because i mostly dressed her in white (my favorite look for a newborn, besides naked) but her boy/girl status just didn't factor into my thoughts much.  judging by the number of babies i see dressed in head-to-toe pink and ruffles, with little bows glued to their bald heads, i believe this is a fairly uncommon way of thinking.     

having known shoshi for more than two years, i can really see now why i thought she was a boy.  she has a fierce air about her much of the time, like this morning when she crouched down next to my cat eugene and watched him devour a bird, leaving nothing but a squiggly mess of entrails and beak behind.  ("birdy sad?  birdy feel sick dis morning?"  um yes, i'd say that's a fairly safe bet.)  she is really at her happiest playing in the mud or looking at bugs.  but here's the thing, she also has this side to her that's the girliest girl i ever did know, a hardcore PINK fanatic who loves mincing around wearing a fancy pair of my shoes and three different purses, who insists on having her nails painted regularly, who loves ballerinas and strawberry shortcake.  this side of her has honestly come as a huge shock to me, maybe because it's so different from my own pink-hating tomboy experience growing up, or maybe because i see it as being in opposition to her own tomboy side.

i wrote an article about raising powerful girls recently, and while i'm proud of what i wrote - mostly pretty tomboy-centric stuff about girls playing in the dirt - i wish i'd talked more about the girly girls, how they can and should be perceived as being just as strong and powerful as the girls who are out there gutting fish (or watching birds get gutted).  it bums me out that sometimes it's the girls who are doing traditionally male activities (climbing trees, throwing rocks) who are praised for being strong and tough.  isn't it also important, strong work to carry around a baby doll, pretending to mother it?  (i can't think of much that requires more bravery than motherhood.)  or to prepare food for your loved ones in a play kitchen?  to create a cozy home out of blocks, or serve tea to your teddy bears?  isn't it a perpetuation of the very gender stereotypes we're trying to fight, to praise the tomboys and leave the girly girls behind?    

all i know is, the pink nails on those grubby hands of shoshanna mary make her the toughest broad around, in my book.  she doesn't try to deny any side of herself or offer any apologies for the way she is - juxtapositions, pink nails and all - and that truly makes her a force to be reckoned with.
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time warp

 one of the stranger parts of living with your parents while you are a parent yourself is that your kid's childhood is taking place in exactly the same place that your own did.  add to that my love of vintage (read: beat-up old thrift store) stuff, and sometimes you get these strange moments in the fabric of the space-time continuum where you could swear you're back in 1986 -- but as a parent this time around.

it's pretty weird.

when i saw those rollerskates at the thrift store this morning (which was having an all-clothing-$1-sale, "goody gosh" as sho would say and also holy jeez it was a madhouse), i felt a jolt of total happiness rooted in nostalgia.  there should be a word for that feeling, don't you think?  there probably is, in german.  i get the happy-nostalgia totally with those plastic barrels of monkeys, a certain kind of bright-colors polka dot fabric, plastic toy fried eggs, and ninja turtle figurines.  how about you?  anyway, sho strapped 'em on and was skating around like a little champ in no time, in spite of the fact that her feet are about eight sizes too small.  it was just such a strange feeling being the one watching this tiny and determined girl in pigtails skate around our dead end street, since that used to be me.  and even though the rumbly plastic skates themselves don't really do it for me like they used to, watching her get the same thrill out of them that i used to is probably even better.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

dough & dresses

i have been on a clothes-making rampage for shoshi lately!  i'm like godzilla attacking those fun youth fashions down in my sewing lair these days, i tell you what.  the dress she's wearing in the above pictures was made using this women's dress tutorial, and it really only takes a half hour to make one on your first try.  i have since made two others and see no end in sight.  i predict a sewing post in this blog's near future, perhaps with some sort of slapdash sewing tutorial accompaniment.  

what is shosh mixing so determinedly in her bowl there, you ask?  it's called fluffy cloud dough, and it's mad easy to make (i got the recipe from an ancient local elementary school's "guide to dough" our neighbors handed down to us).  mix three cups of flour with a half cup of vegetable oil, and let your kid (or you) play around in the fluffiness for awhile.  then mix a little food coloring into half a cup of water, and pour it in.  the dough turns into a mesmerizing sort of elastic playdough texture that you cannot tear your hands away from no matter how hard you try.  in fact i am typing this with "fluffly cloud dough" on my hands as we speak, and will be doing so forevermore.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

getting your greeting card on, kiddo style

let's be real here, babies make the best accessories.  everybody loves them a good baby (or pretends to), especially when they're real new.  i remember being so surprised how different my experience with the world at large was once i had a baby in my arms - everyone was just so dang nice and happy to see me coming.


in much the same way that babies pave the way for you socially, they can also make a totally great greeting card prop.  i've been exploiting my kid for card purposes since before she could properly hold her head up.  just scrawl out a sign with your intended message on it, have the kid hold it (or tie it on a string around their still-wobbly little neck, see below) and BAM!  instant present.

if the recipient is of the grandparental varietal, such a card might even function as the entire present itself, such as the above "happy anniversary" shots we took of shoshi baby on our honeymoon, for my parents' anniversary.  man...that dreamy week at a cabin on the manistee river feels very far away today.


we take birthday pictures every year for some people, such as (somewhat randomly) my cousin rob, above.  since shosh is only two thus far, i only have two such pictures in my files at present, but wouldn't it be cool to have taken ten or fifteen years' worth of happy birthday pictures, then present a gift of all the pictures lined up in sequential order to the birthday boy?  i would love that present, myself.  

some years it's picture-perfect, and other's more of an outtake kinda situation.  when making a card (instead of just posting on facebook), i usually include one of the blooper shots on the back, such as the father's day card (photo itself now long gone) where sho -- who had been grinning charmingly on the front of the card -- turned into a raving lunatic by the back, screaming and clawing at the camera.  ah yes, a true testament to the realities of (grand)fatherhood.    


regarding facebook birthday greetings, sometimes it just seems a little too easy.  how much love really goes into looking at the corner of the screen, seeing it's someone's birthday that day, and writing "happy birthday, dude!" on their wall?  when i really want to say "happy birthday" and mean it, i take the extra fifteen minutes to set up a little photo shoot with the shoster.  i mean, it's about time she pulled her weight around here, you know?  i would totally recommend this exploitation of your own children for your greeting card purposes.  enjoy!


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Wednesday, July 25, 2012


growing up at dinner we always did "best and worst," where we'd go around the table and say the best and worst parts of our day.  you can get a pretty solid idea of the day a person has had by that little exercise, i hereby recommend it.  this blog is full of the bests, but in the name of truth i should probably throw some worsts in there too.  especially because i want other single mamas out there to be able to read this and go "holla!" and no single (or any) mother's experience is all sunshine and gravy.  

shoshi's dad has decided to make a reappearance in her life, and i hadn't even realized how calm and peaceful our lives had become without him until he did.  even with no support payments since april, things were so blessedly easy when he was just off doing his own thing. now, he's back.  and how did i forget how physically exhausting anger can be?  yesterday at work i just wanted to jump up from my desk and run laps around the building.  by the end of the day and many dozens of ferociously insulting, threatening texts later, i was bone-tired.  just stone cold tuckered to the deep end of my soul, from the anger and injustice of the day, and the difficulty of staying calm in the face of the hurricane.

i kept thinking, please let the goodness from this wretched situation reveal itself to me.  there has to be some reason that i'm going through this, some thing that will make this all worthwhile or at least bearable.  can i get a reason?  then i got home.  i saw my shoshi girl, wearing nothing but her little navy swimsuit, painting bright red paint with a roller brush in the neighbor's garage, with her tongue sticking out and the happiness of all that red ink just radiating from her body.  oh, wait.  right.  shoshanna mary, you are so worth your crazy dad to me.  so worth it.  even though linking myself to her dad for life was sort of the worst decision i ever made, in a way it's also the hands-down best.  she is my reason.         

i filled the tub up to the brim with bubbles, and she and i both climbed in.  she nursed and i just sat quietly (which i never do these days) and let the anger and weariness leave me.  the spread of bad things in life always comes with a side order of just what you need to squeak on through and make it to the other side, i've found.  sometimes it might not be much, but it's always enough.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

on blogging and life

reading blogs can sometimes be so dangerous.  (you badass, you!)  it's just, never before has it been so possible to peek into other people's beautiful lives without a formal invitation.  and the lives that are presented to the public are so lovely, sometimes it's hard to turn away even though you know better.  there are a couple blogs i read sometimes that are just such eye-candy, i keep coming back even though i have this feeling that much of the content is orchestrated just for the camera, just so it can be blogged about.  and then i feel bad, for not having a lovely home (or ANY home of my own, right now) or husband or income where i can afford even a fraction of the things they have.  it's just so dumb.  because there is so much to be thankful for, and what's the point in comparing?  who knows how happy those women really are, in spite of their perfect-looking lives?  i know that any time i try to snap a picture that is in some way forced, i feel like a total dorky fakester.  that would not be a good feeling to have very often, i'm thinkin.

neesy and i were talking the other night about how you're really exactly where you need to be in your life, even if it looks totally different from what you'd planned on.  maybe some lack in your life at the moment is happening just to make room for something even better that you never could have planned for yourself, you know?  i always quote this sign i used to walk past when i lived in ann arbor: "never place a period where god has placed a comma.  god is still speaking," which even though i'm not so sure about the god part, i love love the rest.  life is such a long and rambling story, and it's not over til it's over.

as my aunt martha wisely once told me, "what people really care about is not what you've done but how you make them feel."  i just really hope that in writing this blog, i contribute more to the "feeling good" quadrant of readership than the "sad and jealous" one.  i really do.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

our weekend getaway

neesy, sho and i were packed and on the road by friday evening, headed to a magical beach house her mom and stepdad had rented, so close to lake michigan that there was sand in the driveway.  as soon as we arrived, we walked right down to the beach, no need to wear shoes.  we were also within no-shoes walking distance of the kind of fountains you can play in, the best pizza stand in town, and a carousel, still lit up and spinning at sundown.  the beach at sunset was so calm and peaceful, it felt like a different time period entirely.  (i love it when that happens.)

as it happened, those were to be the last magical moments for me in that lovely beach town.  i came down with a flu-like sickness (i will leave it at that as a gift to you) and spent the next twenty-four hours in bed, experiencing some ruff times.  one thing that i was almost tearfully thankful for during this time was that in spite of being in a new town full of strangers, i had neesy to look after shoshi for the day.  more than ever before, my heart goes out to single mamas who live in towns without friends or family nearby.  that shit is heroic.  so instead of being abandoned to the wolves, sho ended up having an awesome day with her neesy (photos below taken by the nees herself).  and i had an awesome day in bed (relatively speaking).

thank you neesy for saving the day!  after a harrowing drive home last night, i went straight to bed with my soft soft sheets while my parents looked after shoshi, hallelujah i am a lucky duck. and, after a night spent dreaming the craziest fever dreams in recent memory, i woke up this morning feeling weak but blissfully healthy, with one of those strange-dream hangovers that tint everything you see with the hazy potential of a different plane of existence.  ah, health!  i'm so thankful for you.  and thankful for our little getaway too, in a strange sort of way.  that sure was one beautiful lake michigan sunset.


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Friday, July 20, 2012


when i was in second grade, i was in the same class as a chubby little beeyotch named sara (as i thought of her at the time).  there was some altercation involving a ruler, and i vowed never to let this "sara" person cross me again. turned out she never did, even though we went on to become inseparable best friends all through middle and high school.  we would laugh so hard we couldn't breathe, sneak onto hidden trampolines in the middle of the night, and once ordered a dozen orders of hush puppies from long john silvers for our sixteenth birthday (party down!).  we worked at a movie theater selling popcorn throughout high school in order to afford a backpacking trip through europe after high school, which was hands down the best summer of my life, filled with nonstop adventures that i cannot presently delve into on this blog because it might scandalize the pants right off of your self.
i went through a ton of pictures from the ol' days while writing this, and was kinda blown away by the sheer volume of awesome, funny memories that came back to me.  i always knew i loved sara, but when she called one morning six weeks ago and told me she had cancer, it slammed into me hard just HOW much i love her.  in addition to being hilarious, she is probably the most quietly generous person i know (besides my mother).  her sense of justice is intense.  she is without question the kind of person who would donate to a total stranger, which is why i'm writing this post.  
it looks like she is likely going to be okay, though it's going to suck pretty major to get there.  in addition to radiation and chemo, sara will have to undergo hormone treatments for five years, which makes her dream of having a baby with her husband, jason, a helluva lot harder.  her insurance through jason is covering most of the costs of sara's treatment -- but not the expensive fertility treatments which will make it possible for them to have the kiddo that they have longed for immensely, and which needs to happen soon, before sara starts chemo.  dude, these guys are going to be such incredible parents.  if you might donate to their cause, i really believe that the goodness of your deed will come back to you, just like it is now in the outpouring of support for sara and jason, two people who have long supported the causes of others.  thanks for considering it.  lately i've been thinking that this whole "kindness toward each other" thing might just be the whole point of this planetary adventure we call life.
sara & shoshanna, july 2010
sara & shoshanna, july 2012

and check out sara and jason's his 'n' hers cancer blogs!  what could be more romantic, really.