Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Weekend Recap

Random Entertainment

True Love


Thursday, May 27, 2010

What's All This, Then? Motherland Art Review: Part 1

Head's up: I will hereby attempt to review an art show I attended last Sunday. I intend to break it up over a few posts over the next week or two. This will be the first time I have ever attempted to review a piece of art, much less an entire show, and I feel that I must disclose the fact that I have absolutely no qualifications which allow me to review shows of any sort (not even picture or dog). And actually, I should probably be calling it an exhibit or project or something, so I'm already off to a rocky start. Nevertheless, I shall continue, starting with this first selection and following-up with more as I finish writing them. And then I will possibly go back and update everything if I read other's review and realized I was way off base. So. Read on if you dare! And be kind. Remember, I'm a novice.

First off, an overview. Greetings from Motherland is, per its website, "an evolving participatory arts project about the culture shock of becoming a mother." Artistic Director Mindy Stricke met regulary with a small group of Madison mothers and over several months they sculpted, photographed, collaged, sewed, wrote, and proceeded to create works meant to share their experiences as women who have traveled the often trepidatious road from pre-child to POW! You're a mother! The show's bulletin listed eight primary artistic contributors and several other peripheral contributors to Sunday's initial showing (with additional contributions expected if/as the show continues).

I arrived at the Motherland show (exibit?) ten minutes before it was scheduled to open (carpooling gets you places, not always exactly when you need to arrive). I looked the antithesis of hip or artsy: I was wearing my Birkenstock sandals (I'd come directly from lounging at the lakefront), a jean skirt, and a bright yellow seagull t-shirt which, while fine for a beach retreat, had no place mingling with artists. (A bird had pooped on my chest earlier that afternoon--True Story--and the bright, ironically bird-embellished tee was the only back-up piece of clothing in my possession that day other than the 12 month onsie still cluttering up the bottom of my 19 month daughter's diaper bag).

I mention my outfit in order to set the mood. My mood, that is, as I stepped into the gallery space. Basically: I felt incredibly foolish. There I was, entering a room in which I could only imagine were women much more successful than I. Not only were they more creative and productive than I felt, I wouldn't even be able to pretend I was cultured or had class lest they point at my shirt and laugh in my face. I was outside my comfort zone.

As I was saying (I know, I know: get to it already, Thomasin! Jeez, remember what I said about being nice?), I stepped through the exhibit door unfashionably early and, well, just plain unfashionable. Much to my relief I received not heckles but immediate welcomes from the artists. They were hurrying about adding finishing touches to the set-up, and though I still felt awkward there was nothing more to do than to jump right in take them up on their invitation and explore the installations.


I've decided to describe the works in the order I would have viewed them had I moved about the room counter-clockwise. I didn't exactly move that way myself, but I think most visitors probably did (it seemed to be the natural flow).

I didn't see titles on any of the pieces, so I'm calling each by a simple descriptive name I've made up (I hope no one is offended with the liberties I've taken).


After walking by tables with refreshments and child crafts thoughtfully provided for guests & their children, I observed numerous (12? 20? I didn't count them) multi-colored rectangular plastic boxes hanging from wires, mobile-style . I initially passed them by, believing they were simply flair for the space, attractive to look at but nothing begging closer attention.

I was, of course, wrong; before long I'd spoken to one of the artists and was directed back to the colorful hanging arrangement. It turns out each brightly colored box was an individual slide viewer. You were meant to grab one of the dangling boxes (moving one caused others nearby to bob all about, but for the most part they were independent of each other), point it toward the light source, and then peek through the viewer to view a single slide/photo.

Click here for a link to a photo of the piece.

There two slides I recall most clearly:

The first depicts two figurines (I believe male and female) in the foreground, their gazes set on the huge baby (doll) in the background.

The second also showed two figurines (I don't recall the genders, it may have been unclear) surrounded (engulfed) by Cheerio-type cereal o's.

Both slides brough to mind a familiar feeling. First the "Oh my goodness. We have a BABY!" that shocks you the first time your child cries and you look around to see who will pick that baby up and suddenly you realize It's my baby. I am supposed to pick her up! It's all me! Also the feeling of being overwhelmed by the minutiea of baby-rearing. The hundreds of items we're told we need (from the o's to the strollers, pumps, clothes, teethers, walkers, highchairs and all the other bits that most everyone accumulates when they are preparing for a baby which they may or may not actually need).

For me, the slides felt familiar. I've known something akin to panic as I realized we weren't just planning for a baby any longer: our baby was here. And looking around at the spread of food and toy stuffs we've accumulated into our home since our daughters arrival, I have some emphathy for the little plastic people and their halos of Cheerios.

Other impressions from the slides:

~just because something's small doesn't mean it can't pack a whallop

~so I hadn't recognized the viewers as part of the show. It's possible that was part of the point. I think about my pre-baby life and stuff and how it's still with me. I don't think about it being there, but it is. It still affects how I move about my life.

~child-friendly and reminiscent of childhood:  I could appreciate the medium (once I spotted it!)

~it's all in the details. Life isn't just about the big and showy, it's about the pieces that may be all too often overlooked as well. They still help create our world, our space.

The viewers were an interesting way to begin the show (I say that even though I rushed right on past them). It was an interesting idea, asking the art-viewers to begin participating in the experience by changing them from passive observers to action-takers immediately. It certainly set the tone for the rest of the installations (in which the artists sought not only to share but to encourage the sharing of experiences).  Also:  giving a person a "job" (even if it's such a simple job as to pull a viewer to your eye and peek through it) does much to dispel the awkward but I'm wearing a bird shirt feeling of the uninitiated art-goer.

So. How'd I do? Go ahead, you can tell me. It'll help me work on the rest of the reviews. :-)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Misguided Parenting Magazines: Part 1

I'm a devoted subscriber to Mothering magazine. The Madison Birth Center provided me with free copies throughout my pregnancy, and I fell in love with the information about homebirth, babywearing, cloth diapering, inspiring breastfeeding stories, and other thoughtful articles about vaccinations, the environment, and gentle discipline.

Waiting in the lobby of my MD's office last month, I picked-up a copy of Pregnancy magazine (April 2010 issue. $5.99 newsstand), wondering what the doctor's office handed out to their patients and how it compared to Mothering.  The cover of this issue had a photo of Joey Lawrence and his wife. Even so, I thought maybe it'd be an okay magazine.

But no.

The front cover also boasted tips for handling "breastfeeding bullies," written by Nanny Stella. Mothering is so breastfeeding friendly that it hadn't occurred to me that other parenting magazines may not be as positive (even if you're writing for a pool of subscribers who use formula or bottles, why would you say something against breastfeeding when you're a parenting magazine? Or why would you, as a doctor's office, put such a magazine in your lobby?). I turned to the article and was very disappointed by its take on breastfeeding.


A mom's job is to meet the needs of her baby, not the wants of breastfeeding fanatics... I write this not to get into the breastfeeding vs. formula debate. We all know breast is best... And I should say for the record that I am an advocate for breastfeeding...

Okay. Meet your baby's needs. That's good. For newborns that would mean feeding on demand, skin to skin contact, and warmth.

Breast is best. It may be true (and the recent catch phrase) but I'm not such a fan of that wording (see HERE for a post explaining the importance of word choice and re-normalizing breastfeeding in our culture). Saying that breastfeeding is normal may be the more suitable statement.

An advocate for breastfeeding. Bravo! Except that she's not. I'm sorry, but you don't say you're an advocate for something like breastfeeding and then put the whammy on it unless you're a poser. You want to know who is a real breastfeeding advocate? PhD in Parenting, that's who. I love that blogger. She's an advocate, Nanny Stella is not.

These breastfeeding fanatics of whom she speaks... Who are they, exactly?

...I am not a fan of certain breastfeeding bullies, otherwise known as 'lactivists.' You know, the ones who want your baby hanging off your boob 24/7 until she's ready for elementary school.
Ah. Yes. The lactivists. The women who breastfeed their babies (perhaps in public!) without apologizing for doing so. The ones who attend Le Leche League meetings. Who recommend lactation consultants to other mother's struggling with breastfeeding difficulties. Who rally around and volunteer for nurse-ins in the name of other women who have been discriminated against or made to feel humiliated for breastfeeding. Who believe that feeding your child in a normal way is, well, normal. Who don't judge a woman or her child for enjoying the nursing relationship past 6 months. Or, as Nanny Stella calls them:  bullies.

An evil, smelly bully. Yup, that's me! I consider myself a lactivist and yet I neither have a child constantly hanging off my boob (what a demeaning description she chose to describe such a comforting, gentle relationship) neither does it look like I'll nurse my daughter until she enters school (certainly, there are mother/child pairs who do choose to continue that long. But I've never NEVER once heard those mothers ever tell any other mother that they must also do so).

To peg lactivists as women who interfere in another mother's life is an attempt to drive a wedge between mothering communities that I don't believe is at all warrented. The pro-breastfeeding women (and men) I've known wish to be respected for their informed choices and want other mothers to be respected in the same way, whether they're nursing, pumping and bottle feeding, or formula feeding. They're about knowledge and empowerment, not denouncement and ridicule. Nanny Stella is villainizing a group that should be her partners (if she, Nanny Stella, were in fact truly an advocate of breastfeeding. but she's not) and I'm quite sad that she's chosen to write (and that the magazine chose to publish) this article aimed at expecting mothers that is so intent on building up barriers.
Anyway, there's more from that article and the magazine. Maybe I'll write about it (hence the Part 1 above), maybe I won't. I just wanted to share my disappointment with the magazine. I don't believe it has a place in a doctor's lobby. And I'll be writing both my doctor's office and Pregnancy a letter to tell them how I feel.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Goodbye Thumbkin

I've been struggling with this post. I don't know exactly what I want to say, how I want to describe this situation, or even if trying to write this now is good for me. But here it is nevertheless. Brain purge. Gotta get it out, even if it's not done percolating.

My daughter was born perfect. 7 lbs, 7 oz. Wailing cry. Lots of blonde hair. Kicking legs. Ten little toes. Eleven little fingers.

Maybe more like 10 and a half fingers. My daughter was born with a partial extra digit on her right hand. A half-sized thumb that developed alongside her regular full-sized thumb. Thumb and Thumbkin. It had its very own little nail that I trimmed along with her other ten fingernails. It was precious, if unexpected. It was a part of her, her body. It was her normal.

And two months ago we had her extra thumb surgically removed.

Removed.  What a forceful word. And it sounds so void of emotion. Like it was an irritation to be swept away. Like her thumbkin was something that had snuck in and so we sent the bouncers over to turn it out. Like we didn't really think about it. Just something we needed to be rid of. But her thumbkin wasn't refuse, wasn't trespassing, it was part of my sweet beautiful baby girl. It was part of the only hand she knew. The hand she grew while inside of me. The hand I've kissed hundreds of times. I love that little hand. It was perfect. And now it's different. Now her hand looks just like most people's hands.

We were fearful her thumbkin would make her a target for bullying. That having a different number of fingers would affect how she felt about herself in a negative way. Limit her positive contacts. Keep her from her full potential.

We were scared by the what ifs.
And now we feel better (mostly).

And yet I still struggle with our decision. At 17 months her little friends didn't notice her hand, didn't care. But in a few more years they would noticed. Some of them would have cared. Some of them wouldn't have. How would she have felt about her extra thumb? We didn't wait to find out. And I'm not sure that was the right decision.

Perhaps she wouldn't have minded her extra thumb. There was actually a surgeon at the hospital who was polydactyl himself and who'd obviously accepted his extra digit. Should we have let her live that possibility? Was it wrong of us to take that from her?

We were trying to be compassionate. We were trying to make sure she had a healthy body to serve her quick mind, unhampered by uneccesary work-arounds for fine motor skills (the extra thumb pad was a hinderance to her, did trip her up when it came to unscrewing caps and picking up small objects).

But the fact that we weren't just concerned about performance but that we were so concerned about her having a feeling of oddity due to physical difference bothers at me. Aren't we humans all different? What does it say about me that I can say I strive to accept everyone but then I go and physically change my own daughter?  I wouldn't have circumsized her if she'd been born a boy. I take a child's bodily integrity seriously. Nevertheless I signed her up for surgery at 17 months because her thumbkin made it more difficult to pick things up [okay, so that's maybe acceptable] and because I think she'd be teased someday [and it's that "and" where my guilt comes flooding in].

I hope we made the right choice. I look at my baby girl now, count the fingers of her right hand, and find myself wincing when I come to "...four, five." It just seems to me that something's missing rather than something extra being taken away. It wasn't really extra, it was her.

I hope she is satisfied with the decision we've made for her. I hope she knows it wasn't made lightly. 

Eating paint and making some handprints the night before surgery

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Try, Try Again

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have waxed poetic about how their parenting has inspired others, or how others have inspired them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

I would like to be called an inspiration to people, not a role model, because I make mistakes like everybody else ...I'm just like everybody else.
                                                                                                                   ~Brittany Spears

Just like Brittany Spears,  (what a weird trip this is, writing the beginning of this sentence!) I am uncomfortable thinking of myself as a role model. I don't even think of myself as like everybody else, I feel like many of you have stuff figured out while I've got a lot yet to learn. In fact, I'm really only in this blogging business to read what other people have to say and then experiment upon my own life by copying their ideas. I love the blogging community for this:  it's not considered rude to try out something that someone else posts about. You bloggers reading this are my role models. I'm watching you.

Plus, I just can't always say with gusto my own parenting is something that anyone else should model. Because, frankly, I don't really know what I'm doing. I'm making it all up as I go!

Is that (the feeling of flying by one's parental pant's seat) something that fades after your child grows beyond her second year? I suppose I'd feel more confident with an infant at this point (been there, done that, everyone lived, success!) but I'm still shaky about this toddler business. Shoot, I still feel relatively new to this wife business, and that's been more than two years (two and a half, to be exact).

Anyway, I can't think of a single person who would consider me their parenting role model. I do however, aspire to be an inspiration. An inspiration of the Little Engine That Could variety.

From the moment I knew I was pregnant (okay, even before) I knew I wanted to focus on gentle, earthy, family-centered rearing. I read books upon books upon books. Scoured the internet for reviews of cloth diapers. Drafted and re-drafted the plans for a Montessori-based child's room. Planned for the homebirth. Bought a sling and a wrap.  

And then it was Go-Day and I got to meet my baby face to face. And I had to start improvising.

Homebirth? Nope, had a c-section due to breech presentation. Cloth? First we used-up the disposals that we'd been given, but we did eventually get to the cloth. Nursing? Yes, but only after weeks and weeks of pumping and tube- and bottle-feeding. The Montessori room? Still not finished, though we have had great success with the easiest (and *cough* laziest) portion of the room: the full-sized mattress on the floor (i.e. no crib). Baby-wearing? Was great with front carries, haven't been practicing the back-carries and worry that it's now been too long since I've worn her to make it work any longer.

I don't know anyone who has seen what I have done or continue to do and says, Genius woman! I was doing something totally opposite but through your example I can now see the light!

But an inspiration? Of some mild sort? I hope so. I hope that a co-worker might someday decide to pump in the office after her maternity leave, encouraged by the whirring sound she heard from my Medela after I'd returned from mine. That a friend or two feels more comfortable nursing their teething, walking babes because they've seen me nursing my toddler.  That my sister might consider using cloth diapers for her future children because she's been able to use them successfully on my daughter at our house. That a Facebook friend might consider an independent natural labor/birth class versus the stock class offered at the hospital.

I have hope that someone, somewhere, sees how I'm raising (or attempting/aspiring to raise) my daughter and thinks to him- or herself,  If she can do it, I can too! Because I'm trying. And sometimes failing and then trying again. And Again. It seems the right thing to do.

Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by the end of the day May 11 with all the carnival links.)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Getting Knitty With It

My first pair of socks.

Well, so far it's just one sock. A tube, really.

I'm excited. I'm ready to turn the heel. The heel! 

Friday, May 7, 2010

Always a Draft, Never a Post

I realized I haven't been posting much lately. It's not that I haven't been writing, though! But nothing is finished...

Here's a sampling of the titles of some posts I've been inspired to start, currently have in my Drafts, and hope to have published here soon:

Lifestyle Change
Singing Songs of Sixpence [and others]
Try, Try Again
Goodbye, Thumbkin!
I don't know why she swallowed the fly
Got Broccoli?
Overdue Onion :: Do Over Onion
Farewell My Kind-of Friend
Nursing Rules for Toddlers
Peanut Allergy

Watch for [hopefully] some more regular posting in the months to come. Ideally, I'd like to post at least 3x a week. But then, I'd also like to shower at least 3x a week. Sometimes we just don't get what we wish for.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

May Queen with Mussed Hair

  © Blogger template 'Isfahan' by 2008

Back to TOP