Saturday, July 30, 2011

Summer Treats

This time of year, our house has more fruit than we can say grace over. I buy pounds of it at farmers' markets and then add more during trips to the Happy Berry Farm. Our most recent Happy Berry trip was wonderful for the experience and the purchases. We went in the evening to avoid this oppressive heat. As we drove into Six Mile, the sky turned dark gray and we could see sheets of rain and bolts of lightening in the distance. Wary but determined, we continued to the farm.

As we arrived, rain began to fall, but it was a gentle, cool shower and Sylvia was not the least bit upset about being in it. We were somewhat concerned about lightening (at least, we felt that as parents, we should be), so we worked to speedy-pick blueberries close to the farm house. Luckily, Happy Berry is having an amazing "blueberry climax" (their words), which allowed us to just run our hands down a branch to release big, plentiful blueberries into our baskets. In less than 10 minutes we had well over a pound of berries.

We added to our bounty a sack of white peaches (AH-MAY-ZING) and some of the best sweet yellow corn I've ever tasted. We also bought grapes since we didn't have time to clip them from the vines ourselves. If you've never had real, farm-grown grapes, then you have no idea how tasty a grape can be. These grapes make you realize how wine gets its flavor, how dirt and sun and rain can infiltrate a fruit. They are sublime.

We piled into the car, wet from the rain, warm from the sun, and sticky from eating grapes, berries and a peach. It was a perfect summer evening.

Following the trip, we had a bounty of fruit to consume. Sylvia will eat the grapes until her belly swells, and she and I adore peaches in the morning and for afternoon snack. I have made my version of cobbler (a buttery, almost custard-like concocation invented by our neighbor on the Outer Banks and a favorite among my friends) at least once a week for the past month, but I was itching for a new fruit recipe.

In searching for a healthy baked fruit dish, I found this gem on a new blog to me, Cookie & Kate. I have made many healthy muffins in my day, but they are usually dry, rubbery -- obviously not full of the tasty fatiness that makes muffins so lovely. But this recipe was different: healthy yet wonderful. I tweaked it a bit to my taste and available ingredients, adding a smashed ripe banana, using regular yogurt instead of Greek, and skipping the lemon zest in favor of fresh ground nutmeg. They were moist and flavorful, and a perfect accompiament to coffee this morning.

Oh summer foods -- I love you so. Now I'm off to eat the rare serving of leftover cobbler before D. finds it.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Apathy

D. was on his way out the door this morning, off to bring home some bacon. He picked up Sylvia for a big hug and kiss goodbye, then went to gather his things. When he returned to the room, I noticed a wet stain on the front of his shirt. He shrugged it off, and I did too. And then we locked eyes and laughed, because we realized we were both OK with the idea of "Meh, it's just pee."

It's just pee.

I knew parenting would change me, but sometimes I'm surprised in what ways.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mama!

On Saturday, Sylvia said "Mama" for the first time. She is 21.5 months old. Her first word was "Jiggs" (our dog). Her second word was "Dada," which she has been using correctly and effectively for about a year now (though it morphed into "Daddy" as she started to use it more purposefully). Yet I, her mother, had not yet been named.

I like to think it's because I was always there. Mama is the expected. She does not need to be named because she is never unreachable. Mama is omnipresent, omnipowerful, encompassing all names and expressions. Or something like that.

Last month, I tried hiding from Sylvia to see if she would call for me. She ran around the house, growing more and more frustrated before yelling "Daddy! Daddy!" and melting into tears. Then, of course, Mama swept in to make things right. Who needs a name for the person who never truly leaves?

But Saturday, while on a family walk, she started babbling "mamamamamama." I asked, "Where's Mama?" (a game she knows well), but this time when she pointed to me she said "Mama!" About 10 minutes later, she walked into the living room, looked at me, said "Mama" and came over to crawl into my lap. Readers, I kid you not: my heart grew three sizes that day. When I carried her upstairs for her nap, she said my name softly a few times as she nuzzled against me, and I let loose a few tears.

I have been a mother for 21.5 months. I have dealt with all the emotions that go with that: the incredible love, the overwhelming frustration, the pride, the guilt, the terror, the joy. But being called "Mama" elicited a whole new wave of wonder, adoration and humility. I'm someone's mother. I'm Sylvia's Mama. Wow.

Friday, July 22, 2011

In Defense of Language

A friend of mine just introduced me to this wonderful list of "obnoxious" responses to spelling errors on Facebook. I read the list until the wee hours of the night, trying hard to stifle my laughter so as to not wake D.

While the list is funny, and some of those who are correcting others' spelling are indeed catty, it brought out my fighting side a bit. Why do people hate on those of us who know grammar? Why is it insulting to have your language skills corrected?

When friends correct us or help us improve other skills, we are often flattered. Most of us appreciate help with math, such as when calculating a tip or making change. If I read a map wrong, I hope that someone will correct my navigation skills. And if I'm about to say in French, "Where is the house of prostitutes?" instead of, "Where is the convent?," you bet I want someone to correct me.

But if I correct your grammar, punctuation or spelling, you will think bad things about me (be honest, it's true). I will be dubbed a snob, a prude, uptight and righteous. But why? Why is it bad for me to help you communicate better and more clearly? For me to share a skill I have to help improve yours?

When you get down to it, I think people are offended because it makes them look uneducated. And in the reverse, it makes the corrector seem over-educated. But what's wrong with education? I mean, we're not talking about post-doctoral studies here: grammar lessons start in 5th grade. We are supposed to know it all before graduating high school. So why do we insult and lash out at those who are only displaying high-school level knowledge of the English language?

Not to get too preachy, but American society's current distrust of Those Who are Educated is not really helping us or making us look good. So instead of insulting those trying to educate the masses, let's all try to elevate education and language skills by rejoicing in correctness. Let us thank those who help us learn how to use "who" vs. "whom," or to know the correct version of "your" vs. "you're." We all win if we all speak and write better.

And the challenge to us correctors, then, is not to set ourselves up as pretentious know-it-alls, but rather as peers trying to teach others. Check the attitude, and offer only the instruction.

I should note that I'm fully aware how pretentious and know-it-all this whole post sounds, but I don't know how else to discuss education. Those who have it should flaunt it. Let us rejoice in knowledge.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Quick Thought

I recently had the humbling thought that if you made a wordle of everything I've said over the past year, "poop" would be one of the largest words.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hail to the V?

I was so caught-up in the Harry Potter 7.2 movie that I nearly forgot about this gem of a commercial that was shown before the previews.

I am trying to figure out my reaction to this. As a critic of advertising, I think this is a success. It's clever. It's funny. The production value is high and it's certainly memorable. If the point of advertising is to get people talking, Summer's Eve has succeeded.

But the feminist part of me, as well as the part concerned with the mass-marketing of unnecessary "health" products, is outraged. The message here is that, while you women may have "the most powerful thing on Earth," no man would want to be near it if it smelled a little funny. On the one hand, the ad tries to be empowering, but that's overshadowed completely by the other hand, the company trying to make money by making women feel ashamed, to feel that they can't trust the naturalness of their own bodies.

There's no question here: douching is bad for you. A quick glance over this fact sheet makes that pretty clear. Now, to be fair, I learned from the Summer's Eve website that they actually aren't selling douches anymore. They now sell cleansing products, wipes and deodorant sprays. But check that fact sheet link again -- it clearly states:
Most doctors say it's best to let your vagina clean itself. The vagina cleans itself naturally by making mucous. The mucous washes away blood, semen, and vaginal discharge. You should know that even healthy, clean vaginas may have a mild odor. Keep the outside of your vagina clean and healthy by washing regularly with warm water and mild soap when you bathe. You should also avoid scented tampons, pads, powders, and sprays. These products may increase your chances of getting a vaginal infection.

I know this is not at all the first time an advertiser has tried to sell me something I don't need. But it's just a shame to see so much creativity put into such an unnecessary -- and actually, harmful and insulting -- product. To make myself feel better, I'll just go watch the Axe Detailer ad again.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Care...But Not That Much

The great Herb Cohen quote, "Care, but not that much," was often reiterated by my previous coworker and friend Val. When I would become over-involved in a client's problems (as was often the case), she would remind me that I have to care...but not that much. It didn't sink in well as a 24-year-old. Now, I am trying to make it a life mantra.

For example, if I had completed this master's degree at age 24, I would have been striving to finish with Honors (though it's essentially meaningless and doesn't even show up on your transcript). I would have attended more conferences, tried to publish more papers, been involved in more groups. I have been known to have perfectionist tendencies, and nowhere do these show up more than in my schoolwork.

But now, I am older, more worn-down, and a mother of a toddler. At this point, I just need to finish the degree. I need the stamp on my resume and to move on. I need to care - enough to live up to my professors' expectations and keep my reputation in tact at this university - but not so much as to work myself to the bone.

But you see...it's hard not to care. It's hard not to be the stellar student I once was. It's hard to not get involved, to not go beyond the requirements, to not strive for another gold star on my record, whether it really matters or not. Turns out perfectionist tendencies are very hard to break. So while I hem and haw, telling those around me that I just need to muddle through, just need to pass, just need to squeak by...I find myself caring, perhaps too much.

In writing this, I realized I could write many more posts applying this gem of a quote to parenting, to being crunchy, to helping my family, to being involved in my friends' lives. It is a good life mantra. But I have no time for such contemplating now, as I need to go study more so I can ace -- er, I mean pass -- this upcoming test.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Nature vs. Nurture

I have a 21-month-old daughter. I was there and aware when she came out of my womb, but often, it's hard to know she's my kid (the most obvious being appearance: she is brown as a nut, I am pale with reddish areas of "tan.") As parents, we struggle regularly with the effect our parenting choices have on our kids, and call ourselves "good" or "bad" parents based on our kids' behavior. I am learning to let this go. My daughter is a unique individual with a big personality. She didn't want to sleep that first year not because I was a bad parent, but because she liked eating and being with people and who were we to convince her otherwise?

She is exhibiting other traits that are also clearly not mine. For example:
1. She is a glamourpuss. I was a borderline tomboy as a kid, and though I do like pretty things, I am not that girly. I rarely shop. My shoes are usually quite practical (read: brown or black). I don't understand why people spend money on purses (the $10 purse holds just as much crap as the $200 ones, and I'll feel less guilty about putting it on the floor of my car). My daughter, however, adores sparkly things, dresses and hats. She loves shoes; in fact, "shoes" was one of her first words. Currently, she sleeps in her shoes, as this is not a fight worth having. (Last night, after waking with a dirty diaper at 2am and having a bottle, she requested we put on new shoes before returning to bed). She currently refuses to wear anything but dresses or the pink Lily Pulitzer pass-down from her closet (no shorts or tees from the drawer, thankyouverymuch). Yes, I said it, I am taking clothing cues from a less-than-2-year-old. But again...these fights are not worth having.
2. She is not cuddly. My daughter tolerates hugs, but does not choose them. She will often request that I pick her up, but then get annoyed that my face is too close to hers. When we snuggle up to read books before bed, she'll often move my hands off of her, so that she is barely balancing on my lap but free of the confines of mama's arms. Instead of kisses, she gives zerberts.
3. She is a drama queen. Well OK, maybe this is from her parents (who did meet in a theater class), but I'll pretend it's all her so as to make myself feel better.
4. She is fearless. Mark my words: this kid will be in the X-Games. She is strong, coordinated and quick: she scales walls, balances well and leaps across caverns. On top of that, she has no fear of falling, of failing, of injuring herself. When she does get a scrape, we usually point it out to her: she is not perturbed in the slightest (there see, her mother's version of drama queen involves lots of hemming and hawing over health issues). Though I am athletic, I was never a great skier, since I fear going downhill fast, nor was I a good biker, as I don't like speed. Sylvia, on the other hand, does not understand fear. As her mother, I find this is awesome in concept, but terrifying in practice.

On the other hand, she shares my love of chocolate, animals, nature walks, laughing, dancing, eating, and the beach. Maybe she's a bit related to me after all.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Big Test

I've been meaning to keep a blog for years. I'm a freelance writer; we're supposed to have proof of our talents. I also teach PR and social media classes, and I'm always telling my students about the importance of having an online presence. But I failed to follow my own advice, intimidated by the very idea of writing about myself or, even scarier, coming up with something clever and interesting.

The final impetus to write this came from a strong desire to avoid what I should be doing: studying for a huge oral exam. My degree requires not only a thesis or project, but also an oral exam, to graduate. The exam is not at all tied to the thesis, rather, it is a test on about 75 articles that are seminal to the field. I have to be able to read, cite, compare, contrast, have opinions on and make clever comments upon 75 or so academic journal articles. And I have to do this 5 weeks from today.

I have organized binders. I have made a schedule. But mainly, I have complained. I have found fellow students and alums to commiserate with, I have aired my pains on Facebook, and I have informed anyone who asks about my summer about the trials of said test. But I have read little. And now, I am writing a blog.

So there you have it. I was so desperate to not read, that I decided to start talking to the world. Now that you're listening, world, please tell me to go read my d*mn articles. Thank you.

Getting Started

I've meant to start a blog for a few years now. I actually began one last Christmas, but it was so painful to read I didn't even want to post on it. So I'm trying again. This time I'll be more honest, more myself, and hopefully less painful. We'll see.