Thursday, November 13, 2014

"Wow! Our bathroom looks great! Who cleaned it?"

The fairies. Ugh. I wish. I did!!! And why are they acting so shocked? It isn't as if I never clean bathrooms. To be fair, I do clean bathrooms. Regularly. In this case, the shock was because the girls had trashed their bathroom so badly it needed emergency services while they were at school. Lotion on the floor and mirrors, toothpaste all over the sink, nothing where it should be, etc.

Messy desks, but creative kids.
Messes like that are why our home is never 100% in order. And we have messes like that because - ready for a shock? - we have kids! Not only do we have kids, but we have kids who play. I remember explaining this to my husband one day when he was getting cranky about their desks being all kinds of crazy looking and super cluttered. He loves having creative kids who come up with all sorts of original games and projects on their own. The side effect of that is mess. I leave them alone to play and they make messes. Cause and effect.

But I'm a stay-at-home-mom, right? I should be cleaning all day while they are at work and school, right? Yeah . . . no. I mean, I do, but I don't. Here's the reality of being a human today: I have long to-do lists. And I have limits, so one mess gets dealt with while another gets ignored.

Here's a secret - this is true for pretty much ALL moms. Really. I used to feel bad about my cluttered house and how bad it could get on its worst days. Then I talked to my friends. We all have messy house days. We all frantically tidy up before people come over. Even when my best friend is coming over, the one I know won't judge me for my mess, I still hide the bras drying on the door knobs. Do I know she has stacks of laundry waiting to be put away hidden in her house, too? Yup. But we all do it. Every single one of my mom friends has at least one room in her house she considers off limits to guests because that is the "dump everything and close the door" room. Every one has a secret stash of junk stuffed in a drawer or under a couch or chair just hoping no guest finds it. No matter how polished and perfect things look the day you show up, know that every mom is human and therefore spent the last fifteen minutes running around like a chicken with her head cut off frantically stuffing, dusting, vacuuming, and hiding junk.

We all do it because we all have kids making messes and demanding our time and attention. We all have kids who want us to watch them jump off the couch, help them with their homework, feed them, hug them, remind them to brush their teeth (twenty times), tuck them in (thirty times), find their socks, pack their lunches, snuggle on the couch, listen to how their day was, drive them to school, repair their ripped sock alien's antennae (again), etc. So relax. No one is Donna Reed in real life these days and only people who have housekeepers and nannies have homes that are always tidy. Embrace the clutter and know you are not alone.

Monday, November 3, 2014

“Should I feel bad about that?”

Every now and then people tell me to not feel guilty about something or “there’s no shame in that,” and I can’t help looking at them like they’re a bit off because, honestly, I never thought of feeling guilty or ashamed of that part of my life. Trust me, there is plenty I don’t like about myself. I am my harshest critic. But there is also plenty I really don’t worry about, and I wonder why other people do. Here are a few things I don’t think I should feel bad about, and I don’t think any other person should, whether they are happy walrus moms or happy walruses without children or just happy whatevers:

  1. Not being the size of a walrus. I am skinny. Undoubtedly.  My BMI is right above underweight. There is no denying I am un-walruslike when it comes to blubber. I simply have none. That’s why I wear multiple sweaters and shiver a lot. That is also why random strangers call me “skinny bitch” which I think is really rude. If anyone should be ashamed, it is them. Rude behavior is bad. Being skinny is not. I used to work with a woman who literally pinched me on a regular basis and would ask me if I had eaten. I was always tempted to pinch her back, but I didn’t BECAUSE THAT IS RUDE. If she is obsessed with my weight, that is her issue, not mine. I don’t feel guilty about being thinner than her.
  2. Living in an apartment. We own a house, so this one is weird. When we moved, we didn’t have a ton of time and didn’t know how permanent our move would be. Renting is the best option. And I really don’t see a problem with it for us or other families like ours, yet, for some reason, people have said to me when I tell them we live in an apartment, “ohhhh, there’s no shame in that.” Huh? Who feels shame? I like our apartment. It is a heck of a lot easier to maintain than a house. I don’t have to do yard work for one thing, but the girls get a sweet playground and tons of kids to play with. And it fits our budget. Why would I feel ashamed that we made the best decision for our family considering our current circumstances? A couple years ago, buying a house seemed like the best choice. Now renting an apartment does. No shame. People are weird.
  3. Having two kids. It seems like no matter what number of children a person has, there will always be someone who thinks a different number would be better. For people who know our family and know the challenges we have faced over the last few years, this has never been a question. However, there are still people who do ask me about it and ask why I didn’t welcome more lives into our family. This is a personal issue and really people should back off. Do I feel bad that I didn’t have more? No. I know why we have two and that is all that matters.
  4. Sewing and cooking and being a stay-at-home-mom. Really, people? You want me to feel guilty about cooking dinner now? Blarg. I was raised by a couple of feminists, so the thought of being anything other than a feminist is just super foreign to me. When people tell me I am anti-feminist and ask me if I feel bad about setting a bad example for my daughters by being "a little wifey", I don’t feel bad for me, but I do feel bad for them. And I kind of want to punch them. But I don’t. Because that would be rude. If you have never watched the series Makers on PBS, I recommend it. It shows the history of the feminist movement in an interesting way including the choices women now face between full time work and being a stay-at-home-mom. Being a stay-at-home-mom is a choice.  It doesn’t mean rejecting female education, opportunity, employment, or any other form of equality. I sew because I enjoy it. I cook because it is the most cost effective way to get food into my children. I am a stay-at-home-mom because I am raising my children and for our family having me home is the best way to get that job done. And I like it. My daughters know and understand all that. So to the people who look at me with their judgey eyes,  I look right back with my confident eyes. I know all the reasons I am here, and I stand firmly behind my choice and do not feel bad. Plus I have awesome kids who eat salads. So pht. (OK, so that last part was a little rude.)

The sad truth is that no matter what kinds of walruses we are, there will always be someone who thinks we should be a seagull. What I try to teach my girls is to be confident in their decisions. No one else will know all the details that go into their decision making processes. People just see the end results. The girls need to stand by their choices and not feel they have to explain them to others or be ashamed of who they are, where they live, how many kids they do or do not have, or how they spend their time (as long as they aren’t breaking any laws or being rude going around pinching skinny people). They will much happier if they can stand up and say, “this is me and I’m ok with that.” As the saying goes, “the best accessory is confidence.”

Monday, October 27, 2014

"Where Did We Come From?"

I recently went to the girls’ school and got to chat with their teachers a bit. My younger daughter’s teacher said that periodically my daughter will claim, “I’m Ukrainian; I can’t remember that!” Her teacher wanted to know why Ukrainians can’t remember things. I nearly fell over laughing and pointed out my daughter is only PART Ukrainian, so that’s a BS excuse (and Ukrainians aren’t known for memory isssues, so really it’s a double BS excuse). The truth is only her father is Ukrainian. I’m something else entirely. And even her Ukrainian father considers himself to be a mix of things. To keep things simple, we call ourselves American and Ukrainian, but if we move beyond where we were born, then things get more complicated. So how do we define what we are and why does it matter?

Both my husband and I have traced our families back many generations, and we are both very proud of our family histories. We love the mix we have. On both sides we have people who were adventurous, crossing borders, marrying into new traditions, learning new languages, and taking on challenges that make anything I’ve ever faced seem like nothing. Our mixed up family trees make answering the question, “what are you?” a little complicated and long winded sometimes, but it makes parenting so much richer. As long as people accept the answer of “American and Ukrainian” or “well, mostly Irish-Polish-American and Ukrainian” then we’re fine. At home, the girls get the full stories, though.

My father’s family has been in what is now the US since the early 1700s and originally came from Wales, however almost every generation has married an immigrant. What can I say? We like accents. The stories of my ancestors on my father’s side are wonderful for inspiring the girls when they find themselves uncomfortable in new situations. I remind them of my great-grandmother who came to America from Poland as a young teen, without her parents, riding on top of her trunk in steerage because she was too poor to afford a real ticket, and started a new life in a new county and had to learn a new language. And she did it. We have stories of my great-grandfather who traveled from Vilnius, Lithuania, to Lviv, Ukraine, to St. Petersburg, Russia, to Poland before moving to America and settling in Chicago. Or my grandmother who went back to Poland so she could receive the best music education studying piano in Warsaw just before World War II. The girls ancestors through my father were brave, going where they needed to go to have the best lives they could. Fear didn’t hold them back. That’s a pretty nice lesson for the girls. Plus, they picked up great food traditions along the way. I mean, is there any better food in the world than Polish food? Seriously. It’s the best.

My grandmother on my mother's side.
My mother’s family is proud Chicago-Irish. I have come to the conclusion there is nothing stronger than a Chicago-Irish woman. My grandmother, mother, and aunts are the iron women who could bend Wonder Woman in half. I have never doubted their awesomeness, and they set a very high bar of excellence and inner strength. My mom’s family began coming to America in the 1850s from Ireland and continued to come in waves until just before 1900 including one young man who stepped off the boat and right into the Union army during the Civil War. They were all poor and mostly illiterate according to census records until my grand-parents’ generation. The census records are depressing. They show that often as many as three quarters of each generation would die before reaching their teenage years. While the women were burying their babies, the men were literally building Chicago. Growing up, I used to love walking around the city with my mom who would proudly say, “my family built that bridge.” My mom’s family survived because they worked hard. They didn’t give up. When the girls want to quit because they think a task is too difficult, I remind them of their Chicago-Irish blood. If their ancestors had given up, people wouldn’t be able to cross the Chicago River. The McLennons didn’t give up, and the girls won’t either.

On Saturdays, the girls go to Ukrainian school to learn Ukrainian and celebrate their father’s side. Part of it. He reminds them his grandfather identified as Polish (again, EXCELLENT food traditions) and tells them the more complex stories of his family. Yes, he was born and raised in Ukraine, but his Ukrainian family history is just as rich as my American family history. He has heroes whose stories culminated with him being born in Kyiv which are the things of legends. They lived through countless wars and famines, slept in cemeteries, and spoke more than one language. When he tells them he is Ukrainian, that is just the first sentence in a long book.

Looking back at our families and where we have come from makes our lives so much richer. It gives us a plethora of stories to tell our girls at bedtime. We can draw from more than just our own experiences to teach them and inspire them. I am proud to be more than just one thing, and I am so happy I continued my family tradition of marrying a hot immigrant with an adorable accent. I hope our girls remember these stories and continue to tell them. And eat Polish food. Because it is good. And that can't be said enough.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"This year I want to be . . . "

I love Halloween. It isn’t my most favorite holiday, and I haven’t always loved it, but it is fun and has become a bigger highlight of the year since the girls came along. As they get older, Halloween gets better. I don’t get excited about the pumpkin picking or the trick-or-tricking, although I do like those things a bit. I don’t go overboard decorating, although our home has bats and skulls year round, so this should be the easiest holiday for us. And I’m not a big candy person, although I do have a sweet tooth. It’s the costumes I love. They don’t even have to be elaborate. I just love seeing my girls get excited about dressing up as someone or something else. For that moment, there are no limits. Whatever they want to be, they can be, and they are so happy. I love it. It’s better than the chocolate I steal from their buckets when they aren’t looking.

I’ve been sewing since I was a kid, and I’m a pretty crafty person, but I’m also a realist. When I was working full-time, I bought the girls’ costumes. Did I feel bad about that? HECK NO! They looked frickin’ adorable as an elephant and hot dog or as a dinosaur and kitten! And I didn’t have time to sew or craft. I barely had time to shop. I hate when parents feel they have to make a costume for it to be special or great or whatever. Not everyone can or wants to, and that’s totally fine. 
Cutest dino EVER!
Can you honestly look at this dinosaur and tell me she isn’t fantastic or that she is less loved because I ran to the store a few days before Halloween and bought her that costume? She wanted to be a girl dinosaur, and that’s what she was and she rocked it, store bought or not. The important thing is that my girls get their moment to express themselves and to be on the outside what they feel on the inside, without anyone thinking they are totally insane. OK, so people still think they are a little nuts some years (like this one), but not as nuts as they would seem if they showed up to school any other day dressed this way (which she did do....that picture wasn't actually taken on Halloween). So relax parents who buy costumes, and don’t let Pinterest fool you into thinking sewing is easy for everyone or that Halloween costumes MUST be handmade or totally unique or anything other than what your kid says he or she wants to be.

That being said, I do have time to sew the girls’ costumes, and sewing is easy-ish for me, so I have made the girls costumes the last few years. That’s a good thing because their requests have gotten . . . odder. I have been asked to make a cuttlefish, TARDIS, Tribble, and purple macaw among other things. Yeah . . . I don’t think Old Navy sells cuttlefish costumes. 

This year the girls – thankfully! – wanted simple costumes which were part homemade, part Etsy bought.  My older daughter really wanted to be Leslie Knope of Parks of Recreation, aka “grown-up Sofi!” My younger daughter wanted to be a TARDIS princess. She loved her TARDIS costume, but wanted something swishier and easier to walk in this year plus she had seen a really cool TARDIS hat on Etsy and wanted an excuse for me to buy it for her. So, without further blathering, here are the girls showing on the outside how they feel inside this year:

The inspiration.
Leslie Knope: blazer and blouse were just in her closet already, SUPER scented waffle necklace from Tiny Hands, badge from Uncle Jack’sDesign, and Lil Sebastian made by me and stuffed by my daughter.

TARDIS princess: black shirt and tights already in her closet, AMAZING hat from Hat and Mouse, skirt and cape designed by my daughter and made by me using fabric from Spoonflower (cape fabric HERE, skirt fabric HERE).

quote from here

Monday, October 13, 2014

Ukrainian Enough?

Sure fire way to piss me off is to start talking about whether or not my kids are Ukrainian enough. I hate that. I hate the whole idea of measuring someone’s ethnicity in general, but this particular term really irks me. For one thing, it is usually applied in an inconsistent way. Usually the person who is telling me – the non-Ukrainian parent – what is or is not Ukrainian enough is wrong herself and is basing her ideas about Ukrainian-ness on her experience growing up in the diaspora. Example: “REAL Ukrainians don’t put ketchup on holubtsi.” This is a pretty undisputed fact within the diaspora, however in modern Ukraine ketchup is common and is put on a lot of foods including sometimes holubtsi. I've witnessed it first hand and don't understand why it is a big deal to say it happens. The problem for me with the “Ukrainian enough” statement is two pronged. First, I don’t want anyone narrowly defining my kids. Second, their criteria are outdated and inaccurate to begin with.

Learning through experience, walking around
Chernivtsi, Ukraine with her dad's cousin and friend.
What do we do instead of throwing varenyky at people who say stuff like that to us? We hug our daughters and make a big fuss about how wonderful MY side of the family is. We on my side aren’t Ukrainian at all, but we’re still pretty dang fantastic. Then my husband teaches them how to speak and read Ukrainian. Disney princesses speak Ukrainian, too (we get our movies from Ukraine). We decorate our home with a mix of the different cultures – Ukrainian, Polish, Irish, and anything else we like. And most importantly we take the girls physically to Ukraine. The REAL Ukraine. The best way for them to know what real Ukrainians do and do not do is for them to go there and spend time just hanging out with Ukrainians. I’m not going to tell my girls that Ukrainians don’t eat ketchup because I know they do. Ukrainians are modern people who like foods that taste yummy. They also watch tv and drive cars and wear tennis shoes. They aren’t all named Tanya and Taras. They give their kids names they like which are sometimes traditional Slavic names and sometimes they aren’t. They listen to rap music and pop music and sometimes traditional folk music. They don’t all drink horilka or wear head scarves. They are a variety of religions with a variety of political view points. Some like the west and some like the east and some don’t have an opinion (just like Americans!). Not everyone owns an embroidered shirt, and there are people in Adidas who love their country even more than the most embroidered, blue-and-yellow-ed, flower wreathed person you can find. Learning the old traditions is great, but it doesn't define being Ukrainian any more than apple pie and baseball define being American.

That is what we want our girls to know and understand. Being proud of Ukraine and being proud of America don’t mean fitting in one tiny cubby. Both are great countries with many wonderful traditions, and both are dynamic countries which are growing and changing with the times. The people are adapting and eating ketchup in both places, and that’s fine. As long as they don’t get it on their hot dogs. That’s just not Chicagoan enough. ;)

a mix - Irish shepherd's pie with Ukrainian insignia and curry seasoning

Thursday, October 9, 2014

“Are you having fun, Mom? Are the people being nice?”

I love when the tables turn and my girls pat my hand and ask me how my day was. They are so fascinated that I have a life sometimes. Since we moved states, that table turning has been spinning so much we have equalized a bit which is nice. It gives me some credibility when I tell them to get out there and make friends if they see that I have to do the same. For them, getting out there means school and sports. For me, it means chatting with the other parents at their schools and sports. And volunteering.

I was raised to see volunteering as something we just do. Like eating or sleeping or brushing our teeth. If I can help, I should simply because that is the decent human thing to do. All of the grown-ups I knew, whether they were working full-time jobs or not, whether they got recognition for their service or not, simply volunteered when they could. It was never a big deal, never about pressure or for show. As a mom, though, I see that not everyone else views it that way. And it is a bit of a crazy world.

When I was a working mom, I felt a TON of pressure to volunteer more. I felt I had to prove I was still an involved parent. Who I thought I had to prove this to, I’m not sure. Maybe the random haters who would talk loudly at the other tables in the lunch room about “the trouble with parents these days is that they work too much and leave their kids to be raised by strangers” (even though it was my father who was doing the bulk of the daycare, so I really should have shrugged that off)? Maybe it was the other parents at the preschool who would brag about knowing all the teachers on a first name basis (even though my mom was a teacher there so technically I knew them all, too, and should have shrugged that one off as well)? Who knows. But I felt like I had to be doing more. Which was dumb. All I had to be doing was loving my kids and taking care of them. Screw what the other parents thought about me.

As a SAHM, I know I could feel pressure to out perform the other SAHMs, but I’m not going to. I’ve grown-up a bit. Sure, I still care what people think of me. I just don’t let it totally rule me (and never totally did . . . I did say no to a lot of volunteering even as a working mom – I just felt bad about it then and don’t feel bad about it now). I am meeting new groups of moms these days and keep getting the same advice: don’t over-volunteer. Great advice. But my mom already gave me that advice many years ago which is why even when I did feel pressured to do so, I didn’t give in. My mom said pick one or two areas to volunteer in and stick to those. Being helpful means not being exhausted or resentful. It means not burning the candle at both ends. 
my mom's advice, but in Ron Swanson's words (from here)
And when I feel I have too much on my plate or my health is bad or my back hurts too much, IT IS OK TO SAY NO. Taking care of my health and my family comes first. If I don’t do that, then someone else would have to. I smile at the moms who tell me not to over-volunteer, then listen to them tell me how over-involved they are. I know they are talking more to themselves than to me. They don’t know me, so they don’t know that I will certainly NOT be leading a garden club ever nor will I ever take over as treasurer of anything simply because I feel like I ought to. I don’t think I owe it to the working mothers to “pick up their slack” by volunteering twice as much (that just insults working mothers who I really don’t think need extra insults). I don’t think I need to have something scheduled for every day. I don’t think it is my duty to put in community service hours because I am not bringing in a paycheck. Nope.
my NO gets used plenty
I volunteer when an opportunity comes up that I think fits me. Something I think I can do well. Like teaching catechism classes. Or working at the book fair. Or being a hall monitor. And recently I have been volunteering to meet new people and make new friends here in our new state.  If they are going to use my volunteerism as a yardstick, however, for my goodness as a mom, I’ll pass. I think we should all be old enough now to stop judging each other like that and just be moms together, regardless of how many volunteer hours we’re logging. Can’t we just focus on what really matters? Who’s bringing the coffee to the next meeting?!?!?!

Friday, September 26, 2014

“But, Mom, people really ARE annoying.”

OK, today I am not arguing this one. Today I am saying, yes, when people say this one particular thing to me, I get really irked. As I’ve said before (in a lovely blog here), I’m not naturally a super bubbly people person. I would rather be home alone with my books and skulls and bats and stuffed walruses. I do try to be more patient and understanding and outgoing, though. I do try to reach out to people and engage in the world around me. Most of the time, it works and I find that “fake it till you make it” works. Most but not all of the time.
How I feel some days. Just go away, people.
I know that for a lot of moms the real “I’m gonna punch you in the teeth” question is the “what do you do all day” question. Yeah, that one can be annoying, but I really don’t think the question itself is the problem. As a former working mom turned stay-at-home mom, I get it. I used to wonder what SAHMs did, too. I wasn’t being judgey. I was curious. And I think most of the people who ask me are curious, too. There are judgey people, but the question itself isn’t inherently judgey.

No, the thing that gets me riled up and has me grinding my teeth and doing mental back flips trying to come up with justifications for people saying crap like that is when people say to me, “well, you’re just lucky your kids were born so well behaved.” Um, no, they weren’t. Before I get into why this annoys me (acknowledging upfront that I might be overreacting, but whatever, I’m allowed to considering I don’t actually in real life flip out at people so how much am I really over reacting?), here are my rationales I run through in my head to stop me from saying mean things back to people:

  • The people are just trying to say my kids are not being poop heads. That’s a good thing. Take the compliment and run. Really. Just run. Don’t open your mouth.
  • Most parents are insecure about their parenting abilities and try to find ways of justifying what they see as failures on their parts. Saying someone else’s kid was born that way just takes a little of the burden off them and makes them feel better. Let them feel better and run. Don’t open your mouth.
  • People get mixed up about nature vs nurture and think it is an either/or thing. Explaining the way brains are wired and how we are socialized and the way we are a balance of inherited traits and learned behaviors takes too long. Just run. Don’t open your mouth.
  • Maybe they know I’m part Irish and eat way too much Lucky Charms? Who knows . . . now I’m grasping at straws. Just run. Don’t open your mouth. Unless it is to eat Lucky Charms.

Here is why that bugs me. I work really hard. Really. My kids, like all kids, were born as little screaming babies. Well, one was. The other wasn’t screaming because she couldn’t breath. But eventually she was a screaming baby. Point is they were not born preprogrammed to obey their teachers, raise their hands in class, do their homework every day, follow rules, respect authority figures, say please and thank you, not hit kids when they don’t get their way, etc. My husband and I make very deliberate decisions with our children (I talk about that more here) and work very hard to teach them how to behave. Can we control them? No. But we can try to instill morals and values and guide them. Are our girls perfect? Heck no! Do they have challenges? Oh, YES! Just because people don’t see the challenges doesn’t mean they aren’t there. We have had many epic battles with the girls at home. We have questioned our parenting and wondered if our kids will in fact grow up to be international criminal masterminds (even if they turn out evil, we expect them to do well). We have had sleepless nights worrying about our kids and wondering what to do. When we get to those bridges we can’t cross on our own, we get outside help which for our younger daughter has meant speech therapy and help with anxiety.
"She reads? You're so lucky." No, I had to fight and have
MANY conversations to find the right kind of books for her
to read and the right kind of motivation to get her to read.
It wasn't luck; it was determination.
Each girl has a different personality and different needs to be addressed. That is true for every child. Every parent takes the child they have and tries to parent the best they can to meet that child’s needs. For us, as we go along and learn we have had to adapt our parent strategies to fit the needs of our two very different children. This means swallowing our pride, researching parenting techniques, talking to specialists, meeting with teachers, spending countless hours listening to our daughters and trying to figure out strategies for success with them, explaining why punching annoying people in the face really isn’t a good solution (no matter how tempting it is). In short, we work HARD to have good kids. Our kids are physically healthy at this point, and that is partly luck (and partly careful parenting again), but that is where the luck stops.

I’m not saying we work harder than other parents, but I am saying we do work. Calling our kids’ good behavior “luck” ignores our hard work. It diminishes the effort and careful consideration we put into every day. I know sometimes parents say it because they are defensive about their own kids and parenting, but honestly most of the time I am more focused on my kids and wouldn’t have noticed their kids till they made that comment. Calling my parenting “luck” makes me think, “you think parenting is about luck not work? What are you doing with your kid? Sitting back hoping to get lucky and have him figure out on his own that he shouldn’t push my kid? No wonder he is acting that way.” And that is when I do get judgey. And I don’t like feeling judgey. And I don’t want other moms to feel judged. Being a mom is – or at least should be – hard enough.
Spending time with our girls, talking to them, trying to understand them
so we can guide them the best. No luck involved here. Just lots of time.

So if you come across some really well behaved kids who are eating a salad and not throwing knives at people, don’t be mean to the parents or snarky by calling them “lucky” or worse yet making a sarcastic comment mocking them. Either say nothing or just say, “what a nice kid.” Because chances are the parents had many battles at home before the kid would eat that salad in public.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

“Mom, did you know some kids don’t know about gender equality? Ugh. It is so annoying.”

my Righteous Babe in her fave "someone call the girl police" shirt
This seems to be a constant source of annoyance for my older daughter and her personal mission in life. We have nicknamed her our Gender Equality Warrior Princess. Ever since kids started teasing her about her running shoes when she was in first grade (story here), she has been painfully aware of gender stereotypes in this country and the limitations they try to put on people. It bugs her. I am bugged, too. Her dad is, too.
She made this shirt herself to spread her
gender equality message.

There are a lot of problems when it comes to gender inequality and gender stereotyping.  They range from day to day little things that the girls face in school to larger problems that adult men and women have to deal with in jobs, politics, and health. How we are treated and how we are expected to behave are still defined by gender. For my older daughter, that becomes an annoying problem because she wants to think and act beyond those boundaries. She wants to make decisions for herself based on her own personality and preferences and does not think she should be limited by something as arbitrary as gender.

For the last three years, she has been coming to terms with how her classmates want her to behave and accepting that when she follows her heart, they won’t always approve of it. We have a saying in our house: “Not everyone likes broccoli.” Every person has different tastes and won’t like the same things. We can’t change our tastes to suit the tastes of the people around us, and we can’t expect them to change their tastes to suit ours. It is not always an easy thing to do, being true to herself in the face of snarky girls who mock her for not wearing nail polish or sparkly clothes, but she perseveres.

For her father, the journey to feminism was a bit different. He thought he was a feminist until he had daughters and a wife. Then the tiny little prejudices started showing. They seep in because they are such a strong part of culture. It is hard to avoid absorbing some assumptions of who should do what or who is capable of doing what. He has grown to be a gender equality warrior along with his daughter, and I think, like my own dad, it isn’t because he is the father of girls, but simply because he is a father. He doesn’t care about gender equality because he is a feminist in the sense that he thinks females need to be defended but in the sense that he loves his children and wants them to have access to all their dreams and to be free to be themselves. If we had sons instead of daughters, he would want the same for them. He is a feminist in the sense that he wants all people to live to their full potentials.

That is why I am so excited about Emma Watson’s speech to the UN. For my Gender Equality Warrior Princess, seeing Hermione standing up - her voice shaking, but still speaking up - telling the world to look at gender, “as a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals,” is powerful. It is empowering. It is reassuring. It is telling my daughter she has been right all along and she is not alone. It is saying, “you can like fairies and hockey, and that’s ok, and I stand with you.” It is also supporting their dad. It tells him his role as a father is valuable, and his emotions are valuable. It tells him, “you can love your daughters just as much as your wife does, and that’s ok, and I stand with you.”

I love that speech, and I love the He For She campaign. I hope it reaches many people, but even if it doesn’t, it will reach my daughter and help her. And as a mom, that makes me happy. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

"You're weird, Mom."

“NOOO!!!!!! Tribbles don’t go for walks! What are you thinking? You have to CARRY it! I can’t believe you did that!” *insert massive wailing*

"But I can't go to sleep! I don't have The Flu!" *insert frantic searching under the bed for a stuffed flu virus*

Or another example, the other day I was sitting on the couch, silently minding my own business, ignoring my children, when the older one walked over and yelled, “Mommy!” I responded calmly, “um, what?” to which she yelled back, “I don’t want to talk to you right now!” *insert confused blinking*

Recently we had relatives over and during some down time, the girls were playing in the dining room area while the adults relaxed on the couch and I puttered around the kitchen. The girls were being their usual selves, playing their normal imaginary games. I was only half listening, just catching stray sentences about coronations, brain eating amoebas, vampires, time travel, etc. Then I looked at our guest sitting on the couch who apparently had been listening in.

“Is this what you listen to all day?” she asked.

To my girls, all this is completely, totally, 100% serious stuff. To me, it is hard to not bust out laughing sometimes (a lot of the time). There are times it gets annoying and I did have to make a “No Fighting About Imaginary Stuff” rule, but it is usually so random that it is hard to not just go, “wait, what did you just say?”

My mom says, among other things, kids need humor and heroes. I totally agree.  The heroes part I’ll talk about later. The humor part seems to be one sided a lot of the time, however, sadly. The girls are hilarious to me. What they say and do and how they dress. I love it. I often step out of the room to laugh so they won’t think I am laughing at them (which I am). They don’t see the humor in what they are doing, though, which makes sense. They don’t always see humor in what I am doing either. A lot of what I have to do is not funny. Cooking, cleaning, paying bills, driving, laundry, and kitty litter are not especially entertaining. Especially the bill paying. Not funny at all. And kitty litter is literally poopy. So what do we do? How do we teach our kids that there is humor in the world and that they don’t have to take everything so seriously? Even though being a grown-up is blechily serious. Ugh. This is an important lesson, so it requires extra effort no matter how serious and grown-up we feel. Here’s what the girls’ dad and I try to do:
  1. Goofy selfies. Trite, right? But it never fails to make them laugh and shows them we don’t take ourselves so seriously we are afraid to look ridiculous. Their dad is extra good at this.
    They stole my phone and I got it back
    FULL of pictures like this.
  2. Horrible dancing. This is not hard. Good dancing is hard. Horrible dancing is just fun. All we have to do is, again, not take ourselves super seriously. I have a really bad back, so sometimes this one is actually painful, but the pay off is worth it when the girls join in and relax. Enjoying being alive is a good thing.
  3. Decorate however we want.
    Watching some tv with Pillow Nana
    We do like HGTV and decorating magazines, books, and blogs. My older daughter stole my copy of Young House Love and has already planned her own first house. But when it comes to decorating our own home, we don’t mind mixing walruses, dinosaurs, and skulls. Those things make us happy, so that is what we put out. All year. We tell the girls we decorate to make ourselves smile. And we do. It is hard to not smile when I look around my living room and see a crazy blend of Polish folk art, Ukrainian embroidery, a giant robotic triceratops, a life size stuffed version of my mom (not taxidermy . . .  like a rag doll . . . slightly less creepy), my Jane Austen action figure, a sparkly purple skull, etc. To others I’m sure it is a random clutter of things that make them say, “um, what’s that?” (I’m sure because they do say that when they come here and see Pillow Nana), but to us it is our home.
  4. Sing along with songs we like. We can’t sing. Really. We’re not musically talented at all. A lot of the time it is just lip syncing. But it’s fun. And often drives the girls nuts. Which is just extra fun. So when we hear a song we like, we go along with it. I admit, whenever I hear Eye of the Tiger, I bust out not only my best lip syncing but also my super awesome horrible dancing. Actually, I have pretty much these same dance moves (although my car isn’t as cool):

Our end goal is simple. We want the girls to be happy. Life is full of bad stuff. There is disease and war and natural disasters. There are also all the little things that drain us day to day like bullies, annoying people, boring tasks, stresses, etc. We need to learn how to focus on the joy whenever we can. They can’t always see how funny and silly their little lives our, so as grown-ups we have to show them it is ok to laugh and give them things to laugh at.
We have to show them not everything has to be super serious because there are enough serious things already. So put that goofy hat on for no reason other than to make a kid smile. Don’t worry about looking like a doofus.

Dance like Elaine. Go on. Right now. Or when you pick your kids up from school. Or in the grocery store.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"School's better . . . but not perfect."

Honestly, that’s fine. I’ll take it. If you’re not sure where this is coming from, read THIS first. All caught up? Here’s what happened next.

My daughter did go to school and did talk to her teacher. She was nervous, but she got through it. At first, she didn’t get exactly what she wanted. Of course, exactly what she wanted was for either everyone else to disappear or for her desk to be moved to the hall. Not really realistic. Instead, the teacher said she would address the problem of kids talking out of turn and being disrespectful to the whole class the next day and by the end of the week everyone would have new seats. Rearranging seats is not as simple as one might assume. Kids are people with complex little personalities and the teacher has a lot to take into consideration. Plus, this is still the beginning of the year. She is getting to know people and balancing things out. Additionally, entire classes cannot be uprooted just because my (adorable princess center of MY universe) daughter wants her to move everyone. Long story short, I was satisfied, but my daughter was not entirely convinced things were going to get better. To complicate things, she then got sick and was absent the next day. D’oh!

Fast forward a week. Her teacher, being a professional who has her eye on the bigger picture beyond just my one child, did address the whole class. She talked to my daughter a couple more times over the week to find out more information about what the problem was and did separate my daughter from the girl who was harassing her (yes, I think repeatedly questioning someone’s gender during class every single day is harassment).

From my daughter’s perspective, the situation is slightly improved because she is no longer directly next to that one girl, however she is still there. Now we are talking about what my daughter can do on her own to not let the annoying stuff get to her and ruin her day. Filtering techniques: focusing on the positive things that are there; instead of focusing on what other people are doing, focusing on what she is doing and her own purpose. The point is, she cannot control other people, but she can control herself.

From my perspective, this is a huge victory because the whole thing was dealt with without me getting involved at all. My daughter did all the talking to her teacher herself. She felt comfortable enough to speak up for herself. That’s a big deal. It is also a victory because her teacher didn’t brush her off. Her teacher either was already aware of the situation from seeing it or considerate enough to listen to and believe her student. Either way, good sign of a good teacher. Teachers have a lot of other goals without also worrying about social problems and classroom discipline, but the social problems and classroom discipline have a huge impact on learning. I am very hopeful for the rest of the year and glad that our message “teachers are partners” was proven true. Oh, and it helped that my daughter earned the Take a Fuzzy Friend to School card. That always makes school better.

Heading to school with a smile and a fuzzy Dronkey friend.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Me. Before coffee.
I hate mornings. Ughhhhh. Really. I am not a morning person. But I am also incredibly stubborn and super determined to kick my enemies’ butts. Morning is my enemy. I will kick its butt. Grrr.

Before becoming a mom, I admit I was much less butt kicking and much more snooze hitting. There is something about being a mom that makes me fiercer. I am much more determined to get my kids to school on time than I ever was to get myself anywhere on time. It’s not like everyone else is always super punctual (except the annoying perfect people who I am sure secretly have basements full of dog poop which is the secret flaw I imagine for people who appear to be perfect because I hate dog poop). And parenthood really isn’t a competition. But it feels like it sometimes. And that challenge of I WILL Get Them to School ON TIME Today is powerful. Hey, whatever motivates, right? So I crank up the music and we hustle. I found this great video of what trying to get out the door on time feels like and it is totally accurate. Now that my girls are older, I don’t get peed on or get the oatmeal thrown at me any more, but the chaotic feel can be there still.

Here are my top time savers that super help me get my kids out our door and in the school door before that tardy bell (warning: won't work for everyone):

  1. I don’t work any more. You have no idea how much time I save by not trying to also shower and make-up myself while also trying to wrangle the girls. I remember sticking the girls in the bathroom with me while I took the world’s fastest showers hoping one wasn’t toothpasting the other, then trying to brush my teeth and supervise toddler teeth brushing at the same time. It all got done, but I certainly never looked as pulled together as my coworkers who had no kids or the ones who admitted they dropped their kids at daycare then went home and got ready alone (I would have to drop my kids off at 5 am to do that!). Anyway, I know this is a b.s. time saver because who can really just quit their job to streamline their mornings, but honestly, every morning as I stick a hat on my dirty hair and throw jeans on without showering I am glad I am not working. I miss the paychecks and socializing with other grown-ups, but not the extra getting ready in the morning.
  2. I don’t own a dog. HUGE time saver. No offense to dog owners. I had a dog. I loved her, but when she died, we didn’t get another dog. Not needing to walk the dog in the morning is great. I just need to take care of my two humans who are enough to deal with most days. Again, streamlining and minimizing the to-do list. We have cats, but the litter box scooping goes way faster and can be done when I get back from dropping them off. Just as "quit your job" is a pretty b.s. time saver for a lot of moms, "get rid of your dog" will be, too. But not having one right now saves me time. (And, frankly, don't most time saving lists contain a lot of crazy, b.s. ideas? Some even have ideas that seem like they would take MORE time. But I am off on a time wasting tangent now . . .)
  3. I don’t do cute breakfasts. 
    Yeah, I like Pinterest and all the cutesy mom blogs and stuff, but I am
    not going to make fun breakfasts. Breakfast is cereal or oatmeal or a pastrami sandwich (the older one likes that . . .  she’s odd). Breakfast also has a time limit. The kitchen eventually closes. Eat and move on. Why do I have to tempt my kids to eat? They are hungry when they wake up. They eat without poking or prodding. It is probably the only time they will eat without a fight. Thus the time limit. The younger one would eat six breakfasts if I’d let her. She does on weekends.
  4. Clothes are already set out. Sure there are still occasional whines about outfits, and fall and spring get tricky with the temperature jumping around, but most mornings we don’t have to think about it. The girls have a hanging cubby system in their room. I stuff the cubbies with outfits including socks and underwear, so in the morning they just have to grab an outfit. They can pick any outfit from any cubby. This is probably the biggest time saver. I hate fighting about clothes. I think it is a ridiculous fight to have. I just want them dressed and moving on to the next thing, so this system works great. The girls preapprove the cubby outfits these days which greatly reduces the risk of morning “I don’t want to wear that” or “I don’t know what to wear” whining. I love it.
  5. Lunchboxes are also cubby systems. What can I say? I love a good cubby. We got these from Pottery Barn Kids, but similar ones are available all over the place. I don’t need to worry about running out of baggies (or feeling bad about killing sea turtles). I just put food in each cubby, close the lid, and move on. Super simple. Again, I don’t try to be cute. Sure, I’ve seen the Pinterest boards of people making their kids’ lunches works of art, but I just make it something they can eat. A sandwich and sides. Bing bang boom. Done.
As long as there are no major meltdowns about snarky girls or annoying people, everything runs smoothly and we go from bed to car in 40 minutes or less. We usually have time for a little playing or chatting or reading or dancing along the way, so the morning can start not super stressful. Of course, then I come back home after dropping them off and crash on the couch as if I’d just run a race. But I feel quite accomplished. And can check off that, yes, I did get up, kick ass.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

“I just want to be left alone.”

Some mornings being a mom is exhausting. Not all mornings, although it may seem that way. Most mornings go smoothly, actually, but then there are mornings like these. I went through them with my older daughter, and now I am having them with my younger daughter. The challenges aren’t exactly the same because the two girls aren’t exactly the same. Their personalities are as different as their appearances. But here I am again, facing a little girl who doesn’t want to go to school because of a classmate.

I feel pretty lucky. I feel as though I entered parenthood with a pretty heavily stocked arsenal. Not only do I have my own experiences growing up to draw from, I also have a mother who writes and lectures about teaching kids resilience and peacemaking. I have a father who is an exceptional educator. I have a sister who is also an incredible teacher as well as countless teacher friends who are always willing to listen to me and answer all my questions about my elementary age children. (I majored in secondary education. These younger people are a whole different kettle of fish!)

Thanks to all that, this particular fish today got out of her egg chair and then out the door pretty smoothly by drawing on two carefully preset points we have been working on:

  • Teachers are partners. We have always stressed this and have always been sure to let the girls know which of our family members and friends are teachers. We want them to know that teachers are human beings, people that care about them, and people they can talk to. So far, all their teachers have reinforced this lesson (BIG relief!). Last year when my daughter was wanting to drop out of first grade (totally different reason), we met with her teacher who very patiently and attentively listened to all my daughter’s concerns and worked out a plan with her to make things better. The number of teachers I have met who are NOT willing to do that can only be counted on one hand, and the number of teachers I know . . . well, I’ve lost count.
  • Ignoring problems makes them worse. This is when cats and kitty litter are really useful. Smell that? What would happen if I ignored the kitty litter for a day? What if I went back to bed and ignored it for a week? Would the smell just go away? If I want the smell of cat poop to get better, I have to deal with it. I have to face the kitty litter. We have to face our problems. It sucks, but ignoring problems just makes them suck more later.

The problem was that there is girl who sits next to her who talks to her too much and keeps asking her, “are you a boy?” Everyday. My daughter says she has tried telling the girl to be quiet and leave her alone and has repeatedly explained that she IS a girl, but the other girl keeps talking. We wrote on a post-it note her primary concern – “too much talking” – and she went out the door prepared to ask her teacher if they could talk when she got to school (they have free time in the classroom with their teacher before class starts instead of morning recess). If that doesn’t work and she isn’t able to meet with her teacher informally today, we will email her teacher to schedule an appointment. Again, I don’t know many teachers who turn down appointments with students.

This is something we will be working on constantly - learning how to interact with classmates, coworkers, people around us - but I want my daughters to know that they are not alone as they figure things out. I can’t be there with them to see how they are talking to people or how the people are reacting, but their teachers are and their teachers do want them to be successful. Yes, at some point this is all on the kids, and I do encourage the girls to speak up for themselves first, but when that doesn’t work – as in this case – going to their teachers for assistance and advice is a good next step and sure beats dropping out of school to hide in an egg chair.

We’ll know this afternoon how it went and what the next step will be. To be continued . . .

Monday, September 8, 2014

“Mom, please, can I watch Queen now? You know, the fun one?”

Fandoms are fun!
OK, I admit inside I did do a Mommy Victory Dance of Joy when my daughter reqested I put on the Bohemian Rhapsody music video. As much as I want my girls to be themselves, have their own tastes, explore their personalities and feel free to have opinions which differ from mine or my husband’s, part of me really dreads the idea of them crying and screaming over pop singers like Justin Bieber or whoever else is out there (I’m really trying to not know). I remember thinking the girls around me who were losing their minds over New Kids on the Block were slightly nuts, and then as a mom hearing about girls physically harming themselves over that Bieber kid just made me eeek a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I love fun fandoms and being enthusiastic about stuff (this Simon Pegg quote is on our fridge), but I think enthusiasm and obsession are two very different things. And I think there is a difference between blind adoration and gleeful admiration.

So what do I do to try to counter the strangely obsessive pop culture stuff the girls encounter when they get to school? On weekends and in the mornings, I blast MY music at them (insert evil laugh). They do have their own CD player in their room and their own CDs – older one’s fave is her Taylor Swift Red CD and younger one loves her Everly Brothers – and they do have their own playlist on my phone which includes the Frozen soundtrack, but I admit to trying to teach them there is more music out there. When I was a kid, I listened to my parents’ favorites which was a lot of Beatles. I think that’s a great place to start. In Ukraine, that was all I played on my phone during our down time, and my daughter learned a lot of their songs. I also listened to Guns and Roses, Amy Grant, and Dead Milkmen when I was in elementary school. A bit of an eclectic mix, and I’m really not sure Dead Milkmen are entirely appropriate, so I might hold off on them (although I do still listen to them as a guilty pleasure occasionally).

In the mornings, while we are getting ready, I put on Pandora. Last year it was the Cat Stevens station.

So nice and chill! What a nice way to start the day. This year, I decided to boost the energy level a bit, so we switched to the Queen station. The girls LOVED it. I like to use weekends to push my own agendas (also known as parenting), so I spent a day just playing Queen songs and watching Queen videos on YouTube and talking about why Freddie Mercury was awesome. It was a really fun day. The girls were learning life lessons and how to head bang and insulting my hair (my hair naturally looks like Brian May's at its fluffiest), and I was getting bounce around like a doof and giggle and play with my kids. So what are the great lessons that can be learned from spending a day with Queen?

  1. If you are passionate about something, do that. Queen had a passion for music and creating new, cool songs together. Freddie Mercury had a passion for writing and singing. When the girls learned that he was singing right up until he died, they were impressed.
  2. If you have a talent, use it ALL. One of the girls favorite songs is Bohemian Rhapsody. They love how it sounds like so many pieces all in one. They also thought it was cool how not all the Queen songs over the years sounded alike. There is a variety of sounds and styles. When they learned the songs were written by the band members and they each had different tastes, but they agreed to use and appreciate the talents of everyone, the girls thought that was really cool. Talent wasn’t wasted. It was stretched.
  3. You don’t have to like everything about someone or know every detail to listen to or like their music. Ok, so this isn’t strictly Queen related, but it is important. Do I want my girls to imitate everything Queen or any other rock band did? Of course not! Although, the part about getting a degree in physics like Brian May can be imitated with my blessing. Liking a band does not mean memorizing every fact about them and shouldn’t. I like Ani DiFranco, but I have no idea when her birthday is. How does that change how her music makes me feel? Also, fans don’t need to prove themselves by trying to become in every way the people they are listening to. The girls can bounce around to Radio Ga Ga without needing to also get drunk in a bar in London. I like when there are some admirable qualities, of course, and those are what I focus on when I talk to the girls (physics degree, use of talent, camaraderie, creativity, etc), but everyone has flaws and makes mistakes. We talk about the flaws and learn from them, too, so we DON’T imitate those parts. Mostly, though, we talk about the music and enjoy it and live our own lives, because frankly we are awesome as is. The girls know the name of Freddie Mercury and that is pretty much all the Queen trivia they can give you. Everything else was broad strokes: they wrote their own songs, there were four of them, Freddie died after he got HIV, Crazy Little Thing Called Love was written in the bath tub (ok, that's specific, but funny so totally worth knowing).
  4. It’s ok to get pumped up about yourself. I love listening to Queen in the morning because I like the idea of sending my girls to school singing “We will ROCK YOU!” I want them pumped up about themselves and about life. I want them to celebrate their successes and be proud of themselves. I want them to feel like they can conquer the world. One thing we talked about was the difference in the messages of the songs. They weren’t all about dating or hooking up or breaking up. There were songs about simply kicking butt and being awesome. That, I think, is a good thing to have as a background soundtrack for a fourth grader.

If my daughters don’t like my same music, that’s fine. I assume they won’t like all the same things as me, but I can still expose them to it and talk to them about it. I can still try to teach them there is a world bigger than what they see and hear at the lunch table. And I can explain that they will most likely never marry a pop star, so devoting all their time, energy, and money to obsessing over one is not healthy. It is much healthier to just rock out and be awesome for themselves. So this is how I’m parenting in the mornings, and I’m having a good time empowering my girls, so don’t stop me now. (And, yes, this is my personal Mom Theme Song.)

Friday, September 5, 2014

People are Annoying.

Me: How was school, Yasya?
Yasya: People are annoying and they are killing my brain. 

I know I should discourage the negativity, but, good grief it is so true. And so hard to deny. And probably my biggest challenge as a mom. Deep down inside, I am Wednesday Addams. As a kid, I identified with her more than anyone else. I didn't like socializing or people. I made sure there was at least some bit of black in my clothes everyday even if it was just Mickey Mouse’s ears. My inner monologue is still all in her voice. Or if you want to get more modern, you can put in April Ludgate. Either way, it is not a bubbly voice. And I have been accused of being too sarcastic. As an adult who moves around in society and used to work with teens, that wasn’t always so good. I mean, to a certain extent, it worked (teens and kids in general usually prefer honest people who are a little dark to overly bubbly people who are clearly trying too hard), but at some point it is good to stop and try to be cheerful. *sigh*

So I have tried to grow and adapt. Here comes the debate. Does trying to act nice and cheerful even though I am Wednesday Ludgate inside make me a phony? Or does it mean I am trying to evolve as a person and adapt to different situations as needed? When I was a retreat leader, this topic would come up periodically. Not that we were talking about me, but we would talk about how we acted in different situations. Do people act differently at school than at home or work, for example. If we think about all the environments we pass through in a week – home with kids, home with spouse, playdates, school, work, church, grocery shopping, library, etc – it is pretty clear that identical behavior in each of those environments would not be appropriate. If I talked to my husband the same way I talked to my daughters, he’d get pretty annoyed (I know this from experience). Similarly, if I acted the same now in my thirties as a mom as I did as a dark teen hating everyone, that would be . . . sad. Ideally, people grow as they age. And I don't mean fatter.

Also, as a parent, I need to think about the long term affect of my actions. How I talk to my children and how they see me interacting with others will to some extent shape how they interact with others. I want my children to be slightly less dark and gloomy, so I do try to focus on the positive with them. Normally, I avoid asking, “how was school?” It leaves the door open for negative answers. Normally I ask for best things of the day or who the girls played with or what was the most interesting thing they learned. At dinner, all of us have to say what the best thing of the day was. On my super grumpy days, that is really hard for me. Sometimes I have to bite my tongue to avoid saying, “I didn’t stab anyone today.” For my older daughter, the sunshiney stuff seems much more natural. For my younger daughter and myself, it is a skill we have to practice daily and really work on consciously. That's part of why I named my Etsy shop HAPPY Walrus instead of Morose Walrus. There is joy around me as long as I keep looking for it (and sometimes the joy comes in the shape of The Addams Family or Tim Burton movies or super dark humor shared with my younger daughter). On bad days, like the day my daughter said the annoying people were killing her brain, we did talk about all that negative stuff. I want to be clear about that. Focusing on the positive does NOT mean ignoring the negative or shoving it in a closet. She vented and ate Oreos, and we talked about actions to take in the future.

I am still true to myself and have my pretty little skulls and bats decorating our apartment, my sarcasm does show up sporadically (though not to the point of making people cry), and I still have a mostly black wardrobe including skeleton boots I wear all year, however it isn’t overwhelming. My hope is that by focusing on the positive, I can gradually shift my own inner monologue a bit, too. People are annoying, but I do have to live around them and interact with them. I can choose to be constantly annoyed by them, or I can – reluctantly – try to change my attitude. When I go out, I have some friends who are my Wednesday Ludgate friends, but my other friends are needed to balance that out and remind me that sometimes talking to people about things isn’t so bad. The world needs Leslie Knopes, too. Hopefully my kids will be able to grow into Leslie Ludgates. The annoying people won’t stop asking, “are you a boy? Are you sure?” or “Where did you get her from?” (referring to my daughter who I got from my uterus and what kind of normal person asks that question, seriously?) or refusing to use turn signals, but we can learn to smile despite – or in spite of -  them. Then paint our nails black and eat some waffles.

What can I say? We look good in black.