Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Why do I wait until the last minute?

This happens right around every major holiday.  I have a long list of stuff to do, some of which needs to get done, and some of which is just stuff I'd like to get done.  So what do I love to do?  I procrastinate, start in on the stuff that I'd like to get done, and do a half-assed job on the stuff that needs to get done at the last minute.  Every year my holiday season preparations are cut short because we fly out to the midwest to see my in-laws.  I love visiting with them, and we always have a blast there, but I guess I mentally miscalculate how much time I have to do everything because I start thinking about the days until Yule, not the days until the Yule party I'll be attending or the day my flight leaves.

I have a Yule party Wednesday night to go to, and I get on a plane on Sunday morning.  In the meantime, I want to make some chocolates to give out to my friends (who are all leaving for a cabin trip on Thursday and Friday,) get a couple of things from the mall, take back a bra that doesn't fit right before I get on the plane, and get some healthy plane snacks.  I need to make a list of all the groceries we need for the next few days before we fly out (and buy them,) send off the gifts I bought for my family, and clean up the house.  Oh yeah, we're also throwing a New Year's Eve party, even though we're coming back on the night of the 30th.  Yeah, my hubby and I are crazy.  I also need to arrange for a ride to the airport, since we forgot that my brother would be on the aforementioned cabin trip, and wouldn't be home to drive us in the wee hours to catch our plane.

Sigh.  I'm not bitching.  I'm just frustrated with myself.  In my day to day life, I try to get in a half hour of reading and a half hour of spanish with my son, in addition to some counting and physical activity.  I go to the gym or work out at least 5 days a week, and take my sanity time (sometimes by force) when I need it.  Finding time to shower is often difficult, or just seems like a waste of time because I could be relaxing, reading, sleeping, or having alone time with my man.  I wanted to take down my fall harvest decorations (which are still up) and put up some winter ones, and I'd love to finally get to painting some ornaments, a project I started two years ago and never got around to finishing.  Where does all the time go?  How do other moms do it?  I think there's some secret that I haven't been let in on.  Yeah, they're all laughing and waiting for a massive breakdown before they tell me.  Haven't my little breakdowns been enough?  Have mercy and tell me, oh great moms of perpetual sanity!  Or is it that I'm just terrible at putting a good face on my lack of grace?  I'll put my money on the latter.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wholesome family = no TV?

I've watched a lot of programs about "wholesome" christian families and doing that has prompted me to really think about what a wholesome family really is.  The definition of wholesome is:

adj. whole·som·erwhole·som·est
1. Conducive to sound health or well-being; salutary: simple, wholesome food; a wholesome climate.
2. Promoting mental, moral, or social health: wholesome entertainment.
3. Sound; healthy. See Synonyms at healthy.

Since my husband and I believe that morals are dictated by religion and the values of others, while ethics are deep personal convictions about what is right, I'll just substitute the word ethical for moral.  With that substitution, I can agree that this is the way I want my family to be.  I also don't think that one has to be christian to raise one's children in a wholesome manner.  I think that a lot of the things christian parents make their children give up for the sake of "wholesomeness" is unnecessary.  Why is it more wholesome to not celebrate Halloween, or give up scary movies, to wear clothing that covers all of your body from neck to ankles, or to avoid drinking alcohol even in moderation?  I think Halloween promotes happiness and creativity, which is healthy.  Scary movies can cause short bursts of adrenaline and stimulate the imagination.  Wearing revealing clothing (at least for me) can be a boost to the ego when every eye in the room is gazing toward you appreciatively.  And multiple studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption is healthy for the entire circulatory system.  Why are the things I listed generally stricken from the wholesome list while attending church, roasting marshmallows and making smores, and taking a family road trip in an SUV are at the top of the list.  So, closing your children's minds in church, feeding them lots of high fructose corn syrup and carcinogens, and polluting the atmosphere in a gas guzzler are healthful, moral and sound?

I think the rest of us should take back the word wholesome.  As a non-christian parent, I'm offended that the life I am trying to give my child is not considered wholesome because I've chosen to let my child experience more of life.  Fu@k and $hit are the only words I really don't want him to know or say until he's much older.  My son sometimes drops something and says, "Sucks.  Damnit."  I laugh, while others hear it and are horrified.  I am planning to tell him the basic mechanics of human reproduction in the next couple of years, while adding to his knowledge and continuing the dialogue throughout his preteen and teen years.  Well, maybe my husband will have to take over when it becomes uncomfortable for my little man.  I won't let him go to McDonald's or any fast food restaurants, other than the very occasional trip to In-N-Out or Chipotle.  But I am pagan, and therefore my son's childhood is tainted.

I am going to try an experiment.  I never make new year's resolutions, but this year I'm going to try one.  I want to attempt to give up TV for a month.  I think this could give me some real insight, since a lot of "wholesome" families claim that this is one of things they've chosen to do that makes their families closer.  I know that they give it up to push away non-christian influences.  I want to do it to give up commercial influences and to force me to make more time for my child and my own pursuits.  I think at the end of the experiment, I'll watch significantly less TV in general, but that I'll still go back to it.  I think I'll really get back into my writing, spend more time at the park with my son, exercise more, and prepare more elaborate meals.  We'll see.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A review of cartoon features

I will admit that I am a fan of Disney's classic children's movies.  I don't mean the ridiculous straight-to-DVD sequels like Aladdin III or any of the Disney princess series, but the big theatrical productions have usually met my quality standards.  I'm also a fan of Pixar's children's movies and the old Don Bluth films, as well as most of Miyazaki's animated features (of which some are, admittedly, not meant for children.)  My son has just started actually paying attention and watching some movies from beginning to end, rather than catching snippets between snack, playing with stuffed animals, and getting a new diaper.  The fact that he's actually been reciting lines from movies and is clearly getting something out of watching these films has prompted me to review and reexamine some of the children's movies in my collection.

My favorite is (of course) The Lion King.  The circle of life theme really jives with my understanding of the universe, my belief in reincarnation and my deep convictions that all forms of life in the ecosystem must be respected. I'm not a vegan, or even a vegetarian, but I think it's important for children to be raised understanding that their hamburger was once a cow, and that cows deserve respect because we are dependent on animals like them for survival.  Anyway, in exposing my nearly two and a half year old son to my favorite cartoon classics, I'm seeing them with new eyes.  I'm looking for the underlying lessons, making sure that the overall dialogue is not pedantic or in any way talking down to him, and definitely watching for parts that might give him nightmares.  It's kind of surprising, actually.  The Lion King satisfies all my scrutinies, although my husband does not like that the movie essentially endorses monarchies and the idea of "birthright."  Nevertheless, even the scary and sad parts don't bother my son, and he's never had a Lion King themed nightmare or clung to me when the hyenas were chasing Simba.  I really like the character Nala, and how she bitches Simba when he thinks he's so great as a cub, and again when he's being an irresponsible adult.  I love a strong female character who calls out the male lead when he's being an idiot.  Plus, it's my personal favorite, so I don't mind that this is the movie my son wants to watch twice a day.

Aladdin is my husband's favorite Disney movie, and it really bothered him that we didn't have it in our collection.  In fact, there seems to be a huge gender discrepancy between this movie and The Lion King.  Given the choice between the two, the men all prefer Aladdin and the women all prefer The Lion King.  I have no idea why.  So I purchased it last week and it finally arrived last night.  He was so happy and ready to show it to our son that I just had to smile.  But when I came back from the gym, my man gave me a sad shake of the head.  He said that Jafar's snake staff and the voice from the cave of wonders had both terrified our son.  Strange, since I never would have thought of Aladdin as a particularly scary kid's movie.  Anyway, he couldn't even finish the movie, so I can't report on how he handled the end with Jafar's fast-paced attacks on nearly every character in the cast, but I'll assume that when he can handle the rest of the movie it'll be okay to give the end a shot.  It's too bad too, because I approve of the overall message that women are not objects and deserve to make their own decisions.  As a pagan, the magical theme of the movie is appealing, too.

Mulan is another one I really like.  I understand that I will need to present this movie to my son as more of a history lesson in how women were treated, but I like its girl power theme, and how in the end a smart man knows to embrace strong women, rather than be threatened by them.  This movie is also the last movie in enjoyed Eddie Murphy in.  Sigh.  Once again, I was surprised by my son's lack of response to the "scary" parts of the movie.  He wasn't bothered by the Huns or the mystical themes.

Finding Nemo is another movie my son loves.  He loves the fish, isn't bothered by the sharks or the dentist (commendable, since that drill whir makes his mother cringe) and he seems to be really into it when Nemo is reunited with his father.  The theme of this movie is a little harder for me.  Making sure you don't shelter and control your children too much is more of a lesson for me than for my son.  Yikes.

Up is a movie we saw in the theater, and my son's first movie-going experience.  It weirded me out a little that some of the scarier parts of the movie didn't bother him in the theater, but once we owned the movie on DVD he was afraid.  The oddest bits scared him, too.  Kevin, the bird, freaked out my son when she came around the corner.  The dogs with their talking collars (except lovable Doug, of course) made him anxious, and the old man's angry statement that Doug was a bad dog really bothered him.  He was on the verge of crying, and had to be comforted, actually.  None of this was an issue in the theater, but then again, he was nursing or cuddling with me during the entire movie the first time, so that could be it.  Anyway, I like the lesson that sometimes your childhood heros turn out to be douches, and that your life's adventures don't end just because someone important in your life isn't there to have them with you anymore.  Hmm....maybe another lesson for mommy?

Ponyo is my son's second theater experience, and we are still waiting for it to come out on DVD.  It came out this past summer, but he loved it so much that he still talks about it.  We'll be getting it as soon as it comes out on DVD.  That movie was whimsical and interesting without anything in it that I would think of as scary.  Hopefully our home viewing experience will be just as good as our theater one.  I'm not really sure what to take from this movie, but I do like the idea of challenging authority and embracing new experiences.

Spirited Away is, like Ponyo, a Miyazaki film from Japan.  I figured that, if he liked Ponyo so much, we could give Spirited Away a chance.  Bad idea.  All the spirits sent him into a panic, and he watched most of the movie clinging to me while pointing to the screen and asking "What's that?" in a quavering voice. Fortunately, no nightmares resulted, and I was surprised the next day when my son was playing with a plastic alligator that he had named Haku, after the dragon and one of the main characters in the movie.  Maybe this one will be okay in a year or so.  Either way, I think that I would understand this movie and Ponyo both better if I were Japanese.  I am still amused that the main character gets herself in trouble and the only way out is to get herself a job.  This speaks volumes about the differences in the American and Japanese cultures, I think.

I can't even review The Nightmare Before Christmas or Monsters, Inc. because my son couldn't make it through even ten minutes of either movie.  Sadly, it looks like I'll be waiting a year or two before watching these my little man. Either that or I'll be spending a few extra nights sleeplessly comforting a child with nightmares.

The Incredibles is the last of the movies my son loves.  Thank the Goddess, because I love it, too.  I'm ecstatic that there is a movie emphasizing that people who are truly excellent at something should be honored for that, and that bringing them down so that everyone is equal makes no one special.  Another lesson of this movie that deserves a nod is that there are unforseen consequences for even the most well-intentioned actions.  My husband loves that there is a movie that reexamines the superhero, and shows them as mundane people doing laundry, going to work and preparing dinner.  None of the scary parts of this movie bothered my son, but I was upset when I saw my son standing with a squirt gun, legs spread in correct position for shooting, only to realize that he learned this in The Incredibles.

These are all the movies my son has been able to sit through to date.  I'm sure I'll post more as he starts to expand his tastes in movies.

Having a child has made me watch these kid's movies with a more critical eye.  I find myself thinking twice before showing my son movies that I loved and watched repeatedly as a child.  Do the Charlie Brown movies, with the constant bullying and putting down of the main character, make children think that this behavior is acceptable?  Does The Little Mermaid undermine feminism because, in the end, Ariel needs to be rescued by her fairytale prince?  Is The Land Before Time unacceptable because none of the correct names for the dinosaurs are ever used, and dinosaurs from different eras are incorrectly shown as living at the same time?  I wonder how many parents actually think about these things before showing their children these movies.  I am torn whether to show him, and any future children, these films, because I disapprove of censorship just as much as I disapprove of these messages.  Sigh.  This was not in my parenthood manual.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Duggars blanket train? Hypocrits!

Everyone who knows me knows that I have an unnatural fascination with the Duggar family and their 18 (soon to be 19) children.  Most of this fascination comes from their ridiculous version of christianity, but I also like watching them to see how such a large family functions so smoothly.  The kids don't seem to fight very often, their parents never raise their voices, and the household runs like clockwork.  From breakfast over bible passages to Daddy's evening bible reading and bedtime, it just seems surreal.  The kids behave almost perfectly.  Perhaps it's because they're on camera, but I don't think you can get that many kids under the age of 5 to be so good while the cameras are there...and I know TLC would probably refuse to edit out a scene where someone in the family (especially one of the parents) is just losing it.

Then I found an interesting tidbit of information today.  Apparently, the Duggars use something called "blanket training" on their little ones.  Blanket training means placing a baby of crawling age on a blanket on the floor with toys just off the edge of the blanket.  Then, the parent "taps" the edge of the blanket with a rod or wooden spoon as a warning for the child not to get off the blanket.  Then, if the baby tries to get to the toys anyway, the baby gets smacked, usually on the back of the legs, to deter the child from trying again.  Eventually, the kid gets the picture and the parents can do whatever they want while their baby stays on the blanket.  It's cruel, and it reminds me of people crate training their dogs, but a baby is not a dog!  I don't believe in hitting kids, and hitting a baby of that age is just unconscionable.  To be fair, the Duggars claim that they blanket train without the hitting part, but I see no way that this would work.  And if they're lying about that, what else are they concealing about their child rearing?

So, how does this effect me and the world at large?  Why should I care?  Lots of people hit their kids, after all.  This bothers me because so many women watch this show, myself included, and think they are horrible mothers because they cannot measure up to this standard.  It's angering to think that we might be feeling this way because they are raising their children in a more heavy-handed manner than they let on, and that children raised in a more gentle manner are probably a bit more unruly.  I would be talking about my own child here.

Personally, I know I yell a lot less after watching an episode of their show and I feel terrible about my shorter temper for days.  Yet I keep watching.  It's a train wreck, and I do not possess the strength to look away from it.  Either way, I know I'll keep watching, but I may watch with a smirk now when Michelle or Jim Bob Duggar talk about how they raise their kids in such a "godly" manner.