To Moms

I can’t believe we can do this, guys, but we’re doing it.

Moms, you are cool. Even if you didn’t get to wash your hair today and you have the theme song from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse stuck in your head – you are so cool. Even if you’re wearing yoga pants with weird banana stains on them. Even if you feel like you don’t have enough time, and the time you do have is sometimes too filled with rushing. You’re cool.

Moms, you’re crafting moments of joy and learning and you’re softening times of hurt and pain. Sometimes you’re annoyed and freaking out because your kid does stuff that might hurt him, but those annoyed moments are important  and part of the equation too. You’re working on your own, or in a team to build the bedrock of your kids’ lives and it’s wonderful.

You’re worrying. A lot. Maybe so much that it’s just a din in the background now. Maybe worrying is like a white noise machine only it’s techno music and it has fangs. It beeps and blaps loudly at you in the middle of the night. But you know it’s because you love so much.  You’ve got to think there’s something incredible about an emotion so strong that it can hulk-smash its way around your whole life.

Moms, when you teach, comfort, re-direct, and model behavior for your kid, you’re painting the landscape of their awesome little psyches. Look – your kids are awesome.

Please feel proud. And tired. And joyful. And exhausted. But definitely feel proud. And take a minute to reflect on how cool you are. You are so flipping cool, mom.

(Happy Mother’s Day)

flower__high_resolution_wallpaper_for_tablet_ image from onemillionwallpapers.com

MC Baby DJ

My daughter loves music. She jubilantly shouts requests at me from the backseat of the car, or the tub, or her crib –

– “Jumpin’!” = See How I’m Jumping Jumping Jumping (A fave from her music class)

– “Come!” = She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain

– “Be Back!” = Bring Back My Bonny to Me

She’s literally never once asked me what I feel like listening to. Unbelievable.

BabyMusicImage from http://www.3rtherapies.co.uk/music.htm

It brings me an incredible amount of joy to hear her sing, see her smile and bop…but guys, I’m living in a black hole of kid’s music. I didn’t fully realize this until this past week. I found an artist that I love. Someone I hadn’t listened to before, and whose songs are not familiar to me. His lyrics are dark and hopeful and human and twisty. Songs about sex and religion and longing and sweetness and desperation. They took root in my soul and inspired me.

It was kind of a revelation: “Oh my god, I love music.”

I realized that most of what I read, watch, and listen to right now all speaks to the “Mom” piece of my identity. I LOVE that piece of my identity. It’s awesome and bright and strong – but it’s not the whole thing. I actually lived a bunch of years before having a kid and those years were filled with really compelling music and poetry and books and movies.

It got me thinking about making space for the other stuff, and how I should go about doing that. It’s important for me to be as whole a person as I can be, and I think feeding the creative soul is a piece of that.

Lately I’ve been reading a few articles about people who are at war with the term “Mommy”. I agree that it’s jarring to be so completely categorized all the time – but on the other hand, being a mom is a huge deal that’s awesome and takes over your life. I don’t mind it at all. I’m such a mom. All that, in my opinion, is great as long as you nurture the whole person – it’s not an either or as far as I can tell.

I’m going to try (try is all I can do) to make the time to put on headphones and read books that feature story elements other than the alphabet and puppies – at least sometimes.

Being kind to your body-out loud.

Women who have struggled with their weight do this thing sometimes, and I do it too.  I make off-handed comments about the imperfection of my body .* It’s a pretty obvious defense mechanism. I think, deep inside, there’s a piece of me that feels as vulnerable as I did when I was in fifth/sixth/seventh grade, when my body didn’t exactly conform to the clothing my mom and I bought at Marshalls or TJ Maxx. I’d spend all day wondering if everyone thought I was a gross chub-monster who had no right to be wearing anything but a full-body tarp/poncho hybrid.

70s-dresses-caftan

Everything that ever happened in those years – success, good grades, friendships, hair catastrophes, depression, crushes – it all happened against a constant drumbeat of self-doubt. And it all came from feeling insecure about my rapidly changing body.

That was before I knew that people, in general, are too caught up in their own business to even care what you look like, unless they are being mean. And if they are being mean – they probably have a whole story you don’t know about. And it’s probably a tough one.

But today, even as a happy adult who feels personally fulfilled, I can fall back into the trap of body insecurity. I can sometimes say things out loud, or type things on the internet that poke fun at myself. I’m trying not to though, and I’ll tell you why. My kid.

I don’t have any control over what she’s going to experience during her school days, but I can try to give her the gift of a mom who only ever expresses joy and appreciation about her body. I want that to be the norm in my house.

Here are a few things I can think about to help that process along.

  • My arms are strong and I can hold that kid all day. I would if she’d let me, but she doesn’t let me. She’d prefer to run around.
  • The milk from my breasts fed and nourished her for the first year (and change) of her life. THAT’S A LOT OF MILK, THANKS BREASTS.
  • You won’t catch me in short shorts, but my legs let me run after her, or for myself.
  • My belly made room for a human being inside it. That’s flexibility.

Sure, motherhood has a big something to do with this line of thought. All I know is this – the best thing I can do for my kid’s perception of her body, is to love my own and show appreciation for what it can do. The worst thing I can do is verbally abuse myself.

I know that I can’t manage her experience, but I want her to build science fair projects, have crushes, decide if and when she ever wants to take dance class – with nothing playing in the background but the steady beat of confidence and optimism, and the quiet knowledge that she’s perfect just the way she is. Me too.

 

* Healthy eating, exercise, all that good stuff, is vitally important, this is definitely not designed to contradict that. Still on Weight Watchers, still counting those points, still want a cheeseburger…

Mom’s broken, baby’s a Gryffindor.

A short list of times I’ve felt broken in the past three days:

  • Looking online at baby clothes, I cry
  • Hearing a snippet of Mr. Rogers on NPR fund drive,  I cry
  • Watching Pharrell perform “Happy” on the Oscars, I cry
  • Being out with friends, seeing a missed call from the babysitter, trying not to cry because I’d like to at least give the impression that I am a functioning adult
  • Watching the little bean nap, I cry
  • Thinking about watching her nap as I type this list….you get the point.

I’ve been trying to figure out these emotional surges and intensities. This child makes me so happy, why am I always trying not to cry? Why is it so hard to bear? I think I figured out the answer and it’s way simpler than I could have imagined. Love. Duh.

Being this girl’s mother is like being hit by a monster truck of love, and it’s nonstop. It’s terrifying. How can one little person be in charge of so much emotion? But she is. As she’s growing up, her personality is really starting to shine and I CAN’T DEAL WITH IT. Yesterday she walked through Barnes and Noble with me, holding a pink gardening shovel and pretending to dig holes in the carpet. When she sees her Dinosaur book, she roars. She had more fun wielding a straw as a magic wand during breakfast yesterday than I thought was humanly possible.

accio first pancake

Totes a Gryffindor.

My heart hurts. OUCH ALL THE TIME.

And that’s just the happy. There’s also the teething, tears, and head bumps that send her screaming. We’re feeling all of it together.

I’m over-empathetic by nature, and seeing the world through her eyes is a wild, wild ride for this mom. So, I feel kind of broken because the way I “work” is no more. The old systems have been made obsolete, and I’m living in little bean’s world.

When I got that missed call the other night I was at a loud bowling ally with a bunch of people. One of my friends asked if I was OK and I just responded, “Yeah. Motherhood has broken me.” It sounded dour, but this is what I meant. It’s broken, for sure, but in a good way.

ACCIO NAPS!

Being good enough for baby in 2014

I want my daughter to:
– Exercise for joy, to feel good and healthy
– Eat things that make her body function at its best
– Feel excited about her talents
– Nourish her relationships and her creativity
– Be free from unnecessary anxiety and guilt
– Know the difference between things that deserve energy and things that don’t
– Spend alone time when she needs it
– Have a bulletproof sense of self that is grounded in love
– Be stoked about any projects she’s taking on
– Be kind to everyone (including herself)

I hear that kids learn by example. So, this is my 2014 to-do list.

Faves 2013

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens and also BOOOOKS!

Here are some of my favorite things I enjoyed in 2013.

Music:

Volcano Choir, Repave: I was filled with sad when I listened to Volcano Choir’s first album last year because I kind of hated it. I really want to love any project that Justin Vernon is involved with. My expectations for their second release, Repave, were low. But, VOILA! Vernon is back in business with sweeping, gorgeous, heart-wrenching soundscapes. It’s cinematic. It’s enveloping. Listen.

Sarah Jarosz, Build Me Up from Bones: When someone born in the 90’s is this talented and accomplished it is a little obnoxious. But that aside, if you enjoy singer/songwriterly brilliance with a relaxed, bluegrass inspired feeling – pick her up.

Books:

Ocean at the End of the Lane I listened to the audiobook read by Gaiman and it hogged a huge amount of space in my mind for weeks after. I asked for the hardcover for Christmas so I can re-read it over and over again. This sometimes terrifying story uses magic to uncover the most truthful depiction of childhood emotion and memory I’ve ever read. I was dumbstruck.

The Expeditioners: – Pubbed in 2012, this book is middle grade adventure done really well. Beautiful art. Exciting world. Yeah!

Movies:

Catching Fire: Catching Fire was not my favorite of the three books by Suzanne Collins, but holy guac, it’s my favorite movie so far. This particular piece of Katniss’ journey was really enhanced by the movie treatment. I think because it happens less in her mind than the first part of the trilogy – so I didn’t miss the first person intimacy the way I did in the first movie. It was big and flashy, but really well acted and adapted. I can’t even wait for Mockingjay.

A Place Beyond the Pines: What a weird movie! I loved it. One of my friends called this film “Shakespearean” and I kind of get that. I love that it followed a non-linear path and maintained all its humanity. It was also the first movie date that my husband and I had after baby was born, full disclosure.
The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug: Obviously.

Miscellany:

The Hobbit, Special Features (on the extended edition blu-ray. Yeah, we bought the extended edition even though the movie was seven hours long. That’s the kind of household we are.):

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PETER JACKSON IS A GENIUS AND ALL THOSE KIWIS SOUND SO COOL AND OMG. Seriously though, the creative process that went into the creation of this film is a fascinating study. Artists would routinely spend days creating a costume, or an animation, and then it would be used just for inspiration, or thrown out all together. But they didn’t care, because the only thing that mattered was making the best possible movie. It made me think about the precious, silly way I can be about my words and paragraphs. Going to try to take lessons from the amazing folks at WETA in 2014.

But this year, one release exceeded all expectations. At once gorgeous, hilarious, brilliant, and SQUISHY – the best of the best of 2013 is:

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 1.38.54 PM

Emmeline the incredible! Honestly, I’m so grateful for this little bean. She made 2013 a year I will never ever ever forget.

Happy New Year!!

Thanksgiving

Sorry turkeys, Thanksgiving week is here! This means different things to different people. You might have a half day on Wednesday, or you might travel to your hometown and drink beer with high school friends. Maybe you’ll spend the holiday quietly stabbing yourself in the leg and smiling while your aunt spouts super homophobic crap and you can’t tell if it’s worth getting into an argument, or if you should just fake diarrhea to get away from the table.
Or, if you’re like me, you might feverishly vacuum your entire house three times and pray that the first huge turkey you’re cooking satisfies the expectations of 12 guests.
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It’s great! It’s going to come out great! Great! It’s great!
Whatever it means to you, I hope that you have time and opportunity to reflect on the good stuff in your life this year. Maybe that’s a new job, or a loving marriage, or maybe it’s just the fact that your hair has been looking super hot this week. All things to be grateful for.

I also hope you don’t have to work.  If you do, I’m really sorry. I think it stinks. There’s something icky about the Black Friday/open on Thanksgiving trend and it has something to do with the income based pecking order in our country. We now have folks who need cheap gifts being used to exploit people who work for (mostly) low wages. It’s a weird sort of economic/cultural cannibalism and it’s NOT SUPER CHRISTMASY, YOU GUYS.

You do you, as always, but I’ll say that I am not going to be shopping for gifts on Thanksgiving. I hereby put my vote in for long, warm, uninterrupted family time for everyone. Even if your homophobe aunt gets drunk and starts in on immigration, try to take it in stride. Pour a big, big glass of wine and hug the ones you love, they’re happy your home.

I’m doing a really good job

Lesson in female-hood:
The correct response to “You look great!” is any of the following:
  • “Ugh, thanks, I feel like I’m gaining weight.”
  • “Haha YOU do!”
  • “You’re so nice.”
  • “That’s weird, I feel like roadkill. Like a rust-stained raccoon whose limp carcass has been tossed from lane to lane by the indifferent, relentless traffic of life.”*
The incorrect answer is:

  • “Thanks, I feel good!”
I highly doubt if anyone employs this communication style with more consistency than I do. I’m the queen of the nice-dodge. You shoot a compliment at me and I can back-bend in slow motion like Neo to get out of the way.
matrix-59-neo-dodge-bullets
But you know, it’s not that impressive, I’m not like, super flexible or anything. It’s really not a big deal.

EXHAUSTING.
Why communicate this way? Because no one likes a bragger. Taking credit for something is a particularly uncool thing to do for women. I don’t know why. It’s quite insidious because the less you give yourself credit, the less likely you are to feel good about the very real, very wonderful accomplishments you might have under your belt.

I got up early this morning with my baby. I hugged her a bunch, fed her, and changed her into some warm winter clothes. We played and she was cracking me up with her hilarious little personality. She’s learning how to wave, so we waved and cheered and sang a lot. I put together all her milk, food, clothes, diapers, etc and carried the supplies, and her, down to the car. We drove to her babysitter’s house and I dropped off a happy baby. I came back home to work and began to answer emails.

Then I had this thought. This wild, crazy thought: I did a really good job.

Not every day feels like that, but today did. And I want to own it. There are things I’m doing a bad job with, and I talk about those a lot, but here’s something that I did successfully. It’s simple, obviously, just getting a baby up and ready for the day. I don’t think I deserve a medal (I would take a cookie), but I think that this quiet reflection on a job well done is important.

I want to challenge you guys to acknowledge your victories, because it feels good. There are always ways to feel less-than, but I bet you have done something today that was totally kick-ass. That success is yours, just as much (probably more than) any failures. So, own it.

*Amy Schumer created a sketch about this topic a few months ago if you want to look it up. It’s very funny, but also super harsh. Harsher than dead raccoons. It’s pretty pitch perfect though, if you want to look her up.

The Grow Clinic: You can help!

Hi you guys!
We’re collecting baby supplies for The Grow Clinic!
Why?
Operating out of Boston Medical Center, the clinic does a lot of outreach, and is able to serve the members of our community who need help the most. With a focus on infants who have been diagnosed with Failure to Thrive – approx 10% of their patients are homeless according to the webiste, and 85% rely on federal health insurance.

We started a baby supplies drive to help. This was inspired by panic related to the government shutdown. I was thinking about families who need help from WIC and what would happen if the funds dried up while congress continues to…well you know.

How can I help?
Here is an UPDATED LIST OF PRIORITY SUPPLIES for The Grow Clinc!
– Hypoallergenic formula
– Baby food (stages 1 and 2 – sweeter foods are preferred)
– Sippy cups
– Plastic baby spoons
– Flintstones Complete chewable vitamins or equivalent
– Diapers in size 3 and up
[They will also take new board books, boots, tons of stuff – and I’ll bring whatever is donated over to them. I just wanted to focus the effort on the high priority supplies that the representative said they needed most.]
Where?
Bring’em on down to:

* THE WINTHROP PUBLIC LIBRARY CHILDREN’S ROOM: 2 Metcalf Square, Winthrop, MA 02152
The library hours are: Tuesday 1-7pm, Wed 1-6pm, Thurs 1-6pm, Fri 1:30-5pm, Sat 10-5pm

* IMPROVBOSTON in Central Square:  40 Prospect St, Cambridge, MA 02139 (617) 576-1253

tgc box library

What if I just want to donate some money and you can go shopping?

That’s great! I set up a Paypal account for those of you that might want to help but are either far away, or unable to stop by a drop location.

You can look me up on Paypal at erin.m.petti@gmail.com to donate a few dollars for a Costco run. If you do this, please also send me an email so that I can confirm that your donation went through. This is my first time trying any of this and I want to make sure that we open up every opportunity to donate and help.

***

PHASE 1: Complete

Superwoman Maile Shoul has already completed phase one of this project by collecting donations via Paypal and making a trip to Target. She and the wonderful Harry Gordon picked up:

– Three containers of hypoallergenic formula

– Ten containers of baby food

Harry Gordon being incredible on Saturday.

Harry Gordon being incredible on Saturday.

These supplies were dropped off at The Grow Clinic this morning and will go right to helping families in need.

YEAH!

This has been a wonderful experience so far and I thank you all so much for your support.

Lots of love. Seriously, lots.
Erin

The Grow Clinic at Boston Medical Center: http://www.bmc.org/pediatrics-growclinic/services.htm

Boob Wars: Nursing v. Beer Ads

I’m guilty of that thing. That thing where you judge something, and don’t understand it until it directly impacts your life. Then all the sudden you about-face. It’s what John Stewart makes fun of House Republicans for all the time. That’s me on the topic of public nursing.

It’s off-putting, seeing someone breastfeed in public. Because it’s a boob and it’s just there out in the open.

But here’s a fact – if you can do it (and not every human body can) it’s the best way to feed your kid. Moms today are really, really pressured to breastfeed. I know women who have gone to ridiculous, painful, expensive lengths just to be able to naturally nurse their babies. I resent, but understand the pressure. We want what’s best for our kids. I fought, physically fought to breastfeed. It was sometimes excruciating, but it is what is best for the baby.

So here’s the rub: If I want to leave the house, 9 out of 10 times I have to take my baby into a stinky public restroom and hover over a toilet to feed her.

Why? Because it’s off-putting to see someone breastfeed in public.

I’m too embarrassed to do it. I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. So me and my baby smell other people’s waste while she eats, because maybe I needed to go to the store. Or a restaurant. The nursing covers don’t work for us, we’ve tried, and it’s a non-starter. So, this video really hit home with me:

Hollie McNish on Nursing

I don’t think that we can just flip a switch and change our thoughts on this as a society, but man, I wish we could. This is literally the only reason women were given breasts. Not for beer ads. Not for Victoria’s Secret. For feeding babies. Imagine a cow with a bikini top on it’s udders. Sorry, but…really.

It’s just one of those sneaky “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenarios that women deal with – sometimes without even recognizing the unfairness. Choose not to breastfeed – BAD MOM. Choose to breastfeed in public – WEIRD HIPPY SHOWBOAT SCARRING FUTURE GENERATIONS OF BEER AND VICTORIA’S SECRET CONSUMERS.

Solution = Stay home all the time and breastfeed. WAIT, NO, YOU CAN’T BE A STAY AT HOME MOM EITHER, WE HAVE OPINIONS ABOUT THAT.

Super solution – Write a cutting poem about the whole thing and have it picked up by the Huffington Post. Seriously, watch that video. Hollie McNish really nails it.

Note: I want to mention IKEA, a company that provides a nursing area for visiting families. It’s so simple, but so important. It literally makes me want to shop there forever. Also, a chair in a handicapped stall is also appreciated. I think little modifications are a great step towards progress.