Thursday, September 26, 2013

I wish I were making this up!

In the past two weeks, I've seen so many people run red lights that I'm starting to suspect I'm part of a mass hallucination whenever I "see" a red traffic light. Clearly, the light must be green and all the other people who are stopped with me are also hallucinating. It is obvious that these bold, innovative drivers have unlocked the secret of faster travel - through the strength of their own will, they are finding ways to shave precious minutes off of their drive time.

The first time it happened, I watched as a car turned left in front of oncoming traffic, treating the red light as more of a suggestion. I blinked several times, expecting to hear some sort of ugly crash noise. There was none. This driver had successfully played the traffic light and won, to a prize of moving through the intersection two minutes faster than me.

The second time it happened, I watched in lesser amounts of awe as three cars took lefts despite the left turn arrow turning to red a few seconds ago. I suppose I wasn't as shocked for this one because the left turn arrow had been green and sometimes I will play with the yellow arrow to make a left turn. The sheer number of cars going through an obvious red instead of dashing through the yellow is what still punctuated this event as "terrifying," especially since it wasn't like they had been stuck at the light for several cycles.

It happened a third time. The driver simply decided there was no reason to stop and continued straight through the intersection. As I said, it is this sort of bold driving that will continue to get the fine people of my city to their destinations faster, most of the time. Probably. Until they eventually, maybe get a ticket or get in an accident.

I have also seen more than a handful of right turns in the face of "no turn on red" signs. More common, yes, but still frustrating. Plus, I'm never sure whether I'm dealing with drivers who are just terribly unaware of their surroundings or drivers who assume the rules are for other people to deal with.

In the meantime, you'll recognize me as the "person not leaving her house until all of this dumb driving sorts itself out." (And also as the "person who is really surprised I haven't seen an accident yet.") I thought about walking everywhere, but I'm sure avoiding turn signals and not taking the time to look for pedestrians are two more ways that these drivers are saving themselves precious time.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Things I Hate - The Shopping Edition

I hate grocery shopping. I like the part where I get home and can make food for my family. I don't like the part where I have to sift through countless amounts of BS buzzwords and comparative math. Here are a few of my least favorite things that come up in the grocery store:

1. Anything that is " 'something' - style."

The moment, nay - the millisecond your brain perceives this two-word phrase, drop whatever you are holding. For what you have in your hand is not what you think! Certainly, it will be similar to the product you are hoping to buy, but in a sinister way.

Let me draw my example from Greek yogurt. I have slowly been branching out to try different brands (also known as different brands from the one I normally buy have been on sale) and what I came across was a "Mueller" brand yogurt that had the little corner compartment with fruit. They were on sale for a dollar each, so I grabbed a few that looked tasty.

When I got home, I noticed my grievous, horrible mistake. I hadn't paid a full dollar for actual Greek yogurt. I had paid extra for "Greek-style" yogurt. You might be asking what's the difference. The difference is, instead of straining the yogurt to achieve the thick and creamy texture, this brand has simply realized it is much cheaper to add some gelatin and corn starch. There is also a dash of whey protein to up the protein content of the yogurt, but at 9 grams per container, it does not come close to other brands.

I should have looked closer; I shouldn't have been pulled in by the price and by the blaring "Greek Corner" label that very much wanted me to assume I was obtaining Greek yogurt with my money. But my point is, I shouldn't have to take a minute to verify that the product I'm trying to buy is actually what it says it is. And, I understand that legally, the product is exactly what it says it is. But it is also BS, so I will not be buying the Mueller Greek Corner yogurts again.

Also, they don't taste that good.

2. Chocolatey Whatever.

Admittedly, this isn't too much of a problem for me anymore, since I've moved away from certain brands of granola bars and cereals. But it still scratches me the wrong way, so let's look into it.

Actually, there's not much to look into. Companies use "chocolatey" to get you thinking about chocolate while they conveniently don't include any sort of actual chocolate in the product. Quaker oats bars are guilty of this. You might wonder how they can afford to dip their granola bars in chocolate and keep the prices somewhat low! Well, wonder no more. They simply dip their granola bars in "chocolatey whatever" and it's kind of like chocolate except it's not. Again, saving money while staying in the legal confines of convincing people that they're getting something they're not.

Come to think about it, Quaker also appears to own the fake Greek yogurt brand mentioned above. I used to trust them. Now I just assume that whatever they claim to be selling is not what I can expect to buy.

3. Ice Cream

Well, I was going to go on a rant about the annoying trends in ice cream, namely, shrinking the container sizes while charging the same or higher prices.

But then I decided I'd rather talk about Publix brand ice cream.

Look, I moved over a thousand miles away from my family to live with my husband down here in Florida. It is some small compensation that Publix brand ice cream is actually the best ice cream I have ever had in my life.

You know how you buy the store brand when you want ice cream and the name brand isn't on sale? That's how I ended up with my first container of Publix brand ice cream. (Which, might I add, is still a half gallon and not endlessly expensive!) Imagine my surprise when a month or so later, a name brand went on sale, I bought it, and subsequently realized that Publix brand was better. Bam. That's it. I'm a believer.

Publix does all sorts of flavors and styles. I stick to the regular style - no splenda or low fat or whatever they do - and I love it. Also, they make great seasonal stuff. When we had roommates, our fridge always had several containers of Publix ice cream.

So no, it doesn't completely dull the achy homesickness I occasionally (often) feel when I think about how my parents are literally at least seventeen hours away from me even in the direst of emergencies. (And my siblings who are off at school are even further north from me!) But it is like an extra tasty consolation prize.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Normal People Just Fill Out Transcript Request Forms

Applying to nursing school is starting to freak me out. And I'm not even at the part where I apply to the nursing program. I'm just applying to the college that the nursing program is at. (You apply to the college, send them your transcripts, and then apply to the nursing school and send the nursing school a separate set of the same transcripts because apparently the programs refuse to share.)

Last night, I was already in a bit of an unsettled mood. I had tried to put Silas down for bedtime at about nine and he was having none of the settling down. So I let him crawl and toddle around for awhile and in a few minutes he was ready to settle down and nurse. Recently he hasn't been nursing to sleep. He will nurse almost to sleep and then stop and look up at me.

At that point, my cue is to get up, brace myself, and bring him to his crib where he will cry for a few minutes and fall asleep. Usually, because he knows how sad it makes me (I assume), he starts crying as soon as we enter the nursery. Last night was no different. He started to sniffle as we crossed through from the hallway to his room and I gave him a few back pats, telling him that it was time for bed now. That we had had a busy day and it was good and fun and I loved him.

Suspiciously, instead of starting to cry, Silas lay his head on my shoulder as I lowered him into the crib. Then he flipped onto his stomach and - nothing.

He fell right asleep.

As I do every night, I kissed him and left the room, expecting that the crying would start up in a moment.

The crying never happened.

So, I was already on edge, figuring that he was probably coming down with the flu and a cold and everything all at once and would wake up any moment with a fever of doom and that he only fell asleep in the first place because he was getting deathly ill.

(In fact, after about an hour, I did go and check to make sure he wasn't warm and that he was still breathing. He wasn't and he was, respectfully.)

So there's my mindset for the evening as I sit down at my computer to continue applying to my hopeful transfer college. I have to send my transcripts. Call me old-fashioned, but I hate using online services to send transcripts, so I was printing out all of the forms from the now numerous colleges I have attended.

And I'm freaking out. Because even though all I'm doing at this point is printing forms to fill out, it's still a step towards applying towards nursing school and that is a journey that could potentially end with my rejection and, well, I don't take (small amounts of potential) rejection well.

So Smiley sat with me while I printed out the forms and set them at my desk to fill out today. Which I was going to do during Silas's nap. Instead, I spent an hour cleaning the garage to procrastinate. (You wouldn't know it if you looked at the garage, sadly. See previous rants I've made about the amount of Stuff we own.)

But this story does have a good ending. Last night Silas slept from about 9:30pm to 5:15am. Woo! And I'll probably fill out those transcript request forms before too long.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Talking About Writing - Three Whole Points

You might have read Cake Wrecks before. Did you know that the person who started it, Jen, has a second blog where she writes about her various craft projects and other interests? It's pretty awesome. She had been on a two month sabbatical this summer and she writes about it here. Overall, there's a lot of interesting points, but a few things stuck out to me and I figured, what the heck. I might as well pretend like I'm a capable blogger, able to build upon other's observations.


1. She has two points on being a Reader of The Internet, and the one that sticks out to me is it's important to share your positive feedback. 

A lot of times, if I read something I agree with, I don't say anything. I assume the author knows that she has written something great and that my thoughts would be akin to a small, yappy dog trying to get attention. And maybe that is true, but I don't mind being a small, yappy dog. Sometimes, even the smallest and yappiest of dogs cause other people to smile. And I certainly want to be someone who makes other people smile.

2. As a blogger, she emphasizes to write what you love.

I think that this advice can go to both bloggers and people reading blogs. Rather than worrying about what an author might want to read in a comment, maybe try commenting with what his story made you feel. (Obviously, trolls need not apply that advice.) But even if you disagreed with a piece, maybe try commenting about what you felt in respectful terms. Because, why not? Respectful conversation is great.

As a blogger, well, I already set my ship sailing on trying to write what I think people will like. My target audience is (theoretically), people who play video games, who are interested in babies, raising a family, going to school, writing, learning about why the Chrysler Sebring is an AWESOME vehicle and watching the HGTV channel. Oh, and this is within the small group of people who will read a blog that routinely presents massive amounts of words and next to no pictures, despite my best efforts. Also my target audience is my friends and family. They're pretty awesome.

I've been blogging semi-regularly for a couple years now. I know I'm not going to break into an illustrious blogging career. But I enjoy hammering at my keyboard until the words in my brain are on a computer screen in front of me.

3. It's like she's read my brain.

Seriously. She writes about taking a half hour to write an email or an hour to write a twitter post, because she's afraid she will accidentally say something that will be taken the wrong way. I can't count how many times I've started to write a post, or a comment, or whatever, and taken ten minutes to write, re-write, re-write, and then convince myself I can't say what I want to say and that it was a waste of time to think anyone would want to read it and if they did read it, they'd just realize that maybe I'm not that intelligent, so I should probably avoid saying anything and then I delete it. Repeat multiple times, as needed.

But if it isn't obvious, I have made my new blogging goal to be honest with myself and see how that goes. I'm a reasonably ok person, after all. Maybe I'll rename this site to "Reasonably Ok."

Eh, I don't have time for a new banner. Besides, I'm still hilarious.

Happy writing everyone!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Apparently I'm on "Rantmode"

Almost before my first trimester was over, I had scoured the internet and bookstores for information on pregnancy. I like to know what information is out there and I like to read a lot of it to see all the different perspectives. One "piece of advice" that came up time and time again was to "remember you're not eating for TWO! You only need about 300 extra calories a day!" This advice always came, without fail, with an example of what these three hundred extra calories would look like: "that's the equivalent of a small bagel - WITHOUT cream cheese!" or "that's only a small apple and a piece of whole-wheat toast - NO BUTTER".

 Maybe it's something about the way that this advice always felt so criticizing, as if pregnant women were so stupid that they needed to be told in the most basic terms that food, surprise, has calories.

I'm not saying that we, as a human population, don't have problems with estimating portion sizes and the amount of calories in a meal or snack. I am saying that the way to teach someone about portion sizes is not to wait until they are at their most emotionally vulnerable (aka being pregnant and hormonal and probably seeing numbers on their scale that they don't want to) and then start shouting about how many calories are in that bagel they ate for lunch.  And don't forget to use all-caps when you assure this hypothetical pregnant woman that this calorie count is WITHOUT cream cheese. God help you if you added cream cheese to that bagel.

I don't know. At first I thought it just bothered me because it felt criticizing. I tried to rationalize it. I thought to myself, well, maybe a lot of women see being pregnant as a time when they really can eat anything and maybe we need to address that somehow.

But, no. Not like that.

While it is important to know that pregnancy doesn't require more than 200-400ish extra calories (depending on the individual person and the pregnancy), there's no reason we need to be so critical. I would argue that 90% of the reason that most women feel like they can eat anything while they're pregnant is because being pregnant is the only time in their entire lives that they feel like they don't have to be hyperaware of what they are eating and it is the only time in their lives that they feel like they can just enjoy what they eat.

As women, we spend a lot of time thinking about what we eat, and how much of it we should eat, and how much society will hate us if we eat the wrong amount of the "wrong" stuff. Aren't there always studies coming out about the high percentage of teenaged girls who say they need to lose weight and who say they have dieted within the last few months? Isn't it obvious that we are messing up girl's minds?

So then we have a problem. On the one hand, we need to fix society somehow and work towards having a healthy relationship with food. In the meantime, what do we do with this condescending eating advice for pregnant women?

This is the part where, if I were a smarter person, I would lay out a solution. I don't really have a solution.

Healthy eating (and living) starts with a simple concept - eat less and move more. Be mindful of what you eat and make an effort to move around during the day. And then it gets complicated by foods that taste really good but have a ridiculous amount of calories and by social norms and by entire industries (beauty, food, diet, etc) that might not have our best interests at heart. It gets complicated by the fact that each person will respond a little bit differently to the information they hear.

I do feel that if we could start with a healthier relationship with food, pregnancy might not be viewed as the only time that a person can "cheat" on their life-long diet.

With that in mind, I'd love to hear your opinion on whether or not I'm overreacting! Smiley says I might be reading just a bit too much into everything. I'm always game to hear what other people think!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Tale of a Year of Sleep Deprivation

Shortly after I gave birth to Silas, I realized I was never going to sleep again.

That might be a little melodramatic. We're still working on getting more sleep though. After a year of being somewhat sleep deprived, I'm going to try to reflect on what it has done to me.

I feel much less creative in my own pursuits. It is insanely hard right now to sit down and write. Nothing flows when I type and I feel like that shows with what I've written this year. I remember trying to think of an idea for a novel for NaNoWriMo in November and just couldn't. It's possible that after just two horrific attempts at plots, I'm out of novel ideas. It's more likely that sleeping in two hour chunks is not conducive to creativity.

On the flip side, I've been channeling my creativity into games to play with Silas and so while I don't write much, I'm still satisfied with my ability to create: in this case, it's mostly games that work for Silas's growing mental capacities.

One thing I never expected would happen is that after eleven months of waking up every two hours at night, I've tried crying it out with Silas. I have had a hard time following through. It is one thing for me to deal with Silas crying because he wants to play with something dangerous and I had to tell him no. It is another for me to listen to him wail, alone in his room, crying desperately because he just wants to be close to us as he falls asleep.

However, there would be nights where I would wake up every hour with him and I would be incredibly tired and depressed and just scared of the thoughts that raced through my mind in those moments of sleep deprivation.  It reminded me of the episode of Scrubs where Carla, having given birth a few months ago, tearfully exclaims that she wishes she could just throw her baby out the window or off the roof of the apartment. The moment was played partially for the laughs as we watch her husband's eyes widen in shock as he races to make sure the windows are firmly locked, but it was also a serious moment as Carla dealt with post-partum depression.

I understood that sentiment. I felt like I was giving everything I could to Silas and it wasn't enough and it was frustrating. How could he be so happy and calm during the day on so little sleep I would wonder? Everyone told me I had the happiest baby they'd ever seen, so who all was lying to me? People told me I was a good mother, but they didn't know that at 3 in the morning, I was crying and desperate, staying perfectly still as I held Silas, knowing that if I shifted my arms, he would wake back up and the crying would start again.

And I was caught between feeling like I'd abandon my principles by letting Silas cry when I lay him down in his crib to sleep and feeling like no matter what choice I made, everyone would judge me. If Silas was up all night, it was because I insisted on nursing him throughout the night and holding him and patting his back when he should learn to fall asleep on his own. I had no one to blame but myself.

If I let him cry, it was because I didn't give him enough of a chance to fall asleep on his own when he was younger and I had no one to blame but myself. If I let him cry, I was putting my needs above his and what right did I have to do that? And most of all, no matter what I did, and no matter how tired I felt, I had better not complain about it, because what right do I have as a mother to complain about the child I chose to bring into this world? After all, how many people would give everything for a chance to have their own child to hold and rock each night? And how many people would say the obvious solution is to not have a baby if you don't want to deal with the full baby package?

Ultimately, I don't have a good answer. Shades of all of these worries and doubts bother me each evening as we start getting ready for bed. Sometimes we have great nights - defined as Silas falling asleep nursing, transferring to the crib, and sleeping there until three or four in the morning. We've had three great nights this past year.

Most nights, it's not like that. Smiley joked that we're going to have to wait until Silas can understand basic logic and then explain that he can't sleep in our bed with us any more. Well, half-joked. Quarter-joked.

And the thing is, there's not really a black and white "solution" to sleep. Each family does what works for their family, and it's my goal not to judge other people for how they parent. I don't know their situations; I don't live their lives. I just know how paralyzing it is to feel like everything I do as a parent is judged, harshly, by others.

Whew. I didn't expect to get quite so intense about this all. I do suspect that it will get better. Sometimes, it can be hard to see the future when the best I can do right now is slog through another half-awake, zombie day.

And don't worry, guys.

I still REALLY, REALLY wish Smiley was on board with having another baby, like, right now. Because, seriously, I can't possibly be any more tired than I already am.