Archive for June, 2012

Nine-Month-Old Everett

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

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This is Everett’s 9 month old picture. I think it gives some insight into what kind of child I will have. He’s growing and developing so much these days. He’s not quite crawling yet, but doing a little bit of the military crawl and finding himself stuck under our couch all the time! I’ll get a good photo of the event one of these days. He’s starting to pull himself to his knees, so we don’t know how interested he is in crawling, but we’ll see.

I swear he says “Mmmmom” and I’m rolling with it. No, he doesn’t say it directly to me, and he doesn’t attach a person to that word, but I hear it and that’s all that matters :) .
He’s starting to sprawl out while sleeping. I find myself and Sammy on 1/3 of the bed while he is sound asleep with hands and legs stretched out as much as possible. I don’t know what we’ll do when Maz is back in town. I’m afraid to touch him, just in case he wakes. One thing I’ve learned with Everett is that if he’s sleeping, then leave him! Sam and I sneak away in the morning so we can have some peace and quite time before he wakes.

He’s growing quite a bit too, and I can see a little belly. He’s quite fond of graham crackers, toast, banana bread, and cookies. We have a sweet tooth on our hands. Luckily I don’t have to worry about cavities just yet since he doesn’t have any teeth! He’s been teething for months and NOTHING. I’m taking it as a blessing, though, because this child already has a bite like a turtle, and I can’t imagine the feeling when teeth are involved.

I feel like each day he is developing his character and I can’t wait to see what month 10 brings…

First Postpartum Marathon…Done!

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

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The Steamboat Springs Marathon was seriously the hardest run I’ve done to date. I think it was a combination of running colliding with motherhood.  I did the minimal amount of training -  long runs on the weekends, and shorter 4-6 miles during the week, pushing the Bob. Race day, it was 80 degrees out, and I ran 26.2 miles of almost all downhill. My legs started aching at mile 15, and there was no “energy” to the run.  There were less than 300 runners and nothing but scenery – it was beautiful, I need more than trees to keep me company on long runs. (My previous marathons featured rock bands, themed water stations, and/or scenery changes every mile or so.)  It got so bad that I actually made phone calls during the race!  Only having Everett there at the finish made the run worth it!

For now, I’m putting marathons on the back burner…thinking 1/2 marathons for a while.

Resources:

Things to consider when training for a marathon while breast-feeding: http://breastfeeding.about.com/od/faqs/f/marathon.htm

Thoughts on how to fit training in: http://fitnesscheerleader.com/fitness/running/how-i-balanced-breastfeeding-and-running-to-train-for-a-half-marathon/

When to start training: http://babyfit.sparkpeople.com/articles.asp?id=785

A Californian’s Perspective on the Waldo Canyon Fire

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

On my way to work today, I was talking to my sister, Terri, who is really upset about the fires currently raging in Colorado. She, my brother, and many of their friends are all affected by the fire burning in and near Colorado Springs, where they live. To be honest, I was surprised to hear that. If not for family and friends living in Colorado, I probably wouldn’t have known anything about the Waldo Canyon Fire. I haven’t heard anything on the news in California, and none of my co-workers were aware of what is becoming the worst fire in Colorado’s history.

Western WildfiresThe Waldo Canyon fire is a forest fire that started about 4 miles northwest of Colorado Springs, Colorado almost a week ago. It currently covers a total of 18,247 acres (29 square miles). The fire has caused the evacuation of over 36,000 residents of Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs and Woodland Park, several small mountain communities along Highway 24, and partial evacuation of the United States Air Force Academy. At least 346 homes have been destroyed by the fire. U.S. Highway 24, a major east-west road, has been closed in both directions.

It sounds pretty bad, but our conversation made me think that maybe the Waldo Canyon Fire is actually small, compared to what we Californians deal with annually. I mean, I remember major freeways closing because of the fires consuming Orange and San Diego counties a few years ago. In the interest of providing a little perspective, I decided to look up the statistics of the most recent California fires. Here’s what I came up with:

October 2007 – California wildfires burned 500,000 acres (that’s 770 square miles) from Santa Barbara County to the U.S.-Mexico border. In the largest evacuation in California’s history, 1,000,000 people left their homes. At least 1,500 homes were destroyed; nine people died as a direct result of the fires; 85 others were injured, including at least 61 firefighters. The fire was visible from space!

Then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in seven California counties; President George W. Bush ordered federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts. More than 6,000 firefighters worked to fight the blazes, assisted by units of the U.S. Armed Forces and National Guard, 3,000 prisoners convicted of non-violent crimes, and 60 firefighters from Tijuana and Tecate, Mexico.

Summer 2008 - Northern California Lightning Series is what firefighters called the concentrated outbreak of wildfires sparked by lightning during dry thunderstorms. Over 2,780 individual fires were burning at the height of the period, burning large portions of forests and chaparral in the state’s northern counties. Of these, the Basin/Indians fire in the Ventana Wilderness was the third largest in California history based on size, and the second costliest in the nation’s history to contain. The area burned reached 801,726 acres. 23 people lost their lives.

Total resources required to put out the fires included 467 hand crews, 1,503 engines, 423 water tenders, 291 bulldozers, 142 helicopters, 400 soldiers and numerous air tankers. Greece, Cyprus, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, Canada, Mexico and New Zealand provided financial assistance.

station_fireSummer-Fall 2009 California wildfires – 63 wildfires burned more than 336,020 acres (525 square miles) of land from the beginning of July through late November, destroying hundreds of structures, and killing two people. I vividly remember very large fires burning throughout Southern California.

The Station Fire, north of Los Angeles, was the largest and deadliest of these wildfires, burning 160,577 acres, and killing two. The La Brea Fire burned nearly 90,000 acres in Santa Barbara County earlier in the month. The 7,800-acre Lockheed Fire in Santa Cruz County generated a state of emergency in Northern California.

As a consequence of California’s seasonal fires, I’ve become complacent. I was actually driving through Camp Pendleton and smelling smoke as I talked to Terri. When I reached work, I looked up the fire; it had only burned 250 acres – not even a blip on So. California’s fire radar.

Resources:

Cal Fire: http://calfire.blogspot.com/

Commentary on Waldo Canyon Fire & No. California fire threat: http://www.redbluffdailynews.com/news/ci_21011508/super-fires-like-colo-nearly-inevitable-norcal

Summer Reading, Social Action

Monday, June 25th, 2012

I was well into Joan C. Willams’s Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter when Anne-Marie Slaughter's piece in the Atlantic,Why Women Still Can't Have it All hit the stands. Like Slaughter, who left her position as Director of Policy Planning at the State Department to rejoin the faculty at Princeton University, I would have to agree that academia provides the kind of flexibility often necessary to combine family and career successfully. Still college and university campuses are no panacea. Mary Ann Mason and Marc Goulden, Mason, Goulden and Nicholas Wolfinger, and Cheryl Geisler and Deborah Kaminskiare among those who argue that women’s advancement in academia continues to be negatively impacted by childbearing and childcare responsibilities.

My own climb up the faculty ladder of success has been slowed considerably by the time “off” required to bear my four children, nurse and nurture them, educate and otherwise care for and prepare them to become stalwart members of our community. But the ladder has not been pulled out from under me.

I am among the relatively few lucky ones. Williams argues that s0me of my less fortunate sisters have been pushed “off,” or out of work, by discriminating and inflexible workplaces that persist in functioning as if employees with children all have someone else available – more rather than less full time – to care for their progeny. Unlike Slaughter, among many others, whose reference point is a well-educated, affluent mother whose spouse can easily bear the responsibility of being the sole wage-earner when she “opts out” of her career, Williams also considers working class women, and men who are committed as much to family as to a job or career.

Currently, more than half of the American workforce is female, and most of them have children under 17. Considering social norms – particularly among religious conservatives, and in working class communities – still support the expectation that mothers belong at home with the kids, it is not surprising that more than half of working mothers feel guilty about not spending enough time with their children. Yet a majority of stay at home moms worry about not making a sufficient contribution to the family [income]! No wonder Williams argues that today’s workforce reflects a “mismatch between the workforce and the workplace.”

article-2102090-11C49DD1000005DC-828_306x387What to do?

  • Families matter. The section of Slaughter’s essay on “revaluing” family values is spot on. Employers need to realize that caring for children is at least as important as the many other “outside” activities their employees engage in. As a mother and a marathoner, I’d have to agree with Ms. Slaughter that taking care of children is far more challenging than training for a marathon.
  • Tame the schedule. Slaughter is not the first to suggest that the daily lives of working parents would be eased considerably if school schedules matched work schedules. In lieu of realizing that dream anytime soon, Williams offers up a number of ways in which employers might increase workplace flexibility to accommodate the demands that children’s schedules, and emergencies, make on working parents. These include making it easier to work from home, swap shifts, volunteer for mandatory overtime, and take vacation/sick/personal time.
  • We’re all in this together. The underlying theme of the current buzz over how to manage our desire for balanced lives that might include a fulfilling career and a satisfying family life is that none of us is alone. There is no denying that individual choices do affect overall productivity in the workplace. The challenge is to recognize that there are many ways in which individual employees might craft their lives to enhance productivity, and create the processes necessary for them optimize their life choices without taking undue advantage of one another, or jeopardizing the business operation as a whole.
  • Policy alternatives. According to Williams, “The United States has the most family-hostile public policy in the developed world.” Every year, Working Mother magazine publishes lists of the 10 best companies for women to work for, and the top 100 companies in the nation in terms of their support for families.  The remaining 30 million business enterprises may need a swift – policy – kick in the pants.

We certainly have our work cut out for us.

Resources:

Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic Article: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-can-8217-t-have-it-all/9020/

On the constraints on women’s so-called choice to work or not: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/06/1-wives-are-helping-kill-feminism-and-make-the-war-on-women-possible/258431/

Working Mother’s best companies for women’s advancement: http://www.workingmother.com/best-companies/10-best-women-advancement

Just Me, “the Boys,” and My Yoga Mat

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

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You might think that with both my daughters away this week – visiting my sister, and taking the total number of girls  there aged 7-15 to six! – my sons and I would set off on some grand adventure, but no. I’m practicing yoga – a lot more often than I usually do. I practice daily, and teach when I can, but I very rarely attend yoga class. Much as I love handing the reigns of my practice over to someone else, it’s simply incredibly difficult to squeeze class in amongst work demands and the kids’ schedules. My relatively free summertime schedule this week, combined with “24/7 childcare” for the baby of this family, means that I’m getting in at least an hour of yoga instruction a day – woohoo!

I’d like to say that to say that I’m closer than ever to enjoying the benefits of regular yoga practice – living vividly from moment to moment without being stuck in thinking or the idea of not-thinking. Not quite. Lying prone in Savasana - corpse pose - I find myself working as hard as the novice yogi to quiet my mind ... just short of falling asleep.

Resources: Yoga Studios in Riverside, CA

F.U.N. (Fitness United with Nutrition): https://sites.google.com/site/yogastudiofun/

Inland Yoga: http://www.inlandyogacenters.com/

Reveille Yoga, Personal Training, & Life Coaching:  http://www.reveillelife.com/Home_Page_LBI4.html

Forever Young

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Or not.

I spent the weekend in Las Vegas celebrating my cousin’s 21st birthday, which included two late nights out clubbing. While I anticipated baring more skin and donning more sequins than usual for a night out, I didn’t expect that the very culture of clubbing would have changed so very much since I was 21 – or so – myself.

photo 16Thanks to my uber desirable cousin, we dodged cover charges and scored free drinks both nights. It would have been tough to justify excessive cover charges and expensive drinks for our relatively brief sojourns at two of Las Vegas’s top-rated clubs.  Those of us over 30 just were not designed to hop on high heels – for lack of space to dance – over extended periods of time, surrounded by dancers grooving, gyrating, and – yes – executing gymnastic feats entirely incommensurate with what I’d thought were the norms of the strip’s higher end clubs. At its worst, a  young woman in a Hot Dog on a Stick themed spandex dress managed to extend a handstand long enough for all of us to turn to ogle and cringe as she bared her butt, “clothed” only in a thong panty, and thrust her crotch into her partner’s face.

With the exception of that classless display of athletic prowess, I might have thoroughly enjoyed myself, if only we could have sat down on occasion. Unlike clubs of old, where seating was free at the bar(s) and around the dance floor, these 21st century clubs feature seating only with table service – starting at $1300 where we went – and virtually no dance floor at all, just wide “lanes” between the low couch and table ensembles reserved for those willing to splurge.

And splurge I will next time, if only so I can experience my cousin’s joy vicariously (because even my most determined efforts to “follow” Marissa were unequivocal failures).

I Just Had to Get This Off of my Chest

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

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Nursing can be way harder than it looks, and it’s a much bigger and longer term commitment than I ever imagined.

I’m tired, physically spent, more often than I like to admit. And I’m tired of people telling me that I wouldn’t be so tired if I stopped nursing my nine-month-old son, Everett. “Just put him on a bottle,” they say, “even if it’s just at night.” That way I could, at least, “sleep through the night,” they tell me. “Feed him!”

“No!” I want to scream. I AM tired, and I KNOW Everett would be more likely to sleep through the night if I filled him up on baby food and formula at night. But I’ve decided to let Everett lead the weaning process. This means that I’m going to wait until the little guy becomes better able to feed himself and consumes enough calories to offset his need to nurse. I expect weaning will coincide with independence in other areas of his life, like learning to walk and talk, so that he doesn’t abandon the breast before he is confident enough to do so, and able to find comfort somewhere off of my chest.

For now, it’s just this I want to get off of my chest.

Monday Madness, Monday Sadness

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Woke up late…again. (I’m beginning to think there is cause to “hate” Mondays.) The kids, summertime-free from the usual schoolwork demanded of them, were watching television. Unfortunately for them, very little makes me as crazy as Disney sitcom laugh tracks first thing in the morning. I felt justified in jettisoning “Good morning, my darlings” for “Turn the t.v. off!”

Cambridge-Engineers-Use-Lego-To-Make-Synthetic-Bone-1-537x337As usual, I had loads of work to do, including completing a chapter on teaching “global environmental politics” and preparing to administer a new grant from the U.C. Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI). But first, I needed to finish one last round of attendance for my two remaining home-schooled children. This will sound a little silly, but I – only nearly – became teary-eyed as I filled in the final blank on Parker’s attendance record. He’ll be going to our district’s new STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) academy in fall.

Note that my near tears were not those of some psycho home-school mom wary of cutting the apron strings, but rather marked an important transition in my life as a mother as well as in my son’s progression toward becoming an independent and self-aware young man. Like the tears I shed when Parker weaned, these watery eyes masked freedom as much as sadness for a period of time that had expired. Selecting a home-schooled child’s curriculum, planning his lessons, teaching him the fine points of English grammar and composition, pre-algebra, and American World History, and marking his progress are generally nowhere near as physically time consuming as nursing. Yet these activities do circumscribe a parent-child bond that arguably exceeds the demands of mother and teacher combined. Just as it pained me to nurse Parker for the last time, the end of this particular manifestation of my relationship with my young son hurts. It is also filled with high expectations.

Parker wants to be an actor, but my wise little man desires a more reliable back-up plan than waiter. His big brother, Quentin, will begin studying engineering at university in the fall, largely because the demand for scientists and engineers has not waned through even the worst of the latest great recession. This lesson has not been lost on Parker, who was the force behind this move to the STEM academy. Why not parlay a life-long love of Legos into financial security?

Can you get MY kids to be that happy in the morning?

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

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Lately, I’ve been texting “Good morning” photos of Everett to my family. This morning, one of my sisters asked, “Can you get my kids to be that happy in the morning?” Believe me, if I could bottle the mojo that makes my baby boy wake up like this, I would. I’d make a fortune.

Last Week of School…for All of Us

Monday, June 4th, 2012

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And it started off…late. I got out of bed at 9:30 AM, when a friend came by to drop off the truck she borrowed for the weekend. I’d been up working until after 2 AM this morning. On any other Monday morning, my little ones would have started – or made the pretense of having started – their school work. This morning, however, the television was blaring, the kitchen was a mess, and the dogs were frantic – for lack of their morning exercise as much as their excitement over unexpected (for them, anyway) visitors.

I’d like to say that I expect the household to settle down and approach something close to a normal start to the week, but it’s unlikely. With my eldest, Quentin, essentially finished (high school attendance amounts to graduation practice today), and my grade-schoolers focused on their year-end performance (Thursday) and pool party (Friday), Freshman, Reiley, is the only one likely to accomplish anything meaningful this week.

And this is okay.

A major benefit of both academic work and home-schooling is flexibility. I can focus on shepherding Quentin through this week’s rite of passage without undo damage to either my career or his youngest siblings’ education. Next week is soon enough to complete the chapter I’m working on, and the “little kids” have already completed their assigned curriculum for the year; a handful of math problems and a journal entry from each of them most days will suffice for school work this week.

So despite this week’s hectic start, I’m expecting a fairly easy and mostly enjoyable week.