Saturday, October 30, 2010

Frightfully Fun.

I really hate spiders.

Except for when they're dangling in my front window - and they're purple.

And glittery.

Then I don't mind them too much.

Have a wonderful weekend, friends.

I hope you enjoy every boo-tiful (groooaaaan) moment!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Guilty By Association

Over the past couple of days, I read two very interesting blog posts from two ladies that I have a great deal of respect for. The first was called "Losing My Community" by Liz at Mom 101 and the second was "Judgement Day" by the Stay At Home Babe.  After reading the posts, thoughts started to percolate in my head. I couldn't stop thinking about what had been said (and what had been echoed by the many readers' comments). The thing is, even though these posts were written from polar opposite perspectives (Liz is a working mom and the SAHB is well, a SAHB), the underlying sentiment is THE SAME:

The Mommy Wars may be over, but Mommy Guilt is alive and kicking. And punching. And delivering underhanded low-blows when you least expect it.

I hope that Liz and SAHB won't mind me quoting them here, but here are the two passages that really stuck with me:

From Mom 101:
"I take her to early drop-off, and I've yet to pick her up. I don't know the parents. I wouldn't recognize her classmates on the street. At night she tells me about her day, describing children I have never heard before. I feel oddly, uncomfortably detached from her world in a way that I couldn't have imagined.

It seems unfair somehow that she even has a world without me at all. She's three."
And from Stay At Home Babe:
"My Husband: She’s thirteen. She probably wants to be an astronaut.

Me: Yeah, right, ’cause that’s what people want to be when they’re kids, right? But you know what no one wants to be when they’re a kid? Let’s start a list. A prostitute, a shit shoveler, an envelope stuffer, a monkey-zit-popper, a housewife… Yeah, that’s an awesome list to be on."
The fact that Liz and SAHB posted back-to-back just reinforces the fact  that Mommy Guilt is a huuuuuge issue for mothers everywhere. And as SAHB wrote in response to my comment: "Mommy-guilt... there should be a diagnosis and treatment for it in some psychological handbook."

Word UP, sistah.

Reading these posts was like experiencing a one-two punch to my slightly-more-than-flabby mommy gut, two days in a row. It hurt. It hurt because I've been there. And you know what? I'm still there. And every mother I know is right there with me - whether we work full-time or part-time or stay at home or do something else entirely. Mommy Guilt is always our silent companion, always whispering that we're not doing enough, that we're not working enough, that we're not playing with the kids enough (Which is what happened to me yesterday when I tried to finish this post. The irony was certainly not lost on me.). We all constantly feel the same sense of guilt and regret when it comes to our choices regarding our children. Why are we like this? And why do we keep doing this to ourselves?

I don't know if it's the product of our society, or culture, or a bass-ackward system, that makes some mothers feel as though they aren't valued for the spit-up cleaning and bum-wiping and SO MUCH MORE that they do on a daily basis. But I also think that Mommy Guilt functions against working mothers as well, making them feel as if they operate somewhere on the periphery of their children's lives instead of truly connecting with them. Neither view (in my opinion) is true, but what I do believe is is true is that we, as mothers, are always the ones who have the hardest time coming to grips with our choices.

And in the end, it's almost as though any choice we make is the one that hurts us the most.

People have told me that the path to erasing Mommy Guilt involves finding balance. But that's always such an elusive concept, isn't it? As are concepts such as Not Comparing Yourself To Other Mothers and Knowing Your Limitations. What do those mantras even mean? Because every time I hear them I just feel guiltier for doing them in the first place (said the mom who stayed up late and ignored her husband all evening to make Halloween costumes - talk about not knowing my limitations).

Sometimes absolving Mommy Guilt seems so futile. And if there was a way to embrace it and just move on with my life I would be the first one to buy into the package with an ocean side view of cute cabana boys frolicking in the sun (I hope my mom doesn't read that last part. Guiltguiltguilt.). But alas, it's not meant to be. I think fighting The Guilt is a never-ending internal struggle. It's not a battle amongst mothers (and shame on those of us that engage in such nastiness!), it's about US coming to terms with OUR choices.

So while we may not be able to completely smother The Guilt, we can sure as hell try to soothe it's burn by knowing that we're all in this together.  We all feel this way - each and every day there is a mother somewhere who feels The Guilt. She might be your neighbor, she might be your co-worker, she might be you. You, my fellow companion, are not alone. I feel the burden of your struggle. I too feel your pain.

And when The Guilt gets too hard to bear, when I feel like it's soul-crushing and that I just can't do anything right for my children or for my family or for myself I try to remember one thing:

Mommy Guilt means that I care.

Tell me about the situations in which you feel The Guilt, and the things you do to help yourself get through it. Comment below, on Twitter, or on my Facebook page. I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Clifford & Evelyn.

I would like you to meet Yousuf's grandparents, Clifford and Evelyn. This past month they celebrated their 60th anniversary, and I think you can see that they are still very much in love after all these years. They live in Ontario, Canada and when they heard that their great-grandgirls couldn't come to their anniversary shindig (because we're in the middle of immigration proceedings), they decided to drive down just to see them.

Cliff and Ev may not be spring chickens, but they have an enthusiasm for life and love and family that knows no bounds. They spent this past weekend with us, letting the girls crawl all over them - and they didn't complain, not even once. Inara and Nissa were absolutely enthralled with Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa, and watching them play together was a precious gift that I am going to cherish for a very long time.

Every so often during their visit with us, Cliff and Ev would look at each other and a secret smile would pass between them.  I'm not sure what it meant exactly, but after being lucky enough to spend time in their company over the years, I have a feeling that it has something to do with the fact that they are really and truly happy. You can just see it in their eyes. I want us to be like that when we grow up.

Thank you Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa, for a lovely weekend filled with laughter and love, for your kind kisses and sweet embraces, for your inexhaustible source of energy, and for the gift of knowing the both of you. And for the homemade butter tarts.

Happy 60th Anniversary, lovebirds.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Real Or Not Real Answers - Part II

Here is the second half of answers to my Real Or Not Real questions (the first half can be found here). Today we cover my inability to come up with any False questions, my obsession with ruining pictures in Photoshop, and also the fact that I know how to swear in about four and half languages. Aren't you so glad that you know me a little better now?

10) People say that Inara looks like me. In fact they often get us confused for one another. It's possible that they think we look like this:

(Witness my amazingly disturbing Photoshop skillz.)

It's true that people say that Inara looks like me - and that Nissa looks exactly like Yousuf - but honestly I think that the only time she really looks like me is  when she's giving me some stink-eye. I think she has her own very unique look - she has my features, but she also has Yousuf's eye color and his glossy, straight hair (which I am not envious of, not even a little). She, and Nissa, are supremely gorgeous little beings - not that your babies aren't beautiful too.  I'm sure that they are very adorable and cute. Remember, even second best is still in the 99th percentile (I'm kidding!).

11) I apprenticed with an interior designer for one year.
True! I apprenticed with an interior designer after I decided that I didn't want to be a doctor, and before I decided that my life's purpose was to be a PR maven for non-profit corporations. Are you confused yet? Yeah, I was too. I sort of flitted around from career to career for a little while, and while doing so I realized a few things about myself:

- I would have made a great doctor, if medical school didn't kill me first.
- I would have made a fantastic interior designer, if I didn't have to work within a budget.
- I would have kicked arse in PR, if I didn't have to work with people. Or bosses. Or people.

So clearly, I have some issues. When asked what I do for a living (as if being a full-time mama and part-time blogger isn't enough), I will happily tell anyone who will listen that I am retired. Except that retired people don't have to wipe little tushies every day. And sometimes they get a retirement income. Hmmm...maybe I need to think about changing my line of work. Again.

12) I took piano lessons and guitar lessons in my younger days, but I hardly retained any useful knowledge about either instrument.  I can sing, though. And I'm not that terrible at it either.
Well, the first part is definitely true. When I was 9, I begged and begged my mom for piano lessons.  All the cool (read: only slightly less nerdy than me) kids were doing it. We didn't have a lot of extra money, but my mom scraped some together for me to take lessons with a neighbor. We moved a year later and the piano lessons went out the window.  I did learn enough to read music and to play Chopsitcks, which is only useful if you're pretending to be Tom Hanks in Big. Very impressive, indeed.

When I was in high school, I begged and begged my mom again for guitar lessons, and we scraped the money together again. My teacher was distractingly cute and so you can imagine how much I actually learned. I can't even strum a chord now - but I can play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Because I'm awesome.

As for singing...that is the one thing that I didn't need lessons for when I was younger, and I sang in school choirs up until I graduated from high school. It was like being in Glee but without Puck, which everyone knows is the best part of that show, anyway. But we did make it to Nationals! Boo-ya! Am I any good at singing? I'll let you judge for yourself:

(It's all fun and games until somebody gets kicked in the head.)

13) I have never intentionally ingested alcohol.
Also true. Are we seeing a pattern here? It's because I got too confused trying to create more False questions, due to the fact that my kids were yelling at me. Multitasking is not my forte. Ahem. Back to the question - it's true that I have never intentionally ingested alcohol. At first it was because I was trying to be a Good Muslim Girl, but as I got older and my friends (including fellow "Good Muslims") started sneaking off during birthday parties to dip their fingers into the bottles stored in their parent's liquor cabinets, I started thinking that drinking for getting drunk's sake was just dumb. And that is why I didn't have very many friends in high school. 

As for the "intentional" part of the question, it's true that I don't drink, but I can't guarantee that a stray liqueur-filled bonbon hasn't mistakenly wandered past my lips. I am really dumb when it comes to alcohol - especially alcohol that is coated in layers of delicious-looking chocolate. That's just setting me up for failure. And then what usually happens is that I take a bite of said bonbon, sigh contentedly, and then immediately yak as the flaming ball of alcohol travels down my throat. Blech. And then I swear off chocolates. For about three hours.

14) English is not my first language.
I think we can stop pretending that any of these questions are false now, can't we? My first language is not English - it's Urdu, which I can also read (thanks to my grandmother, who would hand me an Urdu workbook as I walked in the door every day after school). My parents talk to each other in Urdu, but my brother and I talk to them in English, which they also speak back to us. We can understand and speak Urdu and Hindi, though. And we can read Arabic. And speak passable French (it's mandatory to take some French in Canada. Now I can now say Poutine and a bunch of swear words...yay!). But I can't speak Spanish - even though I have been living in the U.S. for more than eight years. I should really work on that. By the way, there is no upside to knowing all these languages, other than the fact that I know a lot of colorful language from all regions of the globe. This knowledge alone should instantly endear me to SO many people.

15) Contrary to popular belief, my husband Yousuf is not Middle Eastern. He is a little bit Irish, a little bit English, and a whole lotta hunka hunka burnin' Canuck.
A lot of people think Yousuf has Middle Eastern heritage. I guess it's because his name doesn't exactly scream White Boy. But it's true - he's as white as a ghost, and has no Middle Eastern heritage. So what's with his name then? Yousuf was born as a Christopher, and he legally changed it to Christopher Yousuf before we got married. And that is a whole 'nother story altogether.

Multiple Choice:
Of the following three names, only one has been my husband's since birth. Which one is it?
a) Yousuf
b) El Cheapitan
c) George
The correct answer is c)George. Yousuf was born as Christopher Charles Clifford George (Which is a very common Middle Eastern name, I'm told. NOT.). He now goes by Yousuf, but his family stills calls him Chris - which is totally fine. He will answer to either, or to El Cheapitan. I will answer to Her Royal Fabulousness. 

Bonus Question:
True or False: I have had surgical enhancements done to both myself and my eldest child.  Before them, we looked like this:

That's just scary, dudes. My eyeballs look like they're going to pop right out of their sockets. I do think that my nose might be a slight improvement on the original, though. And Inara actually looks kinda cute. She couldn't look frightening if she tried. I think I will begin charging for my Photoshopping expertise in borking up pictures beyond all recognition. I'm sure I'll make meeeellliiioooons.

And that's it! Hope you enjoyed this first edition of Real Or Not Real. Who knows, maybe you'll see this feature again (in a MUCH shorter version) some time in the future. Or maybe I should just stick to messing with my face in Photoshop...because who wouldn't love that?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Real Or Not Real Answers - Part I

Yesterday's post was such fun. Well it was for me, at least.  I'm sure it was no fun for you to have to wade through 15-plus questions about yours truly - but it sure was fun for me to read your responses. I know that a lot of you are busy and don't have time to sit down and type out long responses to my posts, let alone answer a pop quiz (what was I thinking!) - but I wanted to say that I really do appreciate the comments that I receive.  There are some days that I feel like I'm talking to an empty room, and it can be slightly unnerving to say the least.  So when those of you that took a moment to indulge my self-indulgenceness yesterday, it really meant a lot to me. Thank you.

In an effort to keep the suspense going, and also to keep this post to a half-decent size (Read: you should be able to finish reading it before next Tuesday.) Here are the answers to half of yesterday's questions. The rest will follow on Monday:

1) I once got mistaken for Inara's nanny.

This is true! It happened when Inara was a wee babe, about 4 months old and we were out in the boonies of Pennsylvania at a farm, enjoying the fall festivities.  A little old lady came up to me and spoke in a very loud voice, in slllloooowwww words: "THAT. BABY. IS. BEAUTIFUL. WHO. DOES. SHE. BELONG. TO?" Ummmm...what the flip? I said that she belonged to me. She said: "NO. WHO. IS. HER. MOTHER?" And that's when Yousuf came up behind me, put his arm around Inara and I and said, "Hi honey, what's going on?". I turned to him with a shocked expression on my face, "This lady wants to know who Inara's mother is." Yousuf looked at her, saying very loudly, "This is my WIFE and that is our DAUGHTER." The little old lady looked like her head was about to pop off and she turned to her companion and said: "Oh my!  Well I never!!  I thought that was the nanny!" True story! Oh, and also? People are crazy.

2) I graduated with an Honors Degree in Human Biology.
3) I graduated with an Honors Degree in Political Science.

These go together, so I'll answer them both.  I graduated with an Honors Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Toronto a loooooong time ago. I'm old. My major was Human Biology and I double minored in Zoology and Political Science. Clearly I was confused about my life's direction even back then. Nothing has really changed. Who got these right? I think my sister in-law answered them exactly right but I think I fooled a few others...tee hee!

4) I attended five different elementary schools.

This is also true. We moved around a lot when I was a child, and two new schools were built that I transferred to. It totally SUCKED. I never felt quite at home anywhere, it was almost as if I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. It was hard for me to make close friends, but somehow I always found ways of fitting in - mostly by changing who I was on the outside. I don't think it was a healthy way to go through my formative years. But it did shape the person I have become, and surely that counts for something. I think.

5) I am not a Harry Potter Geek and I never attended a midnight book release or movie opening.

How is it possible that everyone got this one right?  It must say something about how I ooze Geekery, even through the internets. How sad. This question is absolutely, unequivocally FALSE. Yay for me.

6) My wedding lasted three days. There were between 3 and 4 HUNDRED people in attendance for the wedding and reception.

True and true.  I come from hardy South Asian stock, and it's a prerequisite of our ethnic group to have weddings that last many days. Oh, and you also have to invite everyone your parents ever knew since the day they were born. Your first neighbor when you immigrated to Canada?  It would be insulting not to have them there. The corner store owner that once sold your parents milk in the middle of the night so that your mother could make dessert for her in-laws? You wouldn't be alive without that guy! He has to be there! And every friend, relative, friend of your relatives and relative of your friends that you know or have even heard about in passing must have a front row seat at the festivities. It makes for a very crowded ceremony. And it also freaked my poor, unsuspecting white in-laws RIGHT OUT.  My dad kept dragging people over to their table and introducing them as "My plumber from 1983. He's like a brother to me!".  They were very confused. I'm sure they didn't think that we were weirdos at all.

7) I was on anti-depressants for a little while.  I decided to stop taking them, without consulting a professional.  I probably shouldn't have done that.

Sadly, this is also true. Looking back, I did a lot of things to fool myself into thinking I was just fine without medication, but it just made everything worse.  I'm still dealing with some of the side effects (like being a bit fluffier than I'd like to be), and I also don't know if I will ever be truly "well".  A lot of bad shizz happened that is hard to get past and is hard for me to think about, even all these years later. However, instead of rubbing salt into the big, gaping, oozing wound that caused my depression in the first place, I feel that time has diminished it to a dull ache that I carry around and that flares up from time to time. I think it's more manageable now. I also think it would do me a world of good to see a therapist from time to time.

8) Nissa Aveline is named after both mine and Yousuf's grandmothers.

This is a trick question.  It's true but it didn't start out that way. The story is that when Inara was little we used to read a book together at bedtime that had a picture of a family standing around a little baby at the very end.  And she would point to each of the people in the family and name them. She'd say Mama, Daddy, Nanu (that's what she called herself) for the little girl, Gammie for the grandma, and then for the baby she'd always point and say "Baby Nissa". We weren't at the point of talking about another baby yet, so it was just some strange weird thing that she did that we'd laugh about.

Later, when I got pregnant and found out that we were having a baby girl, we'd always refer to her with Inara as "your baby sister", but she was all like Yeah. You mean Nissa. That's her name, dudes. Get with the program, already. And so we went through all the names we liked and kept coming back to Nissa.  It sounded vaguely familiar to me, until I realized that my grandmother (who passed away in 2005) went by the name Sayeeda, but her full name was Sayeeda Vikhar-un-NISSA Begum (Capital emphasis is mine. She never spelled her name with random caps.).  We don't know if Inara ever heard of me call her that (Unlikely, because how often do you say your deceased grandparent's full name?) or if it was some fated coincidence.  All of a sudden, the name Nissa took on a much more significant meaning for me and I felt that this baby really really needed to have her great-grandmother's name.

And then of course we couldn't leave out Yousuf's side of the family, so we gave her the middle name Aveline, which is a variant of Evelyn, which is Yousuf's much-loved and very much alive maternal grandmother's name. It was such a gift to see the moment of emotion dawning on her face when we told her the significance of Nissa's names. It miss my grandmother all the time, but that day the feeling tore through me like a current.

Here is a picture taken right after we told Great Grandma Evelyn about Nissa's middle name.  Looking at it makes me feel so grateful for Nissa to have that connection to her past.

And the last question (at last!) for today:

9) Inara is named after a television science fiction character. 

This is false. And I know Ayesha left me a comment saying that if it was false then I would be a lot less cooler to her, but what can I say? I'm a Harry Potter geek, dude. Cool is not in my DNA. The truth is that Yousuf and I liked the name Inara waaaaaaay before we watched Firefly (which is only the most awesome show ever in the history of the entire universe), and we'd been mulling it over as a name when I was pregnant with Inara.  I do think however, that watching Inara Serra in all her hotness sealed the deal for my husband - although for the life of me I can't imagine why it would be a good thing for us to name our child after a futuristic space "companion" - if you get my drift.  In any case, we loved the name and we made it our own, and ever since then I've been having to answer this question from all the other GEEKS that I know and love. Yes, that means you too, Ayesha.

Have a great weekend, friends. I'll catch you on the flipside.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Real Or Not Real (or, what happens when I stay up way past my bedtime)?

I stayed up way past my bedtime last night and then paid for it when Nissa had a fitful night of sleep herself, so this post is going to be especially convoluted.  Just warning you.

Because I can't form one coherent thought this morning (But when are my thoughts ever coherent, you ask? Well just zip it, McQuippys. I'm too tired to argue a losing case this morning.) I thought I would allow you a glimpse into my twisted mind. It's going to be a freaky ride, so you might want to pack your blindfold.

Here's how we're going to do it.  I am going to list a bunch of very personal stuff about myself, and some things will be true and some false.  You get to guess which of the statements do not belong, and at the same time you can get to know me a little better. Or not. We'll see how this pans out.  Ready?  No? Good. Let's go!

True Or False (or Real or Not Real for all you Hunger Games Fans.  I stayed up late finishing Mockingjay. It was quite awesome):

1) I once got mistaken for Inara's nanny.

2) I graduated with an Honors Degree in Human Biology.

3) I graduated with an Honors Degree in Political Science.

4) I attended five different elementary schools.

5) I am not a Harry Potter Geek and I never attended a midnight book release or movie opening.

6) My wedding lasted three days. There were between 3 and 4 HUNDRED people in attendance for the wedding and reception.

7) I was on anti-depressants for a little while.  I decided to stop taking them, without consulting a professional.  I probably shouldn't have done that.

8) Nissa Aveline is named after both mine and Yousuf's grandmothers.

9) Inara is named after a television science fiction character.

10) People say that Inara looks like me. In fact they often get us confused for one another. It's possible that they think we look like this:

 11) I apprenticed with an interior designer for one year.

12) I took piano lessons and guitar lessons in my younger days, but I hardly retained any useful knowledge about either instrument.  I can sing, though. And I'm not that terrible at it either.

13) I have never intentionally ingested alcohol.

14) English is not my first language.

15) Contrary to popular belief, my husband Yousuf is not Middle Eastern. He is a little bit Irish, a little bit English, and a whole lotta hunka hunka burnin' Canuck.

Multiple Choice:
Of the following three names, only one has been my husband's since birth. Which one is it?
a) Yousuf
b) El Cheapitan
c) George

And one Bonus Question:
True or False: I have had surgical enhancements done to both myself and my eldest child.  Before them, we looked like this:

My brain is such a weird place sometimes.  I need more sleep.

Now it's your turn...can you guess which of those crazy statements are true? Or false? Or neither? Have any questions or comments about anything I wrote? Comment here, via email, Twitter, or on my Facebook page - I'm easy like that. And maybe, just maybe, I'll share the answers with you.  But you have to at least try to guess first.  Don't hate the game, peeps. Show me the love!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Say What You Mean To Say.

Inara doesn't want to talk to me about school.  When I ask her what she did today, she replies with a curt: "I can't remember right now." Which I guess roughly translates to: "Stop pestering me, crazy person that I live with."

She also has other gems like:
"I don't want to tell you right now. Because I'm snoring."
"Can I just tell you tomorrow?"
"I'll tell you ONE thing. But that's it, okay?"


So this got me to thinking. Why does my child find it so hard to tell me what she is REALLY thinking?  Is she worried that she'll hurt my feelings (I highly doubt that)?  Or are we the ones that have taught her the art of Not Saying What You Really Mean?

I think that has to be the answer.  The evidence is all around her.  For example:

When my mom calls me, she goes "I left TWO messages for you, Mahreen!  I guess you guys must be reaaaaalllly busy doing....things."
And that translates to: Stop Ignoring Me And Pick Up the Gawshdurn PHONE.

When I ask Yousuf if he wants to watch a chick-flick and he goes, "Sure."
it really means: I could give a flying fart. But I know you're going to make me watch it anyway.

And when I tell him that it was hard for me to find a roll of paper towels in the basement, I am basically screaming: PICK UP YOUR STUFF BEFORE I BREAK MY NECK. Please.

It's no wonder my daughter has learned the art of Evasive Talking. We all do it, each and every day.

Inara's getting really good at it too.  This past weekend she asked me if we were having company. I said not until next weekend.  Then she asked me if she was having a playdate later that day. I said not today.  And then she looked really confused and I asked her what was bothering her.  And she said "oh nothing" and walked away.  That's when I took a good look around and realized that she was confused because I was cleaning the bathroom.  And I don't ever do that for NO REASON WHATSOEVER.

No wonder she was so confused.

And even Nissa is in on it now.  My little baby has learned that if she toddles over to me and lays her head in my lap, she can basically get whatever she wants. So she comes over, lays her little baby head down and signs I Love You.  Which means: Get Up And Give Me A Snack Right Now, Lady.

Double Sigh.

I don't know why this is bothering me so much.  Possibly because I don't want to be the parent that is the last to know what is on my kids' minds. Is it so bad to want to know what is really going on in there? Yousuf says that the reason Inara doesn't want to talk about school is because she's still processing it. Really?  She's processing Arts and Crafts and Circle Time? 

I have a friend who says that her son, who usually talks to her about EVERYTHING, is doing the same thing as well.  And she said to give it time - that eventually it starts to come out.  But I am sooooo impatient.  I don't want her to forget what she did, and I just want to experience a little bit of what her day was like without ME. Is that so awful?

So last night I asked Yousuf to see if she was willing to talk to him. He gave me his patented eye roll, which translates to You Are So Nuts but I ignored it. I just had to know why she was avoiding me.

And when he came down from bedtime a little while later he said that Inara brought up school all by herself.  I said: "Oh." Which roughly translates to WHAT THE HECK?!?

I mean Jeezie Creezie, I have been doing mental backflips all week trying to get her to tell me ANYTHING and she's been holding out.  And she brought it up ALL BY HERSELF to her Daddy?!?


Then he said that what she told him was this:

"Daddy. I really don't want tell Mama about school because I miss her so much.  I miss her every single day. And some days it is very very hard to tell her that."

And I sat there dumbfounded, saying absolutely nothing.

Which translates to: Oh, Good God. I love this child so freaking much.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


After yesterday's post, some of my dear readers expressed concern, specifically over the picture that I posted.

It appears as though some of you think that I have married a vampire. A very good-looking, glorious male specimen of a vampire.

Who also happens to masquerade as a fantastic father.

 Honestly, people. I have no idea how this absurd notion even came about.  It can't possibly have anything do do with this picture:

And to assume that we have hybrid human-vamp offspring is just ludicrous. There is nothing at all fangastic about this mouth:

And Nissa is too little to even have fangs.


Okay so maybe I see your point.

It's a good thing I'm perfect.

Monday, October 18, 2010

To Key Or Not To Key...

Last Thursday was Inara's real first day of school.  But wait, you ask.  Wasn't the first day of school back in September?  Didn't Mahreen drag us through a week's worth of incredibly self-involved and emotional posts about the big event? Well yes, my friends, I did indeed.  And that was just the beginning.

Since September, I've been going with Inara to school.  Not just dropping her off, but actually going with her, for three days a week in the afternoon, and staying the whole time while Yousuf comes home from work early to be with a (hopefully) napping Nissa.  At first, I was volunteering in the class, because we all knew that leaving Inara at school was not an option. This is the child who will cry herself to the point of vomiting if she even thinks about spending an extended period of time away from her parents.  She has never been to preschool.  She has never been with a babysitter.  She has never even spent the night with her grandparents.  It's always been just us.  And I didn't think that it was realistic for me to expect her to suddenly go from spending every moment with us to happy-go-lucky yay-leave-me-at-school-for-three-hours. And I was right. She was absolutely mortified when she discovered that school was only for kids that were - gasp!- HER AGE.

So. I volunteered in the class for the first few weeks, and then slowly started extricating myself from the classroom.  It's been this way with Inara since she was littler.  When we moved her from our bed to her own crib, it was teeny tiny steps.  We put in the crib next to us and then slowly moved the crib one foot away, another foot away, next to the closet, in the doorway (where it stayed for three nights, and obstructed Yousuf's way whenever he had to go for a midnight pee) and then the hallway, and finally into her own room.  And of course there were setbacks.  If she got upset or lonely we'd bring the crib back another step, back into the doorway for another couple of nights (Yousuf was filled with such joy and elation every time he stubbed his toe on the crib) or back into our bed if she needed it.  It's always been on her terms, with a gentle push from us.  It was the same way with starting solids, walking, potty training.  Everything with Inara is calculated, gradual, unhurried and HARD, mostly because she is so darn smart that there is no tricking her into a new routine. I expected no less with school.

This week the teachers, Yousuf and I collectively decided, after talking with Inara, that it was time for me to make the big break from school and LEAVE HER THERE.  To say that I was nervous is such an understatement that it's laughable.  Surprisingly, Inara was very okay with it. She actually told me that when I popped in and out of classroom all day she felt "all mixed-up" because she didn't know if I was coming or going. And that's when we all realized that she was ready for me to go, and that she was giving me permission to leave.  Snifflesnifflesniffle.

The big day was on Thursday and Yousuf and I did everything to play it up, make it exciting, yet still address Inara's concerns.  It was SO HARD for me to keep a brave face on, and not think about what would happen if she needed me or if she couldn't put on her jacket by herself or if she missed a spot when wiping her bum (seriously, that just grosses me out so much!) - but I did it. And like I said, she was okay.  She knew what was going to happen and she said she was going to "try it out without Mama".

We all woke up early and because we only have one car, Yousuf had to bike in to work.  He left after hugs and high-fives and kisses all around and then I had a couple of hours to get us all sorted out and ready for The Drop Off.  Now, usually I am the type of person who sits around in the mornings - usually in my pajamas, half-conscious and possibly moaning - with a huge mug of tea velcroed to one hand as I wait for the copious amounts of caffeine to wash away the effects of half a decade of interrupted nighttime sleep. BUT! Not on Thursday, my friends. On Thursday I was on my A-game.

As soon as Yousuf left I made one, two, three lunches, packed snacks, changed one, two, three people and then in a fit of inspiration (which bore more than a passing resemblance to a fit of insanity) I tore around the house finding all the last minute things that normally take me half an hour to find as we're leaving the house and inevitably make us late. Wallet: Check. Cell phone: Check. House keys: Check. Van keys: VAN KEYS?!?!

And I realized, with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, that the van keys were missing. I checked the little basket by the door, with no luck.  I checked every single one of my bags and jackets - no luck.  And then I remembered that Yousuf had driven the van the night before, so I checked his jacket and all his pants. NO LUCK.  By that time I was huffing, sweating and giving off a definite Insane Mama vibe. And before we go any further, I must clarify that we only have one set of keys to the van because that's what happens when you buy a very used van with $7000 cash. Thankyouverymuch El Cheapitan. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

So then I called the man, the mystery, El Cheapitan himself, and nearly lost my gourd when it went straight to his answering machine.  I have to admit to leaving a not very nice message for him. And then I tried his cell phone, which he never answers, and I guess there was a chance of hail in Hades that day because I got him on the first ring.

"Hi, honey!" said his cheery voice.
"Hello yourself." said my murderous undertone.
"What's up?" he said, innocently unaware of what was to follow.
"What is UP is that I can't find the van keys. And I'm wondering if you could possibly have ANY IDEA where they could be?  And could you think about it really fast because I have to get Inara to school for her first day without me, which as I'm sure you are well aware of, is a HUGE FREAKING DEAL."
"Right. (rummaging sounds) So. The van key is right here in my bag."
(Silence then follows, during which time I am wondering if the Matrix will allow me to reach through the phone and strangle my beloved husband)
"Blargleflarglephwweeeepppphssss!" I managed to utter, as my eyeballs popped out of my head and I heard tiny little explosions going off in my brain.
"I can fix this." El Cheapitan said, with an edge of hysteria to his voice.
"You must fix this. Now." I whispered - because when I'm really REALLY mad, I go beyond the yelling stage. I go right to Homicidal Whispering.  That's how you know I'm serious.

And then, fifteen minutes later, El Cheapitan was at the door - throwing me the keys and rummaging for cash to pay the taxi that had come to drop him off and take him back to school.  He planted a kiss on my cheek and gave me his big "I'm Sorry Please Don't Kill Me" eyes.  So I didn't (very law-abiding of me, I know).  And the girls and I flew out the door for Inara's First Day Of School.  I dropped her off, and Nissa blew her kisses from the window, and her teacher held her hand as we walked away.  And she was fine.

As we were walking away however, her teacher popped her head out of the classroom to give me some much-needed encouragement.  I guess she could tell that this whole thing was a lot harder for me than it was for my daughter, my firstborn, my precious four year-old BABY.

"Mrs. George!" she chirped,  "I just wanted to tell you that everything is going to be OKAY!  And look!  Inara is doing so well!  She is so big!!  And you!  Look at you!  You are going to be just fine. Think of all the free time you will have!  I'm so proud of you and both MADE IT TO SCHOOL!"

"Oh," I replied, walking away and resisting every urge to not break down into histrionics, "We sure did make it. And you have NO IDEA how hard we worked to get here today."

Epilogue: After school, I picked Inara up and we went to go get Yousuf from work.  By then I had decided that it served no purpose to torture him, especially because Inara was really excited to tell him about her first day.  And also because I promised her that we'd go out for dinner afterward (ha HA! See how I did that?).  When we got there, Yousuf said that he was so sorry for forgetting about the van keys, but it was definitely a mistake he would not be repeating.  Because the taxi cost him FIFTY DOLLARS round-trip to bring back the van key.  Oh, El Cheapitan.  I bet that hurt you WAAAAAY worse than a Matrix strangle.  And then the poor guy had to take us out for dinner!

Sometimes, revenge is a dish best served at a semi-fancy restaurant with nice lighting.  And you know what else? It tastes GOOD.

I am El Cheapitan, and I just spent boatloads of money today for no good reason. 
It was the Best. Day. EVER!!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Study In Contrasts.

This was taken over the weekend, on probably the last warm day here in Western NY (we had a frost advisory last night...brrrr). Every time I look at it, I can't help but smile.  It's usually so hard to take a decent photo of my little whirlwind of a baby.  It usually involves begging (on my part), whining (on her part) and bribery involving goldfish crackers.

But on the rare occasion that I can catch her unawares and not running in the opposite direction, she is such a treat to behold.  Nissa is a study in contrasts. She is as sweet as candy kisses and yet always looking for a way to bend (or break) the rules. She will lure you in with her wide smile and then sucker punch you right in the kisser. And even when she is serious, her sparkling eyes are always, always smiling.

I feel like she is an old soul living in a tiny baby body and that she sees so much more than we give her credit for.  Who knows what she was thinking about in this shot? Maybe she was pondering the meaning of life. Maybe she was trying to find a way to end world hunger.

Or maybe she was trying to calculate the best way to push her big sister off the neighboring swing.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Blame The Butterflies.

I didn't get to post today because this morning we ALL went with Inara on her first field trip (yeah, we're that family), and then this afternoon I tried to add graphics to my blog.  BAD IDEA.

I am so beyond out of my league when it comes to all things technology-related, and so when I tried to add a button/badge/whatever-you-call-it-thingamabober to the blog the world almost ceased to exist. It took me THREE HOURS to make a box with text in it.  Oh, and a butterfly - let us not forget the glorious butterfly that nearly caused me to have a seizure.  Stupid butterfly. 

And then I tried to add more of the same prettyness up at the top of the blog, to the header/title/whatever-you-call-it doober. And after another hour of saying not-so-nice words, squinting, grunting, and getting a big fat headache, the result was what you see.  Four bloody flowers. And those butterflies again.  I swear they are the bane of my existence at this point.

Anyway.  There you have it. Another amazingly incompetent post brought to you by The World's Most Inept Technotard.  Now I have to go apologize to my family for ignoring them for the whole day. I'm totally blaming the butterflies.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy Hot Chocolate Day.

Yesterday we discovered that we were faced with a moral dilemma.

Namely, the discussion of the history of a certain holiday with a certain 3-foot tall person.

It went a little somethin' like this (hit it!):

Inara: Mama, am I going to school tomorrow?
Me: Nope.
Inara: Well, why not?  Is it a holiday?
Me: Why yes, it is.  It's called Columbus Day.
Yousuf: Now you've done it.
Me: Wha???
Inara: Mama...what is Ka-lump-us Day?
Me: Oh crap. (I didn't actually say that out loud. But my face did.)
Yousuf: Told ya so.
Inara: Daddy...what is Ka-lump-us Day?  Why is it a holiday?
Me: Yes, Daddy - why don't you enlighten us?
Yousuf: Er...ummmm...well.  Let's see. Columbus Day is a holiday that actually falls on the same day as Canadian Thanksgiving! Isn't that neat?  That means Papa and Gammie are having a holiday too!
Me:'re good. Very slick.
Inara: Yeah, but WHAT IS KA-LUMP-US DAY???
Yousuf: I'm out. Your turn.
Me (sighing): Well, the story is that a man named Christopher Columbus sailed all the way from Europe and discovered a new land...
Yousuf: Where people had been living peacefully for thousands of years...
Me: Yes. Well. 
Inara: What land did he discover?
Me: The story is that he discovered America.
Yousuf: But he never actually came here. He went to the West Indies.
Inara: And then what happened?
Me: Well, there were people in that land and he...
Yousuf (covering his mouth): *Cough* pillage! *Cough* disease! *Cough* slavery!
Me (shooting daggers):...and...he said...hello?
Inara: Oh, that was very nice of him.  And then what did they do?  Did they go to the playground?  Did they watch YouTube?  Did they have Hot Chocolate together?  Because ALL people like to have Hot Chocolate right, Mama? Hey...can I have Hot Chocolate tomorrow on Ka-lump-us Day? Huh, Mama? Can I? Please? Pleaaaasssssseeee????
Me (looking at Yousuf and shrugging) I guess you could have Hot Chocolate.  In fact, wasn't Columbus the first to bring cacao beans back to Europe?
Yousuf: If by "bring" you mean "take without asking with the intention to exploit", then yes.
Me: Ahem. Yes, Inara. You can have Hot Chocolate tomorrow.

Moral of the story: Lie like a dog when you have to preserve the innocence of your children.  And give them lots of hot chocolate so that they forget your little indiscretion.

Happy Hot Chocolate Day, peeps.

(Thanks to Leigh for sending me the link to these totally appropriate and politically correct cards. You rock.)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wearever After.

Today marks the beginning of International Babywearing Week . You might remember seeing pictures here of me wearing Nissa in a baby carrier, and today I want to take some time to tell you why babywearing means so much to me as a parent.  Recently, the babywearing industry has taken some big hits in the media, and I wanted to share our babywearing story to hopefully change your perception of baby carriers and those who choose to wear them, even if just a little bit.  My story is raw and real and it hurts to talk about, even after all this time.  But it's mine.  And I want to tell you about how wearing my has children shaped me into the mother I am today. 

When my first baby, Inara, came into the world - I knew that things would never be the same.  I held her tiny hands and breathed in her amazing new baby smell and vowed that I would move heaven and earth to protect this tiny little precious soul.  When she cried, I cried.  When she looked up at me with her great big inky blue eyes I wanted to be the first thing that she saw.  And as she slept I wanted to lie next to her and watch over her all through the night.

At first, the decision to wear Inara in a baby carrier seemed like a natural extension of parenting for Yousuf and I.  We just couldn't imagine not having her close to us all the time. What we also never imagined was just how important a role babywearing would come to play in our life as a new family of three. 

To say that Inara had a rough start is the understatement of the century.  Without getting too far off topic, I will say that Inara had an incredibly difficult time with breastfeeding, and that her struggle basically shaped our entire newborn experience.  Her poor oral development meant that she couldn't nurse and she couldn't use a bottle, so I basically pumped around the clock while I watched Yousuf fed her with an eyedropper at first and then graduated to a syringe (they actually sell syringes for feeding babies this way, which is something that I found simultaneously horrifying and yet was incredibly thankful for).

In between those hour-long feeding/pumping sessions, we never got a respite.  Inara was inconsolable.  She was hungry and hurting and she couldn't sleep.  She actually never slept for longer than 15 minutes at a time, and she would wake up shrieking - in just the exact same way that she fell asleep - over and over again.  The only way to soothe her was to hold her upright and walk, swaying gently from side to side.  When our arms got tired we would put her in the baby sling, her head lying against our chests (She never wanted to lay down in the sling - which I later found out is not the optimal way to wear any baby.  Here is a great overview of positioning and sling safety.) and she would finally drift off into a brief, fitful sleep.

There were times that Yousuf's feet went numb because he was standing and swaying with Inara tucked into that checkered sling for so many hours. But it was the only way she could get any comfort...and so we did it for her.

One night as I fought with Inara to try to get her to nurse, both her and I crying of course, she had a seizure.  She started banging her three-week-old fists into my breasts, pushing me away.  She turned her head to the side and jerked, arching her back and gurgling fluid.  Her eyes rolled back into her head.  I thought she was going to die.  It lasted for no more than a minute, but it wasn't the last time it happened.  It was probably the most horrific thing I have ever seen.  Afterward, she didn't want to eat.  Every time I held her she turned away, screaming.  I felt rejected, inept.  She continued shrieking and flailing and thrashing until Yousuf tucked into a baby carrier and walked away.  Away from me.  But finally content. That was one of the last times Inara ever nursed.

Soon after, Inara was diagnosed with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease - and after a violent episode during a hospital test where she aspirated barium into her lungs, she was put on medication.  Her frightening seizure-like behavior was attributed to Sandifer's Syndrome, a rare disorder in which an infant feels such great pain that their nervous system basically switches off in order to protect themselves.  It made sense that Inara had wanted to be held upright and couldn't bear lying down, as she needed gravity to keep the burning stomach acid from coming up into her throat and lungs.  We were told that there had been some damage done to our tiny baby's esophagus and that under no circumstances were we to ever lay her down flat.  That meant she had to be inclined during feedings, diaper changes, bathing, awake and asleep times.  We found ways to prop up her diaper table and I held her in the bathtub when we washed away her acrid-smelling vomit again and again.  But whenever she was sleeping and awake, she was in a baby sling.  It was the only way the three of us could ever get any rest, and the only way to ensure that Inara was not constantly screaming out in pain.

Sadly, Inara's nursing difficulties were far from over.  Due to that trauma, Inara began to exhibit symptoms of Attachment Disorder, and it was mainly directed towards me.  My heart broke into a thousand million pieces every time she refused to make eye contact with me.  Every time she pushed me away with tiny balled up fists. Every time she preferred to be comforted by her father instead of with me. 

Inara's mouth still wouldn't work properly and so as we ran from doctor to lactation consultant to surgeon to correct the problem I would wear her against my body in a baby carrier.  I would lie her against my heart so that she could be remember my sound, and be soothed.  I would tuck her into my collarbone so that she could remember my smell without fear.  And I wore her upright so that she could look at my face and see that it wasn't sad.  Wearing Inara allowed her to trust me again.  I spoke to her in hushed tones while she lay against me, no matter what hospital we were in and what procedure we were undergoing.  I told her that I loved her and that I was sorry.  I begged her to trust me again and I promised her that I would never leave her alone in pain and confusion.  I promised to keep her close to me so that she could learn that her Mama was safe.

And I did - I kept my promise.

I wore her every day until she started looking at me instead of away from me.  She began to coo and babble when I entered her field of view.  She started snuggling into my body instead of pushing me away.  She fell asleep and woke up, not screaming once.  She did all those things in a baby carrier. To this day, I am so thankful for those fabric ring slings, pouches, wraps and Mei Tais that got us through our very darkest days together.  Without baby carriers I wouldn't have been able to comfort my infant.  I wouldn't have been able to keep her pain away.  I wouldn't have been able to regain her trust.  I wouldn't have been able to become the mother that I am today, and Yousuf and I wouldn't have been able to experience exquisite moments like these:

Today, Inara is just fine.  She no longer has any symptoms of reflux disease and her oral issues are a distant fading memory.  She is so smart and bright and I thank my lucky stars every time I get to see her gorgeous smile. Inara went through so much in her first two years of life (she has other medical issues that are constantly being monitored) and babywearing helped us face hospitals and tests and procedures with ease, all the while enforcing our bond of love and trust in one another. Inara is such a strong and healthy little girl  - she has such a great big fighting spirit, and I am so glad that she is here and that I get to be her Mama.  She still gets scared from time to time, and she worries that I will leave her when she gets hurt or needs me (I don't know how she can remember back to when she was an infant - but I guess an experience like hers is hard for anybody to forget), and so we still hug, cuddle and wear her from time to time - just to let her know that we will always, always be there for her.

Inara's infancy taught me so many lessons.  It taught me to trust in my ability to love and nurture another human being.  It taught me to listen to my intuition and work through any seemingly insurmountable problem.  Most importantly, I learned to throw back my head and laugh.  I learned to embrace every single joyous moment when the times were good to sustain me through the times that weren't.  Inara taught me all that.  What a smart little girl.  And when Nissa came along three years later, I already knew what to do.

At the ripe old age of three days old I popped her in a ring sling:

 And then a wrap:

 And we hit the ground running (or jazz-handing, as the case may be).

Yousuf did too (by then he was an expert):

And you know what? Everything turned out just fine.

Looking back, I have to say that the one constant that soothed any hurt and calmed any fear was always babywearing.  I feel so strongly about the importance of wearing my children, and it has lead  me to meet and help so many other amazing parents in their own journey.  I was lucky enough to start a babywearing group (Centre County Babywearers) in Central Pennsylvania with some of my dearest friends.  Later, I served as a founding member on the Board of Directors of Babywearing International, Inc. (a non-profit group dedicated to babywearing education and support), and currently as a moderator on the forums at - the premier online resource for all things related to baby carriers (if you ever could imagine any question related to babywearing, I can guarantee that you will find an answer there!). 

Ultimately babywearing is a choice.  It's a choice that I am so lucky to have had available to me, and I do so dearly hope that my kids will have the same choice available to them when it's their time to take on the mantle of parenthood (if that's what they choose for themselves).  At the start of International Babywearing Week, I urge you to find out more about babywearing.  Even if you haven't made the choice to wear your baby (and it is your choice), this is the perfect opportunity to become more aware of babywearing.  The challenges facing the babywearing industry are real and need to be addressed. (You can find out more about these challenges and how to help at the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance website and at the blog Becoming Mamas.)

Babywearing is about so many different things to so many different people, and that's what makes it so valuable as a parenting tool.  A parent or caregiver might decide that it's the convenience, the comfort, the style, the attachment, or the many health benefits that attract them to babywearing.  I have met new parents, experienced parents, adoptive parents, gay parents, single parents, grandparents and all kinds of in between who have all told me about how wearing their children feels like a natural way to extend the respect and nurturing that our babies so greatly desire and deserve. It was that way for me too, but it has also become so much more.

For me, babywearing was a matter of survival. 

I am so proud to be a mother.  I am so proud to be a babywearer.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Questions My Readers Would Ask Me If I Was A Better Blog Host.

First of all, I want to say a big fat huge THANK YOU to everyone who read and shared my last post.  I was shocked to discover just how far on the interwebs my little blog had spread and for that I am so grateful.

To tell you the truth, I'm always a little bit skeptical that there are actual real people out there reading my posts, and to know that some of you really care about what I have to say always blows my mind a little bit. It's awesome. I will try not to bore all my new readers to tears with stories about my freakishly adorable children, or poop, or how I haven't slept for more than 5 hours straight in the past four years (and there go all my blogging ideas. Grrreeeaat.).

Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, I was able to see that I had a huge number of hits on my website this past weekend. I did a little happy dance every time I refreshed the page...not that I'm self-obsessed or anything.  However, I noticed that even though there were lots of people reading my blog, there weren't any people commenting on my blog.  And I began to wonder...

- if I smelled bad.  Virtually or otherwise.
- if my readers are scared of me.
- if I'm doing something to put off commenting.

Because even though I love writing, I also love reading what you think about my writing, and I love finding out more about the people who care about the same things that I do.  Maybe it's my fault that you don't feel comfortable enough around here to leave me a comment - and that, my friends, will never ever do.  I am nothing if not hospitable!  Actually, I am the kind of person who obsesses about the comfort of my guests before they arrive.  I over-clean and over-cook and over-bake and then when my guests are here I feed them to the point of barfage.  Okay, so it's possible that I come on a little too strong.  But I fear that the opposite is happening here at V2B.  Maybe I'm not coming on strong enough?

Therefore and ergo (my two big words of the day), I have decided to pull up some chairs, put on a pot of tea (not coffee), and offer you some treats.  In a manner of speaking.  No, I'm not going to ask you to leave me a comment in exchange for free gifts (homey don't play that. See here for details).  What I am going to do, is tell you some stories.  About myself.  And maybe you will start to feel a little bit more comfortable around me, and maybe we can take the next step to commenthood together. But first we have to stop flirting and get to first base.  Are you ready to take the plunge?  I am!

So here we go.  I give you:

The Questions My Readers Would Ask Me If I Was A Better Blog Host.

I can't comment on your blog because your name puts me right off.  How do you pronounce it?  How do you pronounce the names of your husband and children?  Why do you have such weird names?  What is wrong with you?
I'm so sorry about that.  I blame my parents for basically giving me an unpronounceable name.  I should just turn it into a symbol - you know, like Prince did between the times he was known as Prince.  My name (Mahreen) is pronounced MARE-REAN.  Mare like a female horse, and rean that rhymes with bean. So now you're probably wondering what that silent 'h' is doing smack-dab in the middle of my name.  Basically it's there just to piss people off.  Trust me on that one.

Yousuf (the husband) is pronounced YOU (like the opposite of me)-SUF(like the first syllable in the word "suffer").  His family, however, calls him Chris.  I call him El Cheapitan (and other terms of endearment that are meant for our ears alone).  He will answer to any or all three of those names, but prefers if you make an effort to at least try to say Yousuf.

Inara is our eldest daughter.  Her name is pronounced EE-NAA-RA.  I can see how people would want to say IN-nara, but that's not how we pronounce it.  It just doesn't sound as nice as EE-nara to us.  I guess we could have just named her Enara instead of Inara, but that's not how the name is spelled.  Hmmm.  I suppose I went and gave her an unpronounceable name, just like my parents did with me.  I rock.

Lastly, Nissa is our wee baby girl.  Her name is pronounced NISS-A.  It's really that simple. Except for the fact that everyone wants to call her Nisa-rhymes-with-Lisa.  It's not that hard, people.  There are TWO s's, not one.  Figure it out.

I really loved that last blog post you did, but then you fell off the face of the earth.  Why don't you post every day?  What is wrong with you?
It's just me here.  There's no helpers or housekeepers or assistant-type people or even grandparents. My wonderful husband does so much to help me carve out some time in the day just for me, but he does have a full-time job, and well, my full-time job is being with my kids.  In between bum-wiping, meal-making, breaking up fights, running to and from school, and being completely responsible for two other human beings, it's a wonder I remember to even put pants on in the morning. (Note to self: Find pants for tomorrow morning.  The pants you are currently wearing are disgusting. Your mother would be horrified.) In fact, it's probably taken me three weeks just to write this whole post.

So, while I would love to blog every day (goodness knows I have enough ideas), finding the time isn't always that easy.  I have good weeks and bad weeks when it comes to posting depending on what is going on here at home, but I do always write a little bit every day.  I just wish I could find a way to do it all.

I once read that the number one rule for growing your blog is to post every single day, regardless of how good your content is.  Honestly, I just can't get with that.  What good does it do my readers, or myself, to read some half-assed post that is just thrown together at the last minute?  Believe me, I am FAR too obsessive-compulsive (it's a gift) to let that happen.  So, even though you may not get to read something here every single day, rest assured that I am always working.  On something. And hopefully the poopie-diaper fairies will take pity on me long enough to post it more often than not.

What lead you to start blogging?  Was it the lure of money? Or fame? Or the joy you would receive from an endless stream of comments from people you don't know?  What is wrong with you?
I have always loved the written word.  I love books and reading and writing - I have for as long as I can remember.  I used to write little poems in grade school, scrawled on scrap pieces of construction paper.  When I was in the eighth grade I used to carry around a little Bart Simpson notepad and write prose - it was all very angsty and emotional and basically it was the only way that I could deal with not being tall, popular, and pretty.

In high school I loved English and History but I took Science and Math.  I still wrote stories and poems in my math binder or science lab notebook, but I never showed them to anyone.  I grew up.  I went to college. I tried to become a doctor.  I hated it.  I got depressed.  I stopped writing. I worked for a pharmaceutical company.  That just made me even more depressed. I got married.  I moved away to a different country and away from my family and friends and everything I knew.  I got depressed again.

I tried to make myself a better person in order to fix myself.  I worked for non-profit agencies.  I started writing press releases instead of poetry.  I was helping others but not really helping myself. It blew chunks. Then I became a mother.

I looked at my baby girl and wanted to write a thousand love letters to her.  But I was just too tired. My baby grew and my husband finished grad school and I became a kick-ass mother and wife.  But I still wasn't complete. I picked up a paintbrush to find myself.  I sucked at it.. I picked up a camera, and I loved it, but still...there was something missing.  We moved again.  I got pregnant. I had another beautiful baby girl.  And this time, mothering wasn't as hard.  I wasn't so tired.  I wasn't so sad. I was alone again, in another new place, but I wasn't lonely.

Slowly, very slowly, I started once again, to write.  Bits and pieces, here and there, scribbles on grocery lists, lines on the inside covers of coloring books...but ever so slowly the stories started flowing again.  And I knew that I had to keep writing.  I decided that I was a writer.  I wasn't going to become one - I already was one, I had been for a long time.  Even if I never got paid for it (which I'm not, currently), I could still do what made me happy.  I could write.  And so I started a blog...and I can't thank you enough for giving me a chance for sharing my writing with you. I finally feel like I am doing something that makes me really and truly fulfilled, and knowing that there are people who are reading my words makes it all the more worthwhile.

Why do you take so many pictures?  Don't you have anything better to do with your say, write a blog post every day? That's what REAL Bloggers do.  What is wrong with you?
I take pictures because I feel like everything in my life needs to be documented.  I have a problem with enjoying the moment because I'm always trying so hard to capture it.  It really is an issue. My kids hate it. My husband thinks that I am off my rocker.  Luckily for you, it gives my readers some visual interest in addition to my spectacularly long-winded writing.  Lucky you! Part of the reason that it takes me so long to post is the fact that I try to add a picture to every piece.  So I guess I'm a hybrid phlogger/blogger.  Or something.

Anyway, processing pictures is - for me, at least - quite a process.  It takes me time to tease out what I'm after when I look at an image that I've photographed, probably because I'm anal and terribly self-conscious about my photography skills, so I over-compensate by trying too hard to make things perfect, thereby losing valuable blogging time.  That is definitely something I need to work on.

Please tell us. What is wrong with you?
Seriously.  After all that, do you really even have to ask?

Alrighty, my sweets.  That is basically everything you never needed to know about me.  Aren't you so glad you never asked those questions?  But now - it's your turn.  Pull up your own chair, sit down for a minute and tell me about yourself.  Who are you?  Where are you from?  What do you like or hate about V2B? Do you find me insufferably boring?  More than a bit neurotic?  Well fine, then.  Be that way.

Let's get to know each other.  How about this.  I promise to answer EVERY comment that is written after this blog post.  Even if it means that my children go hungry and I don't shower for three days.

Did I mention that I'm also a compulsive liar?  Well, it's true.  Or it may not be - you'll never know because I may or may not be lying about it.  In fact, I may or may not be lying about this whole post.  I might actually be a big hairless dude with too much earwax and an overgrowth of belly button lint.  Oh, crud.  Now I've just offended hairless people with earwax and belly button lint issues.  Way to go, Mahreen.

Let's do this thang, peeps.  Bring it on like Donkey Kong.

Oh, here is my obligatory picture of the post.  It has nothing to do with anything.

Friday, October 1, 2010

You are a child of the universe, No less than the trees and the stars; You have a right to be here.

Tyler Clementi was quiet.  He was a bright young musician who attended Rutgers University.  He was outed as being gay on the internet, and days later he threw himself off of the George Washington Bridge.

Tyler Clementi is gone.

Tyler Clementi, and others like him, felt that their only - their ONLY - recourse following bullying was suicide.  I can't imagine how alone and afraid, how utterly devastated and abandoned he and countless other victims like him must have felt during their last days with us.

How did we let this happen?

Tyler and Seth and Asher and Billy and so many more.  All teenagers, all victims of hate and bullying.  Each of these beautiful spirits endured so much.  They were called names, their privacy was violated, they were humiliated and mocked and torn down and their lives were made a living hell.  And they felt like they had nobody left to turn to.  They felt like they had no way out, other than suicide.

It has to stop.  We need to change the message that we are sending to our kids.  Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can do damage too.  Words of hate, words of intolerance and ignorance - these words don't just hurt.

These words can kill.

And it has to stop.

Do you remember what it was like to be a teenager?  Do you remember not fitting in?  Feeling left out?  Feeling pressured to belong to something, even if it meant changing who you were?  We all went through something like this when we were younger.  Some of us are still going through it now.  It really doesn't matter if you are gay or straight or somewhere in between.  It just doesn't.  We all want the same thing.  We want to be loved for who we are.  We want to belong.  And so do our kids. 

We need to do better.  We need to do better for our children, for the children that have lost their lives due to senseless and shameful acts of bullying.

We need to change. 

We need to stand up and say that it's not okay.

It's not okay to use words to hurt. To maim. To kill.  It's not okay to invade someone's privacy.  It's not okay to treat other human beings like trash.

I am so sick and tired of having to say this over and over and over again.

My heart is so heavy today, heavy with the knowledge that lives have ended over this.  That there will be more lost before we get over our prejudice and realize that it's us.  That we are hurting ourselves, we are chipping away at our very spirit every time we allow a life to be lost this way.

Every time a child cries in a bathroom stall because they are too afraid to walk the hallway.  Every time they feign sickness in order to stay away from school.  Every time they try to tell someone and are ignored.  Every time we fail to recognize that we condoning messages of intolerance, we are hurting ourselves. 

And we have to do better.

Tell your children today that you love them.  Tell them that you have loved them since the day they were born.  Tell them that they are perfect and beautiful and full of wonder and possibility and hope and love.  Tell them that their love can transform the world.  Tell them to be open to love.  Tell them that their future is so bright and that they have so much to look forward to, even when it seems like life is unbearably hard.  Tell them that sometimes life won't go their way.  That there will be dark days but that it's okay.  Tell them that it will get better.  It always gets better. Tell them that you will help them, that you will always be there for them.  Tell them that you will listen to their words, that you will see them for who they are, that you will always love and support them.  Look them in they eye and tell them that you mean it.  Hug them.  Kiss them.  Make them strong and powerful with your words of love, so that they can go out into the world and tell the Tylers and Seths and Ashers and Billys what they know to be true - that love can heal.  That they are not alone.  That they are strong and beautiful souls with every right to be here.

We all have a right to be here.  We all have a right to be loved, and to love.  We all have a right to live.

Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,

they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;

it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.

Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,

gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,

no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,

whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,

it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

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