Monday, January 31, 2011

Possibly The Nerdiest Dream Ever.

It's been a long time since I've had a dream. The past few weeks have been so stressful for our family (what with dealing with the car accident and all), that I've been tossing my socks left right and center and just been blacking out at night. I've been tossing and turning and not sleeping well and waking up really, really tired. I've never had a hangover in my life, but I'm fairly certain that I now know what it feels like because life has just been one big headachey blur for me lately.

Until last night, that is.

Yousuf bought these new soft, cuddly and WARM flannel sheets for our bed (ASIDE: My man buys bedding! Oh, how I loves him so!), because his wifey is always complaining about how cold her creaky old bones get at night.

(Hmmmm...I wonder if the new sheets cost less than paying for a higher heating bill, El Cheapitan?? Never mind. I GOTS ME SOME NEW SHEETS!)

So we washed them and put them on our bed yesterday and the moment I crawled into bed last night, I knew that it was going to be a special night. Not for the reasons you're thinking (blush) - come on, now. Get your mind out of the gutter. Remember the soft and warm flannel sheets? Let's go back to those...

Sooooffffffft. Waaaaarrrrrrmmmmm.


And so I fell into a blissful, happy and most importantly NOT FREEZING COLD sleep.

And then I dreamt.

I think my brain is a little rusty from not dreaming because my dream was downright weird, even for me.

Which is saying a lot.

I dreamt that I was back at university (not college! We say "university" in Canada when referring to the places you spend oodles of money to graduate with an honors degree in something very nonspecific and non-useful. "Colleges" in Canada are far more practical places to earn diplomas and contribute to society).  Not just back at university, but standing smack-dab in the middle of my Organic Chemistry Lab.

Okay, so maybe this was turning out to be more of a nightmare than a dream.

We were doing some sort of experiment, and I was all set up at one bench and Yousuf was at the other. Also present were two other people - girls I haven't seen in years and years - one from high school and the other was a college dormitory friend. Totally random.

In my dream, some things remained true to reality, namely the fact that Yousuf was still a Math and Physics major and had no earthly idea about what to do in a Chemistry Lab. (I cannot believe I just wrote a coherent sentence with the words Math, Physics and Chemistry in it. I guess all that university money was well spent after all eh, Mom and Dad?)

And here is the really weird part of the dream: I TOTALLY KNEW WHAT TO DO.

Why didn't I know what to do when I was there one hundred and eleventy million years ago?

So Yousuf and I are setting up our apparatus (Another big science-y word. What the heck is happening to my brain? Quick! I must say something liberal artsy to calm myself...Dante, Tolstoy, EDGAR ALLEN POE!). While I was setting up my glass beakers, stands and funnels I was giving Yousuf all these instructions, which actually made some amount of sense to me. Except for the fact that I kept calling him "honey", and we were definitely not married - or sharing any Lab time - in university. In fact, as far as my parents are concerned, I didn't even know what boys were until one plopped down out of the sky and asked for my hand in marriage.

Yep, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

And then the professor walked by - except that he wasn't the professor - he was Inara and Nissa's pediatrician. And he looked at my set up, and he looked at Yousuf's set up and he said, "Ahhh, Mr. George. We are most interested in your arrangement. No doubt you will have some exciting results to share with us, given that you are our resident Chemistry Genius!" And then the two girls I haven't seen in years and years giggled and nodded their heads in agreement.


First off, who says, "we are most interested..."??? Who did he think he was, the king of Organic Chemistry? I never liked that guy anyway. We're totally switching doctors tomorrow.

And next, Yousuf didn't even know his beakers from his bunsen burner. AS IF he could even hope to be the resident Chemistry Genius. And what was I...chopped liver? I only set up his entire experiment! That's it. No more Mrs. Nice Wife, buddy. The next time we're stuck in a university chemistry lab you are ON YOUR OWN. Resident Chemistry Genius my arse!!!

And as for those two annoying girls, whose names I have completely forgotten: Stop nodding in agreement! Stop it! I don't even know why you were in my dream, let alone taunting me from behind your textbooks.

Well, after that I was pretty steamed. But, we had work to do - and I was going to show Professor Pediatrician just who was the brains in this operation. So off I went, getting ready to mix up some stuff and pour some other stuff and basically win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Because I KNEW I could do it.

Yousuf and his fan club just sat there, dumbfounded as I whizz-banged my way around the lab, snatching up solutions and mixing up molecules, until finally...FINALLY, I was at the last step.

The step that would make me the Nerdliest Nerd Ever. Oh yeah, baby. That's me.

I was supposed to drain this stuff into this other stuff, and it was going to change color and basically be irrefutable evidence of my superior intellect.

So, with shaking hands, I got ready to empty the dropper of stuff into the glass receptacle thinger (I've forgotten the real names of these things. What? What do I look like to you? A Chemistry Genius?!?). And right as I went to press my fingers together to expel the liquid from my dropper...

Yousuf grabbed my beaker and poured his own solution into it!


I was so so so SO steaming mad at him. Like madder than I have ever been in my entire life. I started hopping up and down and yelling, "You EEEEDIOT! You can't just pour random stuff into my beaker! Do you even know what you are DOING? This is ORGANIC CHEMISTRY! It's not a JOKE. You don't even know what the chemical composition of my solution is? Did you ever think that if you mixed your stuff with my stuff that it would be dangerous? Like even EXPLOSIVE? Did you think about that, MR. CHEMISTRY GENIUS??? What if your stuff combined with my stuff and blew up into something thousands and thousands of PINK MONKEYS!!! Aaaaaaaaaahhhhh!!!"

Wait a minute. Pink....monkeys?

I totally didn't know what I was doing in Organic Chemistry.


For I minute there I totally had me going. Thank you, thank you, Dante, Tolstoy, and Edgar Allen Poe!

Oh, and I think I want my freezing cold bed sheets back again....because these new flannel ones are clearly messing with my head.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Coming To America.

After eight years of looking like Americans, working like Americans, and paying our taxes like all the rest of you Americans, we finally have the very official-sounding status of Permanent Residents! We have ARRIVED, my friends (aside: wasn't Coming To America just the best movie evah? "But where in New York can one find a woman with grace, elegance, taste and culture? A woman suitable for a king? QUEENS!")!

Behold, my Fancy-Schmancy Uber-Terrific Ultra-Deluxe Green Card Extraordinaire (with accompanying booklet that helps me settle into my "new" home of nearly a decade. Hilarious.):

We're from Canada, so it's not like we had much of an adjustment to go through when we moved here back in 2002 (Just two weeks after we got married! How young and naive we were then!). We only gave up a few immaterial things, like socialized healthcare, simple and drama-free public education, marriage equality, gun control, and kick-ass parental leave. Oh, and Celine Dion. That last one hurts the most. 

We have to carry our Green Cards ON OUR PERSON AT ALL TIMES OR ELSE, and the lovely government officials over at the Department of Homeland Security were kind enough to provide a protective sleeve to keep our cards glistening. Or at least that's what we thought they were for:

You know how when you're a little kid and your mom tells you not to never ever upon pain of death stare at your uncle's wandering left eyeball? And then all you can do when you see that uncle is anything but? "Hi, uncle EYEBALL, I mean - I haven't seen you in EYEBALL - uh, so the weather...EYEBALL EYEBALL EYEBALL."

Yeah, that.

I didn't even know that my uber-fancy Green Card extraordnaire could communicate. I wonder what would happen if I tried to hold it up to my ear like a seashell...would I hear it whispering secrets? EYEBALL EYEBALL EYEBALL. 

Is there like, an app for that?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dazed And Confused (about School Choice).

Last night I went to a neighborhood meeting regarding school choice. Not School Choice (as in "It's National School Choice Week! Hooah!), but school choice (as in "Inara is entering kindergarten next year and we have to make a decision about this NOW). I suspect the two are related...but as of this writing I am too befuddled to figure out the connection.

I am lucky to live in a school district that offers competitive choices for my daughter. I recognize that. But at the same time, I can't help but feel as though I'm being treated as a consumer in the Great School Choice Expo of 2011. Speaking of School Expos...we went to one a couple of weeks ago. It reminded me of a carnival, with booths set up housing administrators, principals, teachers, even dressed-up mascots. As we walked past each of them (with Inara covering her ears to drown out the din), we were showered with promises of small classes, second language instruction, out-of-state field trips, and pencils. Yes, pencils. We came home with a lot of free pencils. The girls liked that.

The hawking isn't the only thing that confuses me. School Choice (and by extension, our own school choice) is supposed to be freeing. It's supposed to give me the opportunity to "vote with my feet" (I learned that at the meeting last night. I took notes! Do I get a gold star?) and take the public money allotted to my child to any number of bright and shiny schools (Now with iPads for every student! And 100% fruit juice not from concentrate! Gah.). But instead of feeling enthralled, I just feel...nervous.

I know this is going to sound crazy, but guess what? My child is a person. Not a consumer. She has real live feelings and aspirations and hopes and wishes and fears. Oh boy, does she ever have fears. And when I hear about all the public and private, parochial and home schools, not to mention the charters upon charters, all packaged up in pretty bows with extra fancy gift wrap presented on silver platters that would cause any middle-income family to drool (Partnerships with colleges! Trips to Ellis Island! Pick me! We'll turn your child into the next Bill Gates...who by the way, is funding our curriculum this year! Hooah!) - I can't help but wonder. Can the system of School Choice actually sustain itself?

It's all fine and dandy for our family to make our school choice today. But what happens when the money runs out? When Bill and Melinda decide not to offer that grant to my child's school next year? Or when all the other parents in my neighborhood "vote with their feet" and take their kids to another shiny new school? What will happen to all the promises that were made? What will happen to my baby? Competition in school choice is great in theory...but I'm just not comfortable with gambling away my child's education (and future) to the highest bidder.

That's not to say that I'm a die-hard fan of public schools either. See, that's where the issue becomes cloudy. At the meeting last night I got to meet some amazing people. Dedicated professionals from both the public, private, and alternative systems who took the time out of their busy work day to come and speak to us, a neighborhood group of interested parents. That in and of itself spoke volumes to me. But I learned last night that it's not all cut and dry. What's good for your goose may not be what's good for my gander, and that some of the non-public school options look mighty fine from where I'm sitting.

I feel like a bit of hypocrite advocating for the public school system while secretly eyeing up the charters. Like a spouse on the verge of having a torrid affair...I'm tempted. Do I look but don't touch? Touch but say it didn't mean anything? I'm so confused. What's the end goal here again? College? Better career opportunities? iPaaaaadddssss......ack!

School Choice isn't just driving our district's schools into a feeding frenzy over admissions. It's a two-way street, with parents having to compete for a small number of openings in high-performing schools through a lottery system. And then there are the waiting lists, which we no doubt will have to navigate once we don't get our first choice of school. I think the lottery is more than fair...but I also think that the crazy socialist Canadian in me wishes we could grant the same opportunities to all our students. Instead of shoveling money towards opening more bright and shiny new schools, can't we try to find a way to make the ones we have even better?

Don't get me wrong. I'm grateful for the ability to choose from a plethora of wonderful schools. If there is one thing I've learned with Inara's first year of school, it's that one size definitely doesn't fit all. Inara has had a monumental year, it's been incredibly difficult for all of us and more than anything we want her to have a fantastic, nurturing experience next year. But I'm finding that it's becoming increasingly difficult to sort out what that perfect fit is going to be for my daughter.

School Choice is preventing me from making my own school choice.

What about you? Do you have to make the same tough school choices where you live? What are your thoughts on School Choice?

More Information (aka The extraneous information that makes my poor mommy brain spin):

School Choice at Wikipedia
National School Choice Week
Waiting for "Superman" at Wikipedia
Rallying for choice. How about a rally for quality? at the blog Get Schooled
Grading School Choice - NY Times Op-Ed Columnist (the comments after this piece form one of the best discussions about School Choice I've ever read)

Monday, January 24, 2011

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things (today).

It is freezing cold outside today. The schools are closed, so the girls and I have been sitting around all morning long in our fleece jammies. We've been sipping on hot drinks (tea for me, hot chocolate for them) and peeking out our windows as snow plows go roaring past. The sun is glinting off of every surface and it's so beautiful...but not beautiful enough to make me want to leave the comfort of my warm nest!

As we sit and watch the outside world blow by, we've also been making lists. Lists about the things we want to do when it warms up (go to the beach!), lists of the names we can give the new minivan we just bought (Pond Scum is my current fave), and lists upon lists of our favorite things. We're just in a listful sort of mood today . Here's a list of my favorite things at this very moment:

1. Huge bowls of steaming oatmeal. With raisins.

2. Blanket forts.

3. Giveaways on my blog (they make me happy).

4. Art projects made by my girls (they wanted to send along a special something):

5. Being inspired by my kids to add a little surprise of my own to the giveaway package:

(Hair pins made by my talented and generous friend Carla Morris.)

6. Thinking of ways to add more handmade goodies to future giveaways (I want to find a way to support local artists & small businesses, while giving YOU - my most awesome readers - more surprises to look forward to...stay tuned!).

7. Brown paper packages tied up with string:

9. Endless baby tickles resulting in baby giggles and guffaws (and have you ever seen a more delectable face?):

10. The color purple:

(on of my best friends from high school made these for me a few years ago. Wearing them and thinking of her fondly is another one of my favorite things.)

11. Catching up with a dear friend over the weekend.

12. Being given the opportunity to show her that she is one of the most beautiful souls I know, both inside and out:

13. Carrot cake. With frosting. And three kinds of sprinkles:

14. This face. She has magic in her eyes, and carrot cake on her chin. Perfection.

Your turn! What are a few of your favorite things RIGHT NOW?

(And feel free to comment on my faves! Are you excited about the possibility of future giveaway goodies? I am!) xoxoxmahreen

Friday, January 21, 2011

Presenting The De-Icer 4000

Yesterday, in honor of my first post at And Nobody Told Me (thanks to all of you for making it such a success - your comments made my day), my dear sweet hubby took us all out for dinner. One of the wonderful things about being married is getting to share in each others successes and more than myself, I think my family was really proud of me yesterday. I am one lucky lady.

On our way to our destination, I realized that we were going to pass the spot where we had our accident last week. All of a sudden, without me even realizing it, I started to get really, really tense. It was though an invisible hand came swooping down out of the sky and started squeezing my chest. I looked behind at the girls, buckled tightly to their car seats and realized that this was exactly what I was doing when we were hit. So I quickly turned back around to face whatever was coming, head on - but scared out of my wits.

As we got closer to the spot, Inara started chatting. "Mama, did you know that this road is where another car hit us? And did you know that sometimes, accidents just happen? But...Mama? Can they just happen again?"

To which Nissa held out her tiny hands and replied, "Car. Boom. Bonk. Cry?"

Shit. What was I supposed to say to these two tiny people? Who went and left me in charge, anyway? I was clearly out of my depth here, silently suffering from my own panic attack in the front seat.

Inara turned to Issie and held her hand. "Don't worry, Issie. There is no more Car Boom Bonking now. You don't ever have to cry or be scared again. Wanna know why?"

"Uh-huh?", which in Nissa's vernacular means: Do tell, big sis. I'm all ears.

And as all this is going on, I was sitting in the front seat, clutching my chest while Yousuf was mouthing "WHAT. IS. GOING. ON. WITH. YOU?!?!"

Inara continued, "Well you know, Issie. I made an invention to keep us all safe. Right, mama? Isn't it going to keep us safe now?"

And this time, I really did turn around.  Seeing my very much ALIVE little girls back there, holding each others hands. And WHOOSH! Just like that it was gone. Whatever was holding me down, squeezing me out of existence, was gone.

And just like that...whoosh...we passed The Spot Where It Happened.

I couldn't see Nissa's face because she was facing backwards, but I could see Inara's. And she could see me. She sees everything. Her eyes widened as she asked me,

"Mama? What happened? Are you feeling safe?"

Sigh. Deep breaths. Focus on the face. Inara, you are my tether. Breathe in. Breathe out. Inara, you are keeping me here.


"Yes, baby. I was scared for a minute, but I'm not anymore. We're safe."

Nissa waved her arms around and burbled, "No cry? No boom?"

Brought back to the confines of our car, tethered back to reality instead of floating around in the never-ending fog of what-ifs and what-could-have-beens, Inara and I both looked at each other, and smiled. Inara turned towards Nissa and said:

"Well of course, Issie! I made an invention to keep us safe. Didn't I Mama? And you helped me make it. You helped me and I helped you...didn't I?

Oh you have no idea, little love. But then again, maybe you do...

"Yup. We helped each other. And your invention is aaaaa-maaaazing."

Inara grinned as she launched herself into her explanation. This is how she does it, I thought to myself. This is how she keeps the fog at bay.

I realized that Inara wasn't afraid to open herself up to the past, but that the memory didn't own her. She had somehow made the fog submit to her by creating something new out of that murky darkness. It may have been grounded in fantasy, but through retellings such as this, it has become her reality. And that reality is one that she now controls.

My daughter is fearless.

All of a sudden, I was struck by how powerful her invention really was, And how it had the ability to make us all feel safe again.

"Issie, it's called the De-Icer 4000, and it has long pokers that break the ice on the road so no cars can ever slip on it again. And inside of it there are prizes, so after it's done poking the ice it can give you whatever prize you want. I like balloons. And pets. You could have some of those if you like, Issie. And the sun will be shining to help melt the ice too, and you know what? My invention can keep all of us, and even the guy who hit us, it can keep everyone safe ALWAYS! Look, Issie! Look out of your window! Can you see it? Can you see the De-Icer 4000?"

I saw the top of Nissa's little head turn to look in the direction Inara was pointing, out of her window and far away down the road. She pointed and exclaimed,

"Car. Boom. Bonk. All done!"

She believes her, I thought to myself.

"And Mama, can you see it too? Can you see the De-Icer 4000?"

I turned forward again, facing the world head on - but this time with a little less trepidation. Yousuf squeezed my hand and I relaxed, closing my eyes.  

Deep breaths. In and out. In and out.

I smiled, because in that moment, with the car whooshing forward and the world whooshing past, I really did see it there on the road in front of us. I saw it trundling along in the winter sun, poking at the ice and handing out prizes. I couldn't help but laugh at the sight of something so unimaginably silly. Something so unimaginably profound.

In that very moment, I finally felt safe.

This post is dedicated to my friend Shawntrell, who also faced the fog and came through it like a shining star.

If you are interested in keeping up with my posts at And Nobody Told Me, be sure to find me on Facebook and Twitter, so I can stop spamming you here! Happy Friday, friends...I'll see you on the flip side.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Girls Have An Announcement. anyone out there this morning?

We just wanted to hijack our Mama's blog for a moment, to tell you about something REALLY IMPORTANT. 

You'll have to come a little bit closer...closer, closer, still....that's perfect. 

My Mama says she gets lost in my eyes at this exact distance. By the way, I know what the words "exact" and "distance" mean. I looked them up in the dictionary. 

I'm hoping that you get lost in my eyes when I tell you:


How exciting!

We really  hope you like it. She's kind of nervous right now, and she really wants you to like it. So you should probably just say that you do. Trust us. 

I'm not laughing at Mama...I'm laughing at her post! 

Okay, maybe I'm laughing at Mama just a teensie weensie bit too. She's funny when she's nervous. 
We hope you have a great day, and we hope you liked our post. We're going to go back to our regular jobs now, but before we do we just wanted to show you how growned-ups look when you're reading blogs in the morning:

You guys really crack us up sometimes.

Have fun reading Mama's new blog post! We love you!

Thank you times a hundred trillion billion million and four,
Inara & Nissa

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How To Get Your Husband To Write A Post.

I know this may come as a shock to most of you, but there are some skills that I am not naturally good at - building things being one of them. That is why I knew I was in over my head when I asked Yousuf to explain, in very simple words, how he installed the rain gutter bookshelves so many of you have asked about.

I listened - with the patience of a saint I might add - as my dear husband went on and on about drilling, leveling, anchoring, and goodness knows what else. I tried REALLY HARD not to let my eyes glaze over. And I tried even harder to ask him intelligent-sounding questions such as, "So, does your laser level come in any other colors? Like purple, maybe?" At that point, my sweet, sweet husband put me out of my misery by grabbing my laptop and listing what he did to create our DIY masterpiece:

(sweet little book-loving cherub not included)

Hey, all. This is Yousuf, aka El Cheapitan, coming to you from behind Mahreen's laptop. The rain gutter bookshelves were really easy to build. In fact, they're so easy that they hardly need any explaining at all (Hey! I read that!!). This is what I did:

- For 3 shelves that were 5 feet each, I purchased 2 rain gutters (12 feet each),  6 brackets (2 per shelf) and 6 end caps from our local big-box hardware store.
- Then I cut the rain gutters to the right length. I tried it with a saw at first, but the gutters were too flexible and ended up bending instead of actually being cut. Ultimately, I had success using a Dremel Rotary Tool with the Diamond Cutting Wheel. It worked perfectly, except for all the gutter dust that flew all over me, all over the Dremel and all over the workshop. But that's why Shop Vacs were invented.
- Because we have an old house with plaster and lath walls, I couldn't mount the gutter brackets with standard drywall plugs. Instead I used Wall-Dog Anchor Screws but  if you don't have a 100 year old house you won't have that problem.
- I leveled and marked off where I wanted to mount the gutter brackets to the wall. I did not use a purple laser level for this. (But you know you WANTED to, right honey?)
- I drilled pilot holes for the Wall-Dogs and then mounted the gutter brackets to the wall using an impact driver.
- I then stuck the gutters into the brackets. Instant shelving.
- For added stability, I also anchored the endcaps of the gutters to the walls with the Wall-Dogs. Those things are now on so tight that you can use them as a climbing wall, as Nissa demonstrates daily.
- For the entire project, we spent about thirty dollars, and it took me less than half an hour from start to finish to put the shelves up. Cheap, easy, and really useful - that's my kind of DIY project.

Mahreen's Note: For those of you that are like me and need more detailed (and more visual) instructions, I happened to run across this great online tutorial for installing your own rain gutter bookshelves. I hope it will help to fill the gaping hole left by the non-existent purple laser level. Such a tragedy!

Now go forth and build! And be sure to link to the pictures of your finished projects in the comments below, whenever you finish them. I would love to see how they all turn out! Happy building, and happy reading! 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Big News and BIG NEWS.


But I do kind of feel like I just gave birth.

It's because I've been hard at work, helping to create something. See? It's almost the same thing.

Okay, okay - I'll just come out with it already! You see, I've had to keep this something top-secret for a little while, and I think I've just gotten used to being all cryptic about it....

What was that? Oh, right. GET ON WITH IT, MAHREEN.

I've got a new writing gig!!!!!!!!! I was asked to be a contributor to a stupendous new blog called And Nobody Told Me. It launches - you guessed it - TODAY! And I am beyond excited and honored to have been asked to be a part of it.

Now don't you worry, I will still be writing here at V2B. There are still plenty of things that I love talking about here (Like giveaways! And winners of giveaways! Keep reading for that BIG NEWS.), but will be my every-other-week gig starting this Thursday (that's when my first post appears...don't worry, I'll remind you about it in a few days.)! 

And Nobody Told Me a brand-spankin'-new collaborative blog with an impressive lineup of bloggers (and they're modest too - LOOK AT ME! I HAVE GREAT HAIR!). We are going to be writing about all those gory details of parenthood that were graciously - or not - omitted from discussions before you became a mom. The first few posts are already up, and you can tell that they are funny, insightful and sometimes even confessional. There's even ways for you to contribute to our growing community.

So please check it out today, either by clicking on the banner below, or on Facebook or Twitter. I hope you will be as excited about this fledgling new community and all its wonderful potential as I am!


You didn't think I was going to leave out the other bit of BIG NEWS, did you?

I couldn't do that! I was so excited about this that I was up all night thinking about it. I'm talking of course, about the winner of the V2B Children's Book Giveaway! I was so encouraged by all the positive responses I received, that I think that I am going to try really really hard to do more book giveaways in the future. I love the idea of giving away books, and not only that - I think we can have some great discussions about them too. Horizon-expanding, if you will. It's going to be fabulous!

So if you have any favorite books (whether for your kids or yourself), please email me anytime. I'd love to read and discuss them with you! I've also got a few other plans for the giveaways, to make them a little bit bigger and better, and maybe even do some good for other people...but that's a discussion for another time.

So without further adieu, by the powers invested in me by, I now present to you - The winner of my first Book Giveaway!!

(what is it with quirky named people winning all my giveaways?)

I will be contacting you as soon as I post this to get your information, and your copy of Can You Say Peace? by Karen Katz has already been ordered (along with another little teeny tiny surprise...hee hee! I love surprises!)

Thanks, everyone - for making my first year blogging such a success! And here's to onwards and upwards in the year to come...I couldn't have done any of this without your support, so THANK YOU for sharing this journey with me. There's no one I'd rather be on this crazy ride with!

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Tiger Cub Speaks Out.

One advantage of sitting at home and nursing our family's battle wounds is that I also get to indulge in catching up on my newspaper reading. I don't know anyone who hasn't seen the essay that was published in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” by Amy Chua. It's taken over the internet like wildfire, and anyone with fingers and a keyboard has something to say about it (like me!).

I read the essay when it was first published and was truly flabbergasted. I didn't agree with anything Chua wrote, and to tell you the truth, I was also a bit embarrassed. I was raised in a strict, traditional South Asian Muslim household, and I felt as though Chua had peeked right into my own childhood. It was if she had dusted off the old memories that were well hidden away, and was now proudly displaying them for the world to see, twisting my emotions and confounding me even more. I grew up not being allowed to do many of the things my peers did, and I've always been embarrassed about it. It was a different time, one where being different wasn't something to celebrate, and reading that essay made me want to push all that pent-up repression back into the closet.

I think the reason Chua's essay has resonated (both positively and negatively) with so many people is because as parents, we see ourselves represented within. Whether or not we agree with the "Tiger Mom" approach to parenting Chua so boldly champions, we all definitely have a lot to say on the topic. Some are calling her essay a marketing ploy for her new book, while others are lauding her virtual cojones for telling it like it is.

Having experienced Chua's brand of Tiger Parenting firsthand, I can tell you that I definitely want my kids to succeed - but not at the expense of distancing ourselves emotionally from each other. I don't believe that berating my children will drive them to do better. And even if it does, what cost will I have paid for that result? For me and for everything I have been experienced, the price is simply too high to pay.

I am however, really loving all the intense discussion that has surrounded Chua's essay. I love that we are engaging in this topic as parents who CARE about the welfare of our children. The views on both sides of the "Extreme Parenting" debate are passionate and well-informed, showing how North American parents are constantly searching for a new path - which I think is wonderful. There is no one-size-fits-all parenting style, nor should there be. What there should be is a constant yearning to want the best for our children - and that yearning is what Chua's essay has taken direct aim at.

The result has been a fiery response from parents, experts, bloggers, and regular ole' folks (like me!). One fantastic discussion was published this morning in a NY Time's Debate entitled Is Extreme Parenting Effective? I found it to be a very thought-provoking read, and I'm sharing one quote from each of the eight contributors here. If you have a chance to check it out, please do so. It's definitely worth a read.

From Balancing Freedom With Discipline by Yan Sun, professor, City University of New York:
"There are decided benefits to a rigorous parenting style. Persistent drilling of skills can help children acquire proficiency in certain areas...But increasingly, Chinese and Asian Americans are paying attention to the downsides of this type of parenting. What often gets lost are individuality, creativity and leadership skills."
From When Parents Feel Out of Control by Karen Karbo, novelist and memoirist:
"We live in impossibly difficult times. I don’t think I need to make a list. Amy Chua’s child-rearing manifesto speaks directly to this fear...It presumes that we can prevent our kids from hurt, harm and disappointment. It’s a fantasy of control and protection in times that seem out of control and scary."
From What Menscius's Mother Sought by C. Cindy Fan, associate dean of social sciences, U.C.L.A:
"On the other side of the Pacific, where the history is different, parents’ desire for their children to succeed is equally strong. Many single children – products of China’s one-child policy – are overprotected by their parents who, having lived through the Cultural Revolution and periods of deprivation, would do anything to provide for and educate their children. But over protection breeds dependence."
From The Opposite of Extreme Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer, child development specialist:
"Laissez-faire parenting can be too laid back and detrimental to children. Children do well when they have plenty of parental time and attention, live within routines and structures, have positive role models, room to make choices and develop independence gradually, and have a strong sense of self-belief and high but realistic aspirations."
From Defining Success for Myself by Jennifer Cheng, blogger, Every Six Minutes:
" ideas about success were limited to conventional definitions. I was driven by wanting to make my parents proud, even though they never made me feel that I owed them for their sacrifice. I now realize that I had internalized their desire for financial security and equated success with gaining professional prestige...I became stuck on a StairMaster of life, steadily tracking along an upward career trajectory but finding no fulfillment."
From The Power of Conviction by David Anderegg, professor of psychology:
" 'Parents must not only have certain ways of guiding by prohibition and permission, they must also be able to represent to the child a deep, almost somatic conviction that there is meaning in what they are doing.' Amy Chua has this conviction in spades, and because she knows she is right, her children will turn out just fine."
From When the Goal Is Successful Kids by Hara Estroff Marano, author, "A Nation of Wimps":
"There is much to be said for encouraging children to follow their own natural find their own ways to master challenges and demonstrate competence. These are struggles that take place — must take place — within. No amount of parental pushing can make it happen. The problem is, too much can derail it."
From We Are What We Know by Meredith F. Small, professor of anthropology:
"As an anthropologist, I know that exposure to other belief systems can be upsetting. After all, hearing about some other kind of parenting brings into question one's own parenting. And we never really understand the true force of our own parental belief system until confronted with a vastly different approach; reading about or experiencing other ways can be self-reflective, even life changing."
So now it's your turn. I'd love to hear what you have to say. Do you see yourself reflected in any of these views?  Do you feel that extreme parenting is effective? Do the ends justify the means when it comes to challenging your children to succeed?

ETA: I was just linked to an interview that Amy Chua did with PBS earlier today. There are a lot of people who agree with her point of view, now that she has clarified where she is coming from. You can see the interview here. Let me know what you think!

Happy Friday, everyone. Don't forget that today is the LAST DAY to enter my children's book giveaway. Entering is so easy that you could almost do it blindfolded. Just leave a message at the end of Monday's post and tell me which of the two children's books mentioned you'd like to win. Seriously! That's it! Comments close at 5pm EST and the winner will be announced on Monday, January 17th. xoxoxmahreen

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Car. Boom. Bonk.

Today you were supposed to read a post about how El Cheapitan built our fantastic rain gutter bookshelves. But that's not going to happen, because Yousuf and I never sat down last night to put that post together. Instead, we spent the evening on the phone with insurance companies after we got into an accident. Let me preface this by saying that we are all FINE - but oh, Sweet Baby Jebus, are we lucky to be here today.

The really crazy thing about the accident was that it happened so fast, and so slow at the same time. We were on our way back from doing groceries, the four of us were in the van. It's been terribly snowy here in Western NY and everyone was driving like a grandma, ourselves included. We were only two blocks away from home when we saw a car in the oncoming lane spin out and into our lane. Yousuf only had enough time to slow down a bit and climb the curb, but we were still hit pretty badly.

My thoughts about last night are so disjointed, and of course it's now the day after and I'm groggy and sore so it's not helping me make any sense of matters. These are some of the weird and random things that have been popping in and out of my brain all day, in between a hundred phone calls and emails to insurance companies and the like:

- We were coming home from the grocery store when we got hit. We tried to do the grocery shopping two days ago, but when we got there Nissa puked and Inara started shivering. So we turned right back around and came home. We thought we'd have better luck last night, but the universe had other ideas. I think it's a message. I think we should just not have to do grocery shopping ever again.

- We had time to see the car coming towards us (Fast. Too fast. Why was he driving that fast? Why wasn't he driving like a grandma? Does he not know about that rule?), but we didn't have the time to do a damn thing about it. That feeling of helplessness, of wide-eyed terror, of knowing what's going to happen - that's something I can't seem to shake.

- I tried to protect the girls. I tried to twist around in my seat and reach out for them, knowing there was nothing I could do. But I did it anyway. The EMT's said that I probably gave myself whiplash because of it. Ouchie.

- I didn't think it was going to be that bad. I actually didn't think it WAS that bad, until I smelled Did you know that airbags smell like gunpowder? We got hit and I turned back to the front and looked down and saw myself covered in white powdery stuff. I looked like I was dusted with icing sugar that smelled like gunpowder. Weird. And then I saw the airbag lying limp against the dashboard.

- I didn't even feel it. Until I felt it. Does that make any sense? I didn't feel the airbag going off, because I felt the impact of the collision. But then after the icing sugar settled, I felt the pressure square in my chest. It happened so fast. All night I kept thinking that I wouldn't have even known if something worse had happened. If my legs got crunched. If something hit me from the outside. Or worse. I would have never known. It would have happened, and it would have been over with in a second and I would never have even known.

- All the glass along the driver's side of the van shattered into thousands of tiny pieces. All over Yousuf. All over Nissa. She didn't even cry, until she heard Inara wailing. Inara started crying because she saw Nissa covered in glass. I can't believe Nissa is fine, save for the cuts on her hands. She was blanketed in glass. The door to her side of the van was so crunched in that we couldn't get to her, and had to pull her out through the window. I thought I was going to die as sat there waiting for Yousuf to get her out. He pulled her out when she was born too, unwrapping the cord from around her tiny neck. There was nobody there to help us on that day either. He's always saving her. I think they have a connection.

- I was so pissed at Nissa for throwing off her mittens right before we got hit. And of course the only place she got hurt was on her fingers. Somehow "I told you so" feels like such an awfully horrible thing to be thinking right now. Mean mommy.

- Yousuf's leg hurts. The dash scrunched down onto his shin. We have decided that shins are the most useless body part ever. They give you splints, they're not protected by muscle or fat, they're utterly exposed to flying implements of death and they are just stupid. Yousuf's shin is very messed up.

-I am stunned and awed by the kindness of strangers. A retired fireman was driving by and stopped immediately to check on us. The woman who owned the house across the street ushered the girls and I inside so that we could get out of the cold. Six emergency vehicles responded to the scene as soon as they heard children were involved.

- When it was all over and done with, a firefighter asked me if I had someone to call to drive us home. That is when I lost it. I didn't have anyone to call. Our families don't live here. I felt utterly alone. That couldn't have been farther from the truth. All night long and even this morning, we've had friends calling us. Stopping by to bring us cookies. Lovingly chastising us for not calling them last night. Maybe we've finally found a place to call home after all.

- Inara keeps asking why we got hit. Why did that man hit us? Why would he crash into us? Why would someone do such a thing? Am I safe now, Mama? Are we safe in our van? I don't know, baby. I just don't know.

- Everybody had dreams about the crash. Inara dreamt about cars spinning. Yousuf dreamt that our van got fixed but when he went to go open the door, it fell off. Issie slept fitfully, periodically wringing her hands and saying, "Car. Boom. Bonk". Boom is the sound she heard, bonk is what she calls boo-boos. I dreamt of boardgames. Hey, I'm just happy to be here, folks.

- I really wanted Yousuf to sit down somewhere last night, instead of hobbling around on his gimpy leg. But all of a sudden I saw him limping to the back of the van. A firefighter asked him if there was something valuable in the back. And he said, "I just spent TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS on groceries. I am not leaving them behind!!!" So then El Cheapitan and the poor firefighters formed a human chain and schlepped our brussels sprouts and bread and pasta out of the car. It's good to know that even under pressure, some people remain the same.

- We unpacked the groceries after we put the girls to bed. There was shattered glass in every bag. After a while it became surreal to pull out glass with the groceries. Milk and glass. Carrots and glass. Crackers and glass.

We are bumped and bruised and shell shocked, but we are okay. We will probably need a new van. El Cheapitan is not pleased. He did everything right last night, but you just can't control other drivers or the weather or slippery patches in the road. It could have happened to anyone. It could have been so much worse. There was a huge snow plow truck right behind the car that hit us. How's that for irony? On the other hand, we could have hit that snow plow and I would not be here writing this post.

I know that there are so many worse things that can happen to people. I feel like a chump complaining about this, when there are natural disasters happening abroad and senseless violence occurring here at home. But I can't shake the feeling that we escaped something really bad last night. Even the EMT's were surprised that we were relatively unhurt. I was told not to look at the van because it "looked a lot worse than you're feeling right now". I looked anyway. We are so lucky to be here. I'm so lucky that my girls are here, still yelling at me for more snacks and TV time. I'm kidding, but I'm not. We are so damn lucky.

My friend wrote to me this morning and said that she believes that the world is perfectly balanced, Yin and Yang. She told me to put on my happy shoes because she knows that we have a mega dose of goodness coming our way.

God, I hope she's right.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

In Other Words...

Look, I know that the rain gutter shelves in yesterday's post are fabulous. I'm working on a how-to with Yousuf to give you more details about them, but in the meantime...HELLO!! GIVEAWAY!!!

I think the problem is that my post was about eleventy million gazillion words long and that most of you tuned out after the shelves. Sorry about that. I'll try to be more succinct, like right now!

- I'm giving away a fantastic book.
- You can win it.
- You can even choose which book you want to win.
- It's really easy to enter the giveaway.
- All you have to do is leave a comment at the end of yesterday's post.
- The deadline to enter is this Friday, January 14th at 5pm EST.
- Have fun!
- That's it.
- Oh, and thank you for being the best readers ever.

You will get bonus points (or good karma, because I don't actually have any points to give out) for:
- Sharing this post with your friends, so that more people have a chance to WIN FREE STUFF!
- Telling them that it's the easiest giveaway to enter ever in the history of the universe.
- Also telling them not to be scared off by that crazy long post. If they decide to stick around and read this post (which I'm hoping they will want to do), they'll see what you mean. I hope.

Once again, thanks for your support, and for putting up with me and my overly-wordy ways! Good luck!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Happy Blogoversary (to me)!

One year ago today, I decided to put it all out there and start blogging. Veni, Vidi, Blogi started out as my New Year's Resolution in January of 2010, but it has evolved over the course of a year to become so much more. Thanks to all of you, what started as an outlet for a lonely Stay-At-Home mom has become a source of pride and inspiration to me. Not only have I been given the opportunity to share my personal stories with all of you, but together I do believe that we are doing some really amazing things. Through V2B, you have given me the encouragement I needed to talk about the causes I'm passionate about, and it's something I'm immensely grateful for.  It's been a wonderful year for me, and perhaps the best part about it has been getting to know those of you that stop by frequently to add your voices to mine. I love the stories that we have told together, and I'm looking forward to sharing even more with you for as long as we're all game.

One of the things I really want to do this year is talk a bit more about the books we're reading at home. Yousuf and I are both avid readers, and it's something that I'm proud to say my girls have picked up on. We read together every day, and I'm finding that it's becoming an important moment of connection for our family as we all get busier throughout the day. When I was younger, picking up a storybook transported me to amazing places, gave me the courage to be big and strong and fearless, and helped me to imagine myself as anything I could see in my mind's eye. Later on, reading all those books fostered a love of telling my own stories, I can see the same thing happening with Inara. Lately, she has been wanting to type (not write, Mama!) out her own tales based on the books she is passionate about.

So, I'd like to start this second year of blogging by talking about What The Kids Are Reading, and I'm hoping we can do this more regularly as time goes by.  I'd also love to hear about what all of you are reading at home, and which stories your kids are passionate about. We're always excited to find a new book!

Before we get to that however, I have been DYING to share this with all of you, and it's actually kind of related...

Over the holidays, Yousuf took a break from his day job as Math Professor Extraordinaire, and decided to catch up on our great big list of home improvements. One of the things we've been meaning to do for some time is build some shelving on the main level to house the girls' books. Now it would have been very easy to buy a bookshelf for the overflowing stacks of books that are threatening to take over my house, but as floor space is at a premium in our teeny house, we've been looking for other alternatives.

Something that's always interested us is the idea of putting books with their covers facing out on the shelves. The idea is that if kids can see (and reach) the book covers, they will be more interested in it's contents than just staring at a bunch of spines with titles. You'd think that this would be obvious for babies and toddlers, but it works great for kids that are reading too. Yousuf came across this great article online when he was browsing DIY bookshelves, and it really struck a chord with us. It also gave us a fantastic idea for building our own bookshelves - out of rain gutters! Crazy, I know...but check out what my super amazing hunka hunka burnin' handyman built in one afternoon (the picture is slightly blurry because I was balancing a sick baby on one hip while taking it. That's talent, peeps!):

Aren't they fabulous? We love them. I think the best part, for me, is that the girls can put all their books away neatly all on their own, and nothing is cluttering up our floor space. The girls love that they can rotate their favorite books on and off the shelves whenever they want, all by themselves, and the best part for El Cheapitan was that the shelves cost only $30 dollars to make! I don't think I've ever seen him as giddy as when he calculated the oodles of money he was going to save by building these. And you know, I'm his wife - I should be making him as giddy as thirty dollar rain gutter shelves. Sheesh. 

So the point of this huge tangent is our new book shelving is awesome and now our book-loving girls can love on their books even MORE. And also that you can see the two books that I'm going to talk about right there on the bookshelves. So now you know that when I say these two books are so well-loved and often read in our house that I'm telllin' no lies...

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf (Illustrated by Robert Lawson) and Can You Say Peace? by Karen Katz are two of our favorite books right now. It's funny, but sometimes my girls get right in sync with each other without even knowing it - like when they gravitate towards a particular theme in a book. Even though these books are geared towards different age ranges, Inara and Nissa will both sit together and pore over each of them.

The Story of Ferdinand is a very old tale (originally published in 1936) but we love it in spite of it's vintage. It tells the story of Ferdinand, a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight in a bullfight. I remember reading this book when I was younger and the story left an indelible mark on me. 

The drawings, rendered in simple black and white, are equally as nostalgic:

And of course the story is engaging and funny and whimsical and so very poignant all at the same time. Inara and I have read this book together many times and each time she talks about how wonderful it would be if everyone was able to sit and smell flowers instead of doing things that hurt other people. She is a such a gentle soul, just like Ferdinand.

Can You Say Peace is much like The Story of Ferdinand. Both books tell marvelous tales of peace and non-violence in a way that is so absorbing to little ones. Karen Katz, who has written and illustrated so many popular children's books, really outdid herself with this book. It's an absolute feast for the eyes, and every page transports you to a different country:

Along the way, you meet children from around the world who say the word "Peace" in their native language. My kids are particularly smitten with Meena from India:

 (You can tell how well-loved our copy of this book is in this shot!). 

We were given this book as a gift from a dear friend, and I think I nearly cried when we got to the last page - it's a beautiful and simple message of peace and hope for our children and generations to come:

And while it's true that I was suffering from the post-baby hormonal weepies, I still maintain that this is a very moving book. Both books are inspiring, and if you get a chance you should check them out at your local library to experience them with your kids. And be sure to let me know what you think!

Before you head out to your local  library however, maybe you'd like to leave me a comment below. I'd like to extend to you, my amazing readers and friends, a great big huge thanks for being here with me this past year. I'm breaking my no-giveaway rule again (You just can't count on me for ANYTHING, can you?) for my first blogoversary!

So here's the giveaway. All you have to do is leave a comment here between today (Monday January 10th) and Friday (January 14th) at 5pm EST. In that comment, please tell me which of the two books above (Can You Say Peace by Karen Katz or The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf) you'd like to receive. That's it! To make it fair, please enter only once. And to make it easier for me to manage, please leave your comment here on the blog instead of on my Facebook page or Twitter. I will pick a winner using after the comment period ends on Friday, and announce the name here on Monday, January 17th, 2011. Fun? I hope so!

I'm going to open this giveaway up to anyone who wants to enter - if you have an address, I will mail your book to you! I might even write a note to you on the inside cover...and I might even add a drawing (or two or three) by my kids. Or maybe something else just for you. I haven't quite decided yet. But it will be special, and it will be heartfelt from me to you, to thank you for your support during this first year of V2B!

So please spread the word about the giveaway, and please know that I am so thankful for all of you. Happy Blogoversary to me!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sock Hop.

There is a pile of socks lying on the floor beside my bed.

They are my socks, on my side of the bed, and I  have absolutely no idea how they got there.

I think I have a problem. I remember going to sleep with those socks on, because I'm an old lady who is married to a lovable miser and he keeps our thermostat hovering around minus freezing on warm days. So I always start off wearing my socks to bed, until my toes get acclimatized to the arctic tundra of my bedroom.

But for the past few days, every morning when I wake up my socks aren't on my feet anymore. And I don't remember taking them off either.

The thing is, I don't actually like sleeping with my socks on. I just like to fall asleep with them on. Which may not seem like a big distinction, but I assure you - it is. I am a woman of discriminating tastes when it comes to temperature regulation in my bed. I can be neither too hot nor too cold, or else I toss and turn and moan and groan and make Yousuf's life miserable until things are just right. Which is why I would absolutely remember the exact moment at which my feet got too hot and the socks came off.

The point is, I pay attention to things like this. What? I'm not crazy. Stop laughing.

Usually, I wait until I've reached temperature equilibrium (which involves a complicated process of snuggling, burrowing, and complaining) to reach down and snatch the socks of off my semi-defrosted feet. Then I make a very tiny, two-finger-sized hole and push my socks out from under my mountain of quilts. It's all very carefully orchestrated so as to not break the seal of warm air that I've built up around me. Quite honestly, it's a thing of beauty to behold. I've been doing it for so long that depending on the socks I wear, I can even push them off with my toes and not even have to bend down to grab them before they are released into the igloo of our bedroom.

One might say I'm a sock-tossing expert.

One might also say that I'm so good at it, that I can even do it in my sleep.

I wonder if that's it. I wonder if sock-tossing has become an autonomic reflex for me, like breathing, or drinking tea. Something I don't even have to think about. If that's the case, then it leads to some interesting questions...what else am I capable of doing in my sleep?

Go for a walk?

Make myself a snack?

Catch up on Glee?

Maybe I'm doing all those things already. I feel badly that I don't remember any of it though. I'm sure I would have enjoyed them very much.

Yousuf thinks that I am too stressed out (more on that in the days to come), and that the stress makes me stay up too late and then I come to bed and black out.

Sometimes he can be such a downer. It's stressing me out. I think I'll will myself to toss my socks at him tonight.

In any case, it's a rather problematic situation, because I also don't remember things like Nissa waking up at night, or Inara coming into our room to announce that she has to pee. Apparently I cuddled Nissa back to bed, and said, "thanks, hon" to Yousuf when he took Inara to the bathroom...but I don't remember any of it.

Just like the socks.

It bothers me - because it's not just about the socks. I wonder how much of my life I'm actually living automatically; not really thinking about as it just passes me by. That is rather troublesome. Does anybody else ever feel like this? As if you're not really engaged and just going along on auto pilot?

I think my socks are trying to tell me something, but I'm not quite sure exactly what that is just yet. I'll have to pay closer attention to the details. I like the details - I want to notice them again. But at this very moment, I've got three bajillion other things that need tending to. Just like all of you mamas that work so hard each day.

My socks feel for you.

As do I.

So for now, this shall have to remain exactly what it seems. An interesting little quirk...

...and a very big mystery.

Monday, January 3, 2011

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For Mom Jeans!

I know that I've been fairly shallow and vapid lately, with all the posts regarding the state of my hair. And I'm going to have to apologize because I'm not done self-obsessing quite yet. If you thought that the New Year would bring with it more serious and intelligent discussions around here, then you were wrong. Unless you find the topic of Mom Jeans serious. Well then, friends - come on in and pull up a chair. You and your vapid shallowness are more than welcome here.

So let's get to it. I know that this isn't a really considerate thing to mention in light of the timing and all the holiday indulgences we've all recently enjoyed (myself included)....but I'm just going to come out and say it.

I've lost some weight. Don't hate me.

Lately we've been eating well as a family, staying away from too many dinners out and getting in more activity, and it has been slowly paying off for me. At first I didn't notice, but when I started having to tighten my belt a couple more notches, I began to wonder. Were my skinny jeans losing their stretch, or was it possible that I was actually shrinking? The latter scenario was just too absurd to even consider, so I quickly pushed it out of my mind and went on my merry way.

I was still  in denial about being able to buy a size smaller than the size I have been since before Inara was born...until I accidentally pantsed myself over the holidays (thank goodness I was alone!). At that point it was simply a matter of dignity. I couldn't have my bum in danger of falling out of my jeans every time I bent over near a drawer pull! Something had to be done. I just couldn't put it off any longer; I was going to have to actually leave my house to go shopping. Bummer.

I absolutely detest shopping for jeans. There is nothing quite so horrid in all the world as having to walk into a store and make sense of  labels spewing forth gobbledygook such as "curvy" and "long" and "lean". I'm neither curvy or lean, or long or short or flared or skinny, or low-riding. I am just me. And it doesn't matter how many pounds I've shed or how many different stores I go into - nothing ever fits right on my body. Ever.

It's so incredibly frustrating, and I think I have finally figured out why. It's because jeans weren't meant for people like us. You know, people that have tushes and thighs and ankles and god forbid CALVES of normal human proportions. And it's not that I'm curvy and in denial about fitting into super skinny jeggings. That's not it at all. I've been voluptuous and I've been not as voluptuous and it simply makes no difference. Shopping for jeans will always be my most favorite pastime right after ripping off my own fingernails. And I know that no matter your body type, you're feeling me on this.

I really don't understand why women's jeans don't come with an inseam measurement. It's simply mind-boggling. Women don't only come in three heights (petite, regular, and tall), so why should our jeans? And if I can find denim that specifies the inseam, why do I have to take out a second mortgage to be able to afford it? I'm half tempted to go into the men's section and pick up some jeans that hit that sweet spot on my leg - just barely grazing the ground in the back and draping nicely over my foot in the front. Neither petite nor average, but somewhere just in the middle. Somewhere in fantasy land.

There's also the issue of fit. I kid you not,my  friends - yesterday, I tried on at least 30 pairs of jeans in six different stores in under an hour and a half. I was like the Paula Radcliffe of fitting-room marathons minus the hot bod (aside: I wonder if her jeans ever spontaneously fly off her bum? I can see that being a hazard of marathon running):

Run, Paula, Run! Run from the Mom Jeans!! 
P.S.  - You only have 90 minutes left before your baby wakes up from her nap 
and you turn into a pumpkin.

Thirty pairs of jeans later, I had nothing but sweat stains to show for my effort. That's thirty times of taking my boots on and off, thirty times of huffing back and forth and back and forth with different sizes and lengths and colors and fits of jeans, thirty times of cursing under my breath and vowing to eat more cheese and bread so that I could just fit back into my loosey-goosey jeans instead of having to endure the humiliation one more time.

What's really infuriating about non-designer jean shopping (or Denim Torture, as I lovingly refer to it), is that you can try on multiple pairs of the same size of jeans in a store, and have each of them fit you differently. It's as though you've entered a parallel universe, one where jeans are assembled by drunken monkeys with steak knives (such an apt description, and I wish I could take the credit for it - but it's by the fabulous Susan Wagner of the blog Friday Playdate. Scroll down to read all the comments - hilarious and so true!).

The issue becomes further compounded when you throw in footwear. Do I buy jeans that can be worn with flats or heels? Should the leg be wide enough to go over my boots or tucked in? Do I maybe need two pairs of jeans instead of one? Or do I need a different pair for each of my shoes? How many pairs of shoes do I own? If I carry the one and divide by four and do the hokey pokey and turn myself around will the answer become any clearer?

Do I even really care about jeans anymore?

Can't I just live out the rest of my life wearing Mom Jeans that come up to my armpits for a secure and snug fit?

I bet that would keep my bum from falling out.
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