The Great Mother

reflecting on life: stories, wisdom, inspiration, aggravation

I’m a Grown-Up June 28, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — emlott @ 9:47 am

I will be 32-years-old at the end of the summer.  Some friends will say this is terribly young, and I know they are right.  But sometimes I am caught off guard by the grey hair that is becoming more common in my tresses or an exchange with a younger adult that reveals I am no longer a college girl.  For example, when my husband and I took our son to see Dan Zanes at a local university, I fell into a conversation after the show with a college sophomore.  I told her I’d visited the university when I was in high school and briefly considered attending the school.  “But that was a long time ago,” I added.  “Yeah,” she said, nodding.  YEAH?!  I told the husband all about this remark still genuinely stunned to hear that I clearly did not look like I was close to this girl’s age (forget the fact that I was at a family concert at 11:00 on a Saturday morning for hundreds of preschoolers and their families!)  He laughed and replied, “She probably thought you were in your 30s!”  Hmph.

Another concert, this time for just the adults of the house, was a couple of weeks ago.  The darling dear surprised me with tickets to see the Indigo Girls as a Mother’s Day treat (not exactly Lady GaGa or some hot new band), and the stars aligned in such a way that we actually had a baby-sitter and got out of the house for an evening.  The opening act, however, was some young guy with quite a following of young girls, probably sophomores in college.  They knew all the songs by heart, screamed when he made his little singer-man faces, laughed at all his jokes.  But I complained that it was too loud while my beloved scrolled through updates on his BlackBerry.  Hmph.  (The Indigo Girls were fantastic, though.)

By becoming a mother, my understanding of my parents has changed.  I realize all of those good things like how deeply they have always loved me, how imperfect the art of parenting is, how tired my incessant chatter must have made them.  But I also wish I could freeze time in some way so that we could shrink the age distance between us.  I am not ready to accept that my aging means their aging, too.  Having children means I have been pushed into a next stage of adulthood, and I still don’t have my head wrapped around that fact.  I’m not so much a “young adult” now as I am just an adult.  Hmph.

Aside from my two little ones, there are some little things in daily life that heighten my age awareness, and I laugh whenever I notice them.  It’s been happening so often lately that I started running a little list in my head.  For whatever reason, these things spontaneously and unintentionally remind me that I’m a grown-up; I am smack-dab in the middle of a life that I once dreamt about.

Minced garlic in a jar.

Walking around the backyard in the early morning, coffee in hand, peeking in the garden to survey new squash and tomatoes.

Dead-heading flowers, watering ferns, and sweeping the front steps.

Folding my husband’s bazillion white undershirts.

Paying the baby-sitter.

Dry-cleaning still hanging in the bag.

A glass of white wine on a warm day.

The comforting sounds of public radio.  (Similarly: the familar voices of Lehrer, Brooks, and Shields.)

Our electric lawn mower.


Project Get Mom Healthy: Drink Study June 18, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — emlott @ 9:10 am

I developed quite a Dr. Pepper habit after the second baby was born, and I’ve now kicked the stuff out of the house. I’m still drinking coffee (2, 8 oz. cups/day) but want to slowly drop that as well. Since a friend challenged my coffee consumption, I’m doing some research to compare the nutritional info of each drink.  If you’re interested, I’m adding links below to articles that seem legitimate. Waiting for my nutrition expert brother  to share some info with me, too.

Aside from the list on the side of the can of words I cannot pronounce, my number one concern in the luscious DP is the high fructose corn syrup.  I realize HFCS is in lots of products, and we do try to avoid those along with too many enriched flour and stripped-down grains, but DP was an obvious caloric intake I could quickly control by eliminating.  

My second greatest concern was the physical craving I quickly developed.  I started with one 12-oz. can in the morning but escalated to unmonitored amounts all day; I polished off a 2-liter bottle when my husband was away for a few days.  I could feel an immediate rush after the first sip each day and kept up my energy with more and more DP each day.

The last day came a couple of weeks ago when my three-year-old wanted to share.  I’d given him small amounts of DP in recent days, but this day he screamed for it.  There is no nutritional value at all in soft drinks, and HFCS has proven links to obesity.  Why was I gulping something that I didn’t want my son to have?  So I took the last two bottles (I was up to 24-ouncers) and poured them out.

I want to live in healthy ways: physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  I want to model that for my children and enjoy real food with them, long life with them, and long walks with them.  So my first step was a small one, but it’s a step I’ve made publicly in hopes of finding support and encouragement along the way.  More posts to come on my healthy living ways!


Angelina Jolie, Not My Icon June 11, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — emlott @ 10:11 am

Naomi Wolf has written a serious girl-crush article on Angelina Jolie for the current Harper’s Bazaar.  It’s weird.  Our culture is far too celeb-obsessed, but I find this piece to be extremely odd.  As Wolf goes on and on about Jolie as the new archetype for bold, liberated, creative women, she points to Jolie’s life as proof that women really can have it all.  I have written about that fallacy before and asked why one’s goal should be to do and have all things.  But what really burned me up was this statement from Wolf on Jolie as the supermom:

She seems, without breaking stride, to care for half a football team of children while the rest of us tread water with our own biological children.

Give me a break.  This woman is a ridiculously wealthy, and her partner is ridiculously wealthy.  Jolie reportedly has one nanny for each child plus a rotating nanny to fill-in as needed.  She has a staff of people who work to feed her, clothe her, clean for her, drive her, shop for her, and to do all the same for her “half a football team of children”.  She is not doing it all and does not have it all, she has a staff of people who are doing it all.  I think it is likely a safe bet that she feels ragged and torn and worn out even with her staff of parents and cooks and managers all around her.  I would not trade places with her and do not envy her, nor to I hold her up as a healthy, wise, centered image of the woman I aspire to be.

Naomi Wolf’s perspective on Jolie is unhealthy for women.  Women, particularly mothers, already look at one another with a slanted view of what the other is accomplishing.  “Her daughter is already potty-trained.  Her son is already walking.  Her twins have been pre-enrolled at Princeton.  She lost all her baby weight in two weeks.  She never loses her temper.  Her  house always looks fantastic.  Her career is flawless.”  It is a sickness, and Wolf’s flawed argument that Angelina Jolie is the women we all desire (or should) to be like is just asinine .


Thinking, Links June 9, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — emlott @ 1:32 pm

I came across this piece on today about over-parenting.  Interesting article that gets at the anxiety of my generation’s parenting woes.  

In response to the murder of Dr. George Tiller, I have been reading online about mid-term and late-term abortion.  As a mother of two who has relished in the kicks and wiggles of a child inside me, as a woman who lost a baby due to miscarriage, it is hard for me to read about the procedure that Dr. Tiller and colleagues have performed.  I think of myself as pro-choice in that I do not want women dying from illegal procedures in back alleys.  But moving into the third trimester, my support and understanding weaken.  While visiting, I also read this essay from a mother who grieved the news of a baby with irreversible damage and was faced with only choices of loss.  Everything about Tiller’s murder is sad: the protesters, the attacker, the women (and girls) in his care, the grief and loss and anxiety and fear on all sides.  

Let’s end with something fun.  Zack Morris made a guest appearance on the new Late Show last night.  If, like me, you go to bed before late night shows begin, enjoy this link for a clip.


Not Quite A Princess Post June 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — emlott @ 12:19 pm

I have been promising to get back to this princess stuff for a couple of weeks now, but my thoughts are still quite fluid on this topic.  Why do I cringe at the thought of princess dresses lining my daughter’s closet?  Is something in me triggered by the sparkles and ruffles?  Am I just a snob?  Is it that I tend to shy away from trends that are popular?  Am I simply unrealistic as I imagine my daughter’s early years?  Is this distaste really about consumption?  Is it also about feminisim?  Or is it that I prefer wood to plastic and creative play to television?  Lots of questions, lots of thoughts.

My ugh response is not just for the princess stuff.  Let me be clear that I’m not addressing specific families here, as many of my friends have daughters who enjoy the princess play.  The princess theme is big in stores, on television, and in movies.  So my ugh is really in response to the stuff.  When my son was born, I shied away from anything with a sports theme; particularly, bibs with “Daddy’s Little Quarterback” and the like.  My infant son wore neither camo nor a sports jersey.    Now that my daughter is here, I have avoided the “Daddy’s Little Princess” or “Little Flirt” but wonder what twists and turns are to come.

The first piece of my ugh has to do with the gender lines being not just clearly drawn but narrowly determined.  Boys play sports, cowboys, and trucks while girls play house, princess, and Barbie.  This article gets at some even larger lessons of race and gender images portrayed in popular children’s tv and movies.  My son, now three, does love to play cowboy but also enjoys cooking in his kitchen.  He roars his dinosaurs but also has my original Cabbage Patch Doll to play with.  My daughter will have access to the same variety of toys to spark her imagination.

What I want to avoid, if I have any influence or smarts about me, is the premature, hyper-sexualization that attempts to devour young girls in my culture.  The princess scene, as the stores market it, can give way to the weird world of preschool make-up and wigs; little girls worrying about their figures and already concerned with being sexy.  My fifth grade drug and alcohol awareness class warned of marijuana as the much-to-be-feared gateway drug that was just one weekend’s use away from a heroin addiction.  I think I look at the pink princess alley at Target in the same, overly fearful way; just one stroll down that toy aisle, and my daughter will be sporting a Hannah Montana wig in no time.

So the obvious companion piece to my concerns about the cultural messages of maleness and femaleness is the very real problem of mass consumption.  Clearly, this is a topic that is central in my mind much of the time.   I find fuel for my fire when I hear from good folks like Rev. Billy or when I read of ridiculous items such as the preschool toy in this NPR piece.  To believe that our children are not specifically and intentionally being targeted as consumers is naive and wrong.  While I am not free from the powerful draw and ease of the big box store, and while our house is not free of useless stuff and plastic, branded junk, I hope that I am mindful of my consumption and aware of the power that less consumption might have on the world.  Perhaps the mindfulness will win more often than the consumption does.

For better or for worse, much of this mothering life is coming face-to-face with my own childhood and upbringing.  In the context of this post, I think my childhood has positive lessons to inform my parenting today.  Born in the 70s, my early years were without a VCR (I remember going to rent one at one of the first video stores in town), without cable, and without video games.  The family yard, over an acre, was fenced all around and quickly became the neighborhood hang-out for kickball tournaments, hours of imaginative play in the boxwoods and playhouse, muddy attempts at digging a swimming hole, and hiding places to runaway just across the sidewalk from the back porch.  Toy companies were a little cleaner, Disney just offered up movies without branded fruit chews and band-aids, and dress up came out of my mother’s closet instead of off the shelves of a store.  Now children (at the present typing moment, my son included) are missing out on the joys of being outside.  There’s even a disorder named for it!

My thoughts and efforts and mothering hopes for good preschool years are intimately tied to those memories and tied to my own desire to tune out the messages that our culture bangs into our brains–messages about body image, about gender roles, about perfect home and perfect self.  For today, on this lovely June Monday, I will tune out the drone of the pink sparkle aisle at Target, I will close the PowerBook, turn off the tv, listen to my children’s voices, and enjoy the feel of grass under my feet.  So enough about all this; it’s time to play.