msLaura: Modern Mama Laura Hamilton + Dan Baker = Julian Hamilton Baker & Adrian Hamilton Baker "When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility for more truth around her."
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August 28, 2008


Huffington Post review of the speech

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama
"The American Promise"
Democratic National Convention
August 28, 2008
Denver, Colorado

As prepared for delivery


To Chairman Dean and my great friend Dick Durbin; and to all my fellow citizens of this great nation;

With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.
Let me express my thanks to the historic slate of candidates who accompanied me on this journey, and especially the one who traveled the farthest - a champion for working Americans and an inspiration to my daughters and to yours -- Hillary Rodham Clinton. To President Clinton, who last night made the case for change as only he can make it; to Ted Kennedy, who embodies the spirit of service; and to the next Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, I thank you. I am grateful to finish this journey with one of the finest statesmen of our time, a man at ease with everyone from world leaders to the conductors on the Amtrak train he still takes home every night.

To the love of my life, our next First Lady, Michelle Obama, and to Sasha and Malia - I love you so much, and I'm so proud of all of you.

Four years ago, I stood before you and told you my story - of the brief union between a young man from Kenya and a young woman from Kansas who weren't well-off or well-known, but shared a belief that in America, their son could achieve whatever he put his mind to.

It is that promise that has always set this country apart - that through hard work and sacrifice, each of us can pursue our individual dreams but still come together as one American family, to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams as well.

That's why I stand here tonight. Because for two hundred and thirty two years, at each moment when that promise was in jeopardy, ordinary men and women - students and soldiers, farmers and teachers, nurses and janitors -- found the courage to keep it alive.

We meet at one of those defining moments - a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more.

Tonight, more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less. More of you have lost your homes and even more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars you can't afford to drive, credit card bills you can't afford to pay, and tuition that's beyond your reach.

These challenges are not all of government's making. But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush.

America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.

This country is more decent than one where a woman in Ohio, on the brink of retirement, finds herself one illness away from disaster after a lifetime of hard work.

This country is more generous than one where a man in Indiana has to pack up the equipment he's worked on for twenty years and watch it shipped off to China, and then chokes up as he explains how he felt like a failure when he went home to tell his family the news.

We are more compassionate than a government that lets veterans sleep on our streets and families slide into poverty; that sits on its hands while a major American city drowns before our eyes.

Tonight, I say to the American people, to Democrats and Republicans and Independents across this great land - enough! This moment - this election - is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive. Because next week, in Minnesota, the same party that brought you two terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third. And we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight. On November 4th, we must stand up and say: "Eight is enough."

Now let there be no doubt. The Republican nominee, John McCain, has worn the uniform of our country with bravery and distinction, and for that we owe him our gratitude and respect. And next week, we'll also hear about those occasions when he's broken with his party as evidence that he can deliver the change that we need.

But the record's clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush ninety percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to take a ten percent chance on change.

The truth is, on issue after issue that would make a difference in your lives - on health care and education and the economy - Senator McCain has been anything but independent. He said that our economy has made "great progress" under this President. He said that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. And when one of his chief advisors - the man who wrote his economic plan - was talking about the anxiety Americans are feeling, he said that we were just suffering from a "mental recession," and that we've become, and I quote, "a nation of whiners."

A nation of whiners? Tell that to the proud auto workers at a Michigan plant who, after they found out it was closing, kept showing up every day and working as hard as ever, because they knew there were people who counted on the brakes that they made. Tell that to the military families who shoulder their burdens silently as they watch their loved ones leave for their third or fourth or fifth tour of duty. These are not whiners. They work hard and give back and keep going without complaint. These are the Americans that I know.

Now, I don't believe that Senator McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn't know. Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under five million dollars a year? How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies but not one penny of tax relief to more than one hundred million Americans? How else could he offer a health care plan that would actually tax people's benefits, or an education plan that would do nothing to help families pay for college, or a plan that would privatize Social Security and gamble your retirement?

It's not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it.

For over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy - give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is - you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps - even if you don't have boots. You're on your own.

Well it's time for them to own their failure. It's time for us to change America.

You see, we Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress in this country.

We measure progress by how many people can find a job that pays the mortgage; whether you can put a little extra money away at the end of each month so you can someday watch your child receive her college diploma. We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was President - when the average American family saw its income go up $7,500 instead of down $2,000 like it has under George Bush.

We measure the strength of our economy not by the number of billionaires we have or the profits of the Fortune 500, but by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new business, or whether the waitress who lives on tips can take a day off to look after a sick kid without losing her job - an economy that honors the dignity of work.

The fundamentals we use to measure economic strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this country great - a promise that is the only reason I am standing here tonight.

Because in the faces of those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I see my grandfather, who signed up after Pearl Harbor, marched in Patton's Army, and was rewarded by a grateful nation with the chance to go to college on the GI Bill.

In the face of that young student who sleeps just three hours before working the night shift, I think about my mom, who raised my sister and me on her own while she worked and earned her degree; who once turned to food stamps but was still able to send us to the best schools in the country with the help of student loans and scholarships.

When I listen to another worker tell me that his factory has shut down, I remember all those men and women on the South Side of Chicago who I stood by and fought for two decades ago after the local steel plant closed.

And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business, I think about my grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle-management, despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman. She's the one who taught me about hard work. She's the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she's watching tonight, and that tonight is her night as well.

I don't know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine. These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped me. And it is on their behalf that I intend to win this election and keep our promise alive as President of the United States.

What is that promise?

It's a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will, but that we also have the obligation to treat each other with dignity and respect.

It's a promise that says the market should reward drive and innovation and generate growth, but that businesses should live up to their responsibilities to create American jobs, look out for American workers, and play by the rules of the road.

Ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves - protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools and new roads and new science and technology.

Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who's willing to work.

That's the promise of America - the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper; I am my sister's keeper.

That's the promise we need to keep. That's the change we need right now. So let me spell out exactly what that change would mean if I am President.
Change means a tax code that doesn't reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it.

Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.

I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.

I will cut taxes - cut taxes - for 95% of all working families. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class.

And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as President: in ten years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.

Washington's been talking about our oil addiction for the last thirty years, and John McCain has been there for twenty-six of them. In that time, he's said no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, no to investments in renewable energy, no to renewable fuels. And today, we import triple the amount of oil as the day that Senator McCain took office.

Now is the time to end this addiction, and to understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution. Not even close.

As President, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I'll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America. I'll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars. And I'll invest 150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy - wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and five million new jobs that pay well and can't ever be outsourced.

America, now is not the time for small plans.

Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy. Michelle and I are only here tonight because we were given a chance at an education. And I will not settle for an America where some kids don't have that chance. I'll invest in early childhood education. I'll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. And in exchange, I'll ask for higher standards and more accountability. And we will keep our promise to every young American - if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.

Now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American. If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don't, you'll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves. And as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.

Now is the time to help families with paid sick days and better family leave, because nobody in America should have to choose between keeping their jobs and caring for a sick child or ailing parent.

Now is the time to change our bankruptcy laws, so that your pensions are protected ahead of CEO bonuses; and the time to protect Social Security for future generations.

And now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day's work, because I want my daughters to have exactly the same opportunities as your sons.

Now, many of these plans will cost money, which is why I've laid out how I'll pay for every dime - by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don't help America grow. But I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less - because we cannot meet twenty-first century challenges with a twentieth century bureaucracy.

And Democrats, we must also admit that fulfilling America's promise will require more than just money. It will require a renewed sense of responsibility from each of us to recover what John F. Kennedy called our "intellectual and moral strength." Yes, government must lead on energy independence, but each of us must do our part to make our homes and businesses more efficient. Yes, we must provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair. But we must also admit that programs alone can't replace parents; that government can't turn off the television and make a child do her homework; that fathers must take more responsibility for providing the love and guidance their children need.

Individual responsibility and mutual responsibility - that's the essence of America's promise.

And just as we keep our keep our promise to the next generation here at home, so must we keep America's promise abroad. If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next Commander-in-Chief, that's a debate I'm ready to have.

For while Senator McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats we face. When John McCain said we could just "muddle through" in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights. John McCain likes to say that he'll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell - but he won't even go to the cave where he lives.

And today, as my call for a time frame to remove our troops from Iraq has been echoed by the Iraqi government and even the Bush Administration, even after we learned that Iraq has a $79 billion surplus while we're wallowing in deficits, John McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war.

That's not the judgment we need. That won't keep America safe. We need a President who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past.

You don't defeat a terrorist network that operates in eighty countries by occupying Iraq. You don't protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington. You can't truly stand up for Georgia when you've strained our oldest alliances. If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice - but it is not the change we need.

We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don't tell me that Democrats won't defend this country. Don't tell me that Democrats won't keep us safe. The Bush-McCain foreign policy has squandered the legacy that generations of Americans -- Democrats and Republicans - have built, and we are here to restore that legacy.

As Commander-in-Chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm's way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home.

I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression. I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease. And I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.

These are the policies I will pursue. And in the weeks ahead, I look forward to debating them with John McCain.

But what I will not do is suggest that the Senator takes his positions for political purposes. Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and patriotism.

The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America - they have served the United States of America.

So I've got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.

America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices, and Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past. For part of what has been lost these past eight years can't just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose - our sense of higher purpose. And that's what we have to restore.

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don't know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This too is part of America's promise - the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan Horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that's to be expected. Because if you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.

You make a big election about small things.

And you know what - it's worked before. Because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn't work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it's best to stop hoping, and settle for what you already know.

I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don't fit the typical pedigree, and I haven't spent my career in the halls of Washington.

But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the nay-sayers don't understand is that this election has never been about me. It's been about you.

For eighteen long months, you have stood up, one by one, and said enough to the politics of the past. You understand that in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result. You have shown what history teaches us - that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn't come from Washington. Change comes to Washington. Change happens because the American people demand it - because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time.

America, this is one of those moments.

I believe that as hard as it will be, the change we need is coming. Because I've seen it. Because I've lived it. I've seen it in Illinois, when we provided health care to more children and moved more families from welfare to work. I've seen it in Washington, when we worked across party lines to open up government and hold lobbyists more accountable, to give better care for our veterans and keep nuclear weapons out of terrorist hands.

And I've seen it in this campaign. In the young people who voted for the first time, and in those who got involved again after a very long time. In the Republicans who never thought they'd pick up a Democratic ballot, but did. I've seen it in the workers who would rather cut their hours back a day than see their friends lose their jobs, in the soldiers who re-enlist after losing a limb, in the good neighbors who take a stranger in when a hurricane strikes and the floodwaters rise.

This country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that's not what makes us strong. Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

Instead, it is that American spirit - that American promise - that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.

That promise is our greatest inheritance. It's a promise I make to my daughters when I tuck them in at night, and a promise that you make to yours - a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west; a promise that led workers to picket lines, and women to reach for the ballot.

And it is that promise that forty five years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln's Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream.

The men and women who gathered there could've heard many things. They could've heard words of anger and discord. They could've been told to succumb to the fear and frustration of so many dreams deferred.

But what the people heard instead - people of every creed and color, from every walk of life - is that in America, our destiny is inextricably linked. That together, our dreams can be one.

"We cannot walk alone," the preacher cried. "And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back."

America, we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done. Not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for. Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save. Not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend. America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone. At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future. Let us keep that promise - that American promise - and in the words of Scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.

Thank you, God Bless you, and God Bless the United States of America.

August 18, 2008

Moving right along....

moving right alongThings are so much better than they were two weeks ago. I have been keeping my cool with the kids, and the kids themselves are so much easier.

Well, Julian is about the same, but Adrian is WAY easier, and when Adrian is not working my every last shredded nerve, then Julian is fairly easy to handle.

The big difference? Communication. Adrian can suddenly COMMUNICATE. Not like he's speaking in full sentences or anything, but he really gets his point across. I want it, I don't want it, I prefer the other one, I'm thirsty, I'm hungry, I have to go potty, I'm tired, I dropped my toy on the floor and need you to help me get it, I want to show you something, look at this, come here, that is Daddy's shoe, that is Mommy's bag, I like that ball, etc.

Adrian uses a combination of sign language and speaking and gestures, and it's pretty awesome. Before, he would scream to indicate no, or scream with frustration we weren't understanding him. Also, his own comprehension was not nearly as good. Now he really understands what we say to him, and is generally cooperative.

He has quite the large vocabulary at this point. When he's sitting on his potty we read books (which he asks for by saying "eh?" and making the sign for "book"), and his favorites are word and picture and ABC books. I will ask him, "Where is the LION?" or "Where is the HELICOPTER?" and he almost always points to the right image. There are hundreds of pictures in the books we have, so he knows a ton of words by now. Very impressive for an 18 month old.

He doesn't *say* too many actual words verbally, not identifiable ones anyways. There's Mommy, Daddy, and Doggie. Let's see what others I can think of off the top of my head:
Eat, Drink (dink!), Yes , No, I Want That, Baby, Door

Door is the newest one. He points to a door and says it. Kind of random that he would pick that word, but there it is. There could be many other words that he's saying, but because he natters on a lot and it's all kind of jumbled up, it's hard to catch them sometimes. But his gestures and intonations are all spot on.

He likes to sing "Twinkle, Twinkle" to himself with the following lyrics:
"Mommy, Daddy, Doggie, Mom...Daddy, Doggie, Mommy, Mom"
Incredibly cute. He's very musical, that baby boy.

Adrian still has no name for himself, and no name for Julian. He was very excited looking at a family portrait of the four of us today, and I pointed to each person and asked him who they were. Mommy, Daddy, no problem. Pointed to him...silence. I know he can say "Baby", so I suggested that, but he didn't repeat it. Silence when I pointed to Julian as well. "Julian" is hard to say, so I suggested "Juju", but he wasn't repeating that either. We'll see what he comes up with.

Less screaming and more conversing makes for a much more relaxed parenting experience, and a happier household overall. Adrian has his 2-year molars coming in , and they are hurting him, but overall he's still very happy and smiley and quite witty too. He has suddenly become ticklish, and loves to be tickled under his arms and in the crook of his neck. He cracks himself up by farting.

Sneak attack on Julian the Wizard

Julian is moving along to his next developmental phase quickly too. Today we were listening to Cachao in the car on the way to IKEA for lunch. Cachao was a Cuban guy known as the inventor of the mambo, and the music is mostly old-school Afro-Cuban jams that get your booty shaking.

As soon as I put the CD on, Julian said, "Oh, I LIKE this CD." Then he thought for a moment and asked me, "Is this music African?" I was surprised and said, "Well, actually it IS African. It's Cuban, and Cuban music is a lot like African music, even though they sing in Spanish." I wasn't really sure how to describe it simply enough, but I think he understood.

I asked him how he knew the music was African and he said he wasn't sure, he just knew. He usually says at least one thing a day that surprises me...uses a complicated word in correct context, or discusses a subject in a very sophisticated, aware way. He' s still very small for his age, which makes it all a bit more surprising when he talks like such a big boy. And then he'll completely melt down over some tiny thing and all of a sudden it's like he's a 2 year-old again. Such an age of extreme behavior.

There has been a burst in helpfulness too. All of a sudden he can dress himself and put on his shoes and socks, and pick up toys and books and put them away. He doesn't LOVE picking things up and putting them away (yeah, me neither), but he's helpful if I stay on top of him and guide him gently to what needs to be done next. He likes to help me make applesauce, and can do every part of the apple peeling/coring process with my peeling/coring machine, except actually putting the apples on the prongs, because the prongs are sharp, and because the apple has to be perfectly aligned on them. But otherwise? He does it all, and I just throw the resulting apple slinkies in the kettle, season them with lemon juice and cinnamon sticks, stir, and wait. We're a Badass Applesauce-making Team.

At other times there is just zero focus, of course. It's surprising what he can do when he is motivated, and how little he can do when he is just not in the mood.

Dan took Adrian and Bugs for a walk last week and Julian stayed home to help me with some gardening. He was supposed to pick cherry tomatoes, but he lost interest after about two minutes. Granted, he had been at summer camp most of the day and was a little tired, but he likes to pick fruit, so I was surprised when he said he was done so quickly.

I asked him if he wanted to pick beans instead and he said "OK". But no sooner had I walked back over to the place where I was planting chard than he was done with that task too. "Mommy, I'm DONE. My feet are tired of standing up and picking these beans." Instead he wanted to help me dig holes for the chard, but then when I set him on that task he wanted to punch holes in the drip irrigation system. Whatever he thought he wanted do to, it only lasted a minute before he wanted to move on to something else.

I teased him that he wasn't a very good farm boy, since a real farm boy would be working from morning to night picking beans and tomatoes and milking cows and feeding chickens and lots of other things besides.

He said, "I AM a farm boy. I AM." I asked him how he could be a farm boy when he didn't want to work for even five minutes on our little farm, and we still had to pick tomatoes and beans for our dinner. If we didn't do our little tiny bit of farm work tonight, then what would we eat?

He looked at me and said, "Mommy, don't you need to go to Trader Joe's anyway? While you are there you can get something for dinner. Then I can be a real farm boy tomorrow when I am not so tired."

Well hmmmm, can't argue with that. Wouldn't fly on a real farm, but luckily our tomatoes and beans weren't like unmilked cows or unfed chickens...they could wait until tomorrow. The chard couldn't really wait one more day to be planted, so I finished that up quickly while Julian played (he DID have energy to play with the hose) and then we went inside.

Speaking of our little farm...

This year I didn't really till up the soil and amend it with compost like I did in past years. I just dug little pits, threw in some compost, and then mixed it up before planting something in each of the little pits.

Well, apparently that totally sucks as a farming technique. In years past my plants have grown tall and lush, and been very productive. This year? Nothing. Everything grew at a snail's pace, and then it all slowly turned yellow and started to die. EVERYTHING. Tomatoes, squash, cucumbers...the only things doing OK were peppers and basil. Not so great, but they were at least surviving.

We have been having a very mild summer (I've had on sweatshirts during the day in August), so that is one factor. I went to the nursery and a very angry chick with a lot of attitude told me that I was watering too much. I should water less.

I figured she was way off, and I was right. I upped the water to twice as much, and dosed everything with a big fat shot of Miracle Grow. No, it's not organic, but I had already given a big dose of organic fertilizer and it was doing zip. Next time I'll mix it into the soil when I am tilling, and do this thing right. But I had to give the Miracle Grow just to keep things alive.

The Miracle Grow was like Veggie Steroids. Within a day my garden was looking revitalized. A week later I had new green growth on all the plants, the few hard, unripe fruits I had were ripening, and in general everything looked about a thousand times better. Dang. Miracle Grow is the bomb.

Lessons learned this week:
1) Kids can change unbelievably fast. It truly seems to be darkest right before the dawn. Also helps to not be a raving maniac.

2) If you hit rock bottom and vent about the darkness on your blog, that seems to speed up the dawning process immensely.

3) When gardening, take the time to do things right. Prepare the soil by tilling it and adding plenty of organic matter and compost to feed the plants later on. Make sure you are giving enough water for each plant. Monitor the situation carefully and be prepared to work hard to fix things if they don't seem to be going right. Don't listen to that bitch at the info counter at Yamagami's Nursery. And finally...if all else fails and you seem to have fucked things up in spite of your best efforts, don't be afraid to use some Miracle Grow to save the day. Try harder next year.

4) Most of the above works for kids as well.

5) Keeping your cool is worth the effort. Everyone wins.

August 10, 2008

My name is Laura, and I am an Angry Mom, godammit!

So here's my big confession...I have been an Angry Mom for the past month, maybe two.

The kids have been going bonkers and being horrible, and I have had this never-ending PMS going on (two periods in a month, face a pimply mess) and I have been getting too little sleep, and I just have NOT been able to keep it together. Every time I go away from the kids I formulate extensive and detailed plans for improving my behavior, but then at the first shrill scream upon their return my nerves just shatter and I start yelling again and generally losing it.

The thing is, I totally know better. I have read many good parenting books, I know all kinds of good parenting techniques, what to do at times of less-than-stellar kid behavior, and how to preserve your relationship instead of sabotaging i.t.. but as soon as my buttons get pushed, which has been pretty much constantly, I JUST CAN'T DO THE RIGHT THING. Instead I yell, scream, swat, spank, throw kids in their room and basically feel miserably like I am going to have a heart attack at any second. OUT OF CONTROL.

All the books I have read on gentle parenting and positive discipline techniques were still sticking with me, but I have been so angry and so on edge 24/7 that I just can't get back to any kind of calm center to be able to put them into practice. I get to the point where I just don't give a fuck anymore about being a good parent, just EVERYONE LEAVE ME ALONE AND SHUT THE HELL UP. Mothering seems like a nightmare scenario that I will never escape from.

Of course, the worse I behave, the more the kids wig out and react right back. I recognized this and still couldn't stop.

Dan has been awesome when I am at my worst. He stays calm and sets a good example, talking patiently with Julian at his most whiny and annoying, distracting Adrian at his wildest and most destructive.
Then I improve a little bit and Dan falls apart. We have been alternating back and forth, each holding it together when the other loses it completely, and then switching roles.

The kids have been incredibly difficult. I don't know what's up, some kind of developmental burst or disequilibrium phase, or whatever you want to call it, but both of them have been nearly unbearable for at least a month, maybe two. No excuse for bad parenting, but they definitely pushed things to the brink. They weren't torturing small animals or anything weird like that, they were just being annoying small children. Whiny, loud, melting down constantly, demanding, beyond high-need, destructive, that kind of thing.

Mind you, I haven't been beating them senseless or locking them in cages or anything (though I did fantasize about it from time to time), but I did an awful lot of yelling, and used mean verbally abusive language, and even smacked them several times. I am embarrassed at my bad behavior and lack of control. I have bad memories of my own parents going totally nuts on me and screaming and yelling and spanking and saying nasty things, and am 100% positive that I don't want to repeat that with my own kids. I want to break that angry chain right here and now.

I very clearly remember being yelled at my my parents, and being treated poorly and unfairly. I remember being spanked by hands and then beaten with worse things when that didn't hurt anymore. I remember being scared by angry red faces with bulging eyeballs screaming right in my face. At no point did any of that help me. It just made me want t rebel against them. It made me hate them. It made me stop trusting them. It gave me an ulcer at age 9, for crying out loud. It made me want to get the hell away from them as soon as I possibly could. They were good parents in lots of other ways, but damn, they were (and still are) angry people.

Dan and I laid down a NO YELLING house rule, and that has helped us keep our cool, but we still break the rule from time to time. Still, it's better when you can at least agree that something is not OK and work towards stopping it. We told the kids that we were yelling too much and not being patient with them and talking things out, and that we were very sorry. If anyone breaks the house NO YELLING rule, then anyone else can call them on it.

I had one very bad episode where I screamed and smacked and completely lost it, and after that I was so DONE with being an angry parent, because honestly, it kills me too. It's not like I feel some great satisfaction and release when I am a Bad Mom and yell and scream and go nuts. Instead I feel like I'm going to keel over from a heart attack and brain aneurysm all at once.

Anyway, I knew I needed help, but wasn't sure where to start. A parenting crisis hotline? A therapist? I couldn't even think straight, I was in such bad shape and so stressed out, and also it's not so easy at all to admit that you absolutely SUCK as a parent.

What was my problem anyway? Maybe I should have never had kids. I said for a long time that I would never have kids. Maybe I was right, and I'm just not at all cut out for this mothering thing. I'm not patient. I like peace and quiet and lots of time to myself with a good book. I have never been a babysitter or a kindergarten teacher or a nanny or anything like that. Shit, maybe I've just made a horrible mistake.

But no...that's not it. I HAVE been a good and generous and loving mom. I DO know what to do, and I HAVE enjoyed my children, and no matter who I was before, I have stretched and grown and changed into who I have needed to be in my current role. I don't really want to just sit around with a good book 24/7 for the rest of my life, as much as I love to do that. I just don't want to be so fucking ANGRY all the time. I want to be serene again.

ANGRY. That's my problem. I'm too angry. It's not that I'm a bad mom, or not cut out for this, or that my kids are horrible...maybe momentarily in the current phase they're going through, but not overall. I just need some anger management, because it's the ANGER that is my problem.

I'm not saying that no one should ever be angry. Anger is very useful for motivating people to take action on important issues. When someone is threatening you, or taking advantage of you, opening a can of whup-ass is often useful like nothing else can be. But to be expressing anger in a toxic way, so often, with people you love, especially children...that's fucked up.

I had a moment of clarity and remembered the title of a book that was recommended on my positive parenting email list over and over again. "When Anger Hurts Your Kids". I ordered it with Express Shipping and immediately felt better, like I had figured out the problem. INABILITY TO CONTROL MY ANGER. Step back out of the infuriating moment and take in the bigger picture. Be the grown up, not the two year old.

Book Description All parents get angry sometimes, but research clearly suggests that the amount of anger expressed in the family will have a negative impact on a child's performance in nearly every important area of life. When Anger Hurts Your Kids brings together the practical lessons of a two-year study of 285 parents. You'll learn how to tell if your family has anger problems, how to combat the 18 mistaken beliefs that fuel anger, and how to practice the art of problem-solving communication-skills that will let you feel more effective as a parent and let your kids grow up free of anger's damaging effects.

That just about nails it on the head. Anger is the #1 Beast that I must do battle with.

The book is good so far. The research is frightening (most parents are angry, and kids of angry parents tend to be depressed, less empathetic to the pain of others, do worse academically, commit more crimes, abuse drugs and alcohol, are more violent and abusive to their children and spouses, and so on). I'm not really to the solutions part (I haven't been able to read an entire book in over 18 months, remember?), but so far I am sold on the messaging.

One part that I liked was this...that it is a thousand times better to say "You are making me very angry right now by doing X when I asked you not to. It's time to go to your room until you can stop doing that" than to say, for example "Goddamn it, you stupid brat! I told you to stop doing that! Can;t you do ANYTHING right? Go to your room!" So right off the bat, the expectation is not that you be a saint or be *without* anger, just that you begin to express it appropriately and without verbal abuse attached.

Things have eased up on the home front. Adrian is being a little less destructive and the decibel volume has gone down slightly. He can also suddenly nod for "Yes" and shake his head for "No", and that, my friends, makes life with him so much easier, it's amazing. He has been great at signing and other communication, but his way of saying NO to something until just this week was to scream and cry and act like the end of the world had just arrived. So let's hear it for the boy.....WOOHOO!

Julian is still being super-whiny, but when he's not whiny, he's just fine. Yesterday he helped me with housework for almost an hour straight, folding laundry and putting it away, which was very sweet and much appreciated.

Even Adrian got into the housework act and had a little sponge and spray bottle to "help" me clean the bathroom. Yes, that "help" is in italics, because he made a pretty big mess, but he was cute anyways.

Also, BOTH KIDS SLEPT ALL THE WAY THROUGH THE NIGHT LAST NIGHT. This is rarer than Haley's Comet. I am still in shock. I think they were both so tired from being sick, and now that they feel better they just sacked out. Adrian did wake up briefly for just a minute, but he didn't even scream and cry for milk like he usually does. He just snuggled in closer, put his arms around me, gave a big sigh of happiness and went back to sleep. Whoa.

I think my Super PMS might be easing up as well. My face sort of cleared up a little, and I stopped bleeding. That's *something*, at least.

And I'm back to taking a deep breath and working on my calm, patient response to Kid Insanity when it arises. When I can be calm, they can usually be calm too, and we don't escalate things into the Bad Place.

Julian was flipping out the other afternoon and started pushing my buttons. I stayed calm (though it was a struggle), poured him a cool drink, a snack, put it on a tray, started up a story CD on his CD player, and told him he had had a long day and needed some quiet time to relax in his room. I didn't THROW him in his room, I helped him relax. I gave him a tool to fix himself when he felt out of control. Yes!

He fought me at first, but then he agreed that he felt tired and crabby. And then the other day after he got home from a long day at summer camp, he actually told me, "Mama, I had a long day at summer camp. I need some quiet time in my room. Can you make a snack for me and give me a cold drink please?"

High five to J! High five to me! When he felt better and more calmed down, he came out. He could rely on me to help him when he felt bad, instead of me just making him feel worse.

I think I'm on a roll. FAR from perfect, but hopefully getting back to a good place. I want to enjoy my kids again and not see them as a burden to endure until they leave. I don't want to be angry anymore. I know I will be from time to time, but I don't want to lash out and get nasty anymore. I want to be playful and calm and helpful and have my kids know that they can depend on me to show them what to do with difficult emotions, instead of getting medieval on their asses.

Because how can I tell them that yelling and hitting are wrong and then do it myself? How can I teach them effective methods of dealing with their own anger and sadness and frustration in life, when I am modeling exactly the opposite? I can't. I just can't. It doesn't make sense.

Hard work ahead. Parenting is no job for sissies.

A Nasal Miscarriage

Everyone in the family has been sick for two weeks. First we had the flu, then Adrian's morphed into an ear infection, Julian's morphed into bronchitis and a possible sinus infection, and I am fighting a sinus infection right now.

Adrian was getting better from his flu, and then all of a sudden he took a big turn for the worse, with goopy green eyes and nose. That was right about the time that he stopped sleeping. Two nights in a row of sleeplessness, where he only slept for half an hour at a time, and then not at all after 3:00am. A 15 minute nap on both days. Crying all the time.

Julian was waking up every few hours screaming and crying and coughing, usually just when I had managed to get Adrian back to sleep.

This is the very definition of misery, when your kids stop sleeping, cry endlessly, and you don't feel so hot yourself.

On the second night of Adrian's not sleeping, he was crying "MOMMMEEEE!!!!" and I asked him "Baby, what's wrong, can you tell me?" This time he pointed to his ear and made the sign for "hurt". Aha! An ear infection!

Next morning I had the kids in to the pediatrician first thing. Unfortunately by the time I got them out of there, got the prescription picked up, and ran all the other errands I had to do, I was feeling pretty damn sick myself and it was too late to see anyone.

It was late Friday afternoon (of course...I ONLY get sick on Fridays after the doctor's office closes). Super sore throat and one completely blocked nostril, accompanied by a burning fire in my left sinus. Since my last sinus infection was so bad I thought I was going to die, I was a little panicky about the prospect of developing a sinus infection late on a Friday afternoon, and so far it hasn't been fun.

Yesterday I got out my Neti Pot and gave my sinuses a good cleansing. I normally do it just once on either side, but my left sinus was still blocked after I poured a whole pot through it, so I just kept going.

Green goo kept coming out, little by little, and then after the third pot I blew my nose hard into the sink and this....this....THING shot out of my left nostril. It was at least an inch long, and about half an inch wide, and the very first thing I thought when I saw it was that I had just had a miscarriage out my nose. It was a total meat purse. I am absolutely kicking myself for not taking a picture of it, because it was so utterly weird and unbelievable, but I was a little too freaked out at the time to think clearly.

I grabbed it and started dissecting it with my fingers. It had this meaty sort of tough core, and flecks of blood in it. I'm pretty sure it was just layers of dried up mucus that had piled up to form a stalagtite of sorts in my sinus, but Jesus Christ, it was odd. Odd and HUGE and more than a little bit creepy.

I could instantly breathe clearly on that side after it came out. No shit, huh? I can't believe that was inside my head. No wonder I felt crappy. The other side was still kind of blocked, so I kept washing and washing it out with a few more Neti pots full of saline, but nothing else came out except a little more green goo.

I still felt sick last night, but my throat was not as sore today, and I *think* my sinuses might be improving. I don't feel worse, and that's a good thing.

So what I'm wondering is...if you have a giant freaky Snot Clot up in your sinuses like that, and you take antibiotics, that might kill the bacteria, but what happens to that creepy creature? Does it just break up and come out on its own? It just seems odd that a doctor wouldn't try to wash things out somehow and get the blockage out of your sinuses in the first place, if the blockage is what's causing the infection. Or is that what ENTs do?

Maybe I never did get the Snot Clot cleared out after prior infections, and that's why, after NEVER having had a sinus infection in my life despite hayfever, colds, flu and even about of double pneumonia, I have suddenly started getting them in the past two years after every little cold and flu, even mild ones. In that case, I'm freaking THRILLED to have gotten that monster out of my sinuses. I'm thrilled anyway, but even more so if it has possibly been the root of all the sinus evil I have had over the past two years. From the looks of it, this thing had been up there a long time. It practically had hair and teeth.

We'll see how things fingers are crossed for improved health and LOTS more sleep for everyone.

August 05, 2008

The Mom Face

From my pal Tina Kugler, one of the funniest people I know, and creator of my TPB website logo:

Her caption: "i've realized that, really, the only time i'm not clenching my teeth is when i'm yelling. because even if one of the kids is actually being good, that means another one is not...
p.s. if you tilt your head, the drawing on the right is also what i look like when i'm sleeping."

I have been utterly amiss in updating this blog for the past month. Not because nothing is contraire, mes chers amis, au-fucking-contraire.

I don't even know where to begin, except to say that I have been struggling mightily with motherhood, and work, but mostly with motherhood.

The total, complete and utter loss of Me Time and Personal Space is hard to deal with. I have not read a book since Adrian was born, 18 months ago. This is a new world record for me, the Bookworm.

The constant noise is hard to deal with. Screaming and whining are hard to deal with.

Having my body parts constantly yanked, bonked, pulled, pinched, slapped, tapped and suckled on is a challenge.

Lack of sleep is a big one. Especially when you are awakened by someone headbutting you and screaming in your ear...."MOOOOMMMMMMMMEEEEEEEEE!"

Fighting and arguing and one kid pushing/hitting/pinching another...not fun.

Never being in any public space without being on Red Fucking Alert that a big screamfest might be coming along any moment.

Broken, tattered, chewed, smashed, drawn on with crayon....all possibilities for my cherished personal items.

Yesterday Adrian broke the rear windshield wiper off my car. Just reached up, grabbed it, and yanked it off. Today he smashed a huge mug of sweet tea all over the bathroom, and then, an hour later, smashed a freshly prepared plate of lunch for Julian all over the kitchen floor. He was on my back and reached out and grabbed it with his FOOT, people.

It used to be that people thought I was 5-6 years younger than my actual age. Now? I don't know, but I feel about 90. I look in the mirror and see a haggard, stressed out person looking back at me. Where did all those wrinkles and lines come from?

It's not just stress and lack of sleep, and yelling. It's falling asleep while laying down with the baby, without washing your face or brushing your teeth. It's about being too tired to moisturize. It's about being forgetting to put on sunscreen before leaving the house for the day. It's about not having time to drive up to San Francisco to see my dermatologist, and hoping that I don't have a malignant melanoma festering away on my back in the meantime.

Obviously, it's not just me who feels this way. Tina's in the thick of it too. She's got THREE kids, for god's sake.

And how about THIS woman, who just gave birth to her EIGHTEENTH child?

Here she is with 13 of her 18 kids. They look happy enough. But that poor woman is only FORTY-FOUR YEARS OLD. She looks at least sixty-five.

It will get better, I know. The kids will grow up and get older and won't be so high-need, and I'll have time to read books and put on moisturizer and sleep more than 4 hours at a stretch. The pinching and screaming will stop. The whining will die down.

And don't get me wrong, it's not all bad. My kids are super-cute and *generally* well-behaved, it's just that they are small children, and small children? I'm starting to think that I don't like them all that much, you know?

Julian's starting to come out of it at 4.5yo. Most of the time we get along just fine, although he is maddening us at the moment by refusing to eat anything, and weeping/wailing/whining semi-continuously.

Adrian is 18 months, and he is a cross between a hurricane, the Tasmanian Devil, and a jet plane taking off next to your head. Good thing he's adorable when he's not breaking my plates, or my eardrums.

At this particular moment in time, each day is a long, hard slog of sheer endurance to the bedtime finish line, punctuated by moments of cuteness, comedy, and pure love.

Only four more years until they're both in school. Yes!

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