Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Slight Rant. Because I Needed This Off My Chest.

Lately it feels like I'm being criticized by people I love and respect.  People who normally support me 100%.  I know that they're probably just trying to be helpful, but it's not helping.  Today I feel the need to respond.  I know that some of these people read this blog.   Know now that I am not upset, I just had to get this off of my chest.  But first, the criticisms.

My Parenting Style
My baby does not self-soothe.  She does not sleep through the night.  She does not take long naps.  She is still breastfeeding almost every 2 hours, but lengthens that to 3-5 hours at night.  I do not let her "cry it out" and we co-sleep a lot more than either of the parents in the house would like.  She doesn't last more than 2 hours during the day before getting sleepy and needing to go back to bed.  She is a "snacker" at the breast and eats for less than five minutes.  She rarely takes both sides.  I want her to self-wean, and I also want another little one soon (assuming we can get this one sleeping a little better).  We do vaccinate, but I've been bullied into doing it on the doctor's schedule instead of my own.  We will not circumcise our boy.  We buy organic as much as possible.  I was against rice cereal until I was for it.  And I'm still not actually for it.  I don't want her to have juice, processed foods, or unnatural sugars in her diet.  I'm not even (currently) ok with giving her a cake for her first birthday.  I don't really want her to play with Barbie dolls, although I don't really see a way around this.  I'd prefer if she never watched TV, but I do turn on the TV when she's in the room.  She wakes up when she wants to in the morning.  Lately I've tweaked that to somewhere between 6-7 am.  She's ready for her first nap by 8:30.

My Wifely Duties
The house is a mess.  The laundry doesn't get put away.  We're lucky if it gets upstairs.  Half-finished projects are everywhere.  The lawn needs to be mowed, and last years' leaves are STILL out back.  It's true that I have no sex drive, that my hair is cut short, that I don't put on sexy clothing in order to take care of the baby, and that I'm still carrying about 8 pounds of baby-weight.  It's true that I'm more "mother" than "wife" these days.

Yes, I am a perfectionist.  My five-page papers are usually more like 10-pagers.  And it is important to me to four-point the one class I'm taking.

Response, Backwards
I've always been a perfectionist, and I'm just now learning how to let things slide.  But it has recently felt like the moment I do give up a little on being perfect, that's the moment people make negative comments about how I'm letting things slide.  And remember that paper I wrote that was a half-page too short?  Well I have to rewrite it because he didn't give me a grade because it wasn't "finished" yet.  So that's why I prefer to do things correctly the first time.

My hair looks good short, and it may not be sexy right now, but I honestly don't try to look sexy for my daughter, or my nephew when he comes over to play, or for the people at the grocery store, or for the other moms I get to hang out with from time to time, or for my family.  I figure that these people love me for who I am on the inside and they don't need to see the gelled hair and the makeup and the big ol' boobies popping out.  For your information, when Matt & I have time alone, we cuddle on the couch.  And when we have a babysitter I do attempt to look pretty and sexy, and I can pull off pretty-sexy pretty well.  I mean, I do have these big ol' boobies.  And by-the-way, have you ever tried having longer hair that needs to be blow-dried, moussed, curled, etc in a bathroom this small?  Dear most-recent-person-to-criticize-my-looks: I happen to know that you once said that you could never date a woman who put lotion on.  So why in the world are you bringing up the fact that I don't go all-out every single day?  Also, I'm lucky if I get a shower before the girl wakes up or becomes sick of playing in her high chair.  Forget doing the hair and makeup.

Speaking of the baby waking up and the things I can't do because she doesn't nap: I know I have an elliptical machine in my basement.  No I haven't used it in a couple of weeks.  But I'm still losing weight, so suck it.  I've lost 20 pounds of baby-weight since the girl was born.  (Yes, some of that was the girl, but it still counts.)  It's not like I can go put her in daycare and work out for a couple hours every day.  It's not like I'd want to. When she's asleep, I have to figure out how to balance my time.  It usually goes like this: food, sleep, homework, housework, workout.  Or, depending on my motivation, the last two are switched.  And if I have a deadline looming, I usually do homework before I take a nap.  In reality, I'm lucky if I make it to sleep before she wakes up.  The other day it went like this: put baby down, start laundry, have lunch, go get screaming baby.  That was a 25-minute nap.  So, no, I don't work out.  And yes, I am still carrying baby-weight.  I think it's really unrealistic of  people to expect that moms lose the weight in less than a year.  Because you also expect us to take care of our children, work outside the home, work inside the home, cook meals for the family, do the grocery shopping, and have a personal life.

As for our parenting.  First of all, it's not like I have a ton of experience doing this.  And it's not like I had any two-parent role models growing up.  So I'm - we're - doing the best we can.  It's important for us that the baby doesn't cry.  For those of you who say that it's the only way a baby can communicate, I say bullshit.  You've obviously never spent much time with a happy baby.  They communicate just fine without crying.  And then when they cry, you know something's wrong and you deal with it.  And yes, I've spoiled her by holding her and sleeping with her and I'm reaping what I've sown there.  But I honestly don't believe you can spoil a baby.  So really, I've just dug myself a hole and now I'm working on filling it back in.  And since we don't believe in crying it out, it is a slow process.  Some days I feel like we/I/she makes a lot of progress.  Other days I feel that we've taken about ten steps back.  When we visit other people, or when people visit us, or when she's a someone else's house being watched, her whole life is out of whack.  So those days are the worst.  And that's what you see.  And then the next couple of days are difficult too because babies take a while to get back into a routine.

Here's the thing: All the fixes stem from all the other fixes.  So you can either do one thing at a time or a bunch of things at once, but either way, it's taken 7 months for us to create this girl and her issues, and it certainly will take longer than one night to alter them.  I understand that most of the time.  And as I said, we're making progress.  (For example, she's currently been sleeping for 2 hours.  This is magical.)  There are a lot of things (codeword for problems/issues/habits) that I/we/I have created.  And there are a lot of things that are just my girl's personality.  She is a distracted eater and will always be a snacker.  We have started introducing solids but sometimes her tummy can't handle all that extra stuff and she gets constipated and pissy.  So sometimes we need to slow down on that, which means yes she's still waking up at night.  I am ok with this.  And what I'm not ok with, we're working on.

Basically, what I'm saying is: Unless I specifically ask you for parenting advice, please do not offer any, or criticize how we're raising Emma.  You and I both know that aside from the sleeping thing, she's an amazing little girl.  And if we're being honest, I'd say about 99% of babies have sleeping issues.  That's because they're babies.  So I think she's perfect.  And we're doing just fine.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I’ve Been At Home for 10 Months – Still Not Bored

Here are some odds & ends for the beginning of April:
April 001
Turning my girl into a bookworm already.
April 003She loves going to Baby LapSit at the library.
April 011Sleepy stroller-nap-time girl.
April 012And super-cute toes poking through the blanket.
April 016  
April 018

Grandma’s new hobby is keeping my girl in adorable hats!
April 019She  LOVES playing with her toes… it makes me wonder at what point did it become impossible for me to suck on my toes?  Wait.  Is it impossible to suck on my toes?  At what point did I stop caring?
April 021Happy sunshine girl.
April 026 
April 027

Grandmas are good at Easter baskets. 
April 032
April 033

Mom can be good at Easter too – even if Emma didn’t get out of her jammies all day…
April 038And finally a picture of the SpinachMonster wearing her Halloween bib the day after Easter.
Easter weekend was wonderful.  Dad was here, we all went to Mike & Barb’s for dinner on Saturday. 

[redacted until further notice]

Back to Easter weekend.  Saturday night was fun – Joe’s birthday.  Emma with the grandparents.  Dinner and a movie.  Very nice.
Then Sunday was oh so sleepy and relaxing and difficult with the cranky baby all at the same time.  But it was a good day.
Having cancelled all my plans for the week, Emma and I started Monday with some sleep training.  (hahahahaha)  I’m trying to get her on a schedule.  I wish I had… another three or four days without plans to keep consistently reinforcing things.  It’s gotten better, but the tooth that’s coming in isn’t helping anything.  (I predict she’ll have a top tooth by the end of April.  I also predict I’ll be wrong.  Now I’ll be right either way!  …And wrong either way…)  The best part (also the most difficult) is the quiet/snuggly time when she decides to cut naptime short.  Also, the awake and cranky time when she’s ready for the next nap but it’s not time yet. 
Today we went shopping and spent money that we shouldn’t have.  I come from a long line of people who do that.  But don’t we all?
I finished my presentation!  YES!!!!!  So on Saturday, I will go up to MSU and present “Integrating Native Literatures into the Secondary Classroom” at the Michigan Council of Teachers of English.  People will look to me as an expert.  I will trick them into believing that I’m qualified.  It will be wonderful.  It’s a great beginning into my career as an academe.  That’s me.  Sarah Jayne Davis, Academe.  LOL.
Tomorrow I will finish my essay.  At least, I hope I will.  I mean, that’s the plan.  Mostly because the essay is due tomorrow.  I also need to revise the last one since I didn’t get a grade on it.  Sadface.
So hopefully this is what will happen tomorrow: Emma will sleep from 1-3 likeagoodgirl.  I will take her over to Ashley’s.  Matt will pick her up at 6 and take her to bed.  In the meantime, I will finish my essay and go to class.  Yes.  Sounds great.
Then Friday we go to Mason for a great day and Saturday is my presentation.
Wait for the update.  And wish me luck.  And send good thoughts.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Because This is Important

Washington Post Op. Ed. -- Friday, April 2, 2010
By Diane Ravitch

I used to be a strong supporter of school accountability and choice.But in recent years, it became clear to me that these strategies were not working. The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program enacted in 2002 did not produce large gains in reading and math. The gains in math were larger before the law was implemented, and the most recent national tests showed that eighth-grade students have made no improvement in reading since 1998. By mandating a utopian goal of 100 percent proficiency, the law encouraged states to lower their standards and make false claims of progress. Worse, the law stigmatized schools that could not meet its unrealistic expectation. 

Choice, too, has been disappointing. We now know that choice is no panacea. The districts with the most choice for the longest period -- Cleveland and Milwaukee -- have seen no improvement in their public schools nor in their choice schools. Charter schools have been compared to regular public schools on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009, and have never outperformed them. Nationally, only 3 percent of public school students are enrolled in charters, and no one is giving much thought to improving the system that enrolls the other 97 percent.
It is time to change course. 

To begin with, let's agree that a good education encompasses far more than just basic skills. A good education involves learning history, geography, civics, the arts, science, literature and foreign language. Schools should be expected to teach these subjects even if students are not tested on them.

Everyone agrees that good education requires good teachers. To get good teachers, states should insist -- and the federal government should demand -- that all new teachers have a major in the subject they expect to teach or preferably a strong educational background in two subjects, such as mathematics and music or history and literature. Every state should expect teachers to pass a rigorous examination in the subjects they will teach, as well as a general examination to demonstrate their literacy and numeracy.

We need principals who are master teachers, not inexperienced teachers who took a course called "How to Be a Leader." The principal is expected to evaluate teachers, to decide who deserves tenure and to help those who are struggling and trying to improve. If the principal is not a master teacher, he or she will not be able to perform the most crucial functions of the job.

We need superintendents who are experienced educators because their decisions about personnel, curriculum and instruction affect the entire school system. If they lack experience, they will not be qualified to select the best principals or the best curricula for their districts.

We need assessments that gauge students' understanding and require them to demonstrate what they know, not tests that allow students to rely solely on guessing and picking one among four canned answers. 

We should stop using the term "failing schools" to describe schools where test scores are low. Usually, a school has low test scores because it enrolls a disproportionately large number of low-performing students. Among its students may be many who do not speak or read English, who live in poverty, who miss school frequently because they must baby-sit while their parents look for work, or who have disabilities that interfere with their learning. These are not excuses for their low scores but facts about their lives.
Instead of closing such schools and firing their staffs, every state should have inspection teams that spend time in every low-performing school and diagnose its problems. Some may be mitigated with extra teachers, extra bilingual staff, an after-school program or other resources. The inspection team may find that the school was turned into a dumping ground by district officials to make other schools look better. It may find a heroic staff that is doing well under adverse circumstances and needs help. Whatever the cause of low performance, the inspection team should create a plan to improve the school.

Only in rare circumstances should a school be closed. In many poor communities, schools are the most stable institution. Closing them destroys the fabric of the community.

We must break free of the NCLB mind-set that makes accountability synonymous with punishment. As we seek to rebuild our education system, we must improve the schools where performance is poor, not punish them.

If we are serious about school reform, we will look for long-term solutions, not quick fixes.

We wasted eight years with the "measure and punish" strategy of NCLB. Let's not waste the next eight years.