Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Clear out a good 15 minutes to read this one

This is a heavy post. So, before you decide to read it, look at this picture of Little J when he was just a wee little bebeh! So much has changed! He's not cross-eyed any more! Now, you can be done there if you want.

I've been thinking a lot recently. I think becoming a parent (or having any other major life-altering situations that include you never being the priority) really open up your mind to handle more cool stuff.

First off, I am an inherently selfish person, so I think taking care of someone else 24/7 is such a jolt to my brain function that it's helping me not just think about myself all the time. It's made me more aware of other people, how they function on a day to day basis, and what the heck is going on with our crazy world. A bit on the first point - on focusing on other people. One thing I love about being a mom is that you can talk to ANYONE about ANYTHING now, especially if they have kids. If they have had contact with a child in the past 100 years, you have something in common and that's a place to start a conversation. I love this. I love getting to know people, especially ones with kids my age, so I can pick their brains for parenting tips (there I go, being selfish again).

Now, on to the second part of what I spend my time thinking about - WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON WITH PEOPLE THESE DAYS?! There have been so many violent things happening lately! But, on the flip side, there have also been lots of touching stories of people proving that there is still good left in humanity. Now, I know that because of the media-driven culture we live in, any event, whether horrific or heroic, is plastered all over our screens within minutes of it occurring. People that would not have been noticed twenty years ago are getting recognition, so I know that maybe I'm noticing these things now because they are hyped more, not that they're actually happening more. Regardless, they are happening, and I've been thinking about why.

First: We need to stop glorifying violence. Sylvester Stallone (who I adore) is coming out with a movie called Bullet to the Head. It's about hitmen killing other hitmen while killing other people. Stop it people. Stop going to see these movies. Stop making them. Just stop it. There's enough violence going on in people's neighborhood's and homes. There don't need to be two-hour-long movies filled with more violence. I realize that the macabre is alluring (watch Bones ever?), but the fascination with serial killers and mass shooters and junk has got to stop.

Second: RESPECT! What happened to people treating other people like people? Gosh. I realize this makes me sound like a geezer, but people, put down your handheld devices and look people in the eye when you talk to them. The other person you're interacting with is another human, complete with feelings (just like you), ambitions (just like you), weaknesses (just like you), and redeeming qualities (just like you). The bullying epidemic is outrageous. Parents, teach your children to love and respect other humans, even if they "deserve" it or not. Children, do those things. A disturbing trend I've also noticed with respect to respect, is the de-humanizing of, well, humans. When there's a loss of life somewhere in the world, the number of lives lost is reported and that's it. On Sunday night, 234 Brazilians died in a fire in a club. 234 mothers' children, 234 brothers, sisters, and best friends are gone.  Maybe we don't want to feel sadness about the event, so we compartmentalize those lives into some non-human file in our brains and forget about it. It's ok to feel sad about those people who died. It's ok to feel.

Third: I've noticed a wonderful trend of people being not horrible to each other. Lots of people are donating money online to lots of great causes and generally being nice to strangers. I think this is one of those instances where people aren't being more generous, but there's more being said about those that are. Either way, it's great that they're getting more attention. Hopefully it can inspire people to be better humans.

I think that's all I'm feeling strongly about lately.

Wait! One more thing! Something on kids' public television has got me up in arms! In shows like The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That, and Wild Kratts, the characters are always intervening when animals in nature need help, and "saving" them. This is WRONG! Animals in nature DON'T need our help, and teaching children that they do is wrong. Children need to understand that carnivores are not evil, and herbivores are not all pleasant. Lots of animals die every day. Circle of life, people.
Now, let me qualify this by saying that those animals involved in oil spills and tangled up in trash, etc deserve to be helped, because it's our responsibility to fix what we've broken (the ecosystem). But, if a baby wildebeest is about to get gobbled up by a crocodile, so be it.

Ok, I've said my piece. If you've made it this far, congratulations!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Renaissance, If You Will

Ever since I became a mom to a toddler, I have experienced a renewed vigor to learn more about the world around us. When Little J was a baby, he was content with pretty much everything, and my knowledge set was never in question. Now that he's much more curious and pointing and wondering what things are, and what bird made that sound, I'm feeling like I need to know everything!

It's a wonderful experience to be curious. I love the satisfaction and relief of gaining more knowledge, and then in turn sharing that knowledge with the wee one.

We went out in the desert the other day with some friends, and I was dismayed with my lack of knowledge of desert flora and fauna. I know my Oregon and Utah birds pretty well, but there are lots of migrants here, and I feel like I'm at a turning point in my knowledge set. Either I am ok with calling everything an LBJ (unidentifiable little brown jobbie), or I make an effort to increase my knowledge and turn those LBJs into cactus wrens and vireos. I chose the latter.

Coincidentally, there was free admission to the Desert Botanical Gardens on the day I decided to plunge into my little renaissance, so Little J and I went on an adventure. It was marvelous. Marvelous! There were lots of people (mostly elderly, and ALL of them thought Little J was the cutest) and lots to learn. Here are the results of our foray:

I meant to take a nice picture of a seated curve billed thrasher, but it took
off a bit early and turned itself into a piece of art instead.

The aforementioned cactus wren sitting on its namesake.
He was no more than five feet from me.

Little J spent a lot of time playing on chairs and
making truck noises that sounded uncomfortably like
constipation noises.

I told him he wasn't allowed to walk off the path, so he would sit down and
put his feet on the gravel. What a goober.

Unlike their name implies, these teddy bear cholla cacti are in no way cuddly.

Little J getting to know a little leaf palo verde.

The gardens had some beautiful views of Papago Peak. Interestingly enough,
the park is smack in the middle of the Phoenix Valley, but you would never guess.

They had INCREDIBLE cacti gardens with hundreds of species.
Pretty mind-boggling.

I'm not sure if they did this on purpose, but much of the concrete had animal
prints in them. Rabbits, deer, mice, etc. 

Sometimes I think Little J is the cutest thing on the planet. Actually,
I think that all the time. Sorry other moms. That's just how I feel.

 I can't get this picture to be in the middle. GAH!

This last picture has a sad, yet amusing story. Little J was really wanting to touch the cacti, and for obvious reasons, I let him know that was something that would not benefit him physically. He had one run-in with a saguaro a few weeks ago, so he was inclined to listen to me. Well, I finally found a cactus that looked like it didn't have any spines, so I encouraged him to touch it, being the adventurous mother I am. I was wrong. SO WRONG. It did have spines. Tiny ones. The kind that get everywhere and make you feel like you rolled in needles. 

So, I figure this out, and I hastily pull Little J away from it, but not before he gets them all over his hands, shirt and seat of his pants. At the time I only knew about the ones on his hands, and we took a seat and pulled them out. He was patient with me plucking them all out, thank heavens. So, we look at a few more things, and we decide to go home. I pick him up, and hold him with my right arm, and BAM! It feels like I was just sat on by a porcupine. A miniature, extra-poky porcupine.

We high-tail it to the car, and off come his pants. Luckily he wore extra thick pants that day, so not all of them made it to his skin. Poor kid looks like he want to a lilliputian acupuncture appointment. We got out as many as we could and drove home. I later discovered they were all over his shirt too. In fact, I just changed his diaper (a day after the event) and pulled out another spine.

Moral of the story: Don't even THINK about touching any sort of cactus or anything remotely related to a cactus. They will lure you in with their velvety green flesh and then strike with their tiny spears of pain!

Christmas Goings-Ons

I'm struggling to find a more creative title name for this post. Maybe it'll come to me by the end. Update: Nope. Nothing. Deal with it.

Christmas was wonderful! Lots of family time, lots of good food, and lots of presents (for little J).

As we do every year, we had a live Christmas tree. The lot we bought it from advertised that the trees had come from Oregon, so we just HAD to buy one. It smelled like home, and snow, and cold, and I loved it. We decorated it from about two feet up as to avoid Little J breaking or eating any ornaments. Big J LOVES colored Christmas lights, and I abhor them, but alas, it was the colored lights year, so up they went. If there were ever ground for divorce for us, it would be over the Christmas lights issue.

Little J enjoying a candy cane. Poor kid's sugar consumption rocketed
during the holidays. He just hated every minute of it. ;)

Big J and I both have a really hard time waiting to open presents, so it's kind of a Christmas miracle we made it all the way to December 25th. We opened our stockings in the morning, and then, not having enough self control to wait until the afternoon, our regular presents shortly thereafter.
His new favorite book from his Uncle Jake.
Opening his new toy from his now favorite Uncle Jake.
Looking happy about some new books.
We're thinking next year, Little J will love Christmas even more. He was just beginning to comprehend the whole ripping-the-wrapping-paper-off thing this year, so it'll be insane the next time it happens. Since his level of comprehension is going up, it also means that we really have to make sure he understands that it's not about the presents, but it's about Christ, and celebrating His birth, and what that means to all of us. I look forward to teaching him about that.

Anyway, here are some fun before and after pictures:

Little J and I try to get in as much fun as possible while we're at home all day. And if that means playing in the middle of laundry-folding, so be it.

Before Little J and I start our fun, homely duties.
And in the midst of our homely duties.