Who says what?

Novelist, mother, minister, and yoga teacher muses on books, babies, motherhood, and what matters with reverent humor.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Is It Just Me?

So your husband takes you on a lovely English vacation with trips to London, to see castles and for cream teas, and all you care about is: a) where the nearest toilet is b) the source of your next meal c) when the children will go to sleep so you can go to sleep and d) where you can put your feet up.

I'm sure some more sophisticated, interesting human being would care about more than these four things. Alas, I am not that person. Something about pregnancy, inparticular third trimester (although morning sick first trimester too), reduces my interests to two simple things: rest and food. Am I the only one to feel this way? Is it hormonal? I have been, for most of my life, more in love with my backyard than any foreign country. What wanderlust I had got spent in my early twenties traveling across the country. I've always felt that Americans should see more of their own homeland before they ventured off to Paris and Italy and when asked--recently by my husband--if I'd like a day trip to Paris, I merely shrugged. (Thinking: No, I'd like to have a few hours by myself to sort the children's clothing and make room in our tiny house for a third baby. Actually.)

More than being a homebody, I've become more sure over time that whatever is over there, wherever there may be, is probably not much better than what's over here. In fact, despite not being totally in love with my current home town, I have been known to head over to the town beach, take a swim, and return home saying, "There is no more beautiful place on earth than here." I feel that about where I live.

Of course, England has some amazing hedges. I've been on the hedge tour. Every now and then you can peak through them to see the views. But I'm hardly a good travel guide with my hot, swollen, feet and my lusty cravings for a mattress and a good pillow. I would like to know if any "hard" research has been done on the travel habits of the pregnant female. I'd venture to guess that most of them are keen to nest and wait a few years on the Eiffel Tower trip. Anyone got studies to back me up?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Go TO Sleep!

Now that I have had the opportunity to witness first hand the long-term (and short-term) effects of cumulative sleep loss in the persons of my two very tired children who on average have lost between 2-3 hours of sleep a night over this vacation, I can personally affirm the research I've read and believed all along. Children must sleep. They must sleep a lot.

I have a son who, since infancy, has done best with tons of sleep. Most recently, twelve hours at night and a good hour nap, sometimes two hours. My daughter's natural appetite is somewhat less, as she tends to be need about 11 to 1.5 and a similar nap (and at 20 months younger).

But the fascinating chapter from Nurture Shock (a book I highly recommend) on the correlation between mood disorders, IQ and obesity (to name a few) with sleep loss in children coupled with seeing my two so compromised, makes me feel even more fervently that we should all, well, go to sleep! For longer.

I've been known to say, jokingly, that all the world's problems would be solved if we could all get a good night's sleep. Apparently, I have been right.

In my parenthood, I've been determined to uphold night time and nap time. Two books that I worked with, The No Cry Sleep Solution, and Healthy Child, Healthy Sleep Habits, educated me about the critical sleep need for infants and toddlers (while also making me feel better about my own sleep habits and why I feel so cranky when I don't get enough). I can't recommend them enough. And for mothers who are having trouble with their young children, maybe more sleep is the answer--or an earlier bedtime, or more incentive for a mid-day nap.

There are so many worthwhile statements in Nurture Shock, I don't have time to record them but leave you with this thought: "Sleep is a biological imperative for every species on earth. But humans alone try to resist its pull. Instead, we see sleep not as a physical need but a statement of character. It's considered a sign of weakness to admit fatigue--and it's a sign of strength to refuse to succumb to slumber."

Long live the truly strong among us, who, like myself, are keen to admit their fatigue!!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Travels with Children

Since I've gone out of my way to complain about my traveling woes, I'd like to spend some quality blogging time detailing some of the more lovely aspects of being abroad with my just four and two year-old.

Or perhaps you can think of these as pointers. If you plan to hike/walk with children along the many public footpaths in England definitely do bring chocolate and candies so that you can, in Pavlovian fashion, train your children to continue to walk by feeding them. Do not, however, bring along your stroller. It will not fit over, around or through. Anything.

Some might believe that there is no good food in England. This is not so. We have enjoyed a number of culinary products, chief among them: cheese. No food is enjoyed more by my two children, my eldest in particular. However, like most indulgences, it has its down side. "Sweetie, can you say constipation?" Some of the other foods we have loved: milk chocolate by Cadbury (nothing like the way it's made in the states), fresh peas in a pod, every kind of berry, grown here locally in Kent, carrots and broccoli (even the brown broccoli tastes good), beer (I'm not drinking but my husband claims it's excellent), and bread. You can buy delicious bread here from the grocery store for the equivalent of less than two American dollars. Amazing.

Finally, there is the wee issue of translation. As my husband instructed me on the plane over, do not ask for a napkin when you want to wipe your hands or they'll give you a maxi-pad. (Apparently the word "napkin" is coming into favor more, which I appreciate, since I felt silly asking for a serviette.) If an old man approaches you and says, "Hello, love," he's not a pervert, he's merely British. My son was asked the other day by a school age child, "Do you speak English?" Clearly we don't. In this country, your backyard is your garden. The mailbox is the postbox. The garbage can is the dustbin. And that diaper, it's a nappy. I have, on occasion, resorted to baby sign language (the only kind I know), with sales clerks in the hopes of conveying my meaning.

There is one thing I have noticed the English do very well. Strollers. They are so sexy, so fantastic, so stylish, I may well pay to bring one home. They have these cute little umbrellas that attach and old-fashioned style pram tops with jog-stroller type wheels. Luckily, I am having another baby or how else could I justify such an indulgence? I will buy one, load it up with cheese and chocolate, and bring it home.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Bad Lit, Good Chick? Or Bad Chick, Good Lit?

I read an interesting review of my novel the other day, picked up by my Google notifier that tells me anytime anyone mentions my book (so be careful!!). It was a fine review, but one part of it struck me. The author wrote about how, since she was happy with her husband during her child's first year of life, she couldn't identify with the protagonist in my book. Because of this, she didn't love the book.

Now what fascinates me is the criteria for judging books among the chick-class. We decide whether or not we like a novel based on whether or not we can directly identify with the main character. As someone who reads voraciously, who spent four years getting a higher education in English, I can assure you that I have loved many novel with a nasty protagonist I could not imagine myself into.

With all serious literature (and much of men's fiction), there is no need to read only what you can directly relate to as if it were one's own life. Why the limitation among women?

I've had countless women who have NO children tell me how much they liked my book. Is it possible that while many people read novels about life in Iraq or Italy, people who live in Ohio or Utah, that while many women read novels with male main characters, and many men read novels with female main characters (in fact one of my friend's husbands stayed up until one in the morning because he couldn't put my book down, yes, my book about a new mother), that CHICKS who read lit are so limited by their own experience they can't judge a book if they aren't the main character themselves?

Because where does that leave Shakespeare and Milton and Grisham, for that matter? Oh, I think chicks may be able to do better, stretch themselves out. After all, I'm a chick and I just finished a book about a Buddhist man. It was very funny. If you're feeling like a Buddhist man, you may even enjoy it: Breakfast with Buddha.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Interview with Self

Enquiring minds want to know: what's the hardest part of being nearly seven months pregnant and in England with two young children?

You want to know what it's like? You want to KNOW, is that it? In the first place, I'd like to take a deep breath and do a sun salutation but in the place we're staying but the ceilings are too low to raise your arms up over your head. And while my dear offspring have yet to settle into a rhythm after these weeks, and still are getting up at seven and not falling asleep until nine and only occasionally nap and then usually in the car, and when I have to sit with them in the car while they nap the sweat drips down my back and pools near my bottom, this is not the hardest part.

Here's the hardest part: I adore them. I love to mother them. I love to feel like I'm doing a good job--and to see them reflect this. Alas, on this trip I have felt like screaming: THESE NASTY BEASTS DON'T BELONG TO ME. In particular this is true of my son who has taking to either hitting me when I demand he do something, or threatening to hit me, usually in the neighborhood of twenty-seven times. Yes, please tell me this is a phase.<

Okay, enough with your complaining. What's the best part?

Good question. Maybe the times I've walked down the high street (what they call the main street with all the shops) in a town near us called Whitstable where there still exists a baker, a butcher, a cheese shop, a veggie/fruit store, a fish market, and a sweets store. It reminds me of the sweetness and simplicity of how life may have been in the way long ago...and also could still may, may still be in the future. And too there have been a few truly joyful moments with the children, when yesterday my boy got on a big jumping pillow at this adventure playground and tears came to my eyes at the sight of his pleasure. You know it hurts my heart to feel so distant from them--to be the disciplinarian so ceaselessly. Now that's the hardest part.

Well, no one asked you to be so serious.

You're right. The hardest part is the cheese. Cheese at every meal. Cheese every day for lunch. Don't make me explain why this is hard.
On the other hand, the best part is the cheese. Cheese at every meal. Cheese every day for lunch. Tasty cheese.