The First of Many

{Image source: DaveCrosby}
Today is the first of many, many 29th birthdays. Because, clearly, I don't plan on getting any older.

Except, I will. No matter how badly I lie about my age (and I will), I'm eventually going to be 30, 35, 40, 50, and so on. Today, really, begins the end of my 20s.

Please take a moment of reverent silence.

OK, now that that's out of the way, I'm going to celebrate! For years, I've had lists of things I wanted to do by such-and-such a date. Included in that was "By The Time I Graduate College," "By 2008," and "By The Time I Turn 30."

Turning 30 is upon me, so I took a good, long look at what I wanted to do. Some things are just no longer feasible: I'm not going to be able to visit all 50 states and I'm not going to become fluent in a foreign language. Some things I've already done: get married and have kids are two things that come to mind.

After some contemplation (and a brief reading of Siobhan Adcock's 30 Things Everyone Should Know How to Do Before Turning 30), I came up with a list of 12 things I'd like to do during this next year. They're divided into four categories: Things I Used to [Know How to] Do; Things I Should Know How to Do by Now; Things I Meant to Do a Long Time Ago; and Things I Want to Do, Damn It. Each month, I'm going to pick a task and focus on completing it. If I can't do it inside of that month, that's fine, just as long as I do it before I turn 30.

Ready for the bucket list? In no particular order:

1. Do a Level 5 floor routine. Back in the day, I was a gymnast. A relatively good one, at that. I know I can never be at the same level that I was, but if I can complete a floor routine of the lowest competitive level, I'll be happy. Oh, why floor? I no longer have callouses on my hands (ruling out the uneven bars), I'm no strong enough for the vault, and the beam scares the living crap outta me. Floor it is.

2. See 5 new places of national or international historical or commercial significance. I've been to a lot of places. I've seen the Berlin Wall, the Golden Gate Bridge, Buckingham Palace and Stonehenge, Martin Luther King, Jr's church on Dexter Ave., etc. But I've never been to the White House, Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, or a slew of other places. I'd like to check a few off.

3. Whistle through 2 fingers. You know how in movies, the dashing male lead hails a taxi for the damsel in distress using nothing but his thumb and his forefinger? Yeah, I don't know how to do that. I'd like to know, despite the fact that I am neither dashing nor male.

4. Get a piece "audition ready" on the oboe. I've been playing since I was 13, but it's been a long, long time since I've played for real. I'd like to get something prepared to the point that I can audition with it; actual auditioning need not happen.

5. Play roulette in Vegas. Of the times I've been to Vegas, I've never placed a real bet. I've always stuck to the slot machines. While it can be fun feeding pennies into the slot and pushing the button/pulling the lever, there's something awesome about taking a wad of cash or stack of chips, placing it on the table, and saying, "Put it all on black!" Or red. Or 31. Whatever. The point is to do it. (COMPLETED August 2011)

6. Run a 5K. I can't lie, I hate running. Even back in my in-shape days, I hated it. I only did it because I had to. However, I've always wanted to do a race longer than a mile, so 5K it is. (COMPLETED April 2012)

7. Travel to 5 new states. This one went under extensive renovation. At first, it was visit all 50 states, set when I was 20. Then I moved abroad and realized that 50 states was never going to happen, so I said 30 state capitals. A quick assessment a few days ago revealed that I'm 12 short and we simply can't afford for me to go jet-setting around the country just so I can reach a (kind of silly) goal. So, considering that I've already been to more than 30 states, I settled on adding five new states to the list. Delaware, here we come!

8. Refinish 2 chairs. I have these old, ugly chairs sitting outside on my porch just waiting for a new coat of paint. And maybe a cushion. I've never appropriately refinished a piece of furniture, so I figured that this was a good one to cross off the list.

9. Learn to play the piano. I am solidly a righty. So, despite the fact that I can read both treble clef and bass clef (although treble with a MUCH higher comprehension), I can't play the frickin' piano properly because my left hand just won't work. I'd love to be one of those people that can sit down and play something other than "Heart and Soul," so I'm going to become one of them.

10. Take a hot air balloon ride. This one is a combination of minor (read: major) influence from my husband and jacking from someone else. It's not an original idea, but it's a good one. So I'm going to do it.

11. Decorate a cake nicely. This one never used to bother me, but after botching cake after child's cake, I have to learn to do it nicely. Before they start remembering their birthdays. (COMPLETED July 2011)

12. Be in a play, commercial, or other dramatic production. I didn't do this in junior high or high school because a) drama kids were weird and b) most of the productions were musicals and I can't carry a tune in a bucket. But you know what? I'm going to do it. Or at least try.

I have other things I want to do, of course, like get published in a non-online forum, get my pre-baby body back (or at least weight), and meet someone famous, but they're not limited to my 20s. Well, that and I don't really have control over the last one ... unless I completely prostitute myself out, which I'm not going to do. If they happen, awesome, but if they don't, there's always the next 30 years.


A Mother Looks Like ...

{Image source: Samjhana Moon}
Last week, after I wrote those two posts on motherhood, I had a friend as me what I thought a mother should look like. I thought it was an interesting question, and one I would like to answer fully.

Let's establish one fact: any woman with a functioning uterus, et al., and access to sperm can be a biological mother. For those without working lady parts or sperm, a woman can still become a mother through the miracle of adoption.

Therefore, a mother can be a complete glamazon or can be tattooed, can have extremely large fake breasts or can have a saggy, droopy butt, can wear stilettos and short skirts or can favor Mom jeans and quilted vests. She can hold down a high-powered job or stay at home with the kids. She can volunteer for every charity under the sun or she can lay on the couch blogging and eating chocolates all day *cough cough*.

If the question is what does a typical mom look like, well, that comes down to geographical location, age, and culture. Where I live, moms tend to favor workout clothes and running shoes or twill pants with a polo shirt or fitted t-shirt. In the South, I remember them favoring a variety of light-weight clothing with cute shoes and coordinating jewelry (pearls preferred). In Vegas, I hear that the drop-off/pick-up line is littered with double-D breasts, short skirts, and stiletto heels. When we lived in the Midwest, most of the women in my neighborhood wore jeans and t-shirts in the warmer months and thick jackets and boots in the colder months.

That's just the U.S. It's safe to say that in India, the mothers probably wear saris. Middle Eastern mothers probably tend towards, if not a full burqa, a hajib. The Korean community near us is full of tiny women in stretchy pants, sparkly shirts, and bejeweled sandals, so I'm going to assume that South Korean mothers dress in a similar manner. Based on past readings of National Geographic, some African mothers wear nothing but a wrap around the waist, some righteous earrings, and their babies.

The point is, a mother can look like almost anything. She can be almost anyone. There really is no right way or wrong way to dress or present oneself, as long as it's keeping in the the culture and is age-appropriate. Which is subjective. So, moms, use your best judgment when going to the playground, but don't let anyone give you sh*t.


The Good Parts of Motherhood

{© Julie Wojszynski 2008}
After yesterday's controversial truthful post, I thought that I'd do a 180 and tell you the good parts of motherhood. Because, even though being a parent can suck sometimes, it's not all bad.

And no, I'm not lying.

1. That moment when the doctor hands you your baby. Nothing can compare to it. Nothing. You're exhausted, sweaty, either numb or in pain (or both), scared, nervous ... basically, a ball of emotions, and then they hand you a little warm ball of infant. It's powerful.

2. Snuggling with your kid. It doesn't really matter the age, although I do prefer infancy because of the feeling of baby hair. It's fine and pure and fuzzy, and it tickles your nose and you inhale that amazing baby smell.

3. Watching your child learn something new. It can be rolling over, walking, tackling a hard math problem, overcoming stage fright, anything. Seeing them learn something new, especially if you're the one that taught it to them, inspires a sense of pride that I hadn't experienced until I had children.

4. Being able to play on the playground without looking like a pedophile. I love swings. I always have (at least as far as I can remember), and I remember the first time I realized I was too old for the playground. It was heartbreaking, to say the least, and I couldn't wait to have kids so that I could swing without looking like a predator. Granted, it still helps if the playground is mostly deserted, but you can get away with using an empty swing as long as you have kids.

5. Having an excuse for leaving early/arriving late/not showing up. Not gonna lie to you, I sometimes use my kids as an excuse to not do things that I don't want to do. "So sorry, {child} has to take a nap." Most times, it's a true statement, but we can change it if we really want to. Of course, we reap what we sow, so if we don't feel like sowing a cranky-ass kid, we will let them sleep. Fair warning.

6. Becoming a grandmother. I haven't experienced this first-hand (and I won't for the next 20-30 years, if my kids know what's good for them), but I hear it's awesome. You get all of the benefits of having kids, but when they start acting like buttholes, you get to hand them back. Your own children turn to you for advice in ways that they never have before, thus making you an expert, and they actually heed that advice. You get to buy all of the fun stuff (cutesy shopping buggy liners and frilly dresses) and little to none of the boring stuff (diapers and butt paste), and you can actually afford it (in theory). You see your lineage continued and know that you've done your job: raise productive members of society that, in turn, will raise productive members of society.

These parts are worth the BS.


Why Being a Mom in America Sucks

{Image source: .donata}
I'm going to break from the pithy posts about my adorable children and the crayon tweets to tell you why being a mom in America sucks. It's controversial, but hear me out.

In the April 2011 issue of Psychology Today, there was an interesting article called "The American Nightmare." In it, the author, Lauren Sandler, basically calls American parents a bunch of unhappy sad sacks with no control over their lives.

Some days, she's not wrong.

In the article, she draws a comparison between American families and families in other countries. Quoting well-being specialist Carol Graham, who says, "In other societies, kids fit into the family; parents are in charge," Sandler points out that America's shift to a kid-centric society over the last 50 years is causing parents to "experience depression and unhappiness in greater numbers than nonparents. That's regardless of class, race, or gender."

But let's add another layer to this: according to a survey on British website Netmums, mothers lie to each other all the time, from how much TV their kids watch to how much QT they spend with their spouses or SOs. It's not a stretch to say that they lie about how happy they are.

How about one more layer: America is moving indoors. There's a push for organic churches (i.e. small, typically evangelical groups of Christians that meet weekly and lack a fixed leader), home schooling, and working from home. With two dining spaces in the house, a formal and an informal, there's no need to go out anymore. Frankly, with the recession and the crazy spike in gas prices, there may not be the resources to go out anymore.

So here we are, focused on our kids instead of ourselves, stuck inside all day, and lying about everything from the organic nature of our food to exactly how clean the kitchen floor is. And if we try to live up to the standards that we think everyone else is attaining, we work ourselves so hard that we end up falling asleep during a TiVo'd episode of those racy, racy Housewives.

Here's the kicker: if you try to break from the norm, if you try to encourage your kids to make their own lunches, if you refuse to show up at the school to yet another "parents appreciation" function because you have other commitments, then you're labeled a bad parent. If you don't subscribe to playdates and choose to have nonparents as friends, then you're labeled a bad parent. If you have outside interests and would prefer to see an R-rated movie with your spouse instead of Rio with your kids, you're a bad parent.

You know what? All of this sucks.

In doing a little bit of research for this post (because it is a serious post), I ran across another blog post in a similar vein on Heavenly Homemakers. The author, Laura, vehemently states that we are all just moms, we are not perfect, and we are not alone. So stop trying to be everything to everyone, embrace your imperfections, and talk to each other about what's really going on. We'll all be happier, and we'll end up raising more well-rounded, happier, healthier kids, even if they're eating nitrates and watching four hours of TV.

And for the love, please stop asking me to arrange a playdate. Just meet us at the park or something.
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