Equality? #wwwp5k

img_4616“Gender inequality doesn’t exist anymore.” My husband declares with the emphasis of someone seeing his inherent privilege fade away. He goes on to outline the female project manager giving him fits, the multitude of females at high levels in his company and his aggravating female client. For an engineer who started his career seeing cubicles filled with monthly images of scantily clad women wielding power-tools, this twenty year rise of women from calendar to manager has been rapid and probably unexpected.

I can’t really argue too much with him. I manage a team of engineers, half women and half men. With our matching engineering degrees we make the same amount of money.  (Well, we leap frog. When I get a raise, I make more. Then he gets one and he makes more.) We have similar responsibilities, similar jobs, similar flexibility to balance parenthood and employment.

We both coached our daughter’s soccer team. He does the dishes and laundry. I shop and cook. He fixes the broken fence; I sew buttons on when they fall off. I handle plumbing issues and he handles electricity.

We raise our daughter to love math and science. We raise our daughter to sing and love books. We raise our daughter to be a strong person and gender roles aren’t a topic we ever think to discuss. In her world the best mathematician in her class is a girl. The best speller is a girl and the person with the best handwriting is a girl.

But I’m a runner. I love running when I travel for work. Last week I left my hotel room with my phone in hand and my room key in my pocket. I don’t wear headphones when I run, because I know it’s not safe. I hate holding my phone when I run, but I’m somewhere strange and no one knows I’m leaving and no one is expecting me back. On the off chance something bad happens I can call. On the off chance something really bad happens the last known location of my cell phone might be traceable.

I’ve taken a self defense class. I know what to do if I’m attacked. I know where to gouge how to shout and how to best strike someone to knock them out. I know that if someone attacks me with a knife I’m supposed to grab the blade. My stomach clenches every time I think that: grab the blade. Can you imagine? Have you ever imagined? If you are woman, you might have. If a man, probably not.

I never go for a run and don’t think of my safety. I vary my route. I’m aware of my surroundings.

In Austin I jogged out to my favorite run along Town Lake. Somehow I got turned around and found myself out on this amazing path I’ve never seen before. Maybe I usually run on the opposite shore or maybe I go the other direction?  Regardless, this new route was filled with people so I felt safe and headed out to enjoy an adventure.

Then I came to a fork. One side continued next to the river and the other diverted off into a wooded sanctuary. One side was safe and the other was unknown. I stopped and waited. Every single runner, walker, cyclist stayed on the main path. No one turned. No one sought out the shady refuge from the 92 degree heat. Minutes passed, and my desire to keep running waned. I turned around and headed back the way I came. As I neared my hotel I wondered what was down that path. Was I just being silly? Then I remembered the woman who was attacked the week before walking in my neighborhood. Better to be safe than sorry.

The genders are equal in lots of ways. But my little girl and I will have many conversations in her life about how to keep herself safe. How to make sure she has a friend watching out for her at a party. What the consequences could be if she drinks too much. How to be aware and not look like a victim. Why she shouldn’t wear “that dress”. If she’s a runner I’ll teach her what I’ve learned, and hopefully she won’t take the wooded path either, even if it calls to her soul. Safety first.

My husband and I are equal in many ways, but I have long hair and breasts and physical attributes that mark me as a potential victim.  I am smaller than my husband and I have soft places that bad men want to hurt and probe. My daughter has smaller softer places. I am weaker and could be overpowered by most men, if they wanted to. I have to teach my daughter things I would never teach a son. Just like black families have to teach their kids how to act if a cop pulls them over, which is something that I would never think to teach my white daughter.

“Have you ever worried about you safety?” I ask my husband when I get home from Austin. “Do you worry about being in a park after dark, or walking to you car at the airport?”

“No. Why?” he asks.

The conversation has to start somewhere. With a kneel at the anthem. With a conversation between two almost equals who love each other. Inequality exists.


My musings from my 5k around Austin, Texas and part of the WordPress WWWP5K.

Grown Up Bubble Guppy Sighting

Alert!  Just outside of the University of Austin is a statue of an adult Bubble Guppy.  They become so majestic when they mature. Who knew?

(I realize this post has a limited audience, but you Nick Jr aficionados who are now humming the tune to bu-bu-bubble bubble bubble guppies should appreciate this image.  For the rest of you? I refer you to Wikia to learn the wonders of this childhood underwater sea cartoon.)

 

-image from Wikia 

Call me farmer Afthead

The Afthead family got some chickens.  After the rough experiment fostering kittens last year we left the mammal group of the animal kingdom in favor of the bird group.  Meet Buffy, Rosie and Hope.

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“What?!?!  You got chickens?” asks Hope.  The girl with her face in the camera was named after Hope Solo.  We got the chickens during the Olympics and little Afthead decided the representative of the Ameraucana breed had to be named after an American athlete.  As a big soccer fan she decided Hope was a good chicken name.  (Given Ms. Solo’s antics during the Olympics I think having a chicken named after her is appropriate.)

This goofy girl is a Buff Orpington.  I really wanted to name her Buff Orpington the Third, because she’s such a formal sounding breed, but Mr. Afthead won these naming rights.  Buffy was the obvious choice for this brave vampire hunting fowl.  In the coming years I’m hoping that in between laying eggs for our family she’ll star in her own sitcom or maybe a movie about a vampire, werewolf, chicken love triangle.

Finally we have Rosie, the littlest of the chickens.  From the beginning she’s been the sweetest, the most friendly and, of course, was the one that almost got sick and died the first week.  Yeah, we appear to attract sickly animals.  After panicked googling, visiting feed stores, and syringe watering this little girl she’s now in great health.  All that hands-on attention in those early weeks has made her brave, well socialized and willing to pose for pictures.   “Who’s a pretty bird?  You are Rosie!”  Momma Afthead got to name this one, and I went for the obvious color-related name for this member of the Rhode Island Red breed.

So that’s our flock.  Really, I have no idea why we are trying this adventure.  We aren’t big local food people.  We aren’t even big egg eaters.  I think Mr. Afthead wanted a project, and converting little Afthead’s old playhouse to a chicken coop seemed like fun.  Of course little Afthead was in: what kid doesn’t want chickens?  It’s all I could do to keep her from grabbing bunnies, turkeys, miniature goats and peacocks from the feedstore the day we got the birds.  Man, that kid loves animals.

Me?  I’m still on the fence about about being a chicken farmer.  While I love them much more than I expected I don’t appreciate my morning, “Are the chicken’s dead?” routine.  I’ve never cared if skunk, fox, coyote, stray dogs, feral cats, or opossum lived in my backyard before, but now they are all chicken dismembering predators waiting to infiltrate every nook and cranny of our chicken habitat.  Ugh.  I’m crossing my fingers and hoping we can get these girls through to the spring, so at least we start getting some eggs.  I’m also hoping if something gets them it isn’t a week when my husband is traveling.  I don’t want to handle a chicken murder scene alone.

Now off to go find some overalls, a nice straw hat and a toothpick to chew.  Come back soon, y’all.  I tell ya more chicken stories.  Ah yup.  “Bawk!”

Well that’s pretty!

Some days amidst the calendars and the schedules something pulls me away and makes me pause the chaos.  I had one of those moments this morning as I was jumping in the car worrying I’d be late for a meeting at work.  

Look at this!  Isn’t it stunning?  Look at the tiny drops of water sparkling on the petals and the miniature yellow corn stalks marching around the middle.

Oh, and at this angle!  Look at all the different reds and oranges in the petals.  I love this flower.  The best part is that it’s a mistake flower.  A neighbor gave it to me and it was supposed to be a spring bloomer that attracted hummingbirds. Instead it’s an orange daisy-like wonder that attacts momma Aftheads in the early fall.

What unexpectedly stopped you in your tracks today?

The Third Day of Third Grade

I watch you.  I watch you watch them.  The pair labeled your “best friends”and the other one.  They laugh and touch and a little girl gravitational force pulls them together as it repels you.

I watch you.  I watch the jealousy and anger coil up inside you and I hope that it finds release before you snap inappropriately.  You stare unblinkingly with your ice blue eyes and the look is pure hurt because you are left out.

I watch you.  I watch as your new friend, “Well maybe friend,” you’ve said, “but not yet” walks up to you and you don’t even acknowledge her presence.  I talk to her and compliment her sweatshirt and make pleasantries, which you should be doing, but you don’t because you can’t stop staring across the blacktop as your best friends and the other laugh at something.  They are too far away, so we cannot hear what they laugh at, but we can see they are having fun without you.

I watch you.  I watch as the second maybe new friend walks up and you ignore her too.  Opportunities surround you but you can’t see them because you want to be over there with them in their class.  You want the comfort of last year.  You want familiar.  You want to be inside the threesome again and not stuck outside looking in.  The two maybe new friends stand silently ignored and you continue fester until you turn and say, “I told you I’m not popular anymore.”

I want to hurl idiotic phrases at you.  You catch more flies with honey.  Life isn’t fair.  Make new friends, but keep the old.  I want to stop your stare and refocus it on the sweet kids around you.  I want to plaster over your hurt and wounded heart and tell you it will be okay, but I don’t do any of that.  It might not be okay.  You might lash out at your old friends and miss the opportunity for new friends.  You might lose them all.  I wish for a tree to sprout between your class’s line and the other class’s line so that you don’t have to see them having fun without you.  I know it might be a long and lonely year.

I think of Rachel and Stacy 34 years ago on my playground.  I remember wishing for what they had: for the heads close together and the whispers and hand games and true friendship and wondering, “How do they do that?”  I remember longing for what they had, but never finding it.  I watch you and hope the hurt of my third grade isn’t repeated in the next generation with a different pain of loss instead of longing.

I watch you and feel the agony of a mother’s anguish.  I watch you and hope it will be okay.

The bell rings and the pain of everything makes reach for a hug and kiss, needing to be loved too much to remember I’m embarrassing.  I pour my heart into you, because you are loved and you are amazing and you can do this, and then we part.  I watch you.  I watch you walk away alone.

 

 

Kiddo Travel Hacks – Kid Phase

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Now that my daughter is a rational, reasonable, logical human being (mostly) I love traveling with her.  Her bodily fluids stay inside of her (mostly.)  She’s helpful at the airport (mostly.)  Her eyes see wonders that a solo traveling adult would miss.  We wait to watch the airplane drive under us on the walkway to the terminal.  (Yes, airplanes drive under walkways sometimes.)  She notices a friend at a neighboring gate, and we have a lovely conversation that I would have missed with my head down in my electronic device. I’m an observant traveler, but she really makes me be present.

My absolute favorite trick to traveling with kids is a game I made up on the spur of the moment.  It works for any kid who can count to at least 20.  The day the game was invented we checked our bags and headed toward the security line (cue ominous music).  In one of the mysteries-of-TSA moments the line was long.  So long.  Longer than the line had any business being.  All around me adults were “F-ing security!” and “F- you, why didn’t we leave sooner?” and “F- I’m going to miss my flight!”  In response to my rising panic that my kiddo would hear these angry adults, inspiration hit and I said, “Kiddo, how many big steps do you think it will take to get through this line?”

We started counting big steps.  “Mom, how many do you have?  12?  I have 23.”  I watched as she took an extra big step and stood too close to the person in front of us.  She nodded and said, “24.”  We made it through one wiggle – a phrase coined during the game development which means one length of the barricade wrapped line – and after she tallied our steps she proudly announced, “I’m winning!”  Of course because she has smaller legs it took her more big steps to travel a wiggle so she won.  Silly grown-up me had assumed we were trying to get the least number of steps in per wiggle.  Any game my daughter always wins is a great one, especially in an aggravation filled place like the airport.

Now we play the giant steps game through security.  We play it down the jet way.  We play it wherever there is a line where adults are acting like children who need to have their mouths washed out with soap.  She always wins.  It’s worked for five years, this giant step game.  This year, at 8, she was a bit more shy and afraid of what people would think of our game so we played, but quietly, and she still won.

The other upside of this game is that we almost always attract the attention of someone else who is just trying to make the best of a crappy situation.  We’ll get a smile or a nod, and it makes me happy being goofy with my kid and making others a little happier with our silly game.  The downside of this game?  I abhor long lines at airports when I’m not with her.  It’s all I can do to keep from challenging the angry “F-ing” guy next to me – “Hey, jerk-o, which one of us do you think can take more giant steps through this line?”  Wonder how that would turn out?


The final in a series of Kiddo Travel Hacks where I share my best advice for not just surviving, but enjoying travels with kids.  Also check out the infant phase and toddler phase posts for other tips and tricks.

Kiddo Travel Hacks – Toddler Phase

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Traveling with an infant is uncertain and scary, and traveling with a toddler is just like that, but louder and more mobile.  There’s less screaming for no reason and more, “Want down now!  Now!  Now!” followed by the toddler death screech.  These are the children holding their parents hands walking up and down and up and down the aisle whenever the fasten seat belt light is off.  In my opinion, toddlers are the hardest travel companions.

Melissa, from Parenthood and Passports echoed my thoughts in her comments on my infant post, “The infant days were much easier than the toddler days, I have come to realize.”  She’s so right! (Check out her site if you travel with kids or travel at all!  It’s a fun read.)

How do you travel with a toddler and keep your sanity?  Let’s start with the no/low-cost suggestions:

Talk about the airport ahead of time

Make your toddler aware of the whole flying process.  Talk about the security lines and sending the suitcase off when you check it.  Explain where all their stuff is going, so you can remind them as you go through the process.  “Now remember, this is when blankie goes in your bag and through the x-ray.  Then we’ll go under the bridge.  First you, then Mommy next.”

Make flying an adventure

If you grouch and gripe it doesn’t help, but the airport is filled with amazing things. Notice them with your toddler.  “Don’t the security policemen have cool blue uniforms?”  “You are so special!  You don’t have to take your shoes off!”  “Do you see our bags going on the plane yet?”

Make others like your kid before they become obnoxious

Teach your kid the three rules of flying before you go, repeating them over and over.

  1. You MUST stay in your seat when the seatbelt light is on.
  2. You MUST NOT kick the seat in front of you.
  3. You CANNOT smoke when the no-smoking light is on.

Have your kid repeat these rules as soon as you get on the plane.   Point the lights out.  Explain what the seatbelt rule is and that it is not your rule, it is the plane’s rule.  It won’t end the “I WANT TO GET UP!” tantrum, but it will provide a way to explain without it being your fault.  Also, fellow passengers will appreciate hearing that if their seat starts being kicked endlessly by little feet you are their ally.  The smoking thing is just funny.  Trust me, a three-year old saying the third rule is “No smoking!” is hysterical.

Finally, teach your kid that take-off is called “blast-off.”  Nothing is cuter than a tiny voice shouting, “Mommy?!?!  Is this the blast off?!?!”  Your kid is adorable.  All toddlers are.  (If kids came out at 18 months old and potty trained I’d have a dozen.)  Let their cuteness shine through before it gets tarnished by hours in the plane.

Bring familiar foods and treats

You love the chance to try exotic foods prepared in local styles when you travel.  Your toddler does not.  On the plane bring their favorite cup, and fill it with their favorite drink after you get through security.  Bring bags of their favorite foods.  Slip in a treat or two that they don’t often get to eat.  My kiddo was a pacifier blankie loving toddler, so she got her pacifier and blanket the entire flight.  She also had a sippy cup of juice, sliced apples, and goldfish.  When she wanted a treat she got a ring pop: the pacifier in lollipop form.  Throw away your rotting teeth and nutritious food worries for the duration of the flight.  Make it a comfortable, special smorgasbord.

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Now, if you are lucky enough to have a little extra money to spend there are some higher cost things you can do to make your trip more enjoyable.

Devices and television are your friend

Sure, if you are lucky, your toddler will fall asleep when the plane takes off, but if you aren’t lucky it’s okay to ruin their brains with TV on a phone or tablet while they rot their teeth with treats.  It’s a vacation!  Fun fun!  Also, sometimes there are built-in televisions on a plane that cost a bit to purchase.  Trust me, if you only buy one TV, it’s better to get Disney and Nickelodeon for your kid than HGTV for yourself. Invest in some over the head folding headphones for your toddler.  They won’t be able to keep the earbuds in their ears, and you risk a “I CAN’T HEAR!” tantrum.

Get them their own seat

I know travel can be expensive but if you are traveling solo with your toddler it helps to have an extra seat and an extra under the seat.  I used to travel with my daughter’s carseat because her seat was a familiar space for her.  Also, she was a great car sleeper, and often that translated to a plane sleeper if she was in her own seat.  From a safety perspective, it was easier to ensure she was belted in if she was in her carseat.  That said, try hauling your gear, your kid’s gear, your kid and a carseat sometime.  I had wheels I could put on my carseat, but I have vivid memories of me wearing a backpack, pulling my roller bag – with her bag strapped to it – and carseat on wheels while balancing my daughter on my shoulders walking out of baggage claim.  I swear, I must have grown two extra arms to pull that off.

One thing to know, if you do travel with a carseat make sure it is approved for flight by the FAA and that you put the seat in a window seat.  Those two steps will save you embarrassment and the attention of angry flight attendants.

Pay for stretch seating

If you don’t splurge for the extra seat, try splurging for extra legroom.  My daughter spent many hours on the floor of the plane playing between my feet.  Yes, it is filthy.  Yes, you risk the little one eating some random dropped food.  Yes, it’s amazing to get your child off your lap and get a little space during a long flight.

There is one thing you must do if you are traveling with a toddler, and it will cost you nothing.

Rely on the kindness of strangers

People will be jerks and mutter nasty things under their breath.  People will recline their seats so your kid can’t see the TV.  You can get yourself all bent out of shape, or you can look for the kind smile from the lady across the aisle who has been in your seat.  You can marvel over the car rental person who, when you were returning your car, noticed the toddler in the back and says, “Get in the passenger seat, I’ll drive you to departures.”  There will be an uppity business man who talks Dinosaur Train with your kiddo the third time she launches Buddy at his head.  Turns out he’s a dad under that suit.  I remember the awful flight to Orlando in generalities, but six years later I remember the specifics of the people who were wonderful to me and my challenging, adorable, loud toddler.


The second in a series of Kiddo Travel Hacks where I share my best advice for not just surviving, but enjoying travels with kids.

Kiddo Travel Hacks – Infant Phase

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I love traveling with my daughter.  She’s at an age where she understands that the pain of the drive, the airport, and the lines is more than worth the adventure at the other end.  That said, I remember preparing for infant trips with a pit in my stomach.

She took her first flight when she was a few days shy of six months old.  My husband’s dear aunt was supposed to come visit us, but instead of flying she was doing another round of chemo.  Her cancer was back, but I desperately wanted her to meet her grand-niece.  “No problem,” I said, “We’ll come to you.”  Brave words, but the idea of flying with an infant was terrifying.  On the plane there is so much stuff to bring and so little control over her.  Who hasn’t wanted to rip their ears off because of an infant screaming during an entire plane ride?  Did I want to be that mom with that kid?  While I knew most problems could be solved by baring my breast and feeding her I was not confident nursing in public, so I came up with a backup plan.

My brother-in-law was traveling with us.  Rather than sit with our family, I asked if he would sit in the row in front of us.  Then I made my request.  “If she starts screaming, will you please stand up and start berating me?  Loudly?”  He looked at me with surprise and I justified, “See, I can’t handle some stranger going off on me, but if you preempt it and just start telling me to ‘shut your damn kid up’ and that I’m ‘a terrible mother’ you might circumvent others yelling at me.”

All of my in-laws think I’m crazy, and I did nothing to change my brother-in-law’s mind that day, but he agreed.  I boarded the plane confident that the worst I would have to endure was a baby crying and my brother-in-law acting like a maniac.  I could handle that.  I was armed with bottles, pacifier, diapers, changes of clothes, toys, and digital devices to keep her happy, but if those didn’t work I was also armed with a plan to keep the meanies away.  As usual, when you’ve planned every contingency, the flight was easy.  My daughter fell asleep drinking her bottle as we took off and woke up as we were landing.

When traveling with an infant, figure out what scares you the most, and make a plan to deal with that.  Puke?  Pack two changes of clothes.  Poop?  Do the same.  Germs?  Bring a bag full of 3 oz bottles of hand sanitizer.  Mean people?  Bring your own meaner person.  Travel with an infant is a total wildcard, so do what you can to address your own fears.  If you are calm, you’ll be able to better deal with whatever surprises come your way.


The first in a series of Kiddo Travel Hacks where I share my best advice for not just surviving, but enjoying travels with kids.

Help Me Pick my Yarn – Phase 2

Four months ago I posted an exciting knitting contest, and finally, I can announce the results.  Just in case you haven’t been holding your breath for three months awaiting the results of this knitting contest, here is a reminder.  I’m making the Purl Soho stitch block cowl.  I need three colors of yarn and was deciding between these three options:

The voting from March was close, but the Hobbit Cowl emerged as a narrow favorite:

Option 1 – Hobbit Cowl – 4 votes

Option 2 – Sunset Cowl – 3 votes

Option 3 – Scottish Cowl – 2 votes

After getting distracted by my sweet daughter batting her super long eyelashes at me and asking for a new blankie, I finally wrapped up the first panel of the cowl.


Isn’t it pretty, and cool and texture-y?  Now it’s time to add in color two and three!  I have to make a decision.  This is a pricey project both from a supply and time perspective, so I really want to get it right.  I decided that the only thing to do was to start knitting swatches to see what I really like best.

The world’s longest most ridiculous swatch.  (No, I didn’t check gauge with it.  Why do you ask?)

Eleven swatches later I’ve decided I really do like the colors selected by the blogosphere.  If only I were a more trusting person I could have saved myself a few hours.  (You readers are SO smart!)  Except…the decision isn’t done!  One section has two colors and the other has three colors.  I need to decide which color is in the two-color section.  Readers,  I turn to you for guidance again.  Which option should I choose?

Is the left version with Shire as the second color better, or is the Moody Green, on the right, better?  Please help me decide before I leave on vacation, so I know which color to pack, because I know I won’t get through all 20 inches in a week.  Thank you!

Legitimate Acupuncture Concern

Last week I hurt myself in an embarrassing manner.  I knocked my hips askew while sleeping.  The next day it hurt to walk and the day after I tried a trail run.  After that misguided experiment I was really broken.

Thankfully I have a good relationship with a reputable chiropractor, who is helping me get well.  I was discussing my injury and treatment with a friend, and he mentioned he was having back issues and trying acupuncture.  

I told him, “I don’t do acupuncture.”

“Yeah,” he said, “The needles bothered me too at first…”

“It’s not just the needles,” I interruputed, “It’s, well, what happens if there is a fire drill?  I mean if you are getting a massage or something you just grab a sheet and wrap up, but you know, you are all full of needles.  What do you do?”

Surprisingly, my friend had never considered this scenario, but it’s a legitimate concern.  I’m sticking with treatments that have a clearly defined escape plan.