Tuesday, May 30, 2006

So sue me, I like Denny's

My husband, when I suggested Denny's, acted like I had suggested we take the children to a cult for some Kool-Aid.

"Denny's?" he managed to choke out through his sneer and horror

"Sure," I said, "It's a very kid-friendly place. The kids love the food there."

He looked at me as if I had confessed I fed the kids arsenic and old lace, regularly, for dinner.

"I. Cannot. Eat. THERE," he said, shuddering.

Honestly, what's the big deal?

It's got big booths, a kid's menu designed with actual kids in mind---mine are agog at the choices: mac-n-cheez, chicken nuggets, mozzarella sticks, bowls of grapes, etc.---and the staff actually not only seem happy to see me walk in with a couple of small children, but seem to tolerate us, and our ahem enthusiastic eating quite well.

It's true, finding a South Beach or Weight Watchers approved entree is simply impossible, but I say moderation in all things. Eat a little and you don't blow your points for a month.

My husband is unable to articulate why Denny's is such a horrible place. He's sure he's been in one and it was horrid.

My assurances that this one is clean, and nice, and a good option (read: cheap and kid-friendly) fall on deaf ears.

I think the truth is he's afraid he'll be seen there and actually eating there and being okay with it would complete his fall into Working Class Suburban Dadhood.

Me? I gave up any pretense of cool and worldly a while back. Around the same time I gave up the notion that kids were well-behaved as a rule and misbehaved as an exception. I don't think my husband has accepted that one yet either.

I don't fully understand why men, well, mine anyway, cling so mightily to the last vestiges of Cool Dudeness. It's much easier once you let it go, honestly.

Instead, he compromises on IHOP, which to my mind is six versus half a dozen. However, clearly there is a mindset out there that supports my husband's: while the Denny's lot was practicaly empty, we waited 20 minutes to eat breakfast at IHOP.

That? I found amazingly annoying.

So I guess even I have my own prejudices and lines in the sand. I won't wait for mediocre food.

Well, seriously, would you? Keep a couple of very hungry, whiny, antsy small kids happy for twenty minutes while awaiting a small booth at IHOP. Come on. Might as well go get donuts.

Donuts, I like

And guess what? Right now? I like Denny's too.

So sue me. ;)

By Julie Pippert
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Monday, May 15, 2006

You are not limited...you can go all the way

My parents---well just my mother actually---have confessed that they deliberately raised me without praise or encouragement. "This is how it was done back then," she tells me, "You weren't supposed to build the ego, make your kid have a swelled head. It's how you were supposed to parent."

When I finally had---late, and after much effort---my first daughter, all I knew was that I wanted and needed to parent by heart.

"By heart" has changed a lot with time.

At first it meant, "read every one of the 'best' books about parenting and drive yourself crazy trying to do it all right all the time." I read everything Dr. Sears ever wrote, went regularly to his Web site, read everyone he suggested, read the Best Picks on every magazine list.

Both my husband and I...We felt the need to clean the slate, start fresh, see what the experts thought we needed to do to be good parents. I'm not sorry we did this. It was helpful, and moreover, it was lovingly motivated. We wanted to be good parents; we felt that we didn't really know how to go about it right, although we did feel that we knew a lot about how to go about it wrong. There were many good ideas that we used to overwrite the things we didn't want to do.

We intended to use the tips, tricks and techniques buffet-style: pick the best and discard the rest. We were very happy and things went along swimmingly. For the most.

Except our baby? Couldn't poop. Or sleep.

This meant something was wrong with one of us. Or so everyone said. My husband and I went to talk to doctor after doctor because surely something was wrong with this tiny person. We were the only ones who believed that, for a long time. Everyone else thought (or said), "YOU MORONS! You just can't parent properly."

Although they forebore saying it outright to me, I knew my mother and sister felt sure we just weren't parenting it out of our baby. I knew most people around us thought we were too soft. Then my sister had her third daughter. Welcome to my world, Sis!

And, we finally found a doctor who did find a physical problem, that once worked on and fixed, made a BIG difference.

Anticipating this with our second child, we were quick and proactive, careful not to allow the same problems and mistakes to go on and on, as with the first.

And we are totally different parents now.

We're tired. We can't find time to read all those books and whatever we learned from them we forgot about three years ago. And also, we know it is really hard to ruin a child when you intend to be good parents: raise them with love, care and to be good people.

We want our kids to feel unlimited...to believe they can go all the way. The truth, though, is that limits are inherent in life.

The question is how to juggle practicality and reality with encouragement.

So now, for our Stage 2 Parentign By Heart, we've implemented "fly by the set of your pants" parenting, with the follow-up, "oohh rats, sweetie, sorry, I goofed" apology when we mess it up.

(I'm pretty sure my kids have a healthy esteem. They are certainly sassy enough.)

It has taken me well into my thirties to believe I deserve to try for what I want. That I deserve the good things, success, that I earn.

A fabulous friend shared this quote with me yesterday, for Mother's Day...it's something that defines and explains what I am doing with my life just now...and is something I want my girls to grasp sooner than I did:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you NOT to be?

You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won't feel unsure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. As we let our own Light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

---Marianne Williamson

How beautfully perceptive is that?

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Life is chaotic, so why not? Just some random thoughts

This image makes me feel peaceful, like there is order we can achieve, now and again, and things can go right.

I am sometimes ovwewhelmed by the people who depend on me in varying ways and to varying degrees.

I have finally realized it is absolutely impossible to make another person happy.

Veronica Mars. The boyfriend had a baby with the friend. Both were 18 and she died. Somehow, he had no rights to the baby. Huh? Doesn't he have parental rights? Why would the FBI be after him?

I am clearly far, far behind on my TV viewing and may never catch up. People know I am behind. They know I hate spoilers. So why do some people so enjoy spoiling things like American Idol for me? Why ruin it?

I'm a little nervous b/c it's been a couple of days since a catastrophe occured.

I think sometimes the Brits say whckadoo things just to impress us provincial Americans. In other words, I wonder whether they talk that way amongst themselves.

Nobody I know looks at me weird anymore, even when I say things like "doggie playdate." Either I am homogenized or live amongst others just like me. And would that make me pasteurized?

Speaking of, why don't people distinguish among: between and among, types of reasoning, and smart leaders versus scary mean bad leaders?

Bush's approval dropped to 29%. He's in the record books for sure now!!

My younger daughter sat in my lap and cuddled quietly, no demands or wiggling, this morning for a bit. Nicest part of the day. Nearly as rare as a real photo of Nessie, but there you go.

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

What scares me? Jokes and science experiments

I have a great sense of humor, really I do. And truly, its greatest strength lies in my strong grasp of the absurd. A grasp that utterly and totally fails me when I deal with my kids, and their jokes and experiments.

Again, the fact that this is part of the Western Curse (may you one day have children just like you) that I always called a Blessing doesn't help. Although, both you and I might think it would.

You know what I think is the problem here? I make a fabulous grown-up and was a terrible child. Even when I was a child I thought other children weren't nearly as amusing as they thought they were, and boy, messy, and dirty, and loud. The rest of you think this is growing old. But me? I never had to put away my childish things because truthfully, even as a child I barely had any interest in childish things.

So why oh why do I expect my own children to want to play with kids' toys?

The mountain of toys in the playroom holds no interest for these kids.

Oh no, they want to play with the Real Toys: cell phones, remote controls, scissors, glue, medicine, and furniture (a list that is, mind you, including but not limited to, of course).

I don't include toilets because those aren't a game for my kids; they are a future career. In science, plumbing, or terrorism. I'm not sure which.

Right now my husband and I are not paying enough attention to the kids. I know this by the level of our annoyance and by the constant naughtiness of the children. We are all here, together, but he and I have Big Important Grownup Things To Do, which means the usual order of the universe (all things revolve around the children) is out of balance.

Hence, they seem to think that this means (a) they need to act naughty to get their rightful due or attention and (b) they can do whatever they want, including Get Into Things that are Verboten.

"HEY MOM!" shouts the elder.



See? A Joke? My bowels tighten in fear.

"Umm sure...where are you?"

"I'M IN THE BATHROOM!" Much laughter. Elder and Younger giggling.

My heart freezes in my chest. Giggling children = Very Bad Stuff.

I run to the bathroom. The two children---described by all as cherubic and beautiful---grin proudly at me as they stand beside the open-lid toilet.

"We couldn't fit into the potty, Mom, but the princess could. Wanna see a joke?" My elder points into the toilet where a small, Barbie-princess (who can keep them straight? This one has long blonde hair, oh wait, that's not helping, well she came with a pink throne chair---stop, no porcelain throne jokes---and a white cat), okay the small barbie princess floats in a gentle circle in the filling bowl. Her pink polyester dress weights her down a bit.

The elder signals the younger who pulls the lever and flushes the toilet. The barbie princess swishes, swirls and attempts to go down the drain. The children shriek with laughter, totally delighted. The younger even claps her hands and shouts something like, "A den! A den!" and pulls the lever again.

The elder says, "It's a science essperiment, Mom! What will happen when you flush a barbie in the potty! And it's a joke cuz it's SO FUNNY!" More shrieking laughter.

My hand is somewhere over my eyes as my brain endeavors to process What Is Happening Here.

The children get quiet. Uh oh. No laughing mom. They wait, will Screaming Banshee mom emerge, or the scarier version: Very Quietly Furious Mom?

Quietly Furious Mom emerges. The truth is, this is Incident #12 of the day. Mom has no more energy for mad.

"You," I say, pointing to the elder, "Will fish out the barbie and drop her quickly in this cup," I hand her a play cup from the bathtub.

"You," I say, pointing to the younger, "Will Step. Away. From. The. Potty. Now."

The younger wrinkles her brow, giggles uncertainly and reaches again for the toilet lever. What happened? It was all so fun a second ago. Let's flush and have fun again, I can see her decide.

"NO! NO! NO, BORNIE!" The elder screams, "Don't do it! STOP!"

The younger decides crying is the only response, so she lets out a few glass-shattering shrieks of anger and then settles into tantrummy crying. The elder decides this is a good moment to escape.

"Freeze!" I say, fiercely. "Get the barbie out of the toilet. Now."

"Buuuuttt Mooooooommmm, that DISGUSTING! I can't put my hand in the potty. It's too hard for me," she puffs out her lower lip, and tries to shrink a little smaller, look vulnerable, incapable.

"You got it in, you got it out," I say, using logic-defying parental logic.

With squeamishness scrunching up her entire face, she slowly edges two fingers towards the barbie. A few "iiicccckkkk!" screech aborted attempts later, she manages to make contact. The fingers snap shut and in a startling contrast to the slow edging, she rapidly drags the barbie out and throws her into the cup with a yell that is a funny combination of triumph and disgust.

"ACK! ACK! ACK!" she hollers, hopping around, waving her fingers in the air.

"To the sink, wash with soap, sing the ABC song and don't stop washing until you hit the ME part," I tell her.

The younger is still making a tremendous amount of noise, but now in jealousy that the elder gets to play with the water. She attempts to scramble up the stepping stool to the sink. I run to the side, only to catch her as she falls with a scream after the elder shouts, "NO! NO BORNIE! Not up here," and shoves.

I mumble, "I love my children, I love my children, I love my children..."

We complete the clean-up process and now I really wonder what last week's plumbing visit might have unearthed as the clog in my toilet had he pulled instead of pushed.

I bring the children back into the room where their father---doing a fantastic imitation of a totally deaf parent---is sorting books. "Gee, sorry I couldn't help, sorting these books," he says, in a great Jack Handy imitation. I smirk back at him.

"Here," I tell the children, "Sit here." I hand them each two pieces of paper and four crayons. "You color here, at this table, on this paper, with these crayons. Do not deviate from these instructions. No coloring on the wall, yourselves, the floors, the furniture or ANYTHING other than the paper. Crayons are only for coloring with, NO EATING CRAYONS. Now, can I ask for five minutes of Good Choices?"

They nod slightly, looking a tad repentant.

And when I glance back over, thirty seconds later, they are gone. And somewhere in the house I hear children giggling.

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Unbearable Heaviness of Being

I saw a Young Teen Male today. Not a particularly rare species, although it was more specifically of the Angsty variety.

This one's normally brown plumage was a washed out orangy red or red-y orange, possibly making him more unique.

Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera; anyway I hear this species is quite camera shy. So you'll have to take me at my word about the rest of it.

The pants simply defied gravity. Tall and reed thin, this YTM wore a big and baggy black t-shirt that he kept hoisting up in order to find his boxers (somewhere south of the plumber line) and his pants (somewhere around his knees...okay, thighs, if you insist on accuracy). He wasn't hiking them up, simply constantly looking for one thing or another in one of the many, many pockets.

He wore thick black eyeliner around his blue eyes, and a moody scowl on his lips. Which might have been outlined in dark red lipliner. As you would expect, he had many piercings.

He was with a girl, who took tremendous pleasure in being with a boy, even one who clearly found a great understanding and satisfaction in the Unbearable Heaviness of Being. She kept touching him, feathering her fingers over his cheeks and lips, stroking his pale arm. She was gentle, almost mother-like.

He bore it, like someone who is used to it. He never reached out to her, but he did make himself available to her, and he used natural courtesy to order food for her, pay the waiter with her money, wait until she sat comfortably before sitting himself.

He carried his notebooks and text books loose, no bag, no backpack. Her backpack was a weathered pink, with a name on it I thought I remembered from the Neverending Story. She was easier, an easier teen: cute, light and natural or no makeup, jeans, black tee. She smiled easily, with a top lip that curled up a bit.

They bent their heads over a book with Marilyn Manson on the cover, he reverently, showing her a passage that clearly resonated with him, she smiled and chuckled. She seemed indulgent, glad he liked it, and that was enough.

They got a large soda, to share. A quaint anachronism for such modern teens.

After a few minutes, they walked over to a standard four-door sedan that I hadn't noticed waiting. He opened the door for her---more of the courtesy---and they both slid into the back seat.

In the front, a middle-aged woman sat, patiently reading or listening to music, or peeping on the kids as they got their after-school soda, as I was.

They drove away and I turned to look at my girls, wondering what mask they would feel compelled to wear in their teens, whether they'd wear their hearts on their sleeves---and pants---as this boy did, or keep them closer to the vest.

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Actually, if I'm honest, I do hold grudges

I had to go get some Real Photos printed today so I went to the Quality Processor. It's a mom and pop shop, not a corporate conglomerate. This is where people who are trained and know what they are doing, know how the inner workings of their equipment function, and know how to develop film, all the principles involved, etc. work. These people are mainly photographers working to earn enough to buy another macro lens, for example.

(I'll forego comparing photographers to druggies in this way---working only for the next score---but I'm sure you can connect the dots. LOL Oh yeah, and of course, present company NOT excluded. I sink everything I earn right back into the business.)

Since I was going there anyway, I took a roll of film I've been hanging on to for quite a while. I was hoping they could save it.

Almost a year and a half ago, I took some really important and special photos. I photographed the newly finished nursery that I spent days custom painting and stenciling. My husband took one of the only photos of me pregnant with my now toddler. And the rest I took of my precious cat, who has since passed on. I knew she was at the end of her healthy days and I wanted to capture those moments.

I made the mistake of taking the film to a regular old processor---Walgreens as it were.

I came back an hour later to get my oh-so-important film.

The gum-chomping, ponytailed "photo tech" handed me back a strip of film, "Um like your photos didn't go through," shrug, "Like, I don't like know the problem but umm sorry, no photos for you."

I bit back my real response and instead asked, "What did you do?"

She tried to blame everything from me, solar flares, the film, my camera...everything but her own incompetence. I know just enough to suspect that was the real culprit.

But I hung on to that undeveloped film. Undeveloped, it had potential. Maybe I could save it. Maybe the photos weren't lost.

I sat it on my jewelry armoire and looked at it every day, more poignantly after my cat passed away. "Those are the last good photos of her," I'd think. Somehow, sitting there, on an undeveloped roll, I hadn't lost anything, not yet anyway.

Today, as I headed out to the professional place, a little voice reminded me of the possible photos on the undeveloped-maybe ruined roll. The little voice encouraged me to take it with me.

So I did.

The yin met the yang today.

Three people worked for two hours to save those photos. They are grainy, too light, faded images. But they managed.

And they explained how the Walgreens girl ruined the film.

I felt the anger surge and then leave me. I realized somewhere in me, I knew I'd been wronged and I had been holding on to it.

Their work and kindness---not to mention success saving the photos---balanced it out in the end.

So I released the grudge. And I have the images, digitally, that I can work to tweak and rescue.

Phase I:


After starting the tweaking, some level and sharpening work:

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The world in black and white: why the current immigration discussion saddens me

The current immigration issue is truly bothering me.

Our immigrant status (as a family) was quite some time ago. However, it was *NEVER* forgotten.

It was a Very Big Deal passed down from one generation to the next that our family was able to come here and find safety and opportunity.

We were raised on the idea that the US was made up of immigrants, and was the land of opportunity for them.

We were painted this picture of the US as a loving, nurturing adoptive mother. And that's what we believed it was, and how we felt about it.

We were to be grateful, appreciative, and respectful of the chance the US gave our immigrant foremothers and forefathers. And now, here, we were to extend a helping hand outward.

Further, it was to be irrespective of skin color.

My grandfather's father angered many because he included the Hispanic and AA workers (from his farm) at the main table in the house with the family. "If a man is good enough to work in my fields, he is good enough to sit at my table," was his motto. A man was to be judged by his character, not his color or his status. He never turned away a hungry mouth (this was during the Depression) and he taught his children, who taught their children, who taught me, the same.

They didn't have much, they weren't wealthy. But they were grateful for what they did have, and able to see that it was enough, and enough to help others in need.

Whatever else my family did wrong, this they did right.

I think in general, why the tone about the immigration issue bothers me---aside from the obvious surface issues---is that underneath it all is this unecessary greedy hoarding. Most of us here in the US have more than is necessary. And somehow the *having* is more important than the *helping.* Some people seem to be more afraid of losing what they have, than able to understand that we have enough to help.

I understand that there needs to be a process. Open borders---while nice to ponder in an idealized kind of way---aren't very realistic. And truth be told, resources are finite.

But I truly, truly wish that racism and xenophobia weren't such mitigating and motivating factors for so many in this discussion.

Then I read back through this and I see how it can read patronizing...even though I don't mean it that way. It's the unintentional privilege of being white. My great-grandfather got to be the nice man with the farm who could share his largesse.

It wasn't all easy peasy for my ancestors though, since I do descend from Native American too. I'll never forget my grandmother telling me how I lucky I was to be so white. She was very dark and she said, "At least you'll never have to know how hard it is to be so dark." She went on to make it personal, to mention how ashamed she was of her dark skin.

Imagine being taught to feel shame about your color.

And that, that right there, is why this entire immigration issue bothers me the most.

Link to MSNBC story about the May Day shopping boycott.

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.