Monday, February 28, 2011

Big Amie

Before I had kids I was a big fan of the HBO series Big Love. I thought it was compellingly odd, and having traveled to Utah and seen the polygamist compounds there, and of course being obsessed with utopian societies and strange cults of all kinds, I found it interesting.

Recently we reopened our Netflix disc account and I ordered up the next part of the story following what I had previously seen -- the first part of Season 3. Just as when I watched "My So-Called Life" as an adult (total buzzkill, by the way, when you start to sympathize with Angela's parents and want to grab Jordan Catalano by his ear and throw him out the front door...) I have a very different perspective on the show.

I know that my opinions about a years-old season of a show that few people watch anyway really does not amount to a hill of beans, but I thought it was interesting, so here goes. This is what struck me this time around:

1. Bill is such a jerk! He loves to tell his wives to just "handle it" when he has made some sort of terrible social mess. While I am sure that the delegation skills required to maintain a polygamous household would push anyone to their limits, in a real marriage you cannot just tell your spouse you don't want to hear anything about the problems that affect both of you. It's ridiculous, and I don't know of any functional husband-wife pairs who do things that way. It's one thing for one person to handle one aspect of the household, and the other person another aspect, but it's different to just say, "Oh, handle it, and quit whining." I have yet to mow our lawn, but when Ben comes in after doing it, I will at least get him a cold drink and give him a pass on watching the kids solo until he gets over the heat stroke. I am the one who does my teaching work, but Ben will still listen to me when I have a problem and help me figure out a solution.

2. Bill and the three wives are always having these long, drawn-out, uninterrupted adult conversations in the early evening hours. Let me say, in our house we have one husband, one wife, and two kids, and it seems at times that the house is bursting with people, everyone needing something. In the Henrickson household, there are at least three babies, and five or six other kids besides. There is no way that all of the adults sitting calmly over the remains of barbecued chicken in the backyard would be able to carry on an entire conversation about the future of the store expansion, or some complicated legal situation, without at least one or two babies screaming and needing their mothers.

3. The Henricksons remind me of Dr. Quinn in that they are really plain old modern WASPy pop culture-infused, fashionable, politically correct people wearing a little hats that say "ooh except I'm different." Dr. Quinn was supposedly from the frontier, although she didn't represent the 1870s worldview really at all, and the Henricksons have twee little labels on their foreheads that say "I'm a polygamist! (giggle)" From what I know about religious zeal, it is much more likely that in real life a family like them would be a lot more private, a lot less "hip," much angrier, and certainly a lot less fashionable. Polygamy is more of a "schtick" for the show than it is central to who the characters themselves actually are. In fact, they all seem untouched by it except for Nicki. She is the only character that I really buy. Of course, that could be because she is played by the faaaabulous Chloe Sevigny. I honestly think they would have done better with the show if they put aside the religious aspect of the polygamy and had some sort of situation in which they had an open marriage between all of them, for everyone's mutual benefit, but the kicker is... it's in Utah! And the husband left the fundamentalist Mormon church! So he's living out his destiny, even though he's doing everything he can to rebel against it! Kapow! It might be more about them differentiating themselves from the compound polygamists rather than sort of throwing their lot in with the rest.

4. The women all just have way too damn much free time. Like I said before, I have two lovely kids, and every second of my day is circumscribed by caring for them. The show is forever showing this wife or that just roaming around the mall, or driving all by herself from one place to the next, or doing her nails, or something. Really?? I have two kids and I rarely do those things. If I had eight or ten kids in my charge? Forget it. I would run out to Walmart at 11pm for milk and diapers once a week and that would be it. I wouldn't even wear matching shoes half the time.

5. Motherhood has not seemed to affect these women. This is certainly my own experience writing itself all over what I watch, but I have a hard time watching shows in which women are bearing children right and left and still just being their normal selves, but with a fat, gurgling baby on their knee. Motherhood changed me in a really fundamental way. I literally don't feel like the same person I used to be, except in peripheral, detail-type ways. I don't even know how many kids the women have. They rarely mention them by name. And their houses are always so effing clean... yeah right.

So I don't know if I will keep watching it. I find the antics to be more about the "fish out of water" storyline and ignoring the domestic reality that would certainly come into play. For example, Nicki and Barb both have jobs. This means that Margene is watching 8-10 kids... all day. And she still looks so sprightly? I just don't buy it. And the older kids are going to all these drug parties and stuff... can you believe that a fundamentalist Mormon dad wouldn't have a really strong law about that kind of thing?

Interestingly enough, the one element that I have less of a problem with is the idea that all of the women could get along. Aside from sharing your husband (ew), I can appreciate the fact that it might be nice to have a couple of subordinate wives around the house to do my bidding. Ha ha.

So there it is. My opinions are so strong, and yet they don't matter at all. I enjoy delving into the unimportant every once in a while, for the chance to take a vacation from my real life, which looks nothing like the scrubbed and shiny polygamy farce on Big Love.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Today we walked to the store instead of driving, and I was surprised by how short the walk was. For some reason it is easier to get the kids ready to go out for a walk than it is to get in the car. Perhaps it is all in my head, but it worked well.

I had Norah in the hiking carrier and Chris in the stroller. The weather was actuallya bit hot today (80 degrees) but it was dry and sunny and really pretty pleasant. Norah looked really cute in her little sunhat.

We attracted a lot of attention within the store, and on my way out someone asked me if I wanted a ride home -- I have noticed that people have a hard time believing that someone with kids would walk around on purpose. I am always surprised by people's generosity, though. Once when I was strolling down the sidewalk with C, a man stopped his car in the road, put on his hazard lights, and yelled out his window to make sure we were okay, and see if we needed to borrow his phone to make a call. Suburbia is sooooo dangerous ;D

One of the most pleasant parts of the walk was on the way home, when the sidewalk passed by this beautiful row of hedges, a long stretch that I never once noticed while driving, because it is placed right next to a section of the road where I am always trying to change lanes. There was breeze, and shade, and birds singing. It was a very gentle walk, and a reminder of the good little things in life.

It was good exercise and I enjoyed it. I am hoping to soak in as much outdoor living as possible before terrible prehistoric summertime strikes!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Golden Baby Days

The postpartum haze is gone now, and I am really settling into enjoying Norah now. It is hard to explain what that grey funky haze does to me -- it's not like I wasn't enjoying her before, but it was as if I was too busy trying to keep my mind together to really pay attention to how fun she is. Or something. Maybe other moms know what I mean.

Now she is 10 months old, cruising around the living room holding onto the furniture, babbling a *lot* and saying "dada," "mama," "baba" (brother), and "clap, clap, clap!" which sounds sort of like "bap, bap, bap!" but is accompanied by clapping so I feel pretty confident that it is what she is saying.

She eats SO MUCH FOOD. She eats breakfast for an hour -- I put her in her high chair and she eats fruit and cereal, then cheerios, then yogurt, then back again, then rice crackers, until she starts refusing the food. She eats so much. And she growing to match -- C sleeps in a diaper still and the two of them wear the same diaper size.

I am really enjoying this phase, because she is still a baby -- she really looks like a baby when she is drifting off to sleep in my arms, her little feathery lashes resting on her chunky chubby cheeks :) But her personality is showing itself more and more, she sleeps through the night, and she is testing out her independence in tiny ways here and there. She is so sweet, too -- there is nothing sweeter than a baby girl!

Chris is growing and getting smarter every day, too. He cursed the other night while we were watching a movie. It isn't funny, but Ben and I were choking trying to hide our laughter. The thing that is so funny about it is that he used the word in the exact right context. They learn a little too well sometimes ;D So my mouth is on lockdown right now. I am trying really hard. I have a tendency to let my frustration come out in a string of muttered curses, but I just have to cut it out and find something else to do with my frustration. Maybe I will become a marathon runner ;D

Around the house I am on my ever present quest to find balance and simplify things, and I have managed to relegate my teaching to the early morning and late night so that it doesn't intrude on my daily responsibilities like hanging out with the kids and trying to keep order in the house.

I have found out a couple of useful things: first, if I proactively feed the kids -- feed them as soon as they wake up for the morning and from nap -- then they are in a much better mood afterwards. And they eat better, too. I was having a lot of trouble getting Chris to eat enough, but these days when I offer him food right when he gets up, he eats more. He also really is getting to like fresh fruit and veggies, which is a great thing. It makes me proud although I didn't really have a hand in it.

My Rubbermaid Reveal mop is just as exciting as the day I bought it -- the floors are much cleaner than they used to be, although I do wish it had a scrub brush on it for the really tough stuff. I feel like I spend a lot of time prying things up off the vinyl with an old butter knife. How does food turn to cement sooooo quickly?

It looks like I am not going to make my birthday weight loss goal :( I have only a month left and twenty pounds until the goal, because I lost all the progress I made in January, somehow. It makes me sad but I am trying not to wallow in it, but just to keep on with forward progress. Exercise is a big challenge, because I get tired and hungry when I exercise, so I don't do it much because I don't want to overeat or fall asleep after. Allegedly it will get easier over time but I haven't really gotten to that point yet. So I am just trying to keep moving. I bought a little pedometer at Target to track my steps and aim for 10,000 a day, but then the second day I had it, I lost it. I have no idea where the fracking thing is. I changed from jeans to shorts and forgot to switch it over, and then later I remembered and went back to the jeans to get the pedometer off of them and click it onto the shorts, but it wasn't on the jeans, either. :p Stuff like that tries to derail me all the time. I think to myself, other people can keep up with their things. Other people do not spend 50% of their day looking for stuff they just set down that has now disappeared.

Also, I have had to give up coffee. I started having mini panic attacks and not being able to sleep -- oops! It's all from the caffeine. Somehow caffeine from coffee is worse than caffeine from other sources. So for now I am drinking a lot of green tea and popping Tylenol to deal with the withdrawal headaches. I am a pretty big caffeine addict :p It's hard not to be, though!

Overall it's going well. I can smell Spring in the air. Norah is going to start walking any day now. Maybe that will be the secret to my weight loss ;D

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Winter Weather

Unlike most of the country, right now our weather is fairly mild. There is a slightly springy feel in the air, although it is still chilly. It's hard to explain, but it just smells sort of "green" at different times of day. Sometimes the ocean air comes up and it smells sort of beachy outside.

Today C and I got to play outside while N had her morning nap. We went out to the swingset and played for a long time there and with the sandbox full of rocks instead of sand (sand attracts the neighborhood cats and also when it rains, frogs come and lay their eggs in the pools, and... let's just say the sandbox turned into a science experiment within about a week last year, so we opted for rocks instead this time around.). The weather was slightly chilly but then perfect once we got moving. We took a short walk after N woke up as well.

A few things struck me about the weather this time of year. First, when I open the door and look out, down the road and across the neighborhood, at this time of year all the colors seem to coordinate. Everything is taupe, grey, or brown, and the living things that are noticeably alive are fairly sedate. It's a calm feeling compared with the riotous, violent nature of summers here. With tropical heat, fanged snakes (yes, in our yard... shudder...), twisty stabby vines, lightning, flash floods, etc., summers are kind of scary when you really get down to it. No one goes anywhere except from the house to the car to the store/office and then back again, hunched over and rushing. In winter, though, we can stroll outside, go for walks, observe the changing seasons, and generally enjoy the out of doors without having to fight off saber-toothed tigers (yes, in our yard... shudder...) and plunge our heads into ice water to avoid heat stroke. In the winter I can imagine I live somewhere sedate. Ironically, the places I imagine, like Connecticut, Kenosha, or Iowa City, are in the middle of a violent experience of their own right now, although instead of venomous snake fangs and eggs frying on the sidewalk it's a lot of ice and snow and cold.

So I guess what I am trying to say is that if this calm, peaceful, enjoying-the-outdoors feeling is what northerners experience in the summer, then I can grudgingly understand why a person could look forward to July instead of dreading it and conspiring to make it pass as quickly as possible.

Also, it was really fun watching C play on the swingset again. He is finally gotten up the courage to actually swing, and he's getting better at it. My little monkey.