Saturday, January 29, 2011

Three Weeks in Pictures

There are lots of things I've meant to write about during the past three weeks, but I just didn't get around to it. Some of these photos may pop in retro-blogging entries, but I'm not making any promises. So, what have we been doing for the past three weeks?

Making gingerbread people with Daddy.

Discovering the awesome Boggy Creek Farms, a farm dropped in the middle of East Austin. We stop there before music class.

Playing with Aidan at the Luthers.
Enjoying the thrill of jumping onto a mattress laid out on the floor.

Attempting to bake all of the bread we eat.
Going shopping ("Bye!") for "books."
Playing with Apple Photo Booth in an attempt to get some pictures of Lydia and me.

Still Blogging

Yesterday, my mom asked me if I was still blogging. While my lack of entries would indicate otherwise, the answer is that I'm trying. Time flies, our internet has been down, we have a toddler... there is a myriad of excuses. The honest explanation would be that lots of things are weighing heavy on our hearts right now, it's often difficult to write with the optimism that Lydia's developments warrant, and by the time Lydia is down for bed and the house is in order and we're ready for the next day, I often just want to veg on the sofa.

What's weighing on our hearts, you ask?

Austin ISD is in financial crisis. The estimated budget shortfall is tremendous--substantially larger than the estimates we were given two months ago. Hundreds of teachers and staff will be losing their jobs, programs will be cut, schools will be closed, and I fear that the Austin schools will never be the same. It is depressing to say the least, and a dark cloud has loomed over workdays at school.

Some family friends' son passed away at the end of November very unexpectedly--two months ago today. I didn't say anything about it then because I felt that anything that came to mind didn't do justice to their grief, suffering, and loss. As the past two months have passed by, the stark, empty reality that things for them will never be the same has set in, and I have been thinking about the Bellomy family non-stop. This is the first time since Lydia was born that someone in our lives has lost a child, and the fear, empathy, and shared grief that I have experienced as a parent has been difficult to process. As time passes and we have spent some time with Gary, Carol, Wes, and Connor, I am still boggled.

To lay it out there, we're tired, and Robin and I both feel like we have a lot on our plates. After my lofty New Years resolutions and goals, the blog has fallen by the wayside--again. I think I easily fall into a guilt cycle of feeling badly that I haven't kept my resolution and promise to myself, of knowing that people check the blog and are disappointed that the same entry from weeks ago is sitting on their screens. Feeling badly leads to avoiding the source of guilt, which leads to not blogging. And here I am.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Why It's Not Daycare

I am definitely aware of language. I think about the words I use, and I think about the words used around me. Various experiences throughout my life have enforced this, and I think it's a good thing.

And so begins my rant on "Daddy Daycare," fathers who "babysit," and "Mr. Mom." If you think I'm oversensitive on this, if you think I'm crazy for having a degree in Women's Studies, I would suggest you stop reading, because I've been pushed over the edge and I'm frustrated.

It's not daycare when a father cares for a child. It's parenting. Get it straight. When a man cares for a child alone, he's not pretending to be a mother. He's being a father.

I recognize that for many, these phrases are cute. They picture a man, often a boyfriend, husband, or partner, caring for a child, being sweet, affectionate, and gentle. However, if we think about it, comparing a care-giving father to daycare or a babysitter is a tremendous insult to their role as a parent, and implying that a father should only act in these ways when the mother is not able is ridiculous. If we accept that this sort of care-giving is only for rare occasions when daycare is needed, we are perpetuating the idea that a disproportionate amount of child-rearing should fall on women, and, if I dare say, we are letting less involved fathers off the hook. These phrases call back to a time with very fixed, inflexible ideas of domestic roles and gendered responsibilities, and this is not okay.

I read an essay by Matt Logelin, a widow whose wife died twenty-four hours after giving birth to their only child. He described the surprise he encounters when people realize that he, a man, can dress their daughter, care for her, and raise her alone. When his wife died, people actually asked him if he was going to give Maddie to someone else, presumably a woman, to raise.

In the essay, Matt said he was simultaneously assumed to be incompetent and praised for the smallest of feats. He said, "Society also mythologizes the good, single father. A man who steps up to his role as father is looked at in awe. Mothers? It seems that most people think nothing of the remarkable work done by these women. They’re just doing “their” job, right? Women are expected to be good mothers. Men are expected to be, well, men."

People do not expect men to innately know how to care for children and when men show themselves as capable, people are surprised and impressed. On the flip side, mothers are expected to carry the wealth of knowledge necessary for raising children, along with patience, kindness, and energy. The learning curve and expectations are pretty steep.

I think about the number of families in our lives with parents who parent equally, and I'm not talking about who goes to work and who stays home. I'm talking about parents who, in the early months, split night duty, feedings, comforting, and all of the tasks that come with child-rearing. I think of men who are single parents. I think of gay men in our lives who plan to adopt and will eventually be tremendous partners; their kids won't have a "mother," and they will be loved and nurtured. These men are not providing daycare, and they're not playing the part of "mom." They're parents. They're fathers. To imply any different would be selling them gravely short.

Day Seven: Freestyle Friday

I've decided that Friday will be the day I allow myself to get away from my designated focus of the week. In my research on depth of field and bokeh, I discovered a tutorial about shooting sunsets. This was what the sky looked like when I got home on Friday.

Day Six: Close-Ups

Attempt Number Two. I love some of these shots. My next step will be figuring out how to get the focus a bit sharper.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


My aunt Judy loves Lydia. Really, really loves her. So much that she made her this gorgeous, adorable, and super cozy snowman quilt. Isn't it adorable? It's backing is flannel, and I snuck it away for a nap while we were in Minnesota over break, and it was truly glorious--both the nap and the comfy blanket. We thank you and appreciate how much you love our daughter, Judy!

Day Five: Nice Try

I had hoped to play with depth of field by taking close-up pictures of Lydia. I had grand plans for eyes, eyelashes, fingertips...turns out she wasn't so much in the mood. That's my girl.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Mind of Her Own

As Lydia approaches two, the moments in which her little wheels are almost visibly turning are more and more entertaining for us. I am constantly boggled by the amount of things she just knows. When Elizabeth shared with us that Oliver knows his colors, I was floored. Lydia? Know colors? No way. I immediately started asking her what color various things were. Everything--I mean everything--was "boo!" (Blue) We occasionally got a "Pit!" (Pink--I think.) As I promptly began worrying that Lydia was colorblind, I had the brilliant idea to ask her to identify the red fish. She got it right! The green fish. Right again! Lydia knows her colors, she's just not able to say them independently. Crazy, right?

She has taken to two new toys: her animals and dollies. Lydia LOVES playing with her animals. She moves them around, lines them up, and even laid them down to go to sleep when it was her bedtime. It is adorable.
While at my parents' and Robin's parents' homes, Lydia had the opportunity to play with dolls. My parents still have the wooden doll cradle I played with, and Lydia loved it. I will admit that I feel very self-conscious whenever Lydia takes to something so gender-stereotypical, but I have also always been of the mindset that if she expresses interest or excitement in something, we will allow her to explore it, so dolls it is. She covers them with blankets, rocks them, attempts to swaddle them. She pats them and sings to them. (The song goes, "Hee-da, hoe-da, hee-da, hoe-da." Don't ask me.) Last night, she played with dolls for almost an hour. Seriously.

Finally, she's starting to enjoy helping us and "working" around the house. For Christmas, Great Aunt Treesuh gave Lydia a broom and dust pan. We didn't hesitate putting her to work.

Prior to this, she had asked for help putting on her apron (a gift from Grandma and Grandpa Ganser), and then brought me my apron. (As a side note, I believe everyone who works in a kitchen should have an apron. They are so useful!) As I was tying it in the front, as I usually do, she said "Bah! Bah!" Obviously, I was supposed to tie it in the back.

It took quite a while to get a cute shot of the two of us in our aprons. Somebody thought it was hilarious to make faces at Daddy during the photo session. (This was definitely not anger. She's just a ham.)

Day Four: Bedtime Reading with Daddy

This is my first (and not so great) attempt at playing with depth of field with human subjects. I didn't quite meet my photography objective, but I like the moment captured of Robin and Lydia.

Also, as a shout-out, my long-time friend Helena has her own 365 project going at her blog, which can be found here. Helena is incredibly talented, and her photos deserve an audience!

Day Three: Depth Charge

In my search for guidance in my 365 Project, I came across The Pioneer Woman, a popular blogger who started a site devoted solely to photography. She has a very helpful entry about bokeh (the blurry circles created by light sources), and by extension, depth of field. After playing, this is what I got.

Day Two: Research

The challenge for this week is Depth of Field. I paid very little attention in the high school photography class I took my senior year, so I'm doing my own research. As I come across cool blogs that have tutorials, I will include them in the blog roll on the right.
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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Years

I have always been fairly open about my dislike of New Year's Eve. I feel like it's a lot of pressure and expectation for a night that doesn't always end up being very pleasant. This year, however, we had a fantastic New Years. Our wonderful friends Brian, Elizabeth, Jessica, and Aaron came over and we munched delicious snacks, drank wine and cocktails, and laughed loudly as we rang in the New Year while Lydia and Oliver slept upstairs. (Aidan was home with his grandparents.) We never made it past the kitchen island and didn't even bother trying to keep things tidy. It was wonderful--a perfect way to say goodbye to 2010 and welcome in 2011.

Here comes the part where I go public with my New Years Resolutions. I have three:

1.) Blog more regularly--entries with text at least twice a week plus the photo entries I post from my phone and my 365 project photos.
2.) Complete the 365 project.
3.) Keep a gratitude journal.

The first two will be public, the third will be just for me. I have never set such measurable resolutions before, so I'm excited to see how it goes.

Day One: View From Above

I have decided to participate in the 365 Project. My goal is to take one picture every day for the entire year. Obviously, all you have to do is look at the thousands of pictures on our Picasa page to know that I take more than 365 pictures in a year, but I will often go for several days without picking up my camera. I'm excited about the project and am hoping to use it to push myself out of my photography comfort zone. In this photo, I tried taking a picture of Lydia from a new perspective. Without further ado, I present to you Entry 1:

Laundry List

It has been far too long since I blogged regularly. One of My New Year's resolutions is to get back to blogging regularly. Some big things are off of my to-do list, so I think it should be easy to get back into it.

In the meantime, what has Lydia been up to?

Playing more and more creatively. She scored big time at Christmas and is becoming more and more independent with her play. For example, right now she's playing with her Duplo animals while I blog. Crazy!

Showing some interest in the potty. She had one awesome week during which she actually used the potty three times, but her interest has fallen off since then. We're not pushing the process at all but are excited about this indicator that we will not be changing her diapers forever.

Stringing words together! Her vocabulary is growing quickly, though she still does a lot of "Lydia speak," words that only those who are around her frequently can understand. However, two or three word phrases have become frequent, and yesterday, she started saying, "Ummmmmm, no" or "Ummmmmm, yes" when asked a question.

Per my New Year's resolution, I will have more posts about our travels and more regular updates about the goings-on in our house, but until then, Happy New Year!