The perfect thought at the perfectly wrong time

21 January 2016

self-conscious in NC

One thing I didn't necessarily anticipate about being in a new place was this uncomfortable self-consciousness and hyperawareness that I carry with me all the time. Sometimes I feel like I'm just bulging at the seams and not holding things together very well while my children yell and throw tantrums in the tiny library story time while everyone else sits there quietly with their kids who've probably brushed their teeth more regularly in the recent past and eaten something without added preservatives.

when kindness hurts

I read the article "A Daughter Too Kind for Her Own Good" and felt I could relate all too well. Gordon writes, "I’m not just her mother, but another girl who grew up being told not to ruffle feathers or rock the boat."

Kindness runs deeper than just being a people-pleaser, so I believe as a virtue it still deserves a priority place. But I know my tendency to want other people to like me, to be self-sacrificing at least under the guise of serving others' interests, and to avoid arguments on issues ranging from personal to political doesn't do me any favors sometimes, and I worry about what I'm inadvertently teaching my children.

And although I hate to admit that I judge other women with the same unfair measuring stick, I notice that I do. I think it's so culturally ingrained in our ideas about femininity. Just yesterday, I was listening to Hillary Clinton speak on public radio about her presidential campaign, and I found myself feeling uncomfortable because, completely aside from her politics, she didn't sound very matronly.

20 January 2016

campus dining

There are a couple of college campuses near us and on MLK day I decided we should try the cafeteria at NC A&T, a HBCU (historically black college/university) very close to where we live. I felt a bit out of place on a few counts: first, we were white; second, we had small kids with us; and third, we were not college students. So it was a bit of a weird choice for dining out, perhaps, but also kind of fun. Oh, the days of college when you could eat cereal with every meal on your meal plan.

18 November 2015

cross-country move cost, by the numbers

So how much does it really cost to move your person and stuff 2000 miles? Here's what it cost us:

Gas for moving truck:

Cost of moving truck, with car trailer towing:

Gas for second car being driven:

airfare for two people and a baby from SLC to RDU:

storage unit for 1.5 months:

* Just a note--I did a six-day layover in Austin, TX, in order to attend my brother's wedding, so this flight might have cost something slightly different if I hadn't done that, but I purposely consolidated these trips in an effort to save money overall on travel costs.

Grand total: $2588.02 

Yowzers. Cross-country moves aren't cheap. This doesn't even include some of the indirect costs, like double rent and many meals eaten out because we didn't have a kitchen. If we had more time to plan this move, we might have made some decisions differently and possibly could have saved more money in the process. But for those who have done comparable moves, how do we stack up?

30 October 2015

thoughts on parenting styles

Today I find myself thinking about my parenting style. I am tending a 7-month-old baby in addition to my kids. This baby normally goes to day care while her parents work outside the home, but her mom needed a back-up today.

It's interesting to think about the difference in experience and environment for different children. Does it really matter that much? After 3.5 years into this parenting game, I find myself on the rather extreme end of the attachment spectrum. It was a little bit on accident that I got here. I would have said when Shep was a baby that I didn't feel like I had a choice. His temperament seemed to demand constant, exhausting attention in mostly one form: nursing. I avoided going in the car and leaving the house by myself with him because he screamed in his car seat every time, unless I was in the back seat with him, playing with him, leaning over his seat to nurse, etc. When I tried sleep training, it seemed to backfire. After a few days of trying to do cry it out, he started screaming bloody murder every time we even walked into the room that his crib was in. So I abandoned that attempt, despite being desperately sleep deprived. (I might have been doing sleep training wrong. It definitely didn't feel intuitive, so I adopted a method that seemed effective for others and probably didn't even follow the program correctly.)

Maya is a bit more adaptable. I think she would sleep by herself and sleep through the night if I taught her to. She would probably also be a bit more independent if I didn't hold and carry her all the time.

Being a parent always changes your lifestyle, but my life revolves around my kids in obvious ways. I don't do this because I have passionately strong beliefs that this is the right way to parent, and I don't pity every child who doesn't get the same parenting. I respect many parents who make different choices. I nurse my kids and I'm glad that there is some evidence out there that this is a good choice because it feels like a validating balm on my self-doubt, but at the same time, is the difference between formula and breastmilk enough to support the controversy that surrounds the issue? There are healthy, thriving children who develop into mature, responsible adults upon an infant diet of formula. Go figure. We humans are kind of resilient and adaptable, I guess.

So why do I parent the way I do? Am I just making things harder than they need to be? Am I exhausting and wearing myself more than necessary and thereby compromising my ability to contribute in more meaningful and impactful ways? I worry that I'm missing something, but I do this intuitively. It feels comfortable and natural. I do admit that it's a sacrifice. And maybe the sacrifices I make at times are not to the benefit of my family, even though I hope they are. It's a lot more work in certain ways and it comes at the cost of some things that might be good for both my children, my husband, and me. I'm sure some nights we really wish we didn't share the same bed and that everybody slept through the night because some degree of sleep deprivation seems to be a constant around here. I actually worry sometimes that I'm doing my kids a disservice. Maybe they would benefit from learning some independence skills. It might be a good thing overall if they could do some self-soothing, fall asleep without nursing, and spend time with someone other than me without their world falling apart. And while I'm fairly good at holding and nursing, I'm not very good at other things like making sure they get dressed or have stimulating activities that are engaging and developmentally appropriate. I see gaping holes in my disciplinary methods and find it difficult to enforce behavior standards with my toddler. I think it probably says something about me, not Maya, that I've never left her with anyone else besides Tim and even then, only for a few hours in the 10 months she's been alive. I like feeling needed and important, and my parenting style is a bit self-serving because it makes me feel good to be needed. I value being self-sacrificing in order to make a "contribution," so it behooves me personally to at least pretend that's what I'm doing. I don't really prioritize time to enjoy life and have fun, and I think that comes at a certain cost?

I don't know if I am doing this right, but I do know this: there is no one single right way. There are multiple ways to get this right, and every parent makes mistakes. I just hope that I can learn from mine and not cause my kids more issues to work through as a byproduct of being raised by me. Life brings enough problems on its own.

26 October 2015

Last week, we went to a warehouse for schoolteachers in the county to get school supplies. Shep had to go pee, but I couldn't see a potty anywhere. I took him outside (every time I do this, he's encouraged to pee outside rather than in a toilet, so I like to find the potty if there's one nearby), and we walked around to the other side of the building. I found a place on a wall that I thought he wouldn't be seen. Afterward, he was playing around outside and a woman approached me. "Do you need help with anything?" she asked. I said, "Oh, no, we're just playing a little bit."

"We saw your son going potty," she began a bit reluctantly. Then she proceeded to explain that her organization had employees, including their president, in a conference room in full view of my toddler, and that they serve lower-income individuals and ex-prisoners, some of whom are sex offenders. She said she wanted to ensure that they weren't violating their terms of behavior, or something like that.

That conversation both baffled and mortified me. I feel like a lot of my interactions with strangers out here kind of has this baffling tone. I sometimes feel embarrassed that I'm out and about at all with two young children. I feel very self-conscious, partially just because I feel uncomfortable in general, and partially because I get a sense we are violating social codes that I'm unaware of. We get a lot of positive attention, too--mostly from benevolent old people who love babies--but sometimes I feel like being a mom of young kids is like running a traveling circus. Maybe I should start charging people to see our freak show.

15 October 2015

breaking up with Utah

I've been thinking about my relationship with Utah in terms of a romantic relationship over the last month or so.

During the summer especially, our relationship status would have been "it's complicated" on Facebook. The relationship was long-term: Tim and I lived in Salt Lake for 5 years, I lived in Provo for 4 years before that, and then I lived in Layton for 8 years before that. The only time I left was for 6 months when I was in Russia, which doesn't even seem like it counts.

And then we broke up.

When I first got out here, I was feeling a little angry and betrayed by Utah. Now I've gotten over that and there are definitely things I miss about it.

It's a little hard for me to pinpoint exactly what was dissatisfying to me about my experience in Salt Lake, but I think it is connected to this idea of community and feeling like it was a struggle to be a part of a community that had any consistency. I am not sure why this is. Maybe it's less to do with the place itself and more to do with me, so it's dumb to look for things to blame Utah for.

I did always feel a little silly about my desire to experience living somewhere else for a little while. There are a lot of people who live in Utah whom I love and who love Utah and have no desire to leave, so why did I? And I don't know the answer to that question. Maybe we'll move back later, but right now I look forward to the prospect of getting to know a new place. I haven't found my place here yet. I mostly feel lost and confused right now.

I do miss shopping at NPS where you could find slightly questionable grocery merchandise at a discount, and I miss shopping at thrift stores where you could add to your book collection for a dollar here and there and buy your children's wardrobe, also a dollar at a time. Apparently I really like at least feeling like I'm saving money. I'm not sure where the weird discount outlets are around here, but I hope there are some. I almost asked someone at a regular grocery store what they do with their less-desirable produce: "I will buy brown bananas for half price!"

12 October 2015


Two weeks ago tomorrow, my brother rolled in with a big ol' 16-foot Penske truck and car trailer, upon which sat our minivan.

We had planned to get a small trailer and use the van to haul our stuff, but after a lot of worry, stress, and naysaying. we decided to find another way to transport our belongings.

We narrowed it down to a pod through U-Pack or a Penske truck, and ended up going with Penske and towing our other car (which grand totaled around $1700 if you're interested in that kind of thing), partially because we wanted to ensure we'd have a car Tim could drive to work. (Unfortunately we took the car into a mechanic shortly after we got it and found out about another costly repair because of a leak in the rack and pinion.) And we didn't even drive it here! Oh, cars.

There was a lot of room in the moving truck left over. I had already gotten rid of several items that I now wish we had. But I'm glad now I was unsuccessful getting rid of some other things, such as our couch. Now we have somewhere to sit besides on the mattress on the floor or the kitchen table. Getting everything loaded up from the storage unit and the things from my parents' house was a huge stressor. It wasn't ideal at all the way it worked out (e.g. Tim's mom unloaded the storage unit practically by herself and our attempts to find help for her were ill-fated), but it got done and now we have our stuff. If we could do it all over again, I think we would have had Tim fly back and take care of it rather than waiting to do it during the weekend of my brother's open house, which was when my brother offered to drive the truck out. Or maybe we would've hired somebody to do it? There was too much stuff going on that weekend for my brother to handle it, and it turns out mobilizing other resources when you're across the country is nigh unto impossible. I guess regrets are inevitable when you're moving across the country without a lot of notice, though. We do appreciate the help we got, and now we're settling in slowly but surely. 

16 September 2015

transportation issues

In a couple of weeks, my brother Jon will be traveling from DC to SLC for an open house celebrating his recent marriage (which we happily attended in Texas!). He graciously offered to transport our stuff for us to North Carolina from Salt Lake. Now the question is: how?

A couple years back, we acquired a 2005 Dodge Caravan from Tim's sister as a second car. Once Tim accepted his new teaching position in NC, we formulated a plan in our limited time frame: Tim would drive out our Civic with a few items that would fit inside the car. I would change my return flight from Texas to North Carolina, packing as much luggage on the plane as possible. The rest of our stuff would go in a storage locker in Salt Lake, get sold, or get donated or thrown away. Then, Jon would retrieve the van, load a trailer from the storage unit, and drive . . . and drive . . . and drive (sung to the tune of "Pioneer Children Sang As They Walked").

The van has a hitch installed on it from when Tim's sister and brother-in-law used it to haul a loaded 4x8 trailer from Seattle to Boise area. We want to use the same size trailer, but haul it 2000 miles instead of 500. I have spent a lot of time worrying that this plan wouldn't work. It's been mostly unproductive worry and stress. A lot of people who've heard of our plan are super skeptical. And we have taken the naysaying seriously. We've explored renting a truck, selling our van, towing our van with a rental truck, shipping our books separately, keeping the storage locker, etc.. It's terribly tempting to rent a trailer for approximately 300 dollars as opposed to a moving truck for over 1000, especially when it includes regaining access to a second car.

Our only car out here is our Civic, which Tim drove out over three weeks before I came, and it's sadly having issues at the moment,  which may or may not be related to its recent cross-country trip. On our way home from the airport, the front bumper was falling off, so we had to drive 35 mph the entire way (it took a long time) to avoid losing our undercarriage. Separate from that, it was making a funky noise. So we took it into the shop and they said it needed a new A/C kit, A/C compressor, and some other A/C system components/ repairs. We don't really know the area or have a way of getting to another mechanic for a second opinion, so I hope the 1400 dollar repair required is necessary. We need a car out here, so we went ahead and ordered the work. It's crappy-expensive though. As if moving wasn't expensive enough! I need a job!

14 September 2015

the new digs

I'm sitting on a hard floor (it's supposed to look like wood, but it's some kind of rubbery material). I'm leaning against a mattress on the floor, and slouching as I do because really the mattress is not high enough to comfortably support my back. Actually, there are two mattresses bunched together with a ratchet tie-down that form a faux-king-size-bed. Upon these mattresses, we have placed a mattress pad. There is no bedding. There's also a fan for the white noise and to drown out Shep's snores. That kid is a loud sleeper.

In the suitcases, I brought most of our clothing and also cloth diapers. I haven't been using them lately. I wish I could say it's because our 3.5-year-old child is potty trained, because I feel like I'm failing as a parent the longer that he's not. But although I feel a certain urgency about him wearing undies successfully, I think there are more pressing issues relative to a certain recent cross-country move.

I also brought the cloth diaper sprayer toilet attachment, which we also use for a bidet. It's not currently installed. It is normally not a big deal to attach to the toilet, but the other night, we had a bad time attempting to install it. This is because the valve that turns off the toilet water supply is completely busted. Tim removed the piping that connects the toilet  to the wall without knowing that the water had not, in fact, been turned off (there was no way of telling), and then it was like a fire hydrant and water was shooting everywhere. I mean everywhere. And we couldn't stop it, so the apartment flooded. (The denouement of the story finally happened when we called the emergency maintenance number provided by the apartment's property management company and a plumber came and shut off the main water supply.)

So I guess it's a good thing there's no carpet in here; otherwise it might be damaged. Literally, no carpet. That's a first for me. We need our rug, but it's still in Utah. I always thought I didn't really like carpet because I assumed that carpet never gets fully clean, but now I'm not so sure because I have an 8-month-old, and I'm pretty sure her crawling skills are actually regressing.

I don't know much about the area around me. It was humid and hot when we arrived, but today is cooler. I have this theory that my body actually responds to humid heat better than dry heat, because I don't normally sweat adequately in dry heat. I suppose I still have some experimentation to do to prove my hypothesis, but not today. When we were in Texas, I think I sweat more than I probably ever have in my life. It's quite green here and there are lots of trees. It seems pretty--more so to me than the desert landscape I'm used to. I'm constantly confused about my spatial orientation, though, as I don't have the mountains to direct me. Also, I had this sense when we visited Washington as well of feeling a little isolated because you can mostly only see trees in every direction. There may be things on the other side of the trees, but you have to be in on the secret.

I wish for a more complete kitchen, but there's a certain way in which the sparseness of our surroundings. including the fridge, is pleasing. We have a cast iron skillet, a pan, a wooden spoon, a knife, and some plastic cutlery and disposable dishes that we are reusing. It will take time to restock.

It will be necessary to restock furniture as well. I got some chairs from a Goodwill in Greensboro. It was fun fitting them all in the car with two car seats, but I got some help from a friendly bystander and made it home safely. Then we got a table to go with the chairs from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. So our dining table is outfitted. We also bought a washer off Craigslist, and now I can resume cloth diapering even though I'm somewhat reluctant to do so because disposables are easier. I guess my reluctance to spend any money will win out though. In general, I will do a lot to avoid spending money.

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