Eating and Control

I need to lose weight. This fact is abundantly clear to me now that I’ve been in Europe for a while. In the US, I’m on the skinnier end of the fat spectrum, so comparatively I don’t look or feel as fat. But, as my husband said, “now that we’re in Europe I can definitely see you’re overweight.” So can I and it makes me sad.

I know what I need to do. I need to get back on the primal diet. I’ve was on it strictly for about two months this year and lost 9 lbs. Then I went off it and gained a few, then I stayed more or less on it for a while and lost a bit more weight but didn’t go on it strictly enough to really lose the rest of the baby weight I need to lose, which would be about 15 lbs.

Why the primal diet? Because it really works. Seriously. When my husband was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes

a, the first thing he did was stop eating all carbohydrates (except vegetables) and not only did his blood sugar numbers go back to normal, but he also lost a lot of weight. While he was slightly overweight when he got diabetes (he was a ‘skinny’ diabetic who ate a shit ton of sugar), he is now a lean and lovely 82 kg. You can covert that to pounds, but I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s only 7kg more than what I weight–and he’s 8 inches taller. He looks great and almost has a 6 pack despite the fact he doesn’t actually work out. His collarbones protrude to the extent of almost being deadly.

My sister went primal the same time last year I did and we were going to lose the weight together. She weighed about 150, which is around my maximum weight. Since she’s about 3 inches shorter than I, the small amount of weight she was continuously gaining was putting her closer and closer to the obese weight range. Unlike me, she stuck to the primal diet and, along with working out a few times a week, lost about 30 lbs. She now weighs 121lbs and looks fantastic. Being that she’s in her 30s and that makes losing weight all that much harder, I can’t believe how great she looks.

One of my friends who weighed 320 lbs went primal earlier in 2012 when he and his wife got divorced. He’s now lost about 100lbs and looks fantastic.

From personal experience, I know it works. I feel great when I eat primal. I have more energy, I sleep better. I feel full. I feel healthy and leaner. When I eat carbs, I feel tired and bloated. So why can’t I stick to the primal diet? What roadblock is preventing me from reaching my goals?

In short, the issue isn’t not knowing what to eat. It’s control. I need to feel like I’m in control of what I eat, so even when it’s me picking out the diet I have a really hard time actually obeying the rules. I want to cheat, just to make sure I’m really in control.

Either that or it’s just another way I’m sabotaging myself. Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers tend to do that. They set themselves up for failure. I do that a lot. I decide I’m going to eat primal (get back on the wagon from last April!) and then I add a whole bunch of complicated rules, like I can cheat one or two days a week or I’m going to eat primal, but also no S because that diet also works really well for me. Then I end up cheating because the rules I’ve made up are complicated, I’m not sure which diet I’m really following and god dammit, I like eating sweets.

Sweets (carbs in general, if I’m honest) have always been my achilles heel. When I was little, my mom used to keep a huge stash of candy (bought on clearance) in her closet and no one was allowed to eat it. So I used to sneak in there and steal it. Naturally, I got caught and I got in trouble. But it didn’t seem fair to me. Why should she get all  candy while the rest of us didn’t? I also used to eat all the ice cream sundae cones whenever my mom would buy them. I’d start out sneaking one out of the freezer. Then I’d eat that and it’d taste so good I’d want another. Soon enough, the entire box was gone and then after dinner, someone would suggest eating ice cream sundaes for dessert and lo and behold, they’d all be gone and I’d get in trouble. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if I were pre-diabetic.

The great thing about being an adult is that I can eat the whole box of ice cream sundaes if I want to. And I have. Not often, but occasionally. And it’s always delicious. But I also want to lose weight. I’ve been consistently a size 12 or 14 since I was 17. Occasionally I’ve lost enough weight to be a size 10 or 8, but that was m,ainly through strict low-cal dieting, during which I always felt hungry.

Primal is different. Once you make the switch over from carb-fueled living to fat-fueled, you don’t feel hungry. You can even fast the entire day and feel fine!

My observations in Europe–a place where people definitely eat high-carb, low-fat low-protein–have led me to conclude that Europeans are truly skinny-fat. They’re not really slim. They just aren’t as fat as Americans because, generally speaking, they snack less and move more. But as soon as they hit thirty, they have the slow weight gain that causes the vast majority of older people to be overweight. They’re fat and it’s the carbs.

The conclusion I’ve reached is that I should really get back on the horse. It’s difficult to eat low-carb in Europe–my husband has had horrible blood sugar numbers since he’s been here–so I’ve not really been eating low-carb at all. The candy I’ve bought and eaten really wasn’t necessary. My size 10 pants I used to be able to fit in? Let’s just say I’m filling out my size 12s again nicely.

I told my husband I’m going to start eating primal again. His only comment was, “The problem is you say this every week, so I’m not entirely sure if I should believe you this time.”

“But I really mean it this time!” But I really meant it all those other times, too.  I’ll just have to do my best. Maybe I’ll be more successful this time.

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OCD and Decluttering

I think I’m a compulsive declutterer.

I’m currently at my in-laws house in Finland and let’s just say they have hoarding tendencies. I’m not saying they’re hoarders, not like my mom is, but if they w accumulating stuff without getting rid of things, they could very well find living in a house with only narrow paths running down the middle of each room.

My mom’s hoarding started out as a lifelong reluctance to throw things away. As a child her family was extremely deprived and they often dug food out of dumpsters to have enough to eat. When I was a child she would dig through the trash from my room and take out things she deemed ‘still useful’ before letting me take the trash bag out. Plastic bags were all saved as was any scrap paper. After our house got hit by a tornado, things rapidly escalated until we there were only paths throughout the house. That was 10 years ago. I haven’t been in the house for at least eight, so I can only imagine how things are now.

My in-laws aren’t as bad, but they also save plastic bags. They have a drawer full of them and they use them instead of ziploc baggies to keep things fresh. It’s frugal. They also separate out paper and put it in paperboard boxes on the counter. When the paperboard boxes are full, they go into the basement. In the basement, there are rows upon rows of boxes full of paper that I assume they were planning on burning in the fireplace down there. However, since a few elderly relatives have died, the basement is now full of their belongings and there is too much stuff in front of the fireplace to light a fire. But instead of taking the paper collection to recycling, they’re just adding to it. It’s a hoarding habit that makes me shudder.

They have a big house, especially for Finland, but everything is full. A lot of it is just stuff from relatives that have died. Since both of them are only children, they’re both destined to inherit pretty much everything from their parents. Since many of their parents’ siblings didn’t have kids, they’re inheriting that stuff, too. But they have no perspective as far as the items they inherit are concerned. Some of the items are very nice antiques while others are really old tables you could pick up from anywhere. They could be given away or donated or trashed because the effort it would take to sell them would far out benefit the reward. Instead, they’re storing them all over the house.

There are stacks of magazines and newspapers everywhere: on the stairs to the basement, on end tables and coffee tables. My father-in-law used to have a collection of newspapers he was saving to read when he retired. DH says he got rid of those, but I don’t know what all those old stacks of magazines and newspapers are. But they’re all over the place.

They recently donated a bunch of clothes from the 1930s and 1940s, which made feel relieved. My husband added that it was to a museum, which made me laugh. They must have been well preserved.

They have built-in wardrobes along the walls of nearly every room in the house. I thought maybe we could find some room to put our clothes in one of the wardrobes in the bedroom, but I opened it and it was already full of stuff my sister-in-law didn’t take with her when she moved out.

I wouldn’t feel as worried if they didn’t spend so much time accumulating things that could easily be thrown away, such as paper products, plastic containers and plastic bags. That takes me straight back to my hoarder mom explaining how we had to take the plastic newspaper bags and scrunch them up into another newspaper bag until it was full and then put it into the drawer with all the other newpaper baggies full of bags. It makes me stressed.

Normally I would react to this stress by getting rid of stuff. At home, I am ruthless when it comes to decluttering. It gets on my husband’s nerves that I constantly want to get rid of stuff. But I hate a cluttered look and it makes me anxious. I deal with that anxiety by decluttering. I am determined not to be a hoarder. I don’t want to wake up one day and realize that I have so much stuff I can’t move around my house anymore.

But I can’t declutter this house because it’s not mine. Instead I’ve been mentally decluttering. They probably don’t need to keep the old TV on the end table next to me. It’s not even a Nokia brand like the one in the kitchen, so there’s no nostalgia value there.  Old stuff belonging to the kids can be tossed on a “if you want it, take it, it’s yours, if not Salvation Army” basis. All plastic bags? In the trash. Sorry, this is Finland: I meant recycling. Same with all the paperboard. I’ll leave the reused plastic containers for now. The old VHS movies need to go. I don’t even see a VHS player in the whole house.

I don’t even know what’s in the attic. I don’t even think I want to. The good thing is that this is normal lifetime accumlation of stuff–aside from the trash they not throwing away, so it’s not real hoarding. I dread thinking about what it’s going to be like to go through my mom’s house when she dies. Are we even going to be able to find any of the stuff we want to keep among all the junk she’s amassed over the year?

Maybe I just want to deal with my in-laws’ clutter because I can’t deal with my mom’s and their clutter is more manageable, anyway.

Christmas, Three Different Ways

Me: In Finland you can’t say Weihnachtsmann because he’s called Joulupukki.

Alpha: Der Weihnachtsmann kommt und bringt Geschenke (Santa comes and brings presents)

Me: Yes, but here you have to call him Joulupukki or else he won’t bring you presents because he won’t understand you.

Alpha: Joulupukki. Joulupukki, joulupukki!

***

One challenge with having so many languages is having to meld so many different cultures. Where do you stick all of them? Here’s how we’ve worked it out:

Sankt Nikolaus comes on December 6th, leaving candy and small presents in stockings we have hung by the fireplace. This is presumably to celebrate Finnish Independence from Russia. The Finns get independence, our kids get candy from Nikolaus. They’re both on the same day, how else can I explain it?

Then comes Christmas. Alpha knows that Joulupukki lives in Lapland, even though he is called Weihnachtsmann in Germany and Santa Claus in the US. I’ve also explained to him that since Lapland is so much closer to Finland and Germany than the US, in those countries you get your presents on Christmas Eve. But it takes Santa a long time to fly over the ocean to the US, so kids there get their presents on Christmas morning. It makes perfect sense.

Attachment Parenting and Criticism

When I was an attachment parenting (using the label and everything), I felt like other, non-attachment parents were constantly criticizing me. They just didn’t accept my style of parenting or realize that all I wanted was what was best for my child. Upon observing my hour-long ritual to get my 23-month old to sleep, my German host sister told me how her friend put their son to sleep: they laid him down in his crib with some toys and then let him play there until he fell asleep. I felt bad for their little boy, being left there all by himself. They also criticized me for still nursing my son since he was almost 2, but I was going to nurse him until he was done. I loved babywearing and felt bad for using a stroller. They couldn’t believe I didn’t even own a stroller. I felt bad for all the babies I saw riding around in strollers. They would rather be worn, I felt certain. Being around people who didn’t parent the way I did and made different choices for their kids made me feel attacked. It made me want to make sure to hang out only with other moms who raised their kids the same way as I did to ensure I would get understanding instead of criticism. I wanted to feel accepted, not attacked.

Looking back now, I realize that they weren’t attacking me. Their comments weren’t about criticizing my parenting style so much as they were about not understanding why I was placing such significance on little things that don’t matter in the long-run. Take laying with my toddler until he falls asleep. What was the benefit of that? It made putting him to bed an ordeal. I would get so frustrated that it took so long, but would try my best not to show it because I was supposed to be an attachmement parent, dammit. So I would nurse him to sleep and lay there until he was asleep enough for me to get up, but sometimes he would still wake up when I moved so would have to put him back to sleep because if I just left he would cry and according to attachment parenting, crying damages the brain. (don’t worry, it doesn’t actually)

The judgmentalism street clearly runs both ways and most parents feel like their parenting methods are criticized at one point or another, but only attachment parents have webpages dedicated to handling criticism of their parenting methods. The advice is oddly secretive. First, you shouldn’t complain to anyone who isn’t an attachment parent–“Don’t ask questions you don’t want answered….seek the listening ear of like-minded friends who share your parenting philosophy.” Secondly, you should protect yourself and assure anyone who thinks you might need a break from your baby that you love being with them all the time. As all mothers everywhere will assure you, peeing with your baby on your lap is a blast. Thirdly, you should protect your child so that they don’t think they’re a horrible person–don’t let them hear the criticism. Next, you should be positive. Only talk about your parenting and child in positive terms, presumably so they have less reason to criticize you. Lastly, you should consider where they got their parenting advice (because it’s p and surround yourself with “encouragers” who will reinforce your believes.

Compared with actual advice on handling criticism, the AP advice seems narrow minded. There’s no need to think criticism might be justified when you’re practicing the One True Way to Parent. There’s no need to learn from criticism when you’re already right–it’s just too bad they haven’t done the same research as you, otherwise they obviously would have reached the same conclusion about parenting, right? People who criticize you just don’t realize that you’re just trying to do what’s best for your kids and your family. How could they possibly criticize you for doing what’s right?

However, in order to handle criticism well you have to be open-minded enough to realize they might be right. You have to entertain the possibility that you mist be wrong. I might be wrong about raising my kids multilingual. It’s entirely possible, but unlikely. But I don’t consider only hanging out with other people who are raising their kids multilingual in order to avoid criticism. That would be strange.

Ironically, these same attachment parents who are so sensitive to criticism themselves spend a lot of time criticizing others, including other attachment parents. The API group I used to be a part of dedicated an entire discussion to criticizing parents who don’t play with their kids at the park, because they always do. Other attachment parents would tell me how another attachment parent wasn’t really an attachment parent because she (it was always she) didn’t breastfeed past 8 months, babywear, stay-at-home or whatever. No matter how attachment parenting advocates will tell you AP parenting isn’t a list of requirements you have to fulfill, the reality on the ground is different. (Side note on this article: notice how sensitive Bialik is to even perceived criticism of AP)

Attachment Parenting does not take criticism well. It does not take critics well. Unlike any other parenting philosophy, it circles the wagons and reacts defensively instead of considering if the criticism might be based in truth. Those who say that AP is balanced and allows flexibility forget that they themselves use attachment parenting inflexibly. They might talk about how it’s a joyous and wonderful way to raise their kids and their family is so happy, but in the next breath repeat some of their favorite quotes:

“What’s best for the child isn’t always what’s best for the mom,” implying that moms have to sacrifice their own interests in order to do what is best for their children. Another was “The days are long, but the years are short,” which is another way of saying ‘my life sucks, but hopefully I’ll look back on this fondly when they’re grown up. Why hide these feelings in cutesy quotes instead of dealing with these feelings openly and honestly?

American Perspective, Meet Finnish Perspective

The high today in Finland was 7F. The high tomorrow is 3F. It’s been in the teens most of the week. My inclination is to stay inside until the weather gets warmer before venturing outside. The Finns see things differently.

We’re fortunate enough to be able to send Alpha to a Finnish Kindergarten so he gets 4 hours of Only Finnish each day. “He’ll probably spend most of today playing outside,” my husband told me.

“But it’s cold!”

He shrugged. “Finns think children should play outside.” That explains why we couldn’t find any indoor playplaces in the area. The nearest one is an hour away and that seems kind of dumb to drive to. So I bundled Alpha up as well as I could and sent him off to Kindergarten. He didn’t complain. The next day, after he came home and watched a show he announced he wanted to go outside.

“But it’s dark out,” I protested. It was about 5pm.

“Then I’ll use a lantern.”

“But we don’t have a lantern.”

“Then we need to buy one.”

I turned to my mother-in-law. “Alpha wants to go outside,” I told her, using a tone of voice that implied that this was ridiculous and obviously not going to happen.

“That sounds like a good idea! We can get the sled and go sledding!”

That would be the Finnish perspective and it makes sense. If you live in a country where roughly 9 months out of the year is what can only be described as “Fucking Cold” and half of that time you only have 5 hours of sunlight a day, you learn to get over the fact that it’s cold and dark outside and just go out and play. Finnish Kindergartens park kids outside in their strollers–well bundled up–to take naps so they can get fresh air and presumably get used to the fact that it’s going to be really fucking cold like that their entire lives. While American schools and daycares might have rules regarding the weather–“we don’t go outside if it’s below 26F or snowing,” for example–Finnish Kindergartens think about these things differently.

Today I moaned to my husband about Haakon’s lack of pullovers since it was particularly cold out today. “Oh, don’t worry about it, they won’t be going outside today.” Aha! Finally some sanity!

“Because it’s so cold?” I asked tentatively.

“No, because there are too many kids today and the caretakers can’t keep a close enough eye on them outside today.”

Yes. Of course.

Cue the Stranger Danger

I’m reluctant to talk about the recent shooting in Connecticut. It’s a tragedy, but as soon as I heard it happened I knew two things: 1) Homeschoolers were going to point it out as another reason to homeschool, despite the fact that you’re much more likely to be killed by someone you know than a stranger, 2) Anti-gun people were going to use it as another reason to band guns and 3) it would increase the level of security in schools and make them more into mini-prisons, for students’ safety, of course.

So far, the first two have happened. But you know what else happened the week before the shootings?

My husband went to the historical museum to pick up some chocolates for his family. A school group was there at the same time, all the students running around the gift shop, playing in the elevator and generally causing havoc. Hidden behind a clothes rack, he saw a little girl on the ground crying. “Why are you crying?” he asked her. “I wanted to by this,” she told him, “but I left my money at home.” “Well, how much does it cost?” “$4” “Alright, I’ll buy it for you.”

He then turned around to see three teachers standing behind him, giving him dirty looks. “Are you a relative or friend  of this girl?” They questioned him.

“No, I’m not a relative,” he answered, “but whether or not I’m a friend depends on how you define friend.”

“Have you seen her before?”

“No, I’ve never seen her before in my life. Why are you asking me these questions?”

“It’s for safety.”

“Safety?” He eyed the students wearily. “I thought this was a school group, not a prison group. If these are inmates you should have hung a sign up so I would have known to stay away from them.”

“No, no no…for her, safety, not yours.”

My husband lost his cool at this point and stop toying with them. He spoke as loudly as he could and used as many cuss words as possible. “I know you are school teachers and are therefore bad at math and statistics. I know the chances of an adult hurting rather than helping a child are about 1 in a million. For normal people capable at math, that means pretty fucking unlikely. On the contrary, intervening when a child is crying and no one is around the best thing for an adult to do. If you guys would just pull your heads out of your fucking asses, you would see that some of the 30 plus kids you are ‘looking after’ are playing with the elevator and you should probably be more interested in what they are doing instead of pestering me helping a crying child.”

It was very quiet when he finished and everyone was staring at him. He took his candy and went to the register, where the old lady who worked there apologized to him profusely.

A little boy went up to him and said quietly, “You said the F-word.”

“I know,” DH replied.

“That was pretty cool.” He paused. “Can I have some chocolate?”

“No, it’s for my family. But if I had my way, you could stay home and eat chocolate everyday instead of having to waste your time in a stupid school.”
“That’d be awesome!” the boy agreed enthusiastically.’

“Great minds think alike.”

Then he, the teachers and the school group all boarded the elevator for a long, awkward ride to the parking lot.

Never Give Up, Never Surrender

I just left Germany and I think it’s going to take a few weeks for my confidence to recover. Germans, or at least the Germans I know, can be a bit abrasive. They aren’t afraid to point out and critique when they think you’re doing something wrong. This trip, they spent a lot of time discussing and critiquing my son’s speech. Their first conclusion that it wasn’t because of my speech, i.e., how I speak German. “Nein,” one told another, “vom Sprachen ist sie eigentlich ganz gut.” Well, that’s good, I thought. It’s nice to know that son’s speech difficulties aren’t directly fault. I was slightly insulted.

So, I spent a lot of time explaining to them how Alpha has a mushmouth, where he just doesn’t enunciate properly.  A lot of times he doesn’t open his mouth to talk. When he says “ich moechte etwas zum essen,” the word essen is spoken entirely with his mouth shut. He doesn’t open it. When he says “kaputt,” he pronounces it “pakutt.”  So the Germans started correcting and telling him to speak more slowly and more clearly. Except that everything I’ve read has said you shouldn’t correct young kids when they make mistakes because they don’t hear it is as a mistake; they think they’re doing it right and if they knew they were doing it wrong, they would say it right. Correcting them will just make them more hesitant to speak. They advised me to send him to a logopedist, what we would call a speech therapist in the U.S. and wondered why I hadn’t already since he was almost 5 and would be starting school soon. I decided it wasn’t the time to bring up the fact that we were planning on homeschooling and just explained that I had discussed it with his doctor and she said that we should wait a bit longer to see if the issues resolve themselves and if they don’t, we could see a speech therapist then. In other words, she’s not concerned and is extremely supportive of our multilingual family.

But at his 4 year appointment I didn’t mention my continuing concerns with his language development, mainly because I’m afraid I’m coming across as an overly worried crazy mother. But on the other hand, I mentioned to her several times that Haakon seemed to have an unusual amount of wax in his ears (both times he’s seen other doctors at the practice for ear infections, they’ve had to clean wax off his ear drum before they’ve been able to confirm ear infection. I took the kids to get their hearing tested and the ear doctor found that there was so much wax in his ear, his ear drum was almost occulated (I’m not sure the term she used, but basically it might be preventing his ear drum from swinging as much as it otherwise would.) This could mean he’s not actually hearing all the sounds in all the languages as he should. Even a small decrease in hearing can affect language acquisition, according to a pamphlet I read at the office.

I told the Germans all this. “Well, I guess our health care system is better,” one informed me. “We do hearing tests right after birth, then the doctor sees them every few months when they’re young babies, then twice a year, then every year after that. ” Yes, yes, we do hearing testing, too, I informed her, it’s just that my children weren’t born at a hospital and the midwifery clinic wasn’t set up to do hearing tests until recently. And we do frequent visits under a year, then every 6 months, and then at age 2 or 3 it becomes once a year. It’s just the same and has nothing to do with my son’s speech, thanks. I’m alright with waiting to see if his speech issues resolve themselves because my husband had similar speech issues. He didn’t get speech therapy until he was 6 years old and now speaks fine, aside from occasional periods of mushmouthiness where he’s either too excited or too lazy to enunciate clearly.

“Maybe it’s the multilingualism.” No, it’s not. Trust me. There is no evidence that being multilingual causes speech problems. Besides, how would you even prove it? Raise a kid multilingually, then delete all that and reraise the same kid again as a monolingual and see if he has speech problems? Both monolingual and multilingual kids have speech issues. It’s completely unrelated. Again, I point to my husband, who grew up with Swedish and Finnish, and also attended an English speaking Kindergarten. He had speech problems. His sisters, who were similarly raised, did not. “Yes, but he was raised with only two languages. Maybe the third one is just making it that much harder for him to speak and be understood.” Sigh. It’s a typical trick: I counter one assertion and they soften theirs slightly to make it seem more plausible. But again, I tell them it doesn’t make a difference. Linguists say that children can learn up to 5 languages at one time. I tell them about the linguists DH talked to. The mother was Finnish, the father was Norwegian. They lived in Cambridge, MA a while while they got their doctorates in linguistics (adding English) and then accepted a job position at a university in Berlin (adding German to the mix). They then hired a Russian nanny to take care of the kid, making a total of 5 languages. They weren’t worried at all.

Honestly, I don’t get Germans.  They all seem to want me to stop speaking German to my kids, or at least my son, without realizing that if I stopped speaking to him in German, they wouldn’t be able to talk to him at all unless they speak English.  I probably wouldn’t be able to continue speaking to Beta in German if I stopped speaking German to Alpha because consistency is key. As one German told me, “but you need to have consistency when it comes to when the languages are spoken,” (and I told her all about One Parent, One language and the community language in addition to that). Kids will immediately notice if the rules for a sibling are different than the rules for them. If I speak English to Alpha, Beta will pick up on that and figure out that English is in fact the most important language. German has increased in dominance in our household due to the fact that my husband speaks and understands enough for the Alpha to be able to skate by on German alone. Since he’s been more strict in pretending not to understand German with Beta, she’s speaking more Finnish.

“It must be so frustrating for him, though. How can he make friends if they can’t understand them?” I’ve never found this to be an issue. He has friends. Little kids have ways of communicating that have little to do with words and I’ve never seen them incapable of understanding each other and, honestly, the implication that I was hurting my child by raising him multilingually was again, extremely hurtful. So I told her the story of the friends we had to ditch and their oldest son. Thus far, he has been the only child I’ve ever seen treat my son like he couldn’t understand him. Two incidents spring to mind. The first was when the friend’s son was calling Alpha but was mispronouncing his name so Alpha ignored him. Finally, the boy grew frustrated and physically yanked his head and yelled his name incorrectly directly at him, both hurting Alpha and making him cry. The second incident happened a few months later at Alpha’s third birthday party. We were discussing eating the cake and the boy talked to Alpha and said, “Do you want to EAT, Alpha? EAT?” while making eating motions in with his hand. The boy was not quite 5 at the time and it rather confirmed to me that his parents had been talking amongst themselves about how Alpha couldn’t understand or speak English in front of their son, something that is not only inaccurate but also extremely inappropriate. It’s kind of along the same lines of being racist and talking about how black people are inferior and only good for manual labor in front of your kids when your close friends just happen to be black. Their son also reminded me of the Hellman’s commercial, where the little boy goes up to the bride and says, “My mom says she can’t believe you wore white!”

Other than that we haven’t had a single incident of another child acting out negatively due to Alpha’s speech or multilingualism. They just take it in stride. Some older children might say, “what did he say?” But that’s it. Since a lot of them still don’t have the clearest speech themselves, it makes sense. Alpha and his closest friend, L., have always understood each other perfectly and run around mimicking what both of the other one says. It’s never been an issue. He’s popular and well liked at his preschool in even if people can’t understand always understand him.

So the end of it is that it’s pretty much confirmed that he will need speech therapy, which is no biggy in the end, especially if it gives him more confidence with his speech, unless things do clear up on their own. But I’m getting tired of defending multilingualism. Sometimes I wish that Beta were my oldest instead of Alpha. That way people would hear her near-perfect pronunciation in all three languages and be impressed instead of hearing Alpha’s garbled speech and think we’re screwing him up.
“Well, it’s your choice to keep to continue it, but it might be better if you dropped one.” Yes, it is my choice to continue it because I know that even autistic children are capable of being multilingual and have stronger cognitive function and communicate better if they are bilingual than if they’re not.  The benefits outweigh the costs, even if the costs mean that I end up feeling beaten down because of it.

Finns Aren’t as Unfriendly as My Husband Thinks

My husband thinks Finns are really unfriendly. When I first met him, he would never hold doors open for me (even when I was following right behind him) and would tell me stories about how people in Finland would lie dying on the streets from stabbings and people would just walk right on by without helping them. Everytime I’ve been in Finland people seem to confirm this. When we took a bus from the airport to the train station when Alpha was 3 months old, the driver didn’t bother getting out to help with the luggage or anything. We had no seats on the train and had to stand the whole way without anyone offering a seat.

But this last time I flew through Helsinki to Germany, I ended up stuck at the airport for 7 hours with both kids due to a snowstorm in Sweden. Ironically, when we first landed, I was worried because I only had a one hour layover, during which I had to pick up my luggage, recheck it, go through security, get the kids to the bathroom and, hopefully, get them something to eat as well. So I rushed through everything and barely noticed a line at the SAS service windows. I heard a group of American and Australian business man mentioning how those people were still trying to figure out what to do about their flights to Stockholm. But I figured it didn’t involve me. When I checked in the tickets I printed informed me that we were on standby and our seats would be assigned to us at the gate. “Standby? I can’t miss this flight!” We ran through5security quickly and were at our gate with 20 minutes to go. I pat myself on the back and we sat there, waiting for boarding. And we waited. I noticed a crowd gathering around the departures screen and headed over to glance at it, but I didn’t see anything different other than the fact that the flight was on time. Then the gate changSled from 13 to 13A. So all the waiting passengers went from the left side of the tv screen to the right side and kept waiting.

After it was finally clear to everyone our flight would NOT be leaving at 14:15, the screen finally updated and announced it would be leaving at 15:00. It was 14:45. We waited. Then the gate number disappeared and the departure time changed to 15:30 and the crowd scattered to find food. We went with them. After we ate, I let the kids play for a while at the playplaces they have scattered throughout the airport and we headed back around 15:20. No new announcements. Our gate number was gone, as well. I was beginning to regret taking a big blue duffel to hold spare clothes and our winter coats because it was becoming increasingly difficult to manage a restless Beta, her backpack, my backpack, the big blue bag and keep Alpha with us. We had left the baggage cart at the security check and since we were constantly told we would be going on board shortly I found no reason to get another one.

Needless to say, we didn’t board. Alpha said he needed to use the bathroom so we headed over there where a nice English woman offered to watch our baggage while I took the kids to the bathroom and then watch them while I went. She was also on our flight to Stockholm on her way back to England, where she had two kids the same age as mine waiting. She told me she was really hoping she managed to make it to Stockholm that way she’d be a bit closer to home, but she knew that she wouldn’t make it to England since her flight to Heathrow from Stockholm had already been cancelled. This alarmed me. Was the storm that bad? I texted my husband. Snow and 33 mile per hour wind. I sighed and we settled in to wait a bit longer. I got out the stuffed animals I bought for the kids that they could color on and for a while they did. Then Malla started coloring on herself and the floor and the walls and Haakon started immitating her. I packed them back up and we headed back to the play area. After a while I heard an announcement regarding our flight and we headed back to the gate. It 16:30 at this point and apparently we were going to get to board! I got in line and the English lady, Julie she told me her name was, told me that if I needed any help to just call for her and she’d help me out. We would be riding a bus to the plane (boooooo) so I unpacked our winter stuff and got everyone dressed. Then I heard an announcement only in Finnish calling us to the counter at gate 13a. The funny thing about having a Finnish name is that all the Finns first address me in Finnish and only translate when they see my confused looks. Thanks to living with my husband, I’ve absorbed quite a bit, but I’m not fluent and my speaking is limited to “excuse me,” “thank you,” and “I don’t speak Finnish.” I can say a few other words too, but my grammar is lacking. I don’t think I should make the Finns suffer my bad Finnish.

The woman at the counter assigned our seats, right in the front row (yay!) and was apparently also in the process of informing other passengers in Swedish and Finnish that they weren’t going to have seats on this flight. “Not everyone’s going to make it on board,” the second woman explained to some other people who were waiting at the counter. The first woman advised us to wait and get on the bus last so we wouldn’t be stuck waiting on a cold bus for a long time and told me to go sit down. I glanced over at the few seats, all of which were occupied and said I would just stand. She laughed and said, “I’m sure there are a few gentlemen over there!” Hearing this, a man travelling with his wife stood up and offered me his seat, so I gladly sat down. And we waited until the line was mostly gone before we joined it and got on the bus. Where we waited. A few more stragglers got on after us. And then we waited some more. And some more. Alpha started to complain. “Die Tuer ist auf! Ich mache die Tuer zu.” (The door is open. I’m shutting the door.) I told him no and we kept waiting. Then finally we drove off and far away to where our lonely little plane was waiting. We got on board as quickly as we could, hoping to hurry our take off. But once on board and in our seats–next to a business man or bureaucrat heading to Brussels–nothing happened. We waited a while, buckled everyone in and then unbuckled them. Beta wanted to nurse and kicked the business man next to us a few times. This flight was not going to be fun.

Then they announced that while we were cleared for take off, Stockholm had only cleared one runway so there was quite a long wait before we would be able to fly there. We’d have to get in line and our turn was in 90 minutes. “90 minutes? I’m not waiting here 90 minutes with my kids!” I checked the time. Our 3 hour layover in Stockholm had shrunk to about an hour before the 90 minute delay. With it, there was no chance we were going to make our flight. I began to feel desperate. A female colleague of the businessman next to me came up to complain about the delay and just as she was mentioning “lasten” (children) I chimed in that there was no way I was going to be able to sit here for 90 minutes in a plane with the kids. She agreed. A young man went up the aisle and handed the flight attended his boarding pass. “I’m getting off,” he announced. “My flight to London is already cancelled. I’m not waiting in the plane that long. Here, have my ticket, I’m getting off.” They discussed matters for a while and then she radioed some people. Finally, she announced to the entire plane that due to the long wait, if anyone wanted to get off they were going to send the bus around and it would take us back to the airport where we can take our chances. I asked a flight attendant if she thought the plane would make it to Stockholm and if connecting flights were also delayed? “Stockholm airport is shut down,” she responded shortly. “They only have one runway open and no planes are leaving.” “Where are you going? Berlin?” My neighbor asked me. “Yes.” He started looking up flights to Berlin on his phone.” “Which airport Berlin?” “Any airport, as long as it’s Berlin.” He found a few possibilities the next day, he told me and I made my decision. I signed up to get off the plane. I’d rather stay in Finland, I figured, where I have relatives to help me out even if they are on the West Coast.

So we got off and headed back into the terminal to get our luggage. Just as I walked into the baggage claim, a man began announcing where we should go to rebook our tickets and I got some of it and, after our luggage finally arrived, we left the baggage claim area and headed back to the same place where I had checked in earlier to join the same line I had seen earlier but ignored. Except this time it had become a long snake:

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I started walking past the line before I realized it was the line. I felt like Ralphie in a Christmas Story. This line stretched all the way out to Turku and back and I? Was at the end of it.

There was nothing for it, we needed to rebook our flight and get a hotel room. This was the only place to do that. Another announcement told us that most  of the flights out were full through Friday but they would do our best to help us, but to make things go quicker we should really try to rebook via phone. That option wasn’t open to me and my desperation turned to fullblown panic. I started texting everyone I could. My husband came first but he didn’t respond. In desperation, I texted my sister and told her what was up and that she should call my husband and make sure he had seen my texts. I tried contacting my sister-in-law on facebook where she had messaged me earlier. All angles needed to be worked. If one of my in-laws could call and rebook my flight for me, I thought, it would at least save me from having to wait in this long ass line.  DH finally got back to me, but informed me he was getting the tires changed so his ability to help at the moment was limited. He got on his phone anyway and started poking around, including calling the company we insured our trip with. They said I had to call them. DH informed them I couldn’t. He called his mom when he got home and they figured my sister-in-law’s-boyfriend-who-lives-in-Helsinki might be able to come and get us and put us up for the night.

Then Alpha needed to use the bathroom. I asked the lady standing behind me if she would watch our luggage and off we went. Afterwards, I saw a SAS employee standing behind one of the check-in counters and decided to ask her if I was standing in the right line since I didn’t even know if my flight had been cancelled or if it was still waiting on the tarmac. She informed that all flights to Stockholm were effectively cancelled and I was definitely in the right line. I sighed and went right back to standing.

A little while lady, another employee approached me and informed me I could move to the side and she would try to get me rebooked on a different flight. Was I flying to Stockholm or somewhere else? Berlin, I told her. She started talking into her walkie-talkie. A little while later she came back and told me we had the last two seats on a I direct flight to Berlin. Inwardly I cheered and she steered us toward the line for hotel bookings. I stood there a while with the kids, who were becoming increasingly unyielding. First Beta spilled the soda I had bought to keep them occupied down her front, which meant I had to change her then and there. I quietly repeated “serenity now and convinced him kleenex would clean things up nicely. Then a lady came out from the rebooking office and offered to hook us up with a hotel. She spoke to us in Finnish first, asking if I needed a hotel and I responded in English yes, we did.  She got the kids’ ages and disappeared into the office again. About 10 minutes later she returned with a hotel voucher, flight itinerary and hotel shuttle schedule. It was 7:45 then and the next bus was due at 7:50, so we headed for the bus stop, where two more men helped me load our suitcases into the bus and then unload them. If I listed all the people that helped me deal with my luggage on this trip, it would be a long list, which is something that rather surprised me since no one helped us when my husband was there with us. I think it’s got to be a vulnerable woman thing. Even if, say we had 5 pieces of luggage and were struggling to manage them, if my husband is there people assume everything’s under control and we don’t need help. But if I’m there by myself with 3 pieces of luggage, struggling woman! Help her! In both situations we would need help, but people’s expectations would be different.

At any rate, when we collapsed in our hotel bed after eating a comped meal in the hotel restaurant, I was extremely grateful. I was grateful for all the people who helped me manage the baggage in the airport, all the people who helped get me out of that hellish line–in which I probably would have stood until 10pm at the earliest–and the people who made sure I got on a flight to Berlin before Friday. It seems the more I travel the more I become convinced that 95% of humanity is good and it’s only the 5% you have to watch out for. Most people are going to help you when you need it, even if it means going a bit out of their way. People want to help and, as long as they know how, will.

Why You Should Get divorced

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I hate this meme. The first time I saw it on my friend’s facebook page, it seriously annoyed me, and I couldn’t help commenting “because co-dependency is a virtue, not a flaw.” Apparently I missed the fact that it’s supposed to be a declaration of working things out in spite of difficulties and that sort of thing and concentrated on the “broken”  part and the fact it’s the woman doing the talking, not the husband or both of them as a couple. To me, it reeked of the stereotypical abused woman declaring that she could fix her relationship and that her abuser just needed her to make things better and get over all his problems.

Let’s face facts: no matter how this picture tries to portray marriage fifty or sixty years ago, people back then didn’t have a lower divorce rate because they believed more strongly in “fixing broken things” or working problems out. Rather, they had a lower divorce rate because:

1) Divorce was difficult to come by. In some cases it was illegal unless there was adultery.

2) Divorce was socially unacceptable. A divorced woman or man might be ostracized. Your religious leader and community would be certain you were going to hell. There was tremendous pressure to accept your lot in life as being God’s plan–a sentiment still common among fundamentalists.

3) Divorce was economically unfeasible. Not only were most families much poorer 65 years ago than today, but men and women were much more dependent on each other to provide services to meet each others’ needs. Women couldn’t necessarily support themselves without a husband as they might not have been well educated to get a high paying job or societal pressure would be against it. Additionally, the amount of labor required to sustain oneself meant you needed someone at home, laboring all the time in order to make sure the house was clean, meals were prepared and laudry was done. Remember, before washing machines became common in the 1940s and 1950s, it took three days to do laundry each week: one day washing, one day ironing and one day mending (because clothes were expensive) and don’t think you can skip the iron: the mangle you used to ring your clothes out with left so many wrinkles your clothes would have been unwearable without ironing.

The facts are that the divorce rate is higher today not because of lost values but because of how much our lives have changed. Economically, we can afford to divorce! As long as you can support yourself, you don’t need someone home laboring constantly in order to live. You could go to McDonalds and get dinner and your washing machine and dryer will clean all your clothes and not nag at you. What a deal!

Yes, there is data that shows that children of divorce are worse off than children who aren’t divorced but I think this data is seriously flawed simply because one assumes that children who come from marriages where the parents didn’t divorce came from happy homes, or at least happier homes. In other words, correlation is not causation. Unless any of these studies can that divorce causes a statistically significant change in children’s well being, it’s rubbish. And people who quote these statistics come across as just trying to justify staying in a marriage where it would be easier to get divorced.

But if you’re unhappy and your relationship is fundamentally broken, then why NOT get divorced? Why stay in a marriage where both partners are miserable, have grown apart and have nothing in common?

When I see this meme, it makes me think of my dad and how he was so determined to uphold his vow to stay with my mom in sickness and in health that he sacrificed his relationships with his children and grandchildren to do so, in spite of the fact she was abusive. Then finally, this year, after 37 years of marriage, he called it quits. Since he threw away his broken relationship, he might never get his own internet meme exalting the joys of staying married, but at least he’ll have had a life.

Why I’m Pro-Freedom

When I was seeing a therapist, she knew I was libertarian. It was kind of impossible to not reveal that little aspect of my identity. While she never referenced it explicitly, she would occasionally make remarks such as, “look how polarized we are as a country! We have all these people taking such extreme views and unable to compromise” and . so on and so forth. But on the whole I absolutely refused to engage her in any political discussion, mainly because I knew the odds she was a liberal were fairly high and secondly, I didn’t want to waste the money I was spending on therapy arguing politics. I know what I believe. I don’t really care what other people believe. They can believe what they want and I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that they agree with me at least slightly since everyone likes freedom, just to varying degrees. My job isn’t to bash everyone on the head with my libertarian ideals. I’m not even entirely interested in doing.

As far as I’m concerned, if you don’t want there to be gay marriage, then don’t get gay married. If you don’t want guns, don’t own one. If you don’t want to smoke pot, then don’t smoke pot. If you think sweets are evil, don’t eat them. If you don’t want to be a dick, then don’t act like a dick.
But, you are probably already thinking, what if other people do it? Well, then that’s their. You can’t control other people’s actions. Hell, I can’t even control my 19 month-old’s actions. The only person’s actions you can control are your own. If someone else violates your rights, you can take actions against that. Or as libertarians put it, “My rights end where yours begin.”

So I’m not really interested in discussing politics all that much because I don’t care what other people believe. As far as I’m concerned, other people can believe whatever they want to believe. My therapist is right, people are very polarized, but only because they spend their time arguing over how much freedom people should have and which freedoms they should not have. Just be free!