Hmv's Guide to Fielding Dumb Questions

It's time for something light.

Lately, I've been getting lots of questions, many of them dumb questions. Now you might say to yourself, HEY there's no such thing as a dumb qu--- stop. Yes there is.

So I'm taking a break from serious matters to bring you this little public service announcement. Feel free to start applying it to your real life right away.

Question 1: When are you due?!

Answer: Don't ask this. At least, don't just come straight out of the gate with this one. You don't know me. I may not even be pregnant!

Ok, ok, I'm definitely pregnant. But still, be cautious here. You never know. Consider asking me about things in a different way:

"You looks splendid! How are you feeling?" <-- this question gives nothing away, and it has the added benefit of actually being a compliment

"You look great!" <-- how about that? It's not even a question! Now I can talk about it or not talk about it and there's no pressure. Sidenote: Don't keep pressing on if I just say "thanks" and move along.

"How's things?" <-- brevity is next to Godliness ... or some such thing

Question 2: Do you want a boy or a girl?

Answer: Yes.

I don't have a preference. And if I did, I don't think I would tell you, barista lady I hardly know. Or coworker that I know very well and will see every day until this baby is born. A person who will be wondering the whole time, will she really love that baby when she actually wanted the other gender?

Nope. We aren't going there. NEXT!

Question 3: Oh, it's a BOY, is Jake so excited?

Answer: Umm...yes? I mean, we are both excited. Do you mean to suggest that I am NOT as excited as Jake is? Or that Jake was waiting in anticipation, holding out on excitement until we got one of his kind? Now he's like, Heck yeah! I got a boy! So much for this pesky girl child. See you later, sweetie, I'm off to buy my boy some monster trucks!

Or do people say the reverse of this to women too? Because I don't remember anyone asking "Oh it's a girl, is Hannah so excited?" when O was born. Because that would be weird.

Question 4: Are you ready??

Answer: No. Oh shit ... what am I doing? What have I DONE?!!

Question 5: Look at you! I bet you are just like, SO done with this, huh?

Answer: The actual literal answer I gave to this comment was, "What? No! I'm only half way there. I'm fine." I've heard this one before, but never so soon.

And what the hell do you mean, look at me?? Look at what? My gigantic belly? I've got news for you toots, it gets bigger. It gets a LOT bigger. And then when you don't think it can get any bigger, it gets just a little bigger and then you push a 10lb baby out of your hoo ha. So deal with that. (She doesn't have kids...I definitely should have actually said this to her.)

Plus, PLUS, no matter when you are asking this question, the answer will always literally be No. No, I am not done yet because if I were there would be a baby in my arms instead of this enormous belly ball. Did you notice that?

Just let me enjoy the pregnancy too. Just leave room for the possibility that although I look uncomfortable to YOU, I may be feeling great inside. I'm growing a person in here. And that is pretty rad.

Watching her watch her first movie

I feel almost silly about how exciting it was to watch Lil O watching her first movie on the big screen. But I have a theory about this.

Walking into the discount movie theater in Springfield I felt like I was walking into a theater for the first time. I was reminded of the Garland theater in Spokane where I grew up. My mom would take us to see $1 movies, and we would always ALWAYS buy the big popcorn. Free refills, y'all. And it all cost about $5 because this was the 1990s and we hadn't all been swindled into $17 diet sodas just yet.

First movie. So excited.

Anyways, the fun of going to see a movie was definitely amplified by the fact that O had never been to a movie theater before, and we were seeing everything through her eyes.

"What are doing here?"

"This is where we buy the tickets. Then we buy the popcorn, then we go see the movie." And all of that is so new and exciting. It's the best!

We slowly walked into the dark theater (we were late on purpose, there was no way she could make it through the whole movie, let alone all the previews on top of it). There was some panic when she did not immediately see Elsa and Ana on the screen.

"Is this Frozen? Mommy that is not--"

"I know honey, but remember we need to be quiet here. Shhh"

Then they played some strange Mickey Mouse cartoon thing that served no purpose. Except that it annoyed Jake with its nonstop violence. Weird.

Ahh...and then it started. O began wiggling in her seat when the opening scene appeared. (She has seen Frozen before, at her daycare on movie day. We learned this when she started singing along to "Let It Go" on our Disney Pandora music channel. Hmmmm, so that's what the kids are into these days.)

By the time the opening song started, she was completely abuzz. Her little fists were balled up next to her face and shaking in excitement. She looked at me, then quickly over to Jake. "Look! Look! This is Frozen!!"

Jake and I could have melted into a gooey puddle. It was so fun.

Sometimes she would lean over to tell us some about some obvious detail. "That's Elsa!" "It's snowing!" And we got way into it too.  When the big song started and Jake realized it, he leaned over to tell her, "Hey! Let It Go!!"

Now, I think we can all agree that the American movie-going experience is really some kind of wonderful. It isn't enough that we have the enormous screen and amazing sound effects (O grabbed her ears several times), but we also add the best, most deliciously unhealthy food to the mix. Within minutes, O was grabbing handfuls of popcorn without even looking. She was demanding "more chocolate!" from Jake. She was a monster. An all-American monster.

Eventually the snacks ran out. I even let her have some soda (four sips total, no one freak out!). But it was not enough to keep her attention. She took a lengthy bathroom break with Jake and then the show was almost done. We let her wander around in our row a little, and when she got more and more cranky we were done. They stepped out and I managed to catch the last 3 minutes of adorable Disney ending.

Somehow the whole experience ended with quite a few tears. These things happen, I guess. So much fun and so much candy and so much loud dancing non-stop cartoon princess magic...there is only so much a girl can take. But we will definitely be back.

Took this picture in the pitch dark. iPhones are pretty amazing.

Took this picture in the pitch dark. iPhones are pretty amazing.

When you love something, when you really enjoy something --whether it is the music or sports or yes even movies-- it is kind of thrilling to see your child enjoying the same thing. Plus, there is nothing like seeing a "first" happen right in front of you. I loved seeing Olivia light up and scoot to the edge of her seat. Her eyes were so wide open. Her joy was infectious. We couldn't not smile. I hope I never forget it.

Light Life Moments: When Your Child Is Hurt

Last weekend we went on a little outing to the Science Factory, which was super fun and entertaining and funny until everything went terribly wrong and I left feeling furious.

So how did that happen?

The Science Factory is a delightful local place where families go to let their kids run around and play with the displays and experiment with science a little. When we went, we had the added bonus of seeing a reptile display (and the very entertaining family of handlers whose obsession with snakes and lizards can only be described as ... all-encompassing).

The very last thing we looked at was a display that had some kind of wind-up tool that you would whirl around to see how fast you can burn calories (I think). Little did we know that this particular display had a knack for chomping up little fingers that found their way into its path. And Lil O learned this the hard way.

It is one of the things I like least in life, or in parenting especially, when you go from a super high to a super low. It is hard to switch gears so quickly, and you don't want to switch gears. You want to keep the fun part going. You don't want the bummer part to be real. So I feel very tempted to ignore it or move quickly past it.

But when your child is hurt, everything comes to a screeching halt.

O screamed and *PAUSED* takeabigbreath and SCREAAAAAMed some more. It was intense. I grabbed her and rushed her into the bathroom and we washed off her scraped little finger as I tried to figure out what had just happened.

When we came back out, Jake had gone over to the desk to ask for a band-aid, which they gave us. Okay. But this didn't seem like enough. I couldn't understand why they were standing there letting other patrons in while they could see my child crying.

"Do you want to talk to them?" Jake was sort of cringing. I sort of was too. I hate being "that mom." But just can't go around hurting my kid with your calorie machines!

I went over and fumbled some words at them. The front desk lady had me fill out an accident report. Okay. We put exactly three things down on the paper. Not enough.

I didn't really know what to do next. I still don't. I told them that they really need to rethink putting that display out there for kids, because the little warning sign is too small, written in absurd font, and oh yeah...MY KID CAN'T READ.  Grrr.

Later, of course, I thought of more things to say ("I am a lawyer goddammit! And that should make you more concerned than you are currently acting!!"). And I felt a bit embarrassed that I didn't do or say more. I didn't exactly turn on the mama bear instincts. Or the lawyer ones, I guess. But I am not certain it would have done any good. I could have made a scene, threatened them, probably freaked Olivia out. Not exactly my style.

But that doesn't stop me from feeling that parental self-doubt. Or regret. Guilt, perhaps? There's always guilt.

I guess at the end of the day I just want her to know that I will be there for her; that if the mama bear was needed, I would do it. (I pity the children's museum that ever does real harm to my child. I will RAIN down on that place like a hurricane of fists and subpoenas.)

But I didn't think it was necessary in this instance, and ultimately I think we will get to a better result by acting rationally. That's the goal anyways, I still need to give them a call back. And I'm planning* to be perfectly reasonable.

*provided they do what I ask

Mother's Day, from 1982 to 2013

My amazing mama, and Dad, and me - 1982

When I was 6 weeks old my mother returned to work. She was 28 years old, and she worked as a registered nurse. She worked at the hospital where my parents would go to work and be nurses for the next 10 or so years of my childhood.  My mother gave birth to me there, 6 weeks before coming back, and she would give birth to my next sister there 2 1/2 years later.  She was relatively new at the time, so she worked an evening or night shift.  And because the night workers started their weeks on Sundays, my mom started back to work on the Sunday of Mother's Day.

Mom cried all the way to work, as the story goes. It is a story I heard several times growing up. I knew that Mom was sad to leave me on the day that was meant to celebrate her. I knew it was extra special because it was her FIRST Mother's Day, and I was her first baby. I just did not understand how heartwrenching it must have been. Now that I am a mom, I have a little better idea.

My first Mother's Day was spent with Olivia, Jake, the Vaseys, and Grandma Jones. We had a lovely brunch and Jake got be an antique ring with one pearl on it. Beautiful and simplistic, inexpensive but meaningful. I wear it now with pride. And I imagine wearing it some day when I am older and richer (as we all plan to be, right?). If someone were to ask me if it was real, I would say No, but it is more beautiful than all the fancy jewelry (that I would presumably own at this point in my imaginary future).

We could not afford real pearls on my first Mother's Day, and we can't really afford them now either. But I was happy that I'd been given the chance to start a new job, and that job was going really well. We were no longer in "unemployed" status. Jake was happy that he got to take the month of April off to be home with Olivia. And no one had to work the night shift that day. (Not even Olivia, who was sleeping like a champ--finally!)

My mom's story sounds so heroic to me now. She might not see it that way, and at the time I'm sure she was just trying to get through. My dad was still finishing nursing school, and I think they had just purchased a house with my grandparents' help. There were several sources of stress for them at that time. But my mom carried on. I picture her driving in her uniform in our old yellow car. I can see her pull up to the hospital and straighten herself out. Wipe away the tears. Fix the make-up in the rear view mirror. And then walk in, work her shift, clock out, and eagerly come back home to me and Dad.

That is heroic. That is motherhood.  It's everyday stuff, but it's not, too. Her baby was 6 WEEKS OLD.  That is so little.  And hardly enough time to heal from a C-section.  She could have driven back home.  She could have broken down at work and confirmed everyone's predetermined notions about women and having babies and trying to "do it all."  Instead she showed up, and made a living for her family. 

At that time, there was no such thing as FMLA or protected maternity leave or even pregnancy discrimination.  And rather than being outraged by that fact (like I am), my mom was probably just grateful that the hospital let her have 6 weeks off and did not fire her.  It's not right.  And it's not much better now, but we are getting there.

 * * *

This year was my second Mother's Day, and it was great.  It started with a brunch outdoors on the patio of a one of our favorite wineries, and it ended with a sweet little conversation that I had with my Grandma Evie, that went something like...

Grandma E:  "How is Olivia doing these days?  She is getting so big!  Isn't she getting tall?"

"Yes, she is big for her age, she is quite verbal for her age too.  Grandma, I know everyone thinks their child is special, but I really think Olivia is going to be pretty smart."

Grandma E: "Honey, you just keep thinking that, and she will be.  She will."

*Heart bursting with pride*

Love, all-


My favorite place to be

New job, new baby, new NAME

I have decided to take the plunge and change my name.  It's a time for new things.  New baby.  Then new job.  Now new name.  And it is....

First: Hannah
Middle: M*
Last: V*-Ve*

*Due to internet searchability, I'd rather not actually spell out my full name.

Ta da!  So don't worry fans, I am still HMV...well, HMVV technically.  So, let's run through the burning questions in your minds:

Why change your name now?!
It was a good time to change.  I didn't want to change my name when I got married.  No issue with Jake's name, I just umm...wasn't really raised that way?  It was never part of my plan?  If you know my mother, this will come as NO surprise to you.  Mom didn't change her name after getting married (either time, actually), and I just figured I wouldn't change either.  People knew me in law school by HMV, I like my name, and I'm a crazy feminist (kidding).  (Sorta.)  Interestingly though, my mom DID change her name when lil baby Hannah was born.  That's when M-V started and we all three changed over: dad, mom and lil H.  Now that Olivia is in my life, I realized that I want to have the same name as her, and I want a family name.

Did Jake change his name too?
No.  He is still JV.  No VV for him.  And yes, that's fine with me.  Jake is his own man.  I've always appreciated Jake's total acceptance of whatever last name choice I wanted to make.  And I accept the same with regard to his choice.  It's kind of unbelievable, but Jake genuinely has NO preference either which way on my name (MV, VV, or just V).  He's pretty rad like that.

So does this make you feel more like a family?
I don't know, not really.  We are a family no matter what our names are.  But I like not having three different-but-similar names.  Different names are different no matter what.  It is just a symbolic thing, really, in the end.  (Names.)

What about lineage?
Here's the thing about lineage: names can be written down.  And if names can be written down, then they can be traced.  And if they were never written down, then they can't be traced.  And that's kind of a bummer, but not a ruin-your-entire-weekend kind of bummer.  Does anyone realllllly care about lineage now besides Henry Louis Gates, Jr.?  (No.  Sorry HLG!)

Well hold on, you didn't rEEEally change your name.
First off, that's not a question.  But secondly, yes I sure did.  Ask the Social Security office, the DMV, the court, my bank, my employer, or any of my 137 student loan holders!  Changing your name, even if it is just an alteration on a name, is a royal pain in the ass.

But I did keep the hyphen-- I am a second generation hyphen now!  (That term is now trademarked.)  And I did keep all the major parts of my old name.  I lost my old middle name (Virginia), but it lives on in my heart. When people ask me about it, I still say Virginia because it is a family name that honors my grandmothers (they both have it too).

What will Olivia do when she gets married?
Well of course I don't know that.  But what would I like her to do?  Whatever she wants to do.  After some careful thought, I hope.

That is all I ever hope, for anyone, male or female, is that they really think about their decision.  Don't just change names for tradition or because you happen to be the girl in the relationship.  Really think about what your options are.  Think about whether you actually want to give up that name recognition you've built up in your professional life.  And think about what you'd like for your family.  There are endless options now days.  Some ideas I've heard of:

  • Husband stays the same, Wife makes Husband's last name her middle name
  • W stays the same professionally, but legally changes to H's name for personal and family stuff
  • H & W both change to another family name (in this case, H didn't have ties to his father, and W liked the new name better too)
  • H and W keep their names, and give the children a hyphen name (like Jones-Rock) or even cooler, a combo name (like Jonock, or RoJo)
  • H and W keep their names, first kid gets H's name, second kid gets W's name, and so on
  • W changes to H's name, but gives her children her old last name as a first or middle name (like Jonas Rock)

I have always been a proud hyphenated-name-having child.  I now think it makes more sense to include a married name in my hyphen name.  It is the right combination of a family name (we all have Jake's last name somewhere) and an individual name (my original last name, well, a part of it..that's the last "V").  And I hope that with M. as a middle initial, I will remain pretty recognizable to anyone who knew me only as M-V.  I hope Olivia will also be proud of the name we chose for her.  She has two parents that are both strong individuals.  And together we make a pretty sweet little family.

~ HmvV!

What's gender got to do with it?

Boy or girl - doesn't matter, right?  Right!  And wrong.  The gender of a baby matters in ways that have nothing to do with value judgments or personal preference.  One of the most common things people ask me whether I would prefer a boy or a girl.  I suppose there are some people that freely answer this question one way or the other, but not me.  I can't.  And I won't, even if I could.

There was a time when I knew that I wanted a girl.  Three girls, actually.  Hope, Faith, and ... Love? Peace?  EarthMoonSunshine?  I forget.  This was yeeeears ago...circa 5th grade.  Circa Jennifer Love Hewitt, Party of Five, and apparently some kind of hippie influence.  Now I can honestly say that I don't have a "preference."  I have fears.  And concerns.  And I also dream about the fun little things that come with raising a boy or a girl.

The fact is, having a boy or girl does not matter to ME, but it does matter.  I studied gender long enough to know that boys and girls grow up differently and probably have some innate differences as well.  By the time children are 8-10 months old they have started developing a gender identity.  They learn that they are male or female in the same way they learn that the sky is blue.  From the moment they are born, in fact probably before that, we start to treat them differently.  Boys are more likely to be complemented for being "smart," "strong," or doing a good job.  Girls are more likely to get compliments about their looks- their cute shoes, pretty hair, or sweet smile.  (Here is a great blog about this very conundrum.) 

I've heard parents say that they tried to raise their kids "gender neutral," but each time it became impossible.  That makes sense to me.  Studies have shown that boys and girls tend to be naturally attracted to more "male" or "female" activities, toys, and behaviors.  Not true in every case, of course, just tendencies.  And we can't necessarily control that.  We can't control the messages kids get from other adults and kids.  And then we have our own limitations.  I have probably complimented little girls' clothing and hair 1.8 million times without thinking anything of it.  We do these things!  We all live in a gendered world.

And I know the world will not be a fair and balanced place for my children.  These fears go beyond gender too.  Chances are we not resolve sexism, homophobia, poverty, and the hundreds of our other social blemishes before my kids are grown.  But this doesn't make me "wish" for a boy any more than a girl.  It's not like that.

There is a fascinating and wonderful scene in the movie, The Family Stone, that my family watches every Christmas.  Sarah Jessica Parker's character tries to make a point about how it's a tough world out there, and even tougher if you are gay, and so doesn't every parent hope for a "normal" child?  Diane Keaton is the mother of the five Stone children, one of whom is gay.  She and the father, Craig T. Nelson, have such a fantastic response.  They remind me of my parents and of Jake's.

This video should start at the 3:15 mark - if you want to see the whole train wreck from the top, go to YouTube. I love this movie!

I think that all any parent hopes for is that their child will have the courage he or she will need to face life's inevitable unfairness.  I hope that I will find the way to pass that on to my kids.  Whether they are boy, girl, alien or superhero.