Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Daniel and Eva Show

It's been a while since I wrote something totally focused on the kids and the funny things they've been doing, so here's one for the grandmas and far-away friends. Fair warning to those who stumbled upon this blog post through facebook and don't care what cute things the Sterup kids are up to... I won't be hurt if you navigate away from this shameless promotion of my offspring.

So Eva is talking a lot more these days, and is doing a lot of funny things. A couple of weeks ago I was trying to get her excited for another trip to the hardware store to buy something for our garden, and was reviewing all the great things we are going to grow this summer, like
"...peas, and green beans, and tomatoes..."
"Well, Baby, we don't really grow cheese in the ground, but we can have carrots..."
"No. Cheese."
I think someone is going to be very disappointed a few weeks from now. Actually, maybe two of us, since I spent time planning our nice, organized, square-foot garden only to have Eva shake half a packet of lettuce seeds ALL over the garden and yard. But I digress.

Eva also has been renewing my self-consciousness regarding my singing voice by saying "NONONONONO!" and holding up her hand every time I sing a song to her. This is bad news for both of us, as a good portion of my parenting repertoire involves silly made-up songs.

Daniel is turning into quite the entertainer. We went to Nebraska over the weekend for Kyle's grandma's 85th birthday party, and Daniel spent most of the day working the room. He climbed all over Kyle's cousins, put fake worms on Kyle's aunts, and went ahead and saved Great-Grandma the trouble of having to blow out her own birthday candle.

After a LONG trip back to Missouri today, we pulled in to find the annual dandelion takeover in full swing on our block, and Daniel exclaimed, "Look Eva! Look at ALL the FLOWERS!" While Kyle and I unpacked the car, he went around the yard picking them and showing us all his "Daniel-lions." During the unpacking, a fly got into our house. He was very concerned about getting the fly out of his room before bed, but then told us that after he went to bed we could just let that fly right out the door and then "Don't worry; everything will be back to normal."

Last week our babysitter told me that he sat down at the table and told her "This looks really nice! Thanks for making us this good lunch." then told her that this is what Daddy usually says to Mommy. Another day he told us "I laughed so hard I made myself funny!" Also, he noticed one afternoon that I had neglected to empty the canister on our vacuum, and told me "THAT is NASty-nast. You should empty that." The upside is that when I didn't stop folding laundry to get right on that he took the canister, emptied it, and returned it to the vacuum for me. Finally, he told me this evening that my ability to jump on one foot is just aMAzing. Maybe he was trying to make me feel better about myself in light of my terrible, terrible singing.

Monday, April 12, 2010

It Just Makes Me Feel Like an Id Again

This is a post about how totally geeked-out I am about psychology. Many years ago, when I was in junior high school, a friend's mother gave me one of her psychology textbooks from college. I'm not sure how it came about, but I'm sure I must have told her that I was interested in the subject. I'm also not sure whether she ever thought about the book again, but I have to admit that the summer I received it I read the entire An Introduction to Theories of Personality (second edition) by B.R. Hergenhahn, cover to cover, at least twice. At the time, I think I enjoyed the thought of getting through something so far above my expected reading level, but also I loved learning about the ways people have attempted to explain human behavior over the years.

I went on to major in psychology in college, and then on to a masters' degree in counseling. I have worked as a therapist, and now as a community college instructor. I can no longer keep track of the number of books I have read on the subject of personality, but I am still not tired of psychology. I am always on the lookout for psych-related articles or news stories to discuss with my students, I once took a summer course in psychopharmacology just for fun, and I am constantly updating my stockpile of cool videos and audios to show to my classes.

Through all this time reading and using and teaching psychology, nobody has piqued my curiosity or held my interest better than Sigmund Freud. His theory is at the same time ludicrous and brilliant, and there is nothing quite like teaching a roomful of students about penis envy and the Oedipus complex. One time I was teaching a group of students at another location via satellite, and on my screen I had a power point slide that was obscuring my camera view of the classroom. I heard some talking, then some tittering, then some giggles, and when I turned off the slides to investigate I found a whole group of students crowded around a chart in the textbook, trying to contain their embarrassed laughter over Freud's psychosexual stages.

And this is why Freud is the most fun of all to teach. He strongly believed in the power of our unconscious to direct our behavior, and in the end mostly everything comes back to some kind of threatening, inappropriate deep-seated sexual desire, or to something your parents did to mess you up. He proposed that little boys sexually desire their mothers. He said little girls are just dying to know why they don't have a cool penis like dad's, and are secretly resentful toward their mothers for not keeping better track of theirs. He says having an anal-retentive personality has to do with too early or too high-pressure potty training, and that smoking may be a person's way of coping with the trauma of being taken off their mother's breast. Certainly this is not the kind of lecture that students sleep through.

The thing is, though, that if Freud were only responsible for some wacky theory about the origin of adult personality, he would never have endured the way that he has. No, Freud is really fantastic to me because of his fabulous observations of kids learning to identify with their gender, and his ability to recognize that we often act in ways that don't match our conscious explanation. So many parts of his theory are such givens in our modern thinking that we don't even realize they are Freudian. Ideas like denial, rationalization, repression, and projection are all his. The idea that there is something behind a man forgetting his anniversary, or your slip of the tongue; or the recognition that some things that happen to us as children can shape the way we are even 50 years later. It's fascinating to think that his theory was first, and that his therapy was first, and that everyone else is just kind of a response to him.

In the end, despite the fact that as a therapist I much more resemble Carl Rogers than Freud, there is a part of me that thinks the idea of a terrible unconscious, driving our behavior, so appalling that we would be threatened if we knew its contents is just. so. cool. And so I get a little excited each semester as the chapter on theories of personality rolls around.

I'm aware that there is a joke among my students that I tend to say I just LOVE each new chapter of their text, and that each chapter is SO interesting, but secretly I look forward to talking about personality the most. We just finished the Freud section, and even the promise of discussing social psychology this week is kind of a letdown compared to talking about the id, ego, and superego. My first psych book is still on my shelf, though, in its special little place, waiting for next semester.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I Give Up

As some of you may know, Kyle and I gave up sweets for lent this year. We were both feeling the need to eat better, and felt ready to cut out a lot of the sugar we (and the kids) had been eating. Furthermore, we discussed how self-control is easily the fruit of the spirit least-practiced in our house, and that it would be a good physical and spiritual challenge for us. Doing it together made it easier, since neither of us would be parading dessert around in front of the other.

We got off to a bummer of a start, as on Ash Wednesday dinner at our church included fabulous-looking turtle cheesecake left over from the Valentine's banquet. Someone had calculated that there would be just enough slices for each adult at our Wednesday-night meal, and so we were asked, over and over by platter-wielding church ladies, whether we'd gotten our pieces yet. By the end of the night, practically the entire congregation had heard me announce that we were not eating sweets this lent, which is unfortunate considering I'd been thinking we should not be all forward and braggy about our commitment.

But it turns out that this was really the most difficult night, and that the whole six weeks or so were much, much easier than I'd thought they would be. We had some debates, like the "is a muffin considered a sweet" conversation (Kyle says no, and I say yes unless it's maybe a bran muffin), and some near-forgets at the beginning, but I can actually say that I didn't really even feel deprived. We even each lost a few pounds.

And lest I sound too proud of myself, let me admit that in October I "gave up" eating fast food, but have not had the success that I had with sweets during lent. I still want to allow the kids a Happy Meal once in a while, or I'm on a road trip with another person driving and there are no other non-fast-food (slow food?) options at that highway exit... And, though I've really minimized my fast-food eating, it has been much more difficult and much less absolute than this was. Maybe I've had the holy spirit interceding for me with the sweets, or maybe there is nothing like having God watching you to keep you accountable ALL THE TIME.

So that leaves me in my current state: regret over having to give up giving up sweets. Now a rational person might point out that I could continue giving up sweets any time I want to, and that if need be I could even make another formal commitment to God or myself or Kyle or whatever. But I know that it just won't be the same. There is something about knowing I am participating in a set period of sacrifice, with a finite end, along with many, many other people everywhere. And for a moment I can really understand Catholicism or other denominations that are more focused on corporate traditions than my own church. Something about the solidarity of being a part of a group makes me feel more accountable, like I can't renegotiate the rules when things get difficult.

For now, I am looking forward to enjoying a doughnut and a cup of black coffee (best combination ever) at our church's Easter breakfast. After that, who knows? Maybe I'll find a way to not give up giving up.