Monday, February 28, 2005

Oscars With Kids

One of the beautiful things about parenting is sharing your passions with your children. All of a Kind Family books. Oysters. Wilco. Kibitzing at the Oscars.

M and E took to the Oscars like ducks to water--there’s no doubt that they share my genetic material (and it must be genetic because my sister and I have watched the Oscars over the phone together for years). We put the E! pre-Oscar show on mute because Star Jones Reynolds was way too annoying (my print fixation shows--I could tell you all about her wedding, but I’d never actually seen her on television). Then I lectured the girls on movie star trivia: when Annette Bening was 8 ½ months pregnant at the Oscars; how Jake Gyllenhaal starred in Aunt M’s friend’s movie and his sister Maggie is a movie star too; the difference between Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet.

We agreed that Oprah looked haggard and M decided that Penelope Cruz was Barbie. We thoughtfully critiqued fashion choices (thumbs up for Kate Winslet’s dress, thumbs down for Cate Blanchett’s sash) and roundly condemned too-thin actresses and the camera’s boob fixation.

Once the actual Oscars began, M and E loved Charlie Chaplin playing hackysack with Shrek, though, alas, they found Chris Rock’s monologue boring (S and I were in stitches). Still, they took comfort in the fact that Jamie Foxx’s daughter Miranda in the front row also seemed bored (Miranda was a big hit: “she has a white headband!” crowed E). We let them stay up for two awards, and then they went willingly to bed and were asleep in moments. I only hope that when they’re old enough to stay awake for the whole thing, they’ll still think watching the Oscars with Mom is big fun.

I don’t have anything to say about Million Dollar Baby--didn’t see it and don’t really want to. But in case you’re curious, I liked Kirsten Dunst’s dress, I’m a sucker for Mike Myers quoting Andre Bazin, I thought Imelda Staunton was robbed, I knew they’d bring on Julia Roberts, Jamie Foxx moved me, Hilary Swank didn’t, I’m not sure Dustin Hoffman could have been any more disaffected, and Johnny Carson and Miss Piggy were my favorite couple.

[Flu update: The Tamiflu has triumphed and E is fine after only three days of illness. M is on her seventh day, but the fever is almost gone. By yesterday morning she had progressed from miserable to sad and bored (which, as my mother-in-law pointed out, is indeed progress), and by evening she was actually laughing. I escaped for four hours in the afternoon which was nice, but it broke my mom/nurse zen state and I have no patience left, so it’s a good thing that the end of this seems to be in sight.]

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Still Me

Still screwing around with templates. Have definitely decided the dots are not me. I think this one is more readable, but I don't know what's up over in the sidebar. S is home, so must go work. Will try to fix later.

I Don’t Know Why I Did It

I had Madame Bovary on the bedside table. Madame Bovary, for god’s sake. I had Kate Atkinson’s new novel in my library books. In the pile of books to read someday I had a Trollope novel and Alice Munro’s new collection of short stories and Lucy Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face. Yet I spent the evening reading Benjamin Cheever’s The Good Nanny. Which sucked. And what’s worse, I could tell it sucked from the very first chapter, yet I still read it. Though I must admit that I skimmed a fair bit, trying to figure out if it could continue to be so bad. It could.

How did I know from the first chapter? Because the characters were introduced thus: “Stuart Cross (no relation to the pens, thank you)” and “Andie Wilde (no relation to the famous playwright and pederast, alas)” and “Wallace Stevens (not that Wallace Stevens).” Then Wallace, an agent, hands Stuart, an editor, “a one thousand, one-hundred page manuscript titled Gone With the Wind. (Not that Gone With the Wind.)”

OK, so your father’s John Cheever and you know a little about literature. Still, this is not cute. This is shtick. Overdone shtick. Either you name your characters with cultural and literary allusions, and you go with it, whether seriously or humorously, or you snidely disdain the literary. But you can’t do both. It doesn’t work.

So yeah, I should have stopped there, but I continued; like I said, I Don’t Know Why I Did It.

Soon I came to this remarkable speech Andie makes to her husband Stuart, explaining why the eponymous nanny, Miss Washington, who is out with the children, cannot call: “She couldn’t have called…Remember the cell phone revolution you started? We all surrendered our phones. We never gave one to Miss Washington. But even you and I had our phones disconnected. We’re getting on this new plan you worked out. We just buy the phones. They’ll set it all up. No contract to sign. We were supposed to get the phones today, but they hadn’t come in.”

Ah yes, provide exposition for the reader by having one character explain the situation to another, disregarding the fact that he already knows all about it. Oh, you think she’s supposed to be sarcastically explaining to him what she knows he already knows? I don’t think so. That might work, except for the leaden lines “But even you and I had our phones disconnected,” and “We were supposed to get the phones today, but they hadn’t come in.” No, I’m afraid this is just bad, really bad.

And it’s not just the writing, it’s the whole premise of the book. First of all, um, in case you didn’t notice, Ben, the nanny thing has been done? Like, twice? At least? Oh, well, yeah, it was done by women, so I guess you might as well do it again and get it right. So, what does getting it right mean? Oh yeah, using miserable children and the working mothers who make them miserable as the foil for your humor. Loved it in The Nanny Diaries too. Not. Oh yeah, in The Nanny Diaries the mother didn’t work, so I guess your version is…even more misogynistic? Though of course you did create one good female character, the paragon of a nanny who just happens to be…black? I’m not sure I heard you…did you say mammy? Oh, you were saying that you challenged the mammy stereotype by making her an intellectual artist. Nice move. But then you killed her off. Which makes you…misogynistic and racist? Oh, no, that’s right, it makes you a social satirist! Yes, a social satirist who is neither original nor funny and can’t write for shit. But then again, your dad was John Cheever, so I guess you can do what you want.

Tonight I’m reading Madame Bovary.

[Yesterday’s flu progress: E had a good morning, was a feverish limp rag all afternoon, and picked up again for an hour or so before bed. M had a ghastly morning, but then ate guacamole and read all afternoon, though she still had a fever and has developed a terrible cough. I suppose it’s progress, but it feels pretty Sisyphean at the moment.]

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Yes, It's Me

I'm screwing around with my templates. I want something with less white space and more words per line in the posts. I'm kind of into green these days, but I don't know about this much green... M likes it; E doesn't. Must stop now and go take care of sick children. Links will return when I get a moment. Thoughts? Suggestions?

Edited to add: Children watching Eloise at the Plaza. Links are back.

Edited again to add: Dawn says the green is growing on her, but she also suggested the dots which do indeed get rid of the white space and have more words per line. But are the dots too ubiquitous?

My So-Called Life

Hi, I'm Becca.

I take care of sick kids. I don't leave my house ( except to go to work very occasionally). I just stay here and take care of sick kids. I think I may spend the rest of my life taking care of sick kids.

My friends? They have exciting lives. They go out with other friends. They get interviewed by big-time gossip magazines. They bring home new babies.

Me? I take care of sick kids.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled life, secure in the knowledge that I will be right here, in my house, taking care of sick kids.

[Medical update: Sign me up for the Tamiflu testimonials: after only two days, E is perky and almost fever-free. M, on the other hand, is still in full-blown fever and misery mode, on day five of what the pediatrician says may be 7-10 days.]

Friday, February 25, 2005

The Pope?

M (looking at the front page of the newspaper): The pope.

Me: Do you know who the pope is?

M: The pope, he's the really Christian dude.

I don't have strong feelings about Catholicism. I'm pretty down on the anti-choice angle and priests molesting kids, but some of the most admirable social justice workers I've known have been Catholic. (I can't say that some of my best friends are Catholics, because, well, they're not.)

But the pope? I just don't get it.

[If that punch line fell flat and you're wondering what I don't get, well, I don't get the whole thing. That they have a pope. That people believe he's an infallible channeler of God. That people are going to church to pray for him. That he's Polish. That he can be so good on poverty and so bad on women and homosexuality. You know, all that pope stuff.]

[Or, as I said to S the other day, do you think they'll pick a woman next time?]

[And if that fell flat too, well, it was funny when I said it.]

[And, in case you're wondering, I don't get the Lubavitcher Rebbe either.]

Notes from the Sickroom

I take back all my jokes about the epidemic. M and E have the flu, influenza, the real thing, the one you're supposed to get your kids shots to avoid, confirmed by some kind of test at the pediatrician's office, only I wasn't there so I can't tell you about it. S was home yesterday morning, so he went to the pediatrician while I was at work being incredibly efficient. Same plan today, without the pediatrician.

M is actually a bit better: she ate, she smiled, she didn't even need Advil all afternoon, though she had a wild tantrum around six when her fever rose again and she clearly needed Advil but refused to take it. E always refuses Advil, and we don't push it, since when she's sick she never gets as demented and miserable as M does. But E was prescribed some anti-flu drug that only works if you start taking it within the first 24 hours, which is why M isn't taking it, and getting that into her is quite a process: tears, running away, marshmallows, chocolate chips, the works.

(OK, here's something I don't understand: parents who don't give their kids anything for fevers because they think the fever is essential for the body to heal itself. I don't give my kids anything till they get miserable, which is usually around 101, but once they're miserable, I just can't bear not to make them feel better. Then Advil it is, whatever the theoretical benefits of fever.)

As for the television, we went by half hours: M chose, then E chose, then M, and so on. There was a fair amount of Food Network, which seems to feature Rachael Ray at least once an hour, and quite a bit of PBS, especially Arthur and Buster. We also played some Old Maid and Chutes and Ladders, and read a bunch of books. And E napped, which is another reason she's an easier patient than M, who refuses to nap unless she passes out.

There's actually something peaceful about hanging out with sick kids, so long as you're not truly worried about them. Once I gave up on everything else in my week, it's just been TV and books and games and naps and pancakes and snuggling and watching the snow fall. If it weren't for the fevers, headaches, coughs, sore throats, Advil, tissues, flu medicine, and tears, it would be positively idyllic.

This Made Me Laugh

To counteract the vitriol of the Tori Amos review, here's a line from Anthony Lane's review of Inside Deep Throat that makes me laugh again even as I'm typing it:

Connoisseurs of fruitcake will treasure Ron Wertheim, the production manager, whose vivid gray locks burst outward like solar flares, and who is plainly looking forward to being reunited, in the near future, with his own mind.

Read the whole review here.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Worst Record Review Ever

From this morning's Red State Capital City Newspaper:

Seventy-nine minutes of singer like an eternity in Hades
The Beekeeper, Tori Amos

One of the songs on her one-hour, 19-minute exercise in self-absorption is called The Power of Orange Knickers. If only Anglophilia were the worst of her offenses.

Amos has a lovely voice. She is a mind-numbingly bland keyboardist. Some of the musical embellishments are appealing — and necessary to break the monotony of the melody-free disc.

Dr. Faustus wanted to make love to Helen of Troy. Little did he know what Mephisto had in store for him once he had: an eternity locked in a room with this flaming-haired poet, listening to lyrics such as "Original Sinsuality / Yaldaboath Saklas" and "Wrap yourself around the Tree of Life and the dance of the Infinity of the Hive."

Precious. Cloying. Banal.

Faustus screamed, "Give me fire and burning flesh instead!" And Mephisto only smiled.

[There may be a lot of blogging today, what with two sick sleeping kids. Then again, there may not, if they are two sick awake kids.]

Time For Another TV

I'm not anti-television at all--witness my long-term 90210 and Party of Five addictions. I am, however, anti-television taking over our life. Hence the screen time rule, which limits each kid to a single chunk of TV or computer each day (yes, chunk is ambiguous--the length varies according to parental attentiveness and needs, but it's rarely more than an hour), as well as the purposeful location of our one television in the bedroom, where it will cause neither temptation nor conflict.

However, when you're sick, all bets are off. Sick kids get to spend the day in the parental bed (usually the night too) and watch as much TV as they want. That's how it was when I was a kid, and if it worked for me, it works for my kids. For the last two days, though, it hasn't been working for E, because the sick kid gets to choose all the TV. For a healthy four year old with a strong belief in fairness and a not-fully-developed sense of empathy, this is a problem in principle. But it's also a problem in practice, because M loves Food Network and E thinks Food Network is the most boring thing ever.

Now that E woke up this morning with M's flu, I don't know how we're going to handle the television.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Someday She'll Make Someone a Great Girlfriend

E: Whoa, when you kiss me, it's like a hot summer day!

Where's Daddy?

If I were a casual reader of yesterday’s supermom post, I would have one big question: Where’s her husband? In fact, there were times yesterday when I asked myself the very same question, though at least I knew the answer.

I’ve stayed quiet on recent mommy controversies, partly because I’m increasingly disinterested in motherhood as a topic, but also because I really don’t have anything new to add--I do think a lot of women are losing themselves in motherhood and that would be fine if they were happy about it, but a lot don’t seem to be; I don’t think mommy-bashing is a very useful response to anything; I do think we need better public policies to support families; I don’t think overly attentive parenting is serving our children well; at the same time, I see a lot of great mothering of all varieties, as well as a lot of great kids, so I’m not convinced we’re in a crisis (of course I live in Red State Capital City Suburb where life is pretty easy, so what do I know?).

I was going to respond to getupgrrl’s argument that mothers’ ideals and anxieties are produced by the powers that be trying to keep us down. I wanted to suggest that perhaps some of today’s obsessive parenting is a response to the sense of neglect that many of today’s adults associate with their own childhoods in the 60s and 70s, when the adults around them were pretty preoccupied with their own lives (that is, I was going to assert the possibility of agency against the hegemonic social forces argument, to put it in theoretical terms). Then I saw that a bunch of people had already said as much in getupgrrl’s comments, so there was no real need for me to say it again.

But the one thing that really does bear repeating, even though a lot of people have said it, is that IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT MOTHERS. Oh god, I can’t even bear to explain why, and most of my readers probably get it already, but let’s just say that a public discourse of parenting that completely ignores fathers is…well, let’s just say it’s totally sexist and leave it at that.

Still, I’m begging the question of why I had to handle yesterday’s crises by myself, or perhaps I’m making the question even more urgent. But the thing is, the answer to that question is not political at all, it’s personal, and not the kind of personal that makes for political analysis.

S is a chef. This is a dominant factor in our daily lives. It certainly makes for good food--when he’s around--and awesome bring-your-daddy-to-preschool days, and even a lot of fun visiting daddy at work. But it also means a lot of absent daddy.

I keep trying to come up with comparisons to a chef’s work, but they all have problematic implications, so I’m just going to stick with the subject at hand. Chefs work a lot. S’s workday starts at ten hours, on a Tuesday or a rainy day (people don’t go out to eat so much in the rain), but it goes up from there. Eleven is frequent and twelve is not unheard of. Add to that his half hour commute each way, and he’s gone between eleven and thirteen hours a day (and he’s half an hour away). Sometimes he leaves at 6:00 a.m.. Sometimes he gets home at 11:00 p.m. Luckily, he almost never does both.

And the thing is, he has to be there. What do you expect when you go to a restaurant? Food. Who cooks that food? A bunch of interchangeable line cooks. Who orders and plans and preps that food, and makes sure it goes out on time looking good? A chef, and there usually aren’t very many of them. I won’t go into the details of how the restaurant where S works is organized, but let’s just say that when he has to be there, he has to be there (in fact, you’d be disgusted if you knew what chefs do when they’re sick--they go to work).

S is a great husband and dad, one of the best. He does 95% of the shopping, most of the cooking that’s worth mentioning (with me you get frozen waffles for breakfast and noodles with butter and cheese for dinner, unless I’m in a Nigella chocolate cake kind of mood), at least half the laundry, and all the guy stuff like lawn and garbage. When he’s around, he knows which kid likes water on her toothbrush and which wants her toothpaste dry. He does doctor’s appointments and preschool snacks and endless games of checkers--when he’s around. But when he’s not, he’s not, and then it’s just me--and the sitter, and the neighbors, and my friends…thank goodness.

[M update: Woke up at 4:30 a.m. with a fever of 102.7 and a pounding headache, lay in bed this morning refusing even to watch TV because it made her head hurt, but has had a mini-post-Advil recovery and is watching TV again and even ate a bit. Needless to say, I’m typing this on the laptop sitting next to her. Work will survive without me.]

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

I Don't Know How I Do It

I have a friend at work, about my age, who has no kids and has been going back and forth for a while on whether she wants them. She likes kids, but she can't imagine how she'll manage. Just about every time I see her, whether we're having dinner with her and her husband, or I'm running into her at the coffee shop, she says "I don't know how you do it" (and she's not the chick lit type at all, so she really means it).

I always tell her "I just do it." And I really mean it. I don't think that much about juggling work and kids and house and husband and everything else I might want to do in the remaining time I have left, because it's just my life and it doesn't seem like that big a deal.

Except when it does.

Last night I got home from an endless meeting at 10:30, and then stayed up till 2:30 finishing some work that needed to be done by this morning. At 4:30 M woke me up, burning hot and whimpering "Mama, it hurts." Since S had been in bed when I got home, I felt absolutely justified in making him get up to get the Advil, but then she wanted only to snuggle with me, but at least she went back to sleep pretty quickly, though I lay there fitfully dreaming, too tired to fall into any kind of real sleep.

At 6:30, S woke me up to tell me that his car wouldn't start. I told him to take mine. He forgot to set the alarm, so I woke up again at 8, late, to feverish kid, no car, work in an hour, and E to get to sitter and school, and I really did think, "I don't know how I do it."

But I'm a resourceful kind of working mom who has built up her support systems and thinks quick on her feet. And Red State Capital City Suburb is the kind of place where people help you out. So I called my college student sitter who could handle things till 12:30. Then I called my friends K and S who live around the corner with two cars and a truck, and K told me he'd take the truck so I could drive his car. I stuck E in front of Dragontales with a waffle. I showered, dressed, dressed E, dressed M, gave the sitter instructions, got K's car, took E to the sitter, went to work, organized myself for the morning, cancelled the afternoon which required its own organizing, got through the morning, took E to preschool while on the phone with M who had 15 minutes by herself between sitter and mommy, and came home to devote my full attention to my poor flu-ridden child--and maybe just a bit of attention to the work I brought home with me.

Epidemic!

The latest disaster in Red State Capital City Suburb is the epidemic. I'm not sure what it's an epidemic of, but apparently 150 or 180 or 250 or 20% or 50% of the kids at the middle school were absent on Thursday, so the school district took the dramatic step of shutting down on Friday so that everyone would have four days to recover.

News Center 6 came to M's school and filmed her class on Thursday afternoon, so we piled into bed to watch the six o'clock news that night. The reporter was live in front of the school, reporting, and they showed one of M's teachers explaining to the kids that school was closed so they would all have time to get better. They showed the backs of a few of M's friends' heads, but not M, to our great disappointment. Then they switched to near-pornographic close-ups of doorknobs, water fountains, and computers as the reporter, now in voiceover, explained that not everyone would have the day off, for the janitors would be deep cleaning the school to get rid of all the germs.

Nobody in M's class was sick, with whatever it is, so they were all just excited to have a four-day weekend with lots of time to socialize: M played with S on Friday, L on Sunday, and E on Monday.

Then, of course, she got sick tonight. With whatever it is (so far a fever, some aches, and a lot of whining). Just in time to not go back to school.

That day off sure did make a difference!

Monday, February 21, 2005

Another Music Pick

This one is old and obscure: The Pleasure Barons’ Live in Las Vegas.

The other day in the car, I heard “Take a Letter Maria,” and started to get excited, but then I realized--not surprisingly, given that it’s 2005, not 1993, and I was tuned to the Red State Capital City oldies station, not some weird college radio down at the left end of the dial--that I was listening to the pallid R.B. Greaves original, not the kick-ass cover that Country Dick Montana belts out with the Pleasure Barons. Then I got disappointed. Then I got excited that I could go home and listen to the Pleasure Barons. Then I got home and couldn’t find the Pleasure Barons, so I decided at least I could write about the Pleasure Barons.

The Pleasure Barons were an early-90s, Southern California, punk/rockabilly supergroup that rocked out lounge music for about a year. Put Country Dick Montana, Mojo Nixon, Dave Alvin*, John Doe, Rosie Flores, and Katy Moffat together with a bunch of 60s and 70s covers and Mojo originals (like “Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant With My Two-Headed Love Child,” to name just one classic), and you can’t help but achieve musical magic--or perhaps a more accurate term would be musical mayhem (ok, John, Rosie, and Katy aren’t on the album, but they were crucial to the tour).

S and I saw them at Slim’s in San Francisco around 1994. Slim’s was one of our favorite places to see music--small enough to be up close and personal with the bands, big enough for loudness and dancing to really happen. And the Pleasure Barons, well, let’s just say it was one of the best shows we ever saw anywhere, largely because they were having so much fun up on stage in their suits, ties and party dresses, drinking martinis, blasting Tom Jones covers, and getting down with Mojo’s mania, that the entire audience just felt obligated to have as much fun as could possibly be had out on the dance floor.

Buy it here (get it quick--Hightone says it’s out of stock and Amazon only has four copies). Stream it here.

* Someday I’ll write about Dave Alvin. You think I love Carly Simon and Wilco? Wait till you hear how I feel about Dave Alvin.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Haircut 100

Who dresses their kid up for a haircut? Did I miss a page of the parenting manual?

By four on Saturday afternoon, M and E are a mess. Yesterday, for instance, M still had marker on her hands and face (face? yes, face) from making a birthday card in the morning, and E’s shirt was painted with icing and ice cream from the birthday party, not to mention the permanent stain on her leggings, and the fact that M was wearing dirty pants because it was Saturday and we’d reached the end of the line, clean clothes speaking. So we stumbled in our Saturday sloppiness into the haircut place (I can’t call the place where they get their hair cut a salon--it’s got jeeps and airplanes for them to sit in, a DVD player at each station, and a slide, for god’s sake, but it’s cheap, and Miss Ginger does a hell of a job on both M’s stick-straight locks and E’s curls).

I swear it was like we’d arrived at the preschool prom. Girls in party dresses and pink shoes, boys in neat jeans and sports jerseys, parents--moms and dads--with not a hair out of place, and grandparents, not just grandparents, but grandparents galore, each neater and more dressed up than the next.

It’s kids. On Saturday. Getting haircuts.

These. People. Need. To. Chill.

[The. Dooce. Influence. Continues. But I promise I’ll stop now.]

Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Difference Between M and E

My kids fit a pattern that is pretty prevalent among families I know (I won't venture into large-scale social generalizations): the compliant first child and the wild child second.

An example from this morning: We have lots of scrap paper easily available for drawing, story-writing, note-taking, painting, etc. E uses reams of it daily. We also have good paper (i.e. paper that does not have M's math homework or my work drafts on one side), but it is up in a cabinet. Good paper is for birthday cards, tea party menus, special pictures for Grandma, you get the difference. M, at eight, still asks when she wants some good paper. This morning, E, at four, walked into the kitchen, proudly clutching a piece of good paper and calling, "Look what I got!"

Today good paper, tomorrow cigarettes and malt liquor...

Not Sentimental

I aim for thoughtful and entertaining when writing about my kids, but somehow sentimentality got the better of me yesterday. Sorry about that. In recompense, today I offer blatant consumerism and snark.

J, who is the world's best shopper and whom I depend on for all my shopping quandaries, turned me on to Ebags, where you can order a SUITCASE and pay NO shipping and return it for FREE if you don't like it! Much easier than lugging self and girls to mall and having to chastise girls for knocking over suitcase piles while I attempt to select from the large selection of BLACK suitcases (thought I'd see how it felt to be DOOCE for a moment there). I ordered this in lime, and no big deal if it's hideous instead of hip--I can just send it back for FREE.

And in Friday night movie news:

- Clifford's Really Big Movie (E) was not even worth discussing, though it made children happy.

- Samanatha: An American Girl Holiday (M) made sentimental pap out of turn-of-the-century class difference, and offered a stirring American Girl Place infomercial to boot.

- We Don't Live Here Anymore (me) was a tedious melodrama about early middle-aged adultery with the obligatory drunken dinner parties, barely relevant children, blocked creative writing professor burning his manuscript, R-rated sex flashbacks, and pseudo-intellectual Tolstoy references. Naomi Watt was arch and annoying, while Laura Dern suffered fairly convincingly. The men looked at waitresses' asses in bars to show that lust still drives them, lobsters symbolized guilt and desire, and I deeply regretted puting Saved! back on the shelf. (And when S got home I wanted to pick a fight with him for no reason, which made me even more annoyed at the movie.)

All in all, a better night for knitting than film.

Friday, February 18, 2005

My Incredible, Remarkable, Genius Children

Many years ago, I knew a woman who didn't like her kid. I don't remember much about it. I don't even remember if she was a friend of a friend, or a friend of a friend of a friend. But I remember that she had a little girl, and from the time her daughter was a baby, they just didn't like each other. They didn't get along, they weren't interested in each other, they didn't enjoy each other. I didn't have children back then, so I think I just kind of accepted this fact and went on with my life.

The best thing about Tuesday and Thursday, especially Tuesday, which is my longest, most annoying day of the week, is that I get to see E in the middle of the day, and M too, if I'm lucky. E has preschool on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, so at 12:15 I pick her up from her sitter and take her to school, and at 2:50 I pick her up from school and take her back to the sitter, though sometimes on Thursday, if I'm on top of things, we can pick up M and go home. E's sitter lives around the corner from M's school, and M has lunch recess from 12:10-12:30 so if it's not pouring rain or freezing cold, I stop the car by the playground and E and I try to spot M amongst the horde of running, playing kids. Usually we see her but she doesn't see us, so it's like we have a special secret.

The other day, after I picked E up, we stopped to look for M, spotted her sitting on the blacktop with her friends, watched for a moment, and then headed off to school. E was cheerfully chatting away in her carseat in the back seat. She asked me if I wanted her to read in her animal book about the kangaroo, the gorilla, or the crocodile. When I said kangaroo, she started telling me all about the joeys. Then she used some incredible word that I can't remember. She might have said that when the joeys wrestle, they are working out their conflicts, something like that, something you would never expect out of the mouth of a four year old.

Anyway, I was struck once again with how completely remarkable she is. I thought, I should blog about that. Then I thought, no I shouldn't, who on earth cares that E has a genius vocabulary and a remarkable disposition, besides me, S, and maybe the grandparents? Besides, all parents think their kids are incredible, remarkable geniuses and the most entertaining, charming beings that ever walked this earth (except when they aren't).

Then I remembered that woman who didn't like her kid, and I felt so sad for her.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Blue Pages

Red State Capital City Suburb generates a lot of phone books. We have the Suburb white and yellow pages, the Suburb County white and yellow pages, the Capital City yellow pages, and sometimes even the Capital City white pages. But until this week, we never had the Blue Pages. Or, as the cover puts it:

Christian Blue Pages
greater red state capital city christian business directory
your trusted source for products & services.

Apparently it’s been around for a while--the one I picked up on the rack outside Kroger’s is the 14th edition. According to the first page,

The advertisers in this directory confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, demonstrate their faith through active involvement in a local Christian church, and commit to operate their businesses according to Biblical principles. These advertisers are desiring to represent Christ by serving you.

Which is really going to matter a lot when you need a plumber in the middle of the night.

Some of the businesses are what you might expect: the biggest section is churches, and you’ve got your share of Christian bookstores, “pregnancy help centers,” and funeral directors. But you can also find yourself a Christian piano teacher, exterminator, or caterer (and I thought religion only matters when you’re catering for Muslims or Jews). While Kustom Air Heating & Cooling makes no mention of Jesus in its ad, which features a snowflake, the sun, and an air conditioning unit, Rosemarie Welch advertises her law practice as “Integrating Christian Teachings Into The Practice of Law” (her caps). She seems to specialize in family issues, especially related to adoption--and we can imagine where that specialization came from.

Putting aside Christianity’s ongoing affiliation with capitalism, I’m of two minds about my newly acquired Blue Pages. On the one hand, it represents what liberals try to do all the time: organize our purchasing power to support our interests. We boycott non-union hotels, we buy fair trade coffee, we even have our own Green Pages. Why shouldn’t Christians do it too?

On the other hand, it seems like one more sign of the ominous Christianization of America, an effort not just to meet the needs of a certain group of businesses and customers, but to move toward making Christianity a criteria for all our decisions. But of course, that’s what liberals want to do too: make the country conform to their beliefs. It’s just that I agree with those beliefs.

[And given our current ideological coloration, I’m not quite sure why it’s called the BLUE Pages.]

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Commodore Hotel

S and I are going out of town in a couple of weeks and last night we had to decide where to stay. I have a friend who's pretty high up in the Hotel and Restaurant Employees' Union and he had sent me a list of union hotels, so we were comparing them on all the logical criteria: cost, location, pictures of the bar. Then S played me this song, and by the second bar I knew we'd be staying at the Commodore Hotel. (If that doesn't make your face start smiling and your head start bobbing, you were not a cognizant white person in the 70s. And don't talk to me about CBGB--I'm sure Lowell George makes Jonathan Richman, Patti Smith, and David Byrne bob their heads too.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Not Quite Worth Blogging

- The disgusting pit that is my house.

- The even more disgusting pit that is the toy cabinet under the windowseat.

- The Valentine with a bible verse (John 3:16) that M received from a classmate.

- The Valentine PRESENTS that E received from the other kids at her sitter. Since when did Valentine's Day become Christmas?

- The snowdrops in my garden that are giving me global warming heebie-jeebies, rather than anticipatory spring thrills, even though for all I know the snowdrops arrive in the middle of February every year.

- M and E's argument about whether the things you walk on that make you taller are stilts or skilts.

- Red State Governor's appalling budget which includes cutting the prescription drug benefit for the poor and homeless (yeah, lots of mentally ill homeless people off their meds, just what Red State needs) and making people pay $25 to apply for free legal assistance (the illogic of that one just hurts my brain: it's not going to do anything for Red State's finances, as they won't pay it because they don't have it so the fee won't bring in any income, and then they won't have lawyers, so they'll be that much more likely to go to jail, which means the state will have to pay the cost of housing them in jail--and then, of course, there's the fact that it's profoundly unethical).

Actually, that last one is worth blogging, but I'd have to link to Red State Capital City Newspaper, and ultimately all I really have to say is the same thing we've been saying for the last 25 years: What the hell is wrong with these people?!

Monday, February 14, 2005

A Few Updates (Mainly for Grandparents)

Ice skating: E has become an enthusiastic and generally upright ice skater! Her mitten remains in her mouth, though Saturday she insisted on taking off her mittens for much of the time, and very daintily managed to fall without getting her hands on the ice, though I was terrified of a broken wrist every time. But mainly she skittered across the ice, as fast as she could, even occasionally getting a bit of a glide in there. Occasionally she stopped at the benches and told me to skate by myself and when she was on the ice again, she'd be ready to skate. I'd go around once, maybe twice, and then there she'd be, on the ice, ready to go.

Valentines: I got E red cardboard hearts at the five and dime and told her all she had to do was put stickers on them and write her name. I said I'd help. M said she'd help too. We all sat on the floor, and M wrote the other kids' names on the red cardboard hearts. Then E directed me in sticker placement, placed some stickers herself, made artful heart-shaped-ish holes with the cool heart-shaped hole cutter, and wrote her name--on every single one. I think it worked because we focused on valentine making, not on valentine philosophies. Whatever.

And for anyone yearning for news of M, I hereby formally announce that she has entered the string stage. There's been a string around her neck for about six weeks now. It's just a plain white string, and it's always there. About a week ago, it was joined by a narrow yellow and orange friendship bracelet on one wrist, and this weekend she put a thick friendship bracelet that she bought for me last year on the other wrist (I said it was ok, because, you know, I'm really glad she bought me a friendship bracelet, and I did wear it a few times, but the permanent tied-on-your-wrist friendship bracelet thing just isn't my look at the moment). On Saturday, she gave her friend S a friendship bracelet kit for her birthday, so I'm anticipating more friendship bracelets before the week is out.

Ah, the string stage. I wonder when she'll get to her ankle. That was always my favorite.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Chocolate Malteser Cake

I’ve been feeling the Nigella urge for a while now. My plan was the Tropical Chocolate Cake, but then I was looking through the book with the girls and when E heard that the Tropical Chocolate Cake had pineapple (Nigella says it works), she strongly objected. We all liked the picture of the Chocolate Malteser Cake, so that’s what I made yesterday.

This time I followed Nigella to the letter. I let the ingredients get to room temperature. I sifted the cocoa. I used 8-inch pans. I baked it for exactly 25 minutes. It came out perfectly. When I frosted it and put on the “ramshackle crown” of malted milk balls, it looked just like in the book. (Here’s someone else’s picture, and mine looked like that too!) (And in the process of finding that, I discovered the Nigella Forum and its Chocolate Cake Hall of Fame photo album--though I think these people may be a little too Nigella-oriented for me, or perhaps I should say, a lot too Nigella-oriented…)

So how was it? Quite tasty. A bit rubbery, but not to the point of being a problem, just something to notice. None of us really liked the malted milk balls (edited to add that S liked the malted milk balls), however they were mainly decorative, and the touch of malt powder in the cake and the largely malt-flavored butter cream (with a touch of chocolate) were lovely. I don’t know why I’m not working up more enthusiasm, but we really did like it. Perhaps that’s it: we really liked it, but I wouldn’t say we loved it.

Where does it rank on the scale? Well, I really can’t imagine anything is going to knock Chocolate Gingerbread out of first place, though I’m quite aware that my affection for it may have a lot to do with it being my first. And Quadruple Chocolate Loaf Cake is still holding on firmly on a close second. But Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake is still at the bottom (though E still insists it’s the best), and I’d say the Chocolate Malteser Cake topped the Chocolate HONEY Cake to come in third--at least the next cake.

Edited to add: The Nigella Forum has requested that I remove all links to their site because they are a private group, which I don't quite understand, given that they are on the internet, but I'm happy to oblige.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

More on Kids and Work

I keep thinking about that slide show of the staff at Mothering magazine hard at work while their kids frolic and play and nurse around them. I’ve decided the crucial detail, the thing that gives it all away, is the laptops.

I’m not a big fan of Mothering. I don’t do very well on its parenting litmus test--I only nursed for a year, we are trying valiantly to kick our kids out of the involuntary family bed, we vaccinated, our kids go to school, and public school at that. But I’m not accusing the staff of dissimulating. I think they genuinely believe in combining kids and work, and they want to show how it can be done.

The thing is, the laptops show the way it’s really done. I’d bet my eyeteeth (whatever that means, and why on earth did I say it?) that those women don’t hang out at that office from 9-5 every day, writing articles and editing copy and negotiating with authors while their kids play, cry, nurse, refuse to nap, eat snacks, spill milk, cry some more, and finally settle down happily to play--for half an hour. I bet they all came in for a day, and the photographer took those lovely family friendly pictures, and the next day it was back to normal: one or two women in for the day because daddy has the kids, another one running in for a quick meeting with the baby in the sling, yet another tearing her hair out as she divides her attention between the kids who are demanding that she listen to them and the layout that absolutely must be proofed by the end of the day. And the rest of them at home with those LAPTOPS, banging out leads while the kids nap, and staying up late, really late, after everyone else has gone to sleep, to do their other work.

I’m all in favor of the family friendly workplace, though I don’t have much original to say about it. Longer maternity leaves, quality onsite daycare, flexibility, valued part-time, the option to bring your kids to work if you need or want to, etc. [Tried to find a good link, but they’re all pretty obvious.] And I’m very glad that my workplace welcomes children, so that when I need to bring them in (snowday, too sick for school but not so sick that they need to stay in bed) or want to bring them in (for some reason they think it’s a big treat), nobody raises an eyebrow and everyone is happy to see them. But when I do bring them in, I know that I will only manage to do what I absolutely have to do--and I will stay up late that night, catching up on my laptop.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Kids at the Office

Yeah, right, like they get a lot of work done. [Link via Elisabeth, who appears to share my cynicism.]

Royal Wedding

I wish Charles and Camilla all the best. I'm sure they will be happy together. But I just don't see myself getting up at five in the morning for Camilla's wedding or her funeral.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Loving Wilco

If you were to meet me, you would roll your eyes and think, “Of course she loves Wilco.” In fact, if you read my blog, you’re probably rolling your eyes and thinking, “Of course she loves Wilco.” What pomo, boho, oblong-dark-glasses-and-leather-jacket-wearing, over-educated, thirty/fortysomething parent whose little kids dance around the living room to X and Pete Seeger doesn’t love Wilco? I mean DUH, as M has begun to say, all too frequently.

But you know, there’s a reason we love Wilco. Jeff Tweedy speaks for us. He misses the innocence we’ve known, playing Kiss covers, beautiful and stoned; he wonders what we were thinking when we said it didn’t hurt; he knows everyone is a burning sun; he still loves rock and roll. Wilco embodies the intersections of melody and noise that have defined us, sonically and symbolically. Or, to put it less pretentiously, with Wilco I can have my pretty music and meaningful lyrics, S can have his guitar solos and wild experimentation, and we can both rock out, which makes for one happy pomo, boho, oblong-dark-glasses-and-leather-jackets-wearing, over-educated thirty/fortysomething couple out on a date.

The first time I saw Wilco was right after Mermaid Avenue came out. I grew up listening to Woody Guthrie and in college I was madly in love with Billy Bragg, so Wilco had just about nothing to do with my initial interest in Mermaid Avenue. But by the time they came to Red State Capital City to headline a free outdoor music festival, I was a fan. S had to work, as usual, so I took two-year-old M down to the big park by the river, and the sun went down, and we snuggled on a bench and watched the big kids run around with glow sticks, and she got her first glow necklace, and Wilco sang “California Stars,” and she danced like a little rock-and-roll fairy, and life could not have been any better.

The second time I saw Wilco was right after Yankee Hotel Foxtrot came out. Still the huge Mermaid Avenue fan that I remain, I hadn’t really listened to the new album, and what I’d heard out of the corner of my ear sounded a lot like noise and not much like “California Stars.” But it was Wilco, and this time S didn’t have to work, so off we went to the big new club downtown that was essentially an airplane hangar full of college students. For the first few songs there was noise and nothing was from Mermaid Avenue and I was skeptical. Then, and I don’t quite know how to describe it, all the pretense and artsiness dropped away and they just, well, they just were rocking out up there on the stage, and rocking the entire airplane hangar full of college students along with them, and every guitar lick and drum solo and lyric was exactly right, and we rocked out along with them, and life couldn’t have been any better.

This week I saw Wilco at the old auditorium at Red State University where we took the girls to see Dan Zanes and J and I saw 4:48 Psychosis with the audience and performers all up on the stage. I was exhausted from working late the night before, S was tired from work that day, J was anxious and upset because her mother is in the hospital again, and the world didn’t all become right just because Wilco was playing in Red State Capital City that night. But bees, butterflies, flowers, and skyscrapers stretched and imploded on the screen behind the band. Jeff, a bit pudgier post-rehab, jogged in place, railed against Dick Cheney, sang about love, and meant it all. Nels Cline, the crazy new guitarist, went crazy on his guitar. The melodies were melodic and the noise was noisy and when they rocked, they rocked, and for just a few hours on a tired, gray February day in George Bush’s America, everything was that much better.

[I wanted to say that on a tired, gray February day in George Bush’s America, there was truth and beauty, but that just seemed too cheesy. Except that’s really how it was.]

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Eating

One of my greatest fears, as the mother of girls, is that my daughters will become anorexic. Obviously this fear speaks to my western upper-middle-class privilege: I’m not worried that they’ll be hungry or homeless, that they won’t get an education, that they’ll be molested or raped (though I suppose I could easily worry about that, I just don’t). And of course it also speaks to my fear of my own parenting: I’m well aware of the effects of parental pressure, especially upon first-born girls, and though I try my hardest not to apply any, M already shows signs of putting incredible pressure on herself, as her mother certainly does.

I’m a bit comforted by the fact that M has inherited her father and aunt’s ectomorphic physique, and as E loses her baby fat, she seems to be heading that way too. They certainly will have no physical reason to consider themselves fat, and we do everything we can to promote the idea that all kinds of bodies are beautiful, that it’s most important to be active and healthy, etc. This effort involves the vigorous suppression of my own negative body issues whenever they’re around, so I suppose it’s good for me too.

But the problem with M’s lean body is that, like her aunt, she NEEDS food. I don’t. I can go a long time without eating, and even when I’m hungry it doesn’t really bother me. When I’m tired it’s another story, though, which helps me sympathize with M. If she doesn’t eat every three hours or so, she collapses--in anger, tears, frustration, whatever. Usually we feed her on schedule and everything is fine, but if we get home too late or get absorbed in an activity or simply forget, it’s all over.

The smallest negative emotion or experience immediately escalates into the greatest catastrophe ever, and she is absolutely certain that the issue is that the world is ending, not that she needs something to eat. And when I say something to eat, I mean barely anything: two bites of bread and butter will do it. But getting those two bites into her can take a long and painful time. I reason, I cajole, I put food in front of her, I call her dad at work so he can reason and cajole. Eventually, somehow, we persuade her, and two bites later she is apologizing and crying some more because she feels bad about getting into such a state, and two bites later she is gobbling her bread and butter and asking for more, and two pieces of bread and butter later she is her usual cheerful self and it’s as if nothing ever happened.

We’re trying to teach her to monitor herself, to ask herself whether she is hungry if she starts feeling bad, and sometimes it works, or at least helps. There are also times when she feels bad and it obviously has nothing to do with hunger--if she bursts into tears right after breakfast, we don’t start with bread and butter. But the fact is, when she gets mad or sad or overly frustrated, the first thing we usually ask is whether she’s hungry. And when she gets into a total state, we insist that she eat. Which means that we are teaching her to respond to her emotions with food. Which worries me, because there’s a fine line between the physiological and the psychological, and I feel like we’re walking it.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Politics of Valentines

E is resisting the dominant valentine paradigm. She made a valentine for A, her best friend from her sitter’s. Then she made a valentine for K, her best friend at preschool. Then she got tired, which was fine, because I savvily started the valentine-making process a week early to avoid the last-minute rush of parentally-pressured shoddily-constructed valentines (yes, we make them, though sometimes I wonder why, since every other kid we have ever encountered in our sitter/school valentine history buys packs of cartoon character valentines that you just need to write your name on--except for M’s best friend L who also makes, which in a nutshell explains why they are best friends--but I feel that to buy cartoon character valentines is to succumb fully to the commodification of all aspects of civilization and I just can’t do it) (besides, I actually like making valentines, which, given my ongoing non-project-mama status, makes valentine-making a rare opportunity for happy mom-kid project interaction) (and, despite the hegemony of commodity capitalism, the other kids love getting M and E’s homemade valentines).

But back to E: when she said she was done making valentines, I said that was fine and she could make the rest later, to which she replied that she only needed to make one for R, another preschool friend, and one for her teachers, and then she’d be done. To which I replied, “No, you need to make one for every kid in your class.” To which she replied, “No, I’m only making them for my friends.”

And there we have E embodying the institutional valentine dilemma. Her instincts are right on: she knows who she likes and she knows that valentines are a way to tell people you like them, ergo she should be making valentines for the people she likes. If I were a textbook conservative, I’d support her freedom to express her individual desires and the hell with the teacher’s socialist demands. If I were a textbook liberal, I’d explain to her that it’s not fair when some kids get valentines and others don’t, and it hurts people’s feelings when they don’t get valentines, and that’s why the teachers ask the kids to bring a valentine for everyone in the class. In fact, since I basically am a textbook liberal, I tried this, but it didn’t work. So now I’m just a conflicted mom who wants to affirm my kid’s autonomy and doesn’t want to make trouble for the teacher, and is really hoping that if we wait a few days the issue will just go away.

[Then there’s M who wholeheartedly embraces valentine-making of any kind and likes everyone in her class anyway. But there are a lot more third graders than there are preschoolers, so I hit on the ingenious solution of a valentine assembly line. M liked this idea because her class used an assembly line to make the holiday cards they sold to raise money for Habitat for Humanity--let’s hear it for public schools teaching our kids to be cogs in the wheel of, you guessed it, a kinder, gentler commodity capitalism. So first I traced 20 hearts on a sheet of white posterboard, then she stamped a purple heart in the upper-left-hand corner of each heart, then I put two small heart stickers on each side, then she put a big heart sticker on the bottom, etc. I cut out the hearts, and voila, 20 valentines in 15 minutes and now all she needs to do is write the names. Almost as easy as buying and about ten times as expensive!]

Oprah

E: Do you know what Oprah is?

S: Yeah, I know what Oprah is. How do you know about Oprah?

E: T watches Oprah.

S: How can T watch Oprah?

E: T watches Oprah at home at night with her parents. I think it's on every night. I think it's a movie.

S: Oprah is a TV show for grownups.

E: You don't know what Oprah is.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Super Bowl

M: This is an awesome halftime show! They should have Paul McCartney in every halftime show!

I thought it was kind of cheesy myself, especially the "Hey Jude" singalong with Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah spelled out in red, white, and blue cards held up by the audience (could we please get over the audience cards thing already? the 1984 Olympics are so 20 years ago). But I did like the "Live and Let Die" fireworks (when S saw Guns N' Roses, Axl sang "Live and Let Die" and they set off fireworks too--S says it's the perfect arena rock song).

Overall, though, I preferred Aerosmith, Run DMC, and Britney Spears with a sock on her arm doing "Walk This Way"--or did I make that up?

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Blog Thoughts

I think I may finally have come up with something to say about the NY Times mommy blog brouhaha (link for anyone who has been under a hole for the last week--or who has zero interest in mommy blogs and just reads me because, perhaps, they share DNA with my nuclear family) (is “under a hole” really what I mean there? I think maybe I’ve transposed “under a log” with “in a hole”???) (though I kind of like “under a hole”--it suggests an existential refusal to deal with the real world, as well as a practical one).

At any rate, I’m going to meander toward my point with some recent thoughts about blogs.

I’m obsessed with Blogger’s “Next Blog” button. See it there in the upper-right corner? Go ahead, click on it, and see what happens. I just did and found the following, in order:

- a one-post blog from a British textile company that includes the poignant line, “Although this business has never had notable online activities , we will eagerly wait in anticipation to see the out come of it's first year in cyber space.”

- a blog that focuses primarily on politics and astronomy written half in English and half in Portuguese

- a blog from Kuwait kept by an anti-fundamentalist music lover who usually writes in English but occasionally switches to Arabic

- a blog of business forms for automotive repair businesses

- and the ubiquitous teenager blog with random capitalization and a barely readable template.

It goes on and on: bloggers in every language, of every age, with every conceivable interest, and probably some you don’t want to conceive of (I’ll leave them out to avoid scary Google hits).

Then there are the knitting blogs. I’m fascinated by the knitting blogs. Those women--and I haven’t yet come across a man--are maniacs. How on earth do they manage to knit so much, and then blog so much about said knitting? (Of course if I spent less time reading blogs, I might perchance do more knitting, or even more writing…) The big rage on the knitting blogs is Clapotis. It’s a shawl, not a liqueur or a disease, and everyone’s making it (see Yarn Harlot who blogged everyone else’s posts about Clapotis). Even I’m tempted.

Finally, there’s the Jennsylvania thing. Jen, who blogs at Jennsylvania, got a book contract. Lizzie, who blogs at Old Hag, is not very happy about it. I read neither Jennsylvania nor Old Hag, but, being the book/gossip monger that I am, I checked out both. Verdict: I have no interest in Jen’s blog or book, but I might return for more of Lizzie’s caustic comments.

But you know, I really don’t have a problem with Jen getting a book contract. For one thing, I have a basic level of admiration for anyone who can manage to write a book and send it out. That’s hard work, no matter what the quality of the book (hence my fascination with the clearly self-written book blurbs in the Author House ads in the NY Times). For another thing, what do I care if Jen writes a book or even if Jennsylvania is worth reading? I don’t have to read it.

Which brings me circuitously back to mommy blogs. Why does David Hochman care if a bunch of parents are blogging about their kids? It doesn’t hurt anyone. It makes a lot of people happy. He doesn’t have to read it. Just like S doesn’t have to read knitting blogs and I don’t have to read music blogs, and my sister doesn’t have to read my blog (except she does because it’s about me).

This isn’t to say that blogs don’t make a difference. When bloggers get together and take action, they can have a significant effect on the world beyond blogs--hence the Swift Boat fiasco and the inspiring triumph against the West Virginia miscarriage legislation. And of course, as my thoughtful friend Andi Buchanan points out, in brief on her blog and at length elsewhere, the sense of community and companionship that blogs produce is very real--for those who want it.

But this need to comment upon and condemn other people’s activities that don’t have anything to do with the commenter…well, if I’m feeling lighthearted, it seems like just another sign of the cultural moment’s general snarkiness, but if I put it in the context of all the bullshit, oxymoronic talk about “freedom” that gets thrown around these days, it seems like one more ominous effort to keep people from doing what they want to do, and what the hell is that?

[Some other time I’ll blog about my other theory: that blogs are the current opiate of the masses. Hey, I’m a complicated girl.]

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Last Night’s Movies

Giving up once and for all any claims to hipness, I must admit that I find Pee-wee Herman completely creepy, though I do like his house.

Dating myself as a mom AND showing myself resistant to change, I must admit that I like Steve a lot better than Joe. I like the old songs too, and I don’t like it at all that Blue talks, but when it comes down to it, I’m a Steve kind of mom: those hip wiggles, that wide-eyed stare…bring on the clues, baby!

Unfortunately, I fell asleep before I could start Zoolander.

[Elisabeth--we each choose a movie, but then we all watch the girls’ movies together.]

[E (on my lap as I write this): Here’s the best kind of blog, a blog about snuggling.]

Friday, February 04, 2005

Violent Urges

Living in Red State Capital City Suburb, I know a lot of people who voted for Bush, support the war, oppose abortion, and generally stand behind all those things 49% of the country finds abhorrent. I tend to be pretty smug about it too, loftily lecturing my blue state friends about how it’s more complicated than the media makes it out to be, and they’re not all cretins, and we need to take people’s beliefs seriously, and all that. But I drove to work today behind a woman driving a minivan with “Bush-Cheney” and “It’s Easy to Support Abortion When You’re Not The One Being Killed” bumper stickers, and I just wanted to get out of my car, wrench her door open, and smack her.

I skipped the State of the Union because I was exhausted from my trip and the guy makes me crazy. Besides, I knew what he would say: everything’s great in Iraq, social security is in crisis, it’s a privilege for you to pay for your own health care, and all I want is to help people own a lot of shit--like me.

But today’s headlines are making me crazy enough.

Attacking Iran “is not on the agenda at this point”? So when do you plan to put it on the agenda, Condi?

“It’s fun to shoot some people”? Hello?!?! This from a “senior Marine general,” and y’all say Abu Ghraib was an aberration?

I can’t even come up with a cute line about Gonzales or Social Security.

Sometimes I just want to scream as loud and as long as I can, and then go smack people. A lot of people.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Meatballs

When M was born, S and I made a policy decision against videotaping. We decided that we wanted to live our children's lives, not watch them through a lens or on a screen. We didn't want our memories to be shaped by tapes; we wanted to savor every moment for its own sake, and let our children's babyhoods live on in our minds' eyes, rather than on the television. We didn't video our wedding either, for much the same reasons. And we were so wrong.

We have one family video. For Grandpa's 75th birthday, S's sister arranged for someone to compile a videotape of the whole family, so we had a friend come over and video us showing off our garden and new playhouse, and sitting on the couch singing "Happy Birthday." M was five and E was six months old and an avid eater (how things change) so we held her up in front of everything we showed off and pretended she was eating it. We thought it was funny at the time, we still think it's funny whenever we watch the video, and we care not a whit if anyone else thinks it’s funny, though luckily Grandpa does too.

I love seeing the kids really alive at that age, remembering how they talked and walked and waved their little arms in the air, and I hate the way my memories of them at one month, one year, two years, three have been erased, not by technology, but by the omnipresence of them right now. It's hard for me to imagine E as anything but four or M as anything but eight and a half, even though I know that those ages too will vanish as they become five, six, nine, ten. So, yeah, I really wish we'd videotaped.

Besides, we wouldn't have been the kind of people who wave the video camera in front of their children's faces at every first bite and school play, simply because we are lazy and forgetful and the damn thing would always be stuck in a closet or broken or we wouldn't have any blank tapes available, and we'd have to make drastic decisions about taping over old Frank Sinatra movies or 90210 episodes which would reveal exactly how much value we really placed on our kids' precious moments. So instead of being those ever-videoing parents, every several months or so we would have remembered the camera, taped frantically for a few days, and then forgotten about it again--and we’d still have those technological memories that we now lack.

We’d also have a video of E and her equally-four-year-old cousin L performing their M-choreographed rendition of “On Top Of Spaghetti” which culminates in the two of them, as meatballs (hence the red dresses), rolling out the door. And if we had such a tape, I’d break all my privacy rules and post it here, because it is just the cutest thing ever. Instead, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

I'm Back

Yes, I read the article. No, I have nothing to say about it.

What I do have to say is very brief and fashion-related:

1) I will never ever wear khaki pants and a denim shirt.

2) Though it is ridiculously mid-90s, as well as probably fake, I love my purple pashmina more than just about anything in my wardrobe, especially when travelling, and even more especially when travelling to frigid locales with small children (excellent for wrapping around said small children--or at least one said small child--on a plane where the heat seems not to be working).

And since I seem to have segued from fashion to weather, I'll also note that while a few feet of week-old snow in the country is lovely, a few feet of week-old snow in the city is a huge pain in the ass.