Friday, December 31, 2004

Why I am an Ass Part II

We broke down at about 3 p.m. during the ice storm yesterday and turned on Dr. Phil. Am I crazy, or are those parents he has on there just stupid? Isn't his "bad ass advice" just logical and common sense? If Four-Year-Old was caught stealing from other people's houses, I'd bust her down! What is up with these parents? Do they just want to be on television? Are they making this stuff up?

Today we went skiing for the third time. Even though the snow wasn't great, it was still amazing and The Four-Year-Old made amazing progress. She's actually begun to learn how to slide between steps and, therefore, go farther and faster. Kids' learning curves are amazing (another way I'd like to be like her when I grow up).

Anyway, we didn't plan to stay out long as the snow wasn't very good, and it was a bit colder. So we planned to just go up the first hill and back down so she could get a feel of going down herself. But she kept falling. I tried to show her how to keep her weight foward so she wouldn't fall as much. BioMom was talking to her about how to get up herself, but the message wasn't getting through.

I'd ski up ahead and look back and see Four-Year-Old on her back like a turtle. I started thinking that maybe she was doing it because she didn't want to ski. It started to seem like she was falling on purpose so that she could get our attention and help getting up.

Here's where I was an ass.

Sidekick can get up herself.

I said this knowing how absolutely shitty it was. Knowing that it was bad parenting. KNOWING that it would make her feel bad. Knowing that she'd know there was something about her that I wasn't fully appreciative of.

I felt shitty the moment it came out of my mouth. Even before she said

Are you saying that Sidekick is better than me?

She said that. Talk about a knife in your heart.

I backtracked.

No. Not generally. Not at skiing. Just at getting up. She can get up herself.

Of course she skied perfectly after that and even got up on her own several times after that. I kept praising her (read: felt REALLY guilty). Then she turned to me and said

I'm just trying to be like you.

Jesus H. Christ. Unbelievable.

Later in the car on the way back, BioMom and I were having one of those whispered adult conversations in the front seat while Four-Year-Old was in her booster seat in the back. You know those conversations where you wondered what your parents were saying up in front but because you had been daydreaming or something, you'd already missed half of it, and didn't understand the context. Anyway, I was telling her how wretched I felt about the whole episode. How bad a parent I am, blah blah blah. And she said

But she started getting up on her own didn't she?


Dr. Phil, eat your heart out.

Cabin Fever

There was an ice storm yesterday. And it didn't come with all the titilation that comes with the movie Ice Storm. It was me, the Four-Year-Old, and BioMom all. day. long. in. the. cabin.


It was all actually fine until this morning. I slept in and woke up raring to make pancakes and get outside into the sunshine. I got the pancake mix from this great little restaurant we always go to on the way Up North (with a couple of pieces of pie to make the stop worthwhile). Here are the ingredients:

Flour, whole wheat flour, thick Cut oats, sugar, salt, baking powder & soda, Cinnamon & nutmeg.

I think you know where I'm going with this.

I don't LIKE these!!!!! They're BROWN!!!

And, of course, I made another tragic mistake.

I didn't WANT them all cut up!!!!

Me: I went to bed with whining and I'm waking up with whining!

She was exhausted last night by 7 p.m. I guess sitting around the cabin and playing games all day is tiring. We had hoped to introduce her to Harry Potter, but there was no doing anything but bed.

Apparently she woke up tired as well.

Saint BioMom, ever the heroin, switched out plates with her. And ate the first batch of now cold, cut up pancakes, with the syrup already poured over them.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Learning From the Four-Year-Old

This is going to sound completely trite, like I'm plagiarizing from some Cosby manual on parenting, or putting to words a Family Circus cartoon, but today I was deeply moved by the Four-Year-Old and one of the ways that she perceived and interpreted the world.

We met Sidekick's family about half-way home at a restaurant for lunch. There, the Four-Year-Old and Sidekick met a couple of other kids and were off playing for most of the lunchtime. The kids were a bit older and had a more *ahem* mature sense of humor. At one point the boy was talking about playing a joke on their parents by wearing his sister's clothes.

Then the Four-Year-Old said that she knew a boy who liked to wear dresses.

Who is it?


I wasn't surprised. BioMom had suspected as much after the third time the Four-Year-Old had come home with a picture "from August" of a princess. It was as if he was looking for a reason to draw extremely girlie pictures.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

BioMom works with a parent of two adopted boys, one from Romania and one from Guatemala. They are really energetic and interesting young boys and we've started getting closer to the family as friends. Anyway, the Romanian boy also enjoys dressing up in girls clothing. Its so strange, even as a lesbian, I have an immediate negative knee-jerk reaction to this that I simply can't explain. Then, I feel this overwhelming sympathy and compassion for the boy and feel myself wanting to invite him over and show him that he has a safe space at our place to be who he is. I don't know if it is my own experience feeling discrimination or, less formally, societal disdain for how I look/act/dress whatever. However, being a woman who is slightly butchy is much more socially acceptable than a man who likes to wear dresses. It is beyond my ability to even imagine how hard it is for a man with those desires to move through this world.

Another part of me is simply fascinated. Because I have such little interest in wearing dresses myself, it is hard to comprehend why anyone would prefer to dress in such uncomfortable garb. For a woman to dress in pants is simply utilitarian. Thorstein Veblen (a 19th century economist whom I greatly admire) wrote about women's dress and its use as a signal of wealth. Wearing high heels indicates that a woman does not need to be on her feet for long.

Another famous economist, now Deidre McClosky (formerly Don) popularized some of these ideas in his/her very public process of "crossing" (sex change) from a man to a woman. She pointed out that nearly a third of cross-dressers in the world are not, in fact, gay. Ultimately, the issue tugs at more than one of my personal triggers and grabs my attention.

Anyway, when the Four-Year-Old brought up her friend at school who likes to wear dresses, my mind jumped to our friend's boy who also likes to wear dresses.

You know, we have another friend who likes to do that too.

I struggled to remember his name and she totally followed my line of thought and knew who I was talking about.

Oh yeah!

She also knew what I was talking about: that he, too, liked to wear dresses and that that was the connection I was making.

What do you think about that?

Everybody likes somethin'!

And she shrugged off to the next thing.

I am still just floored by this. That the kids have clearly communicated these desires to each other. That, either they have not been corrupted enough yet to realize the social disdain these kids will face and therefore want to hide the desire, or that they recognize a safe space in The Four-Year-Old.

Either way, her absolute acceptance was inspiring.

Now for the trite part: I want to be just like her when I grow up.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Lessons in Cause and Effect

Peer pressure can be a good thing.

Last summer, when I was just thinking that The Four-Year-Old would never actually put her head under water and ultimately swim, we were in a local lake with Sidekick and the Four-Year-Old spontaneously started asking to be dunked under water. Wholeheartedly. Of course, this was a direct consequence of hearing Sidekick whining to her dad about not wanting to go under water.

It was bizarre. She went from barely wanting to put her toes in the water to me literally throwing her up into the air and letting her drop into water over her head and kicking up toward the surface. In minutes. We made up games where we both went under and counted on our fingers to five while holding our breaths before kicking to the surface. That day alone she must have gone under at least a hundred times.

With little schooling in psychology, I've concluded that child development does not come in continuous small changes, but in large, discrete steps.

Today, the Four-Year-Old, under obvious peer pressure from being the first to wear the one pair of small-sized cross-country skis, skied her heart out. Because I wear skate ski's and they (kid and BioMom) wear the traditional Nordic skis, we go on a wide path that is paved for both kinds, and it is an out-and-back sort of path, the length of which is yet to be determined. Not wanting to be outdone by Sidekick, or to have to hand over the skis, the Four-Year-Old kept skiing and skiing.

Four-Year-Old, its Sidekick's turn, o.k.?

No! I get to decide!

O.k. how about after that turn?

What about a little more after the turn?


No! How about after the downhill?

I've never seen her be so athletic. Visions of Peekaboo Street were flashing in my head. Me in the stands watching the Four-Year-Old compete in her college ski team...

She kept going and going. Finally, I got a little worried, as what goes up must come down, or in this case, what goes out, must come back, so I insisted that they switch.

It was literally not five feet into the turn around when the whining began.

But Mo-hom! I'm TIRED!

She was stumbling in and out of the erstwhile perfectly groomed trail like a drunk on a binge.

Maggie! We TOLD you that you should turn around. Its Sidekick's turn now.

I have to admit that I was a bit worried about how far we had gotten (and thus, how far there was to go) and tired myself having travelled about twice as much as they had having retraced my path several times to match their slow pace. I swear I went up the little hill 20 times to their once.

I also wanted the Four-Year-Old to learn a lesson about cause and effect. So we pushed on.

And she kept whining.

And BioMom worried that it wouldn't be a positive experience for her.

At the top of the hill I gave in and let her ride on the back of my skis. We flew down the hill with her balancing precariously on the back end of my skis and clinging to my pants yelling all the way!

That was fun! Let's go again!

Monday, December 27, 2004

Up North

We arrived Up North to a 2-foot blanket of snow and a relatively balmy 20 degree day.

It was amazing.

BioMom and I took Four-Year-Old and Sidekick cross-country skiing today. It was The Four-Year-Old's first time cross-country skiing and she spent most of the time on her back. We got her $15 skis at a garage sale last summer and they're big enough to last a few seasons -- BioMom's favorite trick. She's always looking to save a few dollars on the Four-Year-Old's clothes. At one point, Pre-school teacher actually told BioMom to get her shoes that fit so that she wouldn't fall as much on the playground. Turns out that maybe she's not actually clumsy, just mis-sized (at a bargain).

Then, back at the cabin, the snow was like you remember when you were little. Piles and piles of soft stuff that doesn't hurt when you fall into it, and it is warm enough to spend the entire day running around in it. We built a little igloo in the pile that had been plowed. The Four-Year-Old decided to have her 'quiet time' out there with a book and some candles. We're looking out at Lake Superior, ocean-like in its vast gunmetal grey, birch trees jutting through the view irraticly.

We had to bribe the girls inside by tempting hot chocolate and a movie snuggled up by the fire.

I hope this never ends.

People in India are Starving

Mo-hooommm! I'm HU-UN-GR-RY!!!!!!!!!

O.k. have a banana.


I want Cheetoz.

We don't have any Cheetoz. How about some applesauce?


I'm HU-UN-GR-RY!!!! Can I have some Chocolate Cake?

Sunday, December 26, 2004


We're heading up North (even more north!) today for New Year's. I was gathering a few books last night and ran across a book of short essays that I got last year for Christmas and opened it up to find the initial scribbles of what would become "Girls Can't Marry Other Girls" or my tentative return to more creative writing.

I want to thank everyone for supporting this endeavor, especially: BioMom, Aunt-On-Mom's-Side, Cousin, and six soon-to-be-announced blog characters, Father and Mother-of-four (FO4, MO4) and their offspring, 1of4, 2of4 etc. Note that 4of4 corresponds agewise to the Four-Year-Old. I very much appreciate all of your support and regular reading. The writing has helped me keep my sanity and while possibly at the expense of my more academic writing, we're hoping tenure is secure.

Anyway, here's to more creativity in the new year and a list of my hopes and resolutions:
1. that FO4 keeps existing job or gets a new-and-improved one
2. that we get out of Iraq respectfully without leaving it a shambles
3. that we get lucky in our quest for new life
4. that we stay at the uber-liberal church and I get more involved in the social justice committee
5. that the tenure thing goes without a hitch
6. that HFRM's arm heals nicely
7. that the Four-Year-Old doesn't regress (again) in the potty arena

Happy New Year everyone!

Legitimate Questions Part I

Anyways, what IS a partridge?

Some kind of bird.

But what Color is it?

We're now Googling "Partridge."

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Christmas Family Fun Night

In a short break from grading (of course, I looked for ANY break today and spent too much time on the phone with Cousin and Sister-in-Law and, after talking with Cousin, watching Ellen) we met MRM1 and MRM2 downtown for dinner with exhausted-Four-Year-Old. Recently, one grandparent told me that parenting is walking over a cliff every day, facing essentially a black wall, not knowing what's coming next. He said that as a grandparent, he is experiencing parenting again, but without the black-wall effect. Anyway, in retrospect, we should have known that Four-Year-Old was exhausted, and probably not fit for consumption. Certainly not at nice restaurant. In the words of my deceased mother, "My food went down in lumps."


Maggie sit down.


Maggie, sit up.


Maggie, put your legs together. Stop leaning on MRM1! Stop chewing with your mouth open. Stop putting your hands in the butter. Maggie your shirt is in your pizza.

Christ. I'm exhausted now.

I should also know from my single grad-school class in game theory that threatening to call Santa works only once.

It was too freezing for the daily parade that occurs in this kitchy town between Thanksgiving and Christmas to occur, and we decided that the 45 minute wait to see Santa and the corresponding Snow White show at the downtown store was too long.

This is what it will come down to. Not that we're lesbian parents but that we didn't take her to see Santa when she was four.

The Four-Year-Old headed out to my final with me the other day and when one colleague asked her What'd you ask for from Santa? her face went blank.

Santa? Christmas list? I was supposed to send Santa something? I haven't done that yet

Eff college. We need to contribute to her therapy fund not the 529 plan.

At home MRM1&2 gave her her Christmas present. I'm not sure if it was a present for the Four-Year-Old or a torture divice for Biomom and I. It is a set of Disney princess outfits. She pranced around in her exhaustion changing clothes and looking in the mirror.

Note to self: keep the outfits relatively pee-free to send down to Cousin in two years for Cousin's girl.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Student Self Assessment

In response to my final exam question every single one of my intro-to-microeconomics students (approx. 80) reported that they deserved at least a B.

The Grading Fog

I am currently experiencing grading fog, so please excuse the sparce posts.

I've always found the time around finals ironic. While students are pulling all-nighters, the professors have it easy. My finals were relatively easy to write, and the last few weeks of school are not too stressful; reviewing and such.

Then BOOM.

The halls are quiet, and the students are gone. I'm alone in my office facing a pile of papers that is reminiscent of the pile of garbage about to tip over on to Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout, who would not take her garbage out.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Christmas Curmudgens

BioMom and I are Christmas Curmudgens.

When people ask me what the Four-Year-Old needs, I say "nothing" and, in fact, she doesn't. Of course.

We have literally gotten her two gifts: a plastic tea set and some Norwegian-looking dolls from Ikea. All totalling about $15. Oh yeah, and the book Polar Express which brings the total to about $30.

HFRM1 totally spoiled the Four-Year-Old last night at our Christmas FFFN. She got to open four or five presents. When she unwrapped one to find a Gap box she exclaimed Its from the Gah-aap! coyly.

I think we've moved beyond the consumer-christmas tipping point. She no longer approaches each gift with unanticipated wonder and true appreciation. Its that version of rip open, register what it is, and move on to the next one. Alas.

On MPR the other day, they had a story on some Germans who are refusing to recognize Santa this year. I guess they have little signs with pictures of Santa with a line through it. They say that Santa is only associated with American Consumerism hence, missing the point of Christmas. They're hoping to revive the real St. Nicholas who, they claim, is a precurser to Amnesty International.

For my intro to microeconomics final yesterday, I had students analyze the following article from The Economist from December, 2001: The Deadweight Loss of Santa. The authors attempt to measure the loss associated with guessing people's preferences; something we're not very good at doing.

Every year, ties go unworn and books unread. And even if a gift is enjoyed, it may not be what the recipient would have bought had they spent the money themselves

Intrigued by this mismatch between wants and gifts, in 1993 Joel Waldfogel, then an economist at Yale University, sought to estimate the disparity in dollar terms. In a paper* that has proved seminal in the literature on the issue, he asked students two questions at the end of a holiday season: first, estimate the total amount paid (by the givers) for all the holiday gifts you received; second, apart from the sentimental value of the items, if you did not have them, how much would you be willing to pay to get them? His results were gloomy: on average, a gift was valued by the recipient well below the price paid by the giver.

The most conservative estimate put the average receiver's valuation at 90% of the buying price. The missing 10% is what economists call a deadweight loss: a waste of resources that could be averted without making anyone worse off. In other words, if the giver gave the cash value of the purchase instead of the gift itself, the recipient could then buy what she really wants, and be better off for no extra cost.

They suggest that in America, where givers spend $40 billion on Christmas gifts, $4 billion is being lost annually in the process of gift-giving.

They claim that more efficient gifts would be cash or gift certificates. That way consumers can chose what they want, lessening the deadweight loss.

I wonder how The Four-Year-Old would feel about waking up to a tree with a few wrapped gift certificates underneath. We could just tell her that with the high prices of gas, and since the sleigh isn't yet a hybrid, Santa was attempting to carry a high value-to-weight ratio in his bag.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Student Stupidity Part II

O.K. so the student from my previous post was just in to talk about the results of her exam. I decided to be candid.

O.K. Student X, I had a choice here blah blah blah. I basically told her that I gave her the EXACT SAME exam and that even though she SAW the answers, she failed.

Her response?

Well, I thought that it really wouldn't be fair for me to really listen in class because, you know, that would be like cheating. So, that's why I didn't do well.

Classic Student Comment

When asked about the course (delivery mind you, not content) one student replied:

There were a lot of graphs. Graphs that were different. But graphs that I couldn't tell the difference between. I'm sure there were differences, but I just couldn't tell what they were.

President Bush should be proud.

So, yesterday was student-evaluation-day. Weeehoo!

One particularly irate Republican Non-traditional student who worked for the ultimately losing campaign of a guy who ran against a local-home-town democrat was furious that I did not provide them a space to give me written comments.

Why does the Economics Department not provide a space for our comments?

And he was pissed that some of our faculty members are doing research on student evaluations and therefore wanted student numbers and names so that they can compare, for example, gender and evaluations, grades and evaluations, gpa and evaluations etc. etc. Of course, the student evaluations remain anonymous, but the results can then be used as research.

Why does the Economics Department do research on student evaluations?

I have obviously failed this kid. a) he is hostile to curiosity, and b) he is hostile to any deep-level thinking that might *gasp* actually change him.

He is one of those relatively polished know-it-alls. I say relatively because, I would not consider him to be polished at all, but he's got those political sound bites down, so he basically bamboozeled the other students in the class on policy discussions. In actuality, he's probably getting a C-/D in the class because his answers are nearly always complete fluff, without any real analysis or class content.

I think what bothers me about it is that resistance to personal change. And I recognize it in myself. I remember approaching certain classes thinking This will be easy. I already know all this stuff. It took me some time to realize what I had missed by not opening up to the ideas of the course even if I did already have some grasp of the material. At the very least, I could reinforce my understanding or add nuance to it.

Because I am untenured, those student evaluations matter to me and my history shows that they are roller-coaster like in their fluctuations. They never get too high or too low, but I definitely have my ups and downs. And, of course, because I went out on a limb this semester with the whole Big Ideas thing, I will take bad evaluations personally.

When told a fellow professor (English) that I was anxious to see these results in particular, she says to me Just check out* For those of you who aren't in the know about evolving university evaluation technologies, various companies have generously offered (again, ever-the-entrepreneurs) to host sites where students can anonymously rate any and all professors on several categories including: their looks, the professors's clarity, and the easiness of the class.

From my limited anecdotal evidence, such ratings are both informative and innane. I've been called a dyke more than once, but on the other hand I got resounding comments about a not-so-great computer program I used one semester. Also, the site seems to be good at identifying trends. It usually isn't a surprise, for example, when I see that certain people are boring, easy, or whatever. It is also not a surprise to note that professors with reputations for being challenging get relatively crappy comments (usually at 3 a.m. and, not surprisingly, around the 8th week of classes, i.e. right after midterms).

What is not disturbing is that students have an outlet to slander the professors the loath, or that they have a relatively democratic way to share this information. What is disturbing is my expectation that administrators will soon be using this tool to distribute funds/promotions/various other carrots among departments. They already put a lot of weight on our current evaluation system, which although not without its problems (I won't reference the vast literature on biases in student evaluations here), at least was a formal method for students to evaluate is with the knowledge that someone (including the professor at some point) would actually read them. While students have the right to see past evaluations, letting them lose to say what they want (stuff they wouldn't want their mother to see, for example) reminds me of some Lord of the Flies situation where kid-group-think turns nasty.

*I, obviously made up this name, not wanting to promote this site. The professor who mentioned the site gets outstanding comments.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Shower To Shower Each Day

Yesterday was an auspicious occasion in our household. The Four-Year-Old decided it was time to take her first morning shower!

This whole growing-up business is bittersweet. On one hand, her increasing independence leaves us with less responsibility. On the other hand, her increasing independence takes her away from us.

Once in the shower, Four-Year-Old says to BioMom

Where's all the product?

BioMom: What product? Here's the soap, here's the shampoo!

Until she realized what Four-Year-Old was referring to.

Oh, you mean like in HFRM1's bathroom! You'll have to go there for all that product!!!

Its true, HFRM1's bath is overflowing with product for every nook and cranny of one's body. Apparently Four-Year-Old and HFRM1 have a beauty routine in which the Four-Year-Old requires the use of each and every product.

On a rare moment of freedom from our daily responsibilities, HFRM1 and I found ourselves acquiescing to complete abandon yesterday with margaritas and Chili Con Queso dip in the *gasp* middle of the afternoon.

She splurged and got Four-Year-Old myriad beauty products for the shower.

The kid will freak.

We drove white knucked to pick Four-Year-Old up at, exactly 5:29, holding our breath in front of the teacher out of shame for our day's indiscretions.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Attack of the Chlomid Monster

The Chlomid Monster must have snuck down our chimney the other night as I left the flue open.

BioMom was so upset yesterday to find that, obviously, the Chlomid Monster had hidden her Vikings tickets for today's annual outing with her dad. She called him, sobbing, to tell him how irresponsible she was etc. etc. He says Don't sweat the small stuff. Why are you so upset? And BioMom hears her mom in the background Christ! They're just tickets!!! The game is on tv!!

Then, the Four-Year-Old, having had a bachelorette day with me while BioMom is at said game (Polar Express and a mall to do some Christmas shopping and other all-round consumption activities), completely melted down after her pink baloon rabbit unravelled into what I called a "large-eared-snake" (which didn't help matters). On the way out, she kept asking me to put the now quite long baloon into a bag.

Hide it!!

She pleaded.


Someone might see it and laugh at me.

She was literally concerned that someone (anyone!) would see her with the pink baloon, recognize that it had been a rabbit, and that it was now not, clearly a rabbit, and think less of her.


Student Stupidity Part I

So, mean professor that I am, I gave an exam to my intro students the week of Thanksgiving. Naturally, a couple of students approached me prior to the exam to rearrange times to suit their schedules (not of concern to me). One student left a voice message for me the day of the exam saying that her 'ride' was leaving and that were she not in that car she would not make it home for Thanksgiving.

I blew it off for a few days.

Then, the class after the exam I was covering their results and going over the answers when student-in-question walks in (late). Of course, I don't recognize that she is the student-in-question until afterwards when she comes up to me wondering when she can take the exam (after having sat through all of my explanations and answers).

Now I am in a quandry. Do I not let her take the exam and get a zero? Do I give myself extra work and write (and grade) a new exam? The original exam was good (in my opinion). This semester I'm trying to get my students to really think about Big Ideas and to be able to leave the class being able to talk about complicated topics, not just be able to define "opportunity cost" or whatever. Here's the first (and hardest question) on the exam:

In class we discussed to ways to allocate education in the United States: through public means (this is the current way that we allocate resources toward schooling. Nearly 90% of kids in America get educated through public schools) and through private markets.
Compare and contrast these two ways of allocating resources for education. What are the pros and cons of each allocating mechanism? What are the justifications for using one allocation mechanism over the other?

I decide to do this: give her the exact same exam.

How do you think she did? (Remember, she SAW me give them ALL of the answers).

She failed miserably, given the same criteria on which I graded the rest of the class.

I'm dedicating this post to my Ph.D. advisor's dog, Waldo, who passed away last Thursday. He was an amazing dog. One of those dogs that seems almost human. No. Better, more compassionate, loving and forgiving than a human. I used to watch him once in a while when they were out of town and he would literally play hide-and-seek with me. We'll miss you Waldo.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Pannekuchen Pannekuchen!

O.k. so in honor of BioMom and I's anniversary (I should say in honor of attempting to make it up to her that I forgot it entirely and then went on to spend the entire day not getting her even the likes of a card) I'm making breakfast this morning.

I got this recipe from Queer Eye For the Straight Guy although, ever the entrepreneurs (who isn't these days?), I found that the actual recipe is not posted on the Website so I'm guessing in terms of oven degree and time.

The recipe is from the most recent episode where they go to this family's house and create some sort of a tradition. My favorite are the obvious You can create a tradition by doing X Y and Z every year!


And aren't Jai's comments idiotic?

Friday, December 10, 2004

The Four Year Old's FFFN Idea

Here is even more evidence that GLBT couples aren't much different than any other couples. As it turns out, today is BioMom and I's anniversary.

Of course, the shit that I am, I forgot.

And I am usually somewhat of a romantic.

I woke up to a sweet present delivered by the Four-Year-Old to my bedside and a reminder of what day it was.

So, her FFFN idea was actually an idea for our anniversary (ever the entrepreneur, she naturally inquired as to what sort of presents kids get on their parent's anniversaries). Her idea was to "do everything" for us today!

As it turns out, "everything" is everything she should normally do; get dressed, make her own frozen waffle, get on her own shoes and coat. You know, generally keep track of herself. (Keeping her pants dry is probably asking too much).

But hell, I'll take what i can get.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Friday Family Fun Night

The Four-Year-Old told BioMom that she has a "plan" for this FFFN.

I can't wait to see what it will be! I love that she has her own ideas about how things should be.

What usually happens:
Friends come over; usually MRM1, MRM2 and Heterosexual-Female-Role Model#1 (HFRM1).
We usually order pizza.
We usually watch a kid's movie or play CandyLand.
We collectively put the Four-Year-Old to bed.
We watch some sort of adult movie (not xxx!) or play games.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Final Exam Question Fall 2004

This is in the spirit of passing on some of the responsibility back to the students (radical, I know).

Now. Stop for a minute. Breathe. Consider the entire semester. Consider what kind of learner you were/are/have become. Consider how much time you spent thinking about the material in this class. Consider the effort you put forth in thinking about and learning the class materials. Consider your innate ability/intelligence/smarts. Consider the grades that you have received so far. And finally, consider the degree to which you improved over the semester (from your perspective as well as mine) in terms of how much microeconomics you grasp. Now, give yourself a letter grade and justify it in three (3) sentences.

Getting Down to Basics

Cousin called yesterday to tell me that her Boy had a foot-long #2.

In the potty.

Pretty soon BioMom and I will have to stage an intervention.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Princess and the Pee

There are now at least 20 stars on "Maggiez Potty Chart".

Not consecutive stars. But stars nonetheless.

Who would have guessed that Public Accountability plus Shiny-Star-Goodness would equal Nearly Urine-Free Underpants!

We started the whole potty-training thing following Fabulous Dr. Phil's-Potty-Training-In-A-Day advice.

It's been a year-and-a-half.

Imagine Dorothy stumbling naievely on the travelling Professor in the Wizard Of Oz. In retrospect we should have ignored the man behind the curtain.

We started the process with the Four-Year-Old's little neighborhood friend and school chum, "Sidekick". Of course she passed the program with flying colors. One memorable night where The Four-Year-Old had her 20th #2 accident while standing (literally) next to the toilet, Sidekick's Mom says How's it working for you Dr. Phil?

What's ironic about the whole thing is that the Four-Year-Old is extremely girlie. Only recently has she refrained from immediately changing into some sort of Disney Princess dress-up clothing after crossing the threshold of our front door. You'd think such a feminine young lady would also be fastidious but no-ooooo. We discovered at some point that she had actually been peeing in the dress-up clothes, too busy was she in her fantasy land to be bothered with such distractions as bathroom breaks. We were finally on to her when we realized she was changing dress up clothes multiple times per evening. Cinderella, then Sleeping Beauty, then Belle then. . .

I can honestly say that BioMom and I have tried literally EVERYTHING to get Four-Year-Old trained. Literally. Everything. Everything any book has said; any Old-Wive's Tale; any suggestion made by some well-meaninged grandmother, aunt, neighbor or other parent. Everything. You can imagine the hours of discussions BioMom and I have endured on the subject. In the spirit of The L Word, at one point, I'm sure our friends had staged an intervention in their concern that we had become certifiably BORING.

Cousin started potty training her 3-year-old boy recently. Naturally she rubs in their success with little voice-mail messages with the boy's soprano I pottied on the potty like a BIG boy! into the receiver. She actually said to me (with a little frustration in her tone) that the day-care lady told us that it might take a month!


She could not have just said a month.

Did you say 30 days? 4 weeks?


The other day the Four-Year-Old told me emphatically:

I hate to go to the bathroom!

I mumbled out of earshot:

I'll tell you what I hate more...

The smell of urine in the morning.

Of course, Maggie has no idea that when she pees her pants that sets of an entire cascade of low-wage work performed mainly by yours truly. I expect that once off at college, the Four-Year-Old will be surprised to note that the ever-increasing pile of dirty laundry under her sink doesn't magically get washed, folded, and returned to her shelves.

Note that I recognize how old and dowdy the above remark sounds.

Copernicus, HELP!

We all woke up late yesterday.

Or so I thought. The Four-Year-Old had been up for a while, having turned on her bedside lamp.

(Imagine that frenzied panic when you look at the clock and it slowly sinks in that it is not, in fact, Saturday or Sunday and that you are, in fact, quite late. BioMom and I race around the room, jumping on one foot while trying to comb our hair and put on a sock while running into each other and the doorways. It was Lucile Ball all the way.)

This is unusual as we regularly hear May I please wake up now? or May I please turn on my lamp? from her room in the morning. Before she got her Big Girl Bed, she never even considered climbing out of the crib. We'd hear Mama? Can you please get me out now?

The politeness is a ruse.

At her parent-teacher-conference on Sunday the teachers oozed with delight over her politeness. I wanted to say You've been had!!

She's simply learned that politeness gets her stuff.

Politeness as manipulation. May I please have another cookie? (Imagine Oliver Twist looking up pathetically: Please, Sir, may I have some more?).

Anyway, of course, the rush turned into a battle:

Maggie. PUHLEASE go to the bathroom.
PUHLEASE get dressed.
PUHLEASE put on your shoes!

By the time I got her into the car, frozen waffle in hand dripping honey onto her gloves, I was sweaty and exhausted, the whole time lecturing her about not talking to your parents that way, mu moi mu moi moi moi. (Imagine the adult voice in all of the Peanuts specials).

Going around to my side of the car, I stopped by BioMom's window to write "I heart U" in the snow (yes, the snow).

When I got into the car I told Maggie to turn around and look at the 'present' I gave BioMom.

And we were off.

Or so I thought.

I soon heard sniffles from the back seat and turned around to find The Four-Year-Old sobbing.

What's the matter?

I wanted you to put that on MY window.

Needless to say, pulling over again to trace 'I heart U' on to the passenger's backseat made us even more late.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Diary of a Lesbian Step-Mother on

Check out my review of The Incredibles in the MPR Website.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

August and Everything After

So the other day the Four-Year-Old tells Grandma:

August and I broke up today.

Grandma (uncomfortably in an attempt to be calm-yet-consoling): You did?

Four-Year-Old: But we got back together.

I asked Four-Year-Old later what this meant; breaking up and getting back together. She shrugged it off as if it were nothing. A few minutes later, I'm engrossed in trying to get the dvd player to work (imagine me wedged, frustrated behind the precariously balanced dvd player on top of the tv trying to see if I'm forcing the yellow female into a white male) when she mentions that she and August are getting married.

I stop (the three plugs fall): Marriage?

Four-Year-Old (exasperated and then immediately distracted): We're just talking about it.

Friday, December 03, 2004

The Superwoman Myth: Do Lesbian Mothers Experience it Too?

The 'Superwoman Myth' is an interest of mine both personally and professionally. The ideas and discussions behind the myth come in many forms, but the question basically is: "Can Women Have It All?" Meaning: a career and a meaningful family life. The 'Superwoman Myth' is the idea that no woman can sucessfully balance it all, or be a "Superwoman" and that women end up feeling guilty in both of their worlds. They often feel like aren't good enough parents and they aren't good enough workers. Lily Tomlin once joked: "If I had known what it would be like to have it all I might have settled for less!"

For some crazy reason I seem to experience this rub more than does BioMom. Maybe she just hides it better than I. I'm always feeling guilty that I'm not doing enough work AND not picking up the Four-Year-Old early enough from preschool. Our neighbors (whose son attends the same preschool) regularly pick him up at 3:30 while BioMom and I joke that we're racing, sweaty-palmed and yellow-light-running to the school at 5:29 in order to pick her up before the doors lock (and face the teacher's stern condemnation).

In talking with other parents, it seems that there is a huge divide in this feeling between men and women: men don't feel it at all and among women, it is nearly universal. I was talking with another fellow pre-school parent (a professor at a local hoity-doity private college in the area whose wife also has a demanding schedule), about this issue. He said he never feels the work/parenthood rub. What was more interesting though was that he said he would not want to be married to a woman who didn't have a career. Now this is an interesting thought that, although obvious to me, (I am much more interesting when I'm working and thinking than after a few weekend days of playing Barbie with the Four-Year-Old) has not yet made it into our social norms.

The real question for feminists is: why is it that women are so much more prone to these conflicting feelings than men and what is the efficient way to end the guilt as it seems that work-life policies don't cut it.

In terms of lesbian parents, what may be unique, is that both parents may be likely to experience the guilt. At least in heterosexual families, one person can work, come home, enjoy parenting, and have no guilt. Because the Superwoman Myth is so pervasive (see below: mothers feel guilty whether they work or not!), such stress might be highly detrimental to a two-mom family, regardless of whether or not they both work.

Finally, back to BioMom and me. I think there are two factors that go into this. One is that my job is much more flexible. I, theoretically, could pick up the four-year-old much earlier, much more regularly. I mean, as I write this blog, I could be picking her up! Of course, I'm just procrastinating doing this. As I write I am in the middle of a paper revision and 40 odd essays that need my grading attention. BioMom has an office, and hours where she has to be there.

I think another key issue is being the perceived (or actual) breadwinner. The breadwinner of the family has to work. Maybe this is why men are less likely to feel the rub? As I think of it, I can imagine several of my colleages who are the female breadwinners and experience the rub fiercely.

Warning (I have been told by one devoted reader that the personal anecdotes in this blog are much more interesting than the academic diatribes, so I'll try to warn the reader when the diatribes are coming): See below for a more academic discussion of the Superwoman Myth.

This debate has extended across both time and space: In the U.S. cultural norms have shifted over time changing the question; and in other countries the issue has been dealt with through a variety of social policies.

One not-so-recent study about this issue was done by Claudia Golden ["Career and Family: College Women Look to the Past" published in the book Gender and the Family Issues in the Workplace edited by Francine D. Blau and Ronald G. Ehrenberg (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1997).

In the article, Golden finds that the ability of college-educated women to combine work and family has changed dramatically over the twentieth century.

First she looked at women graduating from college around 1910. This cohort was expected to make a stark choice between a career and having a family. Fully 50% of them did not marry or, if they did get married, they did not have children as compared to only 22% of their counterparts who did not attend college. During this time the prevailing social norms strongly discouraged married women from working outside the home.

Golden found that among the cohort graduating around 1955 only 17.5% were not married or, if married, childless. More like other women in the general population. Many were able to have both a family and a job, though for the most part they did this in stages. First family, job later and jobs were jobs. Not "careers".

Among the 1972 cohort a larger share sought to have careers. Many women delayed childbearing and pursued the rout of career first, family later. The proportion of them who have been able to "have it all" was small: 13-22% of women in this cohort achieved both goals by age 40.

This is all to say that it is difficult and not without its complications.

A recent book titled The Myth of Balance: Competing Devotions: Career and Family Among Women Executives by Mary Blair-Loy the author found that among her sample of the "elite population of female corporate executives, cultivated under hothouse conditions int he nation's top business and professional schools. . . these women are totally committed to their careers." As they told Blair-Loy, "they simploy adore their work, and they routinely use superlaties like 'euphoria' and 'thrilling' to describe their feelings about it."

But as she began to dig deeper, she found that almost none of them had children. "The few mothers described themselves as anomalous. They were largely absentee parents who hired nannies (sometimes on multiple shifts) to provide care and generally embraced the traditional male model of 24-7 commitment to their work."

From a review of the book by Ruth Milkman:
"As her research continued, Blair-Loy heard story after story about other women--by definition not in her original sample--whose initial career trajectories were similar to the executives' but who had abandoned their positions midstream when they became mothers. She ultimately decided to expand her inquiry to include these corporate dropouts, and discovered that they were just as devoted to their children as the executive women were to their careers. Moreover, most of them were extremely critical of their sisters who remained in the corporate world; indeed, they tended to castigate full-time employed mothers generally. Yet these 'family-committed' women were well aware of what they had given up, presenting themselves as having chosen 'an almost ascetic life path of transcending self-centeredness for the sake of others' well-being.'"

The book complicates the current hot issue of providing work-life/family-friendly policies in the work place such as paid family leave and other benefits without a "far more fundamental set of social changes." Blair-Loy argues that both corporate and elite careers and motherhod "have deep moral and cultural underpinnings."

To further complicate the issue, the cost of such work-life balance policies may be discriminatory in-and-of themselves. In the book The Baby Boon: How Family-Friendly America Cheats the Childess, author Elinor Burkett argues that such policies are essentially subsidies paid to (mainly heterosexual) families by the childless.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Amazon Partisan?

December 1,2004
Dear Friends,
In 2004, gave 61% of its political donations to Republicans! It seems strange to me that a bookseller should support the party of fundamentalists, creationists, bookbanners and privacy-violators, but that is unfortunately the case. Click here for details: .
You can send Amazon a protest e mail by going to .
Good on-line alternatives to Amazon are Barnes & Noble, which is on the "good list" of blue companies at and Powell's. And don't forget your local independent book store! If they don't have the book you want in stock, they may be able to order it.

Have a Blue Christmas,
Katha Pollitt


So I ordered* the book Godless by Pete Hautman. The book won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. Not only is he a local author, but the book seemed particularly relevant to the current questions I'm pondering. And I thought it might be a great resource for the four-year-old when she gets old enough to question all the dogma we're providing her.

Specifically, the book is about a kid who is questioning his given religion; Catholocism. He creates his own religion based on the town's water tower. I'm not too far into the book (too much sleeping and playing "battle" with the four-year-old over the weekend. Too little work and otherwise productive activity). Anyway, I literally opened the book to the author's description of kids fighting and calling each other "fags" and "gay".


There's a great Everything But the Girl song (I think its called The Night Caruso Sang or something along those lines) where the narrator worries about explaining the world to his son.

I keep thinking about that NYT article and what was important about it. I can just imagine Maggie walking down her elementary school hallway and hearing some kids call each other derogatory names that represent, really, who her parents are. In my opinion, this is where the real difference lies bewteen kids like Maggie and her heterosexually-parented counterparts. She will understand and feel that stress at an earlier age.

As an aside, did anyone see last week's Will and Grace? There was a hilarious line where Jack brought out a little restaurant guide that he called "Faggot's". Karen corrected him, calling it "Fag-Gots" (emphasis on the second syllable). Then Grace corrected them both, pointing out that it is, in fact, Zagat's! Absolutely incredible writing!

*Note that it was my last order to See my next post -- an email from the esteemed journalist, Katha Pollit.

Behind the Curve

A colleague of mine mentioned this journal, obliviating the need for this blog.

Alas. Always a day late and a dollar short.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Happy Birthday!

To my two brothers. They're 60 years old today.

Imagine that in dog years.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

A Barbie iPod?

One of our best gay-male-friends (I'll call him Male-Role-Model #1 or MRM1 for short) lives vicariously through Maggie.

And she adores him. Whenever we are all together (MRM1 is in a 14 year relationship with Male-Role-Model#2) he devotes all of his attention to her. They play Barbies together and he often paints her toenails the color of her choice.

For his birthday last year we even gave him a Barbie Townhouse. (MRM2 frantically worried about where to store the monstrosity. The townhouse, in all of its pink plastic glory, was an eyesore in their fastidious apartment with its Room and Board attitude. It came as no surprise to us, the next time we were over and Maggie requested some Townhouse playtime, that MRM1 was gone for several conspicuous minutes in the process of fetching it from some dark, far-away cupboard, deep in their guest-room closet).

Anyway, MRM1 called the other night to report his recent hilarious Maggie observations after an evening spent together as BioMom and I were otherwise occupied with our sordid careers.

MRM1: She actually said: "When Mom goes maybe we can have some ice cream action"! Can you believe that? Ice cream action!

(Italics in original.)

MRM1: Then, when I was putting her to bed, I said to her "Well, I guess I'll have to get you something for Christmas. What do you want?' And she said: "A Barbie iPod!" Can you believe that? A Barbie iPod? If I can't buy a Barbie iPod, I'll figure out how to make a Barbie iPod. With stickers or something.

He was joking of course. Not about the Barbies or the stickers, but about a four-year-old asking for a $400 gift.

Not that he didn't yearn to give it to her. MRM1 has an addictive penchant for technology. That and an addiction to pleasing Maggie.

In today's New York Times article "Babes in a Grown-up Toyland" author Benedict Carey discusses how companies are marketing video games and iPods toward increasingly young consumers.

"A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that half of all 4- to 6-year olds have played video games, a quarter of them regularly. Game makers are aggressively marketing to children as young as 3, while researchers report what parents already know: that children as young as 8 and 9 are asking for adult toys, like cellphones and iPods, rather than stuffed animals or toy trucks."

The jury is out on the long-term effects of technology in kids toys. One one hand some researchers argue that kids do not develop strong imaginations without their dolls and Erector sets (clearly those researchers haven't seen the stuff I've seen on the effects of Barbie's dimensions on young girl's psyches).

Young children who have active imaginary lives tend to be adept reasoning about unknown situations and taking on another's perspective, studies suggest. 'I think there are deep continuities between the functioning of the imagination in early childhood and its functioning later,' Dr. Paul L. Harris, a psychologist at Harvard and author of 'The Work of the Imagination,' wrote in an e-mail.

On the other hand, such toys could help kids in their future endeavors. Technology is a part of nearly any career. As I write this, BioMom and I are literally sitting next to each other, completely absorbed in our respective laptops.

Pathetic, I know.

In any case, BioMom has already put the kibosh on getting a game cube for Christmas. Maggie couldn't care less. Activating her imagination is not on my 'to-do' list as she is virtually always in imaginary land.

Its me who mourns the game cube. I long for those days of yore with my quarters stacked up on the Donkey Kong game, waiting for my chance at breaking into the top three high scores. (Thanks to A Random Walk for the link).

Saturday, November 27, 2004

The Babysitter

BioMom and I are actually going out on the town tonight!

We've hired a newly sitterified kid to do the kid-watching for a us for a few hours.

This kid is really interesting (for lots of reasons other than what I'm about to say). His parents are heterosexual (that is to say that he has a mom and a dad), however, while his background is different from our Four-Year-Old's, his experience is similar. His parents are extremely liberal and have exposed him to all sorts of families from early on. For example, his parents hosted a dear friend in their home during his struggle with AIDS.

At one point in his early years in defending his desire to eat at McDonalds despite the fact that his mother is vegitarian, he claimed that he was a "bi-vegitarian."

Is that as opposed to a bi-carnivor?

Upon entering the public school school system, he was actually surprised to find out that there were more families like his: with a mom and a dad!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Its Not Always Rainbows and Butterflies

Today Cousin has the day off. After about a gallon of coffee, she packs up the two kidlets (3 and almost 1) into the Jeep for some pre-Thanksgiving errands.

They pass a car with a rainbow sticker.

Cousin's Boy:Let's get a rainbow for our car!

This is only funny if you know a little background about Cousin and I.

We have always had a hearty laugh at the rainbow stickers. (For a little more on my opinion about these bumper stickers and others, see my post "Bumper to Bumper" on A Random Walk, November 10th). Once on a trip to Manhattan we saw an Asian male driving a Honda Accord that was literally covered with lesbian propaganda; a rainbow sticker, an Equality sign (the Human Rights Campaign's logo), and various stickers claiming the driver's alumnus organization (you guessed it... Smith College). Anyway, the only reason the man's national origin comes into the story is that we created an entire fictionalized account for how he had come to the point of driving this clearly previously-owned-by-a-lesbian automobile. Maybe he didn't know those cultural cues? Maybe he didn't realize that Smith was an all-women's college? Maybe he didn't put two and two together and realize that the seller was a lesbian who felt the need publicly announce her sexual-orientation-and-therefore-political views through the vehicle of her vehicle. Maybe he figured, "I, too, like girls! And heck! This car's a good deal!"... Maybe he just hadn't gotten around to taking the stickers off? Maybe his daughter or wife was a lesbian?...

We howled all the way to Penn Station!

The other reason its funny is that when we're together, we often are mistaken as a couple. And we never dispute the stranger's misunderstanding. The latest occurrence of this phenomenon was this past summer at REI. (Okay, okay, not a good test-case for this phenomenon given that it is probably the second leading retailer to lesbians aside from Home Depot).

I was holding the baby and our checkout gal said:
Are you having fun wif your two mommies?

(imagine Dori's voice in Finding Nemo "Mister Grumpy Gills!")

Cousin and I nearly burst out laughing.

I think I know what to get them for Christmas!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Incredibly Innocuous Or Incredibly Inappropriate?

While parenting a girl in this country, it is hard not to obsess about the messages being sent to her about body image and weight. I'm sure you've heard all of the feminist rants about Barbie and her impossible-to-attain measurements (one estimate gauged the vital statistics as 36-18-33).

The most recent barrage of media body propaganda has come from my beloved Incredibles. Maggie came home last week after a trip to McDonald's* with Gramma hauling the remains of the kid-luring (and arguably falsely advertised) Happy Meal. This month's 'treasure' features plastic Incredible's characters and game cards. On the cards, you can read about each character including their specific super-powers as well as their height and weight.

The two women in the movie are outrageously thin.

My newest cartoon crush, 'Elastigirl' is purportedly 5'8" weighing in at 135. Furthermore, it is a wonder that her daughter, Violet, can even stand up, let alone perform any superpowers as she is a whopping 5'4" and 85 pounds.

While Elastigirl is thin, she is within normal range according to one Body Mass Index Website, as well as by WeightWatcher's standards (which roughly correspond to the BMI tables).

However, according to the same standards, Violet is hideously under-weight. Her BMI is 14.6 with categories as follows:

Underweight = <18.5
Normal weight = 18.5-24.9
Overweight = 25-29.9
Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater

If Violet doesn't start eating at McDonald's soon, she'll never menstruate and we can probably kiss a sequel good-bye (let alone hearing the pitter-patter of little Violets on the Big Screen).

You're probably saying: "It's just a doll/cartoon for Pete's sake! Lighten up!"

And thinking to yourself: GEEESCH! Feminists DON'T have a sense of humor!

But all these images do translate into a social problem. One piece of evidence is that it is estimated that 25% of college women experience anorexia.

For now Maggie seems to be able to absorb our strange culture relatively unscathed. While she has a few inherited Barbies, she regularly asks for seconds on ice cream. I just hope we can counteract all if this media tripe and encourage her to love her body in whatever form it grows up to be.

*Note that even prior to the release of Supersize Me McDonald's has been a battle with the four-year-old. Like most kids, she learned to recognize the brand name at an early age and associated that with toys and a supposedly kid-friendly atmosphere. As it stands, she only gets to go there on special occasions with Grandma and Grandpa. As a reflection of our on-going battle, she came home after one visit to the fast-food paragon to say that after eating there Grandpa was, in fact, not "big as a house." Lesson learned in watching what you say around the little parrot. Apparently she heard me say that I'd be as big as a house were I to eat there.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Baseball, Apple Pie, The Fourth of July, and Thanksgiving

On topics like gay marriage and parenting, I find myself (and observe others) making the argument that "gay people are just like everyone else." In a letter to our local Tribune's editor in response to a particularly homophobic letter about gay marriage last year I wrote:

Committed gay and lesbian couples in the United States are not unlike the rest of the world's couples. They love, they fight, they are employed, they buy houses and plant flowers, they contribute to the GDP, they have kids, they don't have kids, they celebrate 50th wedding anniversaries, and they split up after 3 years. They are Americans and they deserve not only the same legal benefits as heterosexual married couples, but also the support and stability of our long-held social customs like marriage--whatever we decide to call it.

The Human Rights Campaign (a very mainstream political action group for glbt rights) takes the same position: we are just like you, so we should get the same rights as you.

This sort of argument bugs many glbt activists and it sometimes gets to me as well. In particular, some argue that the HRC depicts all glbt people as upper-middle-class, highly-educated white people with bourgeois goals like attempting to get the right to marry. They claim that this organization does not come close to representing the diversity within this minority group or, therefore, its needs. Others argue that the organization is particularly materialist. The 2000 march on Washington was followed by a huge street fair which charged people $10 upon entry. The message seemed to say "I'm gay and I consume!" (I found a wristband on the street thereby subverting the dominant paradigm... Of course, my desire to enter was purely on grounds of research and observation.) Inside you could buy all-things-rainbow ranging from gay-themed dvd's and dining guides, to dog leashes to, well, I'll let your imaginations fill in the blank.

The fact is we are not "just like you". We face discrimination in the workplace, at home, in our communities and sometimes within our families. That can create instability in our relationships and our personal lives. One clear example of a result of such discrimination and social scorn is that gay teens, have a much higher suicide rate than other teens.

Having said all of this, our family is roasting a huge turkey this week, with all the associated carbohydrates. I guess we're really not that different.

Friday, November 19, 2004

A Resource for ACGPs

Abigail Garner (who spoke at our University a few years ago) is a very brave young woman who grew up with a gay father. She decided to start an organization that provides resources, and connections for other Adult Children of Gay Parents. Her Website Families Like Mine has a wealth of information and resources.

Thanks Abigail.

Assessment: How do ACLP or "Queer Spawn" Turn Out?

So this is the question of the hour when considering this new social phenomenon*of glbt folks rearing kids. The Vatican publicly noted in 2002 that gay parents are performing a 'violence to children'.

Fortunately, there has been quite a bit of research performed on the subject:
The American Psychological Association claims that there is no scientific proof that glbt parents do any harm to children. On the APA Website, Charlotte Patterson has written a summary of the research along with an annotated bibliography.

Another cite developed out of concern with Florida's adoption policy provides more background as well as another review of existing studies.

The most interesting possible problem from my perspective was mentioned in the New York Time's article and that is that the kids might feel more stress at school or be more likely to take homophobic comments seriously than their heterosexually parented counterparts. That article said that the kids were more likely to try to protect their parents by keeping the comments to themselves. It seems to me that this is more an issue for society than because the parents are somehow doing violence to their kids.

More to come on "living in two worlds."

*Many authors have observed a recent increase in childbearing among lesbians—the
"lesbian baby boom" (Mitchell, 1996; Patterson, 1992, 1994a, 1995a; Patterson, Hurt, and Mason, in press; Polikoff, 1990; Riley, 1988; Tasker and Golombok, 1991; Weston, 1991).

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Price Discrimination

In economics, the practice of price discrimination occurs if a seller charges different prices for the same product that are not justified by cost differences (Tucker, 2003: 210).

In order for this to occur, three factors must be in place:
First, the seller must have some control over the market price (i.e. have some monopoly power (be the only provider of the good or service, or one of a few providers); second, the seller must be able to distinguish between consumers willing to pay different prices; third, it must be impossible or too costly for customers to engage in arbitrage (the practice of earning a profit by buying a good at a low price and reselling the good at a higher price).

There are loads of examples in the real world of price discrimination. One is that airlines charge "business travellers" more money for their tickets. How do they do this? Well, by offering lower priced flights to people willing to stay over on a Saturday night, they presumably weed out business travellers who want to get home for the weekend.

As it turns out, the said sperm bank in the previous post also practices price discrimination. They charge $195 per sample for most donors and $235 per sample of their "professional" donors. Professional donors are "Donors who have completed or are completing a Professional Degree i.e. Medical, Dental, Optometry, Law, MBA., Ph.D., etc."

While "shopping" it is difficult to resist purchasing the "professional's" sperm. Heck, you want a smart kid, don't you?

Upon closer examination, however, this seems rather preposterous for several reasons. Firstly, you have the self-selection issue. Many of the donors are poor college kids. They donate because they need the money. According to the Bank's own literature: "All of our donors are high school graduates with some post-high school level education. Our Semen Donor Catalog, Donor Profiles or Donor Portfolios offer specific levels of education. A majority of our donors are college students and professional men." So its not that the non-professional are a bunch of homeless men in need of a little cashola for their next pint. Its just that the guys are too young to have even gone on to professional school.

Secondly, if this good were truly priced in an efficient way, you would expect the cost to be linked to productivity. The Bank has a lot of information about the productivity of this good. It is measured in various ways from the number of sperm per sample, to the motility of the sperm, to the ultimate outcome: the number of pregnancies resulting from this sperm. Interestingly, these productivity variables do not seem to factor into the cost.

Taggert over at A Random Walk hypothesized that the cost difference is based on the opportunity cost of the donor. "Opportunity cost" is the "best alternative sacrificed for a chosen alternative." O.k. what the heck does that mean? That means that in order to entice the professionals to take time out of their busy (and more lucrative) schedules, the Bank will need to offer them more money for an hour or so of their time than they would need to offer the college kids.

The problem with that is that as far as I can tell, donors don't get paid different rates.

It seems that the markup is due nearly entirely to the technology of cryogenics. Not productivity however measured.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

There's a Market for Everything

I sent my intro to microeconomics students the following link as an example of markets and how markets spread to everything.

In considering markets, Karl Marx foresaw the effects of gobalization as markets spread across the globe like wildfire. In speaking of the growth of markets and capitalism, Marx asserted that the

[C]onstant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned… (Marx and Engels, 1848, 1983).

Speaking of markets...

Today BioMom ordered sperm off of the Internet.

I wonder what my students would think about that.

In deciding which donor to use, we narrowed it down based on a few obvious criteria as well as the desire for a healthy mix of genomes. It is a bit awkward, however, given the limited number of "banks" providing the service. Some friends of ours, for example, casually mentioned that their donor was an economist. Being an economist myself, I had noticed the economist (not surprisingly given the demographic, they, apparently, had similar criteria in mind in choosing their donor). Aside from not wanting potentially two economists in the family (imagine the dinner table conversation!), we wouldn't want to choose the same donor as our friends.

What a strange world we live in.

When thinking about this subject, its hard not to get existential. Of course, many heterosexual couples use sperm banks in their attempt to conceive, but its hard not to personally address that nagging question:

Is this natural?

Of course, natural is a subjective term but its hard not to wonder what the creator (God, Abba, Budda, Mohammed, whoever) had in mind when he/she created couples that cannot procreate. Is that some sort of sign? Are we using science toward a productive and appropriate end? Do the ends justify the means?

I give BioMom the green flag on choosing the actual donor (out of our Final Four). Today she employed the opinions of a coworker in making her final decision.

Coworker: If you can have Brad Pitt [apparently one donor was described as looking like the famous actor] its a no brainer!!!

Let's hope Brad's swimmers survived the long winter.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Letter to the Editor (not accepted)

In my newly overturned leaf of optimism, I am going to assume that the following letter to the editor of the New York Times regarding the article referred to in previous posts was simply too long (as opposed to poorly worded or not accepted due to its tone). I will reiterate my argument (in hopefully better ways) in later posts.

In the article Growing Up With Mom and Mom, author Susan Dominus wasted a great opportunity to deeply and analytically probe the issue of how adult children of gay parents (ACGP hereafter) turn out. While Dominus mentions the literature and brushes over several interesting themes, she squanders the forum and wastes our time by never really making a point or really highlighting what's interesting about this newly emerging phenomenon.

As a lesbian parent of a 4 year old (she would correct me: four and one-half), I think the article touches on, but misses the main point on at least three issues. First, the article (not unlike most research that has been performed on the subject) focuses on the effects of the gay parents on the children rather than the effect of a homophobic society on the children. In other words, it is a social disease. From the article, it seems that one factor that makes ACGP different is not so much that they have gay or lesbian parents, but that they face homophobia more intimately and at a younger age than their heterosexually-parented counterparts. As such, they seem to feel compelled to protect their parents by not telling them about homophobic comments that they received or other things that they experience. This seems to be a factor that could put undue stress on kids, but has more to do with society than the parent's influence.

Second, the author focuses on the scanty research (25 lesbian couples! Any statistician worth his salt would say that you need a sample of at least 40 to make any meaningful generalizations) that claims that ACGPs are more likely to explore their own sexuality and therefore may be more likely to be homosexual than other kids. Of course, this research does not attempt to tease out other biological and social factors that might make kids more likely to explore their sexuality (like being the first generation to see Ellen come out on national tv!). Also, it begs why we even ask this question when most gay people were spawned from heterosexual parents in the first place. If we think that gay parents are likely to rear gay kids then where did gay people come from to begin with? This seems like a ridiculous line of thought.

Lastly, the article discusses the difficulty that ACGPs face living in two worlds: the heterosexual world and the homosexual world. "You know, I feel like I'm somewhere in between queer and straight culture, wedged in this strange place, this lonely place, Ry told me. I can relate to both cultures, but sometimes I feel like I'm not belonging to either".

This is obviously not a generalizable observation and depends on how involved the parents are in the gay community and how much the gay parents emphasize their sexuality and its relationship to their community and family. Our family has both gay and straight friends alike in near the proportion that they exist in the world. And while we do not shy away from the issue (we are both completely out in every aspect of our lives), we do not focus on it either. We hope that our daughter will grow up happy, tolerant and strong in herself. And that her parent's sexuality will be but one small aspect of her amazing self.

Big Truth and Little Truth

I guess it will come to no surprise that I was the only person on the panel doubting his or her belifs. I shouldn't say only one. BioMom and I have endless discussions about what it means to be Catholic and religious, and spiritual. But, effectively, she seems to somehow get more out of Catholocism than I do, and well, she has more of a strong, positive base than I do.

Maybe its just that she is able to be more optimistic than I. See the glass as half full, as it were.

Seeing the half-empty part, I focused on the less-than-supportive few of the rather huge audience.

When we got there, the front row was filled with a group from Catholic Parents Online praying the rosary (presumably for us sinners). While their Website seems fairly innocuous, they are a strong anti-glbt group pushing the Vatican to desist support to catholic glbt groups and progressive churches in the area.

We each said our little spiel. A gay may couple who had gotten married in 1986 was all "HUAH" (in Westpoint language) about the church. BioMom talked about her extensive Catholic background (see previous post). I didn't know this but at one time ALL of her aunts were nuns.

Then there was me. I grew up in Omaha Nebraska in a strong catholic family. I was the first of four kids to not go to catholic school. One of my brothers was a Christian Brother for 15 years before he came out and eventually escaped to more politically aesthetic ground in the Episcopalian Church. I recalled naively exploring the issue of being gay in the Catholic Church when I was coming out in college. I sought council from our family priest Fr. Quinn and my brother. My brother eloquently told the Church's position through a metaphor: The church considers you an Eagle, but you can't fly.

Of course, afterwards, the CPO members flocked to the doubter (BioMom expertly focused her attention on the more supporting people coming up to us after the talk while I got cornered by the CPO group).

Their leader implored that I seek The Truth.

That implies that I am seeking The Truth.

That I even believe in A Truth.

That's the trouble with being an academic: its hard to even talk to such fundamentalist-faith-based people. In my opinion, the church is a political entity and a social construction. The fact that there is a Vatican II implies that humans felt that something needed to be changed.

Its like talking to a wall though as these people think that any change is divine providence.

In an attempt to see the event through BioMom's lenses, I recognize the strength of the more supportive group; also involved in their own struggle with the Church. One woman, the mother of a gay man asked if she was betraying her son by remaining in the Catholic Church. She admitted that she comes and goes, waxing and waning in her faith with her personal struggle.

The room was also filled with people wearing anti-war buttons and other symbols of social justice.

If I can hope for anything, it is to learn from BioMom and be able to share in this strong, but struggling community rather than focusing on the ever-increasing fundamentalist mini-majority in this country.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Isn't it Ironic?: Part One

Tonight BioMom and I are going to be panel members on the topic of homosexuality and Catholocism at some crazy-liberal catholic church.

I don't know how I get myself into this stuff.

BioMom seems to be at the forefront of this particular social movement as she is committed to sending Maggie to catholic school (!?!). As this blog will show, this is one major topic of conversation whithin our little alternative family. BioMom grew up Catholic herself and attended catholic school all the way through college (she would have attended a catholic law school had her LSAT been higher).

Anyway, after reading a Newsweek on the topic of "mean girls" that was quite popular a few years back, I was persuaded (if not entirely convinced) that participation in a religious group helped teenage girls to navigate their way through adolescence without doing themselves (or their peers and parents) too much damage. Since that time BioMom has been in search of that elusive thing: the liberal parish (and by 'liberal' I mean one that would openly accept gay and lesbian individuals) with a corresponding school. Due to that pesky economic law of scarcity, few churches have the money to have both an active social justice element and a school. So, the liberal churches tend to focus on the social justice arm. Alas.

BioMom has actively been interviewing the principles of various schools pointedly asking: "At your school, will Maggie be told that her family was created in the image of God?"... wow. She has guts. One story she likes to tell (repeatedly) is of one principle who's eyes literally bugged out in response to the question. That has lead us to believe that few catholic lesbian and gay parents actually send their kids to catholic school. Hence the pioneering aspect of this project.

Anyway, back to tonight. A few months ago I got a call from someone asking us to do this. Basically come and talk about our experience with the church. (Of course, I never actually expected that November 15th would arrive, assuming that the world would somehow end November 2nd.) I admitted my relatively ginormous reservations. BioMom, on the other hand, treats the church like a mediocre cafeteria plan; picking and choosing the beliefs that suit her while ignoring any, say, major political, social, or emotional inconsistencies.

I'll let you know how it all goes.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Girls Can't Marry Other Girls

Here's a story I wrote about gay marriage called "Girls Can't Marry Other Girls".

Background: The New York Times' Piece

Growing Up With Mom and Mom by Susan Dominus.

Just don't call me "late for dinner"

You might be wondering about the URL of this blog.

On the way to her new preschool this year Maggie pointed out a cyclist riding around Lake Harriet. She exclaims: "Look at the biker! She looks like Lisa!"
BioMom: "Yeah! And he even has a bag like Lisa's!"

They travelled on quietly.
About half way around the lake:
Maggie: "I call her John."
BioMom: "Who do you call John?"
Maggie: "Lisa."
BioMom: "Why do you call her John?"
Maggie: "Because she's my dad."

Clearly there's cognitive dissonance going on here. I guess I'm butchy in an urban-thirty-something sort of way. But not manly. I hate football and have an embarrasingly small tool collection (literally one screwdriver and a couple of hammers).

The transition to the new school had been noticeable. Maggie had regressed somewhat in the peeing-her-pants arena (more blogs to come on that, I'm sure. Conversations about potty training do wonders for the love life) and her exhaustion by 5 p.m. was palpable.

I figure she's negotiating a new environment. Gauging other kids' reactions to having two women pick her up from school rather than the usual mom/dad set. I imagine kids saying "Who's that? Is that your dad?" As far as I'm concerned she can call me whatever she wants. I'm lucky to have been called at all.

What This Blog is All About

Consider the planning necessary for two women to have a baby. . . How can you ever really know if you are "ready"? (I have always been perversely jealous of what I call the "oops!" factor.) And because I had never been in a successful relationship, this seemed like an even more enormous barrier to entry into parenthood. If pressed, I remember saying something like: maybe I'll meet someone who already has a kid! In fact, during my last year or so in graduate school, I remember perusing the blade and finding an ad to which i seriously considered responding for a woman-with-child, written by her friends.

I suppose life does this sort of thing purposefully to us, somehow giving us glimpses of insight into the next chapter.

I met Biomom when our now eldest was 16 months old and started this blog in November of 2004. Here is a clip from the introduction that I wrote then:

"While I have been actively parenting a precocious four-and-one-half-year-old-boy-crazy-only-pink-wearing-cinderella-watching-girlie-girl for the past three years, and writing intermittently about the experience, i only felt the need to 'go public' after the New York Times' piece "Growing up with mom and mom" (10/24/04) missed the point (and, well, the whole [2004] election/moral values thing)."

Since then, Biomom and I took our own fertility journey with the hopes of adding a sibling to the family. After one miscarriage and too many months of trying, she got pregnant in the spring of 2005 and she gave birth to a generous 9lb, 3oz baby boy that December.

This blog is about opening up dialogue and hopefully creating a better world for our two kids: future adult children of lesbian parents (ALCP). And the hope that they won't need too much therapy.

My posts will focus on my perspective of parenting: the non-biological mom--or, as coined by other bloggers like me: the "lesbian dad" or the "other mother" just to name a few. In his memoir Paris to the Moon, Adam Gopnik justifies his subject (the personal experience of parenting as an expatriate) by saying "yet since raising a kid is the one nearly universal thing people do, and since doing it in foreign parts is the one time when you get to see most clearly all the bits of doing it that aren't universal--that are inflected and shaped by the local geography and mood and playground equipment--it is in its way, I hope, still a not entirely interior subject."

This topic is similar in that my "project" of parenting is not unlike anyone else's except that our 'foreign parts' aren't geographical in nature. We're not in Paris, but sometimes I feel like I'm on the moon.

The "lesbian baby boom" (coined by Arnup (1998) and later expanded upon by Tulchinsky (1999) and Patterson (1995)) is a legitimate phenomenon and worth careful consideration. I want to think about possible differences between adult children of lesbian and gay parents and their heterosexual counterparts: their experience and the results of this relatively new type of family. I will also focus on differences that we face as parents who are members of a minority group that faces some degree of degradation in our society. My personal perspective is even more unique because i am not the biological parent, which brings on its own set of quirks and idiosyncrasies. What may be surprising is the degree to which the whole thing isn't any different than a 'leave it to beaver' episode sans the clean home with the dinner-on-the-table (oh, and the bepearled-skirted wife serving the meal. Alas.).

I will also digress. You will see blogs on the humdrums of my life; writing papers, rewriting papers, re-rewriting papers, grading student papers, feeding my cats, reacting to popular culture, political rants, and whatever else comes to mind. Again, quoting Gopnik "what then, the journalist and scholar ask tetchily, what then is exactly the vice of the comic-sentimental essayist? It is of course to believe that all experience and history can be reduced to him, or his near relations, and the only apology i can make is that for him in this case experience and history and life were not so much reduced as all mixed up, and, scrambled together, they at least become a subject. The essayist dreams of being a prism, through which other light passes, and fears ending up merely as a mirror, showing the same old face. He has only his self to show and only himself to blame if it doesn't show up well" (p. 15).

Where to start?

The very beginning.

Arnup, k. 1999 "does the word lesbian mean anything to you?" lesbians raising daughters. In s. Abbey & a. O'reilly (eds.), redefining motherhood: changing identities and patterns (pp. 59-68). Toronto: second story press.
Gopnik, adam. 2000. Paris to the moon. Random house trade paperbacks: new york.
Patterson, c. J. 1995. Lesbian mothers, gay fathers, and their children. In a. R. D'augelli & c. J. Patterson (eds.), lesbian, gay, and bisexual identities over the lifespan (pp. 262-292). New york: oxford university press.
Tulchinsky, k. X. (1999, may 8). Two moms, better than one? Staking claim to mother's day: once we decided which one of us would bear the child, our little family adventure was underway. Vancouver sun, pp. E5. Retrieved august 21, 2000 from the world wide web: