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.