Monday, November 27, 2006

The Sage

The boy and I were out-and-about today, running errands and such.

On the advice of a local friend, we went to JC Pennys to make an appointment for Big's one year picture (and a retake of our SOY's 'first-grade-grin' which she chose to hide with closed lips for her school picture to our great dissapointment).

I was maneuvering the stroller into the elevator when an older guy, sitting on a chair near the elevator, apparently waiting for no one said:

I see you got lucky there.

It was one of those moments that sort of take your breath away. We were doing such an every-day-humdrum sort of activity. Nothing special whatsoever. I move through the world invisibly about 99.9% of the time. Of course, Big changes that a little (as all babies do for the lucky people around them who bask in all of their sunshine-y glory), but for the most part, we go through the world relatively unnoticed.

I literally wheeled Big around, kind of gasping at this reminder of what is true and good in my life, and, nodding emphatically, I grinned back at the Sage:

I sure did.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

More Than A Box

First Birthday Presents (awaiting wrapping in the guest room): $50
Birthday cake and ice cream: $6.50
New Car Seat: $119.00
Car Seat Box: Priceless

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Desperately Needed Lessons in Civility

I just received this email:

i would like to have a meeting about my scheudle for next semester either next monday the 27th or tuesday the 28th. I have classes on monday's from 10 until 2 and on tuesdays at 10-11 and 12:40 - 2. if i could meet you at any time other than this i would appreciate it.

I responded with this email:

Hi [Student-For-Whom-Commonplace-Civility-Has-Gone-By-The-Wayside] --

I am on leave this year and am, therefore, unable to advise students. Please contact the Dean's office to be reassigned a new advisor.

Good luck,

P.S. In the future, when addressing professors, etc. I would suggest writing emails more carefully. For example, using capital letters where necessary (such as for the pronoun "I" instead of "i") and having a salutation such as "Dear Dr. So-and-so" and "Sincerely, So-and-so". These simple actions will make you seem much more civil and will encourage professors to write you back and address your need.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Economist's Daughter

Wouldn't that be a great book title? Okay, maybe not the most interesting book. . . But a great title none-the-less!

GreenStone Talkshow

From a tip* from LesbianDad I just listened to Dr. Nanette Gartrell (principal investigator on the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study) and some other not-entirely informed guy on the call-in radio show on GreenStone Radio.

I think what infuriates me about discussions like that (i.e. short, so not enough time for anyone to really make a coherent point) is the platitudes that are spoken, and not followed-up on.

For example, Mr. Sprig** (the anti-gays-having-kids guy) kept talking in huge generalizations like:

a) kids with two biological parents in the household do "better" than kids in households with stepparents
b) African American kids in single-mother parent households do "much worse" than kids with two parents.

I wanted to scream! What exactly does he mean by "better" or "worse"? What things are measured? And how can he not see the confounding variables? Probably African American kids with single mother parents are doing "worse" because they don't have any money! Not because they don't have a dad! And "step-parents" are probably not great substitutes for biological parents because the study is mixing up the effects of divorce or separation. What does that have to do with being a gay or lesbian parent? How does an involved non-biological parent who has been around since conception differ from a biological parent? Does he think that adoption should be illegal--even among the hetersexuals out there? I also think that we confuse parent's sexuality with parent's gender.

There are just so many more questions out there for us to answer before we can make such definitive (and derisive) conclusions. For example: How many glbt families are formed through a) adoption, b) prior heterosexual marriages and c) donor insemination. How does family formation affect children? Is it that children need two parents with differing primary sexual characteristics or is it that children need "masculine" fathers and "feminine" mothers in order to learn correct gender roles?***

He kept getting stuck on one of the relatively well known results that the children of gay and lesbian parents tend to experiment more with their sexuality, although they usually do not end up being gay or lesbian themselves. This is such a ridiculous "concern." If anything, it tells me that if we were all free to explore the limits of our beings, that more of us would experiment. Period. What is the negative in that?


Maybe Devil's Advocates like that hit at my insecurities. Are we preparing our kids well enough to lead heterosexual lives? Will our SYO be able to navigate a relationship with a man even though she hasn't experienced it first hand yet? Am I enough of a dad? Is having two moms enough?

*From LesbianDad: Dr. Nanette Gartrell, the principal investigator on the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study, about which I wrote in late October, is going to be interviewed about her study alongside a FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL guest on a call-in radio show on GreenStone Radio between 9:20 and 10:00am, PST, this Monday, November 20.

It’s streamed online, and the call-in number is toll-free. Details below. The obvious and pressing need is to counter what’s likely to be a well-orchestrated wall o’ hate coming in on the phone lines from the FRC folks.

**I didn't hear the beginning of the show, so I didn't hear what his qualifications were, but after a quick google, I am thinking that he is: Peter Sprig, vice president for policy at the Family Research Council.

***See my previous post and the link on LesbianDad's blog to George Saunders' "My Amendment" for a great editorial on "Samish-Sex Marriage" and gender roles.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


So, [Big], how does it feel to face forward in the car?

I faced backward?

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Intervention

This morning I held an intervention with the SYO regarding her eating habits after I opened her lunch box only to find the following remains from yesterday's lunch:

a) an entire, uneaten sandwich,
b) her milk container (a small Superman thermos) which, when shaken, revealed that the milk inside had not been consumed,
c) an unopened container of applesauce
d) a Skittles wrapper.

So, you only ate candy for lunch yesterday?


From the contents of your lunchbox, I can see that yesterday, for lunch, you ate only candy. . . You know that that is unacceptable, don't you? Do you realize that that signals to me that I should not put candy in your lunchbox?

Um. . .

You need to eat more healthily! Your meal should have some protein (like the lunchmeat in your sandwhich), some grains (like in the bread or a granola bar) and some fruit and vegetables!


I had ventured away from our regular 7-grain Healthy Choice bread to some organic white bread from Trader Joe's that did, in fact, feel like a hocky puck.


This, too, was from Trader Joe's. A healthier, turkey version of her beloved bologna.

Well, it's all I got, Sweetie. When I open a restaurant, you'll have your choice.

She, exasperated: When will THAT be?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Johnny Walker

This afternoon I was playing school with the SYO. In an unusual turn of events, she actually asked ME to be the teacher.

Being the absolutely un-creative person that I can be at times (especially when I'm tired and one becomes especially tired when an 11 month old gets up at 6 a.m.), I decided to teach a little economics.

She got the whole people-buy-more-when-the-price-falls thing (i.e. the law of demand) without a glitch, but when I went on to compliments and substitutes, it got a little more interesting.

So, what do you always eat with your ham sandwiches?


Okay, so let's say that the price of ham sandwiches increases.


So, will you buy more or less Cheetoz?

I'd have bologna.

RE: Big
So as of Tuesday (the 14th), he is officially walking. I was standing in the kitchen, and he just walked right out from the living room. Something shifted; he no longer looked to the next stable thing to hold him up. As BioMom said, it was like riding a bike. He figured out the balance and just took off.

That is not to say that there aren't spectacular falls.

MO4 (That is "Mother of Four", who debutes in the blog today and who is soon to be a major player in Big's life as I transition back to part-time teaching at Macalester this spring) was over yesterday and Big was all puffy-chested, showing off his new skills. The SYO and her pal, FoF (Four-of-Four) headed into the back room to get some coloring tools when Big just took off following them as if to say:

Look at me! I can follow the big kids now without ANY help!

He was obviously extremely proud of himself, when suddenly: BAM! BANG! and from the SYO: MAMAAAAAAA

She and I crashed into each other, me running toward the room they were all in, her running out of the room, leaping over the fallen, Big, who was in the midst of that terrifying moment of open-mouthed silence before the wailing is unleashed. Mo4 and I scooped him up and held him out for a little head-check, only to find NOTHING. Not a bump or a scratch.

What the hell? I wondered. You'd have thought he had a hole in his skull by the sound of his screams.

Mo4 says: Oh, he's just embarrased.

What? Could this be true? I thought.

Mo4, matter-of-factly: Yeah -- he was so proud of himself, showing off for me! It's just his pride.

Relief and astonishment from me. This seems like such a boy thing. I never saw that kind of a reaction from the SYO. Either she was hurt or she was fine. She was rarely embarrased by a fall! And, how could our little baby boy have turned into a boy with real 'boy behaviors' so soon?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Effects Of Moving Down the Gender Scale

I was reading a very enjoyable post over at LesbianDad when I found her link to this great editorial by George Saunders called "My Amendment" that was published in The New Yorker (2004).

I think that this is, to date, my favorite comment on the whole gay marriage debate.

The story was not only a hilarious comment on the ridiculous that is our current debate on gay marriage, it also resonated with me as BioMom and I navigate our ever-morphing gender roles, especially since I have become a rarely-seen-in-the-wild, Stay-At-Home-Baba (SAHB).

Here are a couple of paragraphs from Saunders' essay: In the town where I live, I have frequently observed a phenomenon I have come to think of as Samish-Sex Marriage. Take, for example, K, a male friend of mine, of slight build, with a ponytail. K is married to S, a tall, stocky female with extremely short hair, almost a crewcut. Often, while watching K play with his own ponytail as S towers over him, I have wondered, Isn’t it odd that this somewhat effeminate man should be married to this somewhat masculine woman? Is K not, on some level, imperfectly expressing a slight latent desire to be married to a man? And is not S, on some level, imimperfectly expressing a slight latent desire to be married to a woman? . . . Then I ask myself, Is this truly what God had in mind? . . . Because my feeling is, when God made man and woman He had something very specific in mind. It goes without saying that He did not want men marrying men, or women marrying women, but also what He did not want, in my view, was feminine men marrying masculine women.

He goes on to say that this is why he developed his "Manly Scale of Absolute Gender."

Using my Scale, which assigns numerical values according to a set of masculine and feminine characteristics, it is now easy to determine how Manly a man is and how Fem a woman is, and therefore how close to a Samish-Sex Marriage a given marriage is. . .

Here’s how it works. Say we determine that a man is an 8 on the Manly Scale, with 10 being the most Manly of all and 0 basically a Neuter. And say we determine that his fiancĂ©e is a -6 on the Manly Scale, with a -10 being the most Fem of all. Calculating the difference between the man’s rating and the woman’s rating–the Gender Differential–we see that this proposed union is not, in fact, a Samish-Sex Marriage, which I have defined as any marriage for which the Gender Differential is less than or equal to 10 points.

I LOVE this.

In fact, BioMom and I have our own 'butch-femme' scale with 10 being "highly feminine" and 1 being "highly butchy" and we will rank each other's actions or outfits based on a) our subjective determination and b) our desires for any particular event! On average though, I'd say i'm about a 4 and she's about a 6. We have speculated that sustainable relationships usually aggregate to a 10 on this scale. In other words, if the individual's butch/femme scale is much below 10 (say, two "3" butches) or much higher than 10 (say two "7" femmes) would not engender a sustainable gender-balance and would, therefore, be doomed to failure.

You can imagine how we analyze the couples in "L-word" where the only real butch has decided to become a transsexual!*

It turns out that this shift in our professional and personal lives (me halting work temporarily, she gearing back up in a heretofore unprecedented manner) has resulted in many unexpected consequences. I, for example, have unexpecedly fallen in love with being a SAHB. But, this has had some repercussions on our household's delicate gender balance. How does one, for example feel butchy, or masculine (an identity one has carried throughout life and that permeates all of their socio-pscychological persona) after spending a day changing diapers, attending all-female baby classes and singing songs like "the wheels on the bus" and "bumpin' up and down in my little red wagon?" And, in the reverse, how are one's partner's feelings altered by this shift? Especially when she has kicked her career into high gear?

In the spirit of "genderology" (a term I learned from LesbianDad) combined with a little economic theory (see Gary Becker and Heidi Hartmann and each of their 1980s articles on the gender division of labor) does not what one does influence who one is?

All of this has made me increasingly interested in stay-at-home dads and the issues they face both personally and professionally. One stay-at-home dad in my 'progressive playgroup' regularly seems to come to the group a bit disgruntled and on more than one occasion he has mentioned needing to get a regular babysitter to make sure that he and his wife have more time alone to connect. He obviously loves his son, and I know that he feels that staying home with him is important and a worthwhile sacrifice, but something is missing none-the-less. I doubt that he misses the identity of his profession (although I am sure this is an issue for many if not most people who shift from work-for-pay to work-for-domestic-gratification, regardless of gender. I suspect though, that this phenomenon may hit men more sharply). I think maybe he's become a 2 wherease he used to be a 4 or even a 5, while his wife may have remained a -7 (on Saunders' scale).

I guess what I'm trying to say is that even if one recognizes and understands that a) gender is on a continuum and that b) it is fluid, changing over the course of our life and c) relative to the things around us including our occupations, that doesn't make it any easier.

*Note, please take all of this with a grain of salt. We're not serious.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Parent Hacks

Taggert over at A Random Walk, hooked me on to this blog, Parent Hacks: a collaborative weblog of practical parenting wisdom, which I now have on my blogroll under "resources."

One of their recent post will be quite helpful in the near future I'm sure: "Tell Strong-Willed Toddlers What They Should Do."

And no, they don't go on to say "Tell them to go straight to H. E. Double Toothpicks!"

I've already found myself following their advice as Big tortures our annoyed-but-too-lazy-to-move octogenarian felines: Gentle [Big], gentle!

This said while I pet him the way I want him to pet them.

See? Gentle!

The Cat Came Back

Tonight Big and I were reading Yummy Yucky (as in "Blueberries are YUMMY, blue crayons are YUCKY"), and I SWEAR, that when I asked him "Where's the kitty?", he moved his hand in a somewhat less-than-vague way toward the picture on the last page where there was a picture of a cat pooping in a litter box (under "Yucky").

Of course his big fist covered about a third of the pictures on the page, but he was in the correct quadrant!

Oh and, of course, that corner of the book was conspicuously close to his bottle of delicious nectar, which was sitting on a nearby table.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Minnesota Welcomes First US Muslim Congressman

From the Washington Post online:

Muslim’s Election Is Celebrated Here and in Mideast

“Congress needs to reflect the diversity of America, and that means its vibrant religious diversity as well,” said Farhana Khera, the executive director of the National Association of Muslim Lawyers and a former senior Senate staff member. “It’s good to have diverse voices on the House floor, in committees and caucus meetings. It is good for the country to have different views aired, especially when the primary national issues relate to Islam and affect Muslims in this country and Muslims overseas.”

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Gay Marriage Cause and Effect

Thanks to a tip from She-Who-Is-Named-After-The-Elf-Princess, I just listened to an episode of This American Life called "A Little Bit of Knowledge," specifically, Act II about Savage's adopted 6 year old son's thoughts on whether he and his partner should marry, how his ideas came to be, and how they evolved over time.

The story is great and is the boy/male correlary to my Girls Can't Marry Other Girls piece.

The story begins with his son explaining why he would prefer that his dads don't get married.

"Boys don't marry boys, he insists. And girls don't marry girls."

In the story, Savage says that he first began discussing the topic of gay marriage when he was four. He proclaimed that his dads "don't really love each other."

Why not?

Because you're not married. People who don't love each other can't get married. And since you're not married, and can't get married, you don't love each other. Not really.

Apparently the source of their son's information was a five year old girl whose parents were divorcing. They told her that they couldn't stay married because were no longer in love. . . . The tautological argument followed: since his dads CAN'T get married, they must NOT be in love.

He uses some of the same strategies that I have used in the past with the SYO, one of my favorites being showing her the pictures of betrothed or just-married gay and lesbian couples in the style section of the sunday New York Times.

[SYO] do you want to look at the wedding pictures with me?

We always speculate as to which couples are the happiest and where they are going on their honeymoons.

Funny, she never questions me that we don't do this EVERY week. . . I only bring it up when I see gay couples.

Their son is also like the SYO in that he focuses on the cake part of a wedding. After two years of exposing their son to the liberal media, he finally conceeded that they could, in fact, get married. But he insists that they should not and that if they were to get married, that he would not attend the actual ceremony. Only the party afterwards, provided there was cake.

Our SYO could care less about the marriage part, but she'd LOVE us to have a ceremony in which she could, effectively serve as the emcee, on stage with some pouffy dress. Oh, and much cake to follow. See this post of FRM#1's talk with the then FYO about getting married.

Savage says It is hard to believe that his son has come to believe that marriage is about matched sets: boys and girls. "How'd that happen?"

Preschool, apparently, is where their son, from the exposure to other kids learned about gender expectations. In the school yard, the boys would chase the girls around on the playground. He learned that marriage was "a boy and a girl thing" and that it "wasn't agreeable to the boys. . . It was a weapon. Something the girls would do to the boys if they actually caught them." The girls would turn the tables by pulling the marriage card. "Marriage was nuclear coodies." After that, the girls would chase the boys.

So to their son, it didn't make any sense that his dads (two boys) would even consider marriage. Marriage was a girl thing. Since there weren't any girls in the family, why was the subject even coming up?

"A Brief History of Marriage Meddling in the US"

Check out this incredible graphic on A Brief History of Marriage Meddling in the US that I got via LesbianDad.

Thanks for the tip and the optimism, LD!

Irregular Newsletter: 11 Months

Dear Mr. Still-Quite-Big:

Well, this 'irregular' newsletter has become verifiably, well, regular!

See these issues: 10 Months, 9 months, 8 months, and 6 months.

You took your first solo steps this month!

Because what is past is prologue, I expect that you will engage this new ability with the drive and intensity that you have in the past when attempting to master a new skill. Since that day (October 26th), you have walked more and more consecutive steps alone, and have become less willing to crawl. Sometimes at night before bed, when you're punch-drunk and silly, you walk between BioMom and I. Us: on the carpet, arms wide open, faces encouraging. You: back and forth, back and forth. As we receive, congratulate, and turn you around to send you off on the return voyage, you barely steady yourself prior to departure, so excited to show off your new skills. Leaning this way and that, wracking our nerves with your tipsy balance, you look like a juggler balancing a stack of plates above your head, bending and turning as you unicycle your way across the stage.

There are still no signs of verbal communications from your little lighthouse. Not a chubby finger pointing earnestly toward a too-high snack on a counter. Or even an accidental hand motion resembling a 'bye-bye' wave as you steady yourself at the window as BioMom carts the SYO off to school.

Of course, that does not inhibit our mutual understandings. You'd have to admit that it is, so far, a one way street, this learning of each other's languages. While you utterly refuse our language, we have had to compensate by deciphering your noises. I believe that I can tell by your tone in that dark time of the night whether you're a) hungry, b) stuffy in the nose, c) sitting in a diaper full of %*&$, d) aching from the persistence of a new tooth attempting to break through your gums or e) completely faking it.

I feel like passing an amendment to our family's constitution similar to the hideously racist and short-sighted Iowa law making English the state's "official language."

Learn the language, fella!

This is not to say that you don't have a sound track. In the mornings, when you wake up, I hear you emphatically practicing various vowels (OOOOO, AAAAAAH) and consonants (sssssT and Tuh Tuh!), followed by what I imagine is are very wet PTTHHHTHTs!

You are developing a great sense of humor and are becoming more socialized with other kids. Last week at a class we attend -- "babygarten" -- you literally crawled over to two similarly-aged twin boys, and went after their nookies, one at a time, grabbing and crawling your way to their property, promptly removing them from their surprised mouths, and stuffing one quickly into your own while attempting a quick-crawling getaway.

You've got this incredibly infectious smile that shows all six of your teeth and all of our neighborhood moms seem to find you handsome.

In one short month you'll be one year old.

It will have been the longest and the shortest year of my life.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Three Tears For Wisconsin

I am sad to report that this erstwhile progressive state has taken a shift to the right/red.

Yesterday Wisconsin voters joined voters in seven other states to approve of amendments on the ballot to ban gay marriage (South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho and South Dakota. As an aside, I am not so proud to say that I have lived in three of those eight states.)

This is relatively surprising given that Wisconsin was the first state to pass an "employment non-discrimination act" that protects GLBT workers from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

I can't help but believe that, given that 85 percent of Americans belive that GLBT folks should have equal rights, on the gay marriage issue, most people are simply misinformed.

From the Associated Press:

Lorri Pickens, campaign manager for Vote Yes for Marriage, said Wisconsin voters wanted to prevent "activist judges" from potentially legalizing gay marriage.

"People understand that the institution of marriage is an important rockbed and foundation for our communities," Pickens said.

For the life of me, I can't understand how extending the rights of marriage to more monogamous couples (some with kids, some without) threatens this 'rockbed'.

And this:

Betty Wilber, 58, a paper mill worker from Shawano, said her religious beliefs compelled her to vote in favor of the marriage amendment.

"I don't think it was God's right to have two men and two women together," she said.

Let's just agree to leave God out of this, okay? Lock the church doors, but just let me leave my pension to BioMom and let me visit her in the hospital without you getting all up in my business, and we'll call it even, okay?

In addition to the gay marriage fiasco:

In another referendum asking voters whether Wisconsin should lift its longstanding ban on the death penalty in certain cases, 53.9 percent of voters said yes in unofficial returns from 50 percent of precincts.

What are people thinking?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Six Year Old Mind

I recently read Philip Roth's American Pastoral and one particular passage stood out for me:

Look, I've got kids, kids galore--I know what kids are like growing up. The black hole of self-absorption is bottomless (Roth, 1997: 69).

We've noticed a significant increase in the SYO's level of self-absorption since turning six.

Thursday and Friday the SYO was off from school for teacher's conferences.

As an aside, our conference with her teacher went fantastic. She's a great little girl, well socialized, happy to help others, etc. We wished we had had a recording device just to be able to effectively compare conferences once Big gets to first grade.

On Friday, we decided to go to the Children's Museum with Sidekick, her mom and her new little sister. We have recently re-discovered this amazing place. It is expertly planned to satisfy all ages so both Big and the SYO love it.

While we were there, we ran into not only a bunch of kids from the SYO's class, but also their teacher who appeared like a rock star among her adoring first-grade fans. When our self-absorbed SYO recognized her teacher there, she walked up and said:

How did you know I was here?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006