Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Let's just say that we don't worry about him falling down the stairs anymore!
Have a great holiday everyone!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Be Careful What You Wish For

So last night BioMom attended a shwanky dinner hosted by the economics department of the uber-liberal college that is my current place of employment.

I was ecstatic to get the invitation as my home department has never hosted a similar event in the last seven years of my employment there. Last night's event was in direct contrast to the usual hor'dourves (less extravagant than a dinner) hosted by the college (less intimate than the department) at the college itself (less intimate than a restaurant) from 4-6 (more casual than the 7-10p.m. timing of the dinner last night).

I hadn't seen BioMom in what felt like weeks what with end-of-year meetings, my finals, and Christmas performances at our little Catholic school, so when she met me there, and the chair announced that we could not sit with our spouses, I was a bit disappointed. But we went our separate ways (she is a whiz at schmoozing, and I (ahem) wouldn't mind some further opportunities at this little liberal oasis within an even liberal-er metropolitan area) and made the best of it.

At dessert we were split up into odds and evens and asked to move a second time. This time around I felt lucky enough to sit next to the old-timer teaching/consulting/entrepreneurial/Rolodex-for-student guru. He's the teacher alumnus come back to visit and is the person on the epitaph on which their bequeathment is dedicated. He's popular. If he had Web lectures he'd be the economics version of this guy.

And it started out okay.

I asked him about his teaching. I asked him about his consulting work, his super-star lawyer-wife, his plans for retirement.

You get the picture.

Then it went downhill like a mudslide in Southern California in April.

"So. . . I was talking to [BioMom] over there and she was telling me that you have two kids. . . Can I ask you about that?"

All the guy wanted to talk about was insemination and sperm. How you buy it. Where you buy it. How you choose it. Does it cost more if you have smarter dudes? Etc. Etc.

I am generally open to such questioning. And I wouldn't have minded this at all from this relative stranger had it been a one-on-one sort of deal, but there were two other people at the table. Two other people that I didn't know very well. Again, it's not that I mind the topic, but it was just a bit awkward when I became aware that the other two's conversation had dwindled and that it was now appropriate for us to open our discussion up for the table's consumption, which meant that I had to 'bring them up to speed' so to speak.

Of course, the old-timer had his own version of 'I have friends that are gay, so, you know, I'm open to it' that he interjected two or three times.

When he started in on a story about witnessing insemination among cows somewhere in West Texas I thought to myself: No job is worth this!, and got up to excuse myself to the bathroom to rendezvous with BioMom.

He said: Oh, you'll miss the good part! I'm just getting to it!

If only I had had Bethany Laccone's t-shirt. Then maybe he would have left me alone.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mr. Not-So-Big

So the urban myth of height and weight for kids is that you double their height and multiply their weight by five, when they reach age 2, to get their adult height and weight.

I would have bet a dollar that he was 40 pounds, but he turned out to be the same both height and weight-wise: 34 lbs, 34 inches.

That translates into an adult man coming in at 5 feet, 8 inches and 175 lbs.

In other words, a man who buys expensive convertibles, rounds up when referring to their own height ("Oh, just under six foot"), bulks up in the gym, and tries BASE jumping*, to compensate

From the Urban Dictionary: Short Man Syndrome, AKA Napoleon Complex:
1. "The obnoxious, chauvinistic, arrogant attitude often taken on by short men -- seems to be an attempt to make up for their short stature."

2. "A very annoying and obnoxious syndrome. Short men come down with this when they realize they will always be the smallest adult in the family, group of friends, or place of business."

*From Wikipedia: BASE jumping: a sport involving the use of a parachute to jump from fixed objects. "BASE" is an acronym that stands for the four categories of fixed objexts from which one can jump: Building, Antenna (an uninhabited tower such as an aerial mast), Span (a bridge or arch) and Earth (a cliff or other natural formation).
The acronym "BASE" was coined by film-maker Carl Boenish, his wife Jean Boenish, Phil Smith, and Phil Mayfield. Carl was the real catalyst behind modern BASE jumping, and in 1978 filmed the first BASE jumps (from El Capitan, in Yosemite National Park) to be made using ram-air parachutes and the freefall tracking technique. While BASE jumps had been made prior to that time, the El Capitan activity was the effective birth of what is now called BASE jumping. BASE jumping is significantly more dangerous than similar sports such as skydiving from aircraft, and is currently regarded by many as a fringe extreme sport or stunt.

BASE numbers are awarded to those who have made at least one jump from each of the four categories. When Phil Smith and Phil Mayfield jumped together from a Houston skyscraper on January 18th, 1981, they became the first to attain the exclusive BASE numbers (BASE #1 and #2, respectively), having already jumped from antennae, spans, and earthen objects. Jean and Carl Boenish qualified for BASE numbers 3 and 4 soon after. A separate "award" was soon enacted for Night BASE jumping when Mayfield completed each category at night, becoming Night BASE #1, with Smith qualifying a few weeks later.

During the early eighties, nearly all BASE jumps were made using standard skydiving equipment, including two parachutes (main and reserve), and deployment components. Later on, specialized equipment and techniques were developed that were designed specifically for the unique needs of BASE jumping.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Seven's school is, to our great disappointment, even less racially diverse than the general metropolitan area (if that is even possible) so I am keenly aware that our kids aren't exposed to many people that are too different from them and try to expose them as much as I can to things/people/ideas outside of our little family unit as possible.

Tonight while walking out of the little school after picking up Seven, one of the two African American fathers was walking into the school. I noticed his big, red WISCONSIN jacket and held the door for him as we were leaving (you need a key card to get in, which, I can attest, are easily lost or misplaced).

Big saw him coming toward us and announced: Red guy!!!

He responded: That's me!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Economics and Art, Quite Literally

I ran into a piece of art the other day by economics graduate Tino Sehgal without really knowing that I had run into art at all.

I was walking through the Walker Art Center (reason number 521 why to marry a lawyer: often their holiday parties are at really cool locations with great food and drink and, in this case, very nice extracurricular activities: docent tours through the Frida Kahlo exhibit!) when, out of nowhere one of the guards started singing. Loudly.

My immediate response was that she was either bored or crazy.

And then I text'd HFRM#1 to tell her that one of the museum guards in her workplace was, clearly, intoxicated.

Turns out that it was work created by Sehgal and that other people have reacted similarly to his work. Yasmil Rayomond, the curator of the Walker show described a visit to the Biennial in Lyon, France where she also did not realize that a piece by Mr. Sehgal was on display. I quote from an article from the New York Times:

"He had a Dan Flavin, a Larry Bell and a Dan Graham in the corner," she said. "The minute I entered the space, the guard came in and started stripping. I slowly crawled behind the Dan Graham. I was so embarrassed I didn't know what to do with myself. I wanted to know the title of the piece, and I had to wait. At the end when he takes of all this clothing, he says the title and then puts his clothes back on. It was called 'Selling Out'."

The artist is 31 years old and lives in Berlin. He creates what he calls "staged situations" that include the following:

"This Is New": where an attendant quotes a museum goer a headline from the day's papers and only a response from the visitor can trigger an interaction between the two, concluding in the work's title being spoken.

"This Success/This Failure": kids play in an empty room and attempt to draw visitors into their game. Only the kids can decide whether it is a success or a failure.

"This Is So Contemporary": where a uniformed museum guard dances around the room singing "This is so contemporary contemporary, contemporary."

"Kiss" where a couple in an unbroken embrace recreate kisses from familiar works of art.

His work does have some interesting economics to it, both literally and figuratively.

His pieces can be sold (and in fact, have received five-figure sums!). But he stipulates that the exchange cannot involve the transformation of any material in any way. No written instructions, no bill of sale, no catalogs and no pictures.

The artist claims political influences from John Kenneth Galbraith, Walter Benjamin, Bruce Nauman and Felix Gonzalez-Torres.

He studied dance and economics and says that a touchstone belief is that his generation must 'come up with alternatives of producing in different ways'.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


My mom is probably rolling in her grave tonight.

I made her incredible sugar cookies with the kids but, being a good lesbian household, we only had whole wheat flour (white in color, but wheat in effect).

BioMom was nonplussed even though they tasted fairly innocuous.

Here's the recipe for you, dear reader, to enjoy. Disclaimer: it is probably best enjoyed with white flour AND the reported butter-flavored Crisco. Nothing better than the infinite combinations of sugar and fat. . .

Bertie's Sugar Cookies
2 and 1/4 Cup Flour
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup shortening (butter flavored Crisco (!!) )
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 tsp salt

Mix eggs, sugar, shortening and vanilla. Add the flour mixture. Roll and cut into fun shapes, decorating as you desire. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Big Hill Attempt No. 2

ECFE Winter Session, Day No. 1: "I'm taking the class to learn how to get my kids to listen!"

We started the winter session of our ECFE (early childhood and family education) class today.

It is the fourth consecutive ECFE class we've had and the first one with a significantly different mix of parents. Our first class, nearly a year ago, was a GLBT parent class.

I'll never forget that first day last year. Only Big and I went at first. I had hoped to get into a class during the week, but only got into the Saturday morning one. We went, and I was unprepared for it to be a course in which half was spent with the children, and half was spent separated into an adult-only room in which the group of adults talked about parenting issues with a facilitator.

That time marked the end of an eight month period in which I had not been working, spending my days with Big, watching him turn one. I was to return to school (albeit only two days per week) the following week, so this was my first taste of separation and it was unanticipated and I was uncomfortable.

The first day was great though. The facilitator, it turns out, was (and is) incredible. She has this great ability to weave themes of parenting through the 10 week trimesters without having a detailed linear curriculum.

The parents, too, have become invaluable members of a community in our lives and we followed and became close with several families in that class and then we all continued to sign up together. This session, however, we lost a couple of couples (I think they didn't sign up in time) and the course is filled with new people.

We went around the room, introducing ourselves, giving a little personal background, had we taken an ECFE course before? and what we expected out of the course, etc. etc.

We got around the table to a very friendly couple with whom I had connected during the child play-time. They seemed very interesting and interested in parenting generally, and in creating a community. When it came to the husband's turn, he joked that he was here because "the boss told him to come" (it was really a joke) and that he wanted to learn how to "get his kids to listen."

The teacher (ala parenting guru) responded by saying that, in fact, we'd probably be learning how to listen to our kids, or, exactly the REVERSE of the man's goal.

When at least two other occasions, the man repeated his goal for the class, those of us who had had this particular instructor before chuckled amiably. Although the instructor is incredibly gentle in her techniques, it is, I believe, her sincere belief and obvious intention for our evolution as parents to become more intuitive with our kids. To grow in relationship to them, to increase our connection, to respect their beings and to foster their inner selves and gently support their self-esteem along the way. The two books that have been recommended during the course (one of which I first heard about on Lesbian Dad) perfectly reflect her philosophy are Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn and Kids are Worth It: Giving Your Child the Gift of Inner Discipline by Barbara Coloroso.

This, clearly, does not boil down to 'getting them to listen'.

We'll see how this class evolves. I'd be lying if I didn't hope Seven and Big listened a bit more!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Irregular Monthly Newsletter: Month 24

Hello Mr. Two-Year-Old!

Two Years Ago Today

Last Year Today

This past month was one of three or so in which you seemed to have become aware. You have emerged. You and your personality have essentially burst onto the scene that is our little family. You now have preferences that you verbalize. Well, you probably always had preferences, but you would just never verbalize them. I'm just lucky that I seem to forget most of the negative aspects of this new coming-of-age portion . . . .

Some preferences include (in your dialect/translation):
Watch. Tee Vee. ("watch t.v."). This is usually followed by (because we watched the Charlie Brown Christmas episode):
Chah-lee Brown? ("Charlie Brown).
Meehr Milk. ("More milk")
Peas? ("Please.")
Help you? ("Will you help me with this?")

And the most recent addition: "GIMMIE MEHR!" No translation necessary.

You say Seven's name quite well and it is usually said urgently, followed by some request from her. You love being around her and are in some obvious heaven when she actually gives you the time of day.

She, on the other had, only gives you the time of day when she needs to be focused on something else, like, perhaps, getting dressed for school. Then she's all: Hey, Big! Can I help you with those cars or trucks?

You're quite polite. The other day we attended a little story time at the library. You were playing trains with a few other kids that were there and one of the trains kept breaking. You would go over to an older kid who was clearly enjoying the job of "fixer" and say: "Fix! Fix" followed by "Tanks, kid!"

You're starting to develop a somewhat wicked sense of humor which, when combined with that little twinkle in your eyes, can be a lethal combination.

The other night we were well into our bedtime routine. On the bed we laid in order: Biomom, Seven, you and then me, first focusing on your little board books (you're favorites at the moment are "My first truck board book" and "Oops!" by David Shannon

At one point, Seven reached over the book to show me something and inadvertently knocked it out of my hand.

I couldn't resist but to tease you all with a last name other than my own (well, BioMom and Seven in particular) about their well-known (and well-documented) clumsiness. Much giggling and more teasing ensued and Seven started knocking the book out of my hands on purpose just to get back at me a little.

Well, as you can expect, Seven, not being able to understand yet when a joke has worn out its humor, continued knocking the book out of my hands well after the laughing had abated. I (perhaps) began to get a little fed up about it all and said that I'd head downstairs and continue on with my own business if it was knocked out of my hand again.

With that clear, I proceeded:

David's first word was "Ball!" and . . .


You (Big) had reached over and knocked the book out of my hand and then, with that little sparkle in his eye, laughed hysterically.

No joke in the world has had more perfect timing.

A negative aspect of your burgeoning personality is your alpha-maleness. I've seen it erupt only in certain, rather unpredictable circumstances. You seem to grow antlers around a friend from our ECFE class, crashing into him whenever you decide that its "my turn!" and the other day at your little gym class I witnessed you tear after a little boy with your hand up. Before I could reach you, you had hit him and I was mortified by what followed clear as day: "STUPID!"

I am highly aware, now, of where and when BioMom and I use that word.

You started the same sort of behavior the other day with a little girl who met your intensity and you two had fun chasing each other around a gym testing out each other's power.

Do you have any suggestions for how to socialize that aspect of you without squelching your little spirit? We do live in a society along with other people, after all.

Lastly, because I'm getting to know you so well, and because I would personally like to do some cross-country skiing this year, we got you, for your birthday, a little pair of "fun skis". Initially when I took you sledding, you were unwilling to actually sit in the sled and be pulled. It is as though you refuse to be a passive participant in anything. So, while you were willing to ride on my back while skiing last year, I know you won't be able to stand just watching us three ski with you in the backseat. I've created a little course in our backyard for practice, and I'm taking you on your first round there tomorrow. Soon, I suspect, you'll be an Alpine king (pictures forthcoming).

I find myself at the end of the day spent with you exhausted and drained, only to be followed after about ten hours of recuperation practically running into your room to grab you out of that crib at the first hint of "Baba! Baba!"

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Happy Birthday, Big!!

Big turned two today (irregular monthly newsletter is forthcoming).

He loved blowing out his candles and kept asking for them to be re-lit so that he could blow them out again.

It was as though he was making my wishes rather than his own come true every time:

Oh. . . Let me see him do that again!

First Time on the Big Hill

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Good Grief!

In true Peanuts holiday spirit, Seven said to me the other night:
Can I have a Mastercard for Christmas?

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Downside of Mac

So yesterday I found a downside to this lovely little uber-liberal arts college where I have been Visiting now for the past two semesters.

I have to say that until now, it has been incredibly lovely. Not only do I recognize another lesbian across campus regularly, but the students are bright and interested. It translates into more work for a professor, but it is also infinitely more interesting. I can see that over the course of a career, it would be nearly impossible for your teaching (and, as a result, your research) to become stagnant.

However, yesterday, during class, I unraveled an ugly side, and missed my second-rate state school kids back home.

I am teaching a "smushed" macro/micro course in one semester right now. I've never taught such a class before. Usually colleges and universities find that the material is difficult enough, and important enough to spread out over two semesters. At first, I was sceptical.

As it turned out, the Mac students learn at double-speed, so I found myself covering twice the information in a week than I normally would have. In the microeconomics third of the course, for example, I covered topics that normally I would have gotten to only in other courses (like labor economics or intermediate microeconomic theory). So yeah, they are good.

Anyway, I am now on to the macroeconomics third of the class and this week we were discussing economic development.

I am not a macroeconomist, but I must say, I had research envy after doing the preparation for this course. Who wouldn't want to research solutions to global poverty, for example?

Anyway, following an uber-conservative textbook not of my choosing (Greg Mankiw's book, Economics. He is currently serving as the economic advisor to Mitt Romney if that gives you any idea of his kind of conservative. It is chosen as a book because of its level of rigor, but I was surprised to find a number of theoretical mistakes in it.) I presented a thought problem about a type of utopian technological development: the replicator machine.

The thought problem went like this:

The Universal Replicator is a machine that can replicate any physical good. If a car is put into the Universal Replicator, the machine will create an exact working duplicate at the touch of a button. It will work on any non-living object.

Assume this technology becomes widely adopted throughout the country by manufacturers of all types of products.

What impact would the Universal Replicator have on the economy.
What jobs would not be needed?
What would happen to the price of goods?
What kinds of problems would you expect?
What benefits do you see?
What kinds of jobs would still be necessary?

You might wonder why a thought project like this is interesting at all. In fact, while we don't have a replicator machine at the moment, changes in agriculture have practically acted like that. Two hundred years ago 80% of our labor force toiled in agricultural production. Today it accounts for only 2% of jobs, while at the same time agricultural production has increased tremendously.

What was so shocking to me, was the reaction among many in one of my classes. Instead of "yeah! we could solve world poverty!!!" "We could stop working in manufacturing jobs and focus on service!" "On art!" "On music!"

No. . . .

They said: "How could we differentiate ourselvs, in class terms, from one another if we all can have the same stuff???"

I was flabbergasted and wanted to click my heels together whispering "there's no place like home. . . there's no place like home. . ."

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Lesbian Parent Trap

Today was Lounge-Around-the-House-Day.

We rented movies, and hosted the neighbor's dog. Ate what was in the house, and visited some friends as they moved into their new home in the neighborhood. HFRM#1 came over for leftovers and we didn't get in the car once.

While Big napped, we settled into a DVD I got for Seven, hoping she'd enjoy the old 1961 film, The Parent Trap.

Being somewhat of a pop-culture imbecile, I didn't realize that I had picked up the 1998 version of the old film, this one starring Lindsay Lohan.

It was actually quite good, being an ultra innocent story (as compared to much of the television we ban Seven from watching) and being that it was the pre-rehab days for Ms. Lohan.

BioMom, Seven, HFRM#1 and I were all engrossed in the movie until the scene where Annie, the twin who usually lives with her Mom in London, meets her dad. What follows is the dialogue they have in the car on the way home from the airport:

Dennis Quaid as Nick Parker: Why do you keep saying ‘Dad’ at the end of your sentences?

Lindsay Lohan as Annie James: I'm sorry. I didn't realize I was doing it, Dad. . . Sorry, Dad. . . . Do you wanna know why I keep saying 'Dad'? The truth?

Nick Parker: Because you missed your old man so much, right?

Annie James: Exactly. It's because, in my whole life. . . I mean, you know, for the past eight weeks, I was never able to say the word 'Dad'. . . Never. . . Not once. . . . And if you ask me, I mean, a Dad is an irreplaceable person in a girl's life. Think about it. There's a whole day devoted to celebrating fathers. Just imagine someone's life without a father. . . Never buying a father's day card. Never sitting on their father's lap. Never being able to say 'Hi Dad!' or 'What's up Dad?' or 'Catcha later, Dad'. . . . I mean, a baby's first words are usually 'Dada', aren't they?

Nick Parker: Let me see if I get this, you missed being able to call me dad?

Annie James: Yeah. I really have, Dad.

This whole scene lasted only a few seconds, but it felt like a half-an hour. I kept thinking: Okay! We got the point! Move on!

I kept watching Seven to see if she would exhibit any outward sign of a reaction to the scene.

And the line Just imagine someone's life without a father. . . ran through my head like Marsha, holding her nose and hearing her mom say 'Don't play ball in the house!' in that Brady Bunch episode.

So far she seems unaffected. I suppose it's like everything else in the world to her. How, for example, most stories, kids movies, etc. etc. don't really represent her life or her reality. I wonder if kids of GLBT parents are like GLBT people themselves in that they learn, somehow, to compartmentalize these experiences. To make them seem normal, somehow, to NOT feel like Lindsay Lohan's character was questioning her (Seven's) life also. Not just the character who, until that point, had not known a father, but Seven who does not know a father either. Whereas we GLBT people may look back and realize that we had been, for example, imagining ourselves in the opposite gender's lead (see Lesbian Dad's post on The Sound of Music when she says "What? Doesn't everyone?") or other similar techniques to put our round bodies into the square holes that society had formed for us, I wonder if Seven will adopt similar tools to feel more comfortable or less at odds with the world around her.

Or maybe it was just a movie.

Things To Be Thankful For, Part II

So, thanks to Seven, really, and her friend Four-of-Four, who have collectively
adopted the term 'Baba' for me, it has now become a natural routine for Big.

At one point, Four-of-Four asked Seven "Why do you call her 'Baba'?"

I can't remember now exactly how Seven responded. What sticks out though, is the next time that Four-of-Four was around, and referred to me as "Your Mom" or something, and then clarified by saying "Your Baba". It was darling, and since Big does everything Seven does, he has now, completely, adopted "Baba."

And boy, it is darling.

Oh, well, except when it's at 2:00 a.m.

Then I wish he'd say "Mama" more often!

At Thanksgiving dinner with BioMom's family, the kids around Seven's age, insisted on the tradition of "Naming the Turkey" (yeah, the one we then guiltily consumed) that the older, college and high-school nieces and nephews had long outgrown. We went around the table offering potential monikers, some silly, some familial, some political, when Big came running in: "Baba! Baba!"

My heart melted. Even though, I guess, even though he was essentially saying I was a turkey.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Things to Be Thankful For Part 1

Water at bedtime.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

PTA Woes: If you pull it they will come

There is so much to say after three or so months of being part of Seven's PTA (I posted that I might possibly be the first out lesbian VP of the PTA at a Catholic grade school earlier) that it's hard to know where to start. I've learned that I am definitely not a run-of-the mill SAHM (in part because I'm not, actually, a SAHM and in part because I don't entirely fit in with the other SAHMs). And I've learned a lot about my personal work habits and how they fit (or don't fit) with others. Essentially, I don't play well with the other kids.

Recently, I've been working on setting up a SCRIP program for the school (as an aside, check out this great video that some parents put together for the preview night) with a really motivated woman who has literally changed the school overnight with all of her ideas and efforts. I'll call her Super-Vol hereafter for Super-Volunteer.

She is why I am both motivated and active and, at the same time, going insane.

I've learned that, having been in and out of academia now for about 15 years, that it's hard for me to work with other people in completing projects. I guess I'm too much of a control freak not to have my hands on a project from the beginning to the end. This isn't bad in-and-of-itself. Add this to the fact that I'm too busy to control a project from beginning to end, and you've got one Vesuvius on the brink.

So this all culminated in an extremely stressful volunteer experience last Friday.

Maybe I should start the story from the end of my day.

I picked up Seven from school and we were driving home. I always think of that Sesame Street vignette about how a kid found his way home, at that point in my day. . . Walgreens. . . Starbucks. . . Kowalski's. . . Caribou. . . The wine shop on the left. . . The library. . . Maddie's house. . . A couple of lights. . . Sophia's house. . . And we're home-again-home-again, jiggety-jig!

Anyway, at one point during the drive Seven's eyes met mine in the rearview and she says: Guess what happened today?

Me: What?

Seven: We had a fire drill!

Me (hesitating): Oh yeah?

Seven: Yeah!And guess what?

Me: What?

Seven: Some two-year-old set off the alarm!

She says this without prescience in her voice. No irony. No, well, no "light-bulb" moment like the one you, dear reader, must have just had.

Now flash back six hours.

I had volunteered to be the first distributer of the first Scrip order. That entailed waking Big up, getting the reluctant toddler dressed (and you know what that means!), and out the door by 7:45 to get Seven to school on time and meet people as they are dropping off their kid, to hand them scrip.

I was supposed to meet the Super-Vol there for the handoff. She had offered to organize the cards and I'd distribute them.

She was about 20 minutes late which, for any normal person (i.e. person without active toddler) this is no big deal. Hell, I would've been twenty minutes late too (see the Starbucks reference above). But for those of you who have had a toddler, you know that twenty minutes is about all you've got.

So, here I am, my twenty minutes spent, with the package of Scrip orders. I open them up and realize that they aren't organized in any coherent way. At least not for the amount of time I had left for distribution (i.e. zero minutes). I needed to organize the envelopes by those who would be picking them up and those that wanted them sent home with their kids, first. Then secondly, attach the order form to the envelope, and then find out where said kids were so that I could get the envelopes into the backpacks (i.e. what grade and what room).

Not a problem for anyone currently without a toddler. Especially a toddler who has used up all of his patience and was ready to move on to the next event.

And of course, I am also woefully unprepared. No cars, trucks or other gadgets to occupy him for the mere fifteen minutes I need to do this job.

I improvise with a red pen and a scribble sheet and got to organizing.

I'll give you one guess as to how long that lasted.

I think: It's okay. He can run up and down the hallway a bit. He can't hurt anything. These walls are indestructible. And so what if he tears down a kindergartener's art project? They get sent home with them about every day, don't they? I'm doing those parents a FAVOR!

Famous last thoughts.

I'm finishing up when I hear the scream of the fire alarm in both ears.

I think: No. Please no.

I become religious all of a sudden: GOD NO! Puhlease no!

I look over, and see Big down the hall, coming out of a little entry way, obviously frightened by the sound.

I move to the side so I can see around him and see: the fire alarm. And it has been, obviously, tugged down.

By him.


My immediate response was to go and put it back.

Once it's pulled though, it's pulled. I'm like Curious George, both feet on the wall, hands on the lever, trying to push it back into place as hordes of Kindergarteners march past me on the way out the nearest exit.

My shirt is wet with sweat.

I grab big and we step outside.

Big (softly): Ring! Ring!

Me (thinking): is there any way I can NOT admit to this?

We get outside and Big is rewarded by his favorite thing ever: a firetruck with all of its bells and whistles wailing.

I guess he'll bring the trucks if I forget them.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

For My Aunt

Thanks to a friend of mine from DC for the link!

Free Rice

Overheard in Minneapolis (3)

Paul Cezanne, Le vase bleu c. 1885-87, Oil on canvas, 24 x 19 5/8 in, Musee d'Orsay, Paris.

Seven: I definitely want to be an artist when I grow up.

Me: That would be wonderful!

Seven: I want to be an artist and make art that will go into the museum where HFRM#1 works!

Aside fact: HFRM#1 works at the Walker Art Center.

Seven: I want to specialize in pictures of flowers in vases.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Is Maureen Dowd an Idiot or Am I Missing Something?

Check out Maureen Dowd's recent tripe at the New York Times: "Should Hillary Pretend to Be a Flight Attendant?"

In the article she reports on a recent study by economist, Fisman of Columbia in which he ran a speed-dating experiment at a local bar.

His results?:
"We found that men did put significantly more weight on their assessment of a partner’s beauty, when choosing, than women did. We also found that women got more dates when they won high marks for looks."

He continued: "By contrast, intelligence ratings were more than twice as important in predicting women’s choices as men's. It isn’t exactly that smarts were a complete turnoff for men: They preferred women whom they rated as smarter — but only up to a point ... It turns out that men avoided women whom they perceived to be smarter than themselves. The same held true for measures of career ambition — a woman could be ambitious, just not more ambitious than the man considering her for a date.

When women were the ones choosing, the more intelligence and ambition the men had, the better. So, yes, the stereotypes appear to be true: We males are a gender of fragile egos in search of a pretty face and are threatened by brains or success that exceeds our own."

While I love reading about this kind of 'evolutionary biology' in gender roles (mostly because the studies themselves are usually straw men or straw-women, if you'd prefer), I can't stand how Dowd seems to have a personal vendetta against Clinton, offering her whimsy advice from the safety of her job as NYtimes columnist. Check out a great comment by Katha Pollitt on Dowd.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Nature 1: Nurture 0

Following LesbianDad's lead, I'm beginning a nature v. nurture tally in our little household. An interesting topic on both gender lines and well, in her words, because us non-biological parents are "all nurture, no nature."

The most recent example ocurred the other morning which belonged to a string of such mornings that I was single-parenting it as BioMom has been travelling for work a bit more as of late. Seven and I were doing our morning routine and she was chatting to me while getting dressed. The previous night had been a bit chilly and we had resurrected an old standby snack: warm honey milk.

Big was beside himself with this sweet treat, sucking it down at light speed and practically pounding his fingers into his hand using the sign for 'more'!

In fact, we ran out of milk. There was not a drop left in the house by bedtime.

So, here we were, the next morning.

Seven: Can I have some honey milk?

Me: No, Honey, (get it? 'honey' I called you 'honey'?) remember, we ran out of milk? Plus, that's really an after school snack.

Seven: Oh. . . I just thought maybe you would have gotten some by now?

Me, mustering patience and thinking that after they were in bed the previous night I lasted all of 30 more minutes before following them. I practically BEAT them to sleep. Even had BioMom been home I would have NEVER made it to the store to buy milk: Remember, Mom's not home. How could I go to the store?

A few minutes goes by.

Seven: Can I have some honey milk tonight after school?

Me: I dunno, honey (again with the pun!). We'll see if I get to the store and get some milk.

Seven: Okay. Let's make a SCHEDULE for snacks!

Me, stomach and neck muscles begin to tense: Schedule?

Seven: Yeah! Honey milk on Tuesday. . .

Me, interrupting: But we may not HAVE milk today.

Seven: Okay, honey milk on Mondays. . . Goldfish on Tuesdays. . .

This sort of schedule-making goes against all of my personal sensibilities. It feels like fingernails on a chalkboard.

Plus, it just adds another thing to my 'to do' list.

I imagine what the teacher at our Early Childhood and Family Education class would do in my shoes. She's the picture of patience, empathy and democratic-style parenting. She is focused, engaged, and intentional. When, for example, parents in class ask what to do with the toddler who hits or bites, she models holding the young one and praising them for their power and strength, all the while, redirecting their zealous energy to more appropriate outlets.

I'm sure she'd sit down and help Seven write out a schedule, let her go through the process of this. Help her choose healthy snacks and then, once she was neatly tucked back into the routine of her school day, she'd go to the store and fulfill the list.

When, say, a couple of weeks later, after the list had been forgotten for some time, and then was rediscovered by Seven in a moment of distracted boredom in which the schedule was noticed, peaking out from underneath the stove, and then re-taped to the refrigerator and, accompanied with an enthusiastsic announcement "It's Thursday! Time for our soy-nut milkshake!" she would eagerly pull out the extensive ingredient list and, happily, whip up the snack of the day.

I think: what would BioMom do?

BioMom would lovingly take part in the process of creating the schedule. It would be neatly written, lined with a plumb, and, ultimately, laminated.

She may even have the best intentions of helping to fulfill this wishlist. However, as soon as her right foot hits the accelerator, and her thumbs meet Blackberry, all thoughts of a snack schedule are vanquished. She feels comfort knowing that this, too, will happen to her clone-like daughter.

By the time after-school rolls around and I'm busy checking the list and trying to match it up with what's in our cupboards, they look at me quizzically: snack schedule?

Instead, I can only think in terms of Meyers-Briggs acronyms: Damn, she MUST be an ENFJ, where I am all INTP.

I guess we'll always have "N."

Friday, November 09, 2007

Irregular Monthly Newsletter: 23 Months

Happy 23 months, Big!

One year ago today:

Two years ago this month:

So, we're shopping for birthday presents, dear son!! And probably having as much fun doing it as you'll have with a few new toys.

There are three strong themes for this past month: language, lifting and, as if to warn us for the incoming twos, hoarding.

Your language exploded this month. It seems, literally, like a month since you were saying a handful of words. Now you say just about everything and even, once in a while, string together a couple of words. For example, one of your favorite thing to say is "UNT ___!" which translates into "I want ____" fill in the blank.

You have a penchant for lifting what you perceive to be "BIG!" or "HEAVY!" things and bringing them over to us, or whomever will accept your token of affection. Since Seven (at two) would never have considered showing off her physical prowess, or be concerned with 'the weight of all things', this has caused another chink in my gender-as-constructed armor. There is just something in you that seems to make you more 'boy', although it is hard not to react to your dramatic lifting an announcements of all things heavy. Especially when you're on your third or fourth go-around and I'm sitting there with a lap-full of enormous trucks.

Lifting has gone hand-in-hand with hoarding. We went to the Children's Museum the other day and ended up in this huge room meant for playing with vehicles on ramps and roads that you could move around. Unfortunately, there were only four or so trucks there. We were doing fine until another person about your size meandered in. You FREAKED! "MINE! MINE! MY UCK! MY UCK!" I talked to you (in as reasonable a voice as I could muster) about sharing and gave you three of the little ones and the one HUGE one to the little boy. You continued to freak and practically terrorized the kid by chasing him around the room, all the while attempting to keep hold of (and at one point even hide) the three cars you actually had. "MINE! MINE!"

And then, when it was time to leave the museum (or Elmo, as you had come to call it due to the enormous signage out front) you threw yourself on the floor and, as I went to scoop you up, bit me on the arm, leaving loving little marks that I can still see and feel today.

We love you, sweetie.
Mama and Baba

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween: Part 3 of 3

Our day, in reverse order, began with me, of all people, in my new role as PTA VP, organizing a "staff luncheon". No pictures here to document, but, suffice it to say that bugging people about whether or not they were going to bring carnitas is not my forte. Below are the highlights of Halloween 2007.

About the whole trick-or-treat thing, I don't think Big really understood the concept until we were about half way around the block and in Minnesota, you really only go around the block as Halloween usually begins the 'cold season'. Seven, after having gone off with her friends for a bit, came back and started showing him the ropes. He never got around to the "trick or treat" part, but after each door, he'd come running down the steps yelling "WEEN! WEEN!" which, was a shortened "Happy Halloween" followed by an urgent "OPEN! OPEN!" to us which meant that he wanted to immediately consume whatever he had just plundered.

Here are our three amigos this year and about three years ago.

And lastly, the parade at school. Big got to go up on stage with his big sister.

By the end of the night, Seven, over-sugared and sad that the next holiday is over three long weeks away, was in tears, and we could hear Big in his crib yelling out "WEEN! WEEN!"

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Halloween: Part 2 of 3

Great Pumpkin Karma

Seven came home a week ago with a plan to fill this box with coins. She would do her daily "duties" (getting dressed, brushing teeth, brushing hair, packing up backpack etc. and the reverse on the flip side) and in exchange we'd put $0.50/day in the box. Grandma would, hopefully, match the donation.

It's due tomorrow and we're scrambling to find enough change to fill the box tonight.

Needless to say, Seven is already a much better person than I was at that age.

The following story is one of those family lores that is requested on a regular basis at bedtime: "Tell me a [Blogauthor] and [Cousin] story! . . . The one about the pumpkin!!!"

The story is not one of which I am proud. In fact, it captures one of my most morally bankrupt moments. At night, before bed, for Seven, it goes like this:

When I was little, we didn't go to the pumpkin patch to get pumpkins. They were all out on this little platform at our local grocery store, Food City. Let's just say that this store was no Kowalski's. It was seriously named Food City and I remember many community events in the big Food City parking lot: pancake feeds, rummage sales, and, of course, pumpkins.

This particular year, I was determined to have the biggest pumpkin on the lot.

Every time we'd walk by the pumpkins, on our way to shop for groceries, I'd nag at my mom, hanging back and picking out the biggest one. And every time she'd ignore my pleadings.

As Halloween approached, I knew I'd have to take matters into my own hands.

Cousin has an older sister--about five years older than me--who would plant seeds in our heads about life's possibilities. I reached into this little bag of tricks she'd built for us, and came up with a "fundraising plan" to get the money to buy the biggest pumpkin: get a pop cup from the Runza Hut in the same shopping complex, head over to K-Mart (I shudder now to imagine Seven crossing the enormous and very busy street that we crossed to get there. I know, by triangulating these events around other major occurrences in my life, that we had to have been about 8 when this happened) and set up shop outside, posing as fund raisers for Unicef.

I don't know why, but the plan actually worked. Despite the fact that we were "collecting" for Unicef with Runza cups, people dropped nickels and dimes in the cups, and we looked at each other in shock as the coins clinked together at the bottom of the cup, people passing by without questioning our true motives.

At one point, I got an elbow in the rib from Cousin, looked up, and saw one of my mom's good friends approaching. She saw us and smiled what I thought, even then, was a naive smile, dropping an actual five dollar bill into the cup.

It was at that point we felt seriously guilty.

Not guilty enough, however, to track the people down, return the money and apologize.

Or ACTUALLY give the money to Unicef.

Having landed the big load, we headed right over to the Food City pumpkin platform, practically drooling and dizzy with the excitement of having the freedom of getting to actually GET the largest pumpkin on the entire lot.

I can't remember even how we chose it. I can't remember how much it cost. I can't remember going in to pay at all, or eating the candy that I'm sure we purchased with the leftover money. All of that is gone.

My next memory is having the pumpkin, turning to Cousin, and realizing that we had no way to get it home. We hadn't considered actually HAVING the pumpkin. We hadn't considered anything at all beyond the moment of picking it out. What would we tell our moms? How had we paid for it? How would we carry it home? It was bigger than us!

Going home and getting a wagon and coming back the four blocks each way was too much of an eternity to us. I'm sure I tried to con Cousin into going for me so that I could keep watch over my Great Pumpkin, but she'd have nothing to do with that. In retrospect, I'm surprised she didn't take me up on my offer and leave, never to return to me and my pumpkin.

My next best plan was to roll the pumpkin home. It wouldn't be too difficult as it was downhill much of the way. I was convinced it was possible.

You probably know what happened to the pumpkin. My karmic justice was immediate. Before we even made it to the bottom of the hill, it was so severely pockmarked, that you could hardly even tell what it was. We abandoned what was left of it it at the curb and headed home.

Now THAT'S karma.

Here's a poem I wrote about the experience a couple of years ago with a few changes to protect the innocent.

I Still Don’t Know If She Knew That I Was Lying

Standing with my reluctant cousin
Triggering the automatic doors with her anxious toes
My elbow dug into her ribs
Whenever another K-Mart Shopper approached
And we held out our emptied Burger King cups
Announcing “Easter Seals!” with rehearsed sincerity

Mom never let me choose the biggest pumpkin.
It called out to me from its parking-lot home
Standing earnestly like a teenager
On tip-toes angling for a back-row position
In a family photo

And it was going well
People smiled, hurried and grateful
Dropping nickels and dimes into our makeshift collection cans
Checking off their day’s good deed
And moving on to their more pressing errands

We were elated, successful entrepreneurs
Periodically sizing up our profits
Dreaming of the biggest jack-o-lantern in the neighborhood
Until I saw one of my Moms’s friends approaching.
I had played at her house a million times
Bored with the quiet of no young kids
The smells of coffee, cigarettes and gossip

I thought to hide the cups
And their guilty contents
But even our presence there was suspicious
We were still so small, less than nine because mom was still alive

She said nothing her eyes looked quizzically:
“Alberta didn’t tell me you were volunteering!”
I smiled and looked away
She dropped a five dollar bill into my cup
It made no sound
A lonely bill next to the raucous, cooped-up coins
In their own bottom-of-the-cup rendezvous.
Even so, its fall was deafening to my ears
Echoing for the last three decades.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Halloween: Part 1 of 3

The Ghosts of Halloweens Past

Two Years Ago

One Year Ago

This Year