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