Monday, December 15, 2008

The Whale

I just received this from a great colleague:

A female humpback whale had become entangled in a spider web of crab traps and lines.

She was weighted down by hundreds of pounds of traps that caused her to struggle to stay afloat.

She also had hundreds of yards of line rope wrapped around her body, her tail, her torso, a line tugging in her mouth.

A fisherman spotted her just east of the Faralon Islands (outside the Golden Gate )
and radioed for help.

Within a few hours, the rescue team arrived and determined that she was so bad off, the only way to save her was to dive in and untangle her -- a very dangerous proposition. One slap of the tail could kill a rescuer.

They worked for hours with curved knives and eventually freed her.

When she was free, the divers say she swam in what seemed like joyous circles.
She then came back to each and every diver, one at a time, nudged them and pushed gently, thanking them.

Some said it was the most incredibly beautiful experience of their lives.

The guy who cut the rope out of her mouth says her eye was following him the
whole time, and he will never be the same.

May you, and all those you love, be so fortunate...
To be surrounded by people who will help you get untangled from the things that are binding you.

And may you always know the joy of giving and receiving gratitude.

Friday, December 12, 2008

New Blog Format: Comment from the Author

As you may have noticed, I changed the format of the blog.

It was an accident, really.

They sucked me in by offering new "gagets" and I am enough of a boy to think:

Gadgets. . . . Yum.

So, I went in to format, and picked a few gagets (only one of which currently shows up and it is the rotating classical children's book pictures) and all of a sudden I had lost everything (i.e. all of my links etc.).

There's no record of it etc. and if you're like me with your cell phone, it's not like you have a backup of ACTUAL numbers. I don't have a backup of ACTUAL weblinks.

So pardon the abrupt, somewhat unintentional changes while I'm under construction.

Overheard in Minneapolis this Morning

Baba, here's a plum for you!


A few minutes goes by then munch munch crunch crunch.

Um, I thought that was MY plum.

I'm just eating all the frosting off of it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Love Is. . .

So I gave Big Brother No. 1 an iPod shuffle for his latest birthday mainly for the purpose of sharing with him Obama's first book which I was listening to at the time.

He's ancient, so I figured I'd simplify for him: put buds in ears, hit play, etc. But he surprised me like Big does with his ability to adapt to the technology and then, of course, want more.

Within the week I received a package from him that said something to the effect of "Great book! Now, can you put all of the songs from my favorite cd's on it for me?" [they were in the box as well, all accompanied by little post-its telling me why and how the 'albums' were relevant to his life such as "this album helped me to get over XXXX" or 'FAVORITE!' on the Brokeback Mountain cd. He is, after all, a gay man.]

He didn't have the computer or the know-how to do it himself, but he sure knew of what the little 1x1 inch machine was capable!

So here's love for you: downloading and loading cds like "Willie Nelson: Healing Hands of Time", "Classical Loon II" (this is a bunch of classical songs with Loon's calling in the background!?!) and, my personal favorite: "Paralyzed Veterans of America Presents Fourth of July Favorites."

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Happy Birthday Big!!

Present Day




Monday, December 08, 2008

I Enjoy Being a Girl: Sexism Version Boy

So we're starting to experience the after-effects of society on the extremely-soon-to-be three year old (tomorrow!), one incident that I tried to address by ignoring, the other head-on.

The two kids, being siblings, get into quarrels, particularly in those evening hours just before dinner, at the height of exhaustion.

The other night I was attempting to put together some nourishment, when I felt it heating up in the living room between them.

At moments like these I really try hard to just ignore it. I've learned that often, when I get involved, I just make it worse. Besides, they need to learn how to deal with each other and forge out the relationship that is theirs.

But then I heard him say this: STUPID GIRL!

My immediate reaction was to go shake his shoulders and say that he should NEVER call ANY girls stupid. And, by the way, you're living with FIVE of them (if you count the cats). We could GANG up on you, you, you .... BOY!

That, I pushed deep inside. ...

Later, at dinner, I gently said, that we shouldn't call anyone stupid, particularly one's sister. Blah blah blah.

By then the event was so far in the distant past that he had no clue of which I spoke.

Then, yesterday, we went on a family sled adventure down the 'big' hill.

I was kind of building it up for Big because he and I had gone alone down the big hill a day or so earlier and Eight and I were helping to make him feel important, as though he was showing her the hill for the first time.

I must have said something to the effect of her possibly being scared of the hill and that he could show her how fun it would be.

Then, when we round the corner to the hill, he says, quietly confident: She's scared because she's a girl.

BioMom and I: What???

Big: Yeah. I'm a boy, so I'm not scared. She's a girl. She's scared.

You can imagine the Charlie-Brown-Adult voice lecture that ensued.

What is very different about this version of child-coming-of-age in terms of exposure to society than what I felt when Eight (then three) went through it, is that while the things he is saying are fairly offensive, and not very nice on a personal level, he's not saying them about himself, like she was. He is confident about himself. Wrongly, of course, because he attributes it to his sex, but confident none-the-less. When she was initially exhibiting signs of societal-exposure that were sexist, it was scary because she was saying, interpreting and seeming to take in all of these notions of what girls should be. For example, she would have said something like "I'm scared to sled down that big hill BECAUSE I'm a girl."

Of course, the two kids doing these things are like two sides of the same coin. Sexism girl version and sexism boy version. It just seems so much easier this time around. Like I can fix his perspective somehow, just by being me and living in a house with three strong women. Whereas with her, I was (and am still )not sure that I can completely shield her from being inculcated in this sexist culture and taking on all of the baggage that goes with it as a girl.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

They Sure Look Ripe To Me

I never eat December snowflakes. I always wait until January.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

First Sleds



Friday, November 28, 2008

Hollidazzle Wants v. Hollidazzle Needs

Because we have literally scheduled ourselves into a corner until Christmas, we went to the Holidazzle Parade in downtown Minneapolis tonight (this youtube link is literally the EXACT thing we saw tonight, filmed in 2006).

It was a nice night weather-wise, and we didn't go last year, so we felt obligated to take the incredibly-enthusiastic soon-to-be three year old out for some good old fashioned Minnesota kitsch.

We were not disappointed.

Included in the regular festivities, to our great surprise, was an appearance by the Minnesota Freedom Band, the likes of which I was unaware existed in this universe.

What is this, you ask? Well, it's the all GLBTA marching band!!!

But the night started off on a bit of a wrong foot. BioMom and I consciously left the car sans money or any other scrip counterpart that could be used to purchase peddled goods or cocoa or the like. We wondered, at the time, what we'd need it for, and, anyway, we'd head straight home for some hot chocolate after the parade.

We were not there for two seconds before Big eyed those strange brightly colored flashlight-like items with what looked like filaments flinging out of the end. Someone else could certainly describe these better than myself, and there is surely a name for what would become our albatross.

It started out innocuous enough.

Big: Can I have one of those?

Me/BioMom: I'm sorry, Honey, we don't have any money.

A few moments goes by. Waiting for the parade to start, kids of all ages pour away from the sidewalks into the street. The curbs cannot contain the people on this not-yet-below-zero Minnesota night. The skyways are filled with onlookers watching from above.

Every single one of them had one of these glow-y goodness doo-jobs. They filled the streets like cell phones at a concert. Like green at a Packer's game.

It was pure torture. Check out his face in this picture. He is FURIOUS! He had actually brought his own flashlight but this was clearly analogous to carrying a boombox on a college campus in 2008.


Us: (ignoring).

Big: Where's the MONEY???? I WANT one. Can I have one? I want one of those. Please? I want one. Can I have one? Where's the money? Please? I really REALLY want one of those!! Check and see if you have money. Please? I want one. Can I have one?

Minutes go by in relative peace and calculating envy.

Eight: Can we get some cocoa?

Me, in my head [Is ANYONE rational here?]

The lady peddling the flashlight thingys goes up and down the street. Across the street three kids are playing Star Wars with their whatchamagigs. The peddler gal walks in front of us, her box aglow with her goods for sale.

Big is nearly drooling.

His tone starts over: Can I get one of those please?

We continue our no-cash mantra.

Big moves out into the street and I really have no idea where he'll go with this. Neither of our kids expect to get stuff at places. We just don't do that. I'll refuse a twenty-five-cent gumball with the explanation that we're saving for college so this behavior was unusual.

Of course, ALL behavior, as we approach this third birthday seems unusual, so I get up with him.

In retrospect, I should have noticed that he had surveyed his prey. Kids on right: too big. Kids on left: in a pack. Kid next to him: a baby. He moves toward a nearly-two year old in appearance (that is to say, slightly smaller), standing with his parents behind the parade barrier.

Thank god for the barrier, I thought.

Big crowded in. In my little embarrassed shuffle,I moved in a little closer to him saying, a little too loudly something about giving people space, reminding him that about that personal bubble he always wants [Eight] to respect? Nervous laugh. Glance up at the parents to see if they are in on the joke.

They are not. They look at me like can't you control that kid of yours? Look at our perfect little one, happily waiting for the parade to begin. Not begging. Happily holding his little filament light, a contented smile reflected in its colorful glean.

Big: I want that.

Me: I'm sorry, Honey, that's his.

Big turns, winds up and kicks me in the shin.

It feels a little like that Bugs Bunny episode where they run into the giant and try to attack him and trip him.

It is hard not to giggle just a little bit at his emotions over this light. I wish I could laugh off Eight's anxieties and lashings-out as easily. Her issues feel so much more intense and complicated at the time.


Another kick.

I thought to myself, what in the hell am I supposed to do now? The entire city here, gathered to watch this parade just saw my kid begging for a flashlight and then haul out and kick me... AGAIN!

I started channeling Alfie Kohn to ward of my own father brewing up through my blood. Respect the situation he's in, I reminded myself. You can't control him, I reminded myself. I don't want a robot kid that just follows my orders, I reminded myself. He needs to learn INtrinsic behavioral patterns, I reminded myself. Any EXtrinsic rewards or behaviors are short-lived. Blah blah blah.

Me: I know you're frustrated, [Big], and I know you would like to have that [what the hell is the name of that thing? I think to myself] but we just can't get one tonight [or EVER after this scene you little B$#T!]

He gets REAL close, face touching the barrier, tries to act interested in the barrier itself, somehow, and, suddenly grabs it from the kids and lets fly, running back toward Eight and BioMom.

I look back and BioMom is peeing her pants laughing.

I just smiled and pretended to be the nanny.

Maybe I should have pretended to be IN the parade and gone ahead and caught up with the Freedom Band.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Nearly Three and Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

I couldn't be more thankful and welcoming of down-time and time with family. We had a great morning watching the parade, setting up a tent inside, and hiking around Fort Snelling State Park which, with Big along, essentially turns into an episode of "where's the poop?" or "what kind of animal made THAT poop?"

Big turned nearly three on the ninth of November and we're starting to plan his birthday party.

He is really "getting it" this year, anticipating his birthday, and telling people that he'll be "three" while attempting, with great difficulty to manipulate his little fingers so that only three point upward.

One of the funniest things he does lately, and one of the things that, I suspect could become most annoying is how you 'one up' people with stories. Particularly your sister.

She'll come home from school, tripping over her words to tell us about something that had happened that day, or what she learned. Without letting her even finish the story, you will adopt the subject of her first sentence, and turn it into a story all your own, emphasizing your own personal narrative: When I was in kindergarten, and the teacher said that we had to use the red crayon. . . " Usually the stories devolve into nonsense, but they occur with absolute predictability: whenever anyone else is getting attention by trying to relate something of their own life.

The other day a colleague and I were lamenting another colleague's similar quality. You know this person in the office: the know-it-all who may or may not have their facts right, but always has an answer. I hope Big can contain this before he becomes an SNL skit, or an annoying cube-mate.

Here are a few ghosts from November's past and present:
November 2008 (Editor's note: the sign below says "Ban" above the H8)

November 2007

November 2007

November 2006

November 2006

November 2005

Saturday, November 22, 2008


As Big has gotten older I've realized how poorly we parented Eight.

It's a steep learning curve and your first gets the worst of it.

In that sense, I can certainly see how having three or four becomes easier at the same time that it gets more complicated.

In a recent Slate article, Alan Kazdin discusses how parents expect way too much from their kids. If this is true generally, it is tripl-y true for our firsts.

He says:
A reliable body of research shows that we expect our children to do things they're not yet able to do and that we judge and punish them according to that expectation.

Overly simple age-targeting is one main culprit. We all know that children develop differently, but it's natural to underestimate the astonishing variability among and within individuals. A child may be the first in her class to ride a two-wheeler but the last to learn to read; she may also grasp addition and subtraction well ahead of others but lag behind in achieving the self-control to short-circuit a tantrum. We also tend to parent subjectively, setting the behavior bar with a too-small sample group drawn from personal experience: our own first child, a neighbor's child, or our own unreliable childhood memories of how our parents raised us.

I think this is true, and in particular, with your first, I think you just have no idea what kids are all about. You expect too much, you haven't given in yet to parenthood (read: you still think you can maintain some semblance of your non-kid life) and you think that whatever situation you're in NOW will last forever, so you put too much weight on EVERYTHING. If she has some cocoa today, will she be sugar addicted for the rest of her life? If I let her watch a half-hour of television, will she be lazy and never finish the seven Harry Potter books?

For me, with Big I've learned to let some things go. Maybe its because he came with a whole new set of challenges that makes Eight, in retrospect, seem like a relatively easy three-year-old.

I always wonder how my aunt (Cousin's mom) raised seven and retained her sanity. I suspect that part of her trick was that she realized that Cousin (the seventh of seven) would grow up, inevitably, with or without cajoling or incessant hovering.

I wouldn't put down my aunt's oldest in any way, but maybe that's why Cousin turned out so great.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bitch v. Ditz: Great article from New York Magazine

Check out this great article by Amanda Fortini in New York Magazine.

She says: In the grand Passion play that was this election, both Clinton and Palin came to represent—and, at times, reinforce—two of the most pernicious stereotypes that are applied to women: the bitch and the ditz.

And goes on to make this point:

"What's infuriating, and perhaps rage-inducing, about Palin, is that she has always embodied that perfectly pleasing female archetype," Jessica Grose wrote on, in a post titled "Why Sarah Palin Incites Near-Violent Rage in Normally Reasonable Women." Palin had taken a match and set fire to our meritocratic notions that hard work and accumulated experience would be rewarded. "As has been known to happen in less exalted workplaces," Katha Pollitt wrote, "Palin got the promotion because the boss just liked her." Her blithe ignorance extended from foreign policy to the symbolic value of her candidacy. By stepping into the spotlight unprepared, Palin reinforced some of the most damaging and sexist ideas of all: that women are undisciplined in their thinking; that we are distracted by domestic concerns or frivolous pursuits like shopping; that we are not smart enough, or not serious enough, for the important jobs.

And concludes:

But among the darker revelations of this election is the fact that the vice-grip of female stereotypes remains suffocatingly tight. On the national political stage and in office buildings across the country, women regularly find themselves divided into dualities that are the modern equivalent of the Madonna-whore complex: the hard-ass or the lightweight, the battle-ax or the bubblehead, the serious, pursed-lipped shrew or the silly, ineffectual girl. It is exceedingly difficult to sidestep this trap. Michelle Obama began the campaign as a bold, outspoken woman with a career of her own, and she was called a hard-ass. Now, as she prepares to move into the White House, she appears poised to recede into a fifties-era role of "mom-in-chief." It will be heartbreaking if, in an effort to avoid the kind of criticism that followed Hillary Clinton, the First Lady is reduced to a lightweight.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Join FightH8 Tomorrow!


Saturday, November 15
Outside Government Center
350 S. 5th Street, downtown Minneapolis

While celebrations erupted Tuesday night over the election of the first African American president, many also watched in sadness as California, Arizona, and Florida voted down marriage equality for LGBT people. Since then, tens of thousands have taken to the streets to oppose this discrimination and declare that the right to marry the person you love is a fundamental human right, regardless of sexual orientation!

Saturday, November 15th has been called as a National Day of Action in support of LGBT rights (see Tens of thousands will protest all over the country, in every state, declaring our opposition to all forms of discrimination and demanding an end to homophobia – and to help launch a new civil rights movement, for full equality for gays, lesbians, and transgender people.

This is an issue of equal rights for all Americans! Stand up and make your voice heard! Join us in pressuring the California government to overturn Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage.

See LesbianDad for more information nationwide.

Punishment and Rewards

If you were have been preparing for a lengthy post on Foucault, fear not, dear reader. It is just a link to a decent conversation held over at the New York Times with Alfie Kohn as a follow-up on a "Motherlode" column in which she discussed paying kids for good behavior.

While I always strive to be a Kohnistic Parent, I am also an economist, firmly rooted in the tradition of incentivization. This is all to say that punishments and rewards have not been absent in our parenting style.

Even just last night at 2:40 in the morning when Eight was arguing with me (or at least attempting to do so) about how she should be able to sleep with me since BioMom was out of town, I ultimately threatened to take away the pizza and ice cream that had been promised for the impending Friday Family Fun Night.

Let's face it. At 2:40 in the morning, I'll do just about anything to get almost anyone to stop talking.

As usual, Kohn promotes the notion of intrinsic motivation:

Rewards and punishments are not opposites; they are two sides of the same coin and that coin doesn’t buy very much. The one thing you can get by dangling a goody in front of children if they do what you want is the same thing you can get by threatening to make them suffer if they don't do what you want. What you get is temporary compliance, but it comes at a very steep cost.

To be honest, in the short run, as in getting Big to stop jumping on Eight, or throwing water all over the bathroom, or dumping his food onto the floor, short run compliance is all I'm hoping for.

Sometimes without short-run compliance, I fear I'll lose my long-run sanity.

In the long-run, he argues:

There is intrinsic motivation, which means doing something because it seems worthwhile in its own right, and extrinsic motivation, where you do something just to get a goody. Not only are these two different, they are inversely related. That’s why research shows that the more you reward people, the less interest they come to have in whatever they had to do to get the reward. The more you offer extrinsic motivators, the more intrinsic motivation tends to decline.

In general, I agree with him. But here are my few exceptions:
1. In the short run when either their safety or my sanity is on the line.
2. When my goal is to just expand their exposure or to improve their physical health: new foods, vegetables and exercise and lastly,
3. Until they get old enough to be slightly more rational about things.

Eight loves to read, hates veggies, loves carbohydrates, hates practicing piano, and would generally prefer to be indoors to outdoors, and would love to while away most of her day in front of the television. Her intrinsic motivation would lead her to be a not-very-well-rounded individual, and most likely, not particularly healthy. Maybe this isn't such a bad thing, and Kohn would probably argue that she'll end up being who she is as an adult regardless of what we do. In the mean time, in addition to being the best models that we can be for her, we also prod a little.

Eight Beuller's Day Off

So Big and I were in the IMAX theater at the zoo today watching the 3D movie on Whales and Dolphins when I get a phone call from Eight's school.

Um. Hello? I whisper.

Hi, [Blogauthor]? This is [school nurse volunteer #42]. [Eight] is saying that she doesn't feel very good.

Um. Yeah. Sorry, I can't talk very loudly, we're at the zoo right now.

She doesn't have a fever and hasn't thrown up or anything, but she says that she is not feeling well.

I'll be right over. Just tell her that it'll be 20 or 30 minutes.

We get there and the first clue I had to Eight's so-called illness was her insolent, "What took you so long?" question upon seeing me scramble through the front doors.

We picked up some chicken noodle soup (which she gobbled down) and I sent them both to bed.

Which lasted all of 25 minutes.

This has been the longest day of my entire life.

She is now dancing through the house, singing, laughing, and begging her brother for a sucker from his Halloween remnants.

It is LITERALLY 4:30.

Sometimes she doesn't even come HOME by then.

Wish me luck tonight.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Declare Your Family Equal Video

Check this out and a shout out to our friends Chris and Kai in the video with their girls, and Erin and Wendy with their girls!!

Sayonara, Sarah

Check out this great piece by Katha Pollitt in The Nation online.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

If you voted for Prop 8, what's it to you???

Keith Olbermann asks those who voted for California's Proposition 8 how in the world it should affect them whether gay couples wish to legalize their relationship.
This commentary is, literally, one of the best, most beautiful on the subject that I have ever heard. It reminds me of this piece by George Saunders (which I always swipe from LesbianDad).
Thank you Keith.

Monday, November 10, 2008


I am new to Facebook, being, well, being the age that I am. But I've loved being able to catch up, at least cyberly, with far-away friends. My friend, now at the ACLU pointed "everyone" to this ad, in the New York Times today.

Thanks Liz.

Purple Mountains Majesty

Taggert, over at A Random Walk provides a better, more nuanced version of the old red state/blue state saw:

". . . a better visualization would shade the areas based not upon who won the state, but by the degree to which they won the state. And the states themselves shouldn't be represented as a function of their geographic size, but rather the size of their population. Here we have just such a picture, and its clear, we are all purple now."

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes He Can

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Overheard in Minneapolis

I was enjoying a quiet cuppa coffee the other day while grading a few papers when I overheard a woman say something to the effect of the following:

"I've never given to a candidate outside of my district before now!"

If you're from around here, there's no doubt what she was talking about.


Here's a tidbit from his Wikipedia page regarding the Bachman debacle (highlight mine):

On the evening of October 17, 2008, Tinklenberg's opponent, Bachmann, appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews. She said she was "very concerned that [Obama] may have anti-American views," and called for the news media to "do a penetrating expose" on "the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America?" Her statements about liberalism and anti-American views were quickly spread around liberal blogs such as The Daily Kos, Democratic Underground and The Huffington Post and the mainstream media. Outrage at Bachmann's comments led to nearly $440,000 in donations to Tinklenberg's campaign in less than 24 hours and over $750,000 in 72 hours. In response, Tinklenberg wrote, "The last few hours have been nothing short of astounding. Since Congresswoman Michele Bachmann appeared on MSNBC’s Hardball earlier tonight, there’s been a deluge of support unlike anything we have seen." His total fundraising before the Bachmann appearance was approximately $1 million, under $720,000 of which was from individuals.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Vote No on Prop 8!

Check out Looky Daddy's nifty advertisements promoting gay marriage.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Tale of Two Brothers

So I have two brothers. Twins.

They couldn't be more different.

One is gay, gregarious, effusive, and a democrat. The other is straight, somewhat stoic, undemonstrative and, republican.

I have genuine appreciation for both of them, but of course, being that I lean to the left, well, I suppose I have a bit more in common with the aforementioned gay one.

The other day I caught the other one on the phone and we, tentatively, began talking politics. Usually this is a mistake, but I came prepared and careful.

Let's face it, if you have a modicum of intelligence, you can't support a Palin Vice Presidency, regardless of the role you played in Vietnam (he is a Vietnam vet) or your long history in the U.S. Navy (he's a retired Lt. Commander) or your extraordinary success as a small businessman. As you can see, he has an excellent republican voter's resume. So much so that I'm not sure which came first, the resume or the political stance.

That is all to say that he does have a modicum of intelligence and I have a healthy respect for POW's as well as for libertarianism (in theory), so we have some overlapping ground on which to base a conversation.

So after a few Palin-digs, he says to me something to the effect of being okay with Obama until he mentioned "redistributing the wealth".


Of all the over-used, misunderstood notions in American history. . .

I responded that ALL politicians redistribute wealth. It's just a matter of whether you get Peter to pay Paul or vice versa. And, of course, whether you, yourself are Peter or Paul.

I wish I had read this week's New Yorker article by Steve Coll prior to this conversation.

It talks about Obama's interaction with Joe the Plumber in which he said:

I do believe that for folks like me who've worked hard but frankly also been lucky, I don't mind paying just a little bit more than the waitress who I just met over there....She can barely make the rent....And I think that when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody.

"The principle that Obama evinced, which most economists would regard as unexceptionable, can be traced to Adam Smith. In 'The Wealth of Nations' (1776), his seminal treatise on capitalism, Smith wrote: The necessaries of life occasion the great expense of the poor....The luxuries and vanities of life occasion the principal expense of the rich, and a magnificent house embellishes and sets off to the best advantage all the other luxuries and vanities which they possess....It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion.'"

Dear brother, let's focus on the real issues at hand. The real issues that might actually IMPROVE the economy for EVERYONE (not just saving a few bucks for just a few of us to use to buy more iPods, G1's, or kitchen makeovers -- I say that as we both are doing so--the kitchen makeover--and I am dreaming of the new G1, just to point out that I am not immune to greed).

Instead, and again quoting from The New Yorker:

". . . . [S]uch as what sort of economic stimulus plan to enact, and in what stages; which policies might keep the most families in their houses at the least cost; how to restructure market regulation to bring credit-default swaps and other derivatives under government oversight; and how to coordinate global reform of financial and trade imbalances."

Anatomy of a Costume in an Economic Downturn

So given the 25-to-30 percent fall in the value of my 403b, we're focusing on retrenchment at the moment.

Translation: No "CONSUME FOR YOUR COUNTRY," patriotism in the form of a consumeristic economic plan here at the BioMom/Blogauthor household.

I even passed on my dream of having professional lights installed on our big pine tree outside.

So we've decided to help pass this value on to the kids in the form of "old-school" Halloween costumes.

What follows:
Diaper box: $0.00 (except for the emotional cost that I endured when Eight exclaimed that she was "saving that box for something" despite the fact that she did not know it existed 10 minutes prior to that moment).
Paints: $4.00 (with lots leftover for more easy-to-clean-up fun!)
Twine: $0.00 (found in the garage)
My time (opportunity cost): grading papers = -$500.00 (you did me a favor, Big, and saved my brain from going to mush!)
Being able to pretend you're a car, drive around and crash into things? Priceless.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Introducing Patek Palin!

Many of you inquired about the new dog popping up on the blog. He is FRM#1's new pet French Bulldog (here seen imitating Palin's Newsweek macro shot).

When she first sent pictures of him, I thought "WTF?" But when you meet him, well, let's say he had me at "SNORT!"

Nothing But Sincerity as Far as the Eye Can See

No Great Pumpkin there. We've got to move on to a new patch, in preparation for our annual neighborhood pumpkin-carving party. This year's theme: Carve For Obama! All blog readers are welcome, BYOP!

This patch clearly imported all of their stock.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Showdown at 34 Months

Big is 34 months today. For those of you not good with math, let's just call it three, although I think Big'd be furious that he missed his birthday cake and presents, but that's a different story.

He is soft and lovable, funny and diligent, stubborn and wild. When you ask him about his day, he invariably says "We went to the Dells" referring to a trip we took in August for the grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary. He enjoys wearing "tony pails" in his hair, and wants a pink bike for his birthday.

And we had a HUGE showdown the other night.

I have a feeling that he and I will have to bump antlers once in a while just to release some tension.

Anyway, I've shifted my cooking toward the vegetarian as he still refuses meat and I'm sick of him eating only cheese, cottage cheese, fruit, beans and yogurt.

After a couple of especially made vegetarian meals with him simply refusing to eat,we got the book about dinosaurs and what they eat, and have spent some time on the page that shows the dino trying little bites of everything.

And then I made some delicious potato soup.

Still no eating.

Because I felt insulted* I decided that potato-night was the night that he had to be like the Stegosaurus and taste a tiny bit of his food. The potato soup.

We don't force our kids to do much. In fact, I have a deep belief that you really can't force your kids to do anything (try forcing your eight year old to NEVER have an accident or to not put too much sour cream on her burrito when you're not looking or etc. etc. etc. ). In true Alfie Kohn style, we try to get the preferred behavior to come from within them, so to speak.

So I'm not exactly sure where this came from other than that I was just SURE he'd love the soup if he just put a bit in his mouth!

Who wouldn't? It was just creamy, cheesy potato-y goodness!

Oh and salt. Salty goodness too.

I'm getting hungry even as I write this.

But no. He dug in his heels.

And I dug in mine.**

I resorted to positive reinforcement, tantalizing him with exquisite rewards: a family bike ride in the gloaming after dinner?


A back rub?


A bubble bath?

FINE: A banana split with whip cream and a cherry on top? All for one stinking lousy bite!!!???!!!

He would not eat it on a boat, with a fox or in the rain. He would not try that 'tato soup, oh what a PAIN!

Nothing. No, not nothing. I take that back. A bite in, and immediately out, squirting all over his face, shirt, table and floor.***

I resorted to the threat: No bike ride. . . . . An early bed time.


Finally, FINALLY, as I'm carrying him up the stairs to bed**** he relents, rushes back to the table, takes a bite and it's over. Sweet relief, we all hug and its off to the bike as though nothing had transpired between us at all.

I'll let you know how the Eggplant Parmesan goes.

*Note to self: this is never a good place from which to start disciplining your child.

**Second note to self: heel-digging is not the precursor to a good parenting moment. At least not post-1953.

***Thanks to Jane Yolen for giving him the idea with that ridiculous dinosaur and his half-chewed broccoli!

****Last and final note to self, carrying a child against his will is DEFINITELY NOT in the Alfie Kohn repertoire.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Gender, Revisited and Reversed

In our house, we're all smitten with Amy Poehler (SNL comedian said to be the Carol Burnett of our time).

No, the kid's aren't watching SNL, they (and I) are huge fans of The Mighty B!

I bring this up because this is (almost literally) the only television that Big watches that has commercials. And we TiVo through most of them.

He'll be turning three in December and with limited commercial exposure, he's already got a grasp of gender.

While watching Bessy Higgenbottom as The Mighty B, he'll see commercials for what he immediately identifies as boy's toys and girl's toys. "WE NEED THAT!" He'll yell at the energetic commercials for the "shake up" cars and "THAT'S FOR GIRLS!" at commercials for those little pet-shop toys while I gently remind him that he could play with those too if he wants.

Interestingly, he'll choose a pink bike whenever available, and gladly walk around in Eight's old dress-up shoes with little heels, so apparently we've confined the roles to the television.

For him, that is.

This past weekend we went to our church's family camp (don't ask).

BioMom was telling us all about it on the way, how we'd be staying in a cabin with a few other families (!), one of whom had an eight year old girl and a four year old boy (the age of the girl turned out to be a bit of an exaggeration, she was six).

After contemplating in silence in the back seat for a while, Eight says:

I hope she likes me.

This kind of gender expression drives me nuts and I said so. I've always wondered if girls and boys tend to be different along these lines, with boys/men moving through the world wondering what interests them and letting their own preferences guide them. Girls, on the other hand, moving through the world wondering how the world is responding to them, and how to change/adapt/morph to that response.

I suspect I turn into an adult on the Peanuts shows for Eight when I launch into my feminist/parent-of-a-girl mantra.

Mwha wah, mwaa waah wah wa.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Pre-Monthly Newsletter and Catchup on the Daily Tidbits

Big will be turning 34 months next week.

I thought I'd get a headstart on the post as I've neglected not only the monthly newsletters, but also the daily tidbits for quite a while. Big has changed so much, and so has my life, that it's hard to get my head around it at times.

Just the other night, some friends from ECFE came over who met Big when he was just 13 months (as an aside, they're moving back to DC to their delight and our loss). Anyway, one of the mom's noted that Big wasn't as 'wild' as he had been the last few times we'd gotten together.

Since this summer and his attainment of the ability to get out of bed at will, we've been struggling with some sleeping issues with him. He wouldn't go to bed, he'd get up in the middle of the night, etc. The other night I heard him get out of bed and wander down the stairs saying, in a low voice "hi." at regular intervals.

BioMom had this great idea to get him a real "big" bed in his room, rather than the toddler bed we borrowed from Cousin.

It worked. The first night he sacked out, spread comfortably, from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.


Of course, both he and I have had a transition back to work.

For the most part, as I previously discussed, this has been good for both of us. But in the middle of it, my department had a bit of drama over whether or not to vote to make permanent my part-time schedule. I thought this was going to be a no-brainer, but it turned out to be far from it. Eventually, I hope to write an anonymous article to the Chronicle of Higher Education about it all, but suffice it to say that many people, not least of which myself, are paying dearly for the vote that did, in fact, make it permanent (a 4 to 2 vote). I'll say more later, and maybe post my anonymous letter here for all of you academics out there interested in such mundane politics. Let's just say that I don't expect to ever be promoted again. Alas.

So that's what's held up the posts as of late.

I'm hoping to get more time and creativity in my life now.

Another Barack in La Crosse Pix

I'm the one right behind the teleprompter.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A Metaphor for My Life

After waiting for four hours and then carefully choosing what I thought was a great place to stand, only about 100 feet from the podium. . . They put up his teleprompter.


Still though, his voice was completely inspiring.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Weekend in Washington

I spent last weekend in Washington continually bumping into ghosts of my decade-younger self.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Obarbieama: You Can't Make This Stuff Up

So, the other night Eight and BioMom were gone and I was priming Big for bedtime; bath, snack, teeth, reading, the whole thing.

I was stepping in and out of the bathroom, doing laundry, picking up, etc., when I overheard him saying something to the effect of "I love you, Obama. . . . I love you, Hillary."

And went in, to see this:

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Economists often attempt to measure the value of a homemaker's services.

The exercise is not unlike measuring the value of any non-market activity such as volunteer hours or leisure time.

Another comparison is any non-market commodity like the environment. Often policy discussions involve attempting to place value on programs in order to perform cost-benefit analysis to project the value of a policy. Or often such exercises are used in court to place present and future value on people's efforts. For example, in a divorce case, the homemaker may need to attempt to value her efforts in order to justify a particular outcome.

"This market oriented predilection for using prices to measure value not only drives the methods currently used, it is the source of the problems in measuring, and perhaps the source of the courts often reluctance to rely on 'economic' measures of worth. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, economists often know the price of everything, but the value of nothing"
(Dr. Allen,

Economists have used two different methods to measure the value of a housewife:
1. the opportunity cost method (what does the household sacrifice by having one individual stay home to work?" and
2. the replacement cost method "how much would it cost to replace the services of the homemaker?".

Both methods have their problems.

I've got a better method.

Spend two years doing 90 percent of the household labor between you and your partner. Take on a leadership position at your kid's parent-teacher association and keep working, but arrange childcare for only the time that you are AT work (for me, less than 16 hours per week), while expecting yourself to do the rest of your work (class prep, grading and researching) while your youngest is napping (1-3 hours per day). Juggle this with lawn-mowing, shoveling, laundry, grocery shopping and the other usual homemaker activities. Have in the back of your mind some research expectations knowing that when you do go back to work, you'll be a bit behind and have nothing in the "pipleline" (i.e. a research project started, initial work done, draft papers and presentations ready, a paper out at a journal for review).

Add to that an extremely active toddler moving into young boyhood. Someone that needs nearly constant supervision and at least two hours outdoors every day in order to both stimulate and wear him out.

After having done this for some respectable amount of time--enough so that you have nearly forgotten what life was like before this schedule--decide to go back to your old schedule.

Last Friday, the end of my first full week back at my "real" job where I have 120 students, 100 percent faculty research requirements, and service duties which started a few days before school did, as well as what turned out to be eight hours of commuting in order to juggle a surprise trip that BioMom had to make for work mid-week, Big and I went to pick up Eight after school.

I ran into a parent-of-four who also happens to be a neighbor of ours.

She looked EXHAUSTED.

It was palpable.

And even she wondered aloud about her condition given that three of the four were now attending school.

In comparison, I felt like a hot-air balloon. Floating. Weightlessly.

Like my duties have been halved.

Like there were now 32 hours in a day instead of 24.

Now THAT is the measure of a housewife.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A Great Welcome Home

I saw this billboard on the way home last night on 494!

Monday, September 01, 2008

A New Era and My 800th Post

Tomorrow starts a new era for our family.

Well, really, it is back to an old era, but only part-time.

Two years ago (two years and three months to be exact) I stopped working at the university 2 hours away and took a leave to be with our then five month old baby boy.

BioMom had started back to work part-time at my spring break that year; I had him on Mondays and Fridays while she had him Tuesdays through Thursdays. After school let out, I took an entire semester off to be home with him, and then worked part-time at a local college. I was given the opportunity to replace a faculty member on sabbatical the following year and worked full-time there last year but it felt like part-time because I didn't have the commute, the service expectation or nearly as many students as I normally have.

I feel like we were able to cobble together a pretty amazing gift for him. Very little childcare (relatively speaking for two people with 'big girl' jobs, and what care we did provide for him was exceptional: Mother-of-Four's undivided attention.

So it feels a bit weird to be going back now, although it is for only one semester (as an aside, I found out that the vote to make that schedule permanent is not the 'done deal' that I thought it would be and occurs on the 12th. While I would very much enjoy doing this forever (i.e. a one-semester per year tenure track position) I am trying to make peace with the fact that it might not work out and that I might have to figure something else out. Alas.). I'm excited to be getting back to my colleagues and have that tune "It's the MOST wonderful time of the year" (via Cousin!) from those Christmas commercials going through my head.

But it's also a little sad.

I don't think Big knows what's up yet. It's a double-blow for him as Eight will be back at school tomorrow too. He and I left MRM#1 and MRM#2's house after dinner last night without BioMom and Eight (they and MRM#1 went to see the American Idol tour believe it or not) and Big was completely distraught to be without her, craning his neck out the back window with the hopes that their car would be following ours.


He will be turning 33 months this September 9th and I feel like we're turning a corner behavior-wise.

Maybe that is just hopeful thinking.

BioMom is convinced that he's just not getting enough sleep and that that is contributing to it all.

This seems to be true so far.

One last tidbit as to what he's up to lately.

He reminds me of that character of Kristen Wiig's on SNL who always has to one (or many)-up everyone around her ("I own a bigger pool table. . . I INVENTED pool! etc.). Big picks up words from conversations around him and turns them into these huge stories, usually beginning with "when I was a baby. . . ." Everything is bigger and better than whatever anyone around him is saying. And it is hilarious.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008