Saturday, January 26, 2008

On Being Present

One of the greatest gifts that kids give us --and I think the younger they are, the better they are at doing this-- is forcing us to live in the moment.

When, for example, as just happened here when Big came into the bathroom announcing that he had to go to 'go potty!' and I hastily ripped off his pants and diaper and when he immediately got up off the potty announcing that he was 'all done' and while subsequently directing his attention to washing his hands, went "number 2" directly on the floor, well, you are forced to focus on the moment. And I don't even mean the immediacy of cleaning up the dropped "number 2", I mean, the moment prior to that one in which you must make sure that he doesn't proceed step in the "number 2" that is, now, directly under the place that is intended for his foot as he steps off of the potty-turned step-stool.

I mean to say you can't be on your Blackberry at that moment or fiddling around with a playlist on your iPod. No. You're THERE.

Yesterday at lunch I found myself savoring some time with Big in a way that I never, for example, savored while reading Marx in the library at grad school (in retrospect, I wish I had savored that time a bit more than I did. You don't realize what a regular teaching load does to extra-curricular reading, that is, reading that is not DIRECTLY tied to productivity somehow). He doesn't usually sit long for lunch and so we usually grab a couple of bites of cottage cheese or a yogurt stick and we're off to coloring or playing cars or something before nap-time. Yesterday, however, I introduced him to Alphabet Soup!

He was mesmerized.

He sat on my lap and we dug our spoons into each other's bowels, fishing for "W"s and "S"s and "M"'s like a persnickety fisherman in an overstocked pond. "What's dis?" he would ask. "I think that's a broken 'U' or maybe a 'J'!" and he would gobble it up.

We did this for what felt like an hour and when it was all gone and I had put away the bowls, he asked "More soup!"

What could I do but oblige?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Three Questions

So, I'm getting signals that my academic department will not be supporting my request to work part-time (one semester per year).

That means that I've got to face the hard choice (possibly one of the hardest of my life): either continue commuting year round (three nights per week away from the kids essentially since I get home around 9pm on Thursdays) or resign.

As you can probably guess, I'm in a soul-searching mood.

One colleague, in response to my obvious agony over the choice said something to the effect of having worse choices. A friend of his, apparently, had a choice between chemo and another year or two of life-with-pain, and a month or two of life-without-pain.

Thanks for the, ahem, clarification about how difficult this choice is. . . Relatively.

I recognize that this is not life or death. And I recognize that I am privileged to even get to have this choice. But JHC, it is heart-wrenching. What can you say about such sunk costs: 6 years of grad school and 6 years toward tenure? Then, what, nothing? Being an adjunct for a fraction (and I do mean a fraction) of the salary, with no benefits and no security? It's that or Starbucks. Oh, or being an over-involved mom at the school. Now I'm just feeling sorry for myself.

I'm looking everywhere for clues to figure out this life-riddle.

Last night I read the book The Three Questions by Jon Muth (based on the story by Leo Tolstoy)to the kids. I should say kid as Big couldn't focus on it at all.

It's just the kind of book I like. Meaty philosophical questions, references to Russian literature, all in a sort of Eastern, holistic stew.


It starts out like this:

There once was a boy named Nikolai who sometimes felt uncertain about the right way to act. "I want to be a good person," he told his friends. "But I don't always know the best way to do that." Nikolai's friends understood and they wanted to help him. "If only I could find the answers to my three questions," Nikolai continued, "then I would always know what to do. . . ."

His three questions were:

When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? And [w]hat is the right thing to do?

He really nails it, doesn't he?

He wrangles with his friends for a bit, who really don't do much in the way of providing him any real advice at all. So he decides to go to "Leo, the turtle" because "He has lived a very long time. Surely he will know the answers I am looking for."

While visiting the turtle, he offers to dig a hole for the frail reptilian, and while doing so a storm brews and he witnesses an injured Panda and her baby, both of whom he then rescues.

In the end, Nikolai revisits his unanswered questions and is told by the turtle that he had witnessed his answers in his deeds. Had he not acted out of kindness and dug the hole for the turtle, he would not have been there to help the panda.

Remember then that there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side. For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in this world.

This is why we are here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Thwarted Irregular Monthly Newsletter: Month 25

Okay, so a 25 month newsletter seems a bit ridiculous, I'll acknowledge that. And then there's the fact that I can't keep up with all of your changes. I've written parts of this newsletter at 3 a.m. in my head in bed, no pen or paper in sight, only to remember the next day that I had started writing this newsletter and thought to myself, 'now what was I trying to say there?'

Today you were sitting on the kitchen floor playing with a truck or maybe you found some remnants of the breakfast cereal that you had let fly the other day. I dunno what I was doing. Some mindless soup preparation, or laundry folding, or toy fetching. Whatever.

You looked at me and squinched up your face and non sequitured (and yes, Jen Fischer, I just made up a word. We bloggers can do that!) "NOT FAIR".

It was so awesome to see you do that in such an absurd context.

Seven often resorts to this line of (ill)argument and she is sometimes right at some level. (As an aside, I used that phrase of speech 'at some level' with her the other night and she followed up by saying to me 'how many levels are there?'. . . . I'm doomed.) Often the argument comes at bedtime. Or at mealtime. Or at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday. And it is either because Big got some thing or privilege, or a handful of nuts. Or that one of her classmates either got a Webkinz or gets to watch Hanna Montana on t.v. Sometimes I react and sometimes I giggle at the absolute absurdity of a) me standing in front of a kid who is saying that to me. . . That I am actually PARENTING someone of the age to recognize the FAIRNESS of a given situation and b) that there is still someone out there who has the idea that life is, in fact, fair.

Dude. I want to say. Even in Communist Russia there was a gender wage gap! Talk to Marx about 'fair'!

So anyway, Big. Thanks for keeping things real with me.

I've attached this video for all to see if interested. I know that it is totally narcissistic and self-indulgent, but (at least to me) it is laugh-out-loud funny. I was sitting with him one recent afternoon after he had woken up from a long nap. We were waiting for BioMom and Seven to come home from work/school and I started singing the ABC's to him. Once I got started, he started belting it (or something not really resembling the ABC's) out at the top of his lungs! I had never heard him "sing" before, so I quickly grabbed the camera and tried to replicate it. This video comes close! Focus on the audio though as the video was taken during the gloaming, with him on my lap and me holding the camera out and to the side to try to capture him singing. I think that he ends up looking like an ultrasound or something.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Misogyny Abounds

I'm starting to think that I might vote for Hillary IN SPITE of Hillary.

J.H.C. I'm sick of the way that people are treating her. Oh, and have I mentioned my little crush on Echidne of the Snakes? In addition to having a lovely sharp political wit, she's also an economist. Yum.

Anyway, check out her post on recent shenanigans in the New York Times op-ed pages and the Washington Post's cartoon-central.

I've got one word for them both: Yuck.

She got the cartoon from The Reclusive Leftist (whom I've just discovered!) who also posts the following interesting quote, as well as this commentary from The Seattle Times.

Women have no idea how much men hate them, said Germaine Greer. You have to raise your head above the parapet to find out, or let some other woman raise her head. And then you see. Then you really see.

Oh, and here's the email address of the ombudsman at the Washington Post:

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Bit Overwhelmed and Are Americans More Sexist or Racist??

Sorry for the lack of postings as of late. I've been working on updating and substantiating a course for those pesky uber-curious and talented Macalester students (I should wish such a problem on all professors: interested and talented students!). Check out the resulting course here and let me know what you think. I have about tripled the reading in terms of length and difficulty, so we'll see (oh and any typos pointed out would be great too -- Fischer! I know you're out there editing this as I write!!). The topic is pretty much my specialty, and the class is pretty much my baby, so be gentle.

I have been avoiding commenting on Hillary and the whole debacle that is this primary season for fear of repeating what's already been said out there in the blogspohere (I have been, recently, re-infatuated with Echidne of the Snakes (so much so that I have actually assigned one of her discussions to my class). She is not only a great source herself, but also she reads some other great blogs (oh yeah, and other news sources) and has really great and voluminous comments.

I got the following from her after Hillary teared up in New Hampshire and, although I'm not sure I'm on the Hillary wagon, I can't help but feel for her that she is getting the short straw both with her sex and her last name. From a cogent analysis by Matthew Yglesias of Steinem's NYT op-ed piece supporting Hillary:

"But here's where being black is less of a handicap than being a woman. American society is awash in certain negative stereotypes of African-Americans, especially African-American men. But it's possible for any individual African-American to "transcend" those stereotypes by simply not living up to them. So Barack Obama can't afford to show the kind of populist outrage John Edwards expresses lest he be deemed a threatening radical, but if he avoids falling into pitfalls of stereotype he winds up getting praised in a somewhat condescending, but still helpful to his political career, manner as "one of the good ones."

A woman faces a very different problem. A woman who's seen as possessing the stereotypical characteristics of femininity won't do well in presidential politics. But a woman who's seen as lacking those characteristics will be penalized as well. The female politician can't be too femme or too butch, and she can't be androgynous either."

Friday, January 04, 2008

Heading off to the Econ Nerd Conference

I'm heading off to the Annual Econ Nerd Conference, so wanted to apologize in advance for the lack of posting over the past two weeks and over the up-coming days.

One of my New Year's Resolutions is to post "early and often" in anticipation of this glorious upcoming election.

If you're going to the conference yourself, meet me at this session (it should be a good one!):

Jan. 6, 8:00 am - 10:00 am

Marriage, Divorce, and Fertility

Presiding: LISA A. GIDDINGS, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

KASEY BUCKLES, University of Notre Dame--Understanding the Returns to
Delayed Childbearing for Working Women

KRISTIN MAMMEN, Barnard College--The Effects of Children's Gender on
Divorce and Child Support

BETSEY STEVENSON, University of Pennsylvania--Divorce-Law Changes,
Household Bargaining, and Married Women's Labor Supply Revisited

JUNGMIN LEE, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville and IZA, and AMY
FARMER, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville--Impaired Fecundity,
Fertility, and Married Women's Labor Supply

JOYCE P. JACOBSEN, Wesleyan University
LISA GIDDINGS, University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse
SHELLY LUNDBERG, University of Washington
LUCIE SCHMIDT, Williams College

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Like Iowa, Big's Caucus Results are In

December 2006

December 2007

Our son seems to have a particular political leaning. Or, maybe he's just learning how to ask for what he wants more effectively.

These past two weeks have been lovely. BioMom has been off of work, we've spent time with her family and mine (my newly betrothed nephew and his fiance came up and spent a few days with us) and we got away to our usual northern new year's getaway, this time taking Fourth-of-Four (Seven's contemporary) with us as well!

Big seemed to really enjoy the time with both BioMom and I home. So much so, that when he was wanting or needing something for one of us, he would contract our separate monikers (Mama and Baba), certain that at least one (or even both) of us would respond.

Sometimes this was prefaced with an "Oh", so, altogether it sounded like:

"Oh BaMa! . . . BaMa! . . . BaMa!"