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