Tuesday, December 21, 2010

DADT Repeal, 21 Years (almost) To The Day

On December 20th 1989, after seven four hour finals (literally) at the U.S. Air Force Academy, a couple of military police asked me in for questioning about some "acts of homosexuality."

This was before Clinton's infamous Don't Ask Don't Tell Policy was enacted (which was intended to help gays in the military but ended up making it worse -- there were more discharges after DADT than before) and so I was relatively lucky: I didn't have to go to jail after admitting that I had, in fact, kissed a girl.

The repeal of DADT happened 21 years later, almost to the day and, naturally, I have some mixed feelings.

Of course, I am thrilled that the discriminatory policy is over, but like desegregation in schools and measures that allowed women into previously male-dominated workplaces (the military academies, for example, only let in women for the first time for the graduating class of 1980) I don't envy those first groups of individuals to live in the new policy. That last class of men at the Air Force Academy, for example, have in their 1976 class ring a saying "LCWB" which stands for "last class with balls".


And, of course, the repeal is bringing forth ghosts of Christmas past.

Whoever let a 20 year old young woman drive to Denver from Colorado Springs, after having been told that she was being kicked out of college in the middle of her junior year, and that she would have to go home and tell her family for the first time that the cause of this eviction was her potential sexuality should be given a life sentence.

I'm surprised I made it.

And, as you probably suspected, I did not exactly receive a warm reception from my family.


But life has it's ways doesn't it? Those right-hand unexpected turns tend to teach you the most and I'm convinced that we can't always know what is best for ourselves, making omniscient decisions at age 17.

Well, as Cousin put it on Facebook, I would never have had the opportunity to do her dishes in our communal apartment in Lincoln Nebraska had the discriminatory been repealed 21 years ago.

And I would not have known virtually everyone in my life right now.

I am so thankful for that.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

He's a whole HANDFUL!

Happy Birthday Big!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

New Study: No Child Abuse in Lesbian Headed Households!

Check out the Onion's spoof on this -- particularly the comments.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Even for the Non-Economists. . .

Check out this incredibly funny YouTube video explaining the Federal Reserve's recent actions. This is a great one for even those non-economists out there.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Economist's Son: Preschool Year Two

Big is in his second year of preschool.

It is amazing to watch him grow intellectually and emotionally. One day I showed up and he was jumping rope like a maniac.

And now these past few days he is learning how to snap his fingers, practicing incessantly.

I love when we are reading and he asks about something about which he has never heard: the other night was peanut brittle.

Last night, after the bedtime routine while I was tucking him in, he asked "What is a necessity?"

Maybe he has just become adept at extending the routine because this naturally lead into a discussion that not only defined necessity (a good that you NEED), but also it's opposite (luxury: a good that you WANT but don't NEED) as well as a discussion about another category that Big brought up that has yet to be defined explicitly by economists: the good that you NEED but don't WANT (vegetables).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why Do People Care So Much What Other People Do???

NerdyAppleBottom has been all over the news lately about the post she wrote about her son's awesome Halloween costume.

I loved the post with its rather antagonistic (to some) title "My Son Is Gay". It was sure to get some attention. But whoa. Seriously, people are freaking out about this.

My main question, other than the obvious ones that in I'll get to, is why do people care so much what other people do?

It seems to me that we should only really care what other people do if what they do affects us in some way or another. Economists call this "externalities" or spillover effects. Even the Ninth Circuit, expecting that the Prop 8 supporters in California will appeal Judge Walker's reversal of the anti-gay marriage law that narrowly passed in 2008, requires that the appellants have "standing":

Standing is a legal doctrine with roots in the Constitution's Article III that requires a plaintiff to show harm or injury. "Essence of standing is that no person is entitled to assail the constitutionality of an ordinance or statute except as he himself is adversely affected by it," explains Black's Law Dictionary, an authoritative legal guide.

See also George Saunders' satirical essay "My Amendment."

So how is this kid, dressed as Daphne from Scooby Doo, for ONE DAY affecting YOU???

Firstly, the kid is probably not gay.

As it turns out, a precious few of us on this planet are gay.

Statistically speaking, that number is WAY less than Kinsey surmised (at 10%), probably reaching somewhere less than even four percent and differing for men and women.

Secondly, though the debate about whether being gay is caused by nature or nurture (biology or socialization) has not yet been definitively concluded, we know that you can't really MAKE someone gay.

And for that matter, you can't MAKE someone NOT gay.

So, regardless about this FIVE YEAR OLD's sexuality, what do you think would have been the psycho-social-emotional effect on him had his mom told him that it was inappropriate to be Daphne and that instead he should be Iron Man or some other gender-appropriate costume?

I suspect the effect would have been FAR more long-reaching and negative.

Thirdly, for those of you out there who worry that his costume is not "age appropriate" I suggest you focus your concern on all those third grade girls out there who wore sexy Santa suits.

Speaking of letting people do what they want, I also just heard about a couple in London seeking a civil union rather than marriage.

Can we just come to this agreement? I'll stay out of your business (including your religion and how you want to decorate your backyard) if you stay out of mine and just let me have my legal rights as a citizen of this fine country.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Championship Volleball Team

This fall has been a whirlwind, but this past weekend we slowed down. . . Inadvertently.

Ten is on her school's fifth grade volleyball team.

There are so many girls in her grade that are interested in the sport that they had to create two teams.

Anyway, her team has always been the Bad News Bears of the two.

So, this past Saturday they had a little tournament among the catholic schools in the area. There were three brackets and we had literally planned our day around Ten's team loosing in the first round (I was so unprepared, that the picture above was taken with my phone! I didn't even have a camera with me!?!)

When they won, we readjusted, and at an impromptu, unplanned lunch near the tournament (we had one half unexpected hour until the second game) we discouraged Ten from even considering winning the second match and heading to the finals!

And then they won the second match and were heading to the finals!

BioMom was so excited --she had never participated in any sports tournament in her life (either as participant or spectator) and, with one of her own in it, she realized how incredible it was.

We were on the edge of our seat as the last match started. Could they possibly win???

It turned out to be the easiest of the three -- they won in two games!

So that was our day: three exciting volleyball games culminating in a trophy!

Pictures of Halloween to come. The kids had a blast, and then posted 102 degree fevers for the next three days!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Snoop

So upon Cousin's suggestion, I went ahead and purchased some gifts from Santa last Friday because I happened to be out-and-about and because they were available.

A few years ago Santa brought Ten (she literally may have been five or six at the time) a Hogwarts Lego set. We had a blast putting it together between Christmas and New Years.

This year, Lego is releasing more Harry Potter sets to coincide with the first half of the seventh movie and BioMom and I thought it'd be a perfect Santa present for the kids.

They are LOVING Harry Potter right now.

Ten is in the middle of writing her version of the eighth book in which the children of Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione and Malfoy are growing up themselves and off to Hogwarts.

And Big and I have been moving our way through Harry Potter Lego Wii. He will have experienced the whole Harry Potter series exactly opposite of the way that Ten and I experienced it, beginning with Wii, then to the movies and (hopefully) to the books themselves.

And, the pi├Ęces de r├ęsistance? They are BOTH planning to be Hermione for Halloween.

Anyway, so I had splurged a bit, to avoid a second trip and the holiday rush, and stowed it away in the back recesses of my closet.

In literally no less than 24 hours, Big comes rushing in the kitchen to tell me that there is a HUGE HARRY POTTER LEGO SET IN MY CLOSET AND DID I WANT TO COME AND SEE IT???

In ten years we have nearly had birthday and Christmas presents in PLAIN SIGHT with Ten around, not aware of it.

And now this.

I guess we'll have to get smarter.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Compartmentalization and It Gets Better

I've been so busy lately that I've completely compartmentalized all of the gay teen suicides (we've had a couple in Wisconsin lately), violence, and don't-ask-don't tell first nonsense then victory.

Until the other day when I suddenly remembered my first girlfriend.

A few of my readers are high-school friends who also knew Janet.

We were each other's first kiss in the summer (was it before?) of our sophomore year. I have no idea if she would have, ultimately, lived as a lesbian.*

Sophomore year was a hard one for us (isn't it for everyone?). Kids suspected, teased, wrote graffiti on our lockers. I suppose we'd call that bullying now, but we didn't think much of it then. Not enough to really even go to an authority about it.

We had falling outs.

We competed for the same slot in the winning 3200 meter relay.

She committed suicide.

If we had had statistics back then, I'm sure she would never have even been counted as a gay-teen suicide.

Again, I'm not even sure she was, really, gay.

I wish I could talk to her now and show her that, one way or another, it gets better.

*According to the Williams Institute, something like 9 percent of adults either identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, or report having had same-sex sexual experiences.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Okcupid on Gays and the Numbers

Check out this excellent post from the OKcupid blog. They are a dating site and have information on literally millions of users.

These are statisticians for the good!

Monday, October 11, 2010

If it's available....

So, Big just finished up his first official fall soccer season.

He played games on Wednesdays and Fridays and, had Cousin et al. not moved, he would have played ON Cousin's girl's team.

Yes. Cry for me.

Anyway, Wednesdays were difficult for us. We were busy with work, and soccer put his bedtime at after 8, which is never good for our kids. So, I would often sort of run by the possibility of skipping soccer on any particular Wednesday, to Big.

Two weeks ago, he told me, emphatically, that "if it is available [meaning soccer], I want to go!"

And the following week he said (not as snarky as this sounds) "do you remember what I said last week?"

Monday, October 04, 2010

The BMX Trip that Went Bad

So the other day we took the kids and Four-of-Four to a BMX track to mess around a little. Here's another video. I thought it would be a little more accessible than a mountain bike route for our four year old.

Little did I know how difficult it would be!

After a few attempts, we all overcame some fears and got over hills we never expected to get over.

It all went bad, however, when, rushing home, we saw out of the rearview that instead of having three bikes attached, there were only two.

A poem, no less.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Anti-Gay DVD

So we got the DVD's in the mail the other day.

It sort of spooks me out that the archbishop considers me enough of a catholic to even bother to send me anything in the mail.

Ironically, however, we got TWO copies, one addressed to both of our names, separately, the other addressed to, get this: Lisa and Sheila BioMom'sLastName. See photos attached.

One option, for those of you wondering what to do with your dvds, assuming you aren't using them for entertainment or educational purposes, there is a group of concerned Catholics are collecting copies of the DVD to return to the Bishops and will make a financial donation to an organization that works to serve the poor in our area for every DVD collected. We are also asking other caring Catholics to consider making a donation of their own to help the poor in Minnesota.

Go to www.ReturnTheDVD.org to find more information on where to send your DVD, and how to make donations yourself to organizations doing the real work of Christ.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Out from Under the Carpet to Protest

So its been a while since I've had the time or energy to post here.

My apologies, dear readers. Our late-August/September takes a bit of getting used to. There's no long click-click-clicking of the rollercoaster heading to the top of the hill before its first plunge.

No, we just get the plunge.

Goodbye summer!

It was especially true this year because we all skipped that first, short week of classes and meetings just before Labor Day in favor of a last-summer's week together as a family at Camp Du Nord.

I could not pass up, however, the opportunity to comment on the Minnesota Archdocese's attempt to get into the politics of Minnesota by sending out an anti-gay marriage dvd (donated by someone named Anonymous) to 800,000 Catholics across the state.

Again, I find myself astonished that I have even allowed myself to be in a situation where people-anonymous people at that-can comment on or even consider judging my life and my choices.

Why are we going to this school and why am I in a situation where, again, we are in a position to "educate" people?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


So I met BioMom nine years ago tonight.

We were at a party of a mutual friend and toward the end of the night it became clear that the very next day was BioMom's birthday.

I asked her how old she was.

She answered the literal truth, rather than how old she would be in a mere two hours.

I should have known what I was getting into.

Happy Nine Sweetie!

I'll leave the other relevant number here in its ambiguity, just like you did.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

The High Dive, A Summer's Metaphor

It has been such a great summer.

One of those strange ones where time seems to be moving slowly enough to really dig in and enjoy it.

Other people I talk to are astonished at how quickly the time has flown -- It's AUGUST already? -- whereas I am slowly getting ready to go back to school.

It has been a good, long summer.

We belong to a local "big" pool. This is to say that we regularly go to a pool in which the kids can actually swim. There are these great wading pools literally every mile or so in Minneapolis that we also visit regularly, but this year both kids wanted a bit more.

So, a couple of weeks ago, we were at the big pool and Big all of a sudden noticed the diving boards.

And, of course, immediately wanted to jump off of them.

Both of them: the low AND the high.

He's a fairly decent swimmer, so I was not opposed.

After a few low-dive jumps, he decided that he'd try the high jump. He got all the way up there, walked to the end, and, seeing that it was a bit higher from that perspective, decided to wait until later. The life guard had to bail him out.

That entire night he went on and on about how he was going to go off the high dive the next day.

The next day, the pool was closed to his great disappointment.

The day after that we were all good to go and he did it! I had to capture it on a video this year because he looks so little on that big board.


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Overturned..... Unconstitutional!!!

Judge Vaughn's ruling of California's Proposition 8!

Monday, August 02, 2010

The Wide World Comforts Her

I just love the book When Sophie Gets Angry.

The art is fabulous and the story is a great way to introduce to kids the idea of being really super angry. How to be in and sort out angry feelings.

In the book, the girl gets mad at her sister and runs away to her safe spot, her familiar tree, and, clearly, her home-away-from home.

I love that she is free to run and that no one is chasing after her. No one is worried that she'll be abducted or hit by a car.

I kind of want to live where she lives and climb that old beech tree.

Here's my rendition of a climactic point in the book on our sidewalk.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Summer is. . .

Going off the high dive for the first time AND learning how to do the monkey bars.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Big's Questions

So Big is a Question Guy.

He's that typical four-year-old with the running inquisition that usually turns tautological if you attempt to answer him literally.

Tonight we had a terrible storm that blew the lights.

We were in the middle of our last bedtime story of the evening, and Big was pretty dissapointed to have it halted prematurely.

He just couldn't understand how some external source governed the electricity of our home and those around us. And who was going to fix it? And how? And would they wear protective suits so they wouldn't get electrocuted? And when would this all happen? Would it happen in five minutes? In fifteen minutes? What if it didn't happen until tomorrow? What if our electricity was still not on tomorrow night? And do things with batteries still work? What things in the house have batteries? Let's see! Would his DS work? Shouldn't we GET the DS to help us get through the current crisis? Etc. Etc.

Oh, and he was hot, of course.

The most profound question of the night, however, happened earlier over pizza with Cousin and her kids.

He turned to Cousin and asked: Are you sad to be leaving us?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Alternative Plot Line for The Kids Are All Right

Okay so I've been a little obsessed with how I should feel about the hetero-affair in the Kids Are All Right.

Mark Harris of Entertainment Weekly, for example (as pointed out over at Mombian) that it is really a movie about marriage. And a great one at that.

He writes:
I couldn’t remember the last time I saw such a good film about being married. . . . I was startled to realized that the best ones that occurred to me—The Awful Truth, His Girl Friday, Kramer vs. Kramer, Shoot the Moon—were all (a) about divorce and (b) at least 30 years old.

The Kids Are All Right . . . celebrates the journey through marriage in a way that, for the movies, is quietly revolutionary. . . . Make what you will of the bitter irony that the first really great, believable married couple on screen in ages cannot legally marry. . . . This is marriage as you’ve rarely seen it, except perhaps in the bathroom mirror. . . .

[Director Lisa Cholodenko] doesn’t sanctify Nic and Jules as pioneers of social progress. . . . They’re not intended to be role models or billboards for gay coupledom. They and their marriage are, however, recognizably human, which this summer counts as one giant leap in the right direction.

So yeah. I get that.

But here's my alternative, and much better plot line that keeps the heart of what the existing movie is, but adds to it and keeps everyone happy:

1. Paul (sperm donor) is married.
2. Paul meets Laser and Joni. Hi-jinks ensue.
3. Paul's relationship with the kids develops and he is a mixed influence. Jules and Nic are concerned. Paul's wife is involved in the periphery (initially).
4. Paul's wife wants to hire Jules to landscape their backyard. Paul is gone at work during the days. His wife and Jules get closer, eventually have an affair.
. . .
The rest plays out the exact same way HOWEVER
5. The affair brings Paul and Nic closer, and the influence of Paul on the kids weighs toward the good.

Here's the REAL kicker: Paul's wife is played by Portia de Rossi.

What do you think?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Movie was Alright

So this past weekend me, BioMom and Cousin got out to our local indie theater and saw The Kids are All Right.

Warning: Plot spoilers below.

We had read LesbianDad's initial review beforehand (and her follow-up to people's skeptical responses) and were definitely willing to give the movie a shot.

Here's my review: it was alright.

There were tons of funny, lighthearted, insightful moments.

I loved, for example, how Joni (the eighteen year old daughter) referred to her parents in the singular: "moms". "As in, I don't want to hurt Moms feelings."

It was also really interesting and exciting to see our lives (only eight years from now... REALLY???) projected on the big screen: two moms with an eighteen-year-old daughter heading off to college and a fifteen-year-old son, both of whom are spending some time questioning their lives as kids conceived through donor sperm, with two moms. And, now that one is eighteen, they actually have the option to perhaps meet the man who donated the sperm that, in fact, enabled their very existence.

At one point the son, Laser, says to his sister something to the effect of "Respect. Without HIM we wouldn't be HERE."

The big hubub about the movie, however, is the affair that Jules (Julianne Moore) has with the sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo).

Despite LesbianDad's urging that the film is "breathtakingly subversive" I was and am still extraordinarily disappointed that Lisa Cholodenko (writer/director) chose the heterosexual affair (however plausible. I fully recognize that sexuality is fluid) as the main point of tension and conflict in the story.

Of course, it was well done. As LesbianDad pointed out, the scene where Nic realizes that her partner of 20 plus years is having an affair with this "interloper" is absolutely breathtaking both from the actor's perspective, but also the director's.

Even if you've never experienced anything like what she experiences right there on screen for your visual pleasure, your heart's gonna be in knots. The scene is that good.

So that's the thing. That is what you take away from the film. It is that large of a part of the story. Even though there are tons of perhaps "subversive" subtexts (a bit of roughhousing with the son's jerk-of-a-friend's dad leaves you wondering if he actually longs for a father and then, perhaps, the astute viewer realizes that the father doesn't turn out to be much of a role model to this impulsive, disrespectful, drug-using friend) you don't walk away with those messages. You walk away thinking about the affair first and foremost, and that it was a heterosexual affair secondly.

I guess maybe that's the point. Not that it was a movie ABOUT a family headed by a lesbian couple. Not that it was about kids coming of age and dealing with their desire to get in touch with the sperm donor.

Sometimes I think that when I look back on my intellectual life, that all I will see is that I've made the point over and over again that we're just like you. That gay and lesbian families really aren't any different than heterosexual families.* And maybe that will be an important outcome and maybe that's what Cholodenko is trying to say.

It's just that it seemed unnecessary. There was plenty of conflict to be had in that situation. Wouldn't it have been far more interesting and creative for her to explore almost any other of the potentially awkward and conflict-ridden relationships in the group rather than the trite lesbian-really-needs-a-man stereotype even if she does ultimately dismiss him and return to her long-term-lover?


Oh, and it didn't help that the sex scenes with him were better too.

Double ugh.

*I'm working on a research project right now and although we don't have any real results yet per se, I suspect that that's what they'll say.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Summer is . . .

Arty Pants at the Walker.

The first little activity involved Big and I sharing a two-earphoned ipod that had us looking for art in particular galleries not unlike a scavenger hunt. Then, once we'd find a piece of art, they used sounds to help us explore it. Big loved it. The first piece was a huge picture of a boxing match. The sounds in the ipod were of fans and bells and pure excitement.

It was a great way to explore art.

This activity was really cool. You filled these little pouches with paint and then threw balls at them hoping they'd explode all over the canvass.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Summer is. . .

His first soccer goal. Ever.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Do Parents Hate Parenting?: Joy Versus Happiness

We were having a little taco night with some fellow parent friends the other night who recently bought this awesome house near the lake with a great backyard.

As you all know, it is fun to be around fellow people with a couple of kids once in a while. As we were saying, once adults have kids, and particularly, more than one kid, you can see/feel/nearly taste the fact that they've given up.

Given up what you might ask?

Well, at some level, you start to give up what was formerly known as your adult life.

This is not to say that you can't have some semblance of an adult life. I work. I work out. I consult. I read. I see movies. I (once in a while) have conversations with other adults. But in all honesty, I don't do any of those things as much as I'd prefer.

Note: even as I write this I am stealing some adult time, blogging and watching the Tour de France as Big plays Batman on his DS (Yes. I'm THAT kind of Baba).

But what I mean is not so much even that. What I mean is what I've noticed of other friends with a little older children, particularly children whose kids participate in sports. Cousin, for example, and Sidekick's parents spend three or even four nights per week nearly year round attending sports events: hockey, soccer, baseball with their ten-or-less year old kids.

And get this: they love it.

I signed Big up for soccer this sumer and BioMom sort of groaned at the thought of spending summer nights on the sidelines of a hot soccer field watching four-year-olds chase a ball around like the Keystone Cops.

We have just not yet quite given in yet.

But it is coming.

Anyway, the other night we were chatting over tacos and Summits about this article: Why Parents Hate Parenting by Jennifer Senior.*, **

From the perspective of the species, it’s perfectly unmysterious why people have children. From the perspective of the individual, however, it’s more of a mystery than one might think. Most people assume that having children will make them happier. Yet a wide variety of academic research shows that parents are not happier than their childless peers, and in many cases are less so. This finding is surprisingly consistent, showing up across a range of disciplines.

Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize–winning behavioral economist found that women preferred housework over childcare.

Other research shows that children reduce marital satisfaction.

Here's some more preference rankings:

Having kids doesn't necessarily make you unhappy, they simply don't make you MORE happy.

Each additional child produces diminishing returns.

Mothers are less happy than fathers.

Single parents are less happy than couples.

Babies and toddlers are the hardest.

What is interesting about all of these results is not really the results themselves, but how people react to them. We don't believe them. Maybe more precisely, we don't WANT to believe them.

So what's the deal with kids?

Daniel Gilbert, a Harvard psychologist claims that what children really do, he suspects, is offer moments of transcendence, not an overall improvement in well-being.

The article author makes the claim that perhaps parenting has changed quite drastically over the years, making it less of a happiness-producing activity.

Before urbanization, children were viewed as economic assets to their parents. If you had a farm, they toiled alongside you to maintain its upkeep; if you had a family business, the kids helped mind the store. But all of this dramatically changed with the moral and technological revolutions of modernity. As we gained in prosperity, childhood came increasingly to be viewed as a protected, privileged time, and once college degrees became essential to getting ahead, children became not only a great expense but subjects to be sculpted, stimulated, instructed, groomed. (The Princeton sociologist Viviana Zelizer describes this transformation of a child’s value in five ruthless words: “Economically worthless but emotionally priceless.”) Kids, in short, went from being our staffs to being our bosses.

My bold.

Annette Lareau, the sociologist who coined the term “concerted cultivation” to describe the aggressive nurturing of economically advantaged children, puts it this way: "Middle-class parents spend much more time talking to children, answering questions with questions, and treating each child's thought as a special contribution. And this is very tiring work." Yet it's work few parents feel that they can in good conscience neglect, says Lareau, "lest they put their children at risk by not giving them every advantage."

One study found that parents' dissatisfaction only grew the more money they had, even though they had the purchasing power to buy more child care. This is explained by the fact that we're having kids later in life and as a result are aware of the loss in autonomy. We are aware of the alternative uses of our time. Of kids one psychologist commented "They’re a huge source of joy, but they turn every other source of joy to shit."

While children deepen your emotional life, they shrink your outer world to the size of a teacup, at least for a while. ("All joy and no fun," as an old friend with two young kids likes to say.)

Another quote:
Loving one's children and loving the act of parenting are not the same thing.

It turns out that the question really is what is happiness? What is joy? What parts of happiness are about sheer immediate experience and satisfaction or about reward and long-term pleasure?

One study found that the least depressed parents are those whose underage children are in the house, and the most are those whose aren't.

This is key. Technically, if parenting makes you unhappy, you should feel better if you’re spared the task of doing it. But if happiness is measured by our own sense of agency and meaning, then noncustodial parents lose. They’re robbed of something that gives purpose and reward.

I know that I feel a great sense of purpose and reward because of the kids. Great losses too. Losses that I feel, really every day. I also have a constant sense of nagging and questioning: did I do that okay? Did I just stomp on his/her self esteem? Are we spoiling them? Are we not spoiling them? Etc. etc. I guess at some level, my over-thinking style of parenting produces a lot of emotional agony. I know that sounds dramatic but it is true. Ten and I butt heads so often and we are so different that I am constantly evaluating and re-evaluating our interactions.

This article hit a nerve for me. I have to say that I am happier with them. And there certainly is joy. And I am a better person for them in my life.

I just wish I could go on that three hour bike ride this afternoon. . .

*Here is the Michelle Martin NPR show on the story.
**Also check out the reference to the article and its own additions in an Economist article.

Monday, July 12, 2010

European Vacation Travelogue: Day 16, Transatlantic Travel and a Tornado

So on Day 16 we sadly headed home.

Ten was really looking forward to returning to her best friend and neighbor but the rest of us were quite sad to be leaving and ending the extraordinary trip and special time spent together.

The flight itself, although long, wasn't too bad.

Big and I spent some time playing "hangman" with an interesting twist: He made up the words that I was supposed to guess!

I got to spend some time watching the Temple Grandin movie (played by Claire Danes) which is absolutely fabulous and I highly recommend it.*

We arrived at Chicago O'Hare around 3:00 p.m. expecting to leave around 5:30.

We were fairly exhausted at that point having left our hotel around 10 a.m. Dublin time and arrived at 9:00 p.m. Dublin time.

There was some hint that the airport was having troubles when we heard the luggage guy tell the gal checking the luggage to stop sending luggage back.


Our second hint were the hoards of people and the long lines at restaurants and particularly restaurants with alcohol (which, by that time, we were accustomed to at that hour).

Our third hint were the darkening skies and the guy over the loudspeaker saying that the airport was shutting down due to the tornado in the area.

We finally decided to head to a hotel, give up trying to get home that day, and get some rest. As it turned out, we wouldn't be able to leave Chicago until the next afternoon, so we gave in even more and decide to explore the Shedd Aquarium.

It was a great conclusion to our trip even though at the time we only wished we were home.

On the way over we ran into the public sculptures Agora by Magdalena Abakanowicz.
These were an amazing set of seemingly anonymous, yet distinct--each set of legs was different than the other--overlarge legs walking in all directions. It reminded me of the Dave Matthews Band's song Ants Marching.

When I saw her title Agora, I laughed out loud. How perfect.

And then we headed over to the aquarium with the gorgeous Chicago skyline in the background.

*She, by the way, has a TED talk about autism that is also worth your attention.

Big's Observation of the Flower Girl

So Big is fairly competitive.

We race everywhere. To the car. To the house. To the end of the block. Across the rug (literally).

Today on the way to the YMCA he told me that he observed something about the flower girl that I hadn't.

This came out of nowhere as we haven't really talked about the wedding much lately.

What? I asked.

He responded: I saw that she had SIX moms and no dads.

Me: !

Big: Yeah. I saw them. And I only have TWO moms and no dads. She's lucky.

He miscounted but still. . .

Sunday, July 11, 2010

European Vacation Travelogue: Day 15, Kenmare Stone Circle, Blarney and our last (Fresh) Guinness

We spent the morning of our last day in Ireland in the little "tidy town" of Kenmare.

It is a darling little town and, as usual, we only wish we had had more time there.

Naturally, I had to drag everyone to the Kenmare Stone Circle.

This circle was about five minutes' walk outside of the town and is unique in that it is quite large and has a Dolmen in its center which probably denotes a burial of someone significant.

Of course, the kids, instead of seeing a sacred space, see a megalithic jungle gym.

I should have said something. Stopped them somehow. Somehow explained to them how sacred was the land and rocks on which they stood. But I didn't. A woman with her daughter scolded them and Ten got a little embarrassed about it. We headed back to town for a little window shopping and a cup of coffee.

In town I wandered into "Skyline Gallery" a photography studio featuring artist Eoghan Kavanagh and was immediately struck by the magical photographs of Ireland, none of which were trite or expected.

His wife was at the desk and Big and I wandered around enchanted as she talked to us about her husband's work. He was upstairs talking with other fans of his work.

I just fell in love with one rectangular photograph of an enchanted forest and we ended up taking it home. Our most favorite souvenir from Ireland, other than pictures and memories. The artist explained that the photograph was taken at the Gougane Barra woods near Cork.

Here's a photo of the photographer and his wife.

We added that to our list for the day, on the way to Blarney and took a short detour on the Ring of Beara (another for the "to do list next time", skipping the Ring of Kerry).

The park was amazing. It was situated in a valley and had cliffs jutting out of it with a lake that was carved by glaciers.

The most striking aspect of the park, however, were the trees, particularly the Sitka spruce covered with enchanting moss.

We reluctantly headed out toward Blarney, well aware of the clock today, knowing that the closer we could get back to Dublin, the better off we'd be the next morning.

Kissing the Blarney stone was really Big's idea.

He had heard about kissing this stone, leaning over backwards, and climbing up in some castle from Grandma and would not be thwarted from the plan.

On that particular day, BioMom and Ten and I were all hesitant and could have easily been talked out of this particular tourist trap. The night before I read that the Blarney Stone itself was filthy; British soldiers probably regularly pissed on it as do current disgruntled castle workers. Not to mention lipstick and saliva and all other remnants of a day of tourists lips on a particular spot of a particular stone.

Plus, I had heard that among kids under eight, it is entirely up to the guy helping potential smoochers as to whether or not they can do it.

So it was my greatest fear that we'd head all the way down to Cork, get to Blarney, pay our way in, climb the stairs and Big would be told he couldn't kiss the stone.

We took the risk.

It was really really fun and, despite the touristy schtick, we loved Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone.

Of course we had to explore the dungeons.

And then headed up the windy stone stairs to the top to kiss the stone.

At the top the helper guy was, in contrast to expectations, very helpful and even welcomed Big to the stone.

Now,he officially has the gift of gab, but to be honest, I can't tell the difference between how much he talked before and after kissing the stone. It is all non-stop!

Oh and don't forget the "murder hole" on the way out!