Tuesday, April 27, 2004

I have not read the Blue America edition to The Washington Post's David Finkel's profiling, but here it is. I'll try to read it tomorrow. And also, I see my link below is wrong. I'll see if I can find the original link tomorrow, but I may have a lot of nesting to do.
Posted APR 27 2004, 8:53 PM CDT (link here)

Monday, April 26, 2004

Let me interrupt my hiatus to bring you this report on red America from The Washington Post's David Finkel. Finkel profiles Sugar Land, Tex. resident Britton Stein

Forty-nine years old, Stein is a husband, a father, a landscaper and a Republican. He lives in a house that has six guns in the closets and 21 crosses in the main hallway. His wife cuts his hair with electric clippers. His three daughters aren't embarrassed when he kisses them on their cheeks. He loves his family, hamburgers and his dog. He believes in God, prays daily and goes to church weekly. He has a jumbo smoker in his back yard and a 40-foot tree he has climbed to hang Christmas lights. He has a pickup truck that he has filled with water for the Fourth of July parade, driving splashing kids around a community where Boy Scouts plant American flags in the yards. His truck is a Chevy. His beer is Bud Light. His savior is Jesus Christ. His neighbors include Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), the House majority leader, who says of Sugar Land, "I think it is America."
In other words, David, he's the person you found that would best fit your two-dimensional pre-conceived notion of a Republican and a Texan! Not that any of the above is bad, or necessarily good (blah, Bud Light), but it is exactly what we expected. Excellent work! Your reporting went down precisely as discussed in last week's editorial meeting.

In five pages of reporting Finkel notes Stein lives in an "insular" planned community, spends four of five paragraphs on the meat Stein has eaten in three meals, and paints him as a gun-toting homophobe who hangs out a Hooters.

On second thought, don't read the article. You already know the sterotypes, but now you know how it reinforces itself in the major media.

I'm looking forward to the profile of Blue America--bra-less pot-smoking hippie chick who would give up her life to save one of Col. Sanders' chickens.
Posted APR 26 2004, 2:08 PM CDT (link here)

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

I don't know why they call it false labor; I mean, your body is still laboring, what with back and frontal cramping. It's just not the labor, the one that will deliver you to delivery. In the middle of a dream about having a contraction, I woke up around 5 A.M. yesterday morning having a contraction, and they continued for a couple of hours. They were inconsistent and mild. They did not come back until I tried to take a nap during the Sesame Street hour. Aha! Lying on my side seems to bring them on. Better I got up. There were too many things to do anyway--clean the bathroom, re-charge the cellphone, pack my bag, wash the 0-3 month clothes, check the digital camera batteries, and the floors! Lord, the floors were a mess.

The only thing they left behind is a foggy, hazey dizziness. I'm not sure I could drive in this state unless I really needed to, but luckily, Dear Husband does not work too far away and could collect me in a pinch.

Yesterday has come and gone with no more signs of delivery, and the floor isn't all that much cleaner either.

Posting may be light until the end of pregnancy and will be non-existent for a few days afterward.
Posted APR 20 2004, 1:15 PM CDT (link here)

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

The problem with cooking light for dinner, even when dinner is delicious, is that one of us (sorry Tech Support, but it's usually you) suggests an outing to the ice cream store after dinner, and though I have veto power, I don't have the will power to veto. Cooking light is a theory practiced by people who aren't hungry. Even so, I offer this recipe for beef satay with peanut sauce found in the April 2004 issure of Parents magazine and given the thumbs up by both daughter and husband tonight:

In a bowl, combine 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter, 3 Tbs. hot water, 1 Tbs. soy sauce, 1/2 tsp. lemon juice, and 1/2 tsp. sesame oil. Set aside. IN a medium bowl, combine 1 Tbs. soy sauce, 2 tsp. vegetable oil, 1 tsp. grated ginger, 1 tsp. sugar, and 1/2 tsp. sesame oil. Mix in 1 lb. stir-fry beef. Marinate 5 minutes. Thread strips of beef onto skewers, and grill for 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Serve with peanut sauce and steamed vegetables. Makes 4 servings. Nutrition per serving: 323 cal; 28g protein; 22g fat; 4g carb; 1g fiber.

Hmmm...is that high in fat? Not sure. I couldn't find sesame oil at Tom Thumb, but World Market, owned by Costco, had a small bottle of it. Tech Support warns, from previous experience, that a little sesame oil in cooking goes a long way.
Posted APR 13 2004, 8:24 PM CDT (link here)

Monday, April 12, 2004

It's been on my mind, but Gregg Easterbrook got to it first in a post he calls "OUTSOURCING CHILDREN'S PARTIES". No one I know painted Easter eggs this year, or had a backyard hunt for their children. Except, of course, us. But we didn't have to--the city held an Easter egg hunt eight days before Easter, which we attended. Not much of a hunt--more of a feeding frenzy. It was held at a local elementary school. I along with Colleen, her husband and daughter, lined up around the edge of a softball field until about 2:00 when someone must have given a signal it was time to start, though none of us heard it. We just saw the crowd of children and parents rush in to pick up plastic (and empty eggs) and pieces of candy strewn about the outfield.

I wasn't sure whether parent ought to rush in with the tykes, but seeing as others did, and that the crowd was thick, after hesitating a few moments, I went in too--to make sure she didn't get knocked over.

It's a very convenient way to celebrate spring for the busy two-income families. It's a modification of my generation's traditions with less exertion. I get it. Traditions get in the way when you spend fifty hours a week out of the house. Who needs turkey drippings when all you have to do is add water to a package of dry gravy?

What pregnant woman, due at any moment, would put on a birthday party for seven kids and their parents? Well, no doubt my mother did at great expense to her pocketbook and cost to her energy (most of my six siblings and I were born in and around December). But me? I've got Chuck E. Cheese hosting the Toddler's third birhtday, thanks to a friend who invited us there for her three-year-old's party, and to PBS which runs their ads between the otherwise non-commercial educational shows. I've got to say, I think it's easier on our wallet, then doing it at home. Let's hope it'll be easy on all of us.
Posted APR 12 2004, 7:58 PM CDT (link here)

Sunday, April 11, 2004

I stumbled on Howard Kurtz's Media Notes this morning, and he gives the rundown on the typical left-right take on the Rice testimony earlier this week, which is a good reminder of partisanship. He also notes:

The media, by the way, weren't exactly making a huge issue out of this. From Jan. 1 through Sept. 10, 2001, there were 26 mentions of al Qaeda in The Washington Post, 42 in the New York Times, 19 in the Los Angeles Times and 14 in the Chicago Tribune (and many had to do with ongoing trials). USA Today had two mentions.
And that's why I need Lexis-Nexis. At the end of this very long column which highlights tidbits from first those on the left (I thought he meant toinclude the morning papers, but maybe not), from the LA Times to The Nation to Josh Marshall; and then those on the right, from the WSJ to the National Review.

But he ends off subject with clips from an English professor's harrowing tale of discovering her therapist is a fan of Rush Limbaugh.

"For the next week, I struggled with an overwhelming sense of betrayal. It was as if she'd been rooting around in the drawers of my mind under false pretenses. I had entrusted her with my darkest secrets: We'd covered the deaths of my father and stepfather; family troubles; career worries, everything from nightmares about rape to -- even worse -- a recent dream in which I was sleeping with the man I considered to be the epitome of 20th century masculinity gone wrong: John Wayne. And he was paunchy.

"My shrink was fair in her thinking, focused in her probing, able to see all sides of an issue. Yet she considered Rush Limbaugh to be an acceptable human being? An arrogant, small-minded, hypocritical bigot? The family-values man who's been married three times and blames the divorce rate on liberals? The soapbox patriot who didn't vote until he was 35, and then only because a journalist outed him? I couldn't square her sensitive touch with the knowledge that she bought into Rush's bone-headed binarism and uncivil discourse.

How embarrassing to have the wrong sort of person sitting across the couch from you.
Posted APR 11 2004, 8:50 AM CDT (link here)

Saturday, April 10, 2004

If it is hard to restrain yourself throughout the year from buying toddler clutter, it is nearly impossible to hold back for her birthday (in this case, her third), but I kept myself to three paperback Clifford books, one hardcover Disney princess book. a Cinderella nightgown and Ariel pajamas. Tech Support goes on the next present run for a neighboring building to her hotel--or princess castle, as she likes to say--recently purchased for her by her Grandma and enthusiastically played with on a daily basis.

Savannah's grandmother bought her the entire village, at least ten buildings with people and landscape. We cannot--nor do we really want to--compete.

There are other things I wanted to buy for her--Dr. Seuss's One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. The book is legend in my family because my oldest sister, probably the same age as the Toddler replaced the words "blue fish" with her aunt's name, "Ellen!"

But my daughter's not going to get the joke, at least not now. I think I should concentrate on the things she wants. I think. It's hard to know, as she wasn't born with a manual and I'm repulsed by non-fiction books of the "help" variety. Magazines, however, I'm starting to read, which is how I got the recipe for Beef Satay, but that's another post.

The Disney Store doesn't have a Sleeping Beauty costume, or costumes of any other princess during this season, of course. Maybe nearer to Halloween, said the sales woman. That's why the birthday girl is getting the nightgown. Maybe it'll be a good incentive to sleep.

[A] 1,400-parent survey, conducted by the National Sleep Foundation and released last week, found that sleep deprivation begins in infancy. Children 3 to 11 months old are sleeping only 12.7 hours a day on average, although the foundation says they need 14 to 15 hours. Toddlers ages 1 to 3 are sleeping 11.7 hours, although they may need 12 to 14 hours. Preschoolers up to age 5 are sleeping 10.4 hours a night on average, although they are supposed to get 11 to 13 hours. And children up to age 10 are getting 9.5 hours of sleep, although they may need 10 or even 11 hours a night.
Until the last six months or so, my daughter has always been a good sleeper and napper, except when we're away from home, and there's the excitement of other people's stuff to look at. Lately she gets about 11 hours daily, which according to the above article, is not enough. My instincts say that's probably right. Some of her behavior problems--tantrums, frustrations with toys--I think are due to sleep deprivation, but it's self-induced. I can put her down for a nap, but I can't make her grab those z's, though she generally sticks to the play-quietly rule. Maybe I should change it to the lie-still-until-you-are-overcome-by-sleep rule. Not sure that's possible.

My other shopping dilemma had to do with her Easter basket. How much candy is too much? Last year, Tech Support said we should let her eat as much as makes her sick. Hmmm...Tech Support never spent time as a girl in a junior high school gym class. Obviously, we'll help her partake of the bunny's generous offerings, but we're watching our figures too, so as hard as it was I pared it down to three small hollow chocolate eggs, one packaged chocolate bunny, a bag of jelly beans and four small peeps (that's for you T.S.!) of the bunny variety, as the chick variety came in a package of at least 16. That and a few toys of the under $5 variety will hopefully thrill her. I suppose as a stay-at-home mom, her basket should have been prepared weeks ago. Tom Thumb's shelves, the day before Easter, were emptied of holiday cheeriness; fortunately, Walgreen's were well-stocked.

And the cheeriness I purchased will have to suffice as we have grey skies, chilly breezes and wet drizzles. As per usual, if the weather is wicked, it's the weekend, especially a holiday weekend.
Posted APR 10 2004, 3:21 PM CDT (link here)

Friday, April 09, 2004

Made me laugh:

COMBUSTIBLE BREW: At the University of Wisconsin, where protesters once blew up the Army Math Research Center, a new generation of activists has filed a complaint in state court accusing two-dozen local drinking establishments of violating antitrust laws by collectively agreeing to eliminate their Friday- and Saturday-night drink specials. The bar owners told the Chronicle of Higher Education that they were simply responding to a call from the university to help cut down on student binge drinking. A lawyer for the tavern league told the paper: "When you combine a student with imagination with a lawyer with time on his hands, this is what you get."

Posted APR 9 2004, 2:41 PM CDT (link here)
What do Condoleeza Rice, Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, and Anita Hill have in common? They're all black women! That's story enough for the New York Times! I'd like to have been in on that editorial meeting!
Posted APR 9 2004, 10:23 AM CDT (link here)

Sunday, April 04, 2004

A.O. Scott should not be writing movie reviews. His critique of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is entirely inaccessible. Excerpt:

Taking place largely within the head of its scruffy and lovelorn protagonist, "Eternal Sunshine" is obsessively concerned with knotty philosophical questions about how knowledge is gained and lost. How much do we know, Mr. Kaufman asks ? about ourselves, about the world we inhabit, and, most crucially, about other people ? and when do we know it? What do we do with this knowledge, and what good does it do us? If learning can be dangerous, is unlearning ? in this case the literal erasure of memory, as practiced by Tom Wilkinson's ethically compromised Dr. Mierzwiak ? any safer?

Couching such inquiries inside a romantic comedy ? a romantic comedy that stars Jim Carrey, for that matter ? may sound like a too-clever stunt, but the film's adherence to the rules of the genre is part of its point. The Hollywood romantic comedy, at its apex in the mid-1930's and early 40's, was a sleek vehicle for philosophical inquiry. Lurking beneath the glossy, silver-toned surface of movies like "The Awful Truth" and "The Philadelphia Story" ? or, rather, displayed on that surface, disguised as witty banter and romantic vexation ? are a set of knotty ethical puzzles and epistemological conundrums of the sort illuminated in the work of sages like Plato, Emerson, Wittgenstein and Kant.

Well maybe it's not as off-putting as I remember; I'm just ticked because of the four philosophers he mentions above, I recognize three and have read only one. Am I too low-brow for the New York Times?
Posted APR 4 2004, 8:51 PM CDT (link here)

Saturday, April 03, 2004

I had some technical difficulties with the page today. Normally I would have read and re-read the post below on the page several times to find and edit errors, but it's too late for that tonight. Thanks to Tech Support for making things right for me.
Posted APR 3 2004, 10:28 PM CDT (link here)
What a long, strange trip it is:Time magazine's March 22 issue claims it makes the case for "staying at home." It was their cover story and it spoke to me, so I picked it up in the checkout lane. I don't have an online subscription.

My first impressions are that it didn't make a case at all, it merely noted that more young mothers are staying at home more than the previous generation of mothers, which it doesn't entirely define. The article, by Claudia Wallis, gives us some stats: "72 percent of mothers with children under 18 are in the work force--a figure that is up sharply from 47 percent in 1975 but has held steady since 1997." There's a drop in "workplace participation by married mothers with a child less than 1 year old," from 59 percent in 1997 to 53 percent in 2000, which is "huge" according to an economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and it's largely unchanged through 2002, according to their data.

Turns out it may be a Gen X thing, though the return home is also related to education and being white, according to the study. "Gen X...moms and dads said they spent more time on child rearing and household task than did boomer parents..." Reach Advisors, a Boston-area marketing group, found that 51 percent of Gen X moms were home full time, compared with 33 percent of Boomer moms, and that more Gene X moms said they wanted to go back to work than Boomer moms.

I actually don't think that's a fair comparison the way I read it. Gen X moms are more likely to have children under 5 right now than Boomer moms because of the age difference, and women (I have no stats here) seem more likely to stay home when the children are babies out of school. Additionally, Boomer moms are closer to retirement than Gen X moms, so I'd guess a good deal of them would skip going back to work for a few years, only to retire soon after.

All of this information is backdrop to the after-school special that is my life. As I've noted before, (scroll down to the 10th) I often find myself mystified to be a stay-at-home mom, though it was what I wanted, almost as much as I wanted children. But I didn't always think it would be so.

Once I found the man of my dreams, I wasn't sure which one of us would have more earning power in the workforce, mainly because I wasn't paying attention to technology news. As a matter of fact, neither was he. He was running his business month to month, living for the free time and not the pay. It was still during the tech bubble when he began his first job search in five years. He was offered three eye-poppingly nice positions in his first week. We were both wowed.

But I was certain that one of us should stay home to care for any children we had, at least in their early years. He agreed.

And then it turned out to be me, me who likes to be given work and assigned tasks, complete them efficiently and with some flourish, and given a nice pat on the back. Well, that ain't happening at home. I have to drag myself from the quicksand of complacency to come up with ideas of healthy, interesting activities for my girl. And with no experience whatsoever. I do something nice for her--like take her on an unexpected outing to the park. She shows her gratitude by refusing to leave an hour later. There are no pats on the back in the child-rearing business.

More difficult than that--there are no mirrors at home, except the one in my own eyes. I miss the reflection in other people's eyes--it's reliable, smart, attractive. When I was in the workforce, I was the go-to gal; today I'm the gofer.

My friend Colleen is a manager at an advertising agency, and picks up her daughter daily at 6:00. It's $5 a minute if she's late. She takes a few business trips a year; the New York trip, though brief, is the most brutal for her, as business and domestic pedestrians mix on the sidewalks. The sight of East Side mothers pushing strollers give her pangs of regret and guilt.

Rupa has it pretty good. She reduced her hours as a database manager after her daughter was born three years ago and began working from home. Three days a week her daughter goes to daycare, occasionally more, but only if she has to go out of town, which is rare.

As I am full-time mom, I'm more likely to crave daughter-free socializing with Colleen and Rupa than they are. Colleen arranges playdates for the four of us; it's hard to keep our eyes off of them, making sure they don't fight over toys, take without asking or fall from high places. Rupa basically suggests every other outing as a foursome and then as a twosome. I try to be flexible to both of their needs and wants because being a working mom looks emotionally wrenching from where I sit.

Rupa gave birth Monday morning at 5:39 to a healthy boy; she may not return to work after her maternity leave.

If only she weren't moving forty-five minutes east! Stay-at-home moms are far and few between in my neighborhood these days; I have very few people to commiserate with, no one to eat doughnuts with and linger over coffee once my husband has left for work. Except my neighbor, Suzanne, who is extremely partisan about the issue. "I love my kids more than working moms do..." Her defensiveness only betrays the insecurity that the Time article implies boomer moms feel, though they didn't call it an insecurity. One is not successful if one is not a successful working mom is the boomer perspective, according to the article.

After a particularly hard day with my toddler, I called my longtime gal pal Laura, mother of two, who clerks for a judge in Cleveland. She was quite sympathetic and conceded that one reason she wanted to be a go-to-work mom was because finding interesting things to do on a one-income budget presents too daunting a challenge. It certainly did for me that day. I was paying back Christmas bills well into spring and couldn't justify a trip to Walmart that rainy day. The Toddler and I were both in "bad places" and our grumpiness fed and grew off the other's.

Then there's my girlfriend Becky; her husband is one of the 189,000 full-time stay-at-home dads listed in the 2002 Census, though SAhD groups estimate there are as many as two million. He has the same problems I have--neither of us are crazy about hanging out with a bunch of other moms just because we all happen to be at-home parents. What else might we have in common? Not necessarily anything. He brought his toddler to his library's story time last week. His comment? "There was one grandpa there and he felt as stupid as I did."

But I did hang out with a bunch of other moms at our library and scored a new friend for the Toddler and perhaps one for myself--an ex-prosecutor, doing twenty hours of legal research a week from home. Her favorite time to work is when her little girl has gone to bed. Like me, she hates cooking, prefers being served her meals, and can't stand housework. Unlike me, she has twenty hours a week of excuses to let all of the aforementioned slide.

Anyway, I find it amazing that I have so many different varieties of peers in parenting. It's like an after-school special or a Lifetime original movie without the plot twist, just the daily unfolding drama of childrearing--in our own way, in the choices we made and make--while each of us (well, most of us) sympathizes with the other's position and is eager or at least curious to have knowledge of the mystery behind it.

In a month I'll add another child to the mixture; he'll add to the warping or the focusing of my inner-mirror's reflection. I'll continue to worry about our savings account, college and retirement, whether employers will welcome me back in a few years or shun me for my age and lack of experience (though the Time article I cited above, says that by 2009, 10 million boomers will be leaving the workforce, so who knows maybe I'll be embraced!).

A couple of Sundays ago, I was brooding over these lonesome thoughts over lemon poundcake and a decaf cappucino during a mommy's day out. Then I returned home to the eager and ecstatic welcome of my little girl. And there is no way to describe the joy that transferred from her thirty-four pound body to my swollen self in that embrace, her arms clinging to my neck, except to say that there is really no feeling like it in the world.
Posted APR 3 2004, 10:26 PM CDT (link here)

Bystander is experiencing some technical problems, which will just have to wait because I need to put my feet up!
Posted APR 3 2004, 6:15 PM CDT (link here)