May 19, 2008

Can I tell you how much I love this photo?

It's the best photo ever, EXCEPT FOR THIS ONE:

The drink umbrella? Held jauntily over his head? I'm dying.

Later when he wins a Tony award for reprising Gene Kelly's role in "Singin' in the Rain" you can all say you knew him when.

May 15, 2008

Today's Words of Wisdom

"The strange thing about children is that they love anarchy, but hate change."
--Carl Smith


May 14, 2008


So we have TOTALLY SOLVED the vacuum mystery. But we're not going to TELL YOU THE ANSWER, not quite yet, because a friend said she wanted to watch the video first.

Anymore guesses?

Update: Le Answer!

So the question is: what sort of vaccuum both "bonks" and "sleeps"?

the answer is: A Roomba!

One of which is owned by elliot's friend Robbie, and which he saw in action a few days ago and has, evidently, really been wanting to tell us about. Baccuum! Bonk! shhhh!

Of course, a roomba doesn't actually sleep, but it does sometimes stop doing it's awesome bonking, and at this point one might explain, to a whinging toddler, that the lack of activity was due to "sleeping" which also required leaving the roomba alone. to sleep.

anyway, that video is not elliot, it's just something I found on youtube, but i think it captures his relationship to the roomba quite well. when elliot saw it, he shrieked, said "Baccum! Baccum!!!!" and then tried to kiss the laptop screen.

May 13, 2008

Elliot and the mysterious urgency of the vacuum

What's this about? We're still not sure.

Since Elliot is still on about this today, we continue to be interested in your attempts at translation.

May 11, 2008

Why I Pay Homage to Mothers: A Response to Garrison Keillor

Normally I love Garrison Keillor.

But I think his recent column about Mother's Day is a load of bunk.

It's well-meaning, I’m sure. And it's conclusion--that we love mothers because it's so amazing that they will always love us--is quite sweet.

But what about these claims about motherhood:

little does she know what cataclysm awaits her inside: the loss of individuality as she joins the Holy Order of Maternity.

Mothers were, at one time, young women with Possibilities…and instead found themselves cleaning up excrement and jiggling colicky babies…They hardly ever have time to read James Joyce. They sit down to dinner with adults and feel brain-dead. A bouquet of flowers hardly seems compensation enough. How about a million dollars and a house in the south of France?

The cruel injustice of motherhood is that, out of devotion to her brood, she sacrifices so much of her own life that her children grow up to find her a little boring...Mom is just the lady who runs the vacuum.

There is an important point being made here: motherhood is often overwhelming, and it does lead to a lot of boring exhausting brain-deadness, even when done under the best of circumstances. We should talk about that, and the unfortunate ways our culture intensifies this issue.

But the conclusion Keiller reaches seems to be that motherhood is an experience, begun by the violently painful experience of childbirth,* involving necessarily a series of boring, repetitive individuality-killing tasks (his examples are vacuuming, clothes-washing, and birthday-remembering),** which leads ultimately to a fundamental debtor relationship between mothers and their children: mothers give up everything, and you can never give them back to themselves, so you should buy them expensive presents and feel guilty.

I hate everything about this logic.

First: there is no inevitable relationship between birthing a baby and doing the laundry. If you feel like it’s important for a boring job like laundering to be done, then help out, Garrison .

Second: Garrison might be surprised to hear that I actually know a lot of mothers who talk about James Joyce. I myself mother and talk about narrative theory and the gendering of race in 19-c America; my mother mothers and talks about neurodevelopment and trauma in contemporary literature; my grandmother mothers and talks about early Mormon history. Other mothers I know both mother and talk about educational theory; domestic legal policy; environmental health; third-world poverty relief, and cinematography, just to name a few examples.

Many mothers actually continue to have an intellectual and professional life post-maternity, and the fact that they should be acknowledged as having that capacity was a major point of this thing you may have heard of, Garrison, which I like to call "Feminism." Who knew?

Thirdly, finally, and most importantly: MOTHERHOOD IS NOT CONTRADICTORY TO INDIVIDUALITY. For most women I know, mothering is exhausting, yes, but also invigorating, rewarding, and challenging. It is sweet. It makes us better. It makes us happier. It gives us more complex ideas about the world, and our role within it. It gives us fun projects, and it helps us be in the now.

It is stupid and ignorant to believe that the only sign of adult intelligence is to “talk about James Joyce.” It is equally, if not more, compelling and interesting to talk about mothering.

Keillor’s essay, to me, seems written by an overgrown boy who never paid enough attention to realize that not everything in his mother’s life revolved around him, and if it did, maybe they both could have made some changes to improve the situation, and should have.

Unlike Keillor, I honor the mothers in my life not because they “gave up their individuality” for their children, but because they took motherhood as a chance to grow as individuals--letting it enhance their lives without becoming the ultimate limit of their selfhood. I am grateful to my mother not because she makes me feel guilty, but because she inspires me to be a better individual, tapped into the ground of motherhood from which my sense of potential now grows.

*Really, don't get me started on his description of childbirth.

**Because laudering and remembering birthdays are similarly degrading, I guess? What?

May 06, 2008

A few Elliot video tidbits

A little quiet reading of the New Yorker, a little sweet potato, a little bit of beasties -- it's pretty much your typical day as an Elliot.

Why we blog

Dooce, the ur-mommy blogger, has some thoughts about this. As with most of her thoughts, they are both funny and smart.

May 03, 2008

Wee Hairy Beasties

Elliot is super-addicted to the Wee Hairy Beasties, a Chicago-based kid's music band. Actually, he's addicted just to the song Wee Hairy Beasties, by the Wee Hairy Beasties. Actually no: he's addicted to the chorus of the song Wee Hairy Beasties, which goes
Hairy beasties...
Hairy beasties...
Hairy beasties...

He couldn't care less about the rest of the song -- let alone the rest of the album. During the verses (like, 5 seconds after the end of the chorus) he turns to me forlornly, puts his hands together like a supplicant, and says "mooore? moooar? morr beek?" (Which means beasties.)

If you need morr beek, the song is here.

A digressive reflection on danger and disapproval

Saw Zella Rose riding in one of these today. It looked super cool, and they said it's actually very stable, despite my first subliminal impressions ("...merciful Jesus, is that a child on the handlebars? Honey, find a cop.")

To use this device (which is probably safer after all than the rear-mounted kind, since it's right in the middle of the center of gravity, rather than way out back), you'd have to be mentally prepared for some public finger-wagging, tsk-tsking. But then again -- that's what we gear up for whenever we leave the house. Mismatched socks? Toy water pistol? Pthalate-infused sippy cup? French fries? Kid-on-a-leash? Kid-not-on-a-leash? Sledding without a crash helmet? Almost anything might be an invitation, to somebody, to correct you or judge you. Sticking the baby on the handlebars doesn't fundamentally change the game.

The silver lining, though, when you feel whisk of the tsk-tsk, is that at least what people are manifesting -- almost without being able to help it -- is that they give a damn. They care. In public, they care! Look at them caring. It's a spectacle little witnessed in American society, and I think it's entirely human and good. This caring impulse is the polar opposite of littering; littering expresses the basic lack of care. Are we a village or are we not a village? Tsk-ing says we are a village; littering says we are not.

The caring/meddling/judging impulse is one that I saw at close range when I was a kid in Germany. (Where I did not see any littering.) I can testify that Germans, by and large, indulge their inner busybody freely, loudly, and without shame. Especially where children are concerned. Forget admonishing the parent -- a German is never happier, it seems, than when he's nattering at a stranger's child, delivering the full explanation about why bicycles must be walked -- not ridden -- for the next .2 kilometers until the juction of the Fußgängerzone and the Städtebauförderungsgesetz, between 5 and 10 PM on Saturdays during the summer, as clearly marked on the green tiles mounted above the haberdashery. (At least, I think that's what he said.)

Postscript: some people in my neighborhood litter. Some of these same people drag along, and bawl out, young children in a way that just isn't appropriate given the youngness of the children. I'll admit that I judge the hell out of these people; but I can never bring myself to natter at them. Where's a dour German burgher when you need him?


gDiapers -- nice ad copy, but whoa.

gDiaper liner refills (
==> 128 / 52.00 = 41 cents each

Huggies (Costco):
==> 258 / $39.99 = 15.5 cents each

P.S. By a quick calculation similar to this one (we don't fit 24 diapers in one load, but we have a much more efficient washer than he does, etc...) or this one . . . I figure that each cloth diaper costs us something like 6-12 cents of energy & detergent, plus the sunk cost of the washer & dryer & the diapers. Plus labor.