September 29, 2008

Citified Us

Not our greatest picture evarrr, but it does capture a certain something about who we are, where we are, and what we do. Like go around asking various establishments for a small glass of milk with a lid and a straw, for example.

Song! Song!

This song went on for half an hour. It went on down the stairs, down the sidewalk and down the block; at a stoplight and across a busy street; and into the front yard of one Zella Rose. Then there was a pause. Then the song moved into Zella Rose's backyard. It even became about Zella Rose, briefly. Here is a picture of the troubador and his instrument at that evening hour, as he bellowed from the shadows of what looks to be a woodchipper?


Elliot's response to hearing our neighbors sing Happy Birthday:
Birthday.  Elliot birthday!  Elliot want birthday.  Cake.  Hot.  Birthday cake, hot.  Elliot want candles.  Chocolate.  Elliot want chocolate candles!  Hot birthday candles!  Cake!  Mama?  Have birthday candles?  Cake?  Happy Birthday to yoooouuu...!

So Brandon, who is A Good Dad,  put a candle in the rest of his peanut butter sandwich (with extra jelly on top as frosting) and let Elliot blow it out, saying  "It's your birthday sandwich cake!"  Meanwhile, I wandered around thinking that chocolate candles are a pretty awesome idea.

September 27, 2008


As a big believer in seasonal music, I was thrilled to see Beck's post asking for suggestions for autumnal music. You should all go stop by and see the fantastic hodge podge of suggestions--from Yo La Tengo (yay me!) to the White Stripes to Earth, Wind and Fire to a lot of interesting folky things with which I am sadly not familiar.

So anyway, yes, you should go there, but I was actually thinking about her request this morning when I heard this song, WHICH I LOVE, and it occured to me that this song captures some of what I also love about Autumn, which is that all endings are also beginnings, necessarily, even if the newness is cold and unknown.

How's that for a Very Bloggy Sentence? Okay. I'm going to stop now. The song is really good, though; you should listen to it.

PS: contrary to what my suggestions of Yo La Tengo and the Mountain Goats might suggest, I do also like music not sung by earnest and nerdy men with endearingly reedy voices. I SWEAR.

September 26, 2008

Life with toddlers is metaphor city

Elliot, these days, is prone to worry.  About the lion, as well as other things.  Partly he is worried about this concept "worrying."  What is that?  What do you do about it?

I don't mean to give the impression that he's not also his normal cheerful little self.  Right now he's giggling and looking at pictures of "pooh bear" and rabbit and running around.  All is well and good.

But then there are these moments.  Like this morning, we were both sitting cross legged on the coffee table reading the new yorker (there's some backstory that explains why that's this is a reasonable thing to do; just trust me).  Elliot was pondering the nuances of the cover pictured above.  After some assessment, Elliot determined that the man was going to "fall in water."  I'm not sure where that came from, but I conceeded that that was basically right, but that there was a ladder.  "for climbing!"  Yes, Elliot, for climbing; after the man falls into the hole, there will be a ladder for him to climb out.  So don't worry!  It's okay!

Elliot was non-plussed.  "Laddar?" he queried.  "Laddar?"  Then he threw the magazine on the ground discontentedly and said, "man fall.  Man fall DOWN."

So it's just Elliot and everyone, being all "laddar?  laddar?" and all us  moms here saying to all those men standing over those holes: put down your cell-phones, you fools you fools, and start paying attention to the warnings, the worries, of my small child. 


A more cheerful postscript: I seriously was just pondering that last sentence there when out of the blue Elliot wandered over and said, real cheerful like, "fist-bump, mama!  Fist-bump!"  So we had a "yes we can" sort of fist bump, which is not to make this all pro-Obama (totally not the point), but just  a reminder that life is fine in lots of incarnations, with lots of fist-bumpy laddars in it, probably, after all.

September 19, 2008

Urgent! Because if there's one thing new parents know about, it's the importance of birth control.

I'm sure most of you know about this by now, but if not I want to mention this excellent editorial in today's times discussing a new Department of Health and Human Services rule for all health care entities that receive federal funding. The rule would require all such services providers to certify that "none of its employees are required to assist in any way with medical services they find objectionable."

It's the vagueness of this rule that is so terrifying.

Laws that have been on the books for some 30 years already allow doctors to refuse to perform abortions. The new rule would go further, ensuring that all employees and volunteers for health care entities can refuse to aid in providing any treatment they object to, which could include not only abortion and sterilization but also contraception.

Health and Human Services estimates that the rule, which would affect nearly 600,000 hospitals, clinics and other health care providers, would cost $44.5 million a year to administer. Astonishingly, the department does not even address the real cost to patients who might be refused access to these critical services. Women patients, who look to their health care providers as an unbiased source of medical information, might not even know they were being deprived of advice about their options or denied access to care.

Really? Really, Health and Human Services? You don't have anything better to do with that 44 million dollars than "protect the consciences" of medical professionals from the basic requirements of the jobs they themselves chose?

A couple of things:

1: Maybe there's some defense of this rule that I haven't heard? Or is it really just this horrifying?

2: So, as I understand it, an original draft of the rule had mentioned abortion specifically (in a way that included types of birth control) as services people didn't have to provide. Specifying that detail was too unpopular, so the rule was left intentionally vague. As if it's less horrifying that people can now just refuse to do anything?

3: Really, people just imagine all the many things that this law might be interpreted to cover.

4: Don't you have the sense that stupid, dangerous, and expensive rules like this are exactly why the so called "conservative" Bush administration has run up so much debt?

5: I live in a pretty underserved neighborhood, and am from a very small town. I know that there are many reasons why women already have very narrow options when they choose health care providers. This rule will hit the people with the fewest options the hardest--the people with the fewest resources, and the least opportunities for education.

6: Which again, right, this is why social and fiscal conservatism do not go together! Because when you take an underserved, under educated group of women and take away access to or information about birth control, it's really difficult to whine about increased spending and welfare moms!

7: But it's not just the underserved and undereducated. It's also those of us who have happy feminist health care providers paid for by a PPO. Most women I know have, at some moment in their lives, been in a situation where things had gone wrong: either they were away from home in an emergency, or had some birth control problem or failure, or sometimes something really awful that there's no reason to rehash here. In those situations, we all need to know that we can get accurate information and responsible care.

Anyway: this rule goes into effect SOON. I strongly encourage anyone interested to oppose it.

September 16, 2008

Of interest

Elliot thinks a lot about this picture.

As you can see, it is a picture of a lion who is crying. What you cannot see is the small girl, standing on the other page, "raaahhring!" at the lion, pleased at herself because she is not scared of the huge animal. She says, "I like me wild, I like me tame/I like me different and the same!"

This girl and lion live in a very good book called I Like Myself, and I would include more details about it except that the only part of the book that occupies Elliot's attention is this picture. He thinks about it so much that he has torn it out ("broken!") and sometimes carries it around to talk about.

"Lion scared. Lion crying. Water. Tear. From Eye."

Out of no where he mentions this lion. "Lion? Lion crying?" and trots off to find the picture. He points to the tear. "Tear. Lion sad."

When I was very small I broke my elbow very badly, right in the midst of the growth center. I had to have surgery, and be in traction, and it was apparently very awful for everyone involved; happily, I was too small to remember. When I was old enough to talk about the large scar on my arm, I claimed that a lion had bitten me, and to punish him I had carried him across the desert and buried him alive for seven years. (I'm not making this up.)   After seven years (so my story went; I was younger than seven myself) I dug him up and we became friends. My mom told me recently that it was only after we had learned that my arm would grow normally (at first the surgeon anticipated a "permanent deformity" that would require multiple surgeries) that I added the part of the story about the digging up and the forgiveness. 

When I told my story about my lion, I was imagining my own small self mastering a dangerous beast. I was a bit like the wild girl (not pictured above) laughing as the lion cried.

But Elliot seems actually a little worried about that lion.  Maybe it's something like empathy.  Or maybe it's him realizing something a little disturbing about the world itself.  Why would this this powerful animal be "crying?  scared?  tears?".  Something might be really wrong here.   Elliot, I think, wonders if he and the lion are different or the same.  (He imitates lion noises, too, saying, "I'm like a lion!  Rahhr!"  Other times he says "I'm scared [of?] the lion.]")

I'm glad to see something like compassion in my small son, but it pains me, sometimes, to watch him worry;  it tempts me, sometimes, to take this dangerous lion to the desert and bury him, too.

Food Issues with the Kinder

Interesting advice.
-- Get them to cook with you
-- No pressure
-- No forbidden fruits

A moment's reflection

"You know, this really is better than getting a ferret."

September 12, 2008

okay, so I thought elliot's tidbits were pretty awesome! but! just head right on over to jenny's blog, yessir, because that is some DAMN AWESOMENESS, right there.

September 11, 2008

Things Elliot has done recently: an incomplete list

1: Asked if the moon was flying: "Moon! Moon flying? Fast?"

2: Sobbed piteously at the departure of his grandparents: "Nana on airplane; Elliot on airplane too, so fast? Elliot too?" While he sobbed, he struggled to pry open the door with his small fingers.

3: Similarly, expressed grave dissatisfaction and not being able to join either Marie or myself on the "Choo choo": "Elliot go downtown too. Choo choo. Choo Choo together! mama and choo choo together; go fast."

4: Peed repeatedly, and of his own volition, in the potty, but only when already nude: "Elliot pee pee. Elliot blue potty. Flush?"

5: Commented, I swear, that you pee with your penis. Then asked, "my butt?" So I clarified that you poop with your butt. "Elliot butt. Poop."

6: Started to follow commands in songs: "make your arms into wings/ then flap those things," indeed.

7: talked a lot about cows, and about chickens: "bawk bawk!"

8: finally conceded that "w" and "m" are different letters, a point we had been debating for several weeks now (for a long time, W and X were the only letters Elliot expressed any, like, belief in, as that is his favorite of the alphabet song."

9: started singing his own awesome version of "Row Row Row the Boat,": "miny, miny, miny, miny, rowdebo..t"

10: practiced his final consonants. now anytime he says a word he repeats the final consonant at the end of the phrase, sometimes several times. "go park...k...k!"

okay and this is the most amazing one. I do not know who taught him this, but I am VERY GRATEFUL to them. So: the other day I was in our place finishing up work. Then I heard Elliot, Gilly and co return from their walk, so I started down the back stairs to fetch my boy. When I rounded the corner on the last flight of stairs Elliot was alone on the patio and smiled joyfully to see me. "mama!" he said. And then, FOR REALS, he said, "mama flower. pick flower for mama." THEN HE WENT AND PICKED A FLOWER AND BROUGHT IT TO ME, and I thanked everything beautiful in the world because, truly, I have tried to live my life well and with purpose but there is nothing I have ever done or could do to actually deserve the grace of that small blossom.

September 08, 2008

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow.

So, he is two! Our boy is two. Here he is, being too fascinated with the candles to blow them out.

I realized on Saturday--the penultimate day, the two year anniversary of me being due and going into labor and birthing our boy--that although I'd been thinking about Elliot's birthday I hadn't been thinking about it in any sort of retrospective way. I remembered that the year before, when Elliot turned one, I'd felt so reverent, so in awe of the changes the year had wrought and the fantastic insanity of bringing a baby into my life: what that had meant. This year, not so much; mostly I'd been thinking about what sort of cake he'd like to have at the party.

There are a couple of reasons for this. First of all, I'm so busy right now--I don't have a lot of headspace to be any moment but the present. And also, Elliot is so much his own person. He is less a cypher through which to understand the ways I myself have changed--which is a good thing--and more his own zooming singing boy. He likes cake and cupcakes, and which would he prefer? Would he like chocolate? Lemon? Who, in the midst of sharing his busy life, could pause to contemplate life without him?

Still, if it's good to be in the now, it's still sweet, still valuable, to remember. And finally tonight, home alone together, I heard this song (on a "cd" my aunt sherry had given him as a birthday present; it's fantastic) and it got me there. I was surprised, frankly, because I think of this song as being so overused as to almost be a cliche.

But it wasn't cliche to Elliot; he had never heard it before. I sat there with him, listening to Louis Armstrong sing. And at that moment, it was indeed a wonderful world.

September 02, 2008

You can have it all

I've mentioned before that while pregnant I read a great book, and one of the things it says about parenting is that you have to realize, as a parent, that you can have it all, maybe, but you definitely can't have it all at the same time.

But what if you get it all at the same time?

On this blog we have periodically gotten very oratorical about politics, so you all know where I stand. I want to bracket my political inclinations right now and say that--I don't agree with her, a lot of her opinions and decisions make me VERY ANGRY--but I am really feeling empathetic about Sarah Palin right about now.

I don't fully know how to say what I want to say carefully enough--I am not trying to be offensive or argumentative, here, but just to notice that most of my closest mama friends have a very difficult time balancing work and self and mothering. It's tough. Even if you believe that it is important to balance those things, that you could not be good as a mother if you denied your need to be an individual and a professional, it's hard. I'm going to go on the job market this year without a major publication, and that's partly because I chose to spend my afternoons with my son rather than writing, and that was a really good compromise for me, but it was indeed a compromise. Most people I know are negotiating a similar balancing act--you keep your balls in the air, but you know none of them are flying as high as they might.

I normally have a sense of what I want in my life: that my professional life is important, but not the only important thing, and that I don't want my professional life to require me to neglect the other things I love.

I know that, but would I really turn it down if Harvard called and offered me a job? Would I really say no, even if I'd be ambivalent about all the work it would demand?

What if Harvard called, right after I'd just had a child with special needs--needs even more special than the needs of my other four children? What if Harvard called when my oldest daughter needed me more than ever?

What if Harvard called and said: we're calling, but we might never call back? What if Harvard called, and you thought you could really do some good, but weren't sure you could really do all that good right now, but maybe you'd just have to try, because this is your now, this is your moment, this is the time when life invites you and your babies and their babies onto that american idol stage?

A lot of attention has been paid and will be paid and should be paid to Palin's judgement in the next few months. I am not, right now, interested in evaluating the judgement she showed in making her choice. What I just want to say is that this moment in Sarah Palin's life is like a crystallized version, is like the reductio ad absurdum, of a decision all mother's face. It is absurd to be in her position; it is stranger than fiction, it is so hyperbolic I can almost not believe it's real, and that's not even counting all the weird Alaska-moose-cubing bits.

So I empathize. What I will have to decide, this year as I think about my own career, is whether I sympathize. I will be interested to watch as America judges the judgement of a mother, trying to have it all on our most public stage.

What a strange strange moment, when conservatives argue that a mother of five is qualified to be VP by VIRTUE of her mother-of-five-ness, while even liberal mothers wonder if really this is the level at which you say, you can't really have a professional career at this level, with this kind of family situation. We're all reaching the limits of our ideological foundation. Watching her extremity, we are all stretched too far.