Wednesday, June 29, 2005

In honor of landisdad's grandmother, who passed away last night at 97:

The Lake Isle of Innisfree, by William Butler Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

• Posted By landismom @ 6/29/2005 08:53:00 AM
Tuesday, June 28, 2005

comedy for the day

This morning, while landisdad was taking a shower, I sent the Bee upstairs to get dressed while I was feeding the Potato his breakfast. After about five minutes, I heard this loud banging coming from her room, so I called up the stairs to see what she was doing. She answered, but I couldn't hear her because the door was still closed. Now slightly exasperated, I climbed the stairs myself to discover that the Bee had locked herself in the room, and couldn't unlock the door.

After several minutes of trying to get her to unlock the door herself, I became convinced that there was something wrong with it, and I decided to get a screwdriver and take the doorknob off. I frantically rushed around trying to find one, and figuring out what the Potato was doing (he's been on a very destructive bent lately--too bad he can't use a screwdriver yet!). Eventually, I got the doorknob off, and opened the door. The Bee & I talked about it for a little bit, and then I said, "okay, go ahead and get dressed now." She replied, "okay mommy," and SWUNG THE DOOR CLOSED. Wait, did I forget to mention that I had only removed the handle, not the inner workings of the doorknob mechanism.

Yep, you guessed it--that was the part that was broken. And now there was no way to open it, since whatever I had done when I removed the handle had set it permanently in the locked position. I ended up having to kick the door until it splintered and that part came loose, to get it to disengage from the doorjamb. What you see in the picture below is the crack that resulted from my foot. I was cursing up a storm while I did it--I'm sure the Bee learned some vocabulary that will stand her in good stead on the elementary school play yard.

And the best part? Was when she complained to me about how she couldn't close her door now. Kids today!

• Posted By landismom @ 6/28/2005 03:33:00 PM
Sunday, June 26, 2005

30 Days & Nellie Bly

I'm not sure how old I was when I first read about Nellie Bly--I must have been somewhere between 8 and 10--but I remember being really moved by her life story. Here was a woman who, in a time that few middle-class women worked outside the home, was a world-class journalist. I know that I was most impressed by the parts of the story that dealt with her going undercover on Blackwell's Island to expose the inhumane treatment of the insane, and her work in a sweatshop. Her work led to real reforms in social and public policy, and I thought that was so cool.

I think Barbara Ehrenreich and Morgan Spurlock may be her modern-day descendents, in the kinds of work that they're doing, but I don't see them having the same affect in the social arena. I wonder what it is about our time that makes this muckraking so much less effective. Is it that there has been enough positive social change, so that the 'bad' conditions that they have to report just aren't as compelling? I don't really believe that.

Is it that, as a nation, we've become so dulled to other people's reality (or lack of it), that all things real seem like fiction now? I wonder how much the Real World/Survivor/Big Brother types of programming have ripped the teeth out of real investigative reporting. If everyone has some kind of petty drama (as we see on those kinds of shows), how can we prioritize one person's drama over another's? If the (mostly) women that Ehrenreich works with in her crappy, minimum wage jobs as she researches Nickel & Dimed are having crisis after crisis, do they really deserve to be elevated over the contestants on the Amazing Race, who perservere over a new crisis every week? In some ways, Nellie is responsible for this craze, too, since she was one of the first women to engage in 'stunt' journalism (think around the world in 80 days).

I'm afraid that by making entertainment out of things that are really hard, that really matter--things like how does one live on the minimum wage--we risk devaluing that struggle.
At one point in our history, our goal as a country was to make poor & working-class folks more like us (and by us, I mean white middle-class people). We wanted to give them stability and help them move toward being productive members of our society. We've changed our focus, and we've lost our way. Instead of figuring out how to level the playing field with social policy, we've decided that if we all just have a chance to win a million dollars, then it must be fair.

• Posted By landismom @ 6/26/2005 12:23:00 PM
Saturday, June 25, 2005

snack day

On Thursday afternoon, for the first day this week, I was home to pick the kids up from school. For the summer break, the Bumblebee has gone back to the daycare that the Sweet Potato goes to (they have a summer camp for elementary school kids, with swimming and field trips), which has made life a lot easier, as they're both in the same place at the end of the day. Of course, we're back to paying hundreds of dollars a week, so there is a downside.

The kids were both hot and sweaty--they'd obviously been playing outside a lot in the afternoon. When Bee started going to daycare, I started tradition that Thursday is 'snack day,' and I would bring her some kind of special treat when I picked her up. This week, since it was so hot, I decided to stop for water ice. For those of you not from the East Coast, water ice is almost, but not quite, a snow cone. Basically compressed shaved ice that has been flavored in some way. Our kids prefer cherry.

This year, we didn't have snack day during the school year, since landisdad mostly picked up the Bee from school, so I had to remind her about the significance of the day. When I told her we were going to stop for water ice, cries of joy emerged from the back seat.

For the first time, the Potato got his very own water ice (as opposed to sharing with his sister and me). It was, predictably, a complete mess, and I'm sure took another couple of dollars off of the resale value of my car. But it was worth it to look back and see him, happily covered in sticky red goo from the elbows to the fingertips, with a clown-smile of water ice wrapped around his mouth. It's going to be a good summer.

• Posted By landismom @ 6/25/2005 09:14:00 AM
Thursday, June 23, 2005

guess who's back? back again

Well, I just got back from my back-to-back business trip/Father's Day trip/business trip. And I gotta tell ya, I'm pretty happy to be home, because 7 days is a long time to be on the road, even if there's a break with kids in the middle. The culmination of my trip was that my flight home last night consisted of 75 minutes of flying, 45 minutes of circling, being forced to land at a different airport to refuel, sitting on the tarmac at that airport for 2 hours until we could get another slot, another 45 minutes of flying, another 20 minutes of circling, finally landing, and then taking 2 hours to get from the landing spot to the gate to deplane.

Now, I am one for the hyperbole on occasion, but this isn't one of them. We landed at 11 p.m. We deplaned at 1 a.m.

Then, we got to sit in the airport for an hour before our bags got unloaded. Eventually, I gave up and filed a claim and went home to bed--happily, my suitcase was delivered by the airline today, and seems intact. Unhappily, my contacts feel like they have sand in them, because I foolishly packed my glasses in my suitcase, and therefore have been wearing my contacts pretty much non-stop.

I thought about having my quote for yesterday be Sartre's "hell is other people," but I decided that was too negative. But seriously, the worst part of that whole experience wasn't the sitting on the runway, or the endless waiting (although that wasn't the best part, either). It was the sense of entitlement exuding from the pores (and loudly, from the mouths) of nearly every white guy on the plane, many of whom seemed to be highly put out that the pilot had chosen to return us home safely, rather than on time.

When I got up this morning, the kids were so happy to see me, it was totally worth the hell it took to get here. During breakfast, the Bee was being extra goofy, and we had the following interchange: "mommy, I wish I could be some food." "why's that sweetie?" "because then I would know what it's like to be in somebody's tummy!" (shows me the chewed up Cracklin' Oat Bran in her mouth). Ah, five-year-old humor. Does it get any better than that?

• Posted By landismom @ 6/23/2005 02:56:00 PM

a thought for Wednesday (well, a little late)

I'll post more later today (home at 3 a.m. as ten minutes of rain turns into a six-hour traveling delay), but here's yesterday's quote of the day.

"The first time it was reported that our friends were being butchered there was a cry of horror. Then a hundred were butchered. But when a thousand were butchered and there was no end to the butchery, a blanket of silence spread. When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody cries out, 'stop!'

When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible. When sufferings become unendurable the cries are no longer heard. The cries, too, fall like rain in summer."

Bertolt Brecht

• Posted By landismom @ 6/23/2005 09:32:00 AM
Sunday, June 19, 2005

Happy Father's Day

So I'm in NYC with the family right now, on a brief break between my two work-related trips, and I just wanted to give a shout out to landisdad, and all the other dads out there in blog-land (oh, all right, in meat-land, too). I hope you all have a great day today, and your baseball team wins (unless they are the Giants--but landisdad made me say that).

Have a great day, and celebrate your dad-hood!

• Posted By landismom @ 6/19/2005 09:14:00 AM
Wednesday, June 15, 2005

a thought for Wednesday

Last night, I was going through an old box of art supplies, trying to find something for my ongoing collage project with the Bee, when I stumbled across some folders that I haven't looked at in years. In my younger days (ie, before I had kids), I did a lot of art projects, and most of those were inspired in some way by words--mostly quotes from various books, some from articles. When I was mucking about last night, I found the folders that held those quotes on 3x5 cards. I thought some of them would be worth sharing with the internet, so I've decided to develop a theme day--a thought for Wednesday. Here's the first one:

"That's the nature of being a parent, Sabine has discovered. You'll love your children far more than you ever loved your parents, and--in the recognition that your own children cannot fathom the depth of your love--you come to understand the tragic, unrequited love of your own parents."
-Ursula Hegi, Freitod

• Posted By landismom @ 6/15/2005 09:36:00 AM
Tuesday, June 14, 2005

field day

The Bee had Field Day at school yesterday. Last night, when we got home, I asked her about what she did there (other than turn bright red--sheesh, it's a billion degrees here!). She regaled me with various stories about games they played (many of which seemed to involve buckets of water being poured on kids' heads), hot dogs they ate, and the fact that she had juice THREE times (her emphasis, not mine, we usually don't let her drink that much juice in a day).

And then she told me that, as they were leaving, the fire truck came by, and when the kids ran over to say hi to the firefighters, they turned the firehose on them (to cool them off). I have to admit that my activist's heart gave a lurch, at the thought. Now I'm really glad that the FDNY didn't use firehoses on the crowd at the RNC protest last year.

• Posted By landismom @ 6/14/2005 12:27:00 PM
Sunday, June 12, 2005

more links per paragraph than any other post

So I've been reading Umberto Eco's new novel, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, a book that has definitely been influenced by the creation of hypertext. If you haven't checked it out yet, you should (I say that even though I haven't finished the whole thing, which is very unusual for me).

I've been a fan of Eco's since I first read Foucault's Pendulum in the late 1980s. And of course the movie version of The Name of the Rose is one of the more underrated films made in that decade.

Let me just suggest that for this one, they wait about thirty years to make the movie and then cast Guy Pearce.

• Posted By landismom @ 6/12/2005 10:13:00 PM
Thursday, June 09, 2005

failure to blog

I'm going to blog now, because I'm getting slammed at work this week, and who knows when I'll have another time to do it--I have to go out of town twice in the next two weeks, and I know I won't be blogging much then either.

There's something about this time of year that always makes me a little crazy. June is a liminal month for us for 12 of the first 18 years of life; do any of us really outgrow the sense that something is ending now? As long as I've been out of school (and it's been quite a few years), I still have that sense in June that I should get a break now--that I deserve a nice, long summer vacation, to be followed by sharp new pencils and new sweaters that I will wear to the first day of school, even though it's still in the 90s.

This year is the first year that one of my kids is ending the school year in June, and sadly, due to my travel schedule, I am missing the last day of kindergarten. I planned this trip several months ago to follow the end of the school year, but then two extra days of school were added on, since they had so many snow days this year. I'm sad to be missing the Bee's last day of kindergarten, but I'm also feeling cheated that as the school year winds down, my work year is heating up, and instead of getting a well-deserved break, I'm going into overdrive.

In reality, I had a pretty easy month at work last month--it's just that since landisdad was working so much on his big project, I didn't get to enjoy it much myself. I'd like to just hook a day off from work and drive to the beach, but I can't see my way clear to doing that until August sometime, and then the beach will be full of tourists and vacationers, and I'll have to take the kids. Nothing more relaxing than going to the beach with a 2 year-old.

• Posted By landismom @ 6/09/2005 03:49:00 PM
Tuesday, June 07, 2005

a brief sojourn into activism

A lot of working parents like me and landisdad benefited greatly from the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) when our kids were born. It's not just the FMLA itself, it's also the change in our society, that made it more acceptable for men to take paternity leave, but the Act gave men the legal right to take that leave, and I think that's a good thing. If you do too, keep reading. If not, surf on.

Dear landismom,

The Department of Labor officially announced that it will make changes to the Family and Medical Leave Act, but didn't say when these changes will be released or what they'd look like.

They Want Rollbacks To FMLA

Already, Republican leaders and business groups are making recommendations on rollbacks they'd like to see.

Last month, more than 200 organizations, including the AFL-CIO, sent a letter to the Department of Labor urging them to provide more solutions to help workers balance work and family — not cut FMLA.

We know the statistics on FMLA: Since the law passed in 1993, more than 50 million working people—half of them men—have been able to take time off to bond with new babies, care for seriously ill family members or recover from their own illnesses. We also know the law doesn't go far enough: The FMLA does not cover all workers, and the leave is unpaid. Three in four workers who needed to take FMLA leave, but did not take it said they couldn't afford to go without a paycheck.

We Want to Hear From You!

Statistics only tell us so much. So, we need your stories! We want to use your stories on FMLA leave to put a personal perspective on the campaign to save FMLA. Members of Congress and the press are always asking us for stories from individuals. (Of course, we'd ask for your permission before they use your name or contact you directly.) Since the Department of Labor could announce their changes to FMLA very soon, we need to start collecting FMLA stories right away!

If you or someone in your family used FMLA leave and would like to share your story with us, please e-mail us back at with:

  1. Why is FMLA important to you?
  2. Why did you use FMLA leave?
  3. How long were you away from work on leave?
  4. What would you have done if you didn't have FMLA leave?
  5. Your name:
  6. Your city and state:
  7. Your union (if applicable):

If you know someone (a friend, neighbor or coworker) who has a story they may want to share with us, please forward this e-mail to them.

At a time when working women are stretched thin trying to make ends meet, we need laws to expand family and medical leave, not make it more difficult for us to balance work and family.


Working Women, AFL-CIO

• Posted By landismom @ 6/07/2005 03:58:00 PM
Monday, June 06, 2005

not the new kid anymore

Last night, we were at a barbecue with a number of other kids, including my niece (I'll call her the Butterfly). The Butterfly is about to turn two, and she thinks that the Bumblebee is cooler than ice cream. The hosts of this party had set up a sprinkler in the back yard, and all of the kids were running around in their bathing suits (and in some cases, their swim diapers), but the Bumblebee and the Butterfly were the most active participants. They were taking turns putting their heads directly on top of the sprinkler, so that their hair would get totally wet. The other kids at the party (who were all boys) didn't seem to find this nearly as enjoyable--maybe with a boy's short haircut, you don't get that sticky, back of the neck feeling that a girl with long hair gets.

After the sprinkler was shut off, and various salads and grilled meat products were eaten, the kids went inside the house to play with toys. The Bee was acting somewhat out of sorts, and I realized that, for possibly the first time, she was at a party with a lot of other little kids, but no one her own age or older to play with. She was frumping around, and someone else commented on how hard it must be, to have been the center of attention for nearly four years, and then to have to get used to sharing the spotlight. When the Sweet Potato was first born, he drew some of the focus away, of course, but then he didn't do much for a year or two to attract attention. But now that he is almost two himself, he can draw quite a crowd when he wants to.

Most of the time, the age difference between our kids is pretty striking. Four years' difference, at this age, is enormous. He's just learning to talk, and she's already reading and writing. In many ways, I can see that he is frustrated by the huge competency gap between them. At almost everything he wants to do, the Bee is just fundamentally better than him, because she has such an age advantage.

It's interesting to me, how much they have in common, given these age differences. They both love books, and reading, and (as I've posted before), the Bee will even agree to reading to him at times. They both love to draw and color, although his efforts are still very much on keeping the crayon on one sheet of paper--forget coloring within the lines! And I wonder, how much of it has to do with who they are as people, and how much of it is him wanting to be like her, wanting to be like the 'big kid' that he spends more time with than any other?

• Posted By landismom @ 6/06/2005 01:42:00 PM
Friday, June 03, 2005

sick potato

The Potato is sick tonight. When I went to pick him up at daycare, the teacher told me that he had been somewhat out of sorts during the afternoon and she wasn't sure what was wrong, but that she had just taken his temp, and it was high. In the car on the way home, he was just sitting there, clutching Mr. Bear and chomping on a binky, looking quite wan. Until he threw up, about four blocks away from our house.

Of course, I had been thinking earlier today about how the Potato doesn't get sick very often--nowhere near as often as his sister. By the time that girl was four, she had already been to the emergency room three times (one broken leg, two febrile seizures). But the Potato is a mostly healthy kid, and it's hard to see him sick.

When we got home, he just wanted to sit in my lap and cuddle. It's hard for a mom like me to argue with that. He ate some dinner, and then I put him to bed, but about 20 minutes after he went to bed, I heard him crying, and he had thrown up again. This time, Mr. Bear didn't make it--he took a direct hit. Landisdad and I got him and the bedding changed, and then put him back to bed. He started to cry when we left the room, so I went back in and sat next to him while he fell asleep. It's a testament to how ill he felt that he was willing to go to sleep without Mr. Bear in the room.

Earlier today, I was in a meeting with some folks that I have worked with for several years. They all used to be on the board of a non-profit of which I was the director--we were meeting to talk about the failures of the person who replaced me. I left the board when I left the organization, because I didn't want to be the kind of ex-staffer that the board still looks to for direction, and I wanted to give the new guy the chance to develop things in his own way. Listening today to a litany of changes that he's made, and systems that I created that he's failed to maintain, I felt sick myself. I said to the other people in the meeting, "I'm glad that I have actual kids of my own, because otherwise I would think this is how you feel when your kid gets shot." Of course, I've never had a kid get shot, but I have had a kid be really really sick in my arms, and losing an organization that I cared about? No contest.

• Posted By landismom @ 6/03/2005 11:26:00 PM
Thursday, June 02, 2005

bookstores and battling

I had thirty minutes to kill between meetings yesterday, and I found a new (used) bookstore. I love used bookstores, because they have cheap books, and you can almost always find something interesting. This bookstore was more interesting than most, because it had once been a mystery-only bookstore, that converted to selling other used books too.

The shelves wound through the store in no particular order. I could tell that the mystery section (which ran along the outer walls) was sorted by author's name, but could make neither rhyme nor reason of the sorting of the rest of their collection. At one point, I found How to Start and Build an Art Collection sandwiched between The Economic Role of Williamsburg and History of the Seventh Circuit, 1891-1941. I ended up finding a few things, including an amateur history of local tall tales, and when I went to the register to buy them, I asked the guy working their about their filing system. He told me that when they decided to sell other kinds of books, they decided that they would file non-fiction and fiction together, alphabetized by author, regardless of category or topic. On the whole, I liked it as a system that would make you see books that you might never see, although I wouldn't go there looking for a specific book.

But one of the things I like best about bookstores is that randomness, that you can find books that you might never have otherwise heard of. I get book recommendations from places like the Times Book Review & the now defunct Women's Review of Books, but I like to just wander in bookstores, too. One of my great frustrations about the layout of book megastores, like Borders and Barnes and Noble, is that I never have that feeling of finding something that I didn't know I was looking for.

In other news, for a brief time yesterday, I was number one on BlogExplosion's Battle of the Blogs. I tried to save a screenshot of it, but it didn't work, and now I've been pushed off the top slot, but when I first saw it, I had a complete Sally Fields moment. If you haven't checked out Battle of the Blogs yet, do--it's totally addictive. And I could use the referral credits, now that I'm gambling away my future.

• Posted By landismom @ 6/02/2005 10:22:00 AM
  2. My daughter is the Bumblebee. My son is the Sweet Potato. You'll have to ask their father.

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