Friday, July 29, 2005

outta here

So tomorrow is the first day of the first vacation that landisdad and I have taken in the last three years. Whoo-hooo! Two years ago, I was about to go on maternity leave, and didn't feel like I could take a vacation before that. Last year, I worked on the presidential election, and didn't have the time to take vacation. This year, I insisted on it.

We're not going away, we're just staying home and doing day trips and spending time with our kids. It seemed like a big hassle to try to go out of town, involving either a spectacularly long car trip or flying with the SP, which is daunting. Next year, we'll aim higher.

I'm looking forward to spending down time with my kids, and with going places with them. We'll be treating our city like tourists, and doing the kinds of things that you never do when you live in a place. And I'll be trying to kick my blog addiction, which has grown out of control this week.

So have a great week--I'll have a special announcement for you all when I get back!

• Posted By landismom @ 7/29/2005 12:10:00 PM
Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Teaching values through literature

In many ways, landisdad and I face the same challenges that are faced by set of parents who both work outside the home. (Well, okay, I mostly telecommute, but the challenges haven't changed that much since I've been working at home.) We juggle the daycare and school pickups against our need to work late nights sometimes. We slide in calls to the doctor's office to schedule annual check ups while we're on the clock. We fight rush hour traffic, hoping to make it to the meeting on time. And we balance the competing demands of home and work, which causes us to lose sleep, because we're always remembering one last thing to do right before bed time.

But there's one major way that we're different from many other families. We both work as organizers, in movements for social and economic justice. And as part of our talking to our kids about work, and the need for us to not be home all the time, we need to give them the larger context of the work we do. It's not always easy to explain to my children why I need to go to one more community meeting, or why landisdad is wearing a suit today. The advantage that we have is that kids seem to have an innate sense about what's fair, and what's not fair, and we are able to describe our work in a way that lets them know that we are on the side of restoring fairness.

There are a number of books that I've collected over the past six years that help us with these explanations. One of the Bee's favorite books when she was about three was Si Se Puede, a book about the janitor's strike in Los Angeles told in Spanish & English from the point of view of the son of a striking janitor. The refrain of the book is, of course, "Se puede? Si se puede!" (loosely translated: "Can we do it {win the strike}? Yes we can!"). For a few weeks, she would walk into daycare every day shouting "Si se puede!" I can only imagine what the daycare teachers thought.

Some of our other favorite books that emphasize the positive value of collective action include Click Clack Moo, Harvesting Hope: The Cesar Chavez Story, and Swimmy. There are a number of other books that we've bought that the Bee isn't quite ready for yet, including Missing From Haymarket Square, and Witnesses to Freedom, about young people who fought for civil rights in the south.

It's important to me to be able to tell the stories of social change to my kids in a way that doesn't leave
out the organizing involved in winning those changes. There was a day last winter (during Black History month, natch) that the Bee came home and told us about how she had learned at school that day that Rosa Parks got arrested for sitting down on a bus, "and she was just tired!" I almost cried, because I know that too many people--especially whitefolks--think that, and I don't want my kids to be among them. I don't expect kindergarteners to understand the enormously difficult decision that Rosa Parks had to make when she decided to get arrested that day, but I do expect them to be taught that she made the decision.

I know that for myself, my own life has been enormously expanded by reading about the struggles that different groups of people have gone through, at different moments in our history. I've blogged before about the influence that books about Nellie Bly and Malcolm X have had on me, and about the reading I continue to do about the history of social change. I'm really grateful for the books I've mentioned above, and others too numerous to mention, that are helping me teach that history to my kids.

• Posted By landismom @ 7/27/2005 05:06:00 PM

a thought for Wednesday VII

"War is an episode, a crisis, a fever the purpose of which is to rid the body of fever. So the purpose of a war is to end the war."

-William Faulkner

• Posted By landismom @ 7/27/2005 12:05:00 AM
Monday, July 25, 2005

the terrible twos

The Sweet Potato is a very sweet boy. But he's about to turn two, and that chemical thing that happens in the brain of toddlers is definitely happening to him.

Cranky. Irritable. Easily frustrated. Hey wait, that's me.

No seriously, the boy got on my last nerve last night, and all I can do is think, "this will pass."

Doesn't every child go through a phase where they demand a bath, then decide that you are the worst parent on earth for bathing them, and then kick and scream when it's time to get out of the bath (yes, the very same bath he was kicking and screaming to stay out of)?

On the plus side? He's finally learned to say the Bee's name.

Cutest thing ever.

• Posted By landismom @ 7/25/2005 12:42:00 PM
Saturday, July 23, 2005

moms and makeup

First, a note. Regular readers of my blog know that landisdad, while aware of my blog's existence, was not reading it. He is now, so we have to stop talking about him (just kidding, darling!). I'm not sure if he'll comment or not, but I thought you should know.

This morning, as we were getting ready to go to the Farmer's Market, I threw a t-shirt and shorts on to my unshowered body. The Bee, in her ineffable way, was dressed to the nines in a polka-dotted skirt, pink shirt, and many pieces of plastic jewelry. She took one look at me and said, "You don't look that good. But it's not a fashion show." Then she shrugged and walked away.

Of course, I laughed out loud, and went to tell landisdad about her bout of precociousness. But it also made me think about my mom, and how I used to feel about the way she dressed.

When I was growing up, my mom rarely wore makeup, and usually didn't bother dressing that well either. She was a SAHM until I was 7, but even when she went back to work, her wardrobe didn't improve that much--she is a health care professional, and she mostly wore scrubs and those hideous white sneaker/shoes that all women health care workers wore in the 70s and 80s. She did wear makeup and would dress up on the rare occasions that she and my dad went out--I was fascinated by her false eyelashes, and used to yearn for the day that I could wear them. I couldn't understand why she didn't wear them every single day. I also couldn't understand why, as an adult who had access to real capital, she wasn't spending her money to dress better. Of course, it never occurred to me that she was spending her money to dress me and my brothers, because I felt that my share of the clothing budget was so parsimonious as to be practically non-existent.

I went through a phase in high school where I wore makeup religiously.
I also went through years and years (when I was thin) where I wore clothes that were, how shall I say it, hootchie-ish. The miniskirt was my best friend. In fact, I used to regularly just wear shawls wrapped around my hips and butt, and pin them together for an even more daring look.

Since high school, I've spent most of my life with a naked face. I will wear lipstick on occasion, and sometimes (for reasons I'll have to blog about at another time), I'll just open a L'oreal lipstick and smell it, for the Proustian effect I get. I've finally gotten to the point where I pay to have someone else cut my hair regularly, mostly because once I became a mom, I could no longer justify the time spent brushing out my extremely long hair any more, and had it all chopped off. But I've come to the conclusion that wearing makeup every day is way more trouble than it's worth--not just because you have to spend so much time doing the makeup in the morning, but because you have to keep reapplying it during the day, and then removing it at night.

In some ways, I feel more and more every day that I'm turning into my mother. My mom has become a better dresser than she once was, and I've become a worse one. Especially since I've been working at home, wearing anything more than a t-shirt and some jeans or capris is dressy for me now. If you saw us on the street together, you'd be able to tell we are related, not just from our facial and physical similarities, but because of the way we present ourselves to the world too.

And I've also become the mom who spends way more time thinking about what her kids wear than what she does. The staggering pace of growth of kids under 6 does lead one to do a lot of shopping, after all. I've easily spent twice on the Bee's clothes in the last 6 years than I've spent on my own. The SP is a little different--he had a lot of hand-me-downs, although they're starting to run out. As a feminist, I worry sometimes that the Bee will turn into the kind of woman who spends all of her time thinking about her looks, and then I get convinced that a phase of the kind she's in now--while it is culturally imposed--is normal, and there's nothing to say she won't be a tomboy a year from now.

So here's a question for the women out there--what ways are you and your mom most similar? What characteristics that you've gotten from your mom do you want to pass down from your children? And for the men, what are the strengths that your wife or partner shares with his/her mother, that you want your children to have?

• Posted By landismom @ 7/23/2005 12:02:00 PM
Friday, July 22, 2005


I was tagged by Mrs. B, so here are the five things I miss from childhood:

1. Having a good relationship with my dad. I've blogged in the past about my difficult relationship with my dad, and at this point, we haven't seen each other for over two years. The last time I talked to him, I was pregnant with the SP--my dad doesn't even know if the SP is a boy or a girl. I've learned in this life not to say 'never' when it comes to things involving family, but I'd say at this point that it's highly unlikely that my dad and I will ever be on speaking terms again. And that's sad, 'cause there are things about him that I really miss, although they're not enough to make up for the bad things that caused me to stop speaking to him.

2. A whole day to myself, with nothing to do. I miss so much the ability to just spend the whole day lazing around in the house, reading books and hanging out with friends. The summer that I turned 12, my brother and his best friend and I spent the entire summer in our basement, playing D & D (yes, I was a girl geek). I can't imagine what I would do if I had a whole summer with no responsibilities at this point, but it probably wouldn't be as much fun as the three of us had.

3. Being secure in the knowledge that I was always right. Enough said about that one, I think.

4. Flashlight tag. And other games played outside after dark. Although I once ran into a 2X4 that was holding up our birdfeeder, and knocked myself out, so those games had their ups and downs too.

5. Reading under the covers. While I still end nearly every night in bed with a book, there was something so exciting about reading under the covers with a flashlight when I was a kid. The perfect combination of transgressive and obsessive.

I guess I'm supposed to tag five people, so here you go: Jessica, Leggy, Comfort Addict, Desparate2BaHousewife, & Kate. But don't feel like you have to do it, just 'cause I tagged you, okay?

• Posted By landismom @ 7/22/2005 08:42:00 PM
Thursday, July 21, 2005

a thought for Wednesday VI

Oops, I'm a day late. Well, I worked a trillion hours yesterday, so sorry about that.

"Irony is scissors, a divining rod always pointing in two directions. If the evil act can't be erased, then neither can the good. It's as accurate a measure as any of a society: what is the smallest act that can be considered heroic? In those days, to be moral required no more than the slightest flicker of movement--a micrometre--of eyes looking away or blinking, while a running man crossed a field. And those who gave water or bread! They entered a realm higher than the angels' simply by remaining in the human mire.

Complicity is not sudden, though it occurs in an instant.

To be proved true, violence need only occur once. But good is proved true by repetition."

Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces

• Posted By landismom @ 7/21/2005 10:54:00 AM
Tuesday, July 19, 2005

let's pause

for a moment to recognize the father of air conditioning, William Haviland Carrier. Because it is a fetid swamp today on the East Coast.

In other news, the Bee is coming home tonight (huzzah!). So far, reports of her activities have ranged from the extremely specific ('we saw eleven deer, two of them were fawns, four of them were mommies, four of them were boys and one was the daddy'--don't ask me how she determined the gender) to the extremely vague ('it's boring here and I don't remember what we did and I want to come home'). I'll give you all the full report tomorrow (or at least what I can wrestle out of her--for a girl who never stops talking, she can be surprisingly private).

And finally, for your viewing entertainment, the SP cross dresses (cross shoes? whatever) and says, "I Mommy!"

• Posted By landismom @ 7/19/2005 08:46:00 AM
Sunday, July 17, 2005

new words

So the Potato has decided to spend his weekend of parental attention on a major language acquisition project. So far, the new words that he's debuted include "noodle," "upside-down," "too-too" (aka "choo-choo") "flower," and "tractor."

I loved this phase of the Bee's development, and I'm very excited for the Potato to be increasingly verbal. It's great when kids are learning new words every day--great for them, in that they can now say more things, and great for me, since I know can have a better than average chance of understanding what he wants at any given moment. Of course, we will still have conflict over the fact that he can't always have what he wants, but his sense of frustration about not being able to tell us what he wants is diminishing.

There's a part of me that wonders, did he just wait until his sister was out of the way to roll out his new vocabulary so that he knows he has our full attention? Or was it just a coincidence?

• Posted By landismom @ 7/17/2005 11:25:00 AM
Friday, July 15, 2005

she's gone

Well, amid a flurry of last-minute packing (lip gloss is very important), teddy bears and car seat shifting, the Bee has gone away. She was very excited when I dropped her off this morning, and barely even noticed when I left (she was playing with her cousin). I know that in many ways, this will be much harder on me than on her, and that's a good thing. I know that the girl I sent away is not the same girl that I'll get back next week.

In an odd turn of events, landisdad is also out of town today, so the Potato and I will be spending an evening alone. I'm happy that we'll have this time together, but I don't think he understands that his sister won't be here for a few days (although we have talked to him about it). I'm sure he'll be giving her a big hug when she gets back, though.

Unless he REAAALLYY likes being an only child.

• Posted By landismom @ 7/15/2005 11:13:00 AM
Wednesday, July 13, 2005

a thought for Wednesday V

This is the most important thing about me--I'm a card-carrying reader. All I really want to do is sit and read or lie down and read or eat and read or shit and read. I'm a trained reader. I want a job where I get paid for reading books. And I don't want to have to make reports on what I read or to apply what I read.

Maxine Hong Kingston
Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book

• Posted By landismom @ 7/13/2005 08:23:00 AM
Monday, July 11, 2005

a little letting go

A few weeks ago, my mom called to ask if she could take the Bee away on vacation with her for five days in mid-July. Two of my brothers will be there (one of whom is very close to the Bee, the other one is her beloved uncle who she never sees), along with one sister-in-law & one cousin. Landisdad and I have been debating the concept for quite a while, and we've finally decided to let her go along.

It's a hard decision to make, because the Bee is still only five, and five days is a long time to be away from home and parents when you're five. In fact, while there have been plenty of times that one of us has been away from her, at this point, she's only ever spent one night without a parent--the night her little brother was born. My mom lives far away, though, and this is a chance for her to spend a long time with her granddaughter, which she wouldn't get otherwise.

So internet, I'm looking for advice. When was the first time you let your kids stay away from home, with a relative or otherwise? What did you do to ease the experience for both of you? What advice do you have for a mom who's about to take this major parenting step?

Don't get me wrong, I'm very excited for everyone, and I'm excited, too, that we will be able to lavish some extra attention on the Potato (although I know he'll miss his sister, too). But I am worried, and I guess I want some reassurance. So please, if you let your kid go away for the weekend with your mom, and he/she broke a leg or something, don't tell me that. I don't need extra stuff to worry about, I have a very active imagination. In fact, I don't know how I'll sleep the whole time she's gone.

• Posted By landismom @ 7/11/2005 01:19:00 PM
Saturday, July 09, 2005

reading recommendation #3

This is probably a kind of a weird reading recommendation for most people, but I'm enthusiastically promoting Don't Sleep with Stevens by Timothy Minchin. Despite the somewhat provocative title, this is a history of the nearly 20-year campaign to organize the J.P. Stevens textile company run by the TWUA (which, through mergers, later became ACTWU, then UNITE! and now exists as UNITE HERE). The movie Norma Rae was loosely based on the struggle to organize just one of the Stevens plants. Minchin was lucky to have considerable access to the organizing staff and the organizing committees of various plants, and the union let him in to their records room, not just to see the victory leaflets, but to read the memos written by heartbroken field organizers who struggled alone for years.

I found a review copy of this book last weekend in the Strand, and have been riveted by it (finally finished it last night). (And BTW, thank goodness for the review copy, because $60 is too much to pay for 264 pages, especially considering all those endnotes.) The campaign to organize Stevens ended over 20 years ago, but some of the major themes that ran through that campaign are echoed today in the debate that's going on inside of the American labor movement right now, and UNITE HERE is one of the unions that's right up in there in that debate.

That debate is important, and it's not getting enough substantive coverage in the media. Oh, it's getting the labor movement more coverage in the press than we've had in probably fifteen years, don't get me wrong. But the press has lost the ability to really understand the debate, and consequently, they're doing a pretty bad job of actually explaining it to people.

The book tells the story of how one union decides to fight the shrinking of their membership by organizing the second largest company in their industry, which had been steadily moving plants to the south. (This of course was pre-NAFTA, when you just moved to the Southern US to avoid paying decent wages, not south of the border.) The union runs a massive campaign, which includes a very early corporate campaign (where a union or community organization tries to change a company's business practices not just from within, but also by influencing the board, the company's creditors, etc.) At one point, there is a comment in the book by an ACTWU official explaining how they are spending about 50% of their national budget to organize the unorganized (in the 70s). Let me assure you, that there are few union officials in the US today who are able to truthfully make such a statement. In fact, the bulk of the debate in labor right now is around a proposal from some unions (SEIU, UNITE HERE, the Laborers, Teamsters & UFCW) that the AFL-CIO should reward unions that dedicate at least 10% of their budgets to organizing. What this implies, of course, is that most of them don't spend even that much. If the Textile Workers couldn't organize a majority of all Stevens' plants while spending half of their budget on that effort, how will anyone ever organize Wal-Mart, or McDonalds, or any national or global company, while only spending 10% or less on that work?

In addition, Minchin goes into some detail about the decisions that lead TWUA to merge several times with other unions in their industry--to get power, to get more resources, to get access to key staff (particularly Ray Rogers, who ran the fascinating Farah Pants boycott of the early 70s). The other major element of the debate in labor right now is a proposal to encourage more small unions to merge, for precisely those reasons.

I liked this book for the same reason that I liked Clark Johnson's movie about the Montgomery Bus Boycott, entitled Boycott. Because it shows how really hard it is to organize a mass movement of ordinary folks who have to stick together while fighting an oppressive power structure. So often, the history of social justice movements are just told in a quick and reductionist way--"Rosa Parks was tired," "hippies protested the war and it ended," "women burned their bras and they got better jobs." There's a moment in Boycott where the organizers have to deal with a guy who's pissed off because his car is getting mud in it from carrying so many people who aren't riding the buses. That's a moment from that movie that I will always remember, because it is so real. I know that guy. I've been that organizer, trying to make someone see the value in giving up something tangible (the cleanliness of his prized car) to achieve a higher common good (the right to ride--and drive--the buses).

I was bitching a few weeks ago about the negative effects of reality tv on investigative journalism, and so I feel compelled to give credit to a book that tells a real story, about real people, fighting to make a difference for their families.

• Posted By landismom @ 7/09/2005 11:30:00 PM
Thursday, July 07, 2005

This month’s Blogging for Books topic is to write about a pivotal moment in your life as a parent. I was sitting at my computer, contemplating what to write about, when I saw the news about the London bombings. And that led me to my post of the day.

On Monday, September 11, 2001, the Bee was about to turn 2, and I was pregnant with our second child. I went to my local coffee shop to get my daily (miniscule) caffeine fix (yes, I know I was pregnant & you’re not supposed to drink caffeine) on the way to work. It was there that I first saw the footage of the World Trade Center attacks. I stood there, stupidly, for a few minutes, watching the tv with everyone else in line. At that point, only one plane had hit one tower, and we didn’t yet know the agony & destruction that were soon to follow. I left the coffee shop & went into the office, where my shiny new intern was sitting, waiting for me to start his second week of work. I told him what I had seen on tv, and we both immediately started trying to get online to see what was going on. I called landisdad, who was watching the coverage with his co-workers, and we discussed it for a few minutes. After a frustrating few minutes of trying to get onto the CNN website, my intern and I finally just went to the basement of our building, where there was an ancient tv. We spent most of the morning down there, until we finally decided to leave work for the day a little bit after noon.

In the following days, landisdad and the Bee and I joined the country in mourning the deaths of our fellow citizens. We went to our local community’s candlelight vigil. We participated in an evening of quiet reflection at an area Quaker meeting. We went back to work.

And then, on September 18, I started to feel really unwell. I called my ob-gyn, and they brought me in to see the doctor. As soon as she came in, she sent me to their high-risk pregnancy unit around the corner, and I started to really worry. I called landisdad while I was on my way there, but he wasn’t able to get there in time. So alone, I had the ultrasound. Alone, I talked to the doctor who told me that our second child wasn’t viable. Alone, I left the doctor’s office, clutching a prescription for pain medication and with stern instructions on how to determine if I needed to go to the emergency room. I was crying the whole way home on the train. I’m not a big crier, and I hate to cry in public. But no one even seemed to notice that I was crying. It felt like the whole world was crying, then.

Have you ever read the poem “Musee des Beaux Arts” by W.H. Auden? That’s exactly how I felt, in reverse. Instead of the world going dully on, as my tragedy happened, my tragedy moved dully forward while the world was stopped.

It’s hard to tell your almost-two-year-old that she’s not going to be a big sister after all. At one point, during my miscarriage, I was in so much pain that I couldn’t walk, and I was literally crawling around in my bedroom, crying, not just with grief, but due to the pain. I begged landisdad to take the Bee out to play, because I didn’t want her to see me like that. I laid in my bed, and bled, and mourned. I knew that I wouldn’t die, and that the pain I was enduring wasn’t as bad as the pain that I had endured two years before as I labored with the Bee. But that pain ended in a baby. This pain was going to end in nothing—nothing but blood-stained sheets.

And now, every September, when the anniversary of 9/11 rolls around, I have my own private anniversary, too. I’m lucky, because the Bee’s birthday follows quickly after, and I can distract myself, thinking about her party, and what presents to get her, and all of that good stuff. I’m lucky, because I was able to have another child, almost two years after that. But I’ll be thinking tonight of those Londoners, and their survivors, and yes, those other people too. The ones who are having dull tragedies, while their city weeps.

• Posted By landismom @ 7/07/2005 04:01:00 PM
Wednesday, July 06, 2005

a thought for Wednesday IV

"Once a man I was leaving told me I could go if I would leave my skin behind. I was so young I didn't even know that I was wonderful..."

Ellen Gilchrist

• Posted By landismom @ 7/06/2005 11:59:00 PM
Tuesday, July 05, 2005

How about 'no'?

One way that I know I'm a parent? Listening to a two-year-old say "no" all weekend is cute, not annoying.

The Sweet Potato learned how to say "no" this weekend. While I am aware that, in time, I will tire of having my child say no to me all the time, for now it's still very cute, and I just want to eat him up every time he says it. The SP has taken longer than the Bee to become verbal. For a while there, I thought we were going to have an extremely difficult 'terrible twos' phase with him, because he would get so frustrated by his inability to make us understand what he wanted. But he's starting to increase his vocabulary very dramatically, and he seems to be getting calmer, as opposed to crazier.

On Saturday, he felt very strongly that I had picked the wrong shirt for him, but instead of throwing himself on the floor (as he would have done even a week before), he said, "Mommy, onj shut" (aka, "Mommy, I'd like to wear my orange shirt."). How cute is that? He's even saying please when he asks for things, which is a testimony to the good manners instilled by Miss Gail at his daycare, as I am terrible at reminding him to say please.

• Posted By landismom @ 7/05/2005 12:07:00 PM
Friday, July 01, 2005

fruit salad--childhood's perfect food?

Have I mentioned that I hate to cook? Well I do.

When landisdad is working late, or away, our kids eat much worse than when he's here. He does most of the cooking in our house, and since he likes to cook, he's mostly happy to do it (or if not, he can get his own blog and complain about it).

Lately, he's been working a lot of evenings, and I decided that we can't just have mac and cheese every night. My solution? Fruit salad for dinner!

My kids love any kind of fruit. And thanks to our local farmer's market, we always have fresh fruit in the summer. The Potato eats so much fruit, we sometimes call him the Fruit Bat, instead of the Potato. (Hmm, maybe we should make that his summer nickname...) The Bee is also a fruit addict--I bought a watermelon last week, and she practically inhaled it, seeds and all.

Here are some pictures of them enjoying one of their favorite street fair snacks--mango on a stick, carved like a flower.

It's pretty cool how quick the vendors can make these things--it would take me about six hours, and I'd probably lose a finger while carving it.

Last week, landisdad was away for a few days that we hadn't planned on, and I once again broke out my trusty favorite. Pizza with fruit salad. I'm happy to report that, while a ridiculous amount of grease and fat was consumed by yours truly, the kids were much more excited about the fruit than the pie.

• Posted By landismom @ 7/01/2005 06:14:00 PM
  2. My daughter is the Bumblebee. My son is the Sweet Potato. You'll have to ask their father.

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