Monday, August 29, 2005

the persistence of memory through things

It's odd to write this entry, as so many people in the Mississippi Delta are at risk of losing so much. Almost hubristic.

We spent the better part of this weekend unloading a bunch of 'new' furniture that we inherited in the dissolution of landisdad's grandmother's apartment, after she passed on two months ago. We also freecycled a bunch of stuff that we don't need anymore, now that we have better versions. Ironically, my MIL told me that she thought I needed to be encouraged to throw things out. This is ironic for two reasons, first because when landisdad and I first moved in together, I had to personally throw out about 7 years' worth of old newspapers that he and his grad school roommate had stored in their mud room*. Second, because she said this to me on a day when she sent us a truck that housed more furniture than our first apartment.

What my mother-in-law doesn't know, is that to throw anything out requires me to overcome generations of programming on my mom's side of the family. Landisdad's family tends to hoard things like presentation copies of first editions by Adrienne Rich. Mine hoards wrapping paper. I kid you not, wrapping paper.

My mom and her sisters are the kind of people who give you a Christmas card with a label that is made out of one of last year's Christmas cards with the personalized note cut off. Landisdad thinks it's silly that I have a box where I store unused wrapping paper that's left over from last year. What he doesn't get is that my grandmother would remove all of the tape from used Christmas wrapping paper to reuse it again year after year.

One of the things that we got in this bounty of landisdad's family heirlooms was all of the photographs from the apartment. There are some amazing things there, and landisdad has committed to getting everything scanned so we can preserve it digitally. It's a remarkable amount of pictures, but as LD's grandparents both lived well into their nineties--it's the cumulative photographic history of several hundred years of the family (when you add in the pictures of his great-grandparents that have survived).

We showed some of the pictures to the kids this weekend, and as we unpacked boxes and gave their things a new home in our house, it sunk in for me that they are really gone, in a way that it hadn't before. But at the same time, they will always be with us. And I thought to myself, "my children will be doing this when I'm gone. They'll be dividing up the antique furniture, and the books, and the pictures, and giving them to their kids (I hope)."

And that's a really nice feeling to have. To know that things I use every day were used by relatives that neither landisdad or I have ever met, and to know that they will be continued to be used by descendants that we will never meet.

*Sorry honey, if you're gonna tell a bunch of my coworkers about what you did on your 26th birthday, then this one is fair game.

• Posted By landismom @ 8/29/2005 08:21:00 AM
Saturday, August 27, 2005

PBB (no, not peanut butter & banana)

Soon after the Bee was born, my mom came to visit. We were having one of those 'now you're a parent, so I can tell you all these things I never told you before' conversations, and my mom started telling me a story about how her perspective changed after she had kids.

There was a woman who lived in the next town over from where I grew up, who was abducted with her kids from a shopping center parking lot. The guy forced her into her own car at knifepoint, drove her to some abandoned house, and repeatedly raped her while the kids were in the car. My mom told me that, while reading coverage of the trial in the paper, she realized that her own life had changed entirely . Why? Because the judge in the case had basically implied that the woman wasn't raped, since the rapist let her go to the car to calm the kids down in between bouts of raping her. The judge said that she should have run, and gotten the police to save her kids. My mom told me how outraged she had been that this judge could just expect a woman to walk away from her children while they were in danger.

I guess on some level I've been thinking about this story since checking out the Zero Boss's new blog Parents Behaving Badly. I don't have near the blogging energy that Jay does, but if I did, I think I'd be tempted to start a blog about Parents Behaving Bravely. Because while I appreciate a good cautionary tale as much as the next woman, I'm also interested in what motivates parents to do extraordinary things in the service of their children.

When it came right down to it in her own life, my mom did a really hard thing to protect her children. She became the first person in her large, Catholic family to separate from her husband, and the first to get a divorce. My dad was becoming increasingly irrational, drinking more and more, and behaving violently, and she decided that he had to go. In doing that, she risked not only the everyday troubles of a single parent, but also the likelihood that her own family--her own mother--was going to look at her as a failure. She told me that she went home five different times to tell her mother that she'd kicked my dad out, before she could actually get up the nerve to tell her. And when she did? My grandmother said, "I was wondering how much longer you were going to stay with him."

I have no comparable story from my own life (knock wood). The bravest thing I ever did for my children was wait until I was in my thirties to have them. This is not to disparage young parents in any way--just to say that I would have personally been a terrible young parent, and would have ended up with a much worse father for my kids than the one I ended up with. I hope that if it ever comes to it, I can do something as brave as what my mom did.

For every mom pimping out her daughter, there are hundreds that go to bed hungry every night so that their own children have enough to eat. For every dad that beats his child, there are thousands working two jobs so their kids can have new sneakers for school next week. Why should the crazy parents get all the attention from the mainstream media?

• Posted By landismom @ 8/27/2005 08:39:00 AM
Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Here's a link to my final post on the San Diego Reader's website. I originally wrote this post back in April, when there were a slew of urban mommy/daddy bloggers pondering about moving to the suburbs--this was my perspective on the debate. Enjoy!

• Posted By landismom @ 8/24/2005 08:45:00 PM
Tuesday, August 23, 2005

reward and punishment

There are times in my relationship with my children when I feel like I'm channeling the Commandant from The Great Escape, and they are Steve McQueen. The Bee in particular has an artful, almost Judd Nelson-as-John-Bender-like way of responding to punishment and threats (a reference perhaps more accessible to my Gen X cohort).

That sort-of "give me another" kind of reaction.

In a way, I almost admire it, even while it's simultaneously driving me absolutely crazy. I mean, Steve McQueen is the guy we all wanted to be, not Hannes Messemer playing a Nazi, right?
As a child of the '80s, I certainly never wanted to be Principal Vernon. I want my kids to be tough, and to stand up for themselves when they have to. But why does it have to be so damn hard to live with them while they're learning to pick their battles?

I know there are people that worry that they are too permissive with their kids. I'm the opposite. I'm much more worried that I'm too harsh on them, that my expectations for their behavior isn't age appropriate. That I'm expecting them to grow up too fast, to act like an adult too fast. And there are times, in my frustration, that I get into a kind of feedback loop with the Bee, where our only interactions with each other are negative.

For the first few years of our parenting, landisdad and I were unaware of the beauty of the sticker chart. And after we did find out about them, we were sort of opposed--I mean, it seems so mercenary, to reward your kids for good behavior. Kind of like bribery. Then, last year around Christmas time, I finally broke down and made a sticker chart for the Bee. It was a revelation.

Later in the year, when she was having difficulty with her teacher, Mrs. X suggested a school sticker chart. It took a while, but eventually, her behavior did improve.

All that rewarding good behavior got me thinking. Do we all have an internal sticker chart that lets us reward ourselves for being good? Is part of parenting teaching kids that good behavior isn't something that anyone is capable of all the time--but that it is possible to be a good person most of the time. To beat the averages, as it were.

We're moving into a time in the Potato's emotional development where he's starting to approach every disagreement as the end of his world. He's in that toddler place where he wants to do everything by himself, and is constantly frustrated by his own limitations. He wants 'helpee,' but only on his terms, in his way, and if his dad or I try to help him in some unacceptable way, he more often than not will collapse on the floor in a heap.

When the Bee was in this phase, I did some of my worst parenting ever. I'm a (mostly) rational person, and the constant irrationality of the toddler wears me down pretty quickly. In addition to that, when the Bee was a toddler, landisdad lost his job, and three months later, I got laid off to part-time, so we were both pretty stressed out. The struggle of being first-time parents of a willful little girl was more than we were up to.

This time around, I think that landisdad and I are better equipped to ease the Potato through his toddler-hood. Our financial state has certainly improved, and while there are new stresses, they are nothing to compare to the joys of living on unemployment (especially when it's about to run out). And we have this beautiful girl, who has taught us so much about being parents. That we need to reward ourselves when we're doing good, and not just punish ourselves for doing bad things.

• Posted By landismom @ 8/23/2005 08:42:00 AM
Monday, August 22, 2005

dog days

School starts in two weeks. I can't wait, and neither can the Bumblebee. It's too hot to play outside, and after this weekend's party, landisdad & I had too much to do to take the kids to the pool yesterday.

Consequently we suffered the whining and misery of a girl who hasn't seen her best friend since school got out.

A lesson to me for next year? When your daughter decides in the last two weeks of school to change best friends, you better get that girl's digits. Because her family just might not be listed in the phone book. Or she might have a different last name than her mom.

Sure she's seen other friends, and spent whole days happily playing with them. But not this one special friend, the one who (I'm sure) will be dumped two weeks after school starts. I actually had to convince her a few weeks ago that spending an afternoon telling her former best friend about how much she missed her new best friend might not be a great idea, in that it would hurt the former best friend's feelings.

But it's not just the Bee who's in a cranky and irritable mood these days, it's everyone in our house, especially me. I feel like I'm in a rut at work, and I'm bored with the stuff I'm working on right now, and just generally wishing for September so that I can move on to something more interesting.

No wonder people go away the last week of August. I need a change, and soon.

• Posted By landismom @ 8/22/2005 08:43:00 AM
Sunday, August 21, 2005

Happy Birthday, Sweet Potato!

As promised, here are some photos from yesterday's birthday party. We had a very nice, and small, party. The weather held with us, so the kids were able to splash around in the kiddie pool, and climb on the wretched princess castle, and generally leave the adults alone.

The Potato is in a big fire truck phase right now, and many of his gifts revolved around a certain theme.
Yes, fire trucks, fire truck books, fire truck t-shirts, hats--you name it, he's got them all. As a devoted fan of Dennis Leary in Rescue Me, I have to wonder--how come the firefighters in this books never talk about getting some?
And what birthday photo array would be complete without the post-cake messy-face shot?

• Posted By landismom @ 8/21/2005 02:36:00 PM
Friday, August 19, 2005

birthday party planning

Sorry I haven't posted much lately, I have been planning the Potato's 2nd birthday party, set up for tomorrow. We're really hoping for a nice day here, so the kids can run around in the baby pool, and the adults can sit in lawn chairs and sip cool drinks. Pictures on Sunday!

• Posted By landismom @ 8/19/2005 10:46:00 AM
Wednesday, August 17, 2005

blog post of the week

This week's San Diego Reader entry is posted here. Regular readers will recognize it from a few weeks ago.

And thanks to all those sending good health wishes to the Potato--he's back to normal today.

• Posted By landismom @ 8/17/2005 05:01:00 PM
Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Potato is home sick today. He woke up with a fever, and was doing that kind of listless, draggy thing. We went downstairs for breakfast, and he threw up all over the kitchen floor.

I'm from the school of parenthood where sick kids get to watch tv all day (when they're not napping). My kids are only allowed about 1/2 hour of tv a day normally, so this is a very special treat.

After I got him cleaned up and we took the Bee to day camp, we came home & started watching tv. (Yes, thanks to the beauty of AirPort, I can blog and sit on the couch watching tv at the same time. And I wonder why I never get any exercise.)

So here's my question. Who the hell is this Diego, on Dora?

At one point in the Bee's life, she was a Dora addict. In fact, Shame of My Life #1312 is that her first word was 'backpack.' I once impressed a teacher at the kids' daycare by knowing the Spanish 'Happy Birthday' song, 'Feliz Cumpleanos,' which I learned from Dora. But she gave it up about two years ago. It seems like they've had the audacity to actually introduce new characters. I feel so out of touch!

• Posted By landismom @ 8/16/2005 10:44:00 AM
Saturday, August 13, 2005

zine scene

So last week while landisdad and I were on vacation, we got a babysitter one night and went out to dinner. We had a few minutes to spare before our reservation (how did that happen?), so we wandered in to our local hippie store to browse. I can't remember what landisdad bought, because I was hypnotized by the magazine rack full of zines on one wall.

I first experienced zines in the early '90s, when I moved to the Bay Area. I hung out with a fairly alternative crowd, although not strictly a punk one, and we frequented a lot of both new and used independent bookstores. It was at those bookstores--Moe's, Cody's & Black Oaks Books in Berkeley, Diesel & Walden Pond in Oakland, City Lights, Modern Times, & Green Apple Books in San Francisco--we wasted time in all of them, sometimes for hours. We were nearly always broke, and used bookstores were by far the way to go, since their prices were so much lower than the new bookstores. And zines were great, since they were given away, or they cost a buck or two. Picking them out was a total crapshoot--you might find some brilliant, savagely funny writing, or you might find total garbage--just some guy writing about how he loved to get drunk.

The beauty of the zines, though, was their sheer amateurishness. The do-it-yourself quality. People clearly spent hours, days assembling their zines and then distributing them, and for what? I doubt that more than a handful of zines ever made back the small amount of money it cost to produce them, and yet people kept churning them out. I loved that about them--the fact that they were so clearly a labor of love. They were the product of people with something to say, and even if I didn't find what they had to say particularly interesting at times, I still had to give them credit for putting in the work.

Jumping back to 2005, I ended up buying four new zines that night that landisdad and I were out. I've finished all but one of them now, and of the four, there was one that I'd pick up again, if I saw it somewhere. Since it cost me $8 to buy all four, I think that's a pretty good investment.

Reading through them, I've been thinking, why would anyone keep making zines, when self-publishing on the web has gotten so much easier? Although I guess that you could say that about any kind of writing--why write for a magazine, when you can just blog, why send letters to the editor of your local newspaper, when you can post your opinions to the world wide web?

I started to call this post "are blogs the grown-up version of zines," but I decided that framed it in a way I didn't want to go. Obviously, zines and blogs can live in the same universe. And it's pretty pedestrian of me to want to delegate zines to a lower level of the literary chain, just because I happened to encounter them in my youth and blogs in my middle age--I'm sure there are many fine zines being produced by people in their thirties and forties, just as they are probably many inane blogs being produced by people in their teens and twenties (I don't visit that corner of the blogosphere much).

• Posted By landismom @ 8/13/2005 09:05:00 PM
Thursday, August 11, 2005

Here's a link to my current post on the San Diego Reader's Blog World. This is a post that I wrote just for the Reader--it's sort of an intro to my blog, and I didn't feel the need to post it here, but now you can comment anyway (if you're so inclined). If you're interested in the blogs that I mention in the post (apparently they don't post links, 'cause they were in the original), you can get to all of them from my blogroll, as well as some other great blogs that I don't mention.

• Posted By landismom @ 8/11/2005 12:16:00 PM
Wednesday, August 10, 2005

good news for readers

I was very excited today to find out that the Women's Review of Books, which suspended publication in December 2004, has acquired new funding, and will be relaunching in January 2006.

I can't tell you the number of books by women that I discovered through the WRB. Without them, I would have been late to the Marjane Satrapi party, for sure. Ditto Sarah Water's excellent novel, Fingersmith. They were also responsible for introducing me to Ayelet Waldman (yes, before she achieved blogiverse infamy). And of course, their reviews of academic books, particularly biographies of women I'd never learned about in history, opened up a whole new world to me.

I'd guess that the percentage of books on my Powell's wishlist that came from the WRB is in the neighborhood of 80%, and when they shut down late last year, I remember thinking to myself, 'now where on earth am I going to find out about new women writers?'

I read the Times Book Review section every week -- it's the first part of the Sunday Times that I turn to, and I read that even in a week when I don't read anything else in the paper. But you know what? They don't review that many books by women. And when they do, they're generally reviewing books that I've heard about elsewhere first.

It's said that men don't often read women writers, but that women will read books by women and men. Often, I find myself in a bookstore or a library with a stack of books in my hand, and they'll all be written by men. It's easy to think that chick lit is the only thing out there written by women--chick lit, and romance novels, and fantasy. But the truth of the matter is that there are great women writers putting out new books every day. We just don't hear about them as much. And I'm not saying this to disparage chick lit--I own a copy of every Jennifer Weiner novel, and I'll keep buying them as long as she keeps writing them. But I know from reading her blog, that Jennifer has her own frustrations with the Times' reviewing practices.

One of the things that I worry about in introducing the Bee to chapter books is that often, those books have a boy as the central character in order to make sure that they will be read by both boys and girls--essentially the argument is that since boys won't read books about girls, but girls will read books about boys, we'll just keep writing books with boys as the main character.

I know that for myself as a girl, I was just as interested in reading Encyclopedia Brown, or the Three Investigators series as I was in Nancy Drew or Little Women. And I know that things have gotten better for girls as readers. But I think it's no accident that the biggest seller of kids' books around right now has a boy as the central character. (Incidentally, for those looking for a mystical story centered on a girl, check out Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials series.)

So I'm happy to see that the WRB will come back to life. Happy for my own reading life, because I know that it means that I'll find some more great women writers I wouldn't have heard about otherwise. And happy for those women writers, because I know that their work will be more likely to succeed.

• Posted By landismom @ 8/10/2005 07:25:00 PM
Tuesday, August 09, 2005

big water

For months, the Potato has been talking. He has a growing vocabulary, and recently added the word "yes" (which is oh so helpful). But until now, he's mostly used the words to describe 1) things he sees ("truck, Mommy!"), 2) things he wants ("mik!"), and 3) things he doesn't want ("noooeeee!").

Last night, the family was eating dinner together, and the Bee started to tell us about her day at camp. I asked her if she had told her friends about her vacation, and she started to tell us what she had told them about going down the shore, when suddenly the Potato piped in, "big watee!" I looked at him and asked, "did you say 'big water'?" He said, "big, big watee."

My son has participated in a conversation. Another major milestone whizzes by.

• Posted By landismom @ 8/09/2005 08:25:00 AM
Monday, August 08, 2005

100 things

I got tagged by Desperate to be a Housewife to do the 100 things post. It's taken me quite a while to do it!

Here goes:

1. I was born in Middlebury, VT.
2. I have three younger brothers, three step-brothers and three step-sisters.
3. I was a heavy smoker until I was 26, when I quit cold-turkey.
4. I am older than my husband. By one day.
5. I am a cat person--we have three cats.
6. When I was 21, I lived in Boise, Idaho for 13 weeks.
7. I left college without graduating, just three credits shy. It took me until I was 30 to finish my degree.
8. When I was 22 years old, I drove from NJ to CA with a friend who was moving there, and then took the train home to NJ by myself.
9. On the train, I met a guy who got taken off the train by the cops, a guy who had just been released from prison, and a guy who had just left Long Island for the first time in his life.
10. I corresponded with the Long Island guy for several years, and he visited me once when I lived in San Francisco.

11. Before I met landisdad, I was engaged to marry someone else.
12. My ex-fiance was an ex-con. While we were living together, he was on probation.
13. His probation officer used to make home visits to us at 7 a.m., and would routinely make sexist comments to and about me.
14. That really pissed me off, but who do you complain to about your boyfriend's probation officer?
15. I once did setup work for Cirque du Soleil.
16. I got to use a jackhammer.
17. I was the only woman on the crew, which consisted largely of theatrical carpenters and homeless men. One of them said, "shit (landismom's real name), you sure are strong for a girl!"
18. Both of my children were 2 weeks overdue & had to be induced.
19. I had epidurals both times.
20. I was once homeless in Pittsburgh, PA. I swore I'd never go back. So far, I've kept my word.

21. My footprints have appeared in a museum exhibit.
22. When I was on maternity leave with the Bee, I drove to Baltimore to look at props that were being sold from the set of the recently shut-down TV series Homicide: Life on the Street. I bought a jacket that had been worn on the show by Clark Johnson. I later found cards that he had made notes on in one of the pockets.
23. I love gardening, but hate weeding.
24. No one who has seen both of their parents think my kids look like me.
25. I can roll my tongue.
26. I wear contacts because I'm very near-sighted, but also vain.
27. I watch too much TV.
28. When I was 19, I lived in a haunted house. I never saw the ghost, but two of my roommates did.
29. I had a transgendered roommate when I was 25.
30. I love to throw parties, and now that I have kids, I've stopped getting drunk at them and can therefore enjoy them more.

31. I have a tattoo, a pierced nose, and three holes in each ear.
32. I make great guacamole, but hate to cook almost everything else.
33. I've been in a bar fight, but I didn't start it.
34. In the last year, I read 85 books.
35. When I was a kid, I had a print of Picasso's Guernica in my room.
36. I have over 50 first cousins.
37. I correctly guessed the gender of both of my kids during pregnancy (before the ultrasound).
38. I no longer know any of my childhood friends (and with this life story, you can start to see why).
39. I have knocked on thousands of doors in my organizing career. Very few of them were slammed in my face. People, overall, are friendly.
40. I could tell a lot about you by looking at the outside of your house or apartment.

41. I was once lucky enough to work on a campaign where several of the volunteers were Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.
42. I like jigsaw puzzles.
43. And inside jokes. Especially when I'm the only one who gets them.
44. I will probably never learn to ski.
45. I love to dance.
46. I've read Joyce's Ulysses twice, but never Finnegans Wake. Or Remembrance of Things Past, for that matter. Someday...
47. I have eaten a madeleine.
48. I can type about 60 wpm. I have worked as a word processor for a corporate law firm.
49. I kissed my first boy at age 14. He wasn't the last.
50. I love office supplies. The Levenger catalog is like porn to me. And not cheap porn, either.

51. One of my best friends calls me Martha Stewart, because she once came to visit and I was baking a cake for the Bee for Valentine's Day. She didn't realize it was the only thing I baked that entire year.
52. When I was in fourth grade, I was the second-best high jumper in South Jersey (of girls in my age group).
53. I lived in California twice, once for a year in San Diego, and for 8 years in the Bay Area.
54. I started getting gray hair when I was 18 years old. I started dyeing my hair when I was 16. There was no connection.
55. I was on the swim team for a while when I was in middle school. I love to swim, but I'm not a very fast swimmer.
56. My family went to the beach (aka, down the shore) every summer when I was a kid.
57. I will never live in a land-locked state again, after being in Idaho.
58. I have always wanted to speak another language, but my attempts to learn have all failed.
59. In college, I studied Russian. It was the only class I ever got a 'D' in in my entire life.
60. The Potato's first word was Spanish, but I couldn't recognize it.

61. As a child, I dressed up as a tube of toothpaste for Halloween one year. It was my idea. My mom made the cap out of a cardboard paint bucket, and a toothbrush (to carry) out of some long piece of cardboard with a brush attached. Aren't moms great?
62. When I was in sixth grade, the principal called my mom after I got into an argument with my social studies teacher wherein I was articulating the position that prostitution should be legalized.
63. I still believe in legalizing prostitution.
64. I am a pretty good amateur photographer.
65. Some of my favorite photos are, of course, of my kids.
66. My other favorite photos are from demonstrations.
67. I am addicted to caffeine. If I don't have it, I get wicked headaches.
68. The mental image that I have of myself is stuck at age 21. I am constantly brought up short in front of the mirror.
69. Landisdad and I have been together for 11 years, and our seventh wedding anniversary will be this fall.
70. It was raining on the day that we got married, and everyone said that was lucky. I think that people will tell you anything is lucky, on your wedding day.

71. Before he met me, landisdad had only been drunk once in his life. That is no longer true. I corrupted him.
72. Before we had kids, I swore I would not be one of those mothers who used the TV as a babysitter.
73. I've learned to be a lot less judgmental about other people's parenting practices.
74. Nearly all of my close female friends have uttered the phrase, "when I first met you, I thought you were such a bitch!" about me.
75. They were right.
76. But as I age, I am better able to control it.
77. I love ice cream way more than is good for me.
78. I am a third generation union member.
79. My kids will be (I hope) the fourth generation (on both sides of the family) to go to college.
80. Both landisdad and I had maternal grandfathers who were immigrants to the US.

81. Both of us also have one parent who was an only child.
82. I was raised as a Catholic, but left the church when I was 16.
83. I think my mother still believes this is 'just a phase.'
84. Landisdad and I took a four-day honeymoon. We went to Catalina.
85. I have 40 feeds in my bloglines account. Not all of them are mommy/daddy blogs, but most of them are.
86. I'm not a vegetarian, but I don't eat mammals.
87. As a young child, I was afraid of The Count on Sesame Street.
88. When I was 5 or 6, a former student of my dad's came and lived with us for about a month before going to the Peace Corps in Africa. He was a vegan. He ate Cheerios with orange juice instead of milk. I guess there wasn't as much access to soy products then.
89. Also, he ate kelp. As in seaweed. You can imagine my revulsion, as a 6 year-old.
90. As an adult, I have known a lot of vegans, and have even been to a vegan wedding. So far, no one's offered me any kelp.

91. When the Bee was a baby and toddler, she would fall asleep every night holding on to the thumb of either me or landisdad. Our "thumby" was her security blanket.
92. At one point, when she had to go to the ER, she insisted on having some thumby. The RN in charge said she had never seen anything like it.
93. The worst moments of my life were the three times that the Bee had to go to the ER (2 febrile seizures and a broken leg).
94. Both of my children have middle names that one of my grandparents have had.
95. When I graduated from college, I lived with my grandmother for a year. Doing her taxes gave me a real appreciation for the benefits of Social Security.
96. I knew a bunch of actors in college. Occasionally, some of them get work.
97. I have been backstage at a number of Broadway theaters.
98. Now, I have more friends who are lawyers than I do friends who are actors.
99. I will never love anyone as much as I love my children.
100. The only things that I regret doing in my life are the ones that hurt other people, especially those two little people.

Wow, did you actually get through all that? I'm not going to tag anyone for this meme, because it took me so freakin' long. But if you do it (or you've already done it and I just didn't notice) send me the link and I'll be sure to read yours all the way through, too.

• Posted By landismom @ 8/08/2005 05:01:00 PM
Saturday, August 06, 2005

cleaning and class

This post was inspired by an ongoing discussion of the division of household labor that's been going on over at Half-Changed World.

Landisdad and I are both slobs. It's not that we never clean, it's just that we don't do it every day, and we tend to not put things away after we use them, so our house is always filled with clutter. Before we had kids, this wasn't really a problem--we would neaten up our apartment every weekend, and while the overall state of things might be cluttery, it was a sort of neat clutter. We'd clean the bathrooms every other week or so, and the kitchen too. We never lived anyplace really big, so most of our clutter problem revolved around the fact that we always had more stuff (particularly books and papers) than we had room to store.

When we moved back to the East Coast from California right before the Bee was born, we moved into yet another apartment. We lived with a sun porch that was full of boxes of books for over a year, until we bought our house. And when we first bought our house, we were overwhelmed by the amount of space we suddenly had. All the bookcases fit! And we could buy more bookcases! And another couch, too! And a dining room table! But we still didn't solve our clutter problem, because now we had all this baby stuff, too.

Eventually, we gave in to the clutter. While both of us are adults that don't want to spend more cleaning than we have to, we are also both people who don't like work that feels pointless. And it's hard not to feel pointless when you spend an hour or two cleaning the family room, and by the end of the day, it's full of toys and books again.

I tend to get highly motivated to clean when we're having people over, or something like that. What I forget is that for people who don't know us well, our house still looks messy even when it's clean (by my standards). We still have piles of papers on every available surface--they're just in neat piles. We still have funky bookcases with old toys stuck on them. We still have furtniture that doesn't match, and weird, radical posters on the walls. Our house looks like the office of a stereotypical absent-minded professor. Possibly a professor of political science.

Both landisdad's mother and mine have, on occasion, commented on the general disorder in which we live. My mom, for example, famously cleaned our entire house on the day that the Potato was born. This included things like cleaning the oven, washing out the refrigerator, and opening all the vents to clean out our ductwork, while my MIL and the Bee looked on in horror at the amount of cat fur that was built up inside. I think it was a kind of passive-aggressive revenge on my mom's part--she was mad that I had asked my MIL to come in for the birth, too, and she took it out on me by cleaning my house. My MIL, on the other hand, offered to pay for us to have a house cleaner.

But as much as I hate cleaning, I will never hire someone to clean my house. To me, it would be a betrayal of the many women who have worked as janitors, cleaners, and housekeepers
that I have worked with as an organizer. It would put me in the employer class. It might be a giant hypocrisy on my part--after all, even if I don't actually employ a housecleaner, I am affluent enough to afford one. Is there really that big a difference?

I say, yes. Even if my cleaning is rare and half-assed, it's still mine. My cleaning skills may not be up to my mother's par, but I learned them from her, and I will teach them to my children. I don't want them to learn that having money exempts you from doing things that you consider unpleasant.

And let me just add, for the record, that landisdad mopped the kitchen floor last night while I sat on the couch and ate bonbons. (Well, okay, it was actually a yogurt smoothie)

• Posted By landismom @ 8/06/2005 12:42:00 PM
Thursday, August 04, 2005


Regular visitors to my blog know that I am an inveterate reader. I learned to read young, and never looked back. But what you may not know about me is that my childhood ambition was to be a writer. One of my first independent acts as a child was to submit a joke idea to Mork and Mindy (I told you I was a geek). By independent, I mean that I went to the library and researched how to send a story idea in to a television network, I wrote it out by hand, sent it off, and never heard from them again, without ever telling my parents about it. No, I'm not going to tell you the joke. I was like 10. It wasn't funny. I see that now.

I kept a journal all through high school and college (and on and off again for all of my adult life). I wrote a ton of poetry, short stories and plays. The highlight of my writing career was in my freshman year of college, when a one-act play that I wrote was performed at my high school. But after a string of rejection letters from all manner of literary journals, short story rags, and poetry magazine, I gave up that dream in my early 20s.

Fast forward to late June of this year (
and that's a lot of fast forwarding), when I got an email from an editor at the San Diego Reader. They wanted to publish posts from my blog in their weekly paper during the month of August. And they were willing to pay me to do it. For those of you surfing in from the Reader, here's a link to the post that's printed in this week's edition.

For the next week or so, I deliberated the idea, and peppered the editor with questions. She graciously answered them all, and so I decided, what the hell. I was sort of convinced it was a scam, because I'm cynical like that, but I went for it anyway. I kept thinking it was a scam up until the first check arrived, and then I decided that it must be the real thing. So without further ado, here's the link. I've finally achieved my childhood dream, although that dream had no way to imagine the medium of its success.

• Posted By landismom @ 8/04/2005 05:50:00 AM
Wednesday, August 03, 2005

newsflash--I'm getting old

Note: this is not the special announcement that I promised--that's coming later in the week.

We're still on vacation, and yesterday, we went to the beach. Unfortunately, my body decided that it was the right moment to inform me of its advanced state of decay. Because while I was jumping into a wave, I heard a 'pop', and felt a searing pain in my left calf. I hobbled out of the ocean and collapsed under our shady tent for the rest of the afternoon. Fortunately, the Potato was in a mode where all he wanted to do was dig, so landisdad (a prince among men, have I mentioned that before?) kept the Bee busy in the waves, and I let the SP cover my feet with sand, and dig out my toes, and then cover my feet with sand some more.

Today, I went to the doctor, and she confirmed that I had torn a muscle in my left calf. She asked me if I needed a note for work, and I quipped, "no, but can I get one for my kids?"

Sigh. I know that I'm getting older, and I can't expect my body to do all the things that it was capable of when I was a teenager. But do I really need to start stretching before I jump into the ocean with my kids? Because that is too depressing for words.

• Posted By landismom @ 8/03/2005 08:24:00 PM
  2. My daughter is the Bumblebee. My son is the Sweet Potato. You'll have to ask their father.

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