Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

We're not big celebrators of New Year's Eve here in BBSP land. Today, the Bee has a playdate with a friend from school, which left the Potato temporarily bereft until he was tempted with a round of gorilla-butterfly. (One of the best games that landisdad invented to play with the kids is gorilla, where they put gloves on their feet, wear hats, and dance around the family room to obscure late 70s punk tunes. [On actual records!] Sometimes, instead of gorillas, they play butterfly, which involves everyone except LD wearing one of our many pairs of fairy wings. Today, it's a mashup.)

Later, one of the adults will probably run to the store to buy champagne, and if we're lucky, we'll manage to stay up until midnight to drink it. Generally, we have some kind of video marathon, which may involve either The War of the Worlds or the box set of The Office this year.

I'm more one to make life-changing resolutions around my birthday, rather than at New Year's. There's something about mid-winter that deters me from self-improvement. I feel like hunkering down with a big slab of chocolate and several gallons of wine for several months, rather than abstaining in favor of a new, improved me. (Of course, my penchant for the status quo does not extend to my spouse or children. If only the Bee would resolve to keep her room cleaner, and the Potato would refrain from hitting his sister!)

Thanks everyone for your many comments about the sibling rivalry situation. LD and I were very comforted to read that so many other people are going through the same thing. I told LD that the thing I like most about the parenting blogosphere is the support that one finds there. It's not the advice (although that's good too), it's the knowledge that our experience is universal that helps make it more bearable somehow.

Have a wonderful New Year, and I'll 'see' you in 2006!

• Posted By landismom @ 12/31/2005 12:44:00 PM
Thursday, December 29, 2005

but will she end up working in the Dead Letter office?

Yesterday, in an act of missed synchronicity, I read this blog post by Andi Buchanan at Mother Shock almost 12 hours after I actually needed to. I guess there's something going around in the houses of school-aged children--something that causes said children to act like the victims of demonic possession a la The Exorcist. I'm not sure if it's post-Christmas let-down, the boredom of being off from school, and not having friends to fight with, or what. But that thing--whatever it is--can just take its ass out of my house, 'nawhatImean?

The Bee has always had issues with her little brother. She was an only child for four years, and she got pretty used to it. By the time the Potato came along, she was extremely set in her ways, and the idea that she might have to share her parents with another person has always struck her as wrong.

But this week, we've been treated to such sayings as, "I can't wait until I can move out of this house, so I don't have to live with you people any more!" (you people being later clarified to mean her brother). Also, "if he touches my stuff again, I'm going to punch him in the eye!"

It's draining, to have to constantly be mediating between them. On the other hand, I have vivid memories of chasing my own brother around the house with a baseball bat, at some point when my parents weren't home and I was 'in charge,' so I guess I should count my blessings that she hasn't thought that one up yet.

There was a point, when I was sunk in the naive state of preparing to have my second child, that I thought, "well, they'll always have each other." Little did I realize that the Bee, like Bartleby the Scrivener, would simply "prefer not to."

• Posted By landismom @ 12/29/2005 12:46:00 PM
Tuesday, December 27, 2005

just got back...

from our three whirlwind days of fun & family in NYC, preceded by a day & a half of Christmas family fun here at home.

The kids got a ridiculous number of new toys. I got On Beauty by Zadie Smith, Watchmen (Absolute Edition) by Alan Moore (yes, I am a geek!), and an incredible new winter dress coat from my MIL. We ate too much, drank just enough, sat around and played games (UNO! Monopoly!) and let the kids watch a smidge more tv than we would have normally (LD gave the Potato the second DVD box set of Peewee's Playhouse for Christmas). Landisdad & I even got to see two movies together in the space of four days, and I think the last time that happened was in 1998.

Now, it's back to work for two days (for me--LD and the kids are off all week), and then a four day weekend. I could get used to this. I'm really too tired to write much, so here are some gratuitous kid pictures:

The Bee, opening a gift on Christmas Eve, at my brother's house.

The Potato, reading one of his new books on Christmas morning.

The kids in their new matching jammies from Grandma (unfortunately, I did not get a better quality picture).

And one gratuitous cute thing my kid said:

(on eating his grandmother's homemade chocolate mousse for the first time on Christmas night)

"I like this! my chocolate moo!"

LD and I cracked up over that one, and repeated it over and over again for days.

• Posted By landismom @ 12/27/2005 10:23:00 PM
Friday, December 23, 2005

Have a great weekend

For those of you of the Christian persuasion, I'm wishing you a Merry Christmas. For the Jews, a Happy Hanukkah. I'll be back next week sometime. Possibly featuring kid pictures. In their new bathrobes. And slippers. So cute! Have a lovely holiday, and try not to let the kids eat too much sugar. I know I'll be failing at that one!

• Posted By landismom @ 12/23/2005 11:02:00 PM
Thursday, December 22, 2005

illegal is not immoral

Given how much attention was paid, at the beginning of this month, to the 50th anniversary of Rosa Parks' arrest, I've been somewhat disheartened to see so many bloggers writing vitriolic posts about the NY transit strike. I understand, having worked in a city with its fair share of labor unrest, that living through a transit strike is not a fun experience, especially when it's cold outside. And I'm not talking about the people who are using their own blog to complain about their own experience (ie--I had to walk very far in the cold) without using it as an opportunity to attack the workers or the union, anymore than I would be upset by the same person doing it in their own (offline) journal.

But I find it mindboggling that so many people seem to be buying the boss's rhetoric about the legality of the strike, and the 'thuggish' (to quote Bloomberg) behavior of union members in striking right before the holidays. Yes, the strike is illegal. Which means that in order to get a strike vote, Roger Touissant (the local's president) had to convince the members of his union to make not one, but two extremely difficult choices. The first one was to go on strike at all. Now I know there are people out there in the universe who think that unions just snap their fingers and the members walk off the job. But that ain't the way it works, folks. Think about your own economic situation, and what it would take for you to voluntarily decide to give up your income for an indefinite period of time. To say to your own family, your own children, "sorry kids, there won't be a Christmas (or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa) this year, because we decided to stop working to force our boss to treat us better." You'd have to be pretty serious about your demands, to make that decision.

And for the most part, union members aren't hard core activists. They're regular folks, who want to do their jobs, take care of their families, have vacations, live a normal life. Which leads me to the second choice--the choice to conduct an illegal strike. I have a confession to make here. I have been an organizer and an activist for my entire adult life, and I have never been arrested. I have broken the law at times in the course of my activism, and I have risked arrest. I have talked to other people about why they might make the choice to do it. And I'm here to tell you that getting regular working people to voluntarily break the law, to subject themselves personally to ridiculous fines or arrest, is damn hard.

So when I hear Touissant compare the illegality of the strike to the illegal demands being made by the boss, I know that he's right on. Not every person has a chance in their life to make the kind of difference that Rosa Parks made. But most of us do have a chance to sit in judgment on people who are doing it. People who are making that tough decision--do I put myself in jeopardy and break a law I think is wrong to make things better for everyone? or do I obey an unjust law and suffer the greater consequences of injustice? For myself, I'm a far greater admirer of people like Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Alice Paul and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. than I am of people who sat quietly by during segregation, or apartheid, or the Holocaust, because to speak out against the law of the time would have put them in danger. I admire the resolve of Touissant and the members, and understand the hard choices they are making. The moral decision to break an immoral law.

And I'd do this post a disservice if I didn't point out that there is some excellent reporting being done on the strike by Jonathan Tasini over at his Working Life blog.

• Posted By landismom @ 12/22/2005 02:30:00 PM
Tuesday, December 20, 2005

another kid book recommendation

The street that I grew up on dead-ended into the playground of the local Catholic school. The school had some enormous playing fields, and beyond them (behind a car dealership and the Acme-- pronounced Ac-ah-me, for those of you not from the Delaware Valley) was an acre of weeds and hillocks. I can't tell you how many days I spent with my brothers and the other kids in our neighborhood--the T family, the H's and the S's--creating a society of 8-10 year-olds. There was something magical about that place, and we never saw a single adult. The PA system at the car dealership would occasionally go off, emitting a series of announcements that were not unlike the teacher from the old Charlie Brown cartoons 'weh weh weh, weh weh weh wehweh.'

At the end of the field, beyond the acre of weeds, was an old cow tunnel under the highway. In the summer, there was always a trickle of water through it, and you had to be careful. In the winter, we'd crush the snow under our boots, and walk through the tunnel to the creek on the other side to test the ice. Once, my brother fell through the ice, and we were all terrified that he would freeze or drown. Working together, we got him out, and rushed him home to my mom, sopping wet and shivering. The bigger kids took charge, one of them running ahead to tell her we were coming. We were all in trouble that night, but it didn't stop us from going back.

We first read Roxaboxen about a year and a half ago, when the Bee took it out of the library. It transported me back to my old neighborhood, to the parts of my hometown that were owned by kids, where adults never bothered to go. I lived in a town that had a lot of places like that, secret creeks, hidden little forests, acres on acres of farmland (although much of that farmland has been eaten by development now). Much as I love my current home, I will never know it the way that I knew my hometown, never know it from a kid's eye view. I won't spend hours poking sticks into the river, or finding paths through the woods.

I know that our town has those places, and one of the most fervent hopes that I have for my children is that they will have the time to find them. That they won't be overscheduled every minute, and that they'll have a pack of friends to run around with and elect the mayor, and ride horses made of tree branches. I'm giving the Potato this book for Christmas, and with it goes my hope that they will be as lucky as the kids in this story, as lucky as I was, in their childhood.

• Posted By landismom @ 12/20/2005 08:38:00 AM
Saturday, December 17, 2005

weird kids

I've been tagged by chip from daddychip to write about 5 ways my kids are weird. When I first read his post, I thought, "hasn't chip been reading my blog? isn't my whole blog about how weird my kids are?" I guess that isn't entirely accurate, though. Unlike chip, my kids don't read my blog, so I can write about things in the present. Here goes...

1. I'm beginning to think that the Bee cannot tell a lie, especially when it involves following the rules. Oh, she'll chafe against them, argue and scream if she doesn't like it, but she will not break a rule and then lie about it. Sometimes I just want to tell her, "look, just go in your room and do what you're gonna do, and Daddy and I will never know about it." But I can't do that, can I?

2. Sometimes, when the Bee is getting out of control, she pretends to be a dog. A dog that I named Pepper. For some reason, when she turns into Pepper, it's easier for her to get back to normal.

3. Every morning, the Potato has a yogurt with wheat germ and a sippy cup of milk for breakfast (known to him as 'yogurt-milkies'). He walks into the kitchen, opens the refrigerator, and inspects all of the yogurts. Lately, he's been taking the dented ones out and saying, "it's bokin!" and then putting them back uneaten.

4. After his yogurt-milkies, the Potato will insist on having a bowl of cereal, too. He always wants at least two kinds of cereal in the bowl--and it has to be a combination of whatever the Bee and I are having for breakfast. Who knew that Yogurt Burst Cheerios and Low Fat Granola with Raisins would taste good together?

5. Both of my kids will kick their covers off when they first fall asleep, no matter how cold it is. LD or I will always cover them up again, and they seem to stay covered up for the rest of the night.

And in return, I'm tagging: Ashley, Jessica, Metrodad, Chichimama and Scarlett.

• Posted By landismom @ 12/17/2005 07:43:00 PM
Friday, December 16, 2005

Christmas Compromises

I was reading this post over at the Bored Housewives Network, and I started to respond in comments, but it got kinda long, so I'm posting here instead.

I'm married to a mostly secular Jew (albeit one who celebrates Christmas), so I do have some sense of how you feel. My dh is not overly anti-Christmas, but I think he keeps a certain distance from it. One of the things I've learned over time is that there are things that he will do just to keep me happy (like getting and decorating a tree), and things that I won't ask him to do to keep him happy (like watching Christmas movies all day, which he would absolutely not be down for).

I think
it helps that I help him celebrate not just Hanukkah (an only-mildly-important Jewish holiday), but also Passover, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah (the big three). And that, even though I'm celebrating Christmas, I'm not a religious person at all (or a Christian). For both of us, the celebration of these holidays is really more about a celebration of our culture, than it is about faith (and yes, mine is the culture of commercialization while his is the culture of fasting).

Like any marriage or long-term partnership, it's all about the compromises.

• Posted By landismom @ 12/16/2005 11:03:00 AM
Thursday, December 15, 2005

we're all complicit in the patriarchy

About 8 weeks ago, my son was introduced to the joys of football. Or as he calls it, 'meatball'.

He has some 'meatball' jammies now.

He's watched some on tv with his dad.

He points out pictures of 'meatball' players on the sports page.

Tonight, the Bee's school had their holiday gift shop, where elementary school students get to buy cheap plastic crap for the people who love them. What did the Bee buy her brother for Christmas?

You guessed it. A 'meatball' of his very own. I can't wait until he brings home his first cheerleader.

• Posted By landismom @ 12/15/2005 09:06:00 PM
Sunday, December 11, 2005

seven redux

I was tagged with the seven meme again by Moonface at Midnight Musings. I'm curious about how memes mutate. Most of the meme is the same as when I did it about a month ago, but there are some new things, so I'm just doing those.

Seven books or book series I love (only 7? right!):
1. A Fable, by William Faulkner
2. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
3. A Wrinkle in Time (and related books) by Madeleine L'Engle
4. Striking Performances/Performing Strikes by Kirk Fuoss
5. Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol
6. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
7. Richard the Second by William Shakespeare

Seven movies I could watch over and over again:
1. Lone Star
2. Dead Again
3. DOA
4. Clueless
5. The Third Man
6. Fame
7. Say Anything

• Posted By landismom @ 12/11/2005 09:58:00 PM

"Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?"

I think what Robert Browning meant to say is, "a mom's reach should exceed her grasp."

At least, that's the way I'm living this weekend.

Let me just say, that the next time I think it's a good idea to bake Christmas cookies with three two-year-olds, the Bee, and a three-year-old, without an adult-to-child ration of 1:1, just shoot me in the head and go on with your life.

I'll point out that the children who were not my own progeny were lovely and cooperative. My children, however, were (understandably) stressed about having to share all their toys and acted like wild animals protecting their turf. As did I. Sorry, Suzanne, for all the chaos.

On the positive side, we made many cookies, and only dropped one cookie-tray-full. The kids did have cute moments together, when the Potato wasn't screaming in outrage ('mine!'), and the Bee wasn't jumping on the couch. My niece, the Butterfly, enjoyed the Sit N Spin (why is it that I can only find the Simon Says Sit N Spin? did they stop making the other kind?). And at the end of the day, my house is really no messier than it was two days ago...

• Posted By landismom @ 12/11/2005 08:30:00 PM
Friday, December 09, 2005

coming up for air

We had a snow day today. I blogged an amusing (to me, anyway) anecdote about it here. You can also see the photo that we're using as our Christmas card picture there too.

I'm feeling utterly unprepared for the holidays this year. I've gotten a bunch of online shopping done, but I have barely even had time to look at the calendar, to figure out when I can take some time off. Happily, next week slows down, and the week after that is slower still, and then of course work life will totally shut down the week after Christmas, so there should be some time to relax and enjoy the kids.

A few days ago, I had the following conversation with the Bee:

Bee: "(girl in her class) says she doesn't believe in Santa Claus. She says it's just her dad who buys the presents. I told her that was crazy, because there's no way that her dad can go out that late on Christmas Eve and buy all those presents. The stores aren't open that late!"

LM: "Oh, really?"

Bee: "Yeah, she doesn't know what she's talking about." (looks at me hopefully)

Yesterday, landisdad reported a similar conversation (only this time it was a boy in her class who didn't believe in Santa).

I can see her trying desperately to hold on to her belief for one more year. I don't remember how old I was when I stopped believing in Santa, but it must have been around this age. We've never particularly encouraged this belief, but we've never really discouraged it, either. I wonder sometimes what things I believe in, just because I still want to.

• Posted By landismom @ 12/09/2005 09:21:00 PM
Thursday, December 08, 2005

all apology

Sorry I've not been blogging much lately. My brain's been on fire with a project for work, and it's hard to think about much else right now. I've had a major breakthrough in something I've been working on for just under a year, and at least for now, all I can do is sit around thinking, "why didn't I think of that before? It's so obvious..."

It also seems like everyone picked this week to squeeze in an ultra-important meeting before the holidays slow everything down.

I'm sure I'll have something interesting to say again soon. In lieu of an interesting post, I'll have to give you an interesting link--to this month's Carnival of Feminists. Enjoy!

• Posted By landismom @ 12/08/2005 09:10:00 PM
Sunday, December 04, 2005

not your touchy-feely mother

Today's New York Times featured a Style section commentary about maternal desire that made me re-think some stuff that's been going on around here lately.

I'll say upfront that I'm not the most physically expressive person in the world. Last year, on Election Night (after I had spent most of the year working to defeat George Bush), my boss came up and gave me a hug. "I know you're not a huggy person," she said, "but I think everyone needs a hug tonight." I endured it, but the truth was that I really didn't need a hug. I needed a stiff drink. But that's neither here nor there.

When the Bee was born, I got religion on the physical expression of love. (Well, obviously there was some physical love involved BEFORE the Bee was born. Ahem. Moving on. Again.) I was touching her all the time, doing all kinds of attachment parenting, co-sleeping, playing, breastfeeding, cuddling, tickling, sling-ing, you name it--if involved wonderfully soft baby skin, I was all over it. It didn't change my personality overnight--in fact, at point, landisdad and I were having a lot of conflict because I was feeling so drained from all the physical contact with her that I never ever wanted to touch him, not just sexually, but at all. But I did change.

As the Bee got bigger, she became addicted to what she grew to call "thumby," which was her name for either my or landisdad's thumbs. She would hold our thumb as she fell asleep, slowly stroking the thumbnail. And if you tried to take it away from her, she'd wake up and cry. (We didn't make this mistake with the Potato, fwiw.) We broke her of the thumby addiction, but it was painful for all of us.

Since the Bee has gotten even bigger, I'm less tolerant of her efforts to remain physically attached to me. Obviously, I committed the ultimate betrayal by having another child, and having a similarly physical relationship to him. The Potato, for a variety of reasons (some involving the protection of parental sanity, some involving me getting a contagious disease when he was six months old and having to wean him practically overnight) has had a less-attached life. But still, he's two, and we can carry him around, and turn him upside down, and we just can't do those things with her anymore. She weighs 50 pounds, and she's four feet tall, but inside, she still wants to be treated like a cuddly toddler sometimes. Just this evening, the three of us were going upstairs to get them changed into their pajamas, and she grabbed me around the waist, and said, "I'm never going to let you go, we're going to be attached forever!"

And that's the kind of thing that works my last nerve.

A day ago, my response would have been something along the lines of "get off, Bee, that's not safe." But today, I just said, "why don't we hold hands instead?" I know it won't be much longer that she wants to be my little girl. A moment will pass, and she won't even want to be seen with me in public, much less hold my hand.

The Bee has been all kinds of crazy for the last few weeks. I've mostly written it off to excitement about the holidays, recent visits from various family members, and a reduction in exercise (since it's been getting colder). I'm seeing her behavior through a new lens, now, and I don't like what I'm seeing. I'm seeing a girl who loves me so much, that she literally does want to be attached to me, and instead of me reciprocating that love, I'm basically telling her to go away. If I were in her shoes, I'd be acting out too.

• Posted By landismom @ 12/04/2005 06:55:00 PM
Thursday, December 01, 2005

Today is Blog Against Racism Day. I was all set to write this post a few weeks ago, but then I saw an announcement on Bitch PhD about BAR Day, so I decided to wait. Here goes.

In second generation feminism, there was a writer (whose name escapes me right now) who wrote about her own transformative experiences as a feminist coming not as one huge realization, but as “clicks,” where a relatively small experience made her look at the world in a new way. “You should study teaching not medicine.” –CLICK – “Hey, why don’t you make the coffee before the meeting, and then you can help us out by taking notes.” –CLICK-- …you get the picture.

When I was in college, for a while I had an African American housemate (I’ll call her Danielle). I had other black friends, but Danielle was the first one that I ever lived with--saw every day, first thing in the morning, last thing before bed, drunk, sober, high, whatever. Danielle had grown up in an intentionally integrated suburb in Maryland. The kind of place that hippies and civil rights veterans started, to prove to society that blacks and whites could live together in harmony, as long as they were all from the same social class. We all hung out on the roof in the summer, drinking until all hours of the night, we drove down the shore to celebrate New Year’s Eve, and went to see our other housemate’s band play in a variety of dives in the tri-state area. We did the things that ‘normal’ college students do.

Due to various vagaries in my life (financial, direction, etc.), I ended up taking a year off from school, so Danielle graduated ahead of me, and moved to Baltimore to work for an anti-poverty organization. She came up to visit most weekends as she was dating my brother, although their relationship was starting to flounder. At one point, she called me to ask if I would come and spend the weekend with her. I said, sure, hopped in the car and drove down. We hung out at various dive bars that were interchangeable with the ones we hung out in at home, and she introduced me to a guy that she had started seeing (which my brother knew about). On the last day of my visit, she took me to the Lexington Market.

She took me there because she knew I would be the only white person in the market, and she wanted to explain to me why she was going to stop dating my brother. She wanted me to know what it felt like, to her, to constantly be in places where she was the only black person, where she was having to constantly interpret for the whitefolks that she was hanging out with (or to pretend that there were no differences in her life experience). Obviously, there was no way that spending one afternoon in an environment where I was the only white person was going to let me know what her life was like all the time. But the -CLICK- that I got that day was from seeing how important to her it was that I got just the tiniest taste of what her life was like.

In my own life, at that point, I had been crossing class barriers for a few years. I was a very smart working-class kid who ended up in a couple of very wealthy suburban high schools where people tended to make assumptions about my intelligence based on where I lived, or to express surprise that I lived where I lived, given that I was in honors classes. But what Danielle made me start thinking about that day was how much privilege I actually had, just because of the color of my skin. It’s not like I was unaware of racism before that day, but I had never thought about what it must be like to live with, day in and day out, for your whole life.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ arrest, which sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In honor of Blog Against Racism day, I’d like to thank Danielle (wherever she is now) for giving me that CLICK moment.

• Posted By landismom @ 12/01/2005 11:33:00 AM
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