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!

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July 29, 2005. random other things. 10 comments.

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.

July 27, 2005. books for kids, politically motivated. 10 comments.

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

July 27, 2005. politically motivated. 3 comments.

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.

July 25, 2005. growing up. 4 comments.

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?

July 23, 2005. random other things. 8 comments.

nostalgia

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?

July 22, 2005. memes. 6 comments.

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

July 21, 2005. politically motivated. Leave a comment.

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!”

July 19, 2005. the cutest kids ever!. 9 comments.

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?

July 17, 2005. growing up. 5 comments.

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.

July 15, 2005. growing up. 5 comments.

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