quick, somebody…

point me to a study that proves that calories consumed on Halloween don’t count the rest of the year!

Nothing? Drat, I was so hoping.

And now, for your viewing entertainment, a gratuitous series of Halloween-related photos:

painting pumpkins #1 & 2

At a Halloween party on Saturday night

On the way to school for the Halloween parade

And going out trick-or-treating.
(Why does the Potato look so serious? Candy acquisition is an important mission!)

Happy Halloween, everybody!


October 31, 2005. the cutest kids ever!. 6 comments.

Yes, what is a modern grrrrlll to do?

I just finished reading Maureen Dowd’s somewhat depressing essay on feminism in the Sunday Times Magazine. I’m sure this is going to be one of the more blogged-over things in the feminist blogosphere, but I felt compelled to write about it anyway.

I’m an old-school feminist. I’m not really sure how that happened, as I feel pretty cutting-edge, but I guess I’ve been left behind by those who want to roll back the issues of the women’s movement, so that someone else will pay for their dinner. It’s upsetting that the victories of the women’s movement are so often reduced to half-measures in this way–well, they didn’t win total pay equity in the 60s & 70s, so I guess I’ll just give up and let him pay for my vacation. I mean, what social justice movement ever won EVERY demand it was fighting for? None. In the words of a former co-worker of mine, “that’s why they call it the struggle, and not the picnic.”

Elizabeth from Half-Changed World had an interesting post last weekend about marriage & compromise, including the following:

I’ve written here before about Rhonda Mahoney’s book “Kidding Ourselves.” She applies the logic of game theory to compromise in marriage and argues that that the stronger an individual’s fallback position is, the better deal they can negotiate with their partner. So, if you can make a credible threat of leaving your partner — if you have the skills to support yourself, a decent hope of getting a new partner, a good chance of getting the custody arrangement you’d prefer — you’ll be better off even while married. Thus, many feminist women are suddenly unhappy with the division of labor in their relationships following the birth of a baby because they’ve been hit by a double whammy: the amount of total work that needs to be done has increased dramatically just when they’ve given up much of their credible threat of walking out.

It’s an interesting post to me, because I think that one of the things that people forget about the women’s movement is that there was a lot more on the table than pay equity & abortion rights. There were things like access to child care, and ending domestic violence & sexual harassment in the workplace, and affirmative action in college enrollment. We’ve won a lot of things that increase our ‘credible threat’ of leaving our husbands, because forty years ago, if your husband was beating on you or raping you every day, it was really hard to get anyone in power to make him stop doing it. It wasn’t even a crime in some places. And forty years ago if you wanted to leave your abusive husband and get a job to support yourself and your kids, you might not be able to find childcare for your kids while you were working. And forty years ago, if you wanted to go to college so that you could make enough money to support yourself and your kids, you might not be able to. Victories like that have mattered to a lot of women. The irony is that Dowd talks about a previous Times article (about women at Yale deciding to be stay-at-home moms) without even mentioning that the fact that those women are at Yale at all (especially in large numbers) is a victory that feminists won.

I’m frustrated that so many of these articles about the ‘death of feminism’ seem to focus so heavily on women of privilege, without mentioning the advantages that feminists have won for our working-class sisters. It’s not all about the ideals of beauty and the what men are looking for in a wife. It’s about the fact that generally, the idea that women are the property of the men in their lives is no longer widely accepted.

Dowd closes her essay wondering if, 25 years from now, we’ll be back where we were in the fifties, with a whole generation of women who gave up on the fights of feminism wishing for a new Betty Friedan to come along. As a parent, I surely hope not. I want my daughter to have that ‘credible threat,’ and I want my son to have to deal with it.

October 30, 2005. politically motivated. 9 comments.

There’s something living in our backyard…

Well, okay, there’s probably more than one thing if you want to be all literal and count things like trees & spiders & squirrels.

But there’s something much bigger than that living in our backyard. Something mammalian.

Whatever it is has dug a hole under our shed.

And yesterday when I walked out onto the deck to call someone (thanks for the crappy reception, myjob’scellphonecompany), I saw something very large and furry trundling across the backyard and into the hole. Something the size of, say, a raccoon.

I’m a little freaked out about letting the kids out in the back yard alone with this thing running around, since it’s willing to come out in daylight. Any suggestions?

October 29, 2005. random other things. 7 comments.

humor on the road

I’m writing this from a hotel room somewhere in Ohio. Last night, I got in to the hotel around 11:30 p.m., after a lovely evening spent in the airport watching my flight be delayed several times. I unpacked my bags, set up my laptop (huzzah for free high speed internet!), and opened my email to discover this message from landisdad:

subject: If you miss our Potato (& yes, it actually said Potato & not the kid’s real name)

body: and I know you do…

Fire Truck!Fire Truck!Fire Truck!

love, me

What I love about my husband is that we have the exact same sense of humor. Can’t wait to get home tomorrow night.

October 26, 2005. random other things. 6 comments.

reading recommendation

I just finished reading this really interesting book called Hey Waitress: The USA from the Other Side of the Tray by Allison Owings, a book that has been on my Powell’s wishlist for a few years (and incidentally, I originally heard of in The Women’s Review of Books). It’s an well-researched book–a series of oral history interviews with a variety of waitresses, including a woman who worked the lunch counter at the Woolworth’s in Greensboro, NC that was famously desegregated by a student sit-in (shown here).

The woman points out that the first African Americans to actually EAT the counter (as opposed to sitting and having ketchup poured into their hair) were from the kitchen staff–the owner had them come in in their uniforms, and then go off to a different part of the store to change into regular clothes, and sit down as the first black customers, so that he could be sure they wouldn’t do anything crazy. Owings (with the white waitress’s help) tracks down one of those kitchen workers, who admits that they didn’t really eat–just inhaled the food, because they were so scared. In addition, Owings interviews one of the women who sued to get hired at a high-end New York restaurant, and a woman who went from being a nun to being a waitress, just to name a few.

It’s rare for books about labor to focus on ‘women’s work’ at all, much less to focus on individual women doing that work with dignity. And waitressing seems to cross class lines for a lot of women. I know a number of men–my husband included–who have never had a job in food service. But I don’t know any women who I can say that about–even women I know who have high-level corporate jobs have some kind of waitressing in their backgrounds.

The book reminded me of my own days as a waitress, and what a love-hate relationship I had with those jobs. On the one hand, I found waitressing to be highly lucrative. I usually worked nights, and could routinely earn $150-200 in tips over two weekend shifts–which was way more than I earned at any other service-level job. In fact, I probably earned more per hour (with tips factored in) as a waitress than I did at anything I ever did, until I became a word-processor at an evil corporate law firm in my late twenties. I also liked the feeling of being on the inside, because you do get that ‘back of the house’ element in service work. On the other hand, I hated being relentlessly pursued by the male customers, and the smell of a walk-in refrigerator is still enough to make me cringe. When I quit my last restaurant job, I swore I’d never work in food service again. That wasn’t true–I ended up working for a catering company for a while, which had all of the ills and none of the advantages (ie–no tips) of restaurant work. But I’m pretty happy that I can say I haven’t done any kind of food service work at all (unless you count waiting on my kids) for over 10 years.

One of the things that the book gets right is how vulnerable most waitresses & waiters are to exploitation. The minimum wage law in this country allows restaurants to pay their workers less than the federal minimum wage (the minimum you can legally pay a tipped employee is $2.13 per hour), under the theory that with tips, they will make more than minimum wage. Of course, plenty of restaurant employers are ethical, and don’t try to cheat their staff out of tips. But even in an ethical restaurant, you’re at the mercy of the customers. And if they’re having a bad day, or just an ass, you’re the one who suffers.

In my current work life, I’ve recently gotten to know some restaurant workers who don’t work for an ethical employer. They’ve told me stories about their employer’s failure to pay them overtime, and his failure to pay them their last paycheck if they quit, and some others have come forward to talk about how that same employer steals their tips, or makes them do non-tipped work (for example, kitchen prep) at the tipped hourly rate.

I took the Bee out to dinner tonight (a reward for good behavior after I had to take her to a meeting with me), and we had long conversation about the work of restaurant employees, my time as a waitress, and the different options that people have to win respect on the job (as well as the lengths that some people have to go to get respect). I’m glad that Owings wrote this book, which sparked such a captivating talk with my daughter.

October 23, 2005. books for grown-ups. 8 comments.


I was tagged by Non-for-Profit Dad with this meme. So here you go–all things seven in nature.

7 things I want to do before I die:
1. Take my kids to Paris (okay, when they’re a little older)
2. Have a real office again
3. Learn to speak Spanish
4. Finish Remembrance of Things Past
5. Visit my brother & his family in Japan, with my family. Before the kids are old enough to sneak out at one in the morning.
6. See my kids grow up well (hey, I am a Sim, after all)
7. Help the US move back in the direction of being a civilized society

7 things I cannot do:
1. Avoid pissing off my mom, when talking about religion
2. Avoid being pissed off by my mom, when talking about religion
3. Pass by a bookstore without going inside
4. Not be the last person to talk on a phone call–it’s a family trait. Someday, I’ll have to write about what goes on when my brother and I are on the phone with each other.
5. Rollerblade
6. Get interested in cooking
7. Love my children anymore than I already do

7 things that attract me to the opposite sex:
1. Sense of humor
2. Intelligence
3. A large library
4. Disdain for reality shows
5. Snark
6. Enthusiasm
7. Let’s just say I have a physical type

7 things that I say most often:
1. Potato, sit on your butt
2. Bee, if you want to climb on something, go into the backyard
3. Where are my sunglasses?
4. Put that down!
5. Blah, blah, blah
6. I am so fucking irritated right now!
7. Please use a nice voice, and nice words

7 celebrity crushes: well, they’re not really crushes—but I’d do them
1. Walt Whitman. No, seriously
2. Veronica Mars (oh wait, I mean Kristen Bell)
3. Viggo Mortensen
4. Jeremy Piven
5. Guy Pearce
6. Antonio Banderas (hiding from landisdad)
7. Jason Dohring

7 people I want to do this: (although you are absolutely not obligated)
1. Dawn (Chai & Apple Pie)
2. Mere (This Rainbow Family)
3. Jessica (Daughter of Opinion)
4. Christie (I Miei Pensieri)
5. Suzanne (Mimilou)
6. Fidget (Finding Yourself Despite Yourself)
7. Landisdad (because everyone else seems to be tagging their non-blogging spouse—you can answer in the comments, honey)

October 21, 2005. memes. 9 comments.

The Tooth is Out There

For weeks, we’ve been anxiously awaiting the loss of the first baby tooth in our house. There’s been a lot of wiggling of a certain lower front tooth, but I was starting to worry that the Bee’s first lost tooth was going to be the incisor that she’s having extracted tomorrow. In fact, we had a whole conversation before bed tonight about how, if the tooth came out in the middle of the night, the Tooth Fairy might already have been to our house, and might not notice it until tomorrow. We had fun naming the various other states and countries she might be visiting–Grandma in Paris! the twin cousins in Japan! But not to worry.

Because tonight, Mother Nature decided to take Father Science out back behind the woodshed. And consequently, no novocaine was involved in the loss of our beautiful girl’s first tooth!

The Bee is the youngest kid in her class at school. Last year, when she was in kindergarten, she was really upset when some of her friends were losing teeth and she wasn’t even close. Up until tonight, she was the only kid in her class that hadn’t lost a tooth. No more.

Now, I just have to hope that I can scrape together tooth fairy money…how much is that again?

October 19, 2005. growing up, the cutest kids ever!. 10 comments.

The Cult of Personality

Comfort Addict asked me in a comment to expound on the non-physical ways that our kids take after me and landisdad. It’s a question that interests me a great deal, so I thought I’d answer in a whole ‘nother post.

In some ways, I can’t really tell how much my kids are like us. Do I have an objective enough view of myself to really see the ways that my kids’ personalities are like mine? Maybe, maybe not. And again, the Potato is only 2—he’s still coming into his own as a person, and I think there are some basic functions of personality that he just hasn’t acquired yet—partly because he’s still only moderately skilled with language. I know that the Bee’s personality is still developing, too, but I have a tendency to think of her as being more fully formed, largely because she is highly skilled with language.

I think that the Bee is more like me (in personality) than she is like her dad. In some ways, I’m happy about that—I want her to be a tough, strong, independent woman, and she’s got those characteristics in spades. It’s a little tough to live with, though, and I’m sure that landisdad will back me up there (especially since he has to live with BOTH of us). The Potato is a more easy-going kid—part of which he gets from his dad, part of which I think is just a function of being a younger sibling. He still has a temper—he is two, after all—but he seems to take longer to go from 0 to 60 than the Bee does.

Part of what shapes our parenting, of course, is the relationship that landisdad and I had before we were parents. In a weird kind of way, I think our relationship is very much informed by our own birth order within our own families—I’m an older sister (of brothers), and landisdad is a younger brother (of one older brother). Within our relationship, landisdad is generally content to go along with decisions that I make, and to go out of his way to solicit my input into decisions that he’s making, where I tend to make decisions without consulting him, or to run them by him after I’ve pretty much made up my mind, but don’t want to do something that affects our family without him being okay with it. It’s hard to write about this without making it sound like our relationship is dysfunctional—which I don’t think it is—but I think that says a lot about the things that are important to us both. There is, at the core of our relationship, a bossy older sister with a slightly passive younger brother.

So what are the characteristics that I think our kids get from us? Well, both our kids (as I’ve mentioned numerous times before) love books, as do their parents. We all like to talk, and are not afraid to get loud to get our point across if need be. The Bee can be surprisingly shy at times—for a girl with as much personality as she has, I’m often surprised by situations that make her nervous. While I’m not sure that’s a personality trait she got from me, when that happens, it’s one of those times I see myself in her, and how much bluster I sometimes put on to get through an awkward situation. The Potato, on the other hand, is a genuinely outgoing kid, and will say hi to any stranger as we’re walking down the street, and I see in him his father’s ability to converse with almost anyone, regardless of their educational level, race or economic background. Am I reading too much into it? Probably. It’s something that I wish for both my kids, that they be equally comfortable having dinner in a five-star restaurant with some professors as they are eating lunch at a fast-food joint with some housekeepers in the union. Landisdad and I exposed each other to two different worlds when we met, and I think he’s become much more adept in mine than I am in his.

I guess the thing I’ll close with is more along the lines of a wishlist—the list of what I want my kids to get from both their parents. From me? An ability to make really hard choices, and not regret them afterwards, whatever the outcome, because they trust their own judgment. A great sense of humor. The ability to hold their liquor. A strong appreciation for the working class. A healthy cynicism about the motives of those with power. And a sense of the rights and privileges that other people fought to win that they benefit from. From their dad? A gift for languages, which I don’t possess. An ability to retain detailed information—yes, baseball stats, but also places, names, dates & ideas from important parts of history. A highly focused curiosity about the world. And most importantly, his ability to make us feel loved, whatever we do. There are a lot of parents who say they’ll love their kids whatever they do. From him, I believe it.

October 16, 2005. thoughtful parenting. 8 comments.

the bad side of genetics

For the most part, I lost out in the gene pool wars when it comes to our kids. Almost everyone agrees that physically, our kids take after landisdad & his family way more than they do me and mine. In fact, we have a picture of my MIL at 5 years old that is the spitting image of the Bee.

But there are some things that seem to have come down from my side of the family. They just aren’t necessarily the things that I would have chosen to pass on, if I could have avoided it.

For example? the Bee has the worst qualities of my parents’ teeth.

I really wish that hadn’t happened.

My dad has perfectly straight teeth, which are predisposed to getting cavities. My mom has terribly crooked teeth, which are fairly tough. The Bee seems to have ended up with the worst of both genes. Yesterday, landisdad had to take her to the dentist, because she got a cavity filled a few weeks ago, and now has developed a huge lump in her gum. You got it. Abscess (do abscess and cesspool have a common root? because yuck!) . My poor baby! Now we have to take her for an extraction next week. She hasn’t even lost a baby tooth yet, and she’s already having them yanked!

In addition to that, when she got her baby teeth as a baby, two of her front lower teeth were fused together into one. So now that she’s getting her adult teeth, the lower ones are all crooked. Yes, she’s six years old, and I’m already saving up for braces.

October 14, 2005. growing up. 11 comments.

off the clock?

I’m spending a day at the car dealership, because the fan of my car started to make a horrible noise last week. And then it started to make a horrible smell. And I still had to drive about 300 miles, before I could bring it in for service. Not fun.

Turns out, there were approximately 6,000 parking stubs that had fallen into my engine and were blocking the fan, some of which were scorched. Which required the mechanic to not only pull apart the dashboard, but also to take apart the blower. Time consuming AND expensive, my favorites! And of course, they also found some other things wrong—the water pump is leaking, and I need new tires. It’s a small miracle that the engine hasn’t caught fire, evidently. Sigh. I wouldn’t mind so much, if they just had free wi-fi here, but their network is password-protected.

And I have been able to get a lot of work done, since I’m not spending a bunch of time commenting on other people’s blogs. But now? I’m ready to go. Unfortunately, the car, she is not ready yet.

In a funny way, I was actually looking forward to spending the day here. One of the things I know about myself is that I’m pretty stressed out, when doing an errand that I would usually consider a pain in the ass comes to seem like a vacation day. I first recognized this phenomenon when I was in college, and I had to go to the gynecologist for my annual pelvic exam. When the act of concentrating on something outside of my day-to-day life starts to seem relaxing—even a not-very-relaxing situation like a pelvic? Well, that’s a bad sign.

One of the things that I really dislike about my current work situation is that there is absolutely no boundary between on-the-clock and off-the-clock. If you work from home, then in a sense, you’re always at work. I think nothing of checking my work email at 11 p.m., or listening to my voicemail at 6 in the morning. And since I don’t have a ‘work’ phone number—just a cell phone—in theory, I’m always reachable. I say in theory, of course, because there are certainly times when I just will not answer the phone. And I think that makes me unusual among my co-workers. I work with a lot of other people who work out of their homes, too—it’s the norm in our organization. And there is definitely this sort of over-compensation that goes on, as people want to make sure that everyone knows how hard they are working, even though they don’t go in to an office every day. There are a few of us—mostly working parents—who set hard limits on things. One of mine is that I will not talk to you between the hours of 6-8 p.m., no matter who you are. I can’t even tell you how popular my 8 p.m. conference calls make me with the childless staff!

I thought about taking personal time today to deal with my car, but in reality, I am doing the same exact thing here that I would do at home—I’ve been on the phone for at least an hour, I’ve written like 25 emails (although I can’t send them yet). I’m editing documents. In short, I’m working—I’m just not doing it at my desk. And since my desk is normally located in my dining room, it doesn’t seem like that big a leap, to my desk is a couch at the auto shop. I mean, some people work at coffee shops, right? Is this different?

October 12, 2005. work. 5 comments.

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