Saturday, December 31, 2005
I am going to post my New Year's Resolutions below and then, if you like, you may post yours in the comments!
Lone Star Ma's Resolutions for 2006:
I will provide more structure for the girls: more family meals, more routines and traditions. Things have been kind of chaotic since the Lone Star Baby joined us!
I will be more patient with the Lone Star Girl.
I will cope with Lone Star Pa's school work needs gracefully until he finishes his certification and not go nuts over the fact that I am never able to work on my own projects.
When he is certified (late spring, early summer), I will finish at least one of the several books I have been writing in tiny installments.
PO Box 741655
New Orleans, LA
or via Paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org
More details & images can be seen on Coleen’s blog: www.supercenter.blogspot.com
These are some great calendars!!
Friday, December 30, 2005
I always set my watch fast. It started when Lone Star Pa and I were first together. I think it was something he did and that we applied to all of our shared timepieces. Eventually, I got into the habit of setting my watch ten minutes fast. Eventually, Lone Star Pa got annoyed by fast timepieces and stopped doing it. At some point, I added a little extra-fast to my watch so that it is now somewhere between ten and fifteen minutes fast...but I do not know exactly how much. So now I never really know what time it is if I only have my watch to go by.
The Lone Star Girl owns several watches but wears none of them. She prefers to ask me what time it is constantly until I become unglued.
Anyone who knows my husband at all well knows that his most frequently used Lone Star Pa-ism is "Age and other numbers are just establishment illusions."
I enjoy a silly series of books by Jasper Fforde that center around a character named Thursday Next who is a literary detective and a Jurisfiction agent. Her father is a member of the Chronoguard, the law enforcement outfit responsible for protecting the timeline, much like the temporal agents on Star Trek. I often call the Lone Star Girl chronoguard as a perjorative. It is truly her calling and may - who knows? - end up being her life's work. She is a real fuddy-duddy about changing the timeline. Disapproves of Hermione and all.
Time slips through my fingers...runs from me like a cheetah. There is never time enough to accomplish the things I want to do...not even the things I just should do. The Lone Star Girl is ten years old...I am 34...the baby is 18 months...where does it go? If I slowed it down, even just a bit, the Lone Star Girl would probably arrest me or something but it just goes too, too fast...
Thursday, December 29, 2005
Pray for rain....
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Lone Star Pa and the Lone Star Girl had few such solitary interludes when she was a baby. When I was not at work, she was always with me. I think I saw one movie without her (one of the Star Wars re-releases) before she was four years old. Many mothers have much more time with their babies than I am allowed, but when a mother must work away from them as much as I must, I do not think there is really any room for other separations in the earliest years. There just isn't enough time. And yet...the Lone Star Baby has spent several periods of time away from me when I was not at work, many it sometimes seems.
My feelings haven't really changed. It's just that I have two daughters, now. It's difficult. While I firmly believe that the early years are the very most crucial time in a person's emotional development and while that belief of mine causes the Lone Star Baby's need for time with me to trump everything else the vast majority of the time when I am not at work...it doesn't really do to deprive a blossoming pre-teen girl of one-on-one time with her mother either, you know? So I have had to compromise, as we all have to all the time, I know...but still. It feels at those times when I carve out some alone time for my older child that while it is right and necessary for her, it is wrong and harmful for the baby. Children are resilient, of course. I am doing the best I can do, of course. It troubles me, though...it really, really does.
Sunday, December 25, 2005
Last night, we had dinner at the home of the "other-Quaker-family-with-children" in town. I just love them and it was so nice of them to invite us and we had a lovely time. Then we drove around a bit to look at Christmas lights on our way home. At home, the children opened their Christmas Eve pajamas (pink with monkeys for the Lone Star Girl, red with Spider-Man for the Lone Star Baby) and put them on. Lone Star Pa read 'Twas The Night Before Christmas and I read the nativity story from the Gospel of Luke. Then the Lone Star Girl read the story on the last book from our advent calendar, hung it on the tree and put the figure of Baby Jesus in our nativity scene. We let the girls open presents from far-flung relatives and put out milk and cookies from Santa before they went to bed.
This morning the girls let us sleep past nine. It was nothing like when I was a child and, as the oldest, had to sleep across the door in the same room as my five siblings to prevent any of them from escaping before 6am, the time my parents deemed the absolute earliest that it was acceptable to wake them. We had a good sleep! Then the girls pillaged their stockings, oohed over their Santa-presents and unwrapped their presents from us. We had a brunch of the Lone Star Girl's special scrambled eggs, sweet orange rolls and breakfast strips, talked to out-of-town relatives on the phone and watched a movie that the Lone Star Girl had received. After naps, we went to visit my grandad and his family and now we are snug at home, cooking Christmas dinner. Lone Star Pa does have a touch of what I call the male-holiday-malaise (is it only men in my family who invariably get sick on all family holidays?), but otherwise we are having a great Christmas together. I hope you are all snug and happy with your families, too.
Friday, December 23, 2005
Gibbon's Decline and Fall by Sheri S. Tepper
The Gate To Women's Country by Sheri S. Tepper
The Cradle Robbers by Ayelet Waldman
Singer From The Sea by Sheri S. Tepper
Next: Bait and Switch by Barbara Ehrenreich
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
I feel so bad moving her to a different school. We have had nothing but excellent, amazing care where she is, but I think the babies are really their strong point at that school. If I could keep her with the wonderful, amazingly talented and caring teachers she has now, I would never, ever, ever move her, ever. But I can't. She was scheduled to move up to a different room this week if we had stayed; she would have had to leave her beloved teachers anyway. We don't really know the older rooms' teachers and so it is a good time for her move. Still.
It was hard.
The main thing I am looking forward to at the new Montessori school is that she will have the same teacher until she turns 3, then another teacher who she will have through her kindergarten year, ideally. I think it's better if she doesn't have to love people and then move on from them so often, and they change teachers like every six months in the toddler years at most day-cares. I think this will be better.
She will spend the rest of this week and next home with Lone Star Pa. Then I will take those first few days of January off with her and she will start her new school on the 5th! We keep talking about her visit and she seems excited about it. So much change!
Yesterday was the fourth grade's "Culture Day". The fourth grade studies Texas and they do a pilot project in which the kids are split into groups and each study one of several main cultures that immigrated to Texas and settled here. The Lone Star Girl is studying Ireland, where most of her maternal ancestors came from to escape famine. (She once asked me if there were any Celtic Queens or Princesses among our ancestresses. I told her no: just a bunch of starving people.) They move to different classrooms to study their chosen cultures, but have also learned a cultural dance in their homerooms. The Lone Star Girl's class learned a French folk dance. Yesterday, all of the children dressed up in the culture they were studying and had a parade in the morning. The Lone Star Girl wore a green and blue plaid dress with a thick sweater over it and a green hat...bit stereotypical perhaps, but she was cute. The different classes then each performed their dances for the rest of the grade and assorted parents and guests.
It was also the day for the class's senior citizen service project. I was in charge of organizing this for the Lone Star Girl's class. I am not good Room Mom material, as I have discussed in a previous post, but I did my best. I focused on activities that would allow kids and seniors to work together at something, rather than the typical kids doing-for thing, because I have learned from our City's Senior Community Services Division that it is important to break down stereotypes that seniors are helpless, etc. I wanted to have a chair volleyball game with the seniors and students, something local seniors from the senior centers do sometimes, but the teacher was really into a book group idea so we went with that. Several senior volunteers came and watched the children's dances, then came to our classroom. They broke into groups with the students and discussed a book they had read for the occasion, and books and reading in general, while having refreshments. Then they did a craft I had organized, making little beeswax ornaments together, so that each child and senior had a momento of the time they spent together. It went pretty well, I thought.
It was also the last day before Winter Break, so all the classes had their winter parties. Each child in the Lone Star Girl's class brought a food from the culture they were studying. It was fun. Busy day....
Monday, December 19, 2005
Saturday, December 17, 2005
In more progressive practices, a midwife or OB will give their home number to a woman who expresses preferences about the sort of birth she wants to have so that the attendant can attend the birth whether she or he is on call or not. Also, if they are not going to be available, they will discuss the case with their back-up to see to it that the family's wishes can be respected in their absence. It does not sound like much of this would happen with the new system.
Most U.S. births today occur in ways that stress convenience and lack of legal liability for physicians and hospitals. They do not, unfortunately, stress safety for mothers and babies. Study after study has shown that midwife attended births, which usually are more personalized and occur in the context of a relationship between family and birth attendant and which emphasize natural methods of pain relief and labor progression, rather than over-reliance on less safe chemical and surgical methods, are actually safer births, with better outcomes for mothers and babies alike. Innovations that move mothers more into the hands of hospitals, which specialize in drugs and surgery, are not true progress. We are all glad that hospitals are there with their medicines and surgeries for emergencies, but natural methods, employed by attendants who know a laboring woman and her needs, should be the norm. This trend would just move the norm even further from that ideal.
The Lone Star Girl is really a wonderful big sister who spends lots of time with the baby, but not everything a ten-year-old does is conducive to including a baby, of course. Poor little sweetheart. She wants to be big, too!
In an ironic twist of fate, many of the Lone Star Baby's possessions will not be allowed due to the school's policy prohibiting "violent characters", and specifically naming Spider-Man and Hulk, among others. This is ironic because I am the most strict mother I know when it comes to violent media of any kind, including books. I do not allow my children exposure to any violent media before the age of 7, even very high-quality literature like The Chronicles of Narnia books, because I believe children's minds are very absorbent before that time and that they have no filters to prevent them from becoming what they are exposed to in those early years. I do not know anyone else who is as careful about this as I am, so it seems really weird that such a policy, which I fully agree with in principle, would be so inconvenient for us. The Spider-Man and Wonder-Woman that the Lone Star Baby knows are not violent, though. They come from Spider-Man & Friends books about playing frisbee and cuddly dolls and songs that do not show any fighting. Since the Lone Star Baby has never experienced them in a violent context at all and does not know that they are ever portrayed with such a context, I have no problem with them. I will have to comply, though. We'll just have to play dancing super heroes at home!
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
School choirs come to sing (and even play recorders!) at City Hall this time of year. It is such a gift to hear their little voices brightening up the halls where public servants work so hard on things that often take so long to come to fruition. Music is one of the nicest things about the holidays, I think.
Monday, December 12, 2005
The Lone Star Baby started talking about shapes at about a year, but colors have thus far eluded her. Just this week, though, she seems to have figured out pink and blue and likes to go around pointing at things saying "Pink!" or "Bueoooo..."
The Lone Star Girl was a very verbal baby, as well, but it is hard to remember clearly. I really don't think she talked as much as this one does by a long shot. It was fun to keep up with the baby's vocabulary for a few months, but now, I couldn't possibly. It seems to have grown geometrically and I would have to guess it at around 300 words, but I really have no idea. She says "Hestia" (our cat's name), "dinosaur", the names of everyone she knows and their pets if she has met them, she knows that "cold" and "frio" mean the same thing, as well as "wind" and "viento" and uses them correctly. She says not only "tree", but also "bark" and "leaf". She labels shapes, animals, animal sounds, body parts, just about everything she sees or ("airplane!") hears. She employs simple commands like "hold you!","walk!", "outside!", "down!", "all done!", "other one!", "cup!", "milk!", etc. and sometimes softens them with "please" and the occasional "thank you". I'm not being boastful, just...a little dazed, I guess. Life with these small ones is always such an amazement a minute and she is amazing me more than I expected. I thought I was an old hand, already, so she has to teach me different!
Thursday, December 08, 2005
I get Christmas cards from the psychiatric hospitals.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Monday, December 05, 2005
Three Wise Women
by Mary Hoffman
by Barbara Barrie
A Dozen Silk Diapers
by Melissa Kajpust
Too Many Tamales
by Gary Soto
The Winter Solstice
by Ellen Jackson
A Full House
by Madeleine L’Engle
The Gifts of Kwanzaa
by Synthia St. James
What Child Is This?
by Caroline B. Cooney
The Winter Gift
by Deborah Turney Zagwyn
Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas
by Madeleine L’Engle
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Saturday, November 19, 2005
I will be offline until Monday the 28th. Have a great Thanksgiving!!
Friday, November 18, 2005
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Friday, November 11, 2005
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Friday, November 04, 2005
by Abby Goodnough
submissions now sought for the 2006 edition of the mama calendar!
straight outta new orleans,
against all odds, and by the seat of my pants,
the 2006 calendar will hit the presses mid-december.
the mama calendar is a community building-consciousness raising
resource by, of, about and for progressive, feminist, activist mamas
and their families, friends & allies everywhere. it is a celebration
and a call to action, a thing of beauty to last the year.
edited by coleen murphy, the calendar features a blend of
photos of mamas, babies, children, dads, and friends, as well
as a guide to mama-made zines, alternative parenting
resources, recipes, recipes for revolution, great dates in radical mama
herstory, and the work of numerous artist/activist/mamas.
recent editions have featured ayun halliday, victoria law, laurel
dykstra, sonja smith, trula breckenridge and heather cushman-dowdee, among others.
to join the ranks, send your photographs, poems, rants,
reviews, recipes, remarks, scrawls, comics, hopes, dreams and etc.
by November 21 to
PO box 741655
new orleans, LA
or via email to coleen at bust.com
prints of images are preferred; digital photos must be black
& white and high resolution.
how else can you support the project? beat the mad
holiday rush and ensure the future of the mama calendar
by ordering yours today!
calendars are $12 a piece plus $2 for mailing costs
via the above mailing address or via paypal to coleen at bust.com
the 2006 calendars will be mailed out around december 15;
in the event that insufficient orders come in, all payments
will be refunded at that time."
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Contact: 847-519-7730: Mary Lofton , MLofton@llli.org, ext. 271; Mary Hurt , MHurt@llli.org, ext. 286; or Katy Lebbing , KLebbing@llli.org, ext. 245.
Schaumburg, IL (October 2005) La Leche League International (LLLI) is concerned about the October 10, 2005 policy statement on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Task Force on SIDS. The recommendations about pacifiers and cosleeping in the statement reflect a lack of basic understanding about breastfeeding management. Pacifiers, which are recommended in this policy statement, are artificial substitutes for what the breast does naturally. Breastfed babies often nurse to sleep for naps and bedtime. The recommended pacifier usage could cause a reduction in milk supply due to reduced stimulation of the breasts and may affect breastfeeding duration.
LLLI recognizes that safe cosleeping facilitates breastfeeding. One important way cosleeping can help a mother’s milk supply is by encouraging regular and frequent feeding. Well-known research on safe cosleeping practices by Dr. James McKenna, Director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame was disregarded by the task force. Also, the obvious omission of input by the AAP’s Section on Breastfeeding may account for the fact that breastfeeding management issues were not taken into consideration. Dr. Nancy Wight, President of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, comments that this statement “represents a truly astounding triumph of ethnocentric assumptions over common sense and medical research.” Dr. Wight also states, “There are many physician members of the AAP who do not agree with these recommendations.”
Although the authors do state that breastfeeding is beneficial and should be promoted, their recommendations about pacifier use and cosleeping could have a negative impact on a mother’s efforts to breastfeed. The statement causes confusion for parents and falls seriously short of being a useful and comprehensive policy.
LLLI, a non-profit organization that helps mothers learn about breastfeeding, has an international Professional Advisory Board. The LLLI Center for Breastfeeding Information is one of the world’s largest libraries of information on breastfeeding, human lactation, and related topics. Monthly meetings are offered to pregnant women and nursing mothers and babies to learn about breastfeeding management. To find local groups call 800 LA LECHE or visit www.lalecheleague.org"
Monday, October 31, 2005
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Now, I have to go frost a strawberry birthday cake.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Do they increase choices for citizens or not?
If they do, I generally vote for them, whether or not I think the choice they would be allowing is a good one. If they restrict citizen choices, however, I vote no. Don't get me wrong, though: I am no libertarian. I am more of a maternal-feminist-neo-populist type (read: I'm gonna breastfeed in your restaurant whether you like it or not but you had better not smoke in it around my kids). I vote for plenty of laws that restrict the choices of individual citizens for what I deem to be the good of the broader society, and I will continue to do so. I think laws and constitutional amendments require different decision-making processes, though. Laws are very fluid, they are about all kinds of things and they change all the time based upon our changing values as a society. The constitution is about our form of government (how we decide on our laws, etc.) and about our rights. I think that's different.
The only one of these proposed amendments that really gets my dander up is Proposition 2, which provides that marriage in this state consists only of the union of one man and one woman and prohibiting this state or a political subdivision of this state from creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage. Now, for one thing, this baby is rather poorly written. It may, in fact, invalidate all our marriages, which I would not be in favor of, being rather attached to mine. If it did inadvertently do that, though, it would be just what its writers deserve for trying to enshrine state-sponsored bigotry into our very constitution. Shame on them! Who do they think they are?
They seem to think they are a church, and that they are dealing in sacraments which involve certain religious belief systems that must be adhered to in order to receive said sacrament. They are not churches, however, and marriage, as a state construct, is not a sacramental matter. It is a matter of the rights of citizens. As such, the state has no business discriminating against some citizens and giving them fewer rights than others. It is ludicrous and un-American to even consider it!
No one denies that certain faiths believe homosexuality is wrong or that those faiths have the right to decide who does and does not qualify to receive the sacrament of marriage in their faith. Religious freedom is one of our most precious freedoms, after all. That is not the role of the state, however. The state must treat all of its citizens with equality and fairness and to deny gay people the right to marry is to violate the principles of equality upon which our nation is based.
Personally, I am saddened and outraged by the continued bigotry and discrimination that gay people face in our society. The last thing I want is to see that bigotry enshrined in our constitution. It is bad enough that it is already a part of our current law. It already hurts enough families. Please vote no on Proposition 2.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Monday, October 24, 2005
Sunday, October 23, 2005
She is also venturing into the world of personal pronouns...ME!
Alice and Greta by Steven J. Simmons
The Autumn Equinox: Celebrating The Harvest by Ellen Jackson
Apple Picking Time by Michele Benoit
The Pumpkin Blanket by Deborah Turney Zagwyn
Pumpkin Fiesta by Caryn Slawson Yacowitz
Pumpkin Circle by George Levenson
Friday, October 21, 2005
It is odd to me that I do not dream more of my Grandma, or remember the dreams at any rate. The last dream I remember having of her before this one was over six years ago when we were house-hunting. In real life, I was getting frustrated, and the dream mirrored that, but brought a faerie tale ending when I realized that my family had not ever sold my Grandma's house, the house that was more home to me in early childhood than any other place, and that my family could move into it and stop house-hunting. Of course, they really did sell the house and it is very different now when I drive by it, aching with nostalgia and wondering if the fig tree is still in the backyard. It is really strange...I often dream of whatever thoughts I am processing during the day and my Grandma is a daily presence in my thoughts and emotions...a soft ache of missing her and a strength of having been cared for... one would think I would dream of her often. I think the dreams I have from her are special, though - message dreams, if I could just crack the code. I am always a bit wonderstruck at how we still seem to reach for each other...I never really knew her as a person, only in the egomaniacal way a child knows a parent, as a home, and she never knew me as an adult, only as a child to give a home to...but we keep reaching for each other...across death and memory. I do not think her importance in my life will ever diminish, in each step and thought.
Lone Star Girl: 1 hard-boiled egg, 1 granny smith apple, 1 snack cake, 1 apple juice. (She also gets a snack at school that the parents take turns bringing.)
Lone Star Baby: 1 hard-boiled egg, 1 serving organic applesauce, 1 serving sweet potato with cinnamon, 1 sippy cup milk, 1 sippy cup drinkable baby yogurt (the drinks are for the whole day at daycare - she never finishes them - but the school also provides a morning and afternoon snack).
Thursday, October 20, 2005
LSG: (holding up 1 finger) Baby, how many is this?
LSB: (exuberantly) One!
LSG: That's right, Baby! How many is this? (holds up 2 fingers)
LSB: (exuberantly) Five!
LSG: It's 2, Baby. Say 2.
LSB: (in a tone of patient pity) Five.
LSG: How many is this? (holds up 3 fingers)
LSG: It's 3, Honey. 3.
LSB: Seben. Five.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
The Lone Star Girl is not swimming or dancing this fall, and I admit to being less than pleased with the reduced amount of physical activity in her days. I keep suggesting different sports, like I need more commitments, but she has not been interested. I am letting her take a break since she seems to need one and it has been a really hectic time since her sister was born, but by summer, I will need to get her exercising regularly again. She is growing fast and needs to stay strong.
It is always a joy to see the Lone Star Girl's interests blossom. Every year, she is growing more and more into the woman she will someday be, so independent and amazing.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
The girls had a good time. The Lone Star Girl enjoys such establishments the way most children do once they are old enough to stop crying at the purple monster at the rat one, and she ran around with her little friends last night, relishing the melee. I fear the Lone Star Baby will like such places even more than the average kid does, though - she has such a high threshold for stimulation. She adored the place.
It did have that dance contest thingie, which is sort of neat, but the rest was just torture, in my opinion. It might have been okay if I could have just lied down on the floor and shut my eyes, I guess. Lone Star Pa doesn't mind such places - dads don't seem to as much in my experience - but all the other mothers and I spent the night wincing. Lone Star Pa had arrived with the girls at around 5pm and I had joined them at 6pm. By 8:30pm, they were still not ready to leave and I was saying things like Mommy could just lose it any minute now.
When we finally did leave, I had to go get myself an expensive pumpkin spice latte just to settle down.
Monday, October 17, 2005
I think not.
I, for one, cannot spare 30 consecutive minutes after work. What with the nursing baby and the spelling words and everyone's need to reconnect and all, you know. Thirty minutes - sure. One after the other? No way. So these 30-minute meals take about an hour and a half to prepare if it is a usual run-of-the-mill day with no out of the ordinary interruptions. I guess what I need are 10-minute meals in order to really be finished in thirty minutes. Maybe 5-minute meals to be on the safe side.
Well, you chef types? Let's hear it...
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Guarding The Moon by Francesca Lia Block
Best Foot Forward by Joan Bauer
Princess In Training by Meg Cabot
The Greenstone Grail by Amanda Hemingway
I was recruited to make a Native American stew from ingredients contributed by the children in the Lone Star Girl's class for the feast. I am not much of a cook, but I found a great recipe and it turned out well. In keeping with the theme of the day, I made "Three Sisters Stew" from Feeding The Whole Family by Cynthia Lair. Some Native American tribes referred to corn, beans and squash as the three sisters because of the complimentary way they helped each other grow together.
When the Lone Star Girl got up to explain her shield, she said she had painted a lot of triangle designs on it to represent what she saw as the three sides to every conflict. She said there was one person's side, that twisted the other person's point of view into a bad thing, the other person's side, which did the same thing about the first person's point of view, and the truth, which was usually somewhere in the middle. I am her mother, of course, but I thought that was pretty deep for a fourth grader. I just love that kid.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Monday, October 10, 2005
I was so good that people noticed, even. I could just hear the thoughts of a couple of people in line with me: Such a good mother. And the thoughts of others: I hate that cheeseball supermommy crap. I felt good to be, at that moment, deserving of the first thoughts, but I was well aware that I am often more in sympathy with the thinkers of the latter thoughts...just that morning, in fact, I had plopped the screaming baby into her father's care and slipped outside quickly, sanity, for the preservation of. It's an up and down thing.
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Saturday, October 08, 2005
"No," I replied, curious.
"It was about that," she said, gesturing with her chin toward our nursing tableau.
"Was he really horrible about it?" I asked in a sort of friendly way, uncertain whether I was being rebuked or not.
"Oh, no," she said. "He was really good about it. Some other people were really nasty about it, though. A shame, too, " she said, shaking her head about the anti-breastfeeders. I smiled at her as she walked on. Score one for Dr. Phil.
Mere seconds later as the Lone Star Baby was engaged in her customary manuever to try to get my shirt as far away from her face as she could manage, thus exposing me as much as possible, another grandmotherly woman approached us. She saw me on the floor, smiled and said: "Where ever it's necessary." I smiled at her as she walked by.
Take heart, Mamas!
The Wild Mother by Elizabeth Cunningham.
I do not think Ms. Cunningham wrote this to be mamalit at all; I am not even sure if she is a mother. The book is sort of a magical, mystical archetypal not-quite midrash....and the main character is really a daughter...but it still counts! Mamalit! Mamalit!
I got to thinking about it today because Alkelda the Gleeful on her wonderful storytelling blog, Saints and Spinners, has been posting some midrashim about Eve. The Wild Mother is a sort of telling of the Adam and Eve story...sort of. I really have a pretty impossible time describing it, actually...it is about true natures and fulfilling our places in life...but it is so much more. Read it! You will love it! Hurry!
Like most white Americans, I am sure that the cocoon of privilege in which I live renders me clueless of the reality of these different Americas, but I am not as clueless as some. I grew up in an often multiethnic household due to my mother's tendency to temporarily acquire other people's children when they needed a place to stay, and I attended a well-integrated inner-city magnet high school in Dallas that did a very good job of the desegregation it was set up to do (I don't think they all did). I have noticed how clueless many of the people who I know and love..people who firmly believe in equality...are about its continued absence and it has troubled me. I am certain that I am similarly clueless and that what seems like a big difference in awareness to me is the subtlest of shades of difference to someone who is really aware. Someone who has to be. We do live in different countries, right here beside each other.
I still feel that I benefited greatly from living my adolescence in an environment of diversity and it troubles me that so few people are experencing that diversity today. Most, if not all, of the desegregation court orders that were still in place even in the seventies and eighties when I went to grade school and high school are not in place anymore, and the integration they so briefly brought that benefited so many people who went to school under their rule, is also mostly gone. Housing practices, "neighborhood schools", trade programs, curricula that divide the privileged from the people who are seen as products...so much separates us now. It's wrong and we have to fix it. We have to do the hard and sometimes frightening work of bringing our worlds together again. We have to.
Where do we start? I think we all have to start in different places, but let's all start. I'm going to start with a little research and an article (or several) about desegregating Texas schools. You think where you can start. We have a lot of work to do.
Friday, October 07, 2005
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Was anyone really surprised by that?
Mommy was followed in order of best to worst by a private in-home nanny, a babysitter away from home, Grandma, and lastly, a childcare facility or day nursery. Sufficient data on father-care was not available. Day nurseries became good choices at about the age of three, when socializing with other children becomes a good objective rather than a laughable, fraught-with-danger sort of guilty rationalization that we moms with children in childcare facilities make for ourselves, since rationalizations take less time than revolution and we are frankly exhausted.
Was anyone really surprised by any of that?
What is surprising is the way the media slants the findings this way and that to make families feel guilty about their choices...or lack thereof. Leach and her co-authors were not, in my opinion, guilty of this...they obviously hope the study will be used to garner support for creating a society in which families have more choices and capacity to do what is best for their children...a worthy goal...but in the meantime, many of us are stuck with the current reality.
The current reality in Texas is this:
Most Mommies have to work to provide their children with shelter, food and health insurance and most workplaces, sadly, do not allow said Mommies to bring the babies along, although that system worked remarkably well for most of human history. I, personally, would give almost anything to stay home with my babies...except their health insurance, and that is what it would cost us for me to be home, so I work.
Most Mommies who cannot afford to stay home with their babies, also cannot afford nannies. Frankly, most of us can scarcely afford crappy childcare, but we do the best we can.
Many family day homes are not registered or regulated in any way and the babysitters expect you to pay them under the table, something you can get in considerable trouble for if caught, especially, say, if you work for a government agency. Family day homes in Texas may be registered, but even the registered ones are regulated very, very loosely and supervised very, very little. I almost put the Lone Star Girl in a registered day home for her childcare when she was a baby. It came highly recommended from the local association of registered day homes where it had won something and came with lots of good references. The lady seemed just wonderful and I really liked her. At the last minute, I asked a colleague who worked for Child Protective Services to run the lady's name through their system...and there it was due to a referral on an infant who was seriously injured in her care. The investigation into the injury had been unable to prove that it was due to abuse or neglect on the part of the caregiver, hence her still being licensed, but the investigator told my friend that she had always thought that the woman had done it. So the Lone Star Girl went to daycare instead. I have sought long and hard for people I knew and trusted who would take care of my babies in their homes. In my circle of friends, this usually means stay-at-home moms who I know and who might be able to use some extra income...no luck. Full-time childcare is a big, daily responsibility and most of the folks I know who are financially able to stay home are also financially able to preserve more freedom in their schedules than it entails, so no luck. Most of the family day homes I do know of that come so well-recommended by colleagues and friends that I know I could trust them with my baby are unregistered and expect under-the-table pay. I have certainly seriously considered that, but, as a mom and a government worker, I felt a certain responsibility not to flaut a just law so flagrantly...so that was not for us. My niece has been extremely fortunate. My sister and my brother-in-law were able to find her a family day home run by a loving woman and her daughter who love my niece like family and are an important, permanent part of their family and lives. That is certainly ideal. But they were mainly lucky...they did not know the babysitter to start with and it could have turned out differently. I say a little prayer of gratitude that my niece has that most days...I know what a rare jewel her babysitter is and what a support system she helps provide to the family, and they to her. No doubt her situation is megatons better than daycare, but it is not something I have been able to find for my kids. I know too much about what happens in many unregulated family day homes to go with one that I don't know well, and I don't know any well who are legal, so that is no an option for us at this point.
Many, many Mommies have Mommies who also work or who live far away from them or who just don't care to spend their days with baby, so Grandma care is not an option for us. It's often a great option for families who do have the luxury as long as Grandma is active and stimulating and not one of those who says "Breastmilk? If Coca-Cola was good enough for you, it's good enough for him, gosh darn it!"
So what are the rest of us left with?
Childcare facilities. The worst option. And, for this age group, it really is. Most of them really, truly suck, too, let me tell you. I cannot tell you how many of them I have walked into and left crying and unable to talk. They are some bad places sometimes...cartoons, crayons, walkers, and that's about it. Scary. Most cities have a handful of really good ones, for what they are, that cost twice as much as the others but still can barely pay their scantily educated teachers and their rents because childcare does not really work in the free market system. You get on the waiting list for these quality ones before you conceive your baby and check back often because they are your only hope. And then you hope that your kid won't be any trouble, because with waiting lists like those, they may not have any qualms about replacing her.
The Lone Star Baby is trouble. While the study makes it clear that all babies need their mamas, some really, really do and she is one of them. She does not belong in childcare. She cries hysterically everytime I leave, although she really loves her teacher, who is wonderful. Yesterday, one of her teachers used the word 'mama" in conversation with the other, and the Lone Star Baby heard it and threw herself on the floor and started screaming for me. She is stressed by her situation, even though she is in what anyone would call a very high quality, top-of-the-line childcare facility. She feels threatened when the other children, who are mostly bigger than she is because she is very petite, get in her space and take things from her. She bites them to protect herself. She is serious get-kicked-out-of-daycare material, but her childcare facility has been very enlightened about it so far, thank heavens. I know childcare is bad for her (I know), but it is really the only choice I have right now...no matter what the media says about it. I have to keep her in the best arrangements I can find and love her to pieces on evenings and weekends to help her feel as secure as possible. It's all I've got. It's all she's got. It's all most of us Mommies and babies have got.
I hope Leach's study does help garner support for public policies that support the kind of long, paid parental leaves that parents in other industrialized countries receive, and support for well-regulated, well-supported family day homes (like the military has) and more quality, affordable childcare facilities as well. We all need more choices, better choices.
In the meantime, we just do the best we can.
The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman (I love Alice Hoffman's YA books!)
The works of Joan Bauer (Hope Was Here, Rules of The Road, Squashed...)
Sunday, October 02, 2005
Friday, September 23, 2005
Friday, September 16, 2005
Monday, September 12, 2005
The Christmas that the Lone Star Girl was a young four, she received the set of Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Laura is only four in Little House In The Big Woods, so I again thought that one would be okay. She, again, was hooked. Much to my surprise, she insisted that we read every one and enjoyed them all immensely, even the ones in which Laura was married and struggling with motherhood. Weird. I do not believe in exposing kids to any media violence before the age of seven, as their minds are so absorbent up to that point, with no real filters, so I did skip a few bits here and there. I also skipped bits that would cause Santa problems and such, but, for the most part, the books were very appropriate. I only am ever really interested in the relationships of the characters in books, so I was kept on my toes by the Lone Star Girl's detailed questions about the engineering of certain pioneering technologies. Whew!
The Christmas that she was five, the Lone Star Girl received the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. She inhaled the first four or five when Betsy, Tacy and Tib are children, but this time did lose interest at Betsy In Spite of Herself when they hit high school, so we put them away. The Christmas that the Lone Star Girl was six coincided with Kindergarten. The Lone Star Girl had found a soul-mate in the teaching assistant in the Kindergarten room who was also the school's science teacher and the early and aftercare teacher for the kindergarteners. This teacher read them beautiful literature after school and she also read them Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville, with which the child fell deeply in love. The Lone Star Girl therefore got the rest of Bruce Coville's Magic Shop books for her series that year, except for The Skull of Truth, which I put away because it was quite violent. She loved them.
The Christmas that the Lone Star Girl was seven, she was finally deemed old enough for The Chronicles of Narnia which we sped through happily. The Christmas that the Lone Star Girl was eight, she got Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quartet...and I was pregnant with the Lone Star Baby. Things changed quite a lot with us. I was very, very tired and did not read as long at night as we had in the past. I also started skipping nights...a lot of them. We actually stretched those four short and wonderful books out past the next Christmas by a month or so, although she still got her series for her ninth Christmas...the Harry Potter books.
I had known that the Lone Star Girl was a natural for Potter-mania, but still made her wait longer than all the other reader-children to read them. A sensitive child who has had nightmares from the movie of The Wizard of Oz, I knew the Lone Star Girl would have loved the first one so much the previous year that she would have had to read the second one...and been scared out of her wits. I made her wait until nine, but then we started reading them. Fast forward to late August a couple of weeks ago when I still hadn't finished reading her the first one due to baby duty...well, we needed a change. I finally told the Lone Star Girl to go ahead and finish the book, and then the rest of the series, herself. We are just not in a season when much bedtime reading by me is possible, but that will surely not always be the case, and we have had a good run regardless. Freed to read them independently, The Lone Star Girl finished the first book immediately, the second in less than four days and is almost done with the third now. She'll definitely finish them all by Christmas, of that I have no doubt.
I also have no doubt that I will get her another series for Christmas this year, although I haven't decided what it will be yet. Babies grow fast and change often, so I cannot say when mine will have grown enough past her current night-time needs to allow her sister and I more reading time again, but I know it will happen eventually. If it does not happen by Christmas, then I will set the Lone Star Girl loose to read "our" series on her own again after a bit, much sooner this time, and that will be fine, too. We change, we grow, we adapt. And still, we treasure the precious memories. I love our series reading tradition and will treasure it my heart, whether it is a thing past or present. It has been very good for us.
What series this Christmas for the Lone Star Girl? Suggestions are welcome.