Monday, October 31, 2005

A Decade of The Lone Star Girl

The Lone Star Girl is ten years old today. Ten. As in, a decade. I really don't see how it is possible that the gorgeous, independent young woman now living in my house is the same person as my roly-poly little hedge-hog baby. It really does go too fast...Happy Birthday, Baby, Goblin Princess, Sweet, Sweet Girl.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Blue Streak, Part Two

Punk rock, Mamas! It turned out pretty good! It's not obvious on as much of the hair as I think she had in really only took well on the very front part where her hair is still pretty blonde - the color is much more subtle on the browner part - so it's a thin streak, but it is cool! It also really turned out more green than blue in most lights, a greeny bright turquoise...woo hoo! She likes it. Clearly, I do, too.

Now, I have to go frost a strawberry birthday cake.

Currently Reading...

Inconsolable: How I Threw My Mental Health Out with The Diapers by Marrit Ingman. It's really good. Marrit is a Texas mama who wrote a great article about her son's food sensitivities called The Reluctant Vegan for Issue 7 of Lone Star Ma, and it was great, but I had no idea how hilarious she was until I read an article she wrote about her ovaries talking to her in Fertile Ground. She is even funnier in this edgy memoir about post-partum depression and her son's serious allergies. Those topics don't sound funny to you, you say? Well, that's definitely true in a way, but a certain twisted sense of humor helps people survive at such times and I love Marrit's dark humor...the chapter called "Playgroup Drinking Game", for instance. In addition to being funny, the book also tackles the issues of PPD, and parenting in our messed up, mother-isolating world, with the intelligence they deserve. It is an important work. It is also bound to be a hit. I just hope that when she's famous, Marrit will still do pro-bono writing for the little zines that love her so. Congratulations on your great book, Marrit!!!!!

Blue Streak, Part One

Earlier this night, I made a paste out of blue Kool-Aid and applied it liberally to a chunk of the Lone Star Girl's hair, then wrapped it in plastic wrap and a towel and sent her to bed. It was a mess and it was no fun getting her to be still about it, but it was what she wanted...a blue streak in her hair. We'll see in the morning if it worked. My earlier stand that hair dye was inappropriate for a still-growing body fizzled when we found out that most people use harmless Kool-Aid for the sort of bright colors that the Lone Star Girl wanted. After learning that, I really didn't have a problem with it, except that I didn't want her to be suspended from school. The district's dress code says something about no unusual hair styles or colors that distract, and leaves it up to the principal to decide if something is distracting or not. The Lone Star Girl was of the opinion that she might never again have a principal as laid back about the dress code as the one she has now is, so she needed to get her blue streak on while still in elementary school. She asked the principal if it was okay, and the principal said not her whole head, but a streak should be fine, if I was okay with it. I verified that with the principal and here we are...on the road to blue raspberry hair.

Junior Skills Day

Today (again, yesterday), Lone Star Pa took the Lone Star Girl to Camp Green Hill for Junior Skills Day. Most of the girls in the troop went, as well as the Troop Leader and Lone Star Pa. I was sad to miss it, but thought the Lone Star Baby wasn't ready for all day in the sun at camp with scheduled activities yet. The Lone Star Girl told me about how they earned their eco-action badge, which included planting a tree, making stuff out of recycled materials, learning about water conservation and doing a play about Butterfly, the tree-sitter. Wow. I just love those Girl Scouts. I still remember how a couple of years ago or so, when I was still troop Leader, the Executive Director sent all of us Leaders a memo about how the fact that some folks were boycotting cookie sales because a troop of older girls listened to a presentation by Planned Parenthood educators, with written parental consent, did not mean that the Girl Scouts were going to back down and start restricting the programming that troops could decide to provide. The Girl Scouts rock.

Cup Girl

The Lone Star Baby learned to drink from a straw when we were out and about today (technically, yesterday) and I neglected to bring a sippy cup. This sippy cup packin' thing just doesn't come easily to me, I'm afraid. I never packed sippy cups when the Lone Star Girl and I were out and about in her toddler days. She got all of her liquid refreshment from the boob as was proper when we were together. This kid, though...she likes her cups. She wants to nurse, sure, but then she wants a cup, too. When she wants to nurse, she wants to nurse and when she wants a cup, she wants a cup...and woe to them who try to pull a switcheroo. (Woe, woe to them.) This cup thing bugs me somewhat. What with the necessity of cups at child-care and all, I think she needs to catch up on the nursing when she's with me and would prefer that she take all her libation thus so as to keep up her supply and her healthy goodness and all. She has other plans, though and woe, woe to them that thwart her plans. I think the cups are here to stay...sigh.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Currently Reading

My Girl: Adventures With A Teen In Training by Karen Stabiner
Adventures In Gentle Discipline by Hilary Flower

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Don't Write Bigotry Into The Texas Constitution!

Early voting has started and there are nine amendments to the Texas Constitution on the November 8th ballot, so be sure to educate yourself on them and vote! Personally, my general litmus test for voting on constitutional amendments is this:

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

One Person Really Can Inspire Change

Rosa Parks died yesterday at the age of 92. May we all strive to live such useful lives...

Monday, October 24, 2005

Take Back Your Time

Today is Take Back Your Time Day, a day to honor the struggle in our country not to have every minute of our time eaten up by unscrupulous labor practices that wreck our family lives. I highly recommend Judith Stadtman Tucker's article, Why We Need Time To Care: The Gap in U.S. Family Policy, on The Mothers Movement Online. We mothers and others need to get agitating for a family-friendly country.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

2006 Mama Calendar

Mamas! Coleen, fabulous NOLA zinetress mama of The Deep South Mouth, needs your submissions for the 2006 Mama Calendar! If you are not familiar with this project, it is a glorious conglomeration of photos, recipes, quotes, comics, reading, activist and community info. for mamas! Coleen needs all of the above pretty soon to get it all together. She has been generously coordinating this project, originated in the Hip Mama community but quickly passed on to just her, for a few years now, and we are ever so grateful for her dedication! Lone Star Ma keeps one of these calendars up in the kitchen every year! Go to for information on how/what to submit! Hurry, please!


The Lone Star Baby has started to say please! Only sometimes, of course; other times she shrieks like a baby pterodactyl...but, hey! It's a start! I'm so proud.

She is also venturing into the world of personal pronouns...ME!

Pumpkin Patch

Yesterday, we went to the pumpkin patch to get our Halloween pumpkins. The pumpkin patch is at the church that runs the Lone Star Baby's child-care center, but we have been going to it since the Lone Star Girl was a toddler, years before we ever thought of the school there. At school and with me, the Lone Star Baby has already been to see the pumpkins a few times this year, but the Lone Star Girl had not gotten to go yet so we ventured out for a field trip. The Lone Star Girl liked going, but mainly to pick out her pumpkins...the charm of hanging out and exploring there is clearly starting to run thin for her. The Lone Star Baby loves the pumpkin patch, though. She likes the pumpkins very much and picked a tiny one out to take home, but she is definitely a gourd girl. She spent most of her time choosing gourds...bumpy, bumpy ones and smooth ones and one shaped like a star. She could have stayed all day. The Lone Star Girl picked out the prettiest gourds she could find for a friend in our Meeting and picked out some decorative Indian corn, after she had picked out two pumpkins for our porch. We also got baking-sized pumpkins for muffins and cookies, and tiny and teensy pumpkins just for fun. I took lots of pictures of the Lone Star Girl up in a tree and the Lone Star Baby with her pumpkin and gourds. The hay made me sneeze but it was a lot of fun.

Great Books with Fall or Halloween Themes for Kids

Child of Faerie, Child of Earth by Jane Yolen

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

Dreaming Of Grandma

I dreamt of my Grandma last night. Actually, it was this morning in the 8 minutes between when Lone Star Pa hit the snooze button and when it went off (I heard it is bad if you can fall into REM sleep immediately: oh, well). In my dream, we were in my Grandma's house (I miss that house), but, in the way of dreams, it was nothing like her actual house. My mother, my uncle, my aunt (my uncle's ex-wife), my Grandma and my Grandma's mother were there, and myself. My Grandma's mother actually died many years before I was born, I think maybe when my mother was just a young child and my Grandma died almost 11 years ago and my uncle and aunt divorced many years ago, but somehow, in the dream, it all made sense that we were there. My Grandma and her mother were sitting in two chairs that were the obvious heart of the room. My Grandma's mother was dying and everyone was talking about it and making plans for her funeral, which did not seem tacky in the dream somehow. Every so often, my Grandma and her mother would drop out of the conversation to say a Decade of the Rosary together. The rest of us would just keep talking. I was not actually talking much. I felt sort of left out of the conversation, treated as a child, vaguely disapproving of their plans. I was definitely an adult in the dream which was a little odd since, even though I was 23 when my Grandma died, I was just a young adolescent when her Alzheimer's got very bad and she never really knew me as an adult. I woke up. I don't know what it means, what my Grandma was trying to tell me, if anything...

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.

Lunch Packing

I am as bad at lunch as I am at dinner, but I do try to make it decently balanced, if nothing else. Today's lunchbox menus were:

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


Conversation between the Lone Star Girl and the Lone Star Baby a few days ago:

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)
LSB: Six.
LSG: It's 3, Honey. 3.
LSB: Seben. Five.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Activity Grrrl

The Lone Star Girl's Destination Imagination team is meeting at school today. She is involved in two new organized activities this year...Destination Imagination and Choir Chimes Ensemble. Adding those to Girl Scouts would make for more activities than I generally allow, but the new ones are almost entirely during the school day, so they do not really strain our over-strained schedule. This is the first year that our Girl Scouts are Juniors, rather than Brownies, so that is very exciting, too! They grow so fast. I remember when I was the Daisy Leader and had to help the Daisies with every little step of every little project. They are so independent now! They have a great Troop Leader for Juniors and I know they will have a great year.

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 superintendent of our local school district gave the Lone Star Girl's whole school a pizza party last night for scoring in the exemplary range on their TAKS tests last year (this seems a little unfair to the other schools as they are all GT kids at her school and ought to be scoring high on a test designed to measure minimum standards, but oh, well). He gave them a pizza party at an establishment that is owned by a place we Gen Xers may remember as just a normal pizza parlor from our youth but which now has mutated into an over-stimulating palace of iniquity full of games, loud noises, unruly crowds and flashing lights. It was my first time at this place, which arrived somewhat recently in our community, although Lone Star Pa has taken the Lone Star Girl there a couple of times. Verdict? Even worse than the one with the giant rat.

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

30-Minute Meals

There are so many recipes flying around these days for "30-minute meals". We busy, working parents are supposed to get all motivated because we cannot really say that we cannot spare a measly 30 minutes to cook a lovely, nutritious meal, can we? So our problems are solved, right?

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

Currently Reading

The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter by Katherine Ellison
Guarding The Moon by Francesca Lia Block

Just Finished:
Best Foot Forward by Joan Bauer

Princess In Training by Meg Cabot
The Greenstone Grail by Amanda Hemingway

Native American Day

Yesterday was "Native American Day" at the Lone Star Girl's school, the culmination of a unit they have been studying on Native Americans in all their classes. They went to school dressed as members of their assigned tribes, performed plays in music complete with pictographs, drums and chanting, had a feast, presented the Native American shields they had made in art class and presented the slide shows they had made on their assigned tribes in computer class. It was fun and educational.

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

We Have Walking!!!!

Yesterday, the Lone Star Baby turned sixteen months old. She also - finally - started walking around the house without holding on to anything or our fingers last night!!!! She had been taking a few solo steps per day for a little over a month, but this was her first serious and sustained attempt to truly dispense with crawling or walking while hand-holding. She walked and fell and got up and walked again all evening! What a relief! Yay!!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

"People Colors"

Lakeshore Learning Center sells packs of crayons that they call "people colors"... they are a great variety of the subtle, one-blending-into-the-next shades that people come in...diverse and beautiful. Quite wonderful. I think they sell craft papers in "people colors", too.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Mommy Days

Last night, I had a Good Mommy Period on some more endless errands. Just the Lone Star Baby and I were out and I remembered to listen and encourage her when she wanted to tell me about all the ovals in all the signs at the store and about the owl display hanging from the ceiling and the circles and kitties and stars we saw on various displays and the snack she wanted. When we were waiting in line at the check-out, I played about eleven games of pat-a-cake with her, complete with enthusiastic hand motions. I was good.

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


Doesn't the natural disaster count seem a little excessive this year? What is the deal?

Again, my prayers go out to the victims and their loved ones. We live in scary times.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Nursing In Public Episode

Today we ventured out to Hobby Lobby to get some supplies for one of the Lone Star Girl's school projects. At some point during that odyssey, the Lone Star Baby began campaigning for her mama-milk. I tried to distract her so we could get to the bookstore where there were places to sit down comfortably, but she was wise to my tactics and got louder, so I finally pushed the cart to the end of the aisle, told the Lone Star Girl to watch it, and sat on the floor to nurse the Lone Star Baby. While we were nursing, a woman who appeared to be around my mother's age walked past and stopped, turned, and asked me: "Did you see Dr. Phil yesterday?"

"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!

EE-EE-OH-OH-AH-AH Says The Monkey Baby

The Lone Star Baby likes to pretend that she is a monkey. It is unbelievably cute.

The Wild Mother

Get ready to read the best book ever! The best book in any category, which of course is mamalit, because what else could it be, is...
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, is about true natures and fulfilling our places in life...but it is so much more. Read it! You will love it! Hurry!

The Shame of The Nation

I just finished reading The Shame of The Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling In America by Jonathan Kozol. Talk about depressing. I have been thinking about race in this country a lot lately. I've been thinking about the way that polls show that most white Americans do not think race had anything to do with the government response to Katrina, but most African-Americans think that it did. This can only really be because African-Americans know things about the way they are treated in this country that white Americans do not know. Terrifying things.

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 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

Commander In Chief

This has been Career Week at the Lone Star Girl's school. Today, they dressed as their future careers and had a parade at the beginning of the day. I thought that the Lone Star Girl would want to dress as a scientist as she tends always to return to the idea of being a terraformer, but she didn't want to this time. She considered dressing as a Girl Scout camp counselor, which she says she doesn't want to do as a career, per say, but wants to do as a job when she's in college, but changed her mind. She put on an old suit of mine and went as...the President of the United States. Madame President and I have been watching that new TV show about the first woman president, Commander In Chief. The Lone Star Girl says she will not be Commander In Chief, though, because there will be no military when she is President after she achieves world peace. That's my girl.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Leach Study Musings

The morning news was abuzz today about a new study coming out of Britain, co-authored by parenting expert Penelope Leach, about what sort of care arrangement is best for children under the age of eighteen months. And the winner is...Mommy!

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 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 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 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.

October YA Recommendations

Stealing Henry by Carolyn MacCullough
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

The Month of Storms and Spots

September was a rough month around here. From the need to prepare for the hurricanes and help with their effects, to ill relatives, to a blechy rotatvirus I got a couple of weeks ago, to a very weird reaction that the Lone Star Baby is currently having to her MMR least we hope that is what it is...things have not been normal. Not that the pace of our normal life is ever exactly peaceful or anything. To top it all off, I turned 34 on Wednesday. Getting old, too. Great. My dad did have someone come clean my house for my birthday, though. That was really, really great. I have to go check on the Spotted One, now. Later, Friends.