Monday, February 28, 2005

Good-Bye AOL

Several months ago, we got broadband service for internet access. Packaged with this service is MSN. Since I was stressed about learning MSN during the holiday season, we kept our AOL account -- well, its time to cut the strings (and save $25 a month) so we are cancelling our AOL account. If you are having trouble contacting me via an e-mail address saved on your computer, please use the e-mail on blogger or simply comment on my blog and it will get to me.

By the way, as a follow-up to my DSL Hell posts in December, we loaded a free copy of Spybot and have not had any problems with pop-ups, or with anything we wanted being blocked.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Art of the 4 year-old

Art of the 4 year-old
Originally uploaded by Unclimber.

a more sophisticated medium for a more sophisticated girl

Art of the 2 year-old

Art of the 2 year-old
Originally uploaded by Unclimber.

so much can be said with crayon, I'll say no more

What the artist has to say about this work -- "wow, colors."

Monday, February 21, 2005

What About the Dads?

I can't stop thinking about the Newsweek article Mommy Madness. While the general tenor of the article seemed to me to suggest that moms are trapped, I really think its the dads who are trapped. The dads generally have less choice about how they live their lives -- for many dads its a given that they will be working to support the family while mom gets the choice of determining when, whether, and how she will work, all the while complaining about it. Of course I know plenty of examples where the mom works full-time and the dad stays home and others where both parents work and stagger schedules to allow one parent to be with the kids most of the time. However, the article seemed to be focusing narrowly on the moms who have the choice (and therefore the enviable option of staying at home) and their situation.

The author mentions the "diffuse dissatisfaction" of motherhood for those who have the 'push to be perfect.' It reminded me of the Desperate Housewise pilot (the only episode I saw) in which the women are talking about their husbands, one of whom walked out in an attempt to leave his 'life of quiet desperation." One of the women quipped, "what, does he think we're all living lives of noisy fulfillment?" Well...isn't the this just the same thing with the moms complaining? Are the men really happy to go off to work long hours for an income dictated by the demands of what the neighbors have? No child actually needs the expensive activities and toys and camps and schools, they may not even want them, but parents somehow determine that that is what is important -- could it be because that is 'what everyone else is doing'?

The author claims that the 'excessive, control-freakish way' in which women mother today is partly a psychologically conditioned response, but also the fault of a society which does not support them and take care of their children (something to the effect takes a village). Because there is no 'widespread feeling of social responsibility,' moms must take everything onto themselves, the author claims, and since they can't, "they simply go nuts."

She's talking about learned helplessness and psychological conditioning and then claims that its basically inevitable that mommys will go nuts. Is it possible that she herself is part of this learned helplessness and psychological conditioning? Nah, buy her book, she seems to have all the answers.

The inevitable conclusion for me is something I have fought for months. My pal Mike, official chronicler of clanlally, has been saying that life continues just as in high school. I say that we mature and grow. He's told me that its a beautiful thought but it simply isn't true, by and large. He may be right. I'm thinking many of us affluent moms were good students, on the honor roll, in activities, doing everything we could to be 'perfect' young women so we could get into good colleges. But did all of that make sense? Where was the balance then when it was all about the quest for college? Well, we go to school, get our degrees, and go work for awhile. Was the workplace always so welcoming and kind? Were there times back then when we felt we couldn't "take it anymore [and] hate[d] everyone and everything [and were] going insane" as one mom put about her motherhood experience? Surely not, this kind of angst exists only in the world of the affluent mom. Poor me.

Back to high school, is it possible that the mommy race is simply an extension of trying to get on the honor roll by trying to get our kids on it? Those who bucked the system back then may still be bucking the system, those who ascribed to the system are still ascribing to it. We aren't trapped and how dare the author try to make us victims, but the sad thing is, many of the women quoted in the article seem to view themselves as victims, to wear their victimhood as the bumper sticker that they are an honor roll mom.

A better article to read is Anna Quindlen's, The Good Enough Mother.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Help! I'm a Pampered, Rich, White Mom and Life is So Tough

I've been reading Newsweek again -- why do I bother? The cover story for the February 21 issue is about the myth of the perfect mother and is an excerpt of an upcoming book by Judith Warner. I will not be reading this book.

Basically, being a mom is hard work. Make that really, really, really hard work. The author said she followed all the expert advice on baby care and eventually realized she "had no thoughts left of my own." Was that before she read the baby care advice or after? After this epiphany, she decides to listen to other moms in the playgrounds and playgroups of Washington, D.C. (which part, I wonder. Southeast? Anacostia?). Well, turns out they've all had their minds eaten by motherhood, they had "surrendered their better selves -- and their sanity -- to motherhood." How did this happen? In the "push to be perfect" these moms were "always looking over their shoulders to make sure that no one was outdoing them in the performance of good Mommyhood." Maybe they'd feel better if someone sent them a report card.

The article uses the term 'perfect' with regard to motherhood many times. It also mentions competition and control (as in feeling "out of control"). I find this article annoying because as I read it, it seems that the real problem is the moms comparing themselves to each other and judging each other and listening too much to what the 'experts' and other people and each other say.

Ummm...when did these women check their minds at the door? The author begins the article talking about the time when she tried to do everything right and what she did (breast-fed, co-slept). Who decides what is 'right'? Apparently, the books. I take a different approach, I'm an outlaw, a renegade mom who looked the books squarely in the eye and said 'screw you.' I chose not to breast-feed. Its rather liberating to start the motherhood journey by throwing up your hands and saying, "I'm not the perfect mom." I was immediately freed from the child-care books because I certainly wasn't going to waste my time reading books that told me I was a bad mom.

Why can't more people be like me? Seriously, some of this mommy angst seems to have its roots in trying to keep with the Joneses. The author says that she found the craziness all over "in middle and upper middle class enclaves where there was time and money to spend" on "shuttling back and forth to more and more absurd-seeming, high-pressured, time-demanding, utterly exhausting kids' activities." These women are tired and anxious and depressed and wish their lives would be different 'but have no idea of how to make that happen.' Here's one idea -- don't do it. Why do they do it? To give the kid a leg up on the competition? Well, they really aren't doing it for the kids, they are doing it for themselves and each other, to prove their worth as moms or show how much money they have by what they can afford. My view is the kids will do better if they have some free time to sort out their thoughts, to unwind and create and (dear me) think. I honestly believe it is possible for some people to achieve their best without competition to spur them on (Einstein, Edison, Eminem...).

The article does the same tired number on 'balancing' our lives. Whoever thought that life should be balanced during certain time periods? How long do we live? How long are the children young enough that they need our intensely focused care -- five years, 10, 20? Well, maybe our lives balance out during their entire span, why should we feel that we need everything balanced when we're raising our kids?

One mom wonders how her daughter ended up being such a princess -- she should go back and read the part about 'whole towns turning out for a spot in the right ballet class', the best camps and piano teachers. If life is so demanding and parents go to such lengths to secure these things for their kids, is it so surprising that the kids would expect a continued level of devotion and sacrifice for 'their best interests,' which they might think includes the right clothes and gadgets and toys? Jay McInerney in his novel, Story of My Life, does a great bit where the narrator wonders how she is supposed to figure out how to be self-sufficient after years of living on her father's allowances. (For an interesting post discussing McInerney, go visit my friend Mike's blog)

My favorite part of the article -- how do we solve this horrible problem of frazzled moms? How do you think? We need government-funded childcare for the middle class. This really makes no sense to me since on the page before, the author was bemoaning how the public school system is so abysmal that parents must work to send their kids to private schools. Well...the public schools are run by the government, do you really think it would do a better job with childcare? Come on, you know the middle class would be sending their kids to better 'private' preschools anyway. I don't think moms are feeling guilt about childcare because of its quality or lack thereof, though that may be a concern for some; they feel guilty about not being with their kids and even Mary Poppins wouldn't be able to completely alleviate that feeling. Plenty of moms at home feel guilty for not working. Guilt is a part of life and the government cannot make it go away.

More typical stuff in the article about economic pressures, but the sample she used has more choices than many others. The author is forthright in admitting that she was dealing with a privileged population.

I am not unsympathetic to the difficulties of raising kids. I'm in the trenches myself and I understand the need for 'me' time and how hard it can be to adjust to a new lifestyle once you have kids. But it can be done. Look for support groups, churches, mothers-day out programs. Realize that its tough but its not forever. Realize all the choices you have and be grateful for them -- it could be worse. Finally, pay attention to what you're doing and how your family is doing and don't ever confuse the push for achievement with the demonstration of love. Kids need to be loved, just as you do, stop looking to be perfect and look instead to be content.

Now, back to my regularly scheduled Lenten fast. Wait, what's that on the cover of Time...

2010 update: as I go through old posts to give them labels, I'm having fun re-reading my posts. What struck me about this is now I understand why some feminists bash at-home moms -- it's because of articles like this, that make it seem like so many moms (possibly at-home, possibly working) stop using their abilities to think critically. Maybe they have a point, if this article accurately portrays what being an at-home mom is like.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Bumper Stickers that Make Me Chuckle

Jesus loves you
But I'm his favorite

When Jesus said "love your enemies"
I think he probably meant don't kill them

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Lenten Silence

Earlier this week, I read our weekly church bulletin and realized that this is the last Sunday before Lent begins this Wednesday. My first reaction was excitement, we call it Jazz Sunday and our church does a bang-up job with the music. Trumpets and drums and great hymns -- A Closer Walk With Thee and When the Saints Go Marching In. Its a great service.

I went to church today to pick up the lessons for tomorrow's service when I'll read them out loud at one of the services and then assist with the chalice at communion. This is the last time I'm serving as I've asked to be left off of the next cycle for lay reading. I may or may not ask to be included the cycle after that -- I'll see what happens and where I'm led.

The Old Testament lesson is from the book of Exodus, when Moses goes up onto Mt. Sinai to receive the ten commandments. He is up there for 40 days and 40 nights. This brought the idea of Lent to the forefront of my mind and I thought that perhaps I should give up something for Lent. I've never really done this before, my churches have never really pushed it and I'm not one for grand gestures or denial. Almost immediately I thought, I should give up blogging for Lent. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I really didn't want to and the more I realized that I must. You may wonder what the big deal is, I don't write all that much on my blog, but in giving up blogging, I also plan to give up reading and commenting on blogs. This is the part that hurts.

My mind is pelted with various thoughts on the matter, the passage on Lent in Girl Meets God, a comment from my friend Meredith on another blog, the nagging knowledge that I'm ignoring my kids a bit too much.

I write this to signal my break from blogging -- I will not post on my blog, nor will I read or comment on others -- beginning on Wednesday. Of course, you may still contact me via e-mail (I'm not giving up the computer).

I talk too much and most of the time I have nothing to say. This is no surprise to anyone who reads this blog. I hope after Lent, that I will have learned something from this silence.

All that said, I have to note a potential carve-out. I am a member of a scripture study blog and am considering keeping up with that blog, both as a reader and poster/commentor. I don't think this would break the spirit of my fast, but I'd certainly consider any comments you have.

Lent begins Ash Wednesday, February 9 and ends, well thats another topic for discussion...Easter is March 27.

Friday, February 04, 2005


A great description of my primary homeschooling technique, strewing, can be found here. Actually, this need not be confined to homeschoolers but can be used by anyone who'd like to suggest a book to read or an activity to do without suggesting it, good for the fiercely independent child who doesn't want to be told what to do.

Eventually I hope to have a bit more structure, but strewing seems to be the method that works best for us now.

Tech Support: Okay, I have no idea how trackback works, do I use that for the link instead of the page's url which is what I usually cut and paste for my links? Let's try the trackback here.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Mall World

My daughters and I got to be 'ladies who lunch' yesterday. We went to the local shopping mall and looked in stores and then had lunch at the Rainforest Cafe with my mother, who is probably the World's Best Grandmother (this is no surprise because she is the World's Best Mother). The lunch worked out well, I was a bit nervous that the 2 year-old might be spooked -- for those unfamiliar, the Rainforest Cafe is heavily decorated and creates the look and feel of being in a (simulated) jungle. There are large, realistic animals that move and make noises at various intervals during the meal. Luckily, we were not seated near any of these and were in the front of the restaurant where we did not feel completely immersed.

I couldn't help but notice a table of young girls, perhaps 8 years-old. They were clearly having a birthday party and all had their hair done up like Greek goddesses -- which was a curious juxtaposition with their sweatpants and otherwise sloppy attire. I took a peek at the goody bags as they passed to see the words Libby Lu. Interesting, I thought, a makeover party accompanied by lunch. I'm a no fuss kind of birthday party hostess so it was like a glimpse into another world.

When we returned to that mall after lunch, we wandered past Club Libby Lu, the place that spawns the mock Greek goddesses. Only this time it was spawning mock Britney Spearses. [UPDATE: apparently, the mock Greek goddess look has been dropped in favor of the rock star look; the website no longer shows the flowing ringlet hairpieces that were once offered] There were a half dozen midget divas with punky styled hair, glittery faces, dressed in short, tight, black sequined dresses, some of which bared midriffs. These kids were vamping it up to pulsating music in the front of the store at the direction of one of the employees. The proud mama and papa of the birthday girl were joining in the fun, with papa asking the girls 'how low can you go?' and snapping photos. I tried to picture my DH doing this but could only come up with a vision of him filling out application forms to send our girls to Catholic school.

As the mother of a 4 1/2 year-old, I realize that we haven't yet reached the age at which Club Libby Lu has become a driving need. However, I cannot help but wonder whether this is a harbinger of the decline of our civilization or whether I've just lost my sense of humor. Is it simply just a public form of playing dress-up or are we paying to have our daughters sexualized at a young age? Is this no big deal or is it the modern version of child sacrifice to our gods of consumerism and materialism?

I need chocolate.


We're house-hunting in a low-key way. Our house is a little tight, we'd like to pick up a dining room, have slightly bigger bedrooms, and maybe get a garage or basement. This puts us in a nice position because we don't have to move and it can be fun to look, especially at open houses on the weekends when its too cold to do anything outside.

However, sometimes I find the process depressing, like when I get an MLS listing from my realtor and in the comments section of the listing it says: