Saturday, June 24, 2006

Runs in the family. . .

Reported by Adam:

He and the kids were watching a tape of the Ultimate Avengers movie yesterday. At the beginning, there's a scene in which Captain America is leading a raid on a Nazi base. Just as the head Nazi was revealed as a shape-shifting monster, Drew (9) exclaimed, "Dad! Look! SPACE NAZIS! And they're reptoids!"


Franny (6): "Black Widow is TOUGH! I want to be her for Halloween!"

Drew: "Space Nazi reptoids - it doesn't get more evil than that!"

Franny: "George Bush is more evil than that. We voted for JOHN KERRY."

In non-political news, by way of avoiding the writing and research I ought to be doing, Fran and I did a major chunk of gardening this afternoon. We thorougly weeded and deadheaded the front beds and planted some sunflowers seeds and several plants that had been languishing in plastic pots on the front stoop for weeks (a lovely pink and orange lantana and a mint and a strawberry plant that the big kids brought back from GA). We also dug a small bed around the corner of the house in which to plant sweet peas, once they've soaked. Ordinarily, I wouldn't even try to plant seeds at this point in the summer, but it's been so damp and cool, I feel like they've got a fighting chance (and if they don't come to anything, no harm done). We've had rain almost every day for the past 2 weeks and everything is ridiculously green and fecund - not at all like our usual summers!

All this rain means the garden looks better than it ever has. Around the mailbox we've got masses of yellow and orange marigolds, with blue morning glories trailing up the post. And in the bed around the live oaks, we've got more marigolds (with the lantana behind them now),a small army of pink zinnias, a thriving pumpking vine with giant gold flowers, mint, basil, sage, rosemary and (a not entirely happy) lavender. Plus the odds and ends from the butteryfly garden mix that are just beginning to bloom. It's not exactly neat and orderly, but it's definitely colorful. . .

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Civil Discourse?

I was driving home from work today (in rush hour traffic), and a couple pulled up beside me and honked loudly and repeatedly. I was on the phone (using my headset - don't give me grief!) and trying to drive, and also peering through my window and theirs to read the sign/note they were holding up (I thought there might be something wrong with my car), and damn near had an accident in the process.

Finally I realized that they were holding up a (particularly insulting) Anti-Democrats bumpersticker (I couldn't tell you the exact wording, since I was, you know, trying to drive, but it was something about Democrats being stupid. Apparently they keep it in their car and whenever they see a car with lefty bumperstickers they pull this trick.

It would have served them right if I had hit them, although I'm glad I didn't mess up my car and inconvenience all the other people behind us who were trying to get home. So anyway, how about those Republicans and their civil discourse? It's a good thing they're not like us nasty, immoral Democrats, huh?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Sinking further into the mire

Torture, trafficking in women, holding prisoners indefinitely without trials, illegal spying on our own citizens. Still "proud to be an American"? Read this: "Documents Show Army Seized Wives As Tactic"

In one documented instance, a mother of 3 young children, including a nursing 6-month-old, was detained for 2 days. For those of you who've never nursed, if you have a nursing infant, your breasts need to be emptied regularly. If you don't have access to your baby (or a breast pump), the milk backs up rapidly, as the feedings that your body "expects" are missed, resulting in painful, swollen breasts, and a high risk of a very serious kind of infection called mastitis.

This woman was probably in extreme discomfort within 6 or 12 hours, and after a day, she was quite likely suffering from severe pain and on her way to a horrible case of mastitis. It is possible that after 2 days she might not ever have been able to nurse her child again, due to either complications from mastitis or her milk supply reducing to the point that it was no longer sufficient for her child (breastfeeding works on the supply and demand system - if your breasts aren't being emptied, your body stops making milk). Relactation is possible, but for some women it is difficult.

And let's not forget that her children were left without their mother. Depending on the baby's temperament, it may have been difficult for whoever was caring for her/him to get the baby to eat while the mother was gone. The baby would have been confused and hungry , and the mother would have been aware of this and would have been constantly reminded of it by the pain in her breasts. Even if this woman was incarcerated in relative comfort, given enough to eat, etc., she was being subjected to excruciating torture, and one that possibly had long term consequences for both her and her child.

The deputy commander described the situation thusly, "These ladies fought back extremely hard during the original detention. They have shown indications of deceit and misinformation."

Yeah, it's clearly a sign of "deceit" when a mother vehemently protests being separated from her nursing infant.

Every time I think my country can't disappoint me any more, it somehow manages to sink a little lower. . .

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Total 180

I know I'm behind the times, but I can't stop boggling about this article from last week's Salon about Total 180, the new magazine for mothers who've chosen to stay at home with their kids (if you're not a subscriber, you'll have to watch a short ad). I should say that I haven't read the magazine, so of course, I don't have the full picture, but just the remarks from co-founder Debbie Klett made me shudder.

I believe in writing and speaking honestly about the difficulties involved in being a mother - as much as those of us with kids love our children, being a parent is hard work, and it's not always fun. Calling bullshit on the happy-smiling mommies on the tv is an important part of shattering the idealized view of motherhood and validating our own and other women's experiences. But the descriptions of the articles in this magazine made me deeply uneasy; the tone seems to be one of self-congratulatory martyrdom, and as much as Klett mouths platitudes about "different strokes for different folks," it's pretty obvious that she believes the best mommies are the ones who choose to stay home with their kids, and that the decision of so many mothers to work outside the home has contributed to the imminent downfall of society.

Clearly, many of the articles are intended to be funny, but the humor seems to be a way of letting off steam, rather than genuinely critiquing the situation. The women discussed in the interview (the presumed readers of this magazine) sound profoundly unhappy, and yet the magazine seems to be encouraging them to pat themselves on the back: "yeah, it sucks, but if you want your kids to be happy, then you have to practice total self-abnegation. Let's have a little laugh about how hopelessly undomestic men are, and then get back to the laundry!"

All parents have to juggle family and work as best we can, and some of us have more options than others - I'm not going to criticize anyone else for the choices she/he's making (so long as they're not actually endangering their children). In the nearly nine years that Adam and I have been parents, we've cobbled together a variety of solutions, based on the needs of our entire family. Yes, my children are incredibly important to me, and if push came to shove, I would make whatever sacrifices I had to so that they could have what they needed. But I refuse to believe that the only way to have healthy, happy children is to make yourself miserable. It's telling that the founders of the magazine have gone back to work, publishing this magazine that reinforces the value of staying at home with your children (notice how Klett really avoids addressing that in the interview).

One of the things that really frustrates me about the "mommy wars" is the way that everything is simplified, as if every mother is either a. a full-time, workaholic high-powered executive who puts her kids in day care for 12 hours a day starting when they're 3 weeks old, or b. a mindless June Cleaver clone whose greatest delight is in cooking and cleaning for her family (notice how dad is entirely absent from either of these pictures). In between those stereotyped extremes are the millions of women who work part-time or from home, who take their kids with them to work, who work opposite shifts from their husbands, etc. Every family has to balance breadwinning and homemaking, and there are as many ways to do that as there are families; no solution is right for everyone. I've done the "total 180" and quit my job to stay-at-home with my kids (and now, after several years of part-time work and working from home, I'm doing a "360" and going back to work full-time), but I don't think Total 180 would ever be a magazine that I could enjoy. For all the "honest" venting about how hard it is to be a stay-at-home mother, the magazine seems designed to enforce a very narrow set of parameters for "good mommies," and that's not something I can support, even when my choice happens to be the one that's being valorized.

Monday, November 21, 2005

On a more serious note

Looks like Bush and Co. may be upping their surveillance of journalists and others who have been criticial of the administration. And the "free world" isn't as free as it used to be. Does that make you feel safer? (Hey, don't blame me, I didn't vote for him!)

I've said this many times, and I'm going to keep saying it: dissent is an essential part of the democratic process. Criticism of the president, his administration, or his policies does not equal treason. Spying on Americans simply because they've criticized Bush is a betrayal of what this country stands for.

Oh, and my November column is up at Lines of Separation.

Two by two meme thing

Because Adam tagged me for this:

Two Names You Go By
1. Melissa
2. Mel

Two Parts of Your Heritage
1. Greek
2. Irish

Two Things That Scare You
1. My kids getting hurt (this was Adam's answer as well)
2. Failure

Two Everyday Essentials
1. Hot tea (also one of his answers)
2. Time to read

Two Things You Are Wearing Right Now
1. Glasses (black, rectangle-shaped plastic frames)
2. One of Adam's wool sweaters

Two of Your Favorite Bands or Musical Artists
1. Eliza Gilkyson
2. The Decemberists

Two Things You Want in a Relationship
1. Promiscuous book-swapping (Adam's answer - see how compatible we are?)
2. Good conversation

Two Truths
1. Measure twice, cut once
2. You can't make a child eat, sleep, or go to the bathroom.

Two things You Hate (or at least really dislike)
1. Cilantro
2. The smell of sour milk

Two physical features that Appeal to You
1. "Artistic" hands with long, slender fingers
2. Crow's feet

Two of Your Favorite Hobbies
1. Writing
2. Cooking

Two Things You Want Really Badly
1. A job
2. The new Diana Gabaldon book

Two Places You Want to go on Vacation
1. The Caribbean
2. A couple of weeks in France - one in the countryside, and one in Paris

Two Things You Want to Do Before You Die
1. Write and publish a novel
2. Pay off my student loans

Two Ways that you are stereotypically a Chick/Guy
1. I worry about my weight and say things like "Does this make me look fat?"
2. I really, really, really like chocolate

Two Things You Normally Wouldn't Admit
1. I eat (and really enjoy) that EZ cheese that comes in a can (it's pretty yummy on Ritz crackers)
2. I regularly eat and enjoy Kraft Macaroni and Cheese with hotdogs cut up into it

I just totally blew my foodie street cred, didn't I?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Dear Maureen Dowd. . .

I haven't read Maureen Dowd's new book, but I have read the excerpt that was posted in the New York Times last week. Reading it was like reading an anthropological study about life on another planet -- it had that little to do with my real life experiences.

Dowd's complaint seems to be that feminism didn't cure all the world's ills and instantaneously raise every woman in America's consciousness. She says, "Maybe we should have known that the story of women's progress would be more of a zigzag than a superhighway, that the triumph of feminism would last a nanosecond while the backlash lasted 40 years," as if feminism is defunct because the battle didn't end in 1969. Yes, you should have known, because all social change is a zigzag. All the progress in civil rights is hard-won and slow -- it's always two steps forward/one step backwards, because there's always a hell of a lot of people who are deeply invested in the status quo.

But anyone who thinks that women are no better off, or actually worse, than they were in the 60's (or the 50's or the 40's or earlier) is blind.

My grandmother was married at fifteen, had four children in five years, and lived in abject poverty because her husband was an alcoholic who couldn't hold a job, and she had no skills or education to support herself. She finally left him and went to beauty school, but five years later, they reconciled and she had another baby. A few months after that, my grandfather killed himself, leaving her with five children to support. Her sister suggested that she had no option but to give her children up for adoption, but my grandmother worked nonstop to keep her family together. Eventually she remarried and things became easier, but she continued working most of her adult life as a beautician and helping in her second husband's grocery store.

My mother was married at seventeen, before her senior year of high school. She finished high school, but never went to college (her mother and step-father made it clear that they wouldn't help pay for it, since there was no need for a woman to have an education). She was a stay at home mother, and never had a career. She says that the biggest reason she didn't work much was that she wouldn't have been able to find a job that payed well without a degree, and with my dad getting transfered all the time (he was career military), she wouldn't have been able to stay at any job for very long.

I was twenty when I got married. I have a college degree and a masters degree. Just like my grandmother and my mother, I've had to find a way to juggle being a wife and a mother with my career goals (and with supporting my family), but unlike them, I've had opportunities that give me a much wider range of options: parents who supported me, assumed I would go to college and have a career, and helped pay for college; birth control to limit the size of my family; acknowledgement that my career goals are as important as my husband's; scholarships, fellowships, and jobs that women might not have even been considered for before the 70's; daycare options. No, it's not a piece of cake, but I'm immensely grateful for the opportunities that feminism has given me.

Reading Dowd's piece, I don't recognize the women I know in her anecdotes about Sex in the City style gals, and I really don't recognize the men I know in her stories about unenlightened men who are threatened by educated, powerful women. My husband isn't perfect, but we've NEVER had the sort of retro Doris Day/Rock Hudson relationship that Dowd describes in her essay. We've always been friends, not antagonists in some game in which I had to "trap him" into marrying me. Frankly, I'm insulted on his (and my other male friends) behalf. It's not that I don't believe that women and men like this exist, but they certainly aren't well-represented among my friends and acquaintances.

Maybe it's because I'm younger than Dowd (she's 3 years younger than my mother), maybe it's because she's writing from a very New York City perspective, maybe it's a class thing - I'm pretty solidly middle class, and I don't usually associate with "top New York producer"s and "very beautiful and successful actress"es, but nothing about Dowd's essay resonated with me or felt familiar. It's like she's writing about another species.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Busy weekend, redux

We busily busied all weekend. The summary:

Watched: On Friday night, the big kids and I watched The Mask of Zorro - Drew and I had seen it before, but it was Fran's first time. We all enjoyed it immensely - the fight scenes are really wonderful, and I have to admit I really like Banderas as Zorro. I've heard mixed things about the sequel (Salon gave it a glowing review, but other reviewers were less than impressed), but I'd like to see it anyway.

On Saturday, we went to Will and Merideth''s for dinner and watched The Pirate Movie (there are just no words. . .it's like someone threw Gilbert and Sullivan and that faux late 70's Victoriana and The Blue Lagoon and some bad pop ballads in a blender and hit puree) and Napoleon Dynamite, which I really enjoyed - it's quirky and weird, but basically a very sweet movie, and even though it's not set in the south, most of the characters reminded me strongly of my extended family (I guess it's true that there are rednecks everywhere!).

Read: the first half of The Jane Austen Book Club (for my book club). I'm really enjoying this - Fowler's style is very elliptial - very show-y rather than tell-y - and the characters are really engaging. This is the first book by Fowler that I've read, and it reminds me a little bit of Barbara Kingsolver, who is also very good at intercutting stories of several different characters, and at glorifying the mundane.

In addition, I took Fran to her soccer game, cleaned the bathrooms and the bedrooms, did a bunch of laundry and dishes, and baked bread (1 loaf sandwich, 1 loaf cinnamon swirl).

Oh, and keep your fingers crossed - my mom and dad got an offer on their house (which has been on the market nearly 2 years). If all goes well, they'll close on January 4th.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Busy Weekend

It's been a busy weekend - Fran had a soccer game bright -n- early yesterday morning, and Will and Merideth and their kids came over in the afternoon. and we made pizza and caramel apples. Today my mom took me and the big kids to see Wallace and Grommit and the Curse of the Wererabbit (which was hysterical) and we carved our jack o'lantern and roasted pumpkin seeds (mmmmm) and now I'm getting ready to go to a wedding.

I think it says something about my social life that I had two sartorial choices for this affair, and they were both dresses that I'd originally purchased to wear to funerals. . .I remember my mom having all these glamorous (or so they seemed to me at the time) clothes and my parents going out almost every weekend. Partially that was because most of their friends hadn't had kids yet, and partially it was because my dad was career military and felt compelled to make an appearance at all the official functions. And possibly the cheap drop-in base childcare had something to do with it as well, although I remember falling asleep on piles of coats in back badrooms at many unofficial parties. . .

Friday, October 21, 2005

Appliance Suicide and Other Oddities

I think my microwave (a late 70's built in model) is dead - I just tried to heat up a leftover quesadilla and, while it came on as normal, the usual whrrrr sound it makes was much louder, and almost immediately I started smelling an ozone-y burning smell. So I turned it off, and sure enough the quesadilla was still stone cold. I guess it's a good thing I only ever use it for heating up leftovers and melting chocolate, huh?

Thank god Alec is down for his nap, because he's been a holy terror all morning. There are no words for how tired I am of his new trick of taking his diaper off. . .Also, I could have done without the roaring in the grocery store (which could only be quieted by me singing Mary Had a Little Lamb over and over again - I'm not sure whether the roaring or the singing was more annoying to our fellow shoppers - at least I tried to keep it down.


Kids Say the Silliest Things

1. Drew on the way home from school recently: "Mom could you talk to dad about you being the substitute dungeon master for our D&D game? Then Franny and I could play D&D even when he's at work. (Yes, Adam has the older kids doing RPGs now. Drew's character is a dwarf called Drew the Destroyer and Fran's character is a wizard just out of wizarding school called Gandalf - she's really into LotR right now.)

2. Franny before the bed a few nights ago: "Mom, I want to read to Alec before bed. You get him jammified and I'll pick out a story." (Yes, my children think that "to jammify" [meaning, of course, to put pajamas on someone] is a legitimate verb. Someday someone is going to mock them soundly for it, I'm afraid.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

October Column and "Otherwise"

My October column is up at

I just took two loaves of bread out of the oven, and there's applesauce cooking in the crockpot. In a bit, I'm going to start the turkey broth for the turkey and rice soup we're having for dinner. . .(But before that, there willl be a big pot of Earl Grey tea and bread and butter and honey.)

Outside my window, there's an enormous gossamer spider's web billowing in the breeze, with a fat spider right in the middle of it. The day is bright and sunny with that autumnal clarity. Alec and I had a lovely walk this morning, when it was still foggy and damp - he wore his Spiderman raincoat and his bug rain boots and the fog condensed in his hair and sparkled when the sun came out. When we got home, he played quietly with his blocks and I was able to get a lot of writing done.

I'm put in mind of this poem, by Jane Kenyon. . .


I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Falling leaves. . .

Yeah, there are finally a few leaves falling, although what passes for "fall color" in Austin leaves a lot to be desired. But the sidewalks are strewn with acorns and pecans, and today the high is 76, so it must be fall! (After several late September days well over 100, I'll take whatever I can get.)

I've been engaging in a frenzy of fall cleaning, converting the back half of our living room, which we've always used as a playroom, into a dining room. We've already moved the table in there, and for the past few days I've been sorting and organizing toys (and culling the outgrown/worn out ones) and putting most of them in the kids' rooms (barring a few baby toys, puzzles and games that are mostly used downstairs). It almost looks like an adult space now!

For the weekend: start organizing the bookshelves in the dining/living room, and dig a bed in the front yard by the mailbox (I've given up trying to grow herbs in our shady backyard - the strip between the street and the sidewalk is the sunniest place on our lot).

In other news, yesterday I got a frantic phone call from my brother (in New York) - "Quick, who was one of the sisters on Little House on the Prairie?" I named them all, and corrected him when he said "Laura Ingall." Then he wanted to know what some of the shows on TV Land are - thank God for the internet. . .

Turns out, he was about to go on some kind of game show that plays on TV Land - something about classic tv trivia? I haven't heard how he did, but given his inability to remember the names of any of the Ingalls sisters (despite the fact that we watched it every week all through the 70's) I'm not banking on him doing well. On the other hand, if they asked lots of questions about The Dukes of Hazzard and CHIPS, he's probably rolling in the dough. . .

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Kids Say the Darnedest Things (Geek Edition)

  • Last week, we let the big kids stay up and watch Survivor: Guatemala (the first season they've been allowed to watch it). Franny kept getting it confused with Lost (which they are most emphatically not allowed to watch). When it was over, she asked, "Next week, can we watch more Lost Guacamole?

  • Last night, on the way to Cub Scouts, Drew was talking about how he wanted to do archery. He stopped, thought about it a minute and said, "You know, a bow and arrow, a slingshot, and a rocket all operate on the same principle. . ." Pretty astute for an eight-year-old!

  • At nap time, I read Alec a book and then sing him a song. Today, when I asked what song he wanted, I expected one of the usual requests ("Bus," aka "The Wheels on the Bus," "Hushbye," or "Staaah," aka "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"). Instead he said "Dane!" I said, "Um, what honey?" "Dane, Dane, sing Dane" - it took me a minute, but I realized what he was asking for. . .Adam taught him "The Ballad of Jayne" from Firefly. . .

Monday, September 19, 2005

The first day of the rest of my life. . .

Adam went back to work today, so my convalescence is officially over, although I'm still trying to take it easy. I actually feel so much better than I expected to at this point - I'm still sore, and I think my synthroid dose needs some tweaking (good thing I have an appointment with the endocrinologist tomorrow!), but I already feel so much better than I did before the surgery. I'm still having some neck mobility problems, but I was able to drive the kids to school this morning without any difficulties. And the incision is healing very nicely. The bruising has mostly faded, so I no longer look like someone tried to throttle me and then slit my neck, and the incision, while noticable, isn't glaring.

Had a pretty social weekend. My brother, Ben, is in town from New York (for the Austin City Limits Festival - he can pick up some work there through his old job, and make a quick buck or two) and we had dinner with him and my mom on Saturday, and swam in mom and dad's pool. It sounds like Ben's having a hard time making the transition to NYC living. He's working his ass off (and barely has time to go to auditions) and living as frugally as he can, but he's still barely making ends meet. He's doing some great work with a theatre company that he fell in with, and has written a play that they want to produce, but it's all for free. He seems a little disillusioned, and I hate it for him, because he was so excited about this move. But it was great to see him.

Last night, Merideth and Will and their kids came over. We cooked chicken on the grill and had a cookie baking bonanza (oatmeal chocolate chip and regular chocolate chip!), and the kids played in the sprinkler mud. Merideth and I concocted a clever plan to do some bulk shopping and then spend a day cooking a bunch of meals that we could stock our freezers with. Any suggestions of recipes that double and freeze well are greatly appreciated!

Tonight I'm supposed to go to my book club meeting (to discuss Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, which is depressing as hell, but inventive and cunningly constructed). I really want to go (I haven't been in months), but Drew has his first Cub Scout meeting tonight (right up until the time book club starts) and I'm already feeling pretty worn out. I think something's gotta give. . .

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Meme thing

Adam tagged me for this meme a million years ago. Since I'm trying to sit down and not do too much, I thought I'd finally post it here. . .

1. Where I was ten years ago:
Starting my third year of graduate school. My marriage was rocky and we were both drinking way too much. I'd had a miscarriage the previous spring, and a close friend from grad school had been killed in a car accident 2 months later. It was a rough time.

2. Where I was five years ago:
At home with a 3 year old and an almost 9 month old. Franny was crawling and pulling up and Drew was in preschool 2 mornings a week. I was starting to feel like I was getting the hang of the stay at home thing, although Adam was still working the evening shift, which made life hard (doing bedtime for an infant and a toddler by yourself is not fun!)

3. Where I was one year ago:
Working from home, with a 7 year old, a 4 year old, and a one year old. Drew was in second grade, Fran was in preschool 4 mornings a week, and Alec was going 2 mornings a week. Writing a monthly column for I was beginning to think about going back to work full time when Fran started kindergarten.

4. Where I was yesterday:
At home and at the surgeon's office, getting good news about my thyroid biopsy

5. Where I am today:
Home with Adam and Alec, still recuperating from surgery.

6. Where I will be tomorrow:

7. Five snacks I enjoy:
1. Almond M&M's
2. Baguette and brie
3. Tzatziki and fresh pita bread
4. Queso and tortilla chips (with a margarita!)
5. Snickerdoodles

8. Five singers (or bands) for whom I know the lyrics to most of their songs:
1. Nanci Griffith
2. Lyle Lovett
3. Maura O'Connell
4. Jimmy Buffett
5. The Beatles

9. Five things I would do with $100,000,000:
1. Pay off all my debts (and all my family and friends' debts too)
2. Sell my 1970's tract house and buy an Arts and Crafts style bungalow in Hyde Park
3. Buy a big sailboat
4. Travel all the time
5. Have all my clothes custom made

10. Five locations I would like to run away to:
1. the Caribbean
2. The Florida Gulf Coast
3. London
4. Paris
5. Wales

11. Five bad habits I have:
1. Procrastinating
2. Eating for comfort
3. Not keeping track of expenses
4. Biting my cuticles
5. Speeding

12. Five things I like doing:
1. Reading
2. Writing
3. Cooking
4. Eating
5. Gabbing with my friends

13. Five TV shows I like:
1. Lost
2. Survivor
3. Buffy
4. Firefly
5. thirtysomething

14. Five famous people I'd like to meet have dinner with (if I'm going to meet someone famous, I'd like to have the chance to actually talk to the person!):
1. Harlan Ellison
2. Molly Ivins
3. Neil Gaiman
4. Johnny Depp (what can I say, I'm shallow)
5. Liz Carpenter
(Oddly enough, I've actually met everyone on this list except Depp - I just didn't have a chance to really talk to them.)

15. My biggest joys:
1. Seeing my kids turn into people
2. Spending time with Adam
3. Writing something I'm really proud of
4. Getting lost in a good book
5. Being in the water

16. My favorite toys:
1. My laptop
2. My ipod
3. My kitchenaide mixer
4. The internet (does this count?)
5. Waterskis

Monday, September 12, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

I've been collecting links for a while and this is a general omnibus of good information on what happened and how you can help. . .

Ways to help

Adam posted a pretty comprehensive list of reputable charities

A few additional ones I like:

Modest Needs (an organization that provides help to the working poor/those who make too much to qualify for other aid but who experience short term financial emergencies)

SHARE (Secular Humanist aid organization - great for folks who don't want to support religious charities)

Project Backpack and Kids of Katrina - both are collecting school supplies for displaced kids

If you're at your computer a lot you can enter information in a single database of missing people

Can't donate money? Check the Red Cross guidelines to see if you can donate blood. Then find a blood drive in your area.

There's apparently a desperate need for plus-sized women's clothing in the shelters (especially bras and underwear). If you don't have any to donate, you might consider ordering some from somewhere like or and have it shipped to the appropriate address. Your donations of new or gently used clothing can be sent to:

Helping Hands for Texas
c/o Alamo Premier Mortgage Group
10223 281 Freeway, Suite 200
San Antonio 78216


Salvation Army
5302 Harry Hines
Dallas Texas 75235

Commentary and News

Adam's also made some fabulous posts about the situation on the Gulf Coast and the government's slow response. I particularly liked this succinct list of ways folks from the GOP have put their foots in their mouths

A transcript of the infamous (and profoundly infuriating) interview with Aaron Broussard, President of Jefferson Parish

Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls. It Tolls for "Occupant."

Making Light has been an invaluable resource. This post on Why the Red Cross wasn't in New Orleans explains a lot about the way FEMA approached this disaster and why things went so tragically wrong.

Disjointed thoughts on the socio-economics of disaster and a couple of follow-ups: The first day of the rest of your life, and Stereotypes, Generalizations, and the Great Divide: More Disjointed Thoughts

A neat article about Park Service employees rescuing historical artifacts in New Orlean's museums

Like Lazarus. . .

I had my throat slit last week, and I'm only just beginning to recover. No worries - it was a planned procedure. I've been having problems with my thyroid for years (it tended towards high, but would occasionally swing low, so it was difficult to treat), and after some kind of dicey test results, my endocrinologist reccomended that I have it out. The procedure itself isn't particularly complicated, and I seem to be making a good recovery, but I have a rather garish scar on my neck (the surgeon assures me it will fade in time) and something about coming up from general anesthesia always feels like coming back from the dead.

I spent one night in the hospital and then five days recuperating at my Mom and Dad's (away from my sweet, but clinging children), eating cherry popsicles, chicken noodle soup, and saltine crackers. Luckily Adam's parents were able to be here for most of that time, to help him with the kids. I came home last night, and I'm beginning to gradually slip back into my normal routine, although I'm trying to take it easy and not overdo it. Right now it feels like my skin doesn't quite fit me, although I'm sure everything will settle down in a few days. Adam's home for the rest of the week, so I can take it slowly.

In other news, my September column is up at about (what else) hurricane Katrina. I also recommend the other columnists and the feature article by Marion Winik, one of my favorite essayists.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

In which the Lipscombs are bookish

My August column is out - about growing up bookish. . .

Due in part to extra prep the night before (I am learning), the first day of school went very smoothly. Everyone got up, got dressed, and ate breakfast with a minimum of fuss. We only left about 5 minutes late and made it about 5 minutes before the tardy bell (so 20 minutes or so of walking). Got Franny settled, dropped by and met Drew's teacher (argh, all these teachers are so young, I feel like I should be hobbling around with a cane), and walked home - total trip, including wandering around looking for older son's class, took 50 minutes. On a regular day, I can probably shave 10 minutes off that, so I can say with certainty that walking won't take any longer than driving, parking, etc. Walking in the morning definitely is energizing (although it will be better when the humidity isn't 100% [note: not an exageration, that was the humidity at 7:00 am, according to the weather site]).

When I picked the kids up, Drew was pretty quiet about his day, but I noticed that most of the girls in his class made a point of saying goodbye to him. Possibly it's the beginning of the boy/girl stuff (EEP!), but mostly I just hope he has a better year this year, and makes some good friends. Franny said, "Mom, we have to make sure we leave early tomorrow and get to school on time. I don't want to miss anything!"

At bedtime, husband read Alec his bedtime stories using the "Great Writers" finger puppets: Leo Tolstoy (as voiced by Anastasia!Yul Brynner), William Shakespeare (as voiced by Ian McKellan [with a brief foray into Sean Connery]), Virginia Woolf (as voiced by Dame Edna), and Charles Dickens (as voiced by The Limey!Terrence Stamp).

Shakespeare did a sort of medley of bits from the most memorable soliloquies, Dickens announced that he was the world's most famous Limey, and then Woolf and Tolstoy declared their forbidden love for one another. Oh, and Woolf and Tolstoy recited Dinosaur Roar and Peekaboo!.

At our house, we make our own fun. . .

Monday, August 15, 2005

My day in numbers

Phone calls with doctors' office and Adam, trying to get insurance sorted for dr. visit tomorrow: 7
Hours since the first kid woke up: 6
Spats/squabbles broken up: 5
Spills and messes mopped/wiped up: 4 (milk [twice], chocolate syrup, and muddy water)
Changes of clothes for Alec (who just today learned how to take off all his clothes and his diaper): 3
Changes of clothes for Franny: 2
Calls to poison control (regarding Drew, who decided superglue was the best thing to use to fix his 3D glasses, and tried to open the tube with his mouth): 1
Number of haircuts accomplished today, despite best intentions: 0

Waldman on AP

Ayelet Waldman tells (Attachment) parents to Mind your own kids. Waldman must have been missing the hate mail. . .

Honestly, although (like Waldman) I lean more towards the AP end of the parenting spectrum, I agree with her: we all have to make our own choices, based on what's best for our families, and (barring true abuse or neglect) everyone else should just keep their noses out of it. I've also been the recipient of condescending proselytizing from hardcore Attachment Parents, but I suspect that missionary zeal has more to do with being deeply invested in a particular parenting philosopy than AP per se. Because I've also gotten the hardsell from the Baby Wise people (who are truly scary, if you ask me), and they're on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Computer Woes

AKA, first world problems of the highest order. . .

When I got my laptop (a hand-me-down from one of Adam's gaming friends), there was an intermittent problem with it recognizing the power cord. Occasionally it would switch to battery, but if you jiggled the cord a bit, it would switch back and all was well. Adam's friend said there was a loose connector that needed to be soldered - he figured Adam could do it, but we were both leery of that. And since the problem seemed manageable, fixing it wasn't a priority.

Last week the problem got worse, until the computer couldn't "see" the cord at all. I tried to conserve the battery power, but I also needed to get files off it, and in the midst of that, it went into hibernation because the battery was drained. So I can't use it at all (luckily, I managed to get everything I need to work on immediately off it before that happened).

On Friday, I called the place around the corner that advertises that it fixes laptop and told the guy what was going on. He seemed to understand, quoted a flat rate of $75 to fix the problem (barring any unforeseen additional problems), and I ran it by later in the afternoon. The guy behind the counter was young, and although he claimed to be the same guy I'd talked to earlier, he didn't seem to recall anything I'd told him. So I ran through it all again. Things went downhill from there. . .

"So it won't turn on?"

Patiently, I explained again what was going on, ending with, "so yeah, it might not turn on now, since the battery is dead, but if you put a new battery in it, it would work fine." (Trying to explain that it's a power supply problem.)

"So, you think it needs a new battery?"

Again, I explained the problem. This time he finally got it, but began explaining that it wasn't as simple as it seemed, since all of that was one piece, and it was possible he'd have to put a new motherboard in. He piddled around and got an estimate - $150 on top of the $75 he'd quoted before (mind you, Dell's advertising new laptops for $400). He also went off on this long exegesis about how it might not even be related to the plug but might be something much more seriously wrong with the computer (and I'm thinking, but not saying, that this is junior high level trouble shooting. There's a problem and when you mess with this it works again, so odds are that this is the problem. Drew, at eight, could figure out that much.)

I start to explain that husband's friend -- someone who knows about this stuff -- had suggested it was a very simple repair. "He said the connector just needed to be soldered."

"OH. Well, I can't do that kind of work.  I don't have the tools for it. If it turns out that's the problem, then you'll need to send it back to Dell."

So I'm thinking this guy seems like an idiot and I'm not entirely comfortable leaving the computer with him, but I decide it's worth it to let him open it up and at least see if that's the problem. So then he asks for the $75 upfront. "But, if what I think is wrong with it, you won't even be able to fix it!"

(As if to a very stupid child.) "You have to look at the positive side. At least you'd know for sure what was wrong. And if you send it to Dell, even for a simple $50 repair, they'll charge you all kinds of other fees."

"But I'm already pretty sure I know what's wrong, and it's something you've said you can't fix. Besides, if that's the problem, you've said I'll still have to send it to Dell and so I'll pay all their charges, plus what you've charged me. I think I'll call around some more and talk to my husband before I do anything."

He refuses to give me my computer, and continues to try to justify the $75 charge. "If I open it up, you can't expect me to do that work and not get paid!"

I reiterated that I wasn't going to pay him the same fee for an estimate as I would for him to both diagnose and fix the problem. And he still wouldn't give me my computer. Finally after going back and forth many times, I got it back and left, so angry I could hardly speak. It was now 5:00 pm on Friday afternoon and nothing was open. So I can't even look into finding another place until tomorrow. GRRRRR!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

A brilliant plan. . .

On Thursday night, after Drew and Fran's back to school night (which went well - Fram has the same fabulous kindergarten teacher Drew had, and Drew's teacher seems nice), I went for a walk. I got a wild hair and started walking toward the school. In the past when I've tried to walk to the school, I've taken a different route, and it's appeared to be at least 30 minutes one way, walking fast. But the route I took last night was just a hair over 15 minutes. Even at kid pace, we should be able to do it in 30 minutes (and then I can hotfoot it home, with Alec in the stroller). So I'm going to start walking the kids to school every morning. This has a multitude of benefits:

1. Moving exercise to the morning, so I'll have more time with Adam in the evenings, and combining it with another obligation, instead of taking time away from other commitments (by the time you figure in the time I'd spend getting kids into the car, driving to the school, finding a parking place, getting Alec into his stroller, and walking Franny into the kindergarten, it shouldn't take that much longer to walk!)
2. Not wasting gas (and polluting the air) driving - Drew has been very concerned about this lately and has actually asked why we drive so much instead of walking, when walking is better for us and better for the environment
3. First step in teaching kids the route and getting them comfortable with walking it themselves (probably not until next year, but it's a step in that direction)
4. Allow the kids to run off some energy before school
5. I'm in hopes that they'll be excited by the novelty of it and it will be easier to motivate them to get out the door ::crosses fingers::

For the time being, I probably won't walk to pick them up, since it'll be upwards of 95 or 100 degrees in the afternoon. But if this goes well (and nothing's changed with our schedule) when the weather cools off I may build that into our day too.

Die sedentary lifestyle, die, die!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Birthday baby!

Alec is two years old today, although it hardly seems possible. He's in full-on toddler mode - talking and running and bailing toilet water onto the bathroom floor every chance he gets.

This means it's been nearly two years since I regularly updated this blog. Several times I've said that I was going to make more of an effort to post here, but it always falls by the wayside. But I think I'm finally coming out of the infancy fog. No promises, but check back occasionally - there may be more content here in months to come.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

I go out walking. . .

In my continued fight against my sedentary lifestyle, after dinner, Fran and I walked to the store to get a loaf of bread. It was slower going at a 5 year old's pace, but it gave us some much needed one on one time.

Franny is starting to live in a "named world." She's moved beyond general categories (flower, bird, tree) into more specific labels - she recognizes the more common plants we see and can name them (she can identify rosemary and honeysuckle by scent), as well as some of the birds. We saw 2 birds that we didn't recognize on the power lines above the (full) drainage ditch. They were sort of waterbird looking: dark feathers with long legs, shortish necks, curved bills, and a white slash across each cheek. When we got home, we looked in the bird book and failed utterly at identifying them (not a surprise - I'm the world's worst birder). I'm not sure I understand how the ecosystem of the drainage ditch works - we've occasionally seen blue herons as well as turtles and frogs - but it's only really wet for a day or two after a hard rain. Most of the time it's just a grassy ditch.

On the way back we saw 2 toads, and heard crickets and frogs and the drum corps practicing, and talked about lunar phases, and The Lord of the Rings (which is the new bedtime chapter book as of tonight - I gave her a little preview of the plot), and why it's not really safe to cut through the park after dark. It's hard to know how to make her aware of being safe without scaring her - I chose not to belabor the point, but just planted the seed that it's smart to think about the risks, and look for ways to be safe, but that you shouldn't let fear rule you.

And now we've read the Hobbity bit of the prologue to The Fellowship of the Ring, and all the kids are asleep. And my feet are sore. . .

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

In the gloaming. . .

Went out for a latish walk, and it was actually Not Hot. While I walked, the stars and the fireflies came out, and I could smell barbecue and sliced watermelon and freshly-mown grass. But when the wind blew the right way, I could hear the marching band practicing at the high school; football season's right around the corner. This morning was cool and damp, and foggy around Town Lake. It'll be hot for a good long while yet, but I can feel the season turning.

In Austin, *everybody's* in a band. . .

My car is still in the shop, awaiting a new alternator, so I spent several hours in the car today, driving Adam to and from work (so that I'd have use of his car while he was gone). My chatty daughter loves it when this happens, because we're a captive audience for her monologues.

This afternoon, she got on a kick about how she was going to start a band called Vampires Rock. Their first song is going to be called (appropriately enough) "Vampires Rock," (I could hum a few bars of it, if you like - she sang us long sections of it). The B side will be "Creatures of the Night." And they're going to wear vampire makeup (she's a junior Goth - who knew?).

The entire time we were in the car, she rambled on about this, frequently asking me and Drew if we wanted to be in the band. Drew was trying to read his book, and clearly annoyed by the whole thing. She'd ask, "Do you want to play guitar?" and he'd answer, curtly, "No," and go back to his book. A few minutes later, she'd say, "Do you want to play drums?" and again he'd answer, "No."

Finally, after exhausting almost all the musical instruments, she said again, "Do you want to play guitar?" He put his book down and very seriously asked, "Franny, have you considered a solo career?"

It's a good thing I was pulling into our driveway at this point - otherwise I think I might've run off the road. . .

Monday, August 08, 2005

What have you got to lose?

Things I've lost (not a complete list):

1. The Austin Public library book, Snake, due 8/2/2005 (it's got to be here somewhere!)
2. My Madeleine Peyroux cd with "Dance Me to the End of Love" on it
3. The silver and amber bracelet Adam bought in Montreal and gave me for Christmas in 1999
4. The name of the first boy I kissed
5. The locket that once belonged to my father's only sister, who died when she was 10 months old
6. The curtains that I made for the second apartment Adam and I lived in, along with a bolt of coordinating toile that I was going to use for a slipcover (how do you lose that much fabric?)
7. A baby (and isn't that construction odd? I'm pretty sure I didn't misplace her.)
8. Fran and Alec's social security cards
9. The phone number and address of the woman who was my maid of honor when I got married
10. My temper, more times than I can count (and that's just today)

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Junior Geek Brigade

After having his head buried in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for a couple of days, Drew finished it late on Tuesday night (after getting a dispensation from me and Adam to stay up late - we know what it's like to be almost done with a book). Instead of going to bed, he appeared at the bottom of the stairs, handed the book to me and said, "Can I have book 2?" I promised he could have it first thing in the morning. . .

So he's about half way through Chamber of Secrets now, and yesterday he announced that the Weasely twins are his favorite characters. He and Fran also spent much of yesterday afternoon making "kick me" signs and taping them on to everyone. Probably not unrelated, huh?

Also, Fran watched the animated Hobbit and wants me to read it to her (we agreed on a little bit each night). I'm kind of hoping I can get Drew to put down his book long enough to listen too. Years ago, we used to read a chapter of a book aloud as a family each night, and I really loved that time. Then when Fran got to be a toddler, she wouldn't sit still for chapter books the way Drew had, and it kind of fell by the wayside. I'd like to reintroduce that tradition. . .

Thursday, October 14, 2004

I held my breath and I kicked my feet and I moved my arms around. . .

It's been a crazy week. Drew's better (apparently it was some kind of intestinal parasite, because he hasn't had any problems with his stomach since he started the medicine), but Alec was sick on Tuesday (we haven't had one week since school started that at least one kid wasn't home sick from school). And Adam and I had an stupid little spat on Monday night that colored my whole day on Tuesday. But then I ate way more chocolate chip cookie dough than I should and listened to Liz Phair's "Extraordinary" a few dozen times and felt better. Then I got a halfway decent night's sleep, and spent an hour in the YMCA pool, and felt much better.

I've been swimming at the Y on Mondays and Wednesdays, and I've decided that I'd be a much more zen person if I could just be in the water every day. I learned to swim around the time I learned to walk, and I took swimming lessons throughout my childhood. How many millions of times have I done these same strokes? The muscle memory is deeply engrained.

I have a special fondness for repetitive exercise like lap swimming or walking on a treadmill - your body just falls into the rhythm and your mind can wander at will (kind of like folding laundry, actually). And with swimming you get something like sensory deprivation - the water is body temperature, and the goggles restrict your vision to what's right in front of you, and the water drowns out the noise. Sometimes I compose essays, emails, and long swathes of dialogue while my body surges back and forth across the pool; sometimes I just empty my mind and enter into an almost hypnagogic state - it's very soothing.

In other news, my new column is up at - Eat You Up!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Let's try this again, shall we?

I've been a bit overwhelmed and this blog has fallen by the wayside, but I'd like to try to revive it. But I feel like I've lost the trick of summing up my life in pithy little posts, so bear with me.

Since the last time I posted, Alec has turned one, gotten lots of teeth and learned to walk. Franny's started pre-kindergarten and is learning to read, and Drew's started second grade, and is reading everything he can get his hands on. Drew's also having some kind of mysterious stomach ailment which may be intestinal parasites, although we're not sure. More on that as we know more.

To be honest, I've been struggling. Sleep deprivation, hormones, maybe some postpartum depression, I dunno, but it' s been a hard year. I feel like things are getting better, now that everyone's in school at least a little bit (there are two mornings a week when all the kids are at school), but it seems like establishing a routine has been very hard, between teacher work days, Drew being sick so much, and various and sundry commitments that interupt our schedule. Still, it is nice to have a few hours every week to be by myself, and remember who I am when I'm not Mommy.