Friday, December 23, 2005

Happy Holidays!

In case I don't get here for a couple of days throughout the Christmas/travel/family madness, Happy Holidays to you all!

Thursday, December 22, 2005


The women in my book club are amazing. They are smart and interesting and beautiful. I've read so many good books in the last year and a half that I would never have picked up otherwise, and I am a better person for it. But I haven't been quite comfortable in my book club since we discussed A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

While we were discussing the difficulties of feeding a family of 4 on under $5/week, one of the women commented that it's a good thing that we don't have people that poor anymore. Sure, there are poor people. But nobody's hungry.

Two of the other women are elementary school teachers, and they tried to explain a little of what they see every day.

Yeah, said the first woman. But I used to work across from the projects and I'd see those kids. If they're hungry, they've chosen to buy expensive shoes or televisions instead of food. It's not like it used to be.


I like our neighborhood. Most of the houses - excepting the monstrously huge new ones they've put in the back - are very similar. There are elderly folks and young families. There are a fair number of working trucks parked in driveways (tree service, driveway sealing). It's quiet and off the beaten path, but conveniently located near the outerbelt, which I use to get just about everywhere.

I used to live a little further in, where the population is far more diverse, but you get a lot less house and land for your money. When I lived further in, I took the innerbelt just about everywhere.

The speed limit on both interstates is 60 mph, and Paul and I often laugh about the fact that it's common for the far left lane on the innerbelt to be moving about 60, while the far right lane on the outerbelt usually moves faster than that.

Recently I noticed another difference in the traffic between the two roads. The cars. I'd gradually forgotten that so many people drive cars with rusted bodies and duct-taped windows.


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Genre Readers

I was going to write in generalities about Science Fiction & Fantasy readers versus Romance readers, but I'll try to stick to the specifics.

When I finished the most recent Robert Jordan book, I suffered a bit of withdrawal. I looked around online to see who was out there and had answers to some of my questions. I found several websites and discussion boards devoted to The Wheel of Time. I found an incredibly comprehensive encyclopedia that covers all 8000+ pages published thus far. I found detailed chapter summaries. I found interesting theories and amazing quantities of background research.

Every time someone asked a "dumb" question or made an error, there was an immediate correction by another reader. These people were geeks, of course. I found pictures of conventions and weddings designed around the world Jordan created. But these people are also really smart. I was duly impressed.

About a month later, I finished the most recent Diana Gabaldon book. Diana Gabaldon herself is very smart and a little intimidating. I anxiously looked for Outlander online communities to read discussions about this latest installment in the lives of Claire, Jamie, Brianna, and Roger.

I didn't find much. Well, I did find a robust online community. But far from being a place where every inconsistency is closely examined and critiqued by fans, as on the Jordan sites, the level of discourse on the Gabaldon fan page ran more toward comments like, "Well, everyone makes mistakes. There's a lot to remember here."

Not examining "inconsistencies" purposefully included by the author is a good way to miss important developments in the story. But more importantly, not asking for accuracy in the writing is an insult to the author. It's suggesting that the work of fiction is so inconsequential that it doesn't even seem real in the author's own mind.

Instead of detailed theories, complete with footnotes, readers asked very basic questions. One reader talked about buying her Christmas tree. It was from North Carolina and was a Fraser Fir. She couldn't believe the coincidence! Suddenly "Fraser" is everywhere! I mean, it's not possible that the author did such incredible research that she might have discovered that there are Fraser Firs grown in North Carolina, where she set Fraser's Ridge in the books? Impossible! It must be an incredible coincidence.

That's about when I closed my browser window and went on my merry way.

So, yeah. Jordan fans and Gabaldon fans seem equally passionate. Both groups spend incredible amounts of time online discussing the books. But online Jordan fans seem more intellectually invested in the world created by their favorite author.

Interesting trend watch. Laurell K. Hamilton, Robert Jordan, and Diana Gabaldon are all series authors I read. And they have all become much more interactive with their readership. All have some sort of blog for communicating directly with us outside of their books. It's interesting. I wonder how this growing transparency will affect the writing and the author/reader relationship.

Monday, December 19, 2005


Paul and I were sitting around Saturday night, wrapping presents and watching the best television show ever, which we own on DVD and have been parceling out slowly, terribly saddened that the joy must end eventually (we only have two episodes left from the original series).

We started talking about life and all, you know, the sorts of thrilling conversations that people have once they've covered the weather, local politics, let's-get-married, and baby poop.

I said, "You know, lately I've been feeling like life's getting back to normal."

Paul concurred. It really is, you know. I mean, it will never be the same again, of course. But I'm starting to feel like I have a bit of myself back. My daughter is becoming - just a little - independent and self-sufficient. I can reasonably expect to sleep most nights, to have a little time and space to read stuff, make stuff, think stuff.

How divine. It must be time to have another one.

I Hate Siding with CWA

Dear [Washington Post] Editor:

I am writing in response to "One Woman's Choice" by Maria Eftimiades from your November 15th issue.

I am a liberal, pro-choice feminist, so my angry response is probably quite unlike many angry responses you've gotten.

But I believe that publishing this piece without qualification - explanation about some of the "facts" in the piece - was irresponsible.

For example, Eftimiades writes about having a child with a "severe disability" and "raising a mentally handicapped child" as if both are forgone conclusions that come with a diagnosis of Down syndrome. They're not. Before a child is born - and even for some time thereafter - it's impossible to tell how he or she will be effected by Down syndrome.

It's possible to have Down syndrome and not be "severely disabled." In fact, it's likely! It's possible to have Down syndrome and not be "mentally handicapped." It's also possible - and likely! - that a child with Down syndrome would look like and be like his or her parents, as the author seems to suggest would not happen with her potential child, once her fetus was diagnosed with Down syndrome.

I agree with Eftimiades that this is a personal decision, and that no one else's morality should be the deciding factor. But I think it's harmful to all of us, and especially to those with Down syndrome, to imply that all children born with Down syndrome are severely developmentally delayed.

Eftimiades is confident that she made the best choice - not just for herself, but also for her "baby that will never be." If she has done the research, she must know that it's possible that her child could have been pretty close to typical, could have grown up to go to college and have a career and normal life. Just as it's entirely possible that a child without Trisomy 21 could have many serious and even severe disabilities.

I know how scary it is to be in Eftimiades's position, and I do not judge her for her choice. But I do judge her for spreading fear of the unknown and misinformation with this piece. She had to make and live with a difficult decision. But making herself feel better with platitudes and false certainties about what her child's life would have been like (not worth living) serves no good while doing much harm.



Saturday, December 17, 2005

Christmas Shopping

I started Christmas shopping before September, and was mostly finished before December. I have a closet (inconveniently located in the guest room) where I keep presents to be given in the future.

I did most of my shopping via catalogs and the Internet this year. I think there's something to be said for making decisions about what gift to buy for each person on your list while sitting comfortably in the quiet of your home, rather than in a store where merchandise always looks most appealing and you begin to feel like maybe your little sister really would like that thing in the corner, and maybe it's got character rather than being simply ugly as you first thought. And if you buy it you can leave now and be all done. So, hopefully, the gifts we got for people are stuff they'll really use or appreciate rather than just gifts for the sake of spending money and giving something.

There's also something to be said for not popping into and out of stores with an infant or toddler in tow.

In my defense, I also ought gifts at 3 independent, locally owned, little downtown shops in our town. But I'm still planning to go to the mall later today, even though I don't strictly need anything from there. It just seems wrong to me, somehow, to not set foot in the mall even once during the holiday shopping rush. And of course that's wrong all by itself.

Friday, December 16, 2005

It's Time for a Picture

Here we are, in front of the Christmas tree, in our matching sweaters. Isn't it nauseating?

I thought that we were long overdue for a dose of cute; the diatribe:diapers ratio here was getting skewed.

In related news, I'd be sending out our Christmas letters, creatively designed on the computer and ready to be printed on pretty paper, except for technical difficulties.

I tried to print a test copy, and learned that we were out of black ink. Paul purchased and installed a new cartridge, and the printer stopped working. He removed the printer to take it apart and fix it, and now the (temperamental cordless) keyboard's a bit screwy. And the printer still isn't printing right. So, the Christmas cards will have to wait until the curse lifts.

Giving up for the night, I tripped over a shoe in the dark and spilled a glass of water all over my side of the bed.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Prevention First

Last week I got to see something really cool.

Pro-choice and anti-abortion groups are so firmly entrenched in their positions and are so afraid of losing ground that they often don't look for areas of common ground.

And yet most of us agree on one major point: we would like to see fewer unplanned pregnancies and abortions.

Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and several other groups are endorsing the Prevention First Act, and they organized an interesting way of drumming up support and sponsors for the legislation. They invited several local pro-choice, anti-abortion, and mixed-choice state legislators to a meeting at a synagogue and sat them up in front of the crowd.

The crowd was huge. The synagogue was packed, with people standing against all the walls and in each doorway. Behind us, an enormous petition lined the walls with signatures of supporters who couldn't make the meeting.

There are five main parts to the Prevention First Act:
  1. Birth Control Protection: The language in this section prohibits all government interference in a woman's access to FDA approved contraceptive drugs and devices in Missouri.
  2. Comprehensive Sex Education: Ensures that each school district is held accountable to the current comprehensive sex education law (170.015 RSMo) to provide age-appropriate, medically accurate sex education that includes information about contraception.
  3. C.A.R.E: Compassionate Assistance for Rape Emergencies ensures that victims of sexual assault who present at an emergency room are provided with information about, and access to (should they choose) emergency morning after birth control called EC (Emergency Contraception). EC is approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a contraceptive; if the pregnancy is already established, the medication does not harm the embryo. In fact, the hormones in Plan B can help ensure a healthy pregnancy.
  4. Pharmacists Duty to Dispense Birth Control: This requires pharmacies in Missouri to make sure all legal prescriptions for birth control and emergency birth control are filled in a timely manner and without undue hardship to the patient.
  5. Family Planning Program: Restores the highly successful, general revenue funded, Family Planning program that served 30,000 low income women annually with well woman services such as cancer screenings as well as birth control counseling and methods. Every $1 spent on prevention programs saves the state $3 in pregnancy related medical costs.

More background.

The MC, from Planned Parenthood, introduced each initiative then introduced two speakers who addressed each provision. The speakers were incredibly powerful, and took the discussion far beyond political rhetoric. After the speakers, the MC asked each representative if she or he supported the initiative. A volunteer kept track of responses on a large grid. After hearing the speakers, it was impossible not to say, "Yes."

At the end of the evening, after all 5 initiatives had been discussed, the legislators were asked if they'd co-sponsor the bill. All said yes. I haven't described this experience adequately. This Act may never become law in Missouri. But this has to be a step in the right direction. And the experience brought tears to my eyes.

Who is Waging this war on Christmas?

Probably every lefty blogger out there is addressing this one, but I'm royally annoyed today. I'm about to sound really judgmental and offensive. Consider yourselves forewarned!

OK, so conservative Christians are claiming that there's a "war on Christmas" because we all say "Happy Holidays." Of course, I remember saying Happy Holidays way back before I knew much about Hanukkah or Kwanzaa; it was a more succinct way to say, "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!" And now that "The Holidays" start with Thanksgiving, the shorthand makes even more sense for retailers. Increasingly, "Happy Holidays" has a Labor Day flair.

But I digress. These same conservative Christians often belong to "mega-churches" with thousands of members. And several of these mega-churches have decided not to hold services on Sunday morning, December 25th. Christmas!

These are the people who want to tell the rest of us that they have a lock on what it means to be Christian, but they think that there's nothing wrong with canceling church on one of the biggest religious holidays of the year in order to stay home and open presents?

I listened to an irate preacher defend his church's decision on NPR, which did its best to create a "balanced" piece on the issue, offering sympathy to the plight of these poor, poor megachurches. After all, it takes dozens of staff and volunteers to run each service. That excuse almost got me for a moment.

But wait. This is a church. Surely some volunteers are likely to come forward, if the usual cast wants to take this Sunday off. And if not, well, who says that you *have* to have all the flash?

Why not turn off the complicated A/V equipment and leave a stack of bulletins on the back pew? Or, better yet, skip the bulletin and let the minister announce the hymns and readings from the pulpit.

Surely a modified service is better than no service at all.

As the daughter of a minister, I have little sympathy for them.
The closures stand in stark contrast to . . . Mainline Protestant congregations such as the Episcopal, Methodist and Lutheran churches, where Sunday services are rarely if ever canceled.
Well, yeah. As a Presbyterian, the idea of a church taking a Sunday off because not enough people might come is just totally foreign. And wrong. In my opinion, if only "two or three gather," it's worthwhile. Perhaps those who show up on holidays are the ones who need to hear the message the most. And what message are you sending if you close your doors to them?

If there's a real "war on Christmas," I don't think it's being waged by the "liberal PC-police." Quite to the contrary. I think that the real "war on Christmas" is the commercialized, secularized pop culture spectacle that we've created. And there are an awful lot of liberals who detest that too.

That said, I do think that "holiday tree" is ridiculous.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Heart Healthy

Everything went well at the cardiologist's today, though we were there for two hours!

The exam and echo were both great, and the doctor assured us that, while Ellie has some "mitral insufficiency," trace leakage at the tricuspid valve, and a tiny shunt, it's all the same as it was before and there's nothing to worry about.

Unless she has her teeth cleaned or needs to have her adenoids out (for her constant nasal congestion) or something of that nature.

Hint for getting a two-year-old to stay very still for a 10+ minute echocardiogram: bribe her with food, doled out as slowly as possible without incurring great wrath, and interspersed with fun songs, sung quietly. It's a tricky dance, but the result is worth it.

So we're free and clear until next year! God willing.

Heart Kid

If you feel like lobbying your congressional representatives for something this week and you're at a loss for an interesting cause, you might consider writing in for recognition of a National Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Week. Why is this such a pressing issue, you might ask? Well, in addition to the stats in the CHIN letter, it's interesting to note that heart defects are the most common type of structural birth defect, affecting 1 in every 125 newborns. And cardiologists who work with adults mostly focus on adult-onset heart disease, like that caused by high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc. So, many adults with congenital heart defects continue to see their pediatric cardiologists because they are trained to work with congenital defects, even though their area of expertise is CHD in children.

My situation as the mom of a heart kid is different - better - than most.

I knew about Ellie's heart defect, a complete atrioventricular septal defect, before she was born. I saw it on two different fetal echocardiograms. I researched it and all the complications that could come with it, so after the second fetal echo, when we got the news that there were no additional complications (like hypoplastic left heart or a transposition of the major vessels) I was ecstatic.

Ellie saw a cardiologist and started medication long before I would have noticed symptoms otherwise. Her surgery and recovery, though earlier than we had hoped, went exceedingly well.

She is expected to have no further heart problems. She is on no medication. She can go out for whatever sports she wants to. The only things that still mark her as a heart kid are:
  1. Slight mitral insufficiency ("insignificant" heart murmur)
  2. Periodic visits to her cardiologist
  3. Prophylactic antibiotics before any "dirty" procedure, like having her teeth cleaned at the dentist
  4. Her scars
  5. My scars.
Ellie hasn't had an echocardiogram or chest x-ray since right after her surgery, nearly 2 years ago, and she hasn't seen her cardiologist since early this year. She sees her cardiologist tomorrow. If everything goes well, we won't need to go back for a couple of years (and every couple of years thereafter).

As always before one of these appointments, I am worried. Very worried.

There's always the chance of an infection. Of a problem with one of her patches, or one of her surgically created valves. When you're the parent of a "heart kid," you're always thinking of these things.

And for me, whenever Ellie takes a long nap, seems unusually tired, doesn't eat well, doesn't sleep well, has circles under her eyes, doesn't gain weight rapidly, can't kick a cold, or exhibits any other normal toddler behavior, the thought flickers across my mind: is it her heart?

Is it? Hopefully we'll know tomorrow. And hopefully I won't have to gear up to visit Ellie's cardiologist again for another two years.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Betting on the Studs

First, let me say that I have enough issues with prostitution to write an entire series of posts, and that's without even getting into the legalization/decriminalization issues. But I won't, for now. Setting all that aside for a moment, here is my rant of the day.

I was reading along in Newsweek, and I got to a fascinating piece about Heidi Fleiss's new business venture.

It seems that she's moving to Nevada, where prostitution is legal, and starting a new brothel. This place is a discreet 80 miles from The Strip, and will be designed like a palace. Beyond the marble foyer, the castle will contain a high-end sex toy shop and a luxurious spa, in addition to secluded bungalows for hire.

What makes this so unique is that the prostitutes will be men, and the clientele will be women.

Two things are making me see red here:
  1. Apparently, this isn't currently legal. The statutes would need to be rewritten, because prostitutes are universally referred to as "she" in the current codes.

  2. Everyone, from conservative Christians to the Nevada Brothel Association, is ready to go to the mat to fight this venture.

Why? Because it's so offensive that women might choose to pay for sex, that it could bring down the whole legalized prostitution industry. The inference is that people will be so upset by the vision of women paying for sex, that they'll get rid of legalized prostitution rather than allow this to happen.

Fleiss plans to fight this on the grounds that it's discrimination against men who want to be prostitutes. That might work.

But let's be honest here, it's really discrimination against women. Because, God knows, only men want sex enough to pay for it. Women don't actually like sex, except maybe with our husbands once a week. Mostly, we have to be cajoled into it with diamonds and promises of pampering. The idea of women paying for sex upsets the whole virgin/whore applecart. And that just won't do.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


For some time now, Ellie has been inventing her own signs for things.

In September, I noticed that her sign for Mary, her speech pathologist, is to point at her cheek. Mary is happy with this, because she says that it's really the sign for candy. I don't know what made Ellie come up with this, unless she gets that it's speech therapy and she's sort of indicating her mouth. Or Mary's sneaking her candy when I'm not looking.

In November, Ellie developed a sign for balloon. It looks like she's reaching up, grabbing the ribbon, and pulling a helium balloon down to her while looking up at it. It's the cutest thing.

In October I started showing Ellie lots of pumpkins. Evidently, "pumpkin" is hard to say, and eventually Ellie made up a sign for pumpkin. It's the same as her "nurse" sign, a little fist up near her cheek, rocking forward and back.

I should have known that we were about done nursing.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Lizzi the Pug

Ellie's been working on enunciation lately, with no great prompting from us. All of a sudden, last weekend, "more" became "mo-oh(r)" rather than "muh".

For the past few days, she's been obsessed with the dog's name. As with most words, she's also obsessed with the object when she learns to label it well enough that everyone can understand what she's saying. So she's been all over the dog. Well, she's all over Lizzi when she can catch her. Lizzi is still much faster than Ellie at getting on and off furniture, though she's never far away when Ellie has food. And it seems that my growing little string bean is always having a meal or a snack, which she loves to share with her friend, "Dizzi" or "Dzizzy."

She's congested lately (when isn't she?) and having trouble sleeping. After practicing saying, "Lizzi" hundreds of times from when she first saw the dog at 8:00 yesterday morning until bedtime, Ellie cried out for Lizzi from her crib. Not for mama, not for dada/daddy. Lizzi, I think you have a new job! Go soothe that baby and rock her back to sleep!

Also, hooray for winter!

And, for some reason, the way these pictures get compressed it looks like Ellie has one eye squinted more than the other. Sometimes it's the left eye, sometimes the right. But in the uncompressed and live versions, both eyes look pretty much the same!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Mom Salon

Hey, cool! I was featured here as "Today's Featured Post." I like their categories, so in the spirit of reciprocity, note the cool new link in my Invisible Friends sidebar.

Judging Mothers

This is a really good post.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A Little Bit More About My Breasts

Speaking in generalities, of course: When you're pregnant, your breasts get fuller. And then when you're nursing, at first they're a lot fuller. Quite literally, with the spraying in the shower and dripping on your toes and whatnot.

I know one mom who quit nursing late one winter, when her son was about 4 months old, because she didn't want to have to buy new spring shirts one size larger than her normal size. No kidding.

Towards the end of breastfeeding, I was not pleased with my breasts. They seemed . . . flabby. Isn't that attractive? Aren't you glad that you read that about me? I tried to resign myself to it. Oh well, I thought, I guess I just never take off my bra again. I guess this is what having kids does to you.

But - now it's two weeks later and they seem to have gone back to normal! Alleluia! What a lovely surprise. Unless they're about to punk me by deflating any moment. I don't know how all this works, having never gone through it before.

Update: Ellie and I went shopping today and bought two new bras for mommy. Bras that don't have peek-a-boo panels for easy access! Wahoo! It turns out that I wasn't imagining things. My cup size went back down one to my pre-pregnancy size, which has apparently made them firmer. And that's just fine with me!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

But the Fire is so Delightful

Hey, my blog is back! It was an uncomfortable day or so, trying to see my blog and encountering an ominous black screen instead.

The weather here is finally and delightfully winter-appropriate, with highs in the twenties. We're about half done with all of the Christmas decorating, and nearly done with all of the Christmas shopping. That just leaves the cards, crafts, and baking. It's all fun!

So we're having another week of comfort foods here, with chicken pot pie on Sunday, chili on Monday, chicken and stuffing today, and Swiss steak in the crock pot tomorrow. Friday a few friends are coming over for junk food and a Linda Carter as Wonder Woman marathon while Paul goes out with a buddy.

This weekend we'll get the tree and Paul will put the rest of the outdoor lights and wreathes up. Last weekend we went to the hanging of the greens at our church . . . in matching sweaters.

I'm feeling festive! Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Wicked Good

The first act left my jaw on the floor. If you'd asked me about the show during intermission, I would have sounded like an uncultured Midwesterner. "I don't - I've never seen - wow!" My mother, who always made a point to insure that we were regularly exposed to music, theater, dance, and art, would be embarrassed.

But the costumes! The lighting! The set! The acting! The music! The singing! It was all amazing. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it.

I was a little less impressed with Act II. Some of the punny lines followed too closely on the heels of tragedy. There were a couple of very small lighting gaffes. Some of the deviations from the book were frustrating . . . spoiler coming . . . like the happy ending, for example.

Still, it was a great show. One of my favorite things about the story is the discussion of the perception of evil: how a woman who doesn't look or act "pretty" but speaks her mind with unpopular opinions is considered Wicked. Some of my favorite things about the musical were the duets between the real main couple in the show, Elfaba and Glinda. There were a couple of harmonizing parts where I had goose bumps all over. Stephanie Block can really bring down the house.

But - how did everyone keep from getting all green when they touched her?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Eggnog and Boycott

. . . but don't boycott Eggnog!

Last night I put Eggnog in Ellie's cup at dinner. I nattered along as I placed her cup and napkin in front of her, as I do, saying, "I put something different in your cup tonight; it's not milk; it will probably freak you out a bit."

She was otherwise occupied with her pizza and corn, and I don't think that she heard a word I was saying. But eating pizza and corn is thirsty work, so she immediately grabbed the cup and started chugging down the eggnog. I thought that the taste and texture would register and she'd immediately sputter and spit it all out.

She didn't. She drank that cup dry!

I was recording "The Little Drummer Boy" on ABC Family tonight, and it got me thinking about how annoyed I was to be watching ABC Family. This is the station that shows Pat Robertson's The 700 Club. Folks, these are not family values.

Please consider writing to ABC and Disney, letting them know that your family will not be watching their stations/movies, or buying any of their products until they stop irresponsibly airing this hate-filled and not family-friendly program.


Friday, December 02, 2005


Apparently, I missed Blog Against Racism Day. Thanks to PK for the wonderful post about it, and to Charlie in her post's comments, demonstrating how far we have to go.

My thoughts branched out from there, thinking about the stereotype that southerners are more racist than northerners.

I don't think that's exactly true.

Sure, the Klan was and is more active in the South, and some of the most loquacious and unapologetic racists hail from down yonder. But one big reason for that is that there are a whole lot more African Americans down south than there are in the Midwest, or most anywhere else in the country (excepting large cities).

Yeah, there are a lot of racists in the South, and many of them are at best unashamed of and at worst proud of themselves and their racist heritage.

But you know what's up with racists in the North? We just hide it a little better.

We talk a better game, but we don't worship with, play with, or have children with very many people of color, by and large. Most of our spouses and best friends look a lot like us. And that's just as racist, in its own way.

I've seen southern racists interact quite comfortably with African Americans.

And I've seen (liberal) northern (hidden) racists acting really really uncomfortable if the subject of race comes up when there's a person of color in the room. I've seen my friends, coworkers, self try to avoid talking about race and race issues at all.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Contemporary Worship

Ah, what a hot topic, eh? That's me, unafraid to poke at the really big controversies in the world today.

I've been noticing a huge increase in the popularity of "contemporary worship services" in traditional reformed Christian churches over the past several years. Contemporary worship is the style of worship that I most associate with conservative evangelical Christian worship services.

There are two issues to unpack: my discomfort with the service itself, and my uncomfortable associations with the style. First, the prettier part, my concerns about the service itself.

This is a bit complex. I'm not a complete stick-in-the-mud traditionalist. I *love* Avery & Marsh. I prefer the UCC's use of inclusive language in hymns, especially the Doxology (side-by-side with the traditional version).

But I hate the "praise music" heard at most contemporary services. Why? At first I thought it was because it all sounded the same, and none of it is set to the glorious strains of real music (Bach, et al). Then I realized that there's more to it. The lyrics are all about, "Praise Jesus! We love Jesus!"

That's fine, of course. But shouldn't there be a bit more? Shouldn't a hymn sound notably different from a Top 40 hit (where you could substitute "girl" for "Jesus" and have the song make just as much sense)?

Shouldn't we talk more about God, more about why Jesus is so great, rather than just blathering on about the love-for-Him part? And we shouldn't just talk about what Jesus did, either. I believe that what we do, how we live our lives, is more important than the specifics of what we believe.

Right, so the music is a big issue. Most of the rest of the service is OK. At our church, we have the same clergy officiating, the same sermon, the same scriptures read aloud in both the traditional and contemporary services. So there's no problem with the message or the messenger. I'm also not rejecting the stupid projection screen out of hand. I hate the look of modern technology in church (the comfort of the familiar in worship and the exclusion of the distractions of everyday life are important to me). But as (my) Paul allows, there is something to be said for getting everyone's heads up out of their hymnals.

The other thing that really bothers me about the style of the service is the praise team standing up front with their microphones. This is the segue into the uncomfortable associations bit, but first I want to note that I don't like looking at the praise team. To me, they look like performers. I don't like clapping for soloists on the chancel steps who look like they're singing on stage, and I don't like everyone staring at the praise team like they're rock stars on tour. To me this reeks of idolatry or something - I'm still working on it - and I prefer to contemplate the cross, the stained glass, the arched ceiling, the ministers bent over their hymnals, anything other than these smiling performers.

I don't quite know what to say about the style and my prejudices. I see the praise teams' arms go up and eyes go closed, and I'm tuned out. I'm expecting slick ministers who've never been to seminary but have the glorious gift of gab, telling me that I'll burn in hell for voting pro-choice. I'm still working on this, but it's a long, uphill slog.

Can't we be contemporary, evolve with the times, engage our youth, and still do it right? Still be Presbyterian?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

My Breasts

Yesterday, I was killing some time at Borders while Dobbs was putting new tires on my Passat, and I decided - on a whim - to order an iced gingerbread latte. For me! No worries about caffeine intake and how it might effect Ellie's bedtime. Later, I had a diet soda - with caffeine! Just for fun! Just because I could! It was wonderful!

OK, here's how it went down.

Wednesday morning, Paul decided to let me sleep in. This was wonderfully thoughtful, because I hate mornings on principle and had been up very late the night before preparing for the holiday weekend travel and festivities. But it wasn't so cool, because I had to shower and be at work on time for a meeting. There was no time to nurse Ellie. No biggie, there's still nap- and bedtime, right?

While I was packing on Wednesday afternoon, Paul put Ellie down for her nap. No stress, we usually don't nurse at naptime anyway and I was in a hurry to get out the door. When we arrived at my parents' house on Wednesday night, Paul insisted on putting Ellie down to bed himself while I was unpacking and greeting. "Hey!" I nagged. "Are you trying to tell me that it's time I weaned Ellie? It's been over 24 hours now since I've nursed her."

The idea didn't sound as awful to me as I thought it would. I've been resenting the nursing for a while, but when she's shown decreased interest in the past, I've freaked out and not wanted to stop.

In the morning, she didn't ask to nurse and I went back to sleep. We kept up that pattern all weekend, and she didn't ask me to nurse once. I thought that things might change when we arrived back home on Sunday evening.

Paul read Ellie her bedtime story, as usual, then started trying to rock her down to sleep. I came in with a cup of water, at which point normally she would start chanting, "Mama! Mama! Mama" and reaching for me with some urgency.

Not that time. Now it's been nearly a week, and I'm thinking: never again.

And I'm not sad, much to my surprise. I intend to nurse again someday. I was feeling tied down by and resentful of the nursing, after 25 months. I can't explain that logically; it's not like twice a day was a really big time sink. It's an emotional response that has developed in the last couple of months.

In the last several days, I have felt like being touched again (Paul really likes this part). I feel like I have more to give Ellie: more patience, more touches, more snuggles.

I was once afraid that I would feel like we'd lost a connection, that special mother-child thing, once we stopped the one thing that only the two of us could do together. That has not been the case at all.

I loved nursing Ellie. I'm looking forward to nursing another baby (or 2! or 3!) someday. But I'm glad to be through for now. Who knows. Maybe I'll go wild and take an antihistamine - without guilt - next time I'm around a friend's cat! Many things are possible.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Drive

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend at my parents' house. Both of my sisters were there, with their dogs and significant others. I got to see my youngest sister choose her wedding dress, which is stunning. One fall wedding, one winter wedding, and one summer wedding. That's the three of us, in a nutshell.

The drive up last Wednesday went very well. Anticipating the holiday weekend traffic, we took the "longer" route, cutting across southern Illinois on I 70 then heading north up eastern Illinois on I 57. Despite all experience and conventional wisdom to the contrary, the trip took under 6 hours, with one brief stop for Subway.

"Ellie, do you need to go potty? We're going to stop for a potty break and to eat sandwiches."

As we pulled off the interstate, "No! No no no no no!"

And after about 5 minutes in Subway, before any of us had finished our sandwiches, "All done!" When we didn't get the hint fast enough, she screamed until we hustled out to the car and got back on the road. Ah, 2. I love it.

On the way home on Sunday afternoon, we decided to brave the Chicago holiday weekend traffic and skirt past it on I 80, cutting diagonally across Illinois on I 55. In theory, this is the "short" route and should take about 5 hours, plus stops.

First there was construction traffic. Hours of it. But the electronic signs kept promising a swift end to the problems, so we kept plugging along. It grew dusky and colder. It was windy and the sky started spitting at us. I was seeing yellow and considering one of the construction workers' Johnny-on-the-Spots. Ellie was chanting, "Potty! potty! potty!" from the backseat. We only made it to Tinley Park before our first stop, surely a new record.

Eventually we left the congestion of 80 for the relatively rural wilderness of 55. Wait, no. More traffic. Eventually, we discovered a demolished double tractor-trailer off the road on our side, causing some incredible gawker traffic congestion.

Things improved for a while. All of a sudden - BAM! Bumpety bumpety bumpety bump.

The car - which I'd just had fully serviced two days before the trip - was now on the shoulder with a blown front right tire. Normal wear and tear. That the mechanic didn't feel was important enough to share with me. So Paul was out in the deafening wind changing a tire on the side of the interstate while I tried to load everything (and I do mean *everything* - we do not travel lightly) back into the trunk on top of my "worn" tire. I'd like to take this opportunity to send a big Thanksgiving THANK YOU to the state trooper who sat behind us with his lights on, deflecting traffic, and to all the drivers who didn't hit us.

20 minutes later, Ellie and I needed another potty stop.

Then Paul was falling asleep and we pulled over for - guess what? - a potty stop and driver change.

Then it started pouring so hard that I couldn't see the lines on the road.

Nearly 8 hours after leaving my parents' house, we arrived safely home. The weekend was great. And surely our next trip, in December with the added interest of snow and ice, will provide us with at least equal entertainment.

P.S. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was awesome. Absolutely incredible. I love the Quidditch World Cup, the arrival of the two visiting delegations to Hogwarts, and, as always, Rupert Grint stealing every scene in which he appeared.

P.P.S. Done. We're done. At 25 months, Ellie's weaned! I'm not as ambivalent as I thought I'd be. Neither is she. In more than 5 days, she hasn't asked me to nurse once. She mentioned it to my mom once, but I think that she just wanted to see me.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a wonderful, safe, and warm (in all the important ways) Thanksgiving this year!

Monday, November 21, 2005

My New Friend

Ellie has made me a new friend. I have met other moms I like through play groups and Gymboree, it's true. But this is the first time that Ellie has formed an attachment to another little girl, starting a chain of events that leads to me getting to know the girl's mother and liking her very much. Ellie changes and enriches my life in so many ways just by being. The newer ways in which she influences me, by taking actions all on her own, take my breath away. Thank you, Ellie.

On an unrelated note, Ellie really loves chapstick. She purses up her lips for it, which is adorable, then kisses me on my cheeks with her sticky, chapsticky lips. That part is a little gross, but it's a major triumph because we're moving away from full-on use of the tongue in kissing, which is nice. Fortunately, she only tongue kisses Paul and me. When others ask for a kiss, they get a precious blown kiss from an appropriate distance. Paul and I have been wondering when Ellie would learn to kiss without licking our cheeks. It looks like pursing her lips for my beloved chapstick has done the trick.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Efficacy of Torture

On television, especially on CIA shows like 24 and Alias, torture is a very effective way of getting timely information from detainees.

Those tortured have rarely been convicted of anything, but they're almost always bad guys. And they always give it up in the end.

Have you ever noticed, however, that torture never works on the good guys?

It seems to me that to believe in the efficacy of torture as a reliable and effective interrogation method, in the face of evidence to the contrary, is to have a childlike belief that those on our side are always much stronger of character and will than our enemies.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Two, Two, and More Two

Physically, Ellie's two. She's wearing mostly 24-month clothes, she's learning to walk, she's getting better at feeding herself with a spoon, and she's interested in learning to use an open cup.

Behaviorally, Ellie is very two. In addition to the straight-up cute stuff, like the tickling games and brief phone conversations:

Hi, Ellie!

Hi! Hi! Hi, Mama!

Did you have a good day at school today?

Blah Blah Blah BLAH BLAH blah-blah.
Mulk! Mulk!
(slams phone down.)


There are also the not-so-nice but still adorable and developmentally appropriate milestones. Like the way Ellie loves to say, "No no no" and "Uh oh!" as she drops or throws everything onto the floor.

Chronologically, Ellie is two. 25 months old already! She had a Dora the Explorer-themed party with guests: two little girls from her school (both with Down syndrome) and her 10-month old buddy (formerly known as the cutest little plague carrier in the world.) Ellie loves Backpack, so that's what I did for her cake. I went, perhaps, a bit overboard. She cried when we cut backpack, and would not eat any. The toddler-friendly pinata (no hitting) was also a bit scary when Dora's bottom opened and the prizes started falling on her head. Otherwise, the party was a success.

But that's just the fluff.

Mentally, Ellie might just be two as well. Granted, Ellie's pediatrician only sees her irregularly and mostly hears her success stories. And at Ellie's lengthy and wonderful two-year-old check-up, Ellie presented her doctor with a picture of herself, "Muh!" she indicated with a hand to her chest, as she passed the picture to Dr. Jan and mugged adorably. That's a pretty cool cognitive leap, to realize that the cute baby in the picture is, in fact, herself. Dr. Jan said that although she's so young and these things are impossible measure, etc., etc., of course Ellie has above average intelligence for someone with Down syndrome. And, in fact, she probably has above average intelligence, period.


Now, Dr. Jan is an optimistic sort, so I'm very pleased but am not counting Ellie's chickens before she can. But I did mention the doctor's assessment to Ellie's developmental therapist today. This woman is the local gymnastics coach for Special Olympics, has a Masters in Special Education, works with children ages 0-3, and is trained as a school diagnostician (testing and evaluation). She's been working with Ellie for well over a year, and she said:

"Don't lower your expectations."

I won't, Ellie, I won't. But I also won't push you so hard that you're miserable. I want you to accomplish all that you can, and I am thrilled beyond measure that you might have the opportunity to go away to college someday, but I will try to let you choose your own path.

Happy (belated) second birthday, sweetheart.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


I'm feeling a little ugly.

I have a friend and co-worker I'm jealous of. I never used to be. And I still like her just as much as always. But, but.

Recently she was promoted. We were at the same level, promoted in lock-step twice. Now, although we still have the same jobs, she's technically a significant level higher than I. It's a promotion I almost surely would have gotten too if I'd stayed at work full time rather than taking a year off then coming back only part time.

I understand the way I feel. I don't regret that I chose to stay home with Ellie, and that I have chosen to make my former career secondary to my new career for now.

But that doesn't mean that I don't miss the way things used to be, too. I miss being responsible for bringing in millions of dollars of revenue for the company. I miss traveling all over the country making presentations to introduce our textbooks to educators and decision-makers. I miss the pace, I miss the excitement.

I still love the work and am very grateful for this perfect job arrangement I've got. But I'm also still jealous.

Monday, November 14, 2005

No, Not Yet. Soon.

Setting the scene:
Ellie took her first independent steps in August, when she was 22 months old. 2-1/2 months later, at 25 months old, she can walk from Paul to me, or walk from one play area at school to the next. Her range is about 10 feet. Because of her slightly low muscle tone, she can't progress quite as quickly as most kids from those first steps to running all over the house. I estimate that she's at least a couple of months away from being a truly independent walker.

Dear parents of typically developing children,

You ask me if Ellie is walking yet, and I respond that she is still learning. Then you tell me, "Be careful what you wish for," or "Count your blessings!"

Stop it.

You complain that it's so hard, chasing after an active, curious toddler all day. I'm sure it is. But really, you should be counting your blessings too. Every day, I am grateful for mine. Regularly, I comment that if I had to have a child with a disability, we've really hit the jackpot with this one, in so many many ways.

But. Imagine having to carry your 2-year-old every time you leave the house. Imagine every trip to the park, carrying your heavy child from the car to the playground, then from one piece of equipment to another.

It's hard to control an energetic toddler in the store, I know. Why don't you just strap him into a shopping cart or stroller? Oh, he wants to get down and explore so he screams when he's strapped down?

My child feels the same way and responds the same way. But if I take her out of the stroller, she doesn't just run around and get underfoot. She sits down, right on the wet, filthy floor. So it's screaming in the stroller or struggling in my arms, everywhere we go, all the time.

It's not always much fun to go out, as you can imagine. She can't stand next to me while I open the car door, pay the cashier, or fish something out of my purse. She's in my arms or on the floor, because she can climb out of that stroller in no time flat.

Please feel free to tell me the things you find wonderful about my child. Please feel free to tell me how beautiful, how clever, how sweet, how wonderful you find her. But please think before you talk. And please don't act like I somehow have it easier than you do, just because my child is doing some things more slowly.


Saturday, November 12, 2005

Sarahlynn needs . . .

On a friend's blog I found this exercise: Do a google search for "[Your first name] needs", and discover what the Internets think you really need.

That sounded interesting.

I only had one hit. It was a comment on my husband's blog from an opinionated friend of ours, suggesting, "Maybe Sarahlynn needs to Get involved in the rocking Ellie back to Sleep."

As if I'm not . . .

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

How to Stop Rape

As the weather here has plummeted from the 80s to the 40s, so too is this blog taking a sharp veer today.

This is an awesome post addressed to men about rape. Read it, really. It's got really good advice for all men, not just men who rape. Because, as we all should know by now, there's nothing that a woman can do to prevent herself from being raped. Nothing. Men have to stop rape, period.

Another must-read is this charmingly helpful post on How to Prevent Rape, aimed at the correct target audience.

On a lighter note, Ellie, Paul, and I are all feeling much better today. And, as far as I know, none of us was raped today. All good. I did burn my thumb pretty badly with spaghetti sauce, but no day is perfect.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


I'd like to start by pointing out that I live in the Midwest, Heartland of America, etc. It's November. And it was over 80 degrees outside today. I had the air conditioning on. In November! It's unnatural. Moving on to other comments about unholiness:

On the way to church on Sunday, Paul noted that Ellie was wearing a red jumper, which looked atrocious next to his orange shirt. I pointed out that my hot pink pin stripes weren't improving the picture. I think we look much better when we match:
The shirts say, Mummy, Deady, and Little Ghoul.

That's about all I remember before Ellie and I were laid up by a nasty GI bug, thanks to the cutest little plague carrier in the world. The two of us are starting to feel much better, though Paul is starting to complain of the ick. Jessica, I hope that you and yours are well. (They were here the night we were visited by the cutest little plague carrier in the world.)

Other than pregnancy-related illness, which is not to be discounted, I can't remember the last time I had a flu bug. This is my third this year, and last time was only a month ago! Whine! Still, I am perfectly *thrilled* by how well Ellie seems to be bouncing back. She's doing much better than I am. Perhaps it has something to do with the entire liter of Pedialyte she drank yesterday while I dehydrated myself to decrease the frequency of, well, I'll just stop right there.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

An Odd Sort of Loneliness

Without ever thinking about it, I always felt like being partnered meant always having someone to do things with. I don't mean date nights and parties, I mean the smaller, less planned things. Seeing a beacon in the night sky and following it. Hanging out for hours at a bookstore. Getting restless late at night and going for a long walk or drive and ending up having small adventures and private memories.

It's different with a child. When Ellie was very small, we could plop her in the sling for a walk, in the car seat for a drive, and postpone Borders for a few years. But now there are set mealtimes and bedtimes. After 7:00 one of us has to be at home. You can't hire a sitter on the off chance that you'll suddenly have the urge to go out exploring. You can't both sit up all night long eating pizza and playing video games; at least one must be ready to get up at 6:00 the next morning.

Perhaps this is what people mean when they talk about relationships changing after you have children. It used to be a partnership. Then it was a partnership with a goal, the care and comfort of an exciting new creature. And now it's a family. All of us have our own wants, needs, and preferences.

I wouldn't give up what we have for the world, but in choosing this path I incurred some losses too. And they're not all as trivial as they might sound.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Tickle Me, Ellie!

Clearly, we're long overdue for some adorable Ellie pictures and anecdotes, so here she is, circa one week ago. I am very tired, so this will have to suffice.

Ellie has learned tickling, and delights in tickling her father (under the arms and on the belly) and her mother (soles of the feet and inner thighs) at every occasion. She thinks it is riotously funny to earn a reaction from us. She has mastered an incredible sly and coy yet sweet look that warns us when an attempt to make us laugh is imminent. It's priceless.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Women's Space - a Rant

What I want to talk about is more subtle than the existence of physical women-only spaces like New Lady Fitness. But we can talk about that too, if you'd like.

What I'd like to talk about right now is frustratingly difficult to explain. I've noticed that if women address other women, or do things that help other women specifically, some men cry foul. They want to always be included, explicitly as well as implicitly.

Sometimes a politically correct push for inclusiveness has humorous effect, as with Parenting Magazine. The inclusive title is belied by its subtitle (What really matters to moms) and advertising ("Parenting, with a guaranteed circulation of 2,150,000 and a readership of nearly 11 million, is the nation’s leading magazine for moms."). In the end, it looks like the magazine is suggesting that "parenting" is equivalent to "mothering". "Fathering" certainly implies something else. And that really should be offensive to men.

More often, a PC push for inclusiveness is frustrating and serves mainly to silence women and distance us from one another.

If a mom writes an essay about mothers, there will always be men complaining that fathers are not specifically addressed in the piece. It's of no import that the author has not done anything to discourage a father from publishing his own work.

Rather than setting out to help create collaborative pieces, or to imitate the success of a mothers publication for fathers, too many men find it easy to attack women for not including them in the first place.

I don't understand why these men feel that it's women's job to make them feel comfortable and welcome everywhere at all times. I guess that second X chromosome makes us perpetual hostesses, offering special attention.

Because we can't ever say, "Hey, sister mamas, I wanna talk to you." We have to say, "Hey, other parents, let's chat." Always.

But what about the Promise Keepers? The Fathers' Rights movement?

Well, maybe those are wrong too.

But it's so much easier to attack the ladies.

It's all about the Power, people. And I tell you, it's not mothers who have all the power in this world. Not even most of it. Seriously, do we need to look at the poverty rates of mothers versus, oh, any other demographic?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


To My Friend who (I think) Drinks Too Much,

I get it now, I think. You know it's not good for you. You know it's bad for your physical and mental health. You know that in some ways it isolates you. But things are tough. It feels good. And sometimes you feel like you deserve a little treat. And then sometimes you just want a little treat. And then, maybe, it's not so much a treat as just something that feels good that you like to do. And, really, why not do something that feels good?

This just came to me out of the blue the other day. I think I understand. Because I Eat.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Laura helpfully pointed out that she was visitor number 20,001. So I looked up who came over right before Laura, and . . .

It was an anonymous visitor doing a Spanish-language Google image search for pimp my ride Chevy S10.

So . . . congratulations, Laura! You're the default winner! Stay tuned.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Bush, Miers, Affirmative Action

Of course President Bush doesn't like affirmative action. He, and many conservatives, consider affirmative action to be a quota system in which underqualified people get jobs they can't handle over more qualified candidates who have the misfortune of being white and male.

(Sarahlynn's snide aside: gee, that sound similar to another way that poorly qualified people get jobs they can't handle - cronyism.)

And you know what? He's almost right. Nowhere is Bush's version of "affirmative action" more obvious than with his nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. If you nominate a candidate who is less qualified than other candidates just because she's of the appropriate race or gender, well, that insures that indeed "affirmative action" just sucks.

It also makes everyone else in the under-represented group look bad, as if this candidate is the best we have to offer.

Miers has not demonstrated the intellect or experience for the job. I'm not suggesting that she's unintelligent or lazy; she has achieved some pretty impressive milestones. But many of her biggest gains have been through "who you know" kinds of appointments rather that "what you know" appointments.

Just contrast her record with Roberts'. It's embarrassing.

I'm glad that she withdrew her nomination. More, I wish it had never happened. By nominating Miers, Bush made it look like there are no women who really have what it takes to be Supreme Court Justices, paving the way for his nomination of Samuel Alito Jr.

This year, with O'Connor's retirement and Miers' failed nomination, women took a big step backwards. So did affirmative action, which really is important and really does work, when it's understood and administered properly.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Big Number

At some point today, this blog will host its 20,000th visitor. This is amazing, especially since it's under a year and a half old and I've set Sitemeter to ignore me. So, wow. If I could figure out how to tell who is number 20,000, I'd send you something cool from Northern Sun.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


When I say, "my boss," I am referring to any one of at least 3 layers of management. So if you were to hear me say, "My boss kicks ass," soon after saying, "My boss is a jackass," this would not be evidence of my fickle nature but rather a reference to two different people. But I don't post about work, so the issue will never come up. ahem.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Two Steps Forward . . .

What I love

Ellie is determined to learn to walk. For the last few days she's been standing up and walking to Paul or me over and over and over again, with a look of incredible pride on her face. She's getting much sturdier!

At yesterday's visit to the Audiologist and ENT, Ellie was more compliant with the behavioral hearing screening. She tested just below the normal range, and neither the audiologist nor the ENT were concerned. Her ears look good - no inflammation, no fluid, so they figure that the loud, raspy breathing from her cold (foreshadowing!) was probably keeping her from hearing the softer sounds. No surgery or sedated ABR indicated. Recheck in 6 months. Christmas came early!

It has begun. Last night Ellie had leftover garlic chicken mozzarella Alfredo for dinner. She's a big pasta and green veggies girl, not so much with the meat. When I was cleaning off her high chair last night, I found every piece of chicken larger than a pea stuffed into the drink holder. Why you little mischievous . . . I love it!

What I don't love

After our jam-packed weekend, my reserves were shot. So when Paul left on Sunday afternoon for a business trip, I was already running on empty. After two nights of Ellie's cold keeping us up (I told you!) I'm about to fall over. At about 2:00 this morning, I finally laid her down and told myself not to wake up unless she was screaming loudly enough to wake the neighbors. That would never work, of course, so it's very fortunate that she chose that very moment to finally sleep for 4-1/2 hours. I have my fingers crossed for a good nap today and a restful night tonight. I'm turning into Low-Patience Mommy, the toy all children want to return to the store.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


This was an intense weekend and we were busy almost every minute.

After work on Friday I had an appointment with my new OB/GYN (love at first sight!) then Paul and I headed out to a couples' wedding shower for a co-worker friend of mine. We left Ellie with my sister, who was visiting from Michigan, and my father, who graced us with one of his patented under-24-hour stays. We wish we could see more of him, but weekend visits are hard when Sundays are your big work days.

Anyway, Saturday morning was Ellie's birthday party. After naps, we headed out to Eckert's to pick pumpkins, ride rides, and eat a country dinner.

Sunday morning we went to another 2-year-old's birthday party, came home for lunch and nap, then headed out to the annual St. Louis Pug Party, made two trips to airport, and had friends over for dinner and The West Wing.

It was an insanely busy weekend. Perhaps most significantly, I started my period on Saturday morning, with all that implies.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Hammer

Here's why I don't think that the whole DeLay indictment is going anywhere.

I don't think that going after him for his ethical and financial misdeeds is wrong. In fact, I think it's the right thing to do.

But I don't think that it really matters. I don't think that people really care. We're so burned out on politics. Sure, what he did is wrong, but we've come to expect stuff like that. Those of us who've watched the news, or, you know, television, pretty much think that this is how business gets done in politics.

I'll vote for your bill if you give my nephew a job. Sleazy, sure, but this is the way the world works, right? It's not what you know, it's who you know, and all that. After Iran-Contra, the savings and loan scandal, Newt Gingrich, and yellowcake forgery, it's business as usual.

Plus, what he did wrong is pretty hard to explain simply. I mean, he didn't personally kill anyone (that we know of) or rape anyone (that we know of) and so some people listening to an explanation of Texas campaign finance laws might be thinking that, well, it all sounds pretty complicated so it's entirely believable that he just didn't know that what he did was wrong.

The part of the coverage that I enjoy most is when the media talk about how it took Democrats 40 years to become a bloated bureaucracy but it only took Republicans 10 years to accomplish the same feat and more. They are so very good at what they do.

Anyway, this is why I'm not enjoying the new season of The West Wing very much and why I didn't enjoy seeing The Capitol Steps late last year. I'm just so tired of it all. I can't imagine ever believing or caring as much again.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Happy Birthday, Little One

Today, Ellie is two years old. Already!

She felt yucky Monday afternoon and wanted to be held like a baby. It felt so good to hold her like that again, even though her legs dangled way down where they used to fit snugly in my arms. Sometimes I just stand across the room and watch her. I love to see the wonderful little girl she has become, and is becoming more each day.

I have two cute Ellie anecdotes to mark the occasion.

First: We bought Ellie a little table and stool. I've started sitting her on the bench and serving her afternoon snack to her there. She loves it, and happily stays put while she's eating. After she finished her snack, she looked around for the best way to get out (she was pinned behind the little table). First she took her plate, cup, and toy off the table and gently set them on the floor. Then she shoved the table over. Very direct exit strategy! And, oh! The complex reasoning skills! She removed everything from the table before tipping it over. Amazing.

Second: Lizzi totally snitched on Ellie yesterday. Ellie said that she wanted me to read her a story, but then she got distracted by a reorganized toy box. I told her to come find me when she was ready for a story and went to the computer room to order a present for a friend. I heard Ellie coming down the hall and started to finish up my shopping. Then Lizzi came to the doorway and barked at me. She ran down the hall and barked again, then back to the doorway barking at me again. Lizzi barks at passersby from the front window, but she does not bark at the bedrooms.

"What is it, girl? Did Ellie fall down the well?"

I hustled off to see what Ellie had gotten herself into. Sure enough, I found that I hadn't latched a bathroom door securely, and all the toilet paper was in a huge mound on the floor, surrounding a perfectly happy Eleanor. Precious.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Disney Favorites

Every day, in every park, we each found something that we loved. And in the end, a few things stood out as our overall favorites from the vacation.

For Paul: Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show at Disney-MGM Studios.

For Ellie:
The Magic Kingdom: Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Mad Tea Party, and It's a Small World.
Epcot: Dragon Legend Acrobats
Disney-MGM Studios: Voyage of The Little Mermaid and Playhouse Disney - Live on Stage!
Disney's Animal Kingdom Park: Festival of the Lion King
And this was all pure love, people. She hasn't seen any of the movies, and the only character she "knew" was Eeyore, because daddy's a big fan so she's seen toy Eeyores and T-shirts. She was a little thrill seeker on the rides, wanting to go higher and faster. She fairly shook with excitement at the live shows. She tried to crawl up and join the Chinese acrobats. And she was terrified by a few things I thought she'd enjoy, like Fantasmic! and Mickey's PhilharMagic. She had a love-hate relationship with the characters. She was fascinated by them and wanted to go meet them. Then she'd sometimes freak out a little when they got too close. She was enjoying it all more by the end of the trip. And next time, I fear, we'll be in for a dose of Princess madness. Already, she chose a (plastic Mickey) bracelet and a (felt Eeyore) purse as two of her souvenirs.

For me: It's all food, baby. Restaurant Marrakesh and The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater, followed by The Garden Grill, Liberty Tree Tavern, The Crystal Palace, and Flame Tree BBQ. And that's not even all of it, that's just the highlights.

But I don't have a problem (cough). Even though I know I couldn't stop, even if I wanted to. Which I don't, just so you know.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Disney Vacation

We had so much fun at Walt Disney World last month. Paul loved it, I loved it, Ellie loved it, and Disney loved us right back.

I think that late September has got to be one of the best times of the year to go. Because kids had recently gone back to school, the crowds were light. We never waited in line for anything for more than 10 minutes, and we got "priority seating" everywhere we wanted it.

Disney was introducing their new, all-inclusive dining plan, so by paying for our room and theme park passes, we got our meals thrown in for free as a special promotion. The money we saved by eating for free (Thanks, Disney!) we blew on a ridiculous quantity of loot. I am not usually a shopper, but I can wear out a piece of plastic when the mood strikes me. And when I'm giddy with magical happiness (at Disney World! with Ellie!); the piece of plastic is really just my "key to the world," not a real credit card; and the idea of money we must be saving on food keeps running through my head, well, here is the result (see figure 2).

There's a story about the NASA clothes, and it does not involve a trip to Kennedy Space Center. Paul shares it here.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Knock, Knock

Who's there?

Quiet Ines.

Quiet Ines who?

Quiet Ines blog.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Cost of Freedom

Today's annoyance related to magnetic awareness ribbons on cars:
Freedom isn't free!
This is more a critique of the message than of the ribbon itself. What on earth does that mean? Is it like those awful 9-11-01: We Have Not Forgot [sic] signs that one of our neighbors put up when we invaded Iraq?

I mean, I get this statement in the context of a World War II memorial. But why is it on cars everywhere all of a sudden? And what does it have to do with Iraq?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Adieu, Lexus

Some of you might remember Lexus from my kickass Bible study group.

She decided to leave the church because "politics doesn't belong in the church, and some here only preach love, tolerance, and acceptance to people who vote the way they think is right. Just because I don't share your environmental and social beliefs - I drive an SUV - " etc. etc. She left with an inflammatory email to the minister, clerk of session, and bible study leader, in which she admitted that no one "from the pulpit" or from our study group made any comments to her, but "others" did.

It's ironic, because at several points last year, I was considering leaving the bible study group because of her. I thought very seriously about asking the group leader to have a talk with her about keeping politics out of the group. Her opinions about poor people and abused women (they brought it on themselves) were more than I could bear silently.

In the end, I never said anything to the group leader (though I did speak up for the poor and abused women). And she left anyway, for a church where they wouldn't tell her how she should vote and what she should believe. Yes, she joined a local Roman Catholic congregation. So, I guess what she wanted wasn't a place where they wouldn't tell her how to vote, but rather a place that told her that she had to vote the way she already wanted to.

I have mixed feelings about her leaving. I'm glad she's gone because I think she was a bit of a toxic presence. But she was also a very active member of the church, who contributed a lot of good, and I'm sorry that she's gone too. I'm sorry that she never knew how she herself was contributing to the "political" atmosphere she decried, but glad that I never had an angry confrontation with her. A few days later, my strongest concern is that we'll bend over backwards over-compensating.

One conservative says that we're too liberal and judgmental, and no matter how far that might be from the truth in this particular case, we'll all try so hard to pretend that we're not - gasp! - liberal that, well, we just won't be. And that's too bad.

Because my liberal beliefs and my Christian beliefs are inextricably entwined. They are one and the same to me. And I couldn't belong to a church that didn't share my liberal beliefs. You know the ones:

The beliefs that really do preach acceptance of everyone. The ones that tell us not to be so quick to judge, to encourage compassion and empathy in our hearts and minds. The ones that tell us that our world is a gift to be treasured, not plundered and destroyed.

I try to be a liberal. And in this case I might succeed. Lexus, I hope you really do find what you're looking for.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Baby Talk

So that I don't forget these Ellie-isms when they go . . .

Ellie confuses some common words, largely because of the way we use them in our house. For example, towards the end of a meal we ask, "Ellie are you all done or do you want more?" rather than, "Ellie are you all done or do you want to eat?" So Ellie sometimes uses eat and more interchangeably. (She also uses "more" correctly in other contexts.)

A few weeks ago, Ellie loved her new stroller. Then we started singing a lot of "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes," and she's nailed all those body parts. So now when I ask her, "Ellie, do you want to go for a walk in your new stroller?" she looks up at me inquisitively and pats her shoulder.

My current favorite is milk. Whenever Ellie is thirsty, she asks for milk. If I offer her juice, she'll repeat it ("jzzzz") and make her sign for juice ("C" hand near the mouth). She flatly refuses to ask for water, though she will sip it when it's offered (she prefers to blow bubbles in water whenever possible). Still, her generic term for a beverage is milk. She emphatically makes the sign for milk, which involves closing a fist out in front of her, much like milking a cow. And she says, "Mup!" Sometimes it even sounds like "bup!" I'll ask, "Milk?" And she'll nod once, forcefully, and say, "Mup!"

Monday, October 03, 2005

Hello Again! Listen to me whine.

We're back from vacation. (Notice how I didn't tell you when we were going? That's my Internet skittishness showing through so you all did not come rob my house while we were gone; you could have gotten some impressive dust bunnies.) Our trip was wonderful, and I am going to blog about it, but first I am going to complain.

I have the flu. I'm already feeling a little bit better, but last night and this morning were . . . uncomfortable. And I don't think that Paul's got the right attitude about this. Now, I'm no angel of patience. I get irritated when he's sick; especially when he stays up too late and doesn't take his vitamins - if he's drawing the illness out, I have no sympathy. But the last time he was really sick, I took care of Ellie all day and let him lie abed to recuperate. Also, I made homemade chicken noodle soup.

Last night (through this morning, until I finally had the stomach to clean it all up myself) Paul left Ellie's offerings in (and on) the potty chair for me to peruse during my many trips to the bathroom - just want I wanted to stare at while I'm nauseous.

Paul's a morning person while I'm not, so he usually gets up with Ellie, feeds her breakfast, then brings her to bed to wake me up so that I can go nurse and dress her for school. He did the same this morning. I thought this was less-than-thoughtful, especially as I'd been up most of the night trying to lie still enough to appease my roiling stomach.

I thought he'd get the picture when I commented that I just wasn't up to being a human jungle gym this morning. He pulled Ellie over to the his side of the bed, then proceeded to play all kinds of loud games that involved bouncing on the bed. Ugh.

I feel all kinds of virtuous for mildly commenting that I thought she'd be happy to play quietly in her room while he showered (hint: leave!) rather than killing him on the spot. I didn't have the energy anyway.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Living Large

I am a risk-taker. I flagrantly ignore the warnings about Dioxin poisoning from "Johns Hopkins". I refill my Aquafina bottle at the sink (at home) and at the water fountain (at work).

I don't drink directly from the water fountain - that would be gross, of course. But everyone knows that letting the water flow for a few moments before filling up a water bottle allows for all the germs to be washed away, and your water bottle is then filled with delicious, fresh, practically distilled water. You could iron with it.

But really. What could be grosser than having the water pressure from the fountain drop drastically, while I am filling up my oh-so-sterile water bottle, as someone in the nearby bathroom flushes the toilet?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Treasure Hunt

This afternoon, Ellie was scavenging around in my purse and found several treasures, including a tampon.

I found the top part of the cardboard applicator, the bottom part of the cardboard applicator, and the paper wrapper lying in the foyer. Only one thing missing. I crawled around on my hands and knees looking under all the furniture. What an observant child, to notice that the tampon is supposed to go hide somewhere. I'm a little afraid of what I might find when I next change her diaper.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Another One Bites the Dust

My birthday, in list:
  • I set my alarm to wake up early - very painful for night-person me
  • I soon realized that I had started my period, and not painlessly
  • I went to the dentist
  • As always, it sucked
  • I learned that I have a cavity that needs to be filled
  • I got to go to Bible study, but had to leave very early
  • I had to take Ellie to the doctor for the third time in a week
  • I hit a pole in (tiny, unlit, under-building) parking lot as I tried to leave (my first time ever hitting anything with a car)
  • Ellie was tired and irritable all afternoon
  • I have a headache
  • I had a great time at dinner with 10 girlfriends, none of whom remembered that it is my birthday (and I didn't remind them)
  • I got pulled over in a stupid speedtrap on the way home
It all could have been a lot worse. Ellie isn't really sick. The car was barely scratched in its encounter with the cement pillar. I just got a warning from the cop. There are clean sheets on the bed.

Good night.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Landscaping Costs

We decided to build a swing set for Ellie this summer. We did a bit of research and decided on a cool kit from Lowe's. Paul is excited to buy the lumber and build the thing himself. It comes with a cool toddler "rock" wall - perfect for learning stair climbing - and other features that can easily be updated to bigger and better attractions as Ellie outgrows them.

We bought the kit and brought it home. Ellie understood immediately and was so excited. She kept asking us to open the box for her:

We have a half acre lot; plenty of room for a swing set, right? Even a big wooden one? Well . . . it turns out that our backyard slopes downward. It's not enough to wreck your croquet game (the weeds do a good enough job of that) but it's not up to my standards of safety either.

And the old, wooden retaining walls back there are full of carpenter ants and yellow jackets. They've got to go.

So we had a few landscapers out to give us some bids. The first guy was perfect: a small, locally owned business, very friendly, and had some great ideas for how to replace the retaining walls and add a safe playpit for the swingset. For $15,000. We called the company that just does cheapo retaining walls, no landscaping, no playpits: $12,000. The third and fourth places never called us back. We're waiting on two more estimates, but I'm not optimistic. Retaining walls seem to be hugely expensive and a largely fixed price (the "stone" costs so much per square foot, wholesale). And we can really only (only!) afford about $10,000 right now. And by afford, I mean that we don't want to go any further into dept than that. Blast.

I really wanted to have the backyard fixed up: build a nice play area for Ellie, get rid of the rotting railroad ties, remove the overgrown landscaping, maybe even fence the yard in. But it seems that I'm either going to have to get a lot handier (and energetic!) or a lot richer.

Almost 31

I just saw March of the Penguins. It's a good film, and very nice to see on the big screen. It would have been even better if I hadn't had a potent pina colada, 2+ glasses of water, and an enormous soda.

But the movie left me with lots of questions. Most notably, what happens to the other penguins? It was nice to hear about the devoted parents and horrible to hear about the lost babies. But what do the females who don't find mates do? Do they return to the sea alone? How do they survive the winter without the herd for warmth? What about the parents who crack their eggs or lose their babies?

Also, how can the trip from the ocean to the mating grounds be 70+ miles at the end of the summer, longer during the winter (that part makes sense) and only a few hundred feet at the beginning of the summer?

That movie gave me a new impression of seals. Now I won't feel so sorry for the little buggers during the shark documentaries; they have it coming. And I already knew that birds were scary.


Busy weekend this weekend, but fun. Friday night we went to a friend's housewarming party. Saturday found us braving the heat with some friends and their adorable 4-month-old at the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis Walk in the Park. We flaked out in the heat and headed home for our neighborhood picnic. This morning we went to church (more on that later) and Sunday School, then to some friends' for delicious brunch. Then tonight - a date! With a babysitter and everything! There was Thai food, there was a movie, it was all very nice. I could get used to this.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary

Today's annoyance related to magnetic awareness ribbons on cars:

I'm a contrary sort. If you tell me to do something, even if I was already planning to do it, I'll suddenly feel less inclined to comply. I don't do well with direct orders; it's a good thing that I'm not in the military.

When I lived near Fort Riley (home of the First Infantry Division) during the first Gulf War, I wore a bracelet in support of the soldiers over in the desert. These soldiers were the parents of friends, the boyfriends of friends, people I knew from around town. Just because I didn't like the war didn't mean that I didn't support the soldiers.

But my first reaction to those bossy "Support our troops!" ribbons and signs is: Don't tell me what to do!

Come on. Shell out the extra dough for two more letters: We Support Our Troops. Tell me how you feel, not how I should be feeling. Please.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Toddler Rappelling

I wrenched my neck yesterday.

I had just put Ellie down for a nap and was standing in the kitchen fixing myself lunch, when I heard a small, sweet voice from behind me say, "Hi."

Here's what happened. On the way home from school, Ellie was quickly bored by Terry Gross and said,

"Ehhhhh! Ehhhhh!"

"Ellie, what's wrong? Can you tell me with your words?"

"Muzzzzzzz," she grinned at me winningly while rubbing her right hand rapidly over her left forearm. She has 60+ words and 50+ signs, but it's where they intersect that I'm most likely to understand what she's trying to say. In this case, she was clearly asking for music.

Truth be told, I was a little bit bored by Fresh Air too, so I hit the CD button, bringing Allison Krauss's sweet croon into the car. That was fine for a few moments, until I heard,

"No no no!"

So I pushed the Tape button, starting a rousing compilation of such hits as "Splashing in the Bath With My Little Rubber Duck," and "Creeping, Creeping Little Flea."

Unusually, Ellie didn't fall asleep before we got home. I took her to her room and cuddled her for a little bit, then laid her gently in her crib and went to get myself something to eat while I waited for her to fall asleep.

Almost immediately I realized that I'd forgotten to put up the crib rail. I wasn't too concerned, though. The mattress is set as low as it can go, and it's only recently that we've decided we should start putting the rail up. She's never shown any interest in trying to crawl out of the crib. Since she was being so quiet, I decided to wait until she was asleep before sneaking in to put up the rail. Better that then to let her see me and launch a crying plea for release from her wooden prison.

Then, "Hi-ii," just as sweetly as you can imagine, and way too close behind me. "Hiiiii."

Ellie stood on her pillow and used the extra height to climb over the crib rail. Then she dropped herself down into her little wicker hamper, tipping that over to reach the floor. She didn't fall or cry out at all; she made the trip in perfect silence.

With her incredible flexibility, I always thought that Ellie would make a great contortionist or rhythmic gymnast. Now I'm thinking that maybe she'd make a good replacement for Sydney Bristow.