Monday, December 28, 2009

Morning Mika's great post on career/motherhood

Did you all see this? I'm re-posting from the Huffington Post. It's a fantastic column because she provides a more nuanced perspective than just "opting out" or "off-ramp/on-ramp" for moms in our careers. Mika acknowledges the truth of it-- it's hard! there are compromises! there are pros and cons! And then she picks a side and argues for it. And I have to say, I think she makes some strong points. What do you think?

Work and Babies: Women Still Have to Pick Their Poison. (But Men are Evolving!)

For many women, going back to work a few months after having a baby is overwhelming and unmanageable.

As strange as it may seem, things get even more difficult for a working mom after the second and third baby arrive. By that time, the romance of being a modern "superwoman" wears off and reality sets in.

Mom is exhausted. Dad isn't getting a good night's sleep. And older kids feel neglected.

Dads who want to be equal partners too often fall short because there are certain things they simply cannot do for you -- like breastfeeding, sleeping, or even taking a shower.

The new mother starts to question herself and whether it is all worth it. And too often, the money just doesn't add up.

Too often, childcare, taxes and commuting expenses often negate a large chunk of a young mom's salary. At the end of each year, many stretched mommys will do what I did throughout my late 20s and ask why I worked so hard just for the glory of feeling guilty.

Was the paltry profit of an entry level job drained by childcare expenses really worth
missing out on so many cute moments?

And what is worth being so completely exhausted at the end of the week that you feel like you can't give your all to your children, your husband and your boss?

The weekends only add to a destructive mental spiral of "self-second-guessing," trying to run after toddlers and please a husband who just needs a moment of quiet, but doesn't feel like he can ask for it.

Tension builds. You just can't come up for air in a sea of worry and "to-do" lists that all revolve around fixing up a strained household in time to rush back to work on Monday morning.

It wasn't supposed to feel like this? Was it?

On so little sleep, the day-to-day race of trying to manage each hour and everyone's needs robs you of your ability to visualize your long-term goals in life.

You soon forget to ask what you want to do.

You soon forget to ask who you want to be.

You stop remembering all the effort your parents put into your childhood so you would grow up to realize your own great potential.

My best friend and I speak of this often. Over the past three decades, she and I have often been mistaken for sisters. We finish each other's sentences, wear the same hairstyle and laugh at all the same stupid jokes. We look and sound alike. If I had a sister, it would be her.

But we have made very different choices in our lives.

She juggles a five year old and two stepchildren. She has an MBA from BU and worked for ten years at a Fortune 500 company, but quit at a time in her life when the balancing act was simply too much for her family. She could quit.

His salary was sufficient. And juggling the logistics and cost of childcare just didn't make sense. It seemed financially and logistically stupid to stay at work. And on paper, it was.

Five years later, she wishes she had pushed through. While she is blessed with an amazing husband and children and a beautiful home on the water, she feels unfulfilled and regrets that she did not stick with her career. It is a decision that impacts her relationships and her view of herself. She hates that she is completely dependent on her husband for everything. It is a concept that is not that attractive to him either. He also feels helpless that he cannot fill that void. While it was hard for them juggling the baby, the kids, and the jobs, maybe today would be better for her if she had stayed at work.

And here's the key. She feels she was being told by society that women could have it all. She thought she could just "jump back in" later.

That, like many women I know, has turned out to be completely unrealistic. More importantly, it is a bad strategic choice.

We often talk about our very different paths because while she marvels at my ability to balance horrifically challenging job schedules, I marvel at her ability to remember my birthday and to write thank you notes.

After the second kid, it seems like a woman has to pick her poison. Suffer now, or take "a few years off" and pay later. Women need to know that "taking a few years off" can often lead to a permanent condition of dependence and loss of identity.

I want to make a realistic, BS-free argument for suffering now and "pushing through."

There are women who have no choice but to keep on keeping on at work for financial reasons.
There are also women who have the choice to "take a few years off" until the craziness dies down.

I am speaking to both of you.

For the record, I went back too early both times. The second time I paid a terrible price, a story I tell in my upcoming book, All Things at Once.

I realize that of all people, I am no expert on parenting or marriage. My story can inspire just as many women to dial back for fear of making similar mistakes.

Still, I want to put it out there because the conversation for women with newborn babies and careers is for right now, not later.

I suffered from a mild case of postpartum depression after my second child and the physical challenge of maintaining an overnight shift at CBS, a marriage, and two in diapers made the symptoms worse and everyone in the house paid the price.

But I am still glad I did it.

Today, my girls are 11 and 13 and while the household is still chaotic, it is nothing compared to those years after giving birth. My body and mind were out of whack and recovering. The needs of babies and toddlers were constant and drained the life out my sense of self and my family's relationship with each other.

But it's not forever.

Just as those adorable "mommy-moments" go away, so too does the over-exhaustion, the instinctive need to be in charge of your baby's every move, and the guilt.

What you are left with is you.

And by the time they are in school and beyond, what are you?

That question can damage your relationship with your life partner and your children just as much.

You also may need practical options as a family or on your own.

If you are haunted by decisions made in the throws of breastfeeding, weight gain and night terrors, you may actually be left with a bigger challenge; how to jumpstart your sense of self.

I have friends who struggle with this question and because of that, also struggle to maintain their relationships. Yes, I am talking about being mentally and physically interesting to the one you love, your life partner.

This may sound harsh, but when you step out of the career track, those attributes get harder to maintain. It is a risk you take and it is worth talking about openly.

Don't just assume that you will be the same cute, interesting girl who entered the work force and marriage ten years and three kids ago. That is the reality that many of my peers are coping with and it is not pretty.

It is also impractical to assume that your husband will always take care of you. It is just as foolhardy to think he will find your total dependence on him to be an attractive characteristic.

But there is some good news to report as I open myself up to another round of beatings on Twitter.

The attitudes of men seem to have really evolved on this issue. Over the past couple of years, four male friends and colleagues of mine have asked my advice regarding their wives and their apprehension toward returning to work in the months after the second or third child. Wondering how and why I did it. Looking for the right words to bring home.

And they have all expressed something completely new and different about how they feel. Each of them wanted their wives to go back, worried about exactly what I have expressed in this blog.

They also worried about finances because this economy poses risks that make them feel vulnerable. They need their wives to help secure the family's future.

But they also felt a worry their partners would regret the choice personally. I know two of them were encouraging their spouses to stick it out for her sense of self, and ultimately for the sake of the relationship. These guys were not thinking of the short term. They'd rather NOT have someone there to make dinner and get the dry-cleaning and change diapers and to make their lives run smoothly. They'd rather have a partner, with her sense of self in tact in the long run. Wow.. refreshing!

But ultimately it is a woman's dilemma. None of the options are easy. My contribution to the conversation is this. Strategically, women may want to "push through the pain." Get the kids out of diapers and into school before pulling the trigger on any decision, IF they have the luxury of choice.

New Year's Resolutions!

It's that time of year again! I love making New Year's Resolutions. I love the feeling of a fresh start. But I've always been a morning person.

I'm putting these out there in the public domain so that I've got the time-honored and worthy tradition of peer pressure to keep me going! But don't get me wrong-- these are things I really want to accomplish for myself, which I think is the best way to make and KEEP resolutions.

Without further ado:

1. Lose 10 lbs! Yep, it's the last 10 lbs of baby weight. Actually, it may be less baby weight and more cookie weight.

2. Do the advanced moves at Bar Method class.

3. Find my Tracy Anderson post partum butt kicking DVD. :)

4. Do Tracy Anderson DVD ALL the way through. This is a major goal. I have not-bad abs and I had a hard time finishing many of the exercises in this thing.

5. And a couple of work related goals...

And we can't make new resolutions without looking back to see what we've accomplished, right? Motivation to keep moving forward!

Here's what I'm happy about from 2009:

1. Started getting back in shape with Bar Method classes. Once you take the first step, it all seems possible.

2. Began reading for pleasure, not just for learning.

3. Enjoyed quality time with Derek every single day. Even if just for 5-10 minutes!

4. Kept my daughters pretty healthy!

5. Worked hard at my job and loved it

So, that's stuff I can be happy about from last year. BUT! Can't rest on the laurels, and who wants to anyway? Like I said, I love a fresh start, like most people do. But I don't want to go it alone! I need to hear from you about your resolutions for 2010! I heard from PhDInParenting that there are circles of bloggers out there who support each other with their goals throughout the year. I am all in. Would love to read your thoughts in the comments!

Friday, December 11, 2009

I went to New Moon

Last night, Wednesday at 8:43 PM, I threw my cell phone into my purse, zipped up my puffy light blue jacket as I wiggled into a pair of shoes, grabbed the car keys and kissed my husband goodbye. I had just agreed with a friend to see a 9:00 PM showing of "New Moon" at a theater 15 minutes away.

I made with two minutes to spare, and watched my breath as I waited for L to show up. It was chilly chilly chilly.

So it was a good thing L smuggled in a bottle of red and a couple of cups. We got warm and comfy along with the slightly older than us (Italian?) couple in front of us and the two African American men a couple rows behind us. This series has really surprised me with the range of audience it's attracted, I've got to say.

So up come the previews. Four of them-- all the exact same Romeo/Juliet, guy+girl formula. One with RPattz, "Remember Me." TWO with Amanda Seyfried-- one a Nicholas Sparks based movie (ick, I think his stuff is way too schmaltzy) and one that literally invokes Juliet. And a fourth that I don't remember but was another lurv story.

Hmm. I guess Summit Entertainment is sticking with the formula it knows works on its core Twilight audience. Much as I have enjoyed being part of something mainstream for once, I don't think I'm going to be shelling out tons of money to see any of those.

Ok then. On to the movie. I won't recap but will offer some highlights:

- RPattz's American accent was a little wobbly sometimes, wanting to teeter back to British. I am totally ok with the wobbliness-- I like it.

- Like others, I liked the circling camera to symbolize the passage of time but the absence of growth or change for Bella.

- Taylor Lautner! Dear God, those white teeth could blind a person.

- This is a small point that I don't know if others saw or cared about, but I thought it was so creative: at the start of the chase scene with Victoria, the camera is positioned way up in the trees looking down. We see a black bird (crow?) flying across the corner, its wings flapping slowly. It's an elegant way to indicate speed, how fast they're moving so that even a bird's flapping wings seem to be slow motion.

- Thought the ghost Edward was funny, like a 70s era special effect

- Think Jasper's ramrod stiff back is too much

- The costumes were WHA--? Not even a little fabulous. Disappointing.

- I really connected with the parents in this one. Charlie, what a devoted dad! Getting up every time his 18 year old daughter has a wake up, as we say here in toddler-land. That's devotion. I bet he was thinking "DAMN I thought this ended!" Maybe parents are always just a little sleep deprived. :)

And Esme and Carlisle (the fancy Charlie, I like to call him), taking care of Bella in their own ways.

- Oh Italy. So glad I live in Northern CA, which is very like you, you beautiful countryside, you land of the olive trees and rolling hills.

- Oh Porsche. How I wish I could drive you one day.

- Dakota Fanning. Not scary to me. Just Dakota.

- Love the actor who plays Aro. He was also a great Tony Blair, and also amazing in "Dirty Filthy Love."

After the movie, I came home and remembered how great it feels to be all intensely in love like that, the way you feel when you're sixteen seventeen eighteen ish, and there's nothing more you want than the love you imagine, to be REAL. But now I'm married and it IS. And, ok, it's a big Hollywood mainstream movie, the kind I never see, but I think that reminder was worth the price of admission.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

activism in the twilight community

I swear I am not an activist snob. Just because I happen to thank my lucky stars and God every day that I work for, which is one of the greatest nonprofit organizations ever, it doesn't mean I can't also appreciate good organizing that originates in a fan community.

In fact, I respect it! It's pretty beautiful that a community decides to organize. And make no mistake, this is a juggernaut of a community. Surprisingly diverse, surprisingly well-connected over the blogosphere. Enough that when there were some upsetting paparazzi pics taken of one (or more? I haven't been following this closely) of the Twilight stars, fans conjured up a grassroots action to prove their displeasure: photos of themselves with their hands over their faces to symbolize not wanting a picture taken.

I thought it was a fabulous demonstration of the community in action, mostly women, standing up for their beliefs and values.

Some even made fun of the paparazzi pics with their own fabulously snarky take on the situation. Even while participating in the organized action.

But apparently there was a backlash within the community, where some thought this was an overreaction and some thought "there's nothing we can do to change the paparazzi."

Personally, I think that's just making excuses. Now everyone is free to think what they want to think about paparazzi behavior, but I think it's pretty well-rooted in fact to say they do what they do because they want to make lots of money from their pictures. It's pure supply and demand incentive. Therefore, in fact, there IS something people can do to change paparazzi behavior, and that is to not put money where the paps are. Avoid websites and magazines that feature tons of these (literally) cheap shots.

Does a few people avoiding a purchase of a magazine make a difference? Maybe not right away. But eventually, there CAN be a cultural change, and it has to start somewhere. It has to start with the small group that loudly stands up to say no. And say no again and again, every time they're challenged, every time they're ridiculed.

But wait. The Twilight community does have something else on its side besides a deeply held value of respect. It has sheer numbers. This is a HUGE movement, and furthermore, it's made of precisely the demographic that stands in lines at supermarkets and purchases tabloids-- women, 18-44+. Precisely the demographic that COULD, if it threw its weight behind it, could make enough of a dent in sales and enough noise to change how things are done in marketing tabloid shots. It just has to be consistent, and there has to be media attention.

It's possible ladies, never let anyone tell you otherwise. Go forth and organize!

Friday, December 04, 2009

sensible thinking on The Great Debate

It seems to never end, right? The debate between stay at home moms and work out of the home moms-- or actually, the debate ABOUT them. I just saw a great post about this whole thing that offers some very sensible thoughts.

Basically, those sensible thoughts are:
- if you want to work outside the home, it doesn't mean you're a bad mother
- if you want to stay at home, it doesn't mean you're inferior outside the home
- if you worked your butt off in school to get a strong career, it makes sense that you might miss it when you leave it
- and if you worked your butt off in school and didn't try to get a strong career and now you're at home with your kids and you're feeling pretty good about it, well that's ok too

Ok? Ok. I'm so over the manufactured mommy wars.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

funniest video ever- MST3K guys are BACK!


Get the tissues out because I promise you will be laughing so hard the tears will be rolling. I am so glad the fun didn't end with MST3K (remember waaaay back?).

Saturday, November 21, 2009

WashPo gets it right on Twilight

Well done! This article gets right to the heart of the conflict.

Thoughts this observation was great:
It's a time capsule to the breathless period when the world could literally end depending on whether your lab partner touched your hand, when every conversation was so agonizing and so thrilling (and the border between the two emotions was so thin), and your heart was bigger and more delicate than it is now, and everything was just so much more.

I remember this period in my life so well. Embarrassingly well. I was in love with practically everything and everyone all the time. I really, really, really wanted an object of my affection that I could lavish lavish lavish with lots of love (not just a little love, mind you-- LOTS of love). That's how I was. Anyone else remember feeling that way?

And this one was interesting as well:
Men feel perfectly comfortable slathering their chests in greasepaint and screaming like half-naked ninnies at football games, but women too often over-explain their passions, apologizing for being too girly or liking something too trashy.

The grown women of "Twilight" will no longer apologize. They will go to those midnight "New Moon" screenings.

But as for telling them how silly they're being, how Edward is not real and neither is Jacob, how their brains are rotting and their sense of reality is being distorted and this obsession is crazy, just crazy? There's really no need.

They already know.

This reminds me of the quote about underlying backlash against vampires sparkling. It's so GIRLY, right? And yet, men going shirtless and with their ridiculous chest painting seem to get away with it. I thought it was an interesting point.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pin Congress Down on Facebook!

From MomsRising!

Earlier this month, the House of Representatives approved their health reform bill by a razor-thin margin. Now, opponents of health reform (i.e., highly-paid insurance industry lobbyists) are working to make sure that comprehensive health reform is stopped in the Senate.

It's time to remind Congress (yes, again!) that real people -- their constituents -- will not be pacified until Congress passes a healthcare reform package that does right by women, children, and families. Twenty members of Congress are wearing MomsRising's pacifier lapel pin to show their support for getting health reform right for kids and families. Now, it's your turn!

Show your support for health reform by wearing your very own pacifier pin -- on Facebook!

We Won't Be Pacified Until Our Broken Healthcare System is Fixed!We Won't Be Pacified Until Our Broken Healthcare System is Fixed!

When you click the link above, you can create your very own, custom "I won't be pacified" Facebook photo and status update like the one pictured in this email. Your photo and status update will help mobilize your friends and show members of Congress that you will not be pacified until we get meaningful health reform.

And here's the coolest part... we'll also keep track on a U.S. map where our photo submissions come from so members of Congress can see that their constituents are taking a stand for kids, women, and families in health reform.

If you aren't on Facebook yet and want to take the leap, sign up here:

Show Congress you won't be pacified until we get health reform that is right for kids and families now:

Invite your friends, colleagues and neighbors to get "pinned" on Facebook too by forwarding this email directly to them or inviting them to participate through Facebook using our application's "Invite your friends" tool.

Thanks for all that you do!
-- Ashley, Donna, Katie, Kristin, Anita, Julia, Dionna and the whole MomsRising team

P.S. Click here to see pictures of the Members of Congress who have already worn the MomsRising pacifier pin:

P.P.S. Together, we really are powerful! Thanks to our matching gift campaign donors, last week we broke our all-time fundraising record, raising more than $50,000 for MomsRising's health reform campaign! It's not too late to pitch in!

regretsy on how to be age inappropriate

I've already written about my creeped-out feelings on cougars (as well as men lusting after women 20 years younger, shudder). But a picture works so much better to demonstrate the issue here.

I give you Regretsy's take on age inappropriate behavior-- here demonstrated in by Granny Montana.

Now I am all for celebrating your sexuality and feeling powerful and assertive at any age. Yay! But I think one has to take into account the object of one's desire too, because there are some power dynamics going on there.

Hey while you're at, I totally think you should check out the Cheese Grater Clock. Brilliant.

more thinkers about Twilight

Last night, I was up at midnight, and I couldn't help but think of the crazy scene that had to be developing at the movie theater down the street that is showing "New Moon." I really wanted to go be a part of it, as much to people watch as to see the movie.

[SIDEBAR: A smart friend of mine with a 2 year old says that she goes to late night shows alone, leaving her daughter to sleep as her husband monitors. This. is. BRILLIANT!!! I am totally going to do this! Now that Sabrina is sleeping better, I know I could do a 10 PM show and be back before any real wake ups.]

I wonder who was there... aishatyler tweeted "Just left New Moon. Wasn't one female in there younger than 25. And that is because Jacob is hotter n' yo granny on hot flashes. #teamjacob" Interesting!!!

Anyhoo, I found two more great posts on Twilight that I thought were worth sharing with you smarties:
"What A Girl Wants: Mixed Messages in Twilight" (interesting comments challenging some of the assumptions, too)

"Talking Back to Twilight" (by the same author, Carmen Siering) In this article, I think she makes some good points about Bella being a good Mormon wife. I think Meyer should just say "Yeah, I went back to my Mormon roots for the story here." I think Siering is right on about the movie being better than the book-- I think Catherine Hardwicke's interpretation was smart and I'm sorry she didn't get a chance to continue in the series.

Let me repeat: I kind of like the swoony ridiculous irrational romance portrayed in the books. I do! It's really fun. It's just good to acknowledge that that's what it is, no more no less.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

WAIT- making amends...finished Eclipse- the Twilight Express is leaving without me

Ok, this post is mostly a diatribe about what I didn't like about the books. But I found this post with 89+ comments at Twitarded about what women in their 30s DO like about the series. And I have to say I agree with a lot of them. Mostly, they agree that it's not Shakespeare, and not an earth-shattering plot, and not even great characters. They're perfectly aware that there are weaknesses in the story and storytelling, in the characters themselves.

But what they do say (that I respect) is that they like the books because of the books remind them of those powerful feelings they had at 16, 17, 18. Intense emotions that didn't make much sense back then, and still don't, but that are delicious to experience again. I totally get that-- the thrill of first love, the ridiculous obsession that can accompany it, the terrible heartbreak when it is (or seems) over.

Many of these women are in their 30s, many in stable relationships, many with children, many who haven't thought about feeling like that for a very long time. Ripe for a fantasy like this. And I can appreciate hungering for an awakening like that.

So, that said, here's a quick dirty list of what I'm not feeling in the books:

1. I can't get over the writing. I know, we all know, it's not meant to be the Next Great American Novel. But still. The writing style is perfect if you've ever dreamed of reading the Very Private Thoughts of an angsty teenager in love. It reads like a junior high school student's journal that she thought would be kept secret forever, but no, her mom has PUBLISHED it and now it's on the NYT Bestseller list and it COULD NOT be more embarrassing... oh wait, except that it's raking in tons of money.

2. Way too long. These books are 700 pages long, but could be 250 if you skip over every time she says describes glistening hard marble perfect white skin, lips, hair, chest... of course, that's probably what's selling the books.

3. I'm sorry but-- eh, I'm not sorry-- the "TwiMoms" phenomenon creeps me out. It really does. I'm not talking about the people who acknowledge what's wrong with the stories and accept the whole package. I'm talking about those who creep me out lusting after the young actor who plays Edward, who think the stories are the greatest thing ever. Some actually think these books are full of good role models for their children.

WHA--?!! No. That's just a huge NO. I will say that, as in life, there are good and less-good traits of each character, and it's good to talk that through with your kid. But there's are a couple overarching themes here that are really disturbing:

A. First disturbing theme: The male characters are constantly trying NOT TO KILL the girls and women they love. This is a GOOD thing? Hooray, congratulations, you managed not to give in to the worst of yourself-- you're a hero! ??? Ladies, please PLEASE raise your standards. Because that sucks.

I was especially disturbed by the relationship between Sam and Emily. (And I'm not the only one, thankfully: AMEN for a sensible, well-thought out article from the Hartford Courant on this topic.)

Emily has major disfiguration because he turned into a werewolf near her once, presumably because he lost his temper. That really sounds like domestic violence to me. "I hurt you, baby I'm so sorry, I'll never do it again, how can I live with myself every day knowing I did this to you?" I'm not exaggerating-- that's pretty much what the text says. And Emily not only seems to be ok with this, understanding that it's just "the natural order" of things, but continues to be gorgeous, cook of the year for all the boys (but we never get to hear about what SHE eats), and all around Good Wife-- if you like your spouse like you like your doormats.

That is not a family value I hold. I DEFINITELY part ways with people trying to defend that behavior. I wouldn't want that for my daughters or for me, not ever.

B. Second disturbing theme: The women in this book are not the coolest role models I've ever seen. There's been plenty written about that already in other blogs, but I just want to say Amen to everyone who has their eyes open to this. Yes, there are good aspects of Bella, Alice, Esme and others, but I just can't see myself saying I would want to be like them, would want my daughters to be like them, or even to read this to learn something about what NOT to do. I'm just sick of stories where there's no really smart, stylish, fabulous female.

C. Third disturbing theme: Love is all you need... except when it's not. Bella has one sentence where she argues that if he weren't the world's most exquisite man, without piles of money to infinity and back, she would still love him because he's just so darn good. But happily, we don't have to REALLY deal with that, because guess what-- he IS that good looking! He DOES have infinite amounts of money! It totally reminds me of all those Disney princess stories. We still haven't grown up, looks like.

But I will say, I look at my husband and totally think he's as great as Bella's descriptions of her perfect man. It's nice to know he can compete with fantasy fiction. :)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

reading rainbow

Right now, here's what's on my reading list:

- Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe

- In A Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson

- Thank You For Smoking, Christopher Buckley

- Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell

- Eclipse, Stephenie Meyer

- Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood

- Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Lord Byron (I got curious after reading a mention of how "Byronic" Twilight's Edward is, which frankly is pretty high-falutin' for those books. But I found this verse particularly apt for the setting of Washington State: "There is a pleasure in the pathless woods/There is a rapture on the lonely shore" (ah, how I miss Lake Quinault)

What am I learning by reading all these at about the same time? One, that an author's voice really is unique. It's incredible to get a sense of how much one's environment, education, family, personal beliefs, culture, and personality can diffuse throughout a story. Writing is such a personal act of art. For that matter, so is reading.

I'm also getting a sense of what I like in books. This may seem obvious, but I'm finding it's a good exercise for someone who is picking up reading again seriously after years of not much more than a book here and there, between feedings and changings and work.

I like facts presented by anecdote, in Gladwell's style. (Though I have to say the hilarious Vanity Fair satire of his writing style was spot on.) I like non-fiction, science, political analysis.

I like romance. Surprise, I know. But I do. Meyer's romance is exactly what I would have written and LOVED to read in high school, which makes it embarrassing to read as an adult. I am hoping to find a romantic book I love (does that sound like a personal ad for a book?). So far, Lord Byron's Childe Harold is slowly winning me, though I don't know I'll fall in love with it or the Romantic era-- but stay tuned, things change fast as I read.

Bill Bryson is just laugh out loud funny, and I love that. He manages to make me picture the scene and place himself squarely in the middle of it, bumbling and humble and hilarious.

And one of these days I'm going to pick up a couple novels in French and Spanish, to brush up. Taking suggestions!

You know, appropriately, the Netflix genres exactly mirror my taste in books: documentary (non-fiction), romantic dramas, comedies, foreign. Huh-- this really helps my queue-making decisions!

And- LEONIDS!! I'm staying up-- or at least, I hope to.

Monday, November 16, 2009

inna pickle inna jam!

I love reading blogs, and especially when they're about delicious things (hence, discovering the deliciousness...). So when my brilliant beautiful friend Kemmeo suggested I become of fan of Inna Pickle Inna Jam on Facebook, I fanned... and then was delighted to click on to IPIJ's blog.

I love her description of urban foraging and its merits, the pictures of her lovely jams and the descriptions of her values that guide her craft. I am so on board to try this.

And heck-- it's reminded me that this might be a lovely gift to handcraft and give people for Christmas this year! I've always wanted to make gifts, and I always *hear* about people making and giving jam, but alas I have never actually received or given a jar. In fact, I've never seen anyone else receive or give a jar. Maybe it's one of those things we talk about but are really just alive in Martha Stewart's head. No more-- I'm totally trying this out!!

I have no excuse not to-- I have no more infants! I've got a young toddler, and older toddler, and a fabulous husband. So- let the jam making commence!

Look at how cute the jars are:

Friday, November 13, 2009

now reading- In A Sunburned Country

I'm longing to find a book I can really sink into, with a delicious story and characters, but it hasn't happened yet. Fortunately, in that quest I did find another Bill Bryson book to love-- In A Sunburned Country.

Bryson takes us through the outback and around Australia, and does it in his usual observant and totally hilarious style. He gets how funny self-deprecating travel humor can be, and he manages to do it without being campy (eg, "And then I fell down during the rain dance while eating this exotic food and the natives laughed and laughed!" If it were like that I'd have to throw it across the room. Then return it to the library.).

WHis hilarious descriptions of boogie boarding with Dangerous Creature is at the opening, and turns out to be the first in a series of animal adventures. But it's not just the fauna that make it interesting-- even traveling over the land has mystery, intrigue, and more humor than I would have expected. We get to ride the train with Bryson, enjoying the vast outback scenery while investigating the true nature of first versus holiday class.

I haven't done much travel/adventure book reading, but Bill Bryson makes a great introduction. Recommended.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Twilight the movie-- well, it's better than the book

Yeah, I thought I'd just cut to the chase here. I'm a book lover and almost always fall into the "book is better than the movie" camp. I think most people do because in a book, there's more room for narration, for exposition on character and motivation and scene descriptions, and there's flexibility in how we might interpret a scene. In a movie, there's less of those things.

Mostly, that limits our scope of imagination and I think it's why most people prefer books to movies (well, if they're reading types).

Sometimes, the movie works better than the book. I think that feels like the case if you see the movie before reading the book, or if the movie is actually made before the book (this happened with "Back to the Future"!! The movie with MJF was SOOOO much better).

Very occasionally, the movie is still better than the book even if you read the book first. The experience of the universe the book introduces is actually richer, more subtle, more poignant, more real onscreen than on the page. It's not often for me, but it's happened now.

Yep, I Netflixed and watched Twilight the movie and really enjoyed it. MUCH more than the books.

The movie left out a lot of the repetitive, inane and sexist crap (not all, but most). James Wolcott wisely points out that the movie also shovels away the truckloads upon truckloads of Bella's internal narrative that makes the books such hefty doorstops. And there aren't scenes with Bella making dinner for her father Every Single Night. And the diversity in the movie was notable; I was pretty impressed with the thoughtful casting.

Often high school students are portrayed as pure stereotypes, which is annoying. But I found these characters to be a bit closer to truth-- a little gawkier, a little less perfect than actors playing high school students usually play it. I liked that.

This may seem like a small point, but I wish there was more acknowledgment that the scene with Edward and Bella at the top of the tree is EXACTLY like the shots of Julia Butterfly Hill at the top of Luna. They were talking in the commentary about how the stunt doubles were nearly blown off the tree from backwash off the helicopter, which is something that happened to Hill. Wish they knew about Julia's accomplishment to credit it in the commentary.

I'll also say:
- the glittery skin was not as cheesy in the movie as it sounds in the book
- the baseball scene, which sounded really cheesy in the book, was done pretty well. They had some great, loud, thrashy music in the background that really fit with the XTreme Baseball. (And Robert Pattinson in the commentary properly acknowledges the difficulty in looking tough in an adorable striped baseball jersey and coiffed hair.)
- the talking and cuddling after the one (pretty chaste) kiss was Perfect Teenage Daydream Fodder

All in all, I thought this was a well-done effort that definitely improved on the book, and am sorry Catherine Hardwick isn't doing New Moon, which apparently is much more action oriented. This isn't a Film For The Ages, but it's watchable. Recommended if you're looking to fill some time on a Wednesday evening, and/or if you're into teen movies.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

chocolate review- Michel Cluizel

So, I was getting my haircut at Elizabeth H. in Oakland with the incomparable Tina, stylist extraordinaire. As it happens, Elizabeth H. is right next door to Bittersweet Cafe. And Bittersweet Cafe is hands down the best place to get a chocolate chocolate chip shake to sip while you're getting your hair done at Elizabeth H. (or for most any chocolate fix you might desire). So that's exactly what I did.

But I couldn't walk out of there with a chocolate chocolate chip shake and nothing to take back to the suburbs with me. So I picked up a Charles Chocolates bar for my mother in law, and the Cluizel bar for Derek and me. It's a deep milk chocolate, which I've decided might be the most perfect chocolate for most days (I mean sometimes you have your deep dark midnight 72% cacao days, I know). This one is 47% cacao, which sounds lightweight, but the key is that the bar isn't burdened by too much sugar, so you still get this lovely mellow chocolate flavor.

The back of the box describes it like this: "In the mouth, the characteristic notes of bananas, red berries and blueberries emanate progressively in an herbaceous harmony and then in 'salty caramel.'" I'd mostly agree with that, though I don't get nearly the fruity qualities described as the salty caramel finish, which is just fine by me. I think what they describe as bananas, I would describe as the creaminess of the milk as the vanilla notes rise.

The bite is perfect-- it's like al dente pasta, but chocolate. Not too soft, not too firm.

What you see below is the Michel Cluizel chocolate bar and a very happy salon customer.

Monday, November 09, 2009

separating your Catalist from your VAN

And now for some real palate cleansing...

Here's a great article from Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic, providing a short but useful breakdown of Catalist, the VAN and a hint of what it takes to make campaign organizing *really* work. The more I learn about this stuff, the more I realize what a totally fascinating, endlessly tweakable endeavor it is to get out the vote.

Also, the more I realize how smart it is to learn tools in addition to learning facts. Data is great, but looking at data and knowing how to coax new perspectives and possibilities from it is a thing of beauty.

I know, it's an off year, but I think now is a good time to be brushing up on those crucial details of how to get out the vote. Be prepared, as they say. Check out the article-- very worth it.

Friday, November 06, 2009

POLL- twilight moms- who the hell are they? (ok, we)

No seriously. I want to know who among us calls herself a twilight fan and also is a mom. Why? I'm just curious about our demographic. Me, I'm not sure I'd call myself a Twilight fan, per se... but I'm curious about the phenomenon for sure.

I'm in the middle of reading the series (or "saga" as we say-- so romantic!). I'm not in love with the writing or the characters, but I can definitely see how the IDEA of someone like Edward could grab hold of someone and restart that long-dormant part of your brain that loved daydreaming, and from there, well, it's over.

I'm 32, with two young daughters, happily married to a hot young physics professor. Went to college, law school, working for a nonprofit. I think I'm not the target demographic here, but... who is? That's my poll question. Would love to hear from you, whether you're a fan or just have theories about fans of Twilight. Help satisfy my curiosity- Click the comment button and share!

Lake Quinault, how I miss you

Ok, it's not because of the hot mess that is Twilight fandom surging upon the Olympic Peninsula that I miss Lake Quinault. I promise.

I remember going there, to Lake Quinault Lodge, at Christmas 2003 for a friend's wedding. Winter was a magical time to visit this misty, foggy, snowy rainforest. Somehow when I'm there, all the snow and cold is fun-- it seems like a grand adventure instead of an icy endurance race (like it was in DC-- somehow less magical...). Happily, the friends I was with weren't particularly hardcore about the cold and enjoyed a fireplace and warm drink as much as cold weather hiking.

I've also been there in May, when there's so much deep lush green it's hard to believe it's not a fairy wonderland. There are species of fungus that are just now being discovered-- it's that packed with life.

Driving to Lake Quinault is a treat in itself. If I were in charge of naming a town, would I be so bold as to call it Humptulips? But someone in Washington was, and I love that. (Someone also named a town Forks, but maybe you already knew that...)

The beach that we stopped at was wide, wide, wide. There were people on ATVs rushing up and down the shoreline, and there was so much shoreline that I don't remember hearing them-- just seeing them.

And then turning into the Hoh National Forest, driving into that mysterious beautiful dark place, where the turnoff to Lake Quinault is a brief break in the towering trees. It's incredible, enveloping, clean, dark, lovely. Arriving at the lodge, there's a friendly feeling from the staff -- you're not alone in the wilderness.

And food-- very good. I'm coming from the Bay Area, where being a food lover is as commonplace as breathing. The fresh salmon is such a treat, but don't limit your palate-- the berries and mushrooms are so flavorful. I didn't have a bad meal when I was there, and that includes salmon burgers from the general store across the street.

I just can't wait to go back-- now with my two young daughters. It will be a different experience, but I'm hoping just as fulfilling.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

if you think sparkling skin is cheesy...

I totally agree!!! But then I found myself challenged by a well written analysis of the sparkly-skin thing, and the evolving nature of the vampire myth (and really, all myths).

Oh wait, I'm talking about Twilight again for those who are thinking this is Very Random.

But it does make me re-evaluate why I thought that was such a silly part of the story, that the non-humans (vampires) should *sparkle.* Even that word sounds so DUMB, right? Glitter, sparkle? As the author of the above blog post suggests, maybe that's because those words makes us think of little girls and all the crap that's been marketed to them, and it seems utterly incompatible with what's supposed to be a fantasy-driven, strong, makes-my-bosom-heave male character. In that sense, having Edward sparkle is maybe a little revolutionary.

[sidebar: So, maybe we should own the sparkle!!! Hell, I wore enough of that stuff as a teen. Even in college, I was known to throw it on now and then. I went to an eye appt and the student dr called in his senior supervisor to look at a square in my eye. The dr looked, pushed aside the eye-inspector thing, raised and eyebrow and said, "Wear glitter often?" Busted.]

But let's keep it real, other aspects of that character are right in line with the slightly obsessive romantic tendencies of some seventeen year olds, both male and female. Meyer doesn't save her characters from sexist pitfalls-- Edward makes a lot of decisions for Bella, does a lot of "saving," is confounded when there's an aspect of her he can't know/overpower/control (he can't read her thoughts, though he can everyone else's).

The other point this author makes is that the vampire myth is, in fact, allowed to change and evolve, as all myths do. S/he points out that the original vampire myth didin't have their skin burning in sunlight; that was introduced later, apparently. That's an important reminder-- stories and myths are continually changing. What urban legend stays the same, even when passed around by email? People change details and add embellishments, and that's part of the mechanism of story telling.

The sparkly skin distracted me a lot, and I totally appreciate this analysis of WHY that might be.

Monday, November 02, 2009

phones, fairies, tigers, oh my!

So here are some pics from the last week or so, from Halloween and dinner at a Thai place. The dinner photos are all thanks to Damon English, photographer and physicist extraordinaire.

Paloma wanted to wear her best dress for H'ween, with wings, and will tell you she was a "pink and purple pumpkin princess." Sabrina was a tiger. :)

It was so much fun to see them playing with the phones! (Huge thanks to the generous phone owners.) They loved them. They really knew what to do with them, how to hold them and everything. Paloma has talked on a phone before, but even Sabrina (who just turned one) had her texting thumbs going and everything.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Confessions!! Or, my conflicted feelings about Twilight

First-- TOO LONG! It has been too long since I updated the blog. It hasn't gotten truly dusty but I will find more snark and polish the blog more often.

Ok. True confessions. So, I'm SO excited because a friend just asked me to be in her book club, and I've wanted to be part of a book club for so long, and my kids are finally at a point where I feel like I can leave for a few hours (1 and 3-- it's a miracle milestone, I tell you). And she's one of my handful of mama friends who are actually local (uh, at least within 30 miles) and about my age. And the next meeting is in January so I have plenty of time to get caught up. I hit the library so fast for the books...

The last books they'd read were the Twilight series, and they were reading Make Him Look Good for January.

I had been avoiding the Twilight juggernaut the way some people avoided the Harry Potter series-- just because it was huge, they wanted to just skip it. (sidebar: For the record, I read all the HP books, and by the last one I was a feverish fan. For my money, the writing got better and better and the story was amazing. And I loved that one of the hands-down biggest butt kicking heroes was a mom, and that many plotlines revolved around maternal relationships. /long-winded sidebar)

Ok, so I was going to skip Twilight. But picked it up for the book club. Friends, it was bad. BAD bad, not even "guilty pleasure" bad. But you know what's compelling? It's very nearly the bad, awful, swoony stuff I would have LOVED (and maybe even secretly written) myself in high school.

The writing is terrible, the characters are flat, the plot is no revelation, there's no beauty in the language. But what works is that it reminds me of the daydreams I would indulge in during high school about The Perfect Guy. Then it amplifies those daydreams by, oh, a couple hundred pages, and voila! A runaway bestseller and movie hit.

I finished Twilight, then turned to Make Him Look Good.

That one was worse. It was so bad, and there was no redemptive "well-maybe-it-works-for-a-high-school-daydream" escape clause. Nope. This was so shallow, so terrible, it's one of the few books I've ever returned without finishing. I did not care at all what happened to Milan, Geneva, or "JSan" (=Jill Sanchez, a carbon copy of JLo-- YEAH, it's THAT bad).

This author should be ashamed of this book. It never should have been published-- there's no story here and no evidence that she tried to create one. At all. The reviewers who gave semi-decent reviews to this are obviously getting paid off, in my opinion. You can judge this book by its inane, meaningless cover.

Which means that when I went to check out Eclipse (book 2 in Twilight), suddenly I was like, "Hmm, not terrible." Even though it still *is,* at least the earnestness of the author seems to come through. That counts for something, I guess. (Although I believe that this series was picked up solely because marketers needed a fantasy hook for Potter fans who were getting a little older, I think Stephanie Meyer didn't write it *just* for that purpose.)

So now I'm palate cleansing with Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart. I can't fly through it-- I actually have to think. It's a bit of a labor but you know, it's also incredible literature.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Just a Mom- HMN

Nancy Massoto of Holistic Moms Network just posted her introductory remarks at their conference (I think in NJ). So moving and beautiful. Except I don't think I would have "just smiled" at the man who called HMN "just a mom's group."

This is worth a read! A great reminder of how I want to approach parenting.

I'm a member of my local HMN chapter and I've really enjoyed attending the monthly meetings. Though I missed this month's, which was about vaccinations. Definitely a hot topic. I prefer evidence-based medicine myself, and I'm fairly confident in the science that supports vaccinations for most virus and bacteria based illnesses. I'm a little skeptical about the efficacy of this year's flu vaccines after learning that last year's didn't protect against the right strain of flu virus. And I'm as concerned as anyone about long-term effects of additives and preservatives in vaccines. At the same time, I'm not going to lose my children to whooping cough (and there are children in the area who have succumbed because they weren't vaccinated).

But don't get me started on pharmaceutical greed and pushing out their products that people don't need to make a profit, and the need to educate ourselves as consumers. Very difficult for a layperson to sort out the real science from the pseudoscience and the paid shills.

Anyhoo-- I'm really glad there's a group like HMN around, especially here in the suburbs where it's not so easy to find a group of like-minded parents who share their knowledge and experience on living more healthfully. Ah, suburbs and city planning, the fodder for another post!

EPIC WIN! lip balm review and other stuff I like

So I was over at TheMotherhood, participating in a chat with Dr.Greene about healthy kids and eating. We were having a great time exchanging stories about sneaking healthy foods in and I mentioned getting inspired by Deceptively Delicious, Jessica Seinfeld's cookbook.

[sidebar: this kind of thing always confounds me-- how do people not trained as chefs have the chutzpah to write cookbooks? But I guess when you've got a good idea and have some connections to push it through, you can do many things. I want the chutzpah to write a novel without having been an English major. /sidebar]

So the chat goes on, we talk about gummy vitamins, etc., and suddenly someone's like "Zephyr you won!!!" and I was like "won what?!" I didn't even know there was something to win during that chat.

Oh but there WAS. Healthy Child Healthy World donated a gift box of stuff and I had won it. And it is AMAZING!!! I got a copy of their book, Healthy Child Healthy World; Food to Live By, the Earthbound Organics lovely cookbook; and Feeding Baby Green, by Dr. Greene.

And I also got about 20 Luna bars, Clif bars, and Clif Kidz bars (which Paloma adores and which make perfect car snacks), a Klean Kanteen which I totally needed, Plum tots organic baby foods (yay for Sabrina! I tried these before giving them to her and they were actually delicious and fresh tasting, like my homemade stuff, and unlike jarred baby food), and an AWESOME kids bento by thinkbaby. Orange, stainless steel, easy on/off lids and great design. Love it. This thing is going to get a ton of use by the whole family.

The Luna lip balm is sadly not sold in stores, but it is so delicious. Chocolate Peppermint, and I'm not usually a chocolate mint evangelist. But darned if it doesn't make me want a Luna chocolate peppermint bar. I know, calories, but makes a good snack.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

climate blog action day!

I'm posting in support of Blog Action Day for the climate. I saw a great post on kids and pesticides at Climate of our Future. There was some great information there, also posted at Earthjustice and PANNA:

Farm Workers and Allies Ask Gov’t to Protect Kids From Toxic Pesticide Drift

Petition to EPA includes immediate no-spray buffer zones around homes, schools, day care centers for most toxic pesticides

October 14, 2009

Lindsay, CA – Luis Medellin and his three little sisters – aged 5, 9 and 12 – live in the middle of an orange grove in this small Central Valley town. During the growing season, Luis and his sisters are awakened several times a week by the sickly smell of nighttime pesticide spraying. What follows is worse: searing headaches, nausea, vomiting.

But if a coalition of farm worker, public health, and children’s advocates are successful, Luis and his little sisters may one day be able to sleep through the night without these toxic disruptions.

The public interest law firms Earthjustice and Farmworker Justice filed a petition today asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set safety standards protecting children who grow up near farms from the harmful effects of pesticide ‘drift‘ – the toxic spray or vapor that travels from treated fields. The groups are also asking the agency to immediately adopt no-spray buffer zones around homes, schools, parks and daycare centers for the most dangerous and drift-prone pesticides.

The petition was filed on behalf of farm worker groups United Farm Workers, Oregon-based Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO as well as Physicians for Social Responsibility, Washington-based Sea Mar Community Health Center, Pesticide Action Network, and the million-plus member

The Medellin family’s story is not unique. From apple orchards in Washington to potato fields in Florida, poisonous pesticide ‘clouds’ plague the people who live nearby – posing a particular risk to the young children of the nation’s farm workers, many of whom live in industry housing at the field’s edge.

“When farm workers come home after a long day in the fields and orchards, they’re faced with yet another worry – the poisons that are settling in their homes, their lawns, their children’s bodies,” said Erik Nicholson, National Vice President of United Farm Workers. “We can’t let another growing season go by. EPA needs to put an end to this today.”

In 1996, Congress required EPA to set standards by 2006 to protect children from pesticides. Three years have passed since that deadline, and EPA’s job is only partially complete. The agency has made some progress – banning the use of some pesticides in the home and on lawns. But the agency has failed to protect children from these same pesticides when they drift from treated fields into nearby yards, homes, schools, parks and daycare centers.

“In farming communities throughout the country, children have been abandoned by federal pesticide protections,” said Earthjustice attorney Janette Brimmer. “We’re asking EPA to finish the job it started so children who live, go to school, or play near farms and orchards are kept safe from poisonous pesticides.”

EPA has acknowledged the risk of pesticide drift, but still chose to go ahead with a double-standard: protecting urban and suburban areas, while leaving the children of farm workers and other rural kids vulnerable.

“We traditionally think of farms as healthy places,” said President Joan Blades. ”But children and families across the country are being poisoned by pesticides that travel from the fields into their houses and bedrooms, causing serious and long-lasting damage to their health. We already have standards barring the use of such pesticides for homes and lawns to protect children. But all children deserve such protection. You shouldn’t have to live in the suburbs to be safe from deadly pesticides.”

“It’s time the EPA put an end to this double-standard for farm workers. EPA’s policies must protect farm workers and their children from unnecessary poisoning,” said Farmworker Justice attorney Virginia Ruiz.

Pesticide poisoning reports and scientific studies show that pesticides are ending up in the air and in people’s bodies at unsafe levels. Among a host of examples: recent air monitoring conducted near the Southwoods Elementary School in Hastings, Florida, detected pesticides in every sample, sometimes at levels that may pose serious health risks to young children.

“Children are especially vulnerable to pesticide exposures both because their smaller bodies cannot break down toxins as well as adults, and because their developmental processes are prone to being derailed — even by very low-level exposure,” explains Dr. Margaret Reeves, Senior Scientist for Pesticide Action Network. “The particular pesticides we’re finding in our drift catching and biomonitoring results are some of the worst: chlorpyrifos, diazinon, endosulfan…these are associated with serious short- and long-term health effects. They are also entirely unnecessary.”

One of the pesticides identified as being so dangerous that the groups have asked EPA to adopt immediate no-spray buffer zone is chlorpyrifos – initially developed as a nerve toxin by the Nazis. The short term effects of exposure to chlorpyrifos have been likened to a chemically-induced flu: chest tightness, blurred vision, headaches, coughing and wheezing, weakness, nausea and vomiting, coma, seizures, and even death.

“It’s outrageous that our own government isn’t protecting our children from being poisoned by pesticides drifting on their homes and schools,” said Julie Montgomery, Project Director and attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation. “How can parents possibly protect their children from these dangers on their own?”

Additional Resources

* A fact sheet detailing the specific health risks linked to pesticide exposure:
* A background piece on the science behind pesticide drift:
* The four-page (PDF) results of Hastings, FL drift-catcher results:

Friday, October 09, 2009

where are my head of state shoes?

Ok, so I'm not a fan of the princess crap marketed to little girls. At the same time, I'm not about to deny my daughter the silly fun of glittery shoes, pink frilly skirts, etc. I'd let her -- even encourage her-- to get that stuff dirty in the sandbox if she wants to wear it.

So what's a mom to do? I decided I'm teaching Paloma to say "head of state" instead of "princess." Why? Because the marketers make it seem like princess=wear floaty dresses and do whatever you want all day. And it's totally not true! A princess has duties, yo. These days she's got to know whether to send in the troops, what the fiscal deficit is, how to greet other heads of state in seventeen languages, not to mention be familiar with other cultures, represent her culture well, be well read and scientifically literate. She might become the queen and I know you all saw "Elizabeth." Cate Blanchett wasn't sitting on her butt drinking tea all day, that's for sure.

Sure, wear the crown-- while you do your math homework. You have to be able to count if you're going to know what to do with the the Census numbers for your kingdom.

Here's an example of real women in politics, including a real princess. It's a fun celebration and all, but... you get where I'm going with this.
New York City Celebrates 400th Anniversary Of Dutch Discovery Of Manhattan
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 08: (L to R) U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Princess Maxima of the Netherlands, kick-off festivities celebrating the NY400 Week at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum on September 8, 2009 in New York, New York. NY400 Week, which runs from September 8-13 marks the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson�s arrival on a Dutch ship to New York harbor in 1609. New York will celebrate the event with Dutch festivals, boat races, dance parties, museum exhibitions and more. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Content © 2009 Getty Images All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

thankful Thursday-

Well, after real estate ups and downs for the past year (yep, we've been looking a long time) and especially the past weekend, I needed a good laugh. Lo and behold, this website fell into my lap today and it's perfect for thankful Thursday. I give you:


I'm a big fan of for sure. You can find anything you need, handmade and of amazing quality-- if you look.

As Regretsy shows us that, if you look, you can also find some crazy in the craft world. Crazy clocks and watches? Check. Crazy baby stuff? Check. Crazy taxidermy (redundant)? Check check.

If you've been to etsy and appreciated the high quality work of artisans, this will only be funnier. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

goodbye balloon

photo © Michael Jastremski for CC:Attribution-ShareAlike

Today was a lovely sunshiney October Saturday. We had a birthday party to attend, and then to Pixieland.

P melted down at the end due to generally wishing it were *her* birthday, which manifested in wanting S's balloon. S managed very graciously, and P wanted to say sorry after we walked about a block. :) Then she fell in love with her lavender balloon as we walked a few more blocks to the car.

And then -- it slipped away. What a real loss! She cried and cried, and sobbed, "Come back, balloon! Come back!" I cuddled her closely after that. All afternoon, she talked about ways to find it. Ladder? Parachute? Fly? Finally accepting it was gone (it really was like stages of grief). Somehow I didn't want to replace it right away. But we did have to go to Trader Joe's, so we did happen to get another balloon. She was happy with it. But I think we had a good lesson today.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Who's Martha Coakley?

Well, there's a name I hope to hear more of. The email I just got from WomenCount explains why:

"Since the 2008 election, women have had several opportunities to gain seats in both the House and Senate. But so far, unfortunately, we’re at a net loss: down two seats in the House and even in the Senate.

Now we have another chance, and it’s big. The death of Sen. Edward Kennedy (Mass) has resulted in a special election set for Dec. 8th. State Attorney General Martha Coakley is leading in the early polls, but she faces stiff competition in a four-way primary.

Her biggest challenge: raising enough money to compete with the vast war chests of her opponents, including Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca and Rep. Mike Capuano. Both have already hit the airwaves with campaign ads.

Today, Sept. 30th, is a critical filing deadline. We need to help Coakley prove to the media, Massachusetts voters, and the pundits that she can keep up. Please donate today. Every contribution, regardless of the amount, makes a difference.

The first woman attorney general in Massachusetts, Coakley has been an advocate for women and children – and she has used her position to protect reproductive rights. Now it’s our turn to work for her.

There are three ways to help Martha Coakley win:

* Donate now – so your contribution will be counted in the filing period that closes today.
* Get active online. Post about Coakley on Facebook and Twitter and any other social network you use. Comment on blog posts about her. If you blog, write about her.
* Forward this e-mail to family and friends, especially those who live in Massachusetts. Voter turnout on Dec. 8th is critical. (Beni, Sam, other readers in MA-- that's you! :)

With your help, Martha can and will win this special election – and make history as the first woman Senator from Massachusetts. And then, we all win.

As always, thank you for your support.

The WomenCount Team"

Thursday, September 24, 2009

thankful Thursday- DANCE!

I'll admit it-- I am totally thrilled about Paloma's dance class.

Why is this an "admission?" Well, I realize there's a possible stage mother ish aspect to being excited for your daughter's dance class. I'm combing my own feelings, making sure that I'm "clean" and not hoping to live some crazy performing dream through her. Happily, I feel like after this self-inspection I can say that I'm really just excited for her because I know how much she loves to dance and move. [Sidebar, have you seen that show "Toddlers and Tiaras"? SHUDDER-- I can't even watch the commercials without getting that sour-lemon look on my face. This blog is public so I won't write how I really feel about those commercials, but I'm certain it's obvious anyway. Okay, I'll just do some free associating here. When I think of toddler pageants, I think: cheap; tawdry; exploitation; gross; idiotic; illiterate; fake nails; cheap; tawdry; wrong; and Grandpa's big FU to them in "Little Miss Sunshine." Ah, back at my happy place.]

On Tuesday, we went shopping at Encore for her dance clothes-- a pink leotard, pink tight, pink ballet shoes and black patent leather tap shoes. She sat patiently for the shoe fittings. When she tried on the tap shoes, she did a few shuffles and taps, then threw her arms open in a "TA DA!!!" gesture with a big smile. She seemed really natural in the tap shoes. And when we tried on the leotard, she cried when she had to put civilian clothes back on. And for a treat (this is like whipped cream on top of ice cream on top of cake), I got her a pink satin dance bag that she chose. It has three dancers on it, and two are brown which I thought was great-- anyone can dance and she can see that.

[Sidebar-- I should take her to an AXIS performance sometime. Sidesidebar: THIS is totally what I love about parenting, thinking about all the fun and interesting outings we can do together, and hearing what she thinks about it. I think her mind will be blown by both The Nutcracker and by modern dance.]

I watched the first few minutes of her class today. They did some stretching and practiced first position before I sneaked back to work. I can't wait to hear how the class went. I hope (and believe, from what I've already seen) that this will be a source of fun and expression for her.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

thankful Thursday- balancing work and motherhood

I was just over at momversation and saw this video:

There's so much talk about whether to feel guilty or not if you're a working mom.

Well, whenever people frame a question as either/or, my mind goes off to find a third option.

Wait wait. Let me start by saying that I work at home, supposedly part time, but to get anything done my older toddler is in preschool full time now, and the younger is watched by my mom (I'm lucky, I know). So there's already guilt that I couldn't finish my part time work in part time hours.

But do I feel guilty for working? I did, until I realized it doesn't help a darn thing. I've learned to let go of everything else when I'm with my little ones, and to just be solidly *with* them and not think about anything else, because let's face it, I am not going to get any work done while I'm caring for them, so might as well make our time together quality and pay attention to them.

Here's where the third option comes in. How about feeling good for working because it makes you happy and shows your kids that you do many things? Once, my mom herself admitted that she thinks it's a good idea to get out of the house and do things for yourself (this from a committed lifelong SAHM). I'm NOT saying that SAHMs are martyrs who should get out of the house!! Definitely not. I AM saying that one role usually doesn't define a person, not even one as enormously varied and beautiful as "mother," and that having other work in your life can be enriching not only for you, but for your kids.

In other words, take guilt out of the picture altogether, and see what's left-- enrichment? Excitement? Happiness? And hey, a paycheck? Health insurance (can of worms alert! can of worms alert!)? A whole sense of self?

So that's what I'm thankful for this Thursday. Grateful to be a mama, grateful also to have work I enjoy, and happy to let go of any guilt around it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

just say no to one shouldered dresses

I know, one shouldered dresses are totally au courant. See the fabulous Mrs.O style blog. I admire and respect Michelle Obama, but why, oh why did she start a trend that precious few in this country can follow? But on the other hand, I suppose starting trends based on what looks good on the masses would be just depressing.

But this, my friends, is why I say no:
Coco Rocha heads to the Alice Tully Hall in New Yorks Lincoln Center for the 2009 CFDA Fashion Awards

thankful Thursday, Friday edition

So I have another food related thankful Thursday. With summer winding down, it seems totally appropriate to give thanks for the season's bounty.

Today we had a simple but delicious dinner. We did organic whole grain mac n cheese under summer squash (yellow crookneck, green zucchini, another type of light green zucchini) that I sliced thinly, coated with olive oil and sea salt, and popped under the toaster oven's broiler. Finished with fresh ground black pepper.

Roasted squash is one of the best ways to eat it. The texture is perfect, and the taste is so fresh and delicious. I tossed some grated cheese on a few pieces to entice my toddler a little more, and I called them "chips." She loved it!

Zucchini crops

Thursday, September 03, 2009

thankful Thursday- what's for lunch?

I am so thankful for summer that continues long enough that tomatoes and basil are still abundant and good. Yay!

Just being in the month of September is enough to make my back-to-school stomach flutter, even though it's been a long time since I've been in school, and my little ones aren't worrying about it.

But our CSA box had a huge bunch of basil, and a bag of gorgeous tomatoes. I made an open face sandwich on Trader Joe's whole wheat sesame pita with yogurt cheese, basil, yellow tomatoes, Brianna's vinaigrette, and raw green beans on the side. It was so summery and fresh and delicious.

Forget Charlotte Allen and her nonsensical, ignorant, pro-mediocre-eating rants (you can see my comment on the second page). Truly WTF worthy.

I'm for the organic tomatoes.

home garden

Saturday, August 29, 2009

blush frozen yogurt

Today we visited Blush Organic Frozen Yogurt in Dublin, CA.


This is not Yogurtland, TuttiFrutti, or even Pinkberry. And it's definitely not TCBY. There are plenty of pretty good yogurt places out there, and I've noticed a proliferation of them lately. But a lot of them have that same old artificial flavor, or leave a weird taste or feeling in my mouth, and they're just not as refreshing as you'd hope a frozen yogurt would be.

Blush is perfect! It's mildly tart, perfectly flavored, with real fresh organic food ingredients. You'd think it'd be a given that food should have real food ingredients, but sadly it's not. And this is important to me-- I like my food and my personal hygiene products to be truly ingestible, not chemical stand-ins, how about you? Anyhoo, the texture is perfect and it's *clean*-- no gross aftertaste or texture that you need to swish out with a little Dixie cup of water.

If you live in the East Bay, it's worth stopping by Dublin for it. If you go now until September 4, Mondays through Thursdays, you can get a small for .99, which is a huge deal considering it's something like 2.75 for a small otherwise (I think). Enjoy!!!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

harvest day!

Zillions of grapes on the vine are suddenly ready. Paloma helped Nana pick them. I don't know if we'll be able to eat all these, but that's why there's juicing and jamming...

I loved this shot of them holding grapes up like they're fishers with an amazing catch!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

BPA Free for You and Me

Amy Smart and Dr.Greene were two of the high profile supporters at a rally today supporting Senator Fran Pavley's SB 797, which would rid California of the chemical BPA in baby bottles.

I was really glad to drive out to Sacramento to support this bill. It's ridiculous that we have to work so hard to get *unnecessary* chemicals out of our kids' products. Why are they there in the first place? There's really no better reason than it's a Giant Moneymaker for the chemicals industry. BPA isn't just in bottles, but lines almost every can of food (adult food) and infant formula. It is everywhere.

Yes, you can buy premium bottles that are BPA free. You can find these bottles at Target, Whole Foods, Wal-Mart and Babies R Us. But not at dollar stores and not in many less-affluent neighborhoods, where Target is considered too pricey.

It's not right that people who can't afford the chemical-free products are forced to swallow the chemicals that industry sells-- simply because it boosts their bottom line. As the wise Gretchen Lee Salter of Breast Cancer Fund says, it's expensive to be poor.

What does BPA do, anyway? It's an epoxy resin lining cans, supposedly keeping food preserved better, and it's a key in polycarbonate-- all those pretty clear Nalgene water bottles. But it's also a HUGE endocrine disrupter, mimicking estrogen and causing hormone-like side effects. It is everywhere. And it's UNNEEDED. There are plenty of other materials out there right now. The only reason BPA is one of them is because it's produced in such huge quantities and makes so much money for industry that they don't want to see it banned.

It's like high fructose corn syrup. There's no reason for it to be in your tomato sauce or any other food, except that we make a gazillion tons of it yearly, and corn syrup sellers need to sell it, so they put it in everything. Hello, diabetes epidemic.

Let's get rid of BPA. Let's tell industry to quit poisoning us to make a profit. I went to Sacramento today. If you're in CA, can you call Sacramento and tell your legislator you support SB 797, Fran Pavley's BPA bill? (916) 322-9900 is the Capitol Switchboard. Thanks!!

Monday, August 24, 2009

parent hack Monday

They're the wonderful and fabulous and adorable girls upon which I try all my parenting tricks. :)

Ah, Mondays aren't so bad. I wonder what other bloggers have designated Mondays for. Twitter does Music Monday, which is fun...

Back to the hack-- I noticed that a recent status update on Facebook seemed to strike a chord:

Derek and I realized that pretending we have eight children, but six are being taken care of by someone else for the day, makes having two children somehow seem much easier.

I have to say, this principle is SO helpful. I thought of it because of this entry on the Bar Method blog, which talks about our minds can easily trick our bodies into feeling strong or tired.

So I went to class and tried pretending that when the teacher said "10 more!" we really had 80 more to go, so that when she said "All done!" I'd be like "but I was all ready for 70 more of those!" (This is kind of backward from what the Bar Method blog actually says, which is that we hold back too much until the end and then realize we could have been working that hard the whole time. Maybe I'll try that next time...)

And then I got home to the kids, meal making, toys strewn, etc. And I thought, "But hey! How much more full would our hands be if we had EIGHT kids? Think about getting baths and dinners for ALL of them!!!

"But it's just these two right now. The other six are at camp. What a breeze!"

Suddenly, I swear, getting them into their carseats, getting to the potty, fixing meals, doing bathtime seems easier. Like, appreciably easier. Ah, mind games, I love them.

Got any parent hacks to share this fine Monday morning?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

thankful Thursday

Can't be in this beautiful place without feeling grateful. I don't want to sound like some pageant queen, but I really do try to take time to be grateful everyday. Here's why (it's decidedly non-pageanty): I would probably go batty otherwise. There are countless annoying things that vie for my attention daily, but I just let them slide across my radar screen and focus on the awesome. Why? Because it is more fun that way.

Here is some awesome stuff I am grateful for:

- I mentioned being in a beautiful place. We are in the Sierras, invited by some friends who rented an amazing "cabin" (if by "cabin" you mean 7500 square feet of space on a lake, a couple kitchens, a couple dogs, a hot tub made of stone and an infinity of stars, then yes. We are staying in a cabin.). I am so grateful that a place like this even exists, let alone that I am allowed to set foot on it.

- The stars, of which there are many millions more than I can see.
- The trees, which have their own languages.
- My Derek, who loves me and our kids.
- My kids, who are thriving and healthy. Even when they're screaming, I am grateful that they are alive and well, and that I'm alive and well enough to hear them.
- The coffee our friends brewed this morning
- The ability to laugh at myself, my naivete, my silly ideas and mistakes without berating myself too much. Grateful for the energy to make the effort to improve.

Would love to hear some of your thoughts on gratitude too!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

self sufficient kids?

I was reading the fabulous PunditMom, who wrote a thoughtful post on raising kids and having hope. She linked to a post by a mom visiting Rwanda, who essentially asked the question, "Are we [in the US] doing too much for our kids?"

Her musing was inspired by seeing 10 year old girls in Africa who are self-sufficient enough to get around town on public transportation by themselves, buy food, bring home water, and generally help take care of things in a truly substantive, needed way for the family.

So- do we overprotect? Do we keep our young ones from doing for themselves all that they might?

The comments were interesting, and I could see everyone's point. On one hand, yes! We do coddle. We do protect. We maybe worry too much. We take every safety precaution and then some. No bathing alone until age 6, no crossing the street alone until age 10, no dating alone until age 16, no driving alone until age 18. It is a privilege, a luxury, a burden, a blessing.

On the other hand, maybe not. Maybe this is just our culture, what we value and what we do. It's not overprotection, some said-- it's just how we parent, how we choose to create a childhood. It's what we think a childhood should look like.

And then there was another aspect that wasn't touched upon, which was that in many pockets of American culture, in the salad bowl that is American culture, there are plenty of 10 year olds who are very self-sufficient. I bet you could go to farms across the US and find 10 year olds ably contributing to the smooth function of the operation. You could go to inner cities and find 10 year olds who could ride buses and transfer with their eyes closed, bringing home a quart of milk from the corner market and dodging trouble on the way.

So maybe it's just the privilege of suburban life that's being questioned?

Personally, I believe that the more my daughters try and do, the more confident they'll be. I don't want to push them to do more than they have to before they're ready, but I don't want to hold them back either. For me, it's about constantly -but gently- but constantly- pushing that boundary of comfort and safety. Gently, but constantly. Helping them gain confidence as they grow, try, fail, try, fail, try, succeed.