Sunday, June 30, 2013

What's been keeping me busy: Doctor Who

The sole and only comment from yesterday's post was on Doctor Who, so I guess I'll write about that first. There will be spoilers, because I'm writing about shows that aired in 2008 and before.

As I said, we're getting to the end of David Tennant. Last night we watched the last two episodes of Season Four and tonight we're planning to watch the Christmas Special, which if I have done my math right should be the introduction of Matt Smith.

Tenth Doctor Things I Love

  • David Tennant is yummy.
  • Captain Jack is an awesome character and I love everything about him.
  • I thought Martha was a great companion because she's smart and strong. I even enjoyed her struggle with herself over her crush on The Doctor because that happens to strong women sometimes.
  • Donna was so much fun, full stop.
  • I LOVED the Doctor/Donna.
  • The Face of Boe! Is he Jack? 
  • Rose got her own Doctor!
  • Mickey got a life.
  • Shakespeare! 
  • Those angel/statue things were so cool. 
  • I totally thought Matt Smith was coming when The Doctor regenerated, but then he used his hand to fake us out!
That's all I've got for now. I can't believe I never watched Doctor Who until now. What kind of geek am I? At least I'm catching up now.

Update 6/30/13: We still have three episodes left of David Tennant! Woo-hoo! I've never been so happy to not have my math right.

Update 7/1/13: I forgot the Ood, which may be my favorite species in all of sci-fi.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

What's been buzzing around in my brain

I haven't written since Monday because my head has been buzzing with all the news and things that have been going on.

Boo was at camp. Probably nobody cares about that except me, but it was definitely present in my head the whole week. When I got over worrying (after about the first day) I just missed her. A lot. But it was ever-present in my mind.

The Supreme Court issued lots of decisions and that took up lots of time on the news cycle. I have a few opinions about how the gay marriage decisions are affecting New Jersey.

The filibuster in Texas was awesome. Hopper had to drag me away from the feed at bedtime. Actually, way past bedtime.

I'm losing my job due to Sequestration so I've been looking for a new one. That's at least three posts worth of stuff that I may or may not be allowed to talk about.

My friend's baby was adopted by a Russian family. That's a hard one, and not really my story, but it's taking up some emotional space in my brain, for sure.

Hopper and I went to the zoo on Thursday. So much fun! Not only did that occupy my brain, but it was really hot and I came home exhausted. Also, we picked up Boo on Thursday night so there wasn't going to be any writing.

We got the game Smash Up! and I love it. In fact, I want to play it right now.

There's a hate post coming about Eddie Izzard because today is my brother's birthday and I ordered a present for him from on May 19th and it still hasn't arrived. Grrr...

Hopper and I are almost at the end of David Tennant's reign as The Doctor. So that has required extra viewing as the episodes get more exciting and we can't resist watching one more before bed and then I run out of time and don't get to write.

So that's a partial list of things I need to write about. Hopefully, having them all in one place will get me motivated to start writing. If there's anything in particular you want to hear about, let me know in the comments. As I write these posts, I'll be filling in and adding links to this page, so come back and see what I've written!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Foodie Problems

Hopper was out at graduation tonight, so I was on my own for dinner. I got talking to my mom on the phone and lost track of time, so it was rather late when I started to prepare dinner for myself.

"Okay," I thought. "I don't want to take too much time, so I'll just scramble some eggs with beans, put them on toast, and have some fruit with it."

But then I thought, "Why toast? Beans will fill me up!"

And then I saw some guacamole in the fridge that would go really well with eggs and beans.

And you can't have avocado without tomato, right?

And you've got to salt the eggs or they won't taste right, and cook them in butter, and use the omelet pan, which was in the sink, so it had to be washed.

And the next thing you know, it's scrambled eggs with white beans cooked in butter topped with guacamole and diced tomatoes.

This is why I never cook.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ten Reasons Dogs are Better Than Children

1. They are always happy to see you.

2. They never talk back.

3. They enjoy being trained.

4. They sleep through the night by 3 months old, and are potty trained by 6 months old.

5. You can leave them alone in the house.

6. Or put them in a crate.

7. They never complain about the food you made them.

8. You can smother them all you want without worrying they'll grow up emotionally stunted.

9. They clean up food you spill.

10. They don't go to camp.

I miss Boo. Hopefully she's having a great time. Hopper and I are watching obscene amounts of Doctor Who already. It doesn't bode well for our productivity this week.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Another VB6 Update

I've been on the VB6 diet since May 28th. That's 3 1/2 weeks. Already I've lost about a dress size. The weight around my middle that was worrying my mother is just about gone. I'd say I'm about where I was at the end of last summer.

I have never lost weight this quickly. And I've even been losing this week while I was on "staycation" with Boo, so I have been having quite a few treats.

It has been a bit difficult to keep to the diet this week, since I've been out and about quite a bit with Boo.  But on the whole, I've made it work. I had two desserts on Monday, but I shared one of them with my dad. On Tuesday I made a point of sticking strictly to the diet and having no treats. Wednesday I had pizza for lunch (though I had only one slice and a salad) and then an egg cream and some of Boo's ice cream for a snack.

Come to think of it, that's all the violating I did, which is not bad for someone on vacation.

Still, I'm really noticing the difference in my body. I keep surprising myself by putting my hand somewhere and finding there isn't as much fat there as there used to be. I'm no longer uncomfortable when I bend at the waist, and some of my newest clothes are getting too big (like my new bathing suit) and I'm able to squeeze into some older clothes that I hadn't dared to try on recently.

I'm not saying I looked great in the shorts I had on today, but I got them on, and that was a good thing since my sloppy shorts that always, always fit got a hole in them yesterday and I had to throw them out.

So I have to say I really like VB6 so far. Hopper has got the hang of grocery shopping, so we have enough fruits and veggies around. When I'm hungry, I have a glass of water and some fruit (between meals, I mean.) If I'm really hungry, I grab a handful of nuts. At meals I eat lots of veggies with nuts or beans or tofu. If it's a salad, I throw in some olives or avocado so that I get enough fat. At dinner, more of the same, with maybe some fish if I feel like it.

Thanks again, Mr. Bittman!

Running With Scissors

Boo is going away to camp, and I'm sad. Happy for her, of course, but I'll miss her. So I've begun to strategize about how I'll cope, and it reminded me of the time before Boo, when we were waiting.

In December of last year, Russia passed a law that said Americans can't adopt Russian children. Because of that law, about 300 families are stuck--waiting and hoping that they will be able to adopt the children they already met. They're doing all they can to make that happen through legal and diplomatic channels, but in the mean time, they're waiting.

And of course, lots of other families are waiting, too, for various adoption processes around the world to play out so they can bring their children home.

This is my advice to first time parents who are waiting:


Prospective adoptive mothers have an advantage over pregnant women. We can eat what we want, drink what we want, and tie our own shoes. So go do all the things you won't be able to do when you have a child watching your every move and looking to you to be an example.

Swear loudly.

Walk around your house naked.

Ride a shopping cart down a hill in a parking lot.

Go out spontaneously and stay out late.

Get drunk.

Dress inappropriately.

Blast loud music in the middle of the night.

Watch the news.

Eat in front of the TV on a school night.

Play video games for hours.

Go to a fancy restaurant or a bar or an R rated movie.

Run with scissors.

I know waiting can be agony. And I appreciate that our wait was nothing compared to what many people go through, especially if you're one of the 300 stuck families. But it's important to spend some time each day enjoying now. Parenthood changes you forever, and this is the last bit of pre-parenthood you'll ever get. Enjoy it. You don't know how long it will last. Do what you can to achieve your goal, and keep your eyes on the prize, but when you start feeling down, go do something you enjoy that you won't be able to do once you're a parent. It helps.

There's going to be a whole lot of swearing and running with scissors at our house this week.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Adoption Day

Monday was our Adoption Day.

For those of you who aren't part of the Adoption community, Adoption Day is our anniversary. I've heard other families refer to it as Gotcha Day, Airplane Day, or Family Day, but it amounts to the same thing: a celebration of the day we became a family.

We have traditions in our family.

We eat vanilla fudge twirl ice cream. It symbolizes our family: we're stuck together forever, and you can't get us apart, and while you can still see the differences among us, we're better because we're together, just like the chocolate and vanilla ice cream.

While we eat, I tell this story:

Once upon a time, Daddy and I decided that we needed more love in our lives, so we went out and adopted a dog.

[Boo: What?!]

Yes, we adopted Darwin (of Blessed memory,) but that didn't do it, so we decided we should have a baby. We thought about all the different ways to have a family. Some people grow their babies in the mommy's tummy. Some find their babies in America, but we were looking for one special baby, and we didn't think we'd find her either of those ways.

We were looking for a special baby who would grow up to love music and animals and swimming. She'd be smart and funny and stubborn as a mule, and sometimes waiting for things would be hard for her, but we'd love her forever and her name would be Boo.

So we started our search. We asked advice from our cousins who had adopted before us. We checked out every adoption agency we could find. And finally we met a woman named Mrs. Mason. Mrs. Mason had met a baby in St. Petersburg, Russia who she thought might be the right Boo for us, so we got on a plane to go check.

We met the baby and she was just right, so we asked her if she wanted to come home with us and be our Boo and I would be her Mama and Hopper would be her Dad. And she said, "Booma!" Because she wanted to be Boo and she wanted me to be her Ma.

So we signed the paper saying we wanted to adopt her and we said goodbye and went home, and a few weeks later we came back and asked the Judge if we could be Boo's forever family.

And the Judge said yes, and that was on this day, nine years ago.

And now you're stuck with us.

Now, finish your ice cream and go to bed.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Lifelong Dreams

I finally saw Annie on Broadway.

It's moments like this where I see the fundamental differences between myself and Boo. Boo really enjoyed the show. When she goes to the theater, she's most interested in the technical aspects, and she gets engaged watching what goes on so that she can figure out how everything was done.

I really enjoyed the show, too. And I am still hoping that someday I'll be discovered and cast as one of the orphans. In the meantime, I've been dancing around my house singing "Little Girls" in full Broadway belt. I suppose I have a slightly greater chance of being discovered in my living room and cast as Miss Hannigan.

We grow up thinking that everything we do and feel is normal. For me, that meant horses and theater and books. My brain runs a constant narrative in my head, describing in the third person whatever I'm doing. (These days it tends to take the form of Facebook posts.) Frequently this comes with background music and often appropriate song and dance numbers will be inserted, to be performed or kept secret, depending on my surroundings.

I suppose I knew long ago that not everyone has this way of experiencing life. But it's interesting to raise a child who is so similar to me in many ways (bright, full of ideas, loves books, stubborn as hell) but whose driving passions are fundamentally different. It's not that I have a problem with it--Boo loves some really interesting things--it's just fascinating to know someone so intimately and to see her react to some things in a way that's completely different to the way I reacted as a child. Or the way I react now.

For me, seeing any live theater, really, but Broadway especially, and musicals double-especially, feeds my soul in a way that nothing else does. I relate to every actor on the stage. I suck whatever energy I can from every aspect of the performance. I watch and I learn and I absorbed and when I get home I want to reenact the entire show from start to finish. Just let me near a theater in any capacity and I light up like a Christmas tree. Spending time with horses, or any animals, really, quiets my soul. I'm able to tune in to their rhythms, and when I'm with a calm animal, I get calmer, too. When I went to riding camp, I used to love just spending time with the herd, watching them and learning about their interactions, learning to understand their body language. I could (and still can) spend hours with animals, just being together and being company for each other. I'm not saying that I have any magical powers or anything, but I've always been told that I communicate well with animals. It's just a way of attending to the signals they're sending that seems to be a talent I have.

When I see Boo engage her passions, I know that she must be experiencing something similar, but of course all of this is so internal that it can't really be shared. But I can see her engage with certain activities in a way that seems...different. More, somehow.

I'm glad I get to share my passions with Boo, even if she doesn't experience them the same way I do. It's interesting to note her surprise that I don't feel passionately about them. After all, she's a kid, and everything she does is normal.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

It's so simple

I saw this on Facebook yesterday, posted by The Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW). I'm not sure why their post popped up on my feed. Probably one of my friends "liked" the picture. But it really made me think.

What's wrong with reminding men that the women they treat so badly are the same (fundamentally) as the women they love? If you'd kill the guy who raped your sister, surely that's a good reason not to rape someone else's sister. 

But it's not a feminist reason. 

The reason you shouldn't rape a woman is because she's a human being, deserving of respect and autonomy just because she's a human being. The reason women should make decisions about abortions, rather than government, is that women are adults. They are capable of making rational decisions based on information that is unique to a situation--and the circumstances surrounding an abortion are always unique--and living with the consequences of that decision. The reason women should get equal pay for equal work is that they are human beings, just like men.

Defining women relationally is just another way of removing their humanity: women should be treated with respect only because of their relationships to men. 

It's not okay. 

Treat people the way you want to be treated. All people. Children, the elderly, people with disabilities, LGBT people: everybody. It's the basis for every religion going, although many religions later define it away.  It's not complicated. Sometimes it's hard, but it's not complicated. Treat people the way you want to be treated.

Friday, June 14, 2013

On dreams and education

I heard Scott Barry Kaufman on The Leonard Lopate Show yesterday. You can listen to it here:

But I got stuck on one small interaction. Kaufman said that we should respect children's dreams. Lopate replied that letting children pursue their dreams makes for a chaotic classroom, if one child wants to draw a picture while another child wants to do scientific experiments. (I'm paraphrasing. Those might not have been his precise examples, but you get the gist of his point.)

This annoyed the crap out of me.

There is a difference between treating children with respect and letting them run wild. There is also a difference between respecting a child's wishes and not asking them to do anything else.

It is our job as adults to educate children. We have to help them develop into adults who can function in the world. I agree with Kaufman's premise that we put too much emphasis on testing and in the process we expect everyone to be good at the same thing. Testing measures a very small range of skills, and there are many useful skills that cannot be tested with a bubble sheet.

However, limiting children by holding them to the dreams they have when they are children is no better. Children have very little experience. They do not understand the scope of the world or even the scope of their own strengths. As they develop, they change, and they are able to learn new skills. It is our duty to expose children to many different kinds of thinking as they grow both so that they can get some sense of what they do not know and so that they can find new things to dream about.

But yes, we should respect children's dreams. I respect Boo's dream to become an Olympic swimmer. In respecting that dream, I enroll her in classes and let her join swim teams where she can refine her skills and practice competing. I will encourage this dream as long as it lasts, partly because there is the remote possibility that she can achieve it, but more importantly because I believe it is good for children to push themselves until they find their limits. However, I still send her to school and camp where she is expected to learn the skills and rules of other sports. She has come to enjoy soccer, and yesterday she asked if she can learn to play lacrosse. Perhaps this will not change her dream, and swimming will always remain her favorite sport. Perhaps she'll find a sport she likes better. Either way, she benefits by learning different ways to use her body, by refining skills that require different talents, and by finding out her strengths and weaknesses. She has come to enjoy playing soccer with her friends at recess. If she never joins a soccer team, she has already benefitted from being forced to try a sport that did not interest her at first.

The same applies to academics. Yes, we should respect the dreams and talents of our children. Teachers should ask those who love art to illustrate things in the classroom. They should also ask those who dislike art to try illustration because they will learn something from it. Especially during the elementary years, children should not be specializing. They do not know enough at that age to make such an important decision. We can respect a child's dream while still asking her to challenge herself, while exposing her to the dreams of others, dreams she may not yet have the capacity to imagine.

Kaufman's point is that everyone has strengths and there are many kinds of intelligence in this world. I agree with him. I just wish he had set Leonard Lopate straight.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Don't has a happy ending

I met a kid today who had never tasted fudge. She didn't know what it was.

See, every year, Boo and I make food for her teachers--blondies at Christmas time, and fudge for the end of school. Today we were making fudge, and she wanted to invite a friend over to help. Her friend called when she was ready to come over.

"Boo said I could come over to help you make sponge cake. I'm on my way."

"It's fudge," I replied. "See you soon."

When she arrived she asked me, "So, we're making fudge cake?"

"No, fudge."

"Fudge brownies?"

"No, just fudge."

She honestly had no idea what I was talking about. She had never even seen fudge, she said. Not at the mall, not at the seashore. Never seen it, never tasted it.

It made me sad.

So everyone: go make fudge with someone you love. Then eat all the fudge. There's a recipe for you here, and it couldn't be easier. I even found organic chocolate and organic condensed milk at Whole Foods today. And here's a vegan recipe, for those of you who are more vegan than I am. I haven't tried the vegan recipe so I can't vouch for it, but it looks pretty good, as vegan desserts go.

By the way, I have fixed Boo's friend. She now not only knows what fudge is and how utterly delicious it can be, she knows how to make it.

Another wayward child saved by Xanny.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

One singular sensation

I recently wrote about why people should have fewer kids, from rather a negative perspective. But Lauren Sandler is inspiring me to write the flip side.

While it is true that I always thought I'd have two kids, it's not actually true that I said that. What I said was that it was our plan to have two kids, but you never know. When Hopper and I got to choose the sex of the baby we would adopt (one of the many advantages of adoption) I thought long and hard. I really wanted a daughter, so adopting a son first would practically ensure that we adopted again.

We adopted a daughter.

And there are many advantages to having a single child. Our house is (fairly) peaceful. Boo's whole life, people have been amazed at how much time Hopper and I spend together. We're big believers in scheduling, particularly for a baby, and Boo went to sleep very early when she was young, so we ate dinner together and spent our evenings together. Because there is one child, one of us can help Boo settle into bed while the other does the dishes, and then we can relax for the rest of the evening.

Just tonight I heard a mother complain that her two kids have swim practice at different times because they are different ages. We don't have problems like that. When Boo is out, all our children are out. There's no juggling of playdates or practice schedules.

It's easier to get a babysitter with one child.

We have two small cars, and that's no problem. Even when we take Wonderdog on vacation with us, we can all fit with our luggage. Hopper's car is a hatchback, and while Boo doesn't love riding in it because she has to climb behind the seat, when she has to, it works. (When she was in a carseat, she never went in that car, which we were able to arrange by leaving the four-door car wherever she was--another thing we wouldn't have been able to arrange with two kids.)

And then there's the resource issue. We've chosen to do two very expensive things--have me stay home with Boo, and send Boo to private school. Since Boo has been in full-day school I've been working part-time. Because of those two commitments, we don't have a lot of money for extras, but there's no way we'd be able to manage private school with more kids, even if I worked full-time. And we're able to afford the extras we see as most important, like swim lessons. When it comes time for college, the idea of paying for four years is much less daunting than paying for 8. And I was able to stay home when Boo was little, which was important and rewarding for me, and now I'm able to go back to work and enjoy a different kind of challenge without feeling like anyone is getting short shrift.

Having a single child is a great option for people like us who have limited resources and energy and who also are trying to be environmentally responsible. We can have a smaller house and car and save the planet from the impact of another human being, all at the same time.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

I am so sick of this!

I read this today and I listened to an interview about this and of course heard the news about Plan B being (theoretically someday) approved for over-the-counter sale (which is good news for a change) and I have to say I'm really getting sick of the slut-shaming.

I suppose that's not a revolutionary thing to say, but come on, people! The article I linked to is about a 13-year-old girl who was raped and decided not to get an abortion when she found herself pregnant because she doesn't believe in abortion. As a result, people are writing "slut" and "whore" on her house. There are seriously people in this world who have nothing better to do with their time than spew hate at a pregnant little girl, as if she doesn't have enough to worry about with the whole bearing-her-rapist's-child thing going on. These people evidently think it's their job to control the sex life of someone else's kid--a kid who didn't make the choice to have sex and for whatever reason, couldn't be protected from rape by her parents.

Why is that your business? And why do you think writing graffiti on her house will change anything? Or are you just trying to scare your own daughters into having abortions if they get raped?

Oh, wait. You don't think they should be allowed to have abortions if they get raped. Or have the morning-after pill. And you don't think boys should be taught not to rape in the first place. Or have access to contraception.

I'm so sick of people blaming women for sex. Sex is a good thing. Rape is a bad thing.

And if you want women to have fewer abortions, try supporting cheap and available contraception, comprehensive sex education, and not shaming girls who choose to carry their pregnancies to term.

Time for an update!

I figured it was time for a VB6 update, plus I got inspired.

I've noticed since I've been mostly vegan that I'm eating less at meals. Even when I'm really, really hungry (which can happen on a vegan diet) I can't eat as much dinner as I was before I started the diet (er, lifestyle.) I was wondering about that this morning and I came up with a theory.

It must be that my body, when determining fullness, takes into account not just what's in my stomach, but also what's in the rest of my gut. My stomach is saying it's hungry, and it is, but my gut is full of lovely water and roughage from all the fruits and vegetables I've been eating. So when my stomach is full, my brain says, "stop eating." Before I started eating so many fruits and veggies, my gut didn't feel full, so my brain got unclear messages.

It's just a theory, but it makes sense. Because now I find myself taking smaller portions and sometimes I can't finish them. I just ate half a sweet potato with navy beans, avocado and tomato on it* and just as I was finishing the last few bites, I was totally satisfied. I intend to pack a few snacks when I head out to work this afternoon, but it was nice to eat fresh food and enjoy it and feel sated. That hasn't happened to me too often in my life so I hope it's the start of something new and healthy for me.

Also, I'm pretty sure based on how my clothes are fitting that I'm losing weight, so that's good. I'm really tempted to weigh myself but I know nothing good comes of that so I won't. Eventually I'll go to the doctor for something and they will weigh me and then I'll know my weight. In the meantime, I'll go by how I feel and how my clothes fit, which is better and better right now. I'll take it.

So far, so good! Thanks, Mr. Bittman!

*This potato recipe comes from the VB6 book, and you can top the potato with pretty much anything, as long as it's vegan (if you're eating it before 6. After 6,  go crazy!) Last night, Hopper made baked sweet potatoes for dinner, and put out beans, spinach and cheese as toppings. Boo loves baked potatoes and she enjoyed topping her own with butter and cheese, with some spinach on the side. When he baked the potatoes, he threw a few extra potatoes into the oven, so now we have baked sweet potatoes in the fridge. I put one in a bowl, topped it with beans, salt and pepper, and threw it into the microwave. While it was in there, I cut up some avocado and tomato, then threw that on top of the potato with lots of salt and pepper. Lunch done. This combo is probably a bit messy to bring to work, but the spinach and beans could just be thrown on top in a container and then nuked at work. I intend to do that tomorrow.

Monday, June 10, 2013

What Works in Education

Dana Goldstein wrote a piece for Slate today about grouping kids by ability in classrooms. Evidently it's back in fashion and she's wondering whether or not it's good for kids.

Here's what's good for kids: small enough classes (preferably between 12-18 if there is one teacher) so that the teacher can really know each child's learning and check in with each child every day. A classroom where the teacher has a clear philosophy of education and is free to practice it, either because it is the same as the philosophy of the school as a whole (as in private schools) or because the teacher has the freedom to run her classroom the way she sees fit (as in a good public school.) Food in their bellies. A good night's sleep. A sense of safety. And a group of adults who are working together to ensure that the child maximizes her potential.

That's it.

You can study classrooms all you want. You can come up with fads and new methods and old methods and recycled methods. You can throw money at the problem or insist that teachers are the cause of it all.

But it comes down to those things.

In fact, there are several different well-thought-out philosophies of education that work well. There is some evidence that it is helpful to match the child to the right philosophy, but I think matching the parents to the right philosophy is more important. When the parents and the teacher agree on how children should be treated and what is important in education, kids do better. But what is essential is that the teacher has a clear philosophy and knows how to execute it. Because whether you believe that children need individualized learning (Montessori) or that children should be treated as a community (Waldorf) or that children learn best when the topics are based on their interests (child-centered) or that teachers teach best when they teach to their interests (teacher-centered) or that we only learn when we are able to connect new information to something we already know (constructivist) or whatever, if you're doing what you do well, kids will learn.

I happen to think that ability grouping is helpful. Smarter children are less likely to get bored and children who struggle are less likely to tune out if the lesson is targeted to their abilities. I also think there's less fodder for teasing if children are taught in a more narrow intelligence band and that children are more likely to take risks if everyone around them is about as likely to make a mistake as they are.

But are they better or worse than any other philosophy? Not demonstrably.

The biggest problem in education is that everyone is looking for one method that works all the time in every situation for everyone. There isn't one. Just like any other art form--painting, dance, acting, medicine--there are different methods that work in different situations. Each teacher needs to find what she believes in--what works for her--and deliver that to her students.

I think it's good when a Principal comes in and creates a philosophy for the school. It's easier for the students if all the teachers have similar philosophies. What's not good is telling teachers how to teach in such a way that each teacher cannot do her job. And that's what's so popular today, both in articles like this one and in politics. It's got to stop.

Teachers are professionals. They are well-trained and intelligent. Pay them what they're worth, and let them do what you hired them to do.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

It's a hell of a town

Using the bathroom in the shopping center underneath The Plaza Hotel is a singular experience. Everyone is there.

Women in ball gowns touching up their makeup before heading upstairs to the Palm Court for a party.

A tourist bouncing a baby on her knee while she waits for her friend to come out of the stall.

A woman in designer jeans who probably shops at The Plaza all the time.

On the way out, two kids trot by, moms in tow carrying their scooters. I imagine they stopped in for an overpriced snack and a dose of air conditioning while they were scooting in Central Park. Maybe a cup of cappuccino for the moms.

And then there's me. I'm dressed for the theater in a skirt and blazer. Hopper and I got to New York early because we just headed over after dropping Boo off with my parents. We wound up eating at one of those soup and salad joints (Why do I love places that make your salad in front of you so much? It's something about the way they toss the salad with the dressing, I think.) That didn't take very long, so we just started walking.

The Shops at The Plaza is its own special phenomenon. It's hard to imagine anyone actually shopping there, but then I guess people who pay $730/night to stay in a hotel might imagine things differently. I saw a leather dog covered in the logo of some probably-famous purse manufacturer. Who buys things like that?

Then there's a food court (I guess you'd call it) which is where the bathrooms are, and where you find a whole collection of people that is positively fascinating. Here, hotel guests and party-goers sit beside shoppers, tourists, and New Yorkers who have a nose for public spaces that are cooled in summer, heated in winter, and will let you sit for as long as you like, provided you aren't bothering anyone.

I never wanted to live in New York, even when I lived there. It's too loud for me, too busy. It's the city that never sleeps, and I love to sleep. But it's a great place to visit.

Friday, June 7, 2013


It seems odd that the wife of a public school teacher who is also the daughter of a public school teacher chose to send her child to private school. And perhaps even odder that Hopper also made that choice.

We believe in public education. We believe that it should be there for everyone. We believe that it should be fully funded, and that teachers should be paid more than they are so that we can get and keep the best and the brightest in the profession. We also believe that schools should be fully funded so that they have sufficient support staff--Social Workers, Psychologist, Special Ed Teachers, and so on--so that every kid in this country has a fighting chance at an education.

As parents, though, our one job was to find the right school for Boo. When she was four, we enrolled her in a Montessori school two towns away. It's the perfect match for her. We kept her there because they have all-day kindergarten (which our local public school does not) and then we had to make the big decision for first grade.

It was tough. Our local school was good. The Principal was organized and thoughtful. She knew the children when she took me on a tour. She knew the philosophy of each teacher, and was willing to experiment with different set-ups to see what worked best for different kids. There was a looping class (that stayed with the same teacher for two years) in first and second grades. The beautiful library had a full-time Librarian. The cafeteria had hot food. There was instrumental music starting in fourth grade and either French or Spanish starting in Kindergarten. The first grade classes had between 15-17 students per class. It was a really good public school.

But I love Montessori. Boo's school has the most amazing feeling when you walk in. It's quiet and calm, and every child knows exactly where she is supposed to be and what she is supposed to be doing. The children are taught to take responsibility for their own work. They have jobs inside the school, helping out with younger children, delivering lunches, or collecting compost to take out to the bin. They are in multi-age classrooms, which I think is one of the most brilliant ideas that has ever existed in education. Why are so many people opposed to multi-age classrooms? Boo has learned so much about helping younger children and getting along with older ones. She has had the opportunity to stretch by working with older kids on things that come easily to her, and to practice ideas that are harder for her by teaching them to younger children. When she's one of the older kids in the room, she gets to practice her leadership skills. And when she's one of the youngest, she struggles to learn the social rules of the game and how do deal with kids who are more sophisticated than she is.

So we decided to send her to the private school.

And then Chris Christie got elected. Now, the public school has no Librarian. The principal left. Teachers were let go and the first grade had 25 kids per class the year Boo would have started. The looping class was cancelled. French is gone and Spanish starts in fourth grade. And don't get me started on testing.

For that reason, and many others that have come up over the years but which I'm keeping confidential to respect Boo's privacy, we're so glad we chose the private school. It's the right thing for Boo. And we're her parents, so it's our job to do what's best for Boo.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Guess what?

If you had asked me before I became a parent, I would have told you that I wanted two kids. When I was little, I wanted tons of kids. I had a similar plan to Angelina Jolie, actually--I was going to have two biological kids, and adopt the rest from all around the world.

I have one kid.

There are many reasons for this change of plan, but the most important one is this: once I became a parent, my priorities changed. It wasn't just about me (or me and Hopper) anymore. We had to do what was best for Boo, no matter what. And we wanted to do some things for Boo, like send her to private school, that we just wouldn't be able to afford if we adopted another kid.

I'm not going to get into the reasons for private school--that's another post. Suffice it to say that it was the best decision for Boo, for reasons.

This is the thing a lot of people don't seem to get: you're not entitled to have children. For some people, having babies is easy, money is unlimited, and they have enough patience to live with a lot of kids. Those people get to have as many kids as they want. The rest of us are constrained by temperament, funds and/or biology and we just have to deal with that. But nobody seems to want to deal with that.

Some people think it's okay to complain because they have too many kids. "What do you want from me?" They cry. "I have X number of kids and I can only handle X-2 kids."

And I wonder, "Then why didn't you stop at X-1 kids, when you saw that it was difficult?"

Other people think that the world should hand them children, and when they find out it's not that easy, they pitch a fit. Did you know that people with Infertility are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act? That's right: you need to have a wheelchair ramp and you can't turn anyone down for infertility treatment. Even if they already have six kids and are trying for their seventh. Because it's exactly the same thing.

Being a parent means taking care of your kids. Sometimes it means giving up ideas that you had before the kids came because those ideas don't fit with the family you have now.

Deal with it.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl

That's the title of this week's Radiolab podcast. Got that?

Adoptive Couple


Baby Girl

It's a court case. A case that's going to be decided soon by the Supreme Court, in fact, and it completely blows my mind. You can read background on the case here, but this is the summary.

A couple named Capobianco adopted a baby girl via an open adoption. The birth mother chose them, they developed a relationship with her, were present when she gave birth, and even cut the umbilical cord. The birth father signed away his rights, and the Capobianco's adopted the baby and named her Veronica.

When Veronica was two years old, the Court decided that Veronica should live with her birth father, Dusten Brown, because he is a member of the Cherokee Nation and a law called the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) says that Indian children should live with Indian parents whenever possible.

Now, the Capobiancos are going to argue at the Supreme Court that ICWA shouldn't apply in this case, and possibly that it's unconstitutional.

If you don't know anything about ICWA, you should really read the article I linked to above and listen to the podcast. There are a lot of details that are relevant to this case, namely that before ICWA, up to a third of Indian children were routinely taken from their parents and tribes and raised by white adoptive parents. Also, Veronica's birth father now claims that he never intended to sign away his rights to Veronica.

There are all kinds of possible implications of the Supreme Court case for American Indians. Big ones. But that's not what I'm writing about today, so I'm going to just acknowledge that the case is important for many reasons and move on. Here's what interests me:

If the Capobiancos are successful at the Supreme Court, their case will go back to a local court and the Judge there will need to decide what's best for Veronica now.

Veronica lived with her adoptive parents for two years, and by the time this case gets back to a local court (if it does) she will have been living with her birth father and stepmother for about the same length of time. It will be someone's responsibility to decide whether or not to uproot this little girl again.

I can't even.

I believe that the ICWA is a good thing, on balance. It's not okay to take children away from their parents unless their safety is in jeopardy. I can understand why it is in the Cherokee Tribe's interest that Cherokee children should be placed with a Cherokee family when adoption is necessary.

But this kid was placed by her birthmother with a family that she chose. They had an ongoing relationship with her and she had a relationship with Veronica. The fact that Brown is Cherokee didn't come up at all in the original adoption proceedings. The article I linked to says that Veronica was "reunited" with her birth father by the court. She wasn't. You can't be reunited with someone you've never met. She was taken from the only parents she had ever known by a stranger. Yes, this stranger shared 50% of her DNA, but so what? A two year old cannot understand that.

Dusten Brown was incredibly selfish in suing for custody of Veronica in the first place. Was he in agony when he found out that he had signed away his custody of Veronica? Possibly. He certainly sounds sincere on Radiolab. But it is not Veronica's responsibility to resolve her father's pain. She is an innocent child. She must have been terrified when Brown came and took her away from her parents. I can't even comprehend what that would be like for a two year old.

And now, she likely doesn't remember the Capobiancos, and they are fighting to take her away from Dusten Brown.

The selfishness of the adults in this case overwhelms me. We do not have a right, as parents, to our children. We have a responsibility to protect our children and to keep them safe from harm. That means finding a situation in which the child will experience as little trauma as possible, hopefully none.

Brown could have tried to arrange an open adoption agreement with the Capobiancos. He could possibly have negotiated a shared custody agreement of some kind--perhaps Veronica could have spent summers on the Reservation to learn about her Cherokee heritage. I don't know what might have been, had the adults in this situation been humane and thought of Veronica's best interests first. Why hasn't Veronica seen the Capobiancos in the past sixteen months? That question is not addressed in the Radiolab report. The obvious assumption is that Brown does not want them to see her. Why would he do that to a child he claims to love? First, take her away from her parents and then cut her off from them? What must Veronica have thought, and been too young to express? And why do we think biology trumps everything?

This whole case upsets me enormously. I can't see a good solution. I can't tell you what would be best for Veronica now. I just feel so sad for her.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Mood swings

It seems I picked a really good time of year to become mostly a vegan. Summer fruit is coming in, the farmer's markets are opening, and salad is literally popping out of the ground. So far, I'm enjoying being mostly vegan. We'll see what happens.

I've also been having an easier time exercising lately. The pool is open, the weather is nice for taking Wonderdog on walks, and Boo wants me to spend my afternoons playing frisbee with her.

And all this healthy eating and activity is working--at my doctor's appointment on Friday I discovered that I've lost 5 pounds. At first, this was a nice surprise. I haven't noticed any differences in the way my clothes fit or the way my body feels (weight-wise.  I do feel pretty healthy since starting the new diet.) So I was expecting my weight to be about the same as it was the last time I was weighed, which was in March, or maybe a little more.

But then I started feeling resentful, and that surprised me. Shouldn't I feel vindicated? Since that doctor's appointment in March, I've been trying to eat more vegetables and to move more. In the month of May, I definitely started moving more and for the past week I've been mostly vegan. So shouldn't I feel vindicated? My plan is working!

Nope. I was pissed. Part of me doesn't want eating less and moving more to work. I guess if it didn't, then I could go back to eating more and lying around with a clear conscience. After all, if I can't do anything about my health, then I needn't try, right? Alas, this IS something I can control and so I'll have to keep at it.

Remember, though, this was Friday. Since then, I've been working at this VB6 diet. We did some shopping over the weekend and bought more fruits and veggies and more silken tofu. This morning I stopped at the market on the way to work and bought some grape tomatoes and a whole lot of nuts to keep in my office. I'll finish the tomatoes this week, and the nuts should last me at least through the summer. I actually enjoyed snacking all day on fruit and tomatoes today, and when I got a bit peckish in the afternoon, I had a handful of walnuts and then I felt fine.

I think this diet will be fairly easy to stick to for the rest of the growing season. The winter will be harder, but I can worry about that then. For now, I'm in veggie heaven.

Monday, June 3, 2013


A friend of mine just made a forced adoption joke. This friend is an improv actor who frequently uses Twitter and Facebook as a way to throw out random thoughts he has to test reaction, and the joke was a completely unrealistic one about talking ducks. I'm not going to hold this against him, but it did annoy me.

There's a lot of crap about adoption in our culture--baggage about wicked stepmothers, stories about adopted kids whose "real" heritage comes to light in adulthood, and the general idea that biological parents are always better than adopted parents.

I'm not suggesting for a minute that children should routinely be taken from their birth parents, and I've learned a lot since meeting Boo about how much of a child's personality is innate from birth. But it's also a fact that all this baggage in our culture is damaging for adopted kids. It's not good for a kid to grow up believing that her family is somehow second best, that her parents would have preferred to raise another kid instead of her, or that her biological family rejected her. It's also not healthy to live your whole life thinking that there's somewhere out there where you would fit in perfectly and everything that confuses you about yourself would suddenly make sense if you could only meet those people you were tragically separated from when you were too young to do anything about it.

Adoption happens for so many reasons. Any reason you can imagine that birth parents (and extended families) couldn't raise a child has happened, from death to youth to mental illness, and many, many scenarios exist that you or I have not imagined. Each case is complex. One doesn't place a child for adoption lightly. Adopted children wonder about this ALL THE TIME. It's one of those questions that can hover under the surface your whole life, becoming more important at times and less important at others, but always there. Most adoptive parents these days will share what details they have with their children (hopefully in age-appropriate ways and doses) and many adoptive children in America know their birth parents and can ask questions. But in many other cases we just don't know and will probably never know why our children were placed for adoption.

Because of that, the idea that a child could be forcibly taken from a parent and placed for adoption is terrifying to adopted kids, and to adopted parents, for that matter. I would hate to think that I was complicit in a crime like that. What kind of sick people would knowingly adopt a child under those circumstances?

As I think about it, I think that it would be even more terrifying for Boo to think that she could be taken from us. After all, we're the only parents she remembers. This is the only real home she's ever had, and our extended family is the only family she has ever gotten to know. I guess this means forced adoption jokes just aren't funny because they terrify all children, adopted or not.

Before you go to drop that next adoption joke, to refer to someone's "real parents" or the way you love your friend so much she's really your "adopted sister," or joke about your parents treating you badly because you must be adopted, think about the ideas you're spreading. Families are made by love and by law. Biology is important, but it isn't what makes you a good parent, and it isn't what makes you love your relatives. Boo is just as stuck with me and Hopper as she would be if she was born to us. Her adolescence will be confusing because adolescence is confusing, not because she was separated from her birth family.

Let's just get over this crap, okay?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Impossible: An Essay About Women's Clothing

Here's something men and children just don't understand about women.

Clothes are impossible.

I'm not just talking about the lack of pockets. And you do have to remember that women's clothing is entirely unreliable in the matter of pockets. True, many women enjoy or even love purses--the fashion of them, shopping for them, wearing them as an accessory--but it is also true that we cannot rely on our clothes to carry necessities such as our wallet and keys. It took Hopper a while to understand this, and he was for a long time frustrated with me for never being able to find my keys. They were always in a different work bag (which is exacerbated, in my case, by the fact that I have multiple part-time jobs and need several different work bags) and finally one day he blew up at me.

"Where do you keep your keys?" I shot back.

"In my pocket!"

"Well, as soon as women's fashion reliably makes pockets in my pants, I'll do that, too!"

Since then, he's been much more tolerant of my key-locating tribulations.

Then there's sizing. Now, Hopper has had some sizing issues since I've known him because he lost a lot of weight. After that, he had to get measured by a salesman to find out what size he was. Get that, ladies? He got measured, and then knew what size he was! That's all it took!

Ladies' clothes are sold not by measurement, but by numbered sizes. Aside from the fact that the sizes increase numerically, so that a size 10 is in fact larger than a size 4, they make no sense at all. There is absolutely no consistency in size from one brand to another. None. There is also variability in shape--women can have generous hips, or generous bosoms, or both, or neither, or be pear-shaped or apple-shaped and so on and so on. Some designers take some of these things into account in their larger sizes, others don't, and finding a designer whose clothes fit and flatter you is an enormous challenge. Some designers don't even have consistent sizing in their factories so that one size 8 dress is different from another size 8 dress of the exact same size and color.

The sizes also change over time. When I was dangerously thin in college, I wore a size 4. When I got married I was about a size six, I think, and I tried on a vintage dress in size 12 that fit me perfectly. The very thin (but not dangerously) grad students I work with tell me that they wear a size 0. Zero. That's a size. Zero. How can a person be zero? In any case, the sizes have been steadily getting larger so that a size 12 was once rather small and is now close to average (the average American woman is, I believe, a 14) and they have to come up with ever-smaller numbers to describe the thin. I'm not sure where they're going to go now that zero is a size, but that's not my problem.

You'll notice I've only been using even numbers. That's because ladies' clothes are sold only in even sizes. The odd sizes are used for Juniors. That's clothes for teens, basically. The fashions are different and those sizes are different, too--usually less generous in the hips and bosom, because all teens are shaped like that, evidently. I was able to shop in Juniors until I was about 30, but now I just feel silly in most of those clothes, and they're less likely to fit me.

And then there is the fact that our bodies change. We don't just get larger as we get older, which is typical of men, too. Every woman I know has a range of sizes in her closet. It's hard to know from one summer to the next which set of clothes will fit, and that's without taking changing fashions into account. Additionally, as we go through our cycles, we get larger and smaller, so the trousers that fit one week might be too tight or too lose the next. (That's not taking into account the cycle our jeans go through from first wearing to second wearing and back through the wash to shrink and become tight again.)

I'm not even going to get into alternate sizing, but there is Petite (for short women) and Woman (for larger women) and of course Maternity, which is self-explanitory.

So, guys, the next time you're sitting there outside the fitting room waiting for your gal while she tries on clothes and you're wondering why it takes her so long to shop when you just cruise into the Men's section and grab some shirts and trousers in your size and head home, now you know. Women's clothes are impossible. IM. POSS. IBLE.