Monday, May 22, 2006

Asher's Birthday

My second born Asher Lewis Bremson is two years old today. We celebrated his birthday yesterday at Woodland Park Zoo with Grandma Judy and the Nobis and Reep families. A laid back, casual picnic and trip to the park / zoo. He was in good spirits, running around, avoiding collisions with swings and making a run for the street. His diaper leaked and flooded his jeans.We had little white bread cheese and PB+J sandwiches. Asher didn't like the black olives we bought with him in mind. We served guacamole and corn chips. Grapes and chocolate cake.

Instead of blowing out his candles he reached out to extinguish the flames with his hands. He sucked on his fingers to ease the ache. A dog tied to a bench howled next to our picnic blanket. Everyone asked if he was our dog. The family finally picked up their lonely dog and left.

We had to discipline Elliot because he stuck his hand on the cake. I sent him to the bench for a time out. Then he hid behind the bench in the shrubs. A crow drinking from a puddle of water on a rock framed the scene. Two men drinking beer out of paper bags sat on a bench nearby. Danny gave one of the men the rest of our sandwiches. He saw us later and thanked us for the food again.

Today I met a 62 year old woman whose birthday was also May 22nd. She said she had met 3 other people born on May 22nd today. She thought it must mean something, it was an auspicious sign.

Asher cried after I put him to bed for 15 minutes, he cried for daddy. He is daddy's boy lately. He asked to read the icky bug book of colors again. I moved him into elliot's bed and finished reading the 3 books we had scheduled, Yoko, and Hieronymous and his Strange Pets. I let them attempt sleeping together. Asher really didn't want to leave. I told them, "I'm coming in and Asher is going in his own bed if I hear one peep." After checking my email and eating some posole, they were still making noise, so I moved Asher to his bed. He cried for one second and fell asleep.

Elliot went to the bathroom. Then I wrangled him to bed and cuddled with him for a few minutes and he fell asleep immediately.

I can't believe Asher is two. He sat at the dinner table laughing, "It's funny." His extreme exhuberance. The space between his teeth. He looks just like his brother. He is so sweet. He hugged me so many times today and yesterday. "Hug."

My son the doctor. Or mortician?

Elliot is going on a field trip to a farm on Wednesday. I told him that as a kid, I wanted to grow up and be a farmer and live on a farm. He said, "That's hard work mom. You have to take care of all the animals, feed all the animals and shovel up hay and stuff." I said when I realized that farming would be dirty work I eventually changed my mind. My next plan was to become a house cleaner (I was an extremely ambitious child what can I say). After that I decided to become a tennis instructor. I asked elliot what he'd like to be when he grows up and he said "I'm going to be a doctor." I said do you want to be a doctor for kids? He said, "No I want to be a doctor for everyone. I like to look at the insides of bodies."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mothers + Matriotism - Cindy Sheehan

We saw Cindy Sheehan at the Sacred Activism conference Friday night and she spoke about "Matriotism" the opposite of patriotism. She is a very persuasive speaker, casual and funny in delivery but really sharp and biting. She heavily criticized the democrats for being wimps about the war, especially hillary clinton.

Matriotism balances out the militarism of patriotism. Matriotism is a "commitment to the truth and to celebrate the dignity of all life."

"A Matriot loves his/her country but does not buy into the exploitive phrase of 'My country right or wrong' ... A Matriot knows that her country can do a lot of things right, especially when the government is not involved ... However, a Matriot also knows that when her country is wrong, it can be responsible for murdering thouands upon thousands of innocent and unsuspecting humans. A true Matriot would never drop an atomic bomb or bombs filled with white phosphorous, carpet bomb cities and villages, or control drones from thousands of miles away to kill innocent men, women and children."

"A matriot would never send her child or another mother's child to fight nonsense wars ... [while] Patriots hide behind the flag and eagerly send young people to die to fill their own pocketbooks."

"I know one thing from the bottom of my heart. My son, Casey, who was an Eagle Scout and a true American patriot, was not served well by his idea of patriotism. I will never forgive myself for not trying to counteract more the false patriotism he was raised on, with a true sense of Matriotism."

"I also know that the women of the world who don't have a voice, such as the mothers of Iraq who are struggling just to survive in their needlessly destroyed country, are counting on us women who do have voices to use them to end George Bush's manifestly idiotic doctrine of preemptive wars of aggression based on the justification that "I think that country might be dangerous to me and my pals."

War will end forever when we matriots stand up and say: "No, I am not giving my child to the fake patriotism of the war machine which chews up my flesh and blood to spit out obscene profits."

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Red Man. Size Issues.

Asher woke up at 6:45, not bad. He was in a great mood. He saw Dan's glasses on the dresser and ran to give them to him (he was sleeping with elliot) but I closed the door. He started crying for Daddy. Dan and I switched places. One on one parenting seems to be all we're capable of these days.

The Red Man. Size Issues.
Elliot and I cuddled for a while. He said asher wants dad because he didn't get to sleep with him. Elliot put on asher's 2T jacket from the Gap that he's obsessed with and cried for a while when I told him it didn't fit him. The sleeves are up to his elbows. So I got the laptop and we checked out the gap online. They have the same jacket in a 5T, he said he wants it, but he wants to also wear asher's. it fits me. he begged for red water shoes we saw online. RED IS MY COLOR. I LOVE RED. I pulled out his size 13 red water shoes from the dresser and he said they're too big, I can't wear them. (they're slightly too big.) he decided to get dressed -- red shorts, red robot t-shirt, the size 10 water shoes (he can barely get them on his feet).

Asher comes in and says "Cake." A piece of bran muffin on the floor? no... at asher's feet there is a big lump of poop. His diaper has not done the job. It's on his leg, through his pants. poor guy. poor mommy.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Real. The Skin Horse. Parenting.

I was struck by the skin horse. Rubbed bare by love. His eyes dropped out. He was vulnerable and open. He didn't care how he looked. He had been loved. Real doesn't happen often to people who have "sharp edges, break easily or must be carefully kept." A catch 22. Is that fair? You must be loveable to be loved.

It might be more helpful to look at it from the perspective of parenting, your child will not become Real unless they have been loved. Parents who have sharp edges and break easily cannot cultivate Real. You must be patient, flexible, honest, open, vulnerable and resilient. Being aware of your own emotions, having the vocabulary and the empathy to understand where other people are coming from. The long process of becoming real. It's protective sharp edges that keep people apart. An interesting prescription for parenting.

I remember the cover of the velveteen rabbit from my childhood, but nothing else really. I read it at age 7 (I think) and must have struggled through the antiquated language. After reading it to elliot in one sitting and watching how it really engaged his brain, it hit the spot for him. We've read it twice now. It's good to take it in through an adult perspective.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

bagua. feng shui. remodeling saga.

So the absolute worst case scenario has happened. Our contractor walked out on us. He's near bankruptcy and has pulled off the job. He owes us an estimated 25k. We have an attorney, but it's not likely that we'll see any of that money. Boarded door, boarded windows. The junk on our desk. The clutter everywhere. We haven't been paying attention. No wonder our house is in crisis. I've decided to get serious about feng shui to help address some of our house issues. First off -- cleaning, clearing out, and organizing our stuff.

Bathroom - health + wellness - yellow
So our bathroom is the center of our home on the bagua. The health and wellness center. This position is so negative that some books recommend remodelling or never using this bathroom. The theory is that your health will go down the drain. Remedies: keep the door closed and the toilet seat down. Hang a curtain to hide the toilet. Run a fountain. Plants. Drains should be closed when not in use. Place a convex mirror outside the bathroom. Chartreusse paint.

Bedroom - wealth + prosperity - purple
This is where we need the most urgent help. Our bedroom is in an ideal spot for wealth and prosperity. Remedies: Use red and gold accents. Place our bed under the tall window so that we can see the door, but it's not at our feet. Always use pairs in a bedroom. 2 pillows side by side, 2 nightstands, 2 lamps, a pair of birds, paintings and photographs of 2 people instead of 1 or 3, candle sticks in pairs. Jade plant and lucky bamboo. A red ceramic fish. A fountain to generate prosperous activity. The snuff bottle with red fish. Gold pillows. Purple silk comforter. fish painting. Celadon paint.

Entry - career + life path- black
The entry is one our most cluttered spots. No wonder I have career issues. The entry should be clean, organized and inviting. It's in a good position. Our stairs do empty out through the front door. However the energy is delayed because the stair are set back and we can place a large piece of furniture, a crystal and a plant to move the energy. Remedies: New black entry table, frog fountain, silk orchid in a black vase, favorite inspirational painting or photograph, large mirror (not opposite the door), bench, large plant, hooks for coats, drawer for shoes. Other colors are blue and white. Light blue paint.

Office - skills + knowledge - blue
Our office is a great place for the skills and knowledge / wisdom center. Remedies: Place the desk in front the window facing the street. paint desk black. green couch. bookshelves and books. Candles, the buddha. red and gold accents. Other good colors are black and green. Light blue paint.

Living Room - helpful people + travel - silver + grey
Also in a good position, our living room should attract people who can help us. Finding the right people at the right time. People who will treat us fairly. Getting in sync. Remedies: silver box with a prayer of thanks inside it. photos of loved ones. Angel statue. Grey velvet sofa. grey curtains, metal lamps. sofa against the wall. rounded coffee table. 2 chairs. Other colors black and white. Grey / taupe paint.

Dining Room - children + creativity - white
In a good area for creativity. The table should be round or oval. A center for art projects and family. Creativity and limitless possibilities. Photos of children in metal frames. Favorite art. Art supplies. Rug under table. Large mirror. Large ficus or other standing plant. Celadon paint.

Kitchen - love + relationships - pink / red / white
Improving relationships with friends and family. Rose incense. Wind chime above stove. Large mirror. Keep tea kettle off the stove when not in use. Don't place the stove and sink directly across from each other.

Media Room - fame + reputation - red
Improving reputation. Being taken seriously. Remedies: Wood, red and green accents. Red tv cabinet. Wood bench. Grey sofa. Celedon paint.

Office / Hallway / Walk-in Closet - family - green
Photos of family in wooden frames. Grey taupe paint. Mirror.

The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children

The consequences of a sexually repressive, paternalistic, conservative society:

The problem was that all the parties were kept apart from one another, and it was a paternalistic system that told these women, "We know what's best for you."

Was there an element of social engineering at work? Were the women seen as less capable of parenting because they had already disgraced their families?

Definitely. The message from social workers was that the baby would be so much better off with an adoptive family than with the surrendering mother because she was already a screw-up -- she'd gotten pregnant, she wasn't married, so how good a mother could she be?

And if you look at the world in general, outside the U.S., it's quite clear that both sexually and politically women still do not have equal say or power. Look at the Supreme Court right now. We don't know yet what effect their decisions will have on the country, but just the imbalance of representation indicates that on some level we still value men's opinions more, or believe that men can make more rational decisions. So if nothing else, I hope that by uncovering this hidden little part of women's history, I can help build a bridge between two generations, and to show young people today the importance of having a voice, of being participants in their own lives.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Elliot Report

elliot's perfect day: I would play as long as I want to and buy as many toys as I want and eat candy all the time. I wish I was in candyland.

if I could change the world: we would live in candyland. everywhere toys would be made out of candy, walls of the house would be made out of candy even garages. Even our wallets. In candyland it never rains. the sun contracts and it shoots rays into the land.

favorite place: los angeles california because it's warm

favorite candy: skittles

best friends: jack, liam,

favorite music / songs: the beatles, yellow submarine, octopus garden

if I were an animal: I would be a cheetah because I like to run fast

if I were a superhero: I would be flash, the red guy with lightening

when I grow up:

favorite shirt: the spider man shirt with webs on the side

favorite toy: the red and white airplane

favorite shoes: black sandals

favorite book: sylvester and the magic pebble

favorite game:
these guys are cool. they live in an airplane. this is where their food is. he gets to eat food in here. these guys never eat food but they don't die.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Defending Caitlin Flanagan

When I first read Flanagan's article in the atlantic monthly in 2004 I was a stay at home mom and her opening paragraphs resonated with me.

When my twin sons were babies, we lived a block away from a day-care center, and just as I was setting out with the stroller for the first walk of the day—usually at 7:30, right after the first segment of the Today show ended—I would see mothers dropping off their children, many of whom were infants no older than mine. I'd slow down as I passed, taking an interested look at these mothers, who were always in such a rush, bogged down with diaper bags and teddy bears, and then I would walk on, headed for the park. The long, long day would begin to unfold: the walk, the end of the Today show, the morning nap, lunch, another walk, the afternoon nap, two solid hours of MSNBC (sometimes more), and then, at five or so, the last walk of the day. Often I would see the same mothers picking up the babies I'd seen dropped off ten hours before, and I would marvel at the sight. In fact, I sort of planned my day around it: it was my little treat. Think of all they've missed, I would say smugly to myself. I felt in every way superior to them: every day while they had been miles away from their babies, I'd been right there with mine, catching every little smile, writing down every advance—rolling over! eating a bit of mashed banana!—on the lined ivory pages of their baby books, importantly calling the pediatrician if anything seemed slightly awry. That so much of the day had been tedious and (truth be told) mildly depressing was itself a badge of honor. Unlike those women parking their kids in day care while they went to work, I was a mother virtuously willing to sacrifice her own happiness for the sake of her children, and being rewarded with the ultimate prize: I wasn't missing a moment of their fleeting, precious, and unrecoverable childhoods.

It was entirely snotty and rude and most of all silly for me to have this attitude toward those mothers. In the first place, the day-care center was in no way tony, nor were the cars that pulled up to it in any way luxurious; I'll bet that all those mothers worked more because of economic necessity than because of a desire for professional advancement or emotional fulfillment. More to the point, a majority of my sainted hours noting every little moue of delight or displeasure that crossed my children's faces were spent in the company of a highly capable and very industrious nanny who did all of the hard stuff. There was no need for me to be moping around the apartment all day; I really could have lightened up and had a little more fun, clicked off the TV and gone to the movies or lunch or shopping. But I felt anxious about the whole thing—very, very anxious. If I was going to stake out my turf as an "at-home mother," putting all my worldly promise in cold storage to do it, didn't I have to actually stay home? Fifty years ago a young matron lucky enough to have household help would have been up and dressed and off to the department store or the library guild or the dry cleaner's by midmorning, and no one would have questioned her inclinations as far as motherhood was concerned. But now, of course, the situation is so fraught with four decades' worth of female advance and retreat that almost any decision a woman makes about child care is liable to get her blasted by one faction or the other. Standing bravely in the crossfire are nannies, who tend to be the first choice of professional-class mothers who work (so much better than day care—the baby is still being raised in his own home, according to his mother's deeply considered specifications) and the guilty luxury of a good number of at-home mothers. And, as many of us have learned, the mother-nanny relationship has the potential for being the most morally, legally, and emotionally charged one that a middle-class woman will ever have.

I of course did not have a nanny when I was a stay at home mom, but I did have help from my in-laws several times a week and a husband who was home at 3pm. Still I felt like my choice to stay home with kids was more feminist than my friends who hired a nanny and went back to work a few months after giving birth. Some friends felt like the first year of their child's life could be handled by any caregiver. It was when they were older that their influence mattered more. Others felt like it was their feminist duty to go back to work. The more women in the workforce, the better. The more mothers in the workforce better. Mothers can influence corporate policies toward family friendly benefits.

I felt like making a compromise in terms of income and spending time at home was worth it. I felt more calm than I had in years. I was more social than I had been in years. I was getting more exercise. I was reading more. The house was cleaner and I was spending more time outdoors. My quality of life was greatly improved. Life was simple.

Flanagan clearly states that most of the kids in daycare are there because of necessity. Most working moms HAVE TO WORK in order to keep their family afloat. When she points out that when a woman works something is lost — it is taken as an indictment of working women. Yet any working mother can see the truth in such a statement: time spent working = less time with children = something lost.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Books for infants and toddlers

Asher's teacher gave us this handout regarding books that are good for infants and toddlers.

For babies look for books with:
• few words per page
• familiar, recognizable objects
• minimal story, if at all

For babies who will sit and listen, and for toddlers:
• books featuring rhyme and/or rhythm
• books based on a repeated refrain or pattern

Photographs of familiar things
Dorling Kindersley (DK) is the premier publisher of this type of book. Some of their books have too many things on one page for this age, so choose carefully. A number are board books. All are sturdy and hold up well.

Another series is the See How They Grow books, which show pictures of animals at different stages of life – the library system has a number of these.
For older toddlers, see the Eye Opener series, which focuses on a particular category of object or animal (trains, boats, small animals, etc.).
NOTE: These are great for encouraging your toddler to “read” to you!!

Pictures (drawings) of familiar things
For older toddlers, usually. Animals, tools, construction equipment, etc. You’ll have to see what style of illustration seems to hold your child’s attention. Generally, the stronger the lines and the bolder the colors, the better.
NOTE: As above, encourage your toddler to read these to you.

“Interactive” books
Lift-the-flap books: Dear Zoo, Nicky’s Noisy Night, Here Comes a Truck, etc
* You might want to keep these for “special” (i.e., only you can reach them).
Tactile books: Pat the Bunny, etc.
Pages with holes in them for turning easily: Moo, Moo, Peekaboo, etc.
Find-the _______ books: Have You Seen My Duckling? etc.
There are always new variations on these. Ask bookstore owners to show them to you.
I would suggest allowing your child free access to these (put them in a basket or on a shelf that s/he can reach; rotate them to maintain interest.

Books illustrating familiar songs
Galdone, Over in the Meadow
Paparone, Five Little Ducks

Books featuring rhyme and/or strong rhythmic patterns
For infants and younger toddlers:
Good Night, Moon
Time for Bed
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?
Mora, Listen to the Desert/Oye al Desierto (in English/Spanish)
For older toddlers:
Carlstrom, Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?
London, Fireflies, Fireflies, Light My Way
Mahy, Seventeen Kings and Forty-Two Elephants

Books involving repetition – theme and variation
For infants and younger toddlers:
Williams, More, More More! Said the Baby
Goodnight, Moon, Brown Bear, Polar Bear, and Jesse Bear books (above)
For older toddlers:
Brown, The Runaway Bunny (also a story)
Carle, Have You Seen My Cat?
some older toddlers will like Aardema’s Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain

Books involving language play
For younger toddlers on up:
Martin/Archambault, Chicka-Chicka-Boom-Boom
Degen, Jamberry
For older toddlers on up:
Pomerantz, Piggy in the Puddle
Mosel, Tikki Tikki Tembo

Simple Stories
For younger toddlers:
Berger, Grandfather Twilight
Carle, The Very Hungry Caterpillar (also interactive)
the Carl books (no text – you have to tell the story by commenting on the pictures)
Hughes, the Max books

For older toddlers and up:
Owl Babies
Mazer, Salamander Room
Trafuri, The Biggest Boy
Hughes, the Alfie books (Alfie is a great problem-solver)
Bread and Jam for Francis