29 June 2006

a milestone of sorts

Today, for the first time ever, James made his own lunch. All I had to do for him was get the peanut butter out of the cupboard, and take the lids off of the peanut butter and jelly jars. He made the sandwich, he cut it in half, he popped open his own yogurt, and history was made, at least in his short life.

I know this is not a big deal, objectively. A kid makes a sandwich; so what? My mom tells me that I was making my own sandwiches at four, so I shouldn't be surprised. And I'm not surprised, really. And I'm not really going to miss making sandwiches for him. But it's that bittersweet idea of growing up, of giving your child more freedom and responsibility. I guess it's not so much the sandwich-making as what it represents: another small step away from being a little boy, and a step toward his own eventual independence.

I'm too sentimental. In other news, June photos are posted over at the Yahoo site. (Most of them have been posted here, but there are a few extras there.)


28 June 2006

misplaced priorities

This morning, I read that House Republicans are developing an agenda to vote on "priority issues" this summer. What do you suppose those priorities are? The costly war that is dragging on and on? Global warming? Alternative, renewable energy sources? The millions of children without health insurance? Here's a surprise: the issues I (and many other Americans) consider priorities are not in line with the GOP.*

No, the "American Values Agenda" tackles the really important issues, such as gay marriage, protecting the Pledge of Allegiance from "activist judges", prohibiting "human" (ie, stem cell) cloning, and protecting certain right of gun owners. According to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert:

"The American Values Agenda will defend America's founding principles. Through this agenda, we will work to protect the faith of our people, the sanctity of life and freedoms outlined by our founding fathers. Radical courts have attempted to gut our religious freedom and redefine the value system on which America was built. We hope to restore some of those basic values through passing this legislative agenda and renewing our country's commitment to faith, freedom and life."

Well, thank goodness. Don't let the inconsistencies get to you though -- like, for instance, that the "sanctity of life" applies more to embryos than to actually living people with diseases that stem-cell research could potentially help cure. Or that an agenda ostensibly working toward freedom seeks to deny certain Americans the freedom to marry. (Speaking of protecting freedoms, I wonder if Mr Hastert is a member of the ACLU? Something tells me... no.) The value system used by the founding fathers is still good enough for us -- surely we haven't learned anything in 230 years that might prompt us to update it!

The idea of prioritizing has been on my mind lately, particularly when it comes to the environment. My book club is about to begin reading Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, and one of our members sent us a link to a review of the book. Now, I'm sure I'll better be able to comment on this once I've actually read the book, but this blurb from the review is interesting:

"He identifies five factors that contribute to collapse: climate change, hostile neighbors, trade partners (that is, alternative sources of essential goods), environmental problems, and, finally, a society's response to its environmental
problems. The first four may or may not prove significant in each society's demise, Diamond claims, but the fifth always does. The salient point, of course, is that a society's response to environmental problems is completely within its control, which is not always true of the other factors. In other words, as his subtitle puts it, a society can "choose to fail.""

On top of this, I've just finished reading Scott Weidensaul's Return to Wild America, which talks largely about ecology, and wildlife preservation and management, but also looks critically at a few of the Bush administration's environmental policies, including those related to water distribution (diverting water sources away from ecosystems dependent on that water, for agricultural use), fire management, and logging, among other things. To one one's great surprise, I'm sure, the Bush adminstration has a history of favoring humans over wildlife and the environment; the policies described in the book are misguided at best, and downright destructive, in environmental terms, at worst. Add to this that the administration and Republicans in general still have their heads in the sand about global warming, and it's not a pretty picture. The environmental policies of the Bush administration, when looked at from an ecological perspective and in the context of Diamond's theory, could be seen as leading our society to its downfall.

Maybe that's a bit pessimistic of me, but the current government doesn't give me much cause for optimism when it comes to preserving the planet. I do hold out hope that things will change in the near future -- maybe there will be a political turn-around for environmentalism after the elections this fall; maybe Al Gore's movie will change some minds, if anyone actually sees it. I don't believe that things necessarily have to get worse before they get better. And I think I have to be hopeful, for my kids' sake. They're also the reason I need to be pro-active. This planet is the home we're leaving to the next generation, and all the generations that follow.

So when the Republicans get up in arms about gay marriage, or Internet gambling, or the Pledge of Allegiance, I do get discouraged. I understand the worry about the moral state of society -- I may disagree, but I do understand -- but I think that these things are secondary to preserving a healthy environment in which to have a society in the first place. If we can't properly manage our land and our resources, the eventual competition over these things will accelerate the decline of traditional morality in some ways, I think. I think it's likely that we'll wipe out the human race before we destroy the planet, but I would love for the two of us to peacefully coexist for quite a while longer.

*To be fair, I do think a few of their proposals are sensible -- the regulations on Internet gambling, ensuring the freedom to fly the American flag, and prohibiting the government from confiscating legal guns during a national emergency. I just don't think that any of these issues are "priorities" by any stretch of the imagination.


why i both love and hate this job

Hate: I was just treated to a screamed "I hate you!!!", followed by a stomping retreat to the bedroom, where James continues to stomp on the floor. What did I do to deserve this? Well, I foolishly spread the jelly over the wrong half of his sandwich. Why aren't there parenting lessons for incompetent morons like me?



27 June 2006

brotherly love

Tonight we were listening to the band James, and our son James got confused with the same-name bit. I told him that lots of people were named James, and so our clever son decided to change his first name. When you're four years old and share a name with many other people, apparently the logical step is to rename yourself Clone.

And since James was getting a new name, he chose one for Evan, too: Loser. Sweet kid, huh?



Evan has finally learned every parent's least favorite word: NO! He's understood the word for a while now (without choosing to obey it, naturally), but now he's moved on to saying it himself. I think our friend Jaime is to thank (blame?) for this, as she spent quite a while practicing "no" with him at the wedding this weekend. Right now it's at a cute stage: a spoken "no" along with the head shaking and a mischievous little grin, but I know from experience that it's only a matter of time until No becomes much more serious, loud, and defiant. Let's hope Evan takes a long time to move onto that stage.


26 June 2006

weekend photos and a video

We had a good weekend -- lots of traveling, but also lots of time spent with family and friends. A few highlights:

James at the Burlington waterfront

James loved the disposable cameras on each table at the wedding reception

James and Evan hugging

James jumping around like a crazy child

And the video, of our adorable son dancing his heart out at the wedding reception -- he was the hit of the dance floor that night. Unfortunately the video is kind of dark and not great quality, but I think you'll get the idea:


22 June 2006

on the road again

So tonight, we are off to Vermont by way of Ilion. And for this weekend's long car trip, we are bringing the kids, which I expect to be a rather disastrous experience. James is easy, and used to riding in the car, but Evan is a bit less predictable. Evan also has a good ear-splitting shriek. So I'm a little worried. Hopefully he'll sleep a lot, and be content with snacks and toy cars. But with a needy, shrieky baby, you never can tell. Wish us luck.

We'll be going to another wedding this weekend, but probably having considerably less fun than last weekend, thanks to having the kiddos. I mean, kids are obviously fun in their own way, but we haven't yet done a wedding with them. Well, James has been to one wedding, a couple of summers ago, but there we had a set of grandparents as well as an aunt to help keep him entertained and supervised. So we'll see how this goes. And this is actually our last wedding until next year, so even if it goes badly we won't have to do it again anytime soon.

Hmmm... it sounds like I'm complaining there, which I really don't mean to do, because I am looking forward to the weekend. But I'm trying to have realistic expectations -- with children, you learn to expect the worst, and then you're often pleasantly surprised. Hopefully this will be one of those occasions.


21 June 2006

here's your "awwww" moment for today

Evan has learned how to hug:


19 June 2006

there's nothing like a weekend away from the kids

This weekend, for the first time since before Evan was born, Greg and I ditched the kids for a weekend away. We went with some of our friends to the wedding of some of our other friends on Long Island, and it was really only an overnight -- we got there Saturday afternoon and left early Sunday afternoon -- but that was more than enough time to cram in a healthy amount of fun, and even a little craziness.

The wedding was lovely, and it was nice to see so many of our college friends in one place, but for me the best part was really that lack of parental responsibility. I felt years younger for a night -- which is to say that I actually felt 24 for once, instead of the 30 or sometimes 40 I usually feel. And spending some carefree, uninterrupted time with Greg was really wonderful too -- we got to hang out with each other, and actually have complete conversations! Amazing. There was lots of food, drink, and dancing, and good time spent with good friends. And no diapers, no crying or screaming, no whining, no nose-wiping or being climbed on. Relaxing.

Of course, it was nice to get back to my mom's and see the kiddos again. They had a great time with Grandma, but they missed us a lot too -- particularly Evan, who hates being away from us even for an hour or two -- so we did have a nice reunion. Greg had to leave early this morning for a two-day trip to Delaware and Maryland, so I've quickly gone from childfree to single parent, but I'm feeling so satisfied after the weekend that I don't even mind Greg being away for a couple of days -- though it's pouring rain and thunderstorms today, so I may change my mind about that before too long.


13 June 2006

i thought summer was supposed to be relaxing

Things have been too busy for much blogging lately, I'm afraid. Instead of the warm, sunny, lazy June days we should be having right about now, we've had cool, breezy, October-ish weather (today is the first day in almost a week that we've seen the sun for any meaningful length of time) and no time to relax.

Greg was away for most of last week, and my mom was here for some of that time. With Grandma, we went to the zoo, went shopping, went out to dinner, and went to frisbee games. Because our frisbee league started last week, overlapping with the end of Greg's spring season, and the injuries have already begun: Greg landed on his shoulder during a dive and is very sore now, and I've got shin splints from trying to run again after so many months without physical activity. James' preschool year ended last week, with a flurry of school-cleaning, special projects, last good-byes, and the end-of-year picnic, which we ended up missing because James was sick, we think due to exhaustion. Greg and I are supposed to start training this week for our community job, and I'm trying to figure out how to find a babysitter for the boys when I still don't know when they training will be. The next two weekends we are traveling to Long Island and Vermont for weddings, throwing in some visiting with my family along the way. We've got a few doctor's apointments in the coming weeks, and one more yet to schedule, though without knowing when I'll be training, that has to be put off for now as well.

So. We're busy. But I kind of lied when I said we get no time to relax; James' pirate pics are proof that we've got some playtime. And the frisbee games are looking as though they'll be a lot of fun for all of us this summer. I'm just the kind of person who likes to have a lot of open space on the schedule, and so far we're too busy for my liking. Particularly when sore shins are making it painful to walk.


11 June 2006

pirate sunday

Meet Bravebeard (nevermind the lack of beard), the youngest pirate ever to sail the high seas. Accompanied by his pet parrot, Bravebeard sails on a cosy couch-cushion pirate ship under the traditional skull-and-crossbones flag, on a mission to steal medicine. Add in a curious, pesky little brother tagging along and we've almost got a sitcom here.


05 June 2006

a year in review

Today is Evan's first birthday. One year ago today, I was in labor with Evan at this time, probably not yet to the screaming and the uttering-every-cliche-in-the-book stage ("I can't do this anymore", "Get him out of me", "I don't want to have this baby after all", "I think I'm going to die"), but I wasn't comfortable, I'm sure. My labor lasted almost 17 hours from start to finish (and the experience of childbirth without painkillers has firmly convinced me that I'm done having biological babies), but (here comes another cliche) it was all worth it. Evan arrived at 12:41pm, and we chose a name we'd hardly been considering because it seemed to fit so much more than the others (leading contenders up to that point were Elliot and Ezra, among others I can no longer recall, and no, we weren't consciously trying to choose an "E" name, we just happened to like a lot of them).

And we have had a busy year. This is Evan one year ago:

And this is Evan a few days ago, sitting on the stairs, his new favorite place to relax:

At one year old, he is walking, climbing, and communicating. (Still not sleeping through the night, but I'm confident that will happen someday.) He uses sign language: "more" and "drink"; he says a few simple words: out, doggie, Daddy, tree, flower, banana, ball, cow (and moos, or rather, "doos"), car, shoes, down (many of these can only be understood by Greg and me, but he is consistent and intentional, so it counts); he understands much more than he can say and he can follow simple commands.

Over the year he has been steadily becoming more vocal and social, though he can be very shy, and very attached to Mom and Dad. Evan is also very persistent (he is not easily distracted when he really wants something, and along with this he can become very loud and demanding -- the kid has a great shriek), affectionate (very snuggly baby), observant (he likes watching people, particularly kids), and rather reserved. Like everyone else in this family, Evan is pretty laid-back most of the time, and loves the outdoors. He is learning to play independently, he likes music, he is starting to enjoy books more and more, and he still loves to eat -- favorite foods include, well, just about anything.

This year has come and gone so quickly. It has been amazing to watch my baby growing up. We have had our challenges, to be sure, but in retrospect they don't seem nearly as important as the accomplishments. And now it is just about time to say goodbye to babyhood, and hello to the toddler years.


03 June 2006

birthday baby

Evan's birthday isn't until Monday, but Greg is leaving tomorrow for a conference in Vancouver, and will be gone all week, so we had a small party for Evan this evening. Evan, true to form, was rather subdued, but enjoyed the cake and managed to make a good mess anyway. Thanks to our experience with a sugarless carrot cake at my niece's birthday party, we loaded the kids up with a sugary chocolate cake with chocolate and vanilla frosting. It's a pretty cute little panda, if I do say so myself.

And I know you're thinking, get to the photos already! So here they are:

The innocent panda, unaware of the fate about to befall him

Evan didn't understand the idea of blowing out the candle

A first taste of chocolate cake

First birthday cakes are as much about playing as they are about eating

Evan, quite satisfied at the end of the evening

Poor little panda's night was not quite as enjoyable -- but he's still smiling.


02 June 2006

friday photos

Evan loves being sprayed with water
James, ready for the sprinkler

James and Greg fishing

Cool baby in shades


01 June 2006

what i don't want to write about

I have been avoiding writing about this topic for a long time, despite its prevalence in the news, because I feel so very strongly and passionately about it. Some of you may remember me mentioning a detailed post I was working on, and I regret to inform you I'm not going to write that post. Are you curious what this is about?

As a liberal feminist, it's very difficult to ignore the laws and policies being enacted all over the country with regards to reproductive rights. I've been reluctant to wade into what's always a controversial topic, particularly because my views on abortion and reproductive rights are about as liberal as you can get. And it has been so depressing for me to read about the setbacks and obstacles that conservatives have been creating when it comes to not just abortion, but access to contraception and the often-misunderstood emergency contraception as well . Every time I started to research statistics and news articles to write a comprehensive post, I got discouraged and upset too quickly to really make any progress.

Luckily, someone else has done a lot of work in this area and I wanted to share an interesting link. I found this site through Pandagon, one of my favorite feminist/progressive sites. It's a little tricky to figure out and navigate, but it contains a lot of information about the status of reproductive rights in the US on a state-by-state basis, as well as gay & lesbian issues. It's pretty dismal in some places. It's also kind of astounding how much things can vary from one state to another, even when they're right next door. Take a look, if you're interested. See how your state stacks up. My lefty home state is tied for #1, which makes me happy, though there are still a few policies here that I'd love to see reversed.

With the way things are going, though, with so many states poised to challenge Roe v Wade, and anti-contraception types becoming more vocal and visible, I wonder what the state of things will be when my boys are old enough to be sexually active. In a way, I feel lucky to have sons, because I will never have to tell them that their access to medication or their right to have a legal medical procedure depends on someone else's morality. I do hope to impress upon them the importance of everyone having that kind of freedom to the medical care they desire, even if they do happen to be women.

And now I'm starting to get a little worked up, which reminds me why I like to avoid this issue in the first place. But really, check out the link above, and see where reproductive rights really stand in this country. See how easy it is to obtain contraception; see how easy it is to have an abortion; read the personal stories of real people who have been affected by these laws. It's not cheery stuff.