31 July 2006

too hot for blogging

I've been comparing our weather with the weather in the Pacific Northwest, to where we'll be travelling at the end of the week for a much-anticipated vacation, and though they're apparently having a warmer summer than usual, I don't see anything above 81 degrees for their forecast this week. Hooray! Our weather here won't be too much warmer in degrees, but the crazy humidity makes me want to melt. Hey, Mother Nature? 75% humidity, without precipitation, is not cool.

In other news, even though I feel it's too hot to blog, it's apparently not too hot for frisbee, so I'm going to spend the rest of my energy this afternoon psyching myself up to run around and sweat buckets at my game tonight. To entertain yourselves while I'm not posting anything for a while, you can check out our July photos to get your fill of adorable kid pics.


28 July 2006

friday photo

I was confused when I heard Superman mooing this morning. "Who are you, Supercow?" I asked. But once James explained it to me, it made perfect sense for Superman to be mooing: if you misremember his name -- Kal-El -- and believe that his real name is "El Cow", then of course Superman can moo.


27 July 2006

essential nutrition vs the comfort of bystanders

Via Feministe, I came across this article about readers' reactions to the image of a breastfeeding infant on the cover of a parenting magazine. The ironic headline? "Why Women Don't Nurse Longer." Well, perhaps the common perceptions of a nursing breast being gross, inappropriate, or sexual -- all adjectives used by readers complaining to the magazine -- have a little something to do with it.

Okay, before I attack this article, let me start by saying that I am about as pro-breastfeeding as you can get. I think that many women make stupid excuses for not breastfeeding, because in a lot of ways it's easier not to; I think that despite our government's stated support of breastfeeding, it does very little in the way of actually supporting it by making it easier for women to breastfeed for the recommended amount of time; I think workplaces need to be restructured -- in many ways actually, but for the purposes of this discussion, to guarantee women maternity leave for those crucial early months when breastfeeding is established, and to allow women to continue to pump breastmilk in privacy and comfort once they return to work; I think our hyper-sexualized culture gives the sexual function of breasts far too much attention, when it is the far more important nutritional function of breasts that should be emphasized, if we are serious about being a nation committed to family values.

But apparently, people are only interested in promoting family values when it doesn't conflict with their personal comfort level. Quotes from the article:

  • One mother who didn't like the cover explains she was concerned about her 13-year-old son seeing it. "I shredded it," said Gayle Ash, of Belton, Texas, in a telephone interview. "A breast is a breast — it's a sexual thing. He didn't need to see that."
  • "I'm totally supportive of it — I just don't like the flashing," she says. "I don't want my son or husband to accidentally see a breast they didn't want to see."
  • Another mother, Kelly Wheatley, wrote Babytalk to applaud the cover, precisely because, she says, it helps educate people that breasts are more than sex objects. And yet Wheatley, 40, who's still nursing her 3-year-old daughter, rarely breast-feeds in public, partly because it's more comfortable in the car, and partly because her husband is uncomfortable with other men seeing her breast.
  • "In a survey published in 2004 by the American Dietetic Association, less than half — 43 percent — of 3,719 respondents said women should have the right to breast-feed in public places."
Basically, it seems that people believe that breastfeeding is fine, as long as mother and baby stay locked up at home with the curtains drawn. Hiding nursing mothers and babies is apparently easier than explaining lactation to a teenage son, or encouraging men not to gawk at the tiny section of exposed breast that a baby's giant noggin doesn't obscure. (I think the concern for the delicate sensibilities of men and boys at the expense of a baby's right to nutrition is bizzare and fascinating.) I'm certain that these women must also be lobbying their local grocery stores to lock up issues of Cosmo or Glamour along with Playboy and Maxim because -- boobs!

Listen -- anyone who's ever been around a baby knows that babies need to eat. Because when they don't eat, babies scream and cry until they are fed. And seriously, when you're out at a restaurant, what will annoy you more about the family sitting next to you -- a mother discreetly nursing her baby, or the baby screaming and crying because it needs to be fed and its mother feels social pressure not to nurse in public? And please, please, don't bring up the bathroom alternative. Because I have nursed a baby in a public restroom, once and never again, because it was disgusting and really uncomfortable. Think how many public bathrooms you're squeamish about even peeing in -- ladies, how many times have you hovered above the seat for fear of germs and disease? -- and now imagine trying to enjoy a meal in that locale. No way.

No, the only real alternative to breastfeeding in public is to breastfeed at home, to refrain from going out in public if there's a chance your baby will need to eat while you're out -- which is essentially the first six months of a baby's life, or until they start on solids. And that seems to be the attitude of some of the people quoted in the article: you may nurse, as long as no one has to look at it. Which is ridiculous. If we, as a society, agree that breastfeeding is the healthiest way to feed a baby, and if we, as a society, agree that women have the right to frequent public places without restriction, then by logical extension we, as a society, should support the rights of women to provide their babies with the healthiest food possible in any place where it's legal for that woman to be. We should be actively encouraging it! Saying that breast is best without taking action to back up that assertion is hypocritical at best, and harmful to mothers and babies at worst.

You know, I feel so strongly about breastfeeding and the right to nurse in public that I've always wanted someone to challenge me while nursing in public so that I could give them an earful. Unfortunately, I've never had the chance. Maybe I've always been surrounded by tolerant people, maybe I've always been oblivious to dirty looks or whispered comments. I did have the mother of a friend of ours ask me, while pregnant with James, if I was planning to breastfeed, and when I said yes, she replied, "Gross!" Seeing as I hadn't had the baby yet, and had never breastfed, I didn't know quite how to respond. I was offended at her rudeness, but didn't think much about her negative attitude, because at that point the negativity toward breastfeeding was something I had yet to encounter. Little did I know how typical her attitude was.

I'll end with my favorite public breastfeeding experience. Last summer, we were at the state fair, and when my then-two-month-old baby needed to nurse, I found an empty bench in the building we were in and nursed him. An older woman nearby noticed me and said "Good for you!" She told me that a few minutes earlier, she'd seen an anxious mother wandering around with a crying baby, looking for a private place to nurse. We both laughed about what a silly expectation that was at a place like the state fair. THe older woman looked around and said, "Besides, we're in the dairy building. What better place could there be?"


26 July 2006

the name game

With all the weddings I've gone to this summer, I've noticed something interesting. Even the most independent, liberal women I know change their last names when I get married. I know it's a long-standing tradition, but it makes me wonder how often anyone thinks about why women change their names, or if they do so because that's just the way it's done.

I find it interesting, too, that the only women I can think of who have not changed their last names after marriage are members of my family: my sister, my cousin, my aunt. (Am I missing anyone?) If I ever marry, I won't change my name. I've had my name for almost 25 years; having an unusual last name is something of a defining characteristic when you're growing up, and so I have some attachment to it. But beyond that, in recent years I've started considering the patriarchal origins of name-changing, and I'm uncomfortable with following a tradition that has its roots in what was essentially property ownership. The male is the default; children are named with their fathers' names to assert his paternity, and women are renamed with their husbands' names to signify the transfer of property from father to husband.

I know this is not the typical mindset nowadays; most married couples don't believe that one of them owns the other. Most people don't worry about the symbolic implications of name-changing. But I think it's useful to examine where our traditions come from and why we continue to follow them.

When I had James, we gave him Greg's last name because we planned on getting married at some point, and I thought I'd change my name at that point so that we'd all have the same last name as a family. But now that I"ve changed my mind about name-changing, and possibly marriage at all, I regret just a little bit not giving my boys my last name even as a middle name. Greg and I have talked about changing all of our last names to be the same, but my last name is too long for hyphenation, and our last names don't merge well into a new name. Maybe if we ever think of something appropriate for our family, we'll change our names, but until then we're going to live with different last names. This actually has never been an issue -- it's more of a problem for people that we're not married at all -- so it doesn't bother me much to keep it this way, though I do like the idea of identifying our family with a common last name.

But I feel that I'm something of an oddity for thinking so deeply about it. Most women change their names without stressing over it. Has the naming tradition evolved over the years along with the purpose of marriage and the roles of the spouses? Or is our culture holding on to a remnant of a more oppressive time simply because there's been no reason to change? I'm interested to hear others' thoughts on this; particularly if this is something you find worthy of consideration; if you think I'm making too much out of it; if you've had similar thoughts; if you think the typical woman considers this issue. Thoughts?

**Edit: I should clarify (because I wrote this really hastily earlier) that just because I find the origins of the name-changing tradition distasteful doesn't mean that I'm criticizing anyone who does choose to change her name. I realize that many people probably don't find the origins relevant today, and that people have their own reasons for changing their names. I think people should do whatever they want to do -- but I like to ask why we do what we do, as individuals, as human beings, as a society.


25 July 2006

becoming a connoisseur

I haven't had much time for blogging because I'm trying deperately to read as much as I can of Collapse for my book club meeting next week. It's a really interesting book, if a bit dry and slow at parts. I'm not hoping to finish it before the meeting -- I'm only about 150 pages into a book of 500+ pages -- but I'd like to make it maybe halfway through so I have something to add to the discussion.

But I did take a break from reading this weekend to go on my first-ever wine tour! It was a friend's birthday, so her boyfriend arranged for a van to drive a large group of us down to Seneca Lake to tour some of the many, many wineries there. I've never been much of a wine drinker, but I'm determined to make myself like it at least a little, partly because of the health benefits of red wine, and partly because wine carries a certain sophistication that beer and other alcohols do not, and I've spent far too long being completely, utterly clueless about wine. So I went with an open mind and tried lots of different kinds of wine. And now I have a little bit better of an idea what I like and what I don't.

We visited six or seven wineries. My favorites -- where I had what I thought were the best wines -- were Torrey Ridge and Red Newt Cellars, though at Wagner Vineyards I had one of the best ice cream cones I've ever tasted: amaretto cream sherry swirled with chocolate. Yum. At Torry Ridge I bought the one and only bottle of wine I purchased that day -- Summer Delight, a sweet, scrumptious wine that is described as tasting just like strawberry rhubarb pie. It is indeed strawberrilicious.

An all day wine tour was, I think, a bit long for my taste, but I'm glad I got to go and experience some of what the Finger Lakes are famous for, and expand my own tastes at the same time. The Finger Lakes area is such a beautiful setting for sampling wines on a perfect summer day. So even though I'm now behind in my reading, it was very much worth it.


17 July 2006

weekend photos

We've mostly cleaned up from the weekend flooding, but we're using it as an opportunity to re-organize the basement, so we have a lot of work yet to do. But I'm taking a break to upload some photos, so enjoy:

James, ready to swim

James swimming

(the beach wouldn't allow his bubble, so we borrowed a lifejacket)

Evan, splashing at the edge of the lake

James, after swimming

Evan in the bath after a long day at the beach


welcome home

We had a nice welcome home last night -- we came in to find that there had been some plumbing or pipe problems, or something, in the basement while we were away, and lots of water leakage ensued. So after putting the kids to bed, Greg and I spent almost three hours carting everything out of the basement, except for the couch, the washer and the dryer. We brought things outside to dry, found temporary storage for things that miraculously managed not to get wet, and removed three of our four area rugs, which were totally soaked and stained with moldy-smelling water.

Today we will be cleaning the basement from top to bottom -- mopping, scrubbing, drying, vacuuming. Then we need to return everything to its original place in the basement, after washing lots of things, particularly toys, that sat around in the nasty water. We have a ton of laundry to do -- all of the laundry that was already waiting to be washed in the basement, plus things that were stored and got soaked. We will need to go shopping, to invest in lots of plastic storage containers and shelving. Let me tell you, relying on cardboard boxes for storing toys and clothes is a baaaaad idea.

So much work to do... and we have to find out whether management will compensate us for anything that was ruined, since the issue was their fault. But I'm not holding my breath. And here I had all of these adorable photos from the weekend to post, but that will have to wait until all of this stupid annoying garbage is taken care of.


14 July 2006

friday photos, atkins for babies, and cool science news

I've got several unrelated things on my mind today, so they're all getting lumped into one hodgepodge post. We'll be away for the weekend -- attending a family reunion tomorrow -- so I've got to get all my blogging in today before I leave.

First, the photos. We went to the new, improved Strong Museum yesterday and it was fabulous. As you'll see, the boys had a lot of fun there (well, James did anyway; Evan spent a lot of time wanting to be carried, since it was nearing naptime):

Brave Sir James

Sherlock James searching for clues

James the frightening dragon

James playing a giant electronic harp

Evan on a giant chessboard

Speaking of Evan, we are having issues lately. Who knew a thirteen-month-old had so much potential to drive his parents crazy? We're getting a lot of temper tantrums lately; now that he knows how to say "no", he uses it -- or should I say, screams it -- at almost every opportunity. Also, he has apparently decided to go on the Atkins diet without consulting us, because he has mostly stopped eating carbs. He'd be quite happy on a diet of meat and fruit, with some peas (far and away his favorite vegetable) thrown in. The only carbs he eats willingly are croutons and potatoes, sometimes a bagel. Oh, the kid would probably live on potatoes if I let him, but that's not exactly practical. So we are struggling a bit.

And now for something completely different. Yesterday I came across this article about one of the coolest archaeological finds I've ever read about: Fanged kangaroos? Tree-climbing crocodiles? Marsupial lions? A "demon duck of doom"?! I always knew Australia was cool, but this goes beyond my wildest imaginings, vaulting Austrlia from cool to totally bad-ass and amazing.


13 July 2006

dinner and a movie*

To steal an idea from Kim, tonight I'm presenting you with dinner and a movie -- or, more precisely, a recipe (which is not really dinner) and a recommendation (which is not very current), though that doesn't have the same ring to it.

We went to a salsa party for dinner tonight -- everyone brought a bowl of homemade salsa and a bag of tortilla chips to share. It actually turned out to be a contest as well, and mine didn't win, but I still thought it was pretty tasty. I kind of improvised, since I didn't decide until almost the last minute that we'd go, and I didn't have exactly the right ingredients for any recipe I could find, but it turned out nicely. Also, it's simple, quick, healthy, and yummy. What more do you need?


Peach Salsa

3 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and diced
1-1/2 red peppers, seeded and chopped
onion (perhaps 1/4 cup? I didn't measure it), chopped
approx. 1 tsp dried cilantro (didn't measure this either)
dash garlic powder
1/2 of a lime

Combine peaches, peppers and onion; sprinkle with cilantro and garlic; squeeze lime juice over all; mix and chill. (I didn't have time to chill it, but I imagine it'd be even better once the flavors have had a chance to mingle for a while.) Serve with tortilla chips.

The movie is one I saw a few years ago, but I was reminded of it recently after my last gender posts. It's a French film called Ma Vie en Rose (My Life in Pink), and it's about a seven-year-old boy who wants to be a girl. He dresses up in girls' clothes, he wants to marry his male friend, he wants to be a woman when he grows up. It's been a few years, so I'm fuzzy on the details, but this is a really touching film about a young boy's gender explorations and the reactions of his family, his peers, and his neighbors to his behavior. Sad, sweet, and lovely. I also remember it being very beautiful visually, too. Strongly recommended.
*This post has me singing Phish's "Dinner and a Movie" in my head. Good stuff.


it is far too early to be discussing my son's sexual orientation

I had an interesting anonymous comment on my gender-bending post that I thought I'd address in an entirely new post. Anonymous says:

Not many women would be attracted to a man who wears "dingdongs" in his ponytail on tht top of his head, while wearing red nail polish on his fingers...and toes that are sticking out from under his skirt.
Your post regarding your son may be proof to what many say that being gay is not a choice. It is thought that people are gay at birth, no choice. Reading your post, I have to wonder if it will be his, or yours.

I've got a few things to say in response, in no particular order:
  • The implication that a desire to wear a ponytail or nailpolish or a skirt is equivalent to being gay is a little odd. I've known boys and girls of both sexual orientations who have worn all of those, or none. Appearance is not a reliable indicator of sexual orientation.
  • My son is four years old. Four-year-olds of both genders like to play dress-up, and to emulate their parents. Do you still look the way you did at age four? To assume that because he likes nail polish now means that he will do so throughout his adult life is pretty silly. I'm not still wearing jellies, and it's not because I'm afraid men won't be attracted to me if I do; it's because my tastes have changed over the last twenty years. Imagine that.
  • Even if my son does choose to wear skirts when he's a man, so what? Any woman (or man) who will dismiss him out of hand based on appearance alone is probably not worth my son's time anyway. I'd much prefer -- and hopefully, he will too -- that he dates and/or marries people who respect his choices and value him for his personality, intellect, character, and all of the wonderful qualities he possesses.
  • My post about my son is a personal anecdote, which is never "proof" of anything, particularly in a scientific sense. Also, I'm unclear as to what you're saying at the end, anonymous commenter. You wonder if what will be his or mine? His "choice" of sexual orientation, which you previously said may not be a choice?

I have wondered about whether my sons are/will be gay or straight -- not because my older son wants a skirt or because my younger son likes baby dolls, but out of a curiosity about their futures in general. "Will my son be gay?" ranks right up there in my mind with "Will my son play the piano?" Even if it is a choice, then it's his life and his choice to make. I don't consider homosexuality any less valid than heterosexuality, so I don't care whether he ends up loving men, women, both or neither. Whatever my adult son chooses to do with other consenting adults is really none of my business.

Also, on the matter of choice, the latest research leans against it:

"Birth order may steer some men toward homosexuality in a process that perhaps begins before birth. A new study finds that homosexuality grows more likely with the greater number of biological older brothers—those sharing both father and mother—that a male has. [...] It's possible that succeeding pregnancies with male fetuses trigger a maternal immune response. A mother's immune system may treat male fetuses as foreign bodies, attacking them with antibodies that alter sex-related brain development"

So with James being the oldest son, it's less likely that he's gay, but not impossible. If it's true that something in a pregnant mother causes a son to be born gay, then my work is done. It's decided. But regardless of the causes of homosexuality, regardless of my son's behavior, he is four years old. At four years old he is not homosexual, he is not heterosexual, he is not bisexual, because he is not sexual at all. He is a child. Anonymous seems to be more interested in my son's sexuality than his happiness, while I am far more concerned with his happiness than with what his sexual orientation may turn out to be and how that happens.


12 July 2006

rain rain, go away

Dear Mother Nature,

Enough with the rain already! Four hours might have been tolerable. Eight hours is moving into ridiculous territory. But twelve hours and counting? It's insane. Did we do something here in western NY to offend you, to make you want to punish us so badly with never-ending rain?

Ordinarily, a little rain wouldn't bother me, but here's the thing: the gutters are leaking over my back garden, and this is causing the well around my basement window to fill at an alarming rate, and once the water level hits the vent at the top of the window, it starts leaking into the basement. And so I am forced to venture out into the rain at regular intervals to stand in the increasingly mucky and flooded garden with a bucket, to bail out the well and prevent basement leakage.

What's the best part? The frogs! The idiotic, moronic frogs (or toads; I don't know the difference) who stumble into the window wells and are trapped in the rising water. So far I've saved two live frogs and fished out one dead frog. There's another who dives under the water every time I get near with the bucket, so I'm assuming I'll be removing his dead little body before long too.

So, thanks, Mother Nature, for giving me the honorable opportunity to rescue frogs -- I'm sure I"m a hero to them by now -- but it's really quite unnecessary to go on any longer. You've made your point.

Love, Heidi


11 July 2006

i have a weird kid

James, describing the taste of his jelly beans, announces flavors such as (in order of increasing weirdness) cherry, meat, grass, a heart, a hippoptamus, and November. When asked how he knew what a hippopotamus tastes like, James informed me that he and Greg have been fishing for hippopotamuses. I wasn't aware they'd been to Africa.


10 July 2006

weekend photos

On Saturday, we went berry picking at Brown's Berry Patch, which, in addition to pick-your-own berries, has a playground, some farm animals, and a store with delicious, delicious ice cream. Some photos:

Evan snacking in the strawberry fields

James climbing at the playground

Evan is in love with animals of all kinds

James, after removal of the ponytail

Who needs dinner when you've got toes?

Some other notes from the weekend:

  • Evan is crazy about blueberries (so is James, for that matter), and while Greg and James and I were picking, he figured out that if he stood on the wagon, he could pick his own. I'm not sure he got many ripe ones that way, but once he figured out how to get his own, it was nearly impossible to get him to sit again.
  • We came home with over 11 pounds of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and cherries. Some of it went in the freezer, but I'd estimate we still have at least seven pounds to eat. Now that's a lot of fruit.
  • Greg and James went fishing for something like five hours on Sunday, and didn't catch any fish for dinner. Hmph. While they were out, I introduced Evan to Mr Potato-head, who he quite likes, and we leafed through a photo book of animals we have, which delighted Evan -- he's so into animals lately.
  • James finally decided to have his hair cut, because he was tired of hair in his eyes. He wanted to go totally bald, but Greg and I thought that was a bit much, so he's got a buzz cut, just like last summer. Shortly after cutting his hair, we were watching the Wimbledon finals, and James expressed surprise upon seeing Rafael Nadal's long hair, wondering at the fact that it wasn't in his eyes. I had tried to tell him before we cut it that we could have combed his hair out of his eyes, too (I rather liked the long hair), but I guess he had to see it to believe it.

And that's the weekend update.


08 July 2006

book recommendations

This week I read two novels, which is something I haven't done in a long time. First, I hardly have time to read that much anymore, though summer is nice, because sometimes all you can do in the too-hot heat is lie around and read for a while. Second, I've been reading so much non-fiction lately that I haven't really been interested in fiction for a long time. So taking the time to dive into a couple of novels was really nice.

I read Song of Solomon first; I haven't read much of Toni Morrison's work, but what I've read, I've really enjoyed. Her prose, her language, is beautifully written, and the story was moving. The second book was White Oleander, by Janet Fitch; also a moving book, in a different way.

What I didn't realize before choosing these books was how similar they'd be. They're very different, in writing style, in setting, in plot, in characterization. But the central theme to both novels is of a character figuring out who to be beneath the shadow of his or her family and past. That both main characters were children strongly affected by their parents gave me cause for reflection as well.

I'm not very good at briefly re-capping plotlines, so I'll just say that if you like well-written, compelling novels with interesting characters and moving plots, and if you don't mind a little (or a lot of) sadness along the way, check out these books. Also, interestingly enough, both books have been chosen for Oprah's Book Club, so if that sort of thing matters to you, well, there you go. That's not why I chose them, but to me it's a good sign anyway. I won't read a book simply because Oprah said so, but I've found that the books she chooses are typically very, very good; wonderful, even.

Also, on the kid front, James has been obsessed with Dr. Seuss's The Lorax lately. I've read it to him several times over the last few days (every time we finish it, he immediately asks me to read it again) and he loves it so much he's even attempted to read it himself, which, for a book of its size (72 pages, according to Amazon), and his reading level and attention span, is pretty impressive. It's a nice little environmental tale, with all the charm of any Dr. Seuss. I remember loving it as a kid, too, so it's no surprise to me that James loves it so much.

Any books to recommend, for adults or kids?* We read just about anything around here.
*I love asking questions on my blog, because no one ever answers them. Don't worry, I like talking to myself. Don't think that just because you're reading this, that I'm talking to you.


07 July 2006


Having sons has taught me a lot about other people's ideas of gender roles and expectations. That we are raising James without strict gender roles seems to be confusing for a lot of people, and I think it's interesting to look at the reactions various people have to the appearance James chooses.

Any of you who've been reading this blog for a while are familiar with James' ponytail, which he wears pretty rarely now. Adults tend to think his ponytail is funny, but they usually take it in stride. Kids, though, particularly little girls, get a good chuckle over James' ponytail, telling him he looks like a girl. Kids have already internalized, before school age, that ponytail=girl. Even James thinks that's the norm, despite his own ponytails, and despite the fact that we know a few males with longer-than-average hair.

We had another gender incident recently, though, in which I found people's reactions quite curious. After seeing that I'd painted my toenails for one of the weddings we attended, James asked if I would paint his nails -- fingers and toes (and while he was at it, why not try on my heels, too? -- though that was not in public). So I painted his nails, and wondered what kind of reactions he would get. And to my surprise, kids, particularly little girls, don't seem to mind. In fact, several little girls have remarked that they, too, had painted nails, and compared their own to James', sort of bonding over it. Yet some adults we knew were confused. He had his nails painted for one of the weddings we went to last month, and several of our friends wanted to know why. Apparently "he wanted them painted" had not occurred to them. To some of them it was weird, I guess, that a little boy should want that at all.

So it's interesting to me that one stereotypically female trait -- a ponytail -- prompts teasing from his peers but little reaction from adults, while another stereotypically female trait -- nail-painting -- is accepted by his peers but questioned by adults. So far it's still clear to everyone that he's a boy (well, he was mistaken for a girl once while he was wearing a barrette my mom gave him to keep his hair out of his eyes, but otherwise it's clear). In behavior he's very much a typical boy -- running, shouting, climbing, sticks, stones, dirt -- but he's doing these things with painted nails and a ponytail.

One day, earlier this summer, James came home and told me that he didn't like rainbows anymore -- they're for girls. And butterflies are for girls too. "Pretty things are for girls." It kind of broke my heart a little bit. And I know that he doesn't truly believe that -- his rejection of rainbows and butterflies lasted all of ten minutes or so -- but to know that he already understands the cultural message that pretty things are for girls does make me sad, and a little angry. I mean, there's nothing inherently female about liking butterflies; it's totally arbitrary. That my son should, even for a minute, feel that he needs to deny an appreciation for pretty things in order to avoid an association with "girl things" makes me mad. That anything should be denied to my son, or discouraged, because of some arbitrary female classification, is ridiculous. I want my sons to have every opportunity, every experience they desire, and to let social pressures and standards limit their experience is, to me, unacceptable.

So my son likes to chase butterflies. He has a construction-paper rainbow hanging in his bedroom window. He wears a ponytail sometimes (though he's considering cutting his hair -- he's interested in a mohawk) and he likes to have his nails painted. Lately he's been asking me for a skirt. (At first he was confused about what a skirt was -- he made a remark that skirts don't have sleeves, to which I replied, "Well, no they don't.. do you actually know what a skirt is?" He didn't, yet once I explained and showed him some, he is still asking for one.) And I may actually get him a skirt. I'm learning to worry less about what other people will think of him, and to be more concerned with allowing James to make his own choices, to feel confident about himself, and to stand up for himself. I used to deny him things (the sparkly pink Dora the Explorer sandals he wanted a couple of years ago come to mind) to try and protect him from what I anticipated other people's reactions would be. Now I'm starting to think that it's more important to teach him to deal with other people's reactions for himself, to talk about the cultural standards that provoke those reactions and why we don't believe in the same standards.

Who made the rule that only girls can wear skirts, anyway? Ridiculous.


06 July 2006

just because

Just because I like poetry, and because it's July, I'm posting a Sylvia Plath poem that I particularly like:

Poppies in July

Little poppies, little hell flames,
Do you do no harm?

You flicker. I cannot touch you.
I put my hands among the flames. Nothing burns

And it exhausts me to watch you
Flickering like that, wrinkly and clear red, like the skin of a mouth.

A mouth just bloodied.
Little bloody skirts!

There are fumes I cannot touch.
Where are your opiates, your nauseous capsules?

If I could bleed, or sleep! -
If my mouth could marry a hurt like that!

Or your liquors seep to me, in this glass capsule,
Dulling and stilling.

But colorless. Colorless.


why i love summer

Last night we took a walk along the canal, picking the first of the ripening blackberries that grow wild along the banks. James and Greg fished (James caught the only fish of the evening) and Evan and I watched ducks.

I love summer nights more than the days. I like the summer days, too -- there's a sense of freedom to summer that doesn't really exist in any other season. Today is a perfect summer day: sunny, warm, a light breeze, low humidity. The possibilities are endless on a day like today. But most days, the oppressive heat and humidity leaves me longing for relief, for the sun to set and the heat to subside. The days are hot, humid, busy. But the nights are cool and peaceful and still. We grill dinner and eat outside as the sun is setting. The picnic table is covered with foods like watermelon, potato salad, hot dogs, strawberries, green iced tea, summer beers. We eat popsicles. We watch the fireflies take over the back field after darkness sets in -- we see as many fireflies as we do stars. We fall asleep to the humming of the window fans as the cool night air drifts in.

What do you love about summer?


05 July 2006

happy (belated) 4th of july

Again, I've been too busy for blogging. Busy having fun, that is. Pouring rain all yesterday morning made us worry we wouldn't be able to do anything fun, but it eased up and dried out and we did have a nice holiday.

Here's the big news: James caught his first fish! He and Greg both caught a few, apparently (Evan and I stayed home for napping purposes), but they were too small to keep. The other major event of the day was a small barbecque we had -- we had just a few friends over, but lots and lots of food. I tried making homemade ice cream sandwiches, which were not half bad. And of course, there were fireworks. We watch the fireworks from a hill in a park overlooking the city, where we have a nice view of the city fireworks, as well as a couple of displays further north, without the noise and crowds that come with being closer to the fireworks. Both kids were up until close to eleven last night -- neither would sleep before the fireworks -- so we're having kind of a low-key day today.

Since this was the first 4th of July where James was old enough to understand some of the history behind the holiday, I had a lot of fun recalling stories and facts about the Revolutionary War and the Declaration of Independence and so on. I did have some help from a cute book we found at the library: John, Paul, George and Ben, which talks about several of the founding fathers (Hancock, Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson, as well as Paul Revere, who is not a founding father, but an interesting historical figure). The book has a nice mix of history and silliness, and James was pretty interested in hearing about the war. Sadly, my knowledge of the Revolutionary War (or any war, for that matter) is not very extensive, but I think he does have a good idea now of the basic idea of the thing.

I hope all of the Americans reading had a nice holiday as well (and for the couple of non-American readers here, well, I hope you had a nice Tuesday).