Sunday, August 31, 2008

Crazy like a fox... and just crazy, too.

Well, when I woke up Friday and read the news of McCain's VP pick, I thought to myself, "Ohhhhhhhhh that's smart."

A young woman. Bam! A lot of people will be attracted to that paired with McCain. A lot of people are still yearning to vote for a woman in this election. Even I (who have wonderful online friends who are breastfeeding moms of many in Alaska, just like Palin), could perceive the attraction here.

But when I read what MoveOn had to say about Palin's incredible lack of experience and policies, I had to back away from my initial assessment. This has got to be an incredibly dumb choice. They took a risk, but it's just not the right one.

Here's what I read...

Dear MoveOn member,

Yesterday was John McCain's 72nd birthday. If elected, he'd be the oldest president ever inaugurated. And after months of slamming Barack Obama for "inexperience," here's who John McCain has chosen to be one heartbeat away from the presidency: a right-wing religious conservative with no foreign policy experience, who until recently was mayor of a town of 9,000 people.


Who is Sarah Palin? Here's some basic background:

* She was elected Alaska's governor a little over a year and a half ago. Her previous office was mayor of Wasilla, a small town outside Anchorage. She has no foreign policy experience.1
* Palin is strongly anti-choice, opposing abortion even in the case of rape or incest.2
* She supported right-wing extremist Pat Buchanan for president in 2000. 3
* Palin thinks creationism should be taught in public schools.4
* She's doesn't think humans are the cause of climate change.5
* She's solidly in line with John McCain's "Big Oil first" energy policy. She's pushed hard for more oil drilling and says renewables won't be ready for years. She also sued the Bush administration for listing polar bears as an endangered species—she was worried it would interfere with more oil drilling in Alaska.6
* How closely did John McCain vet this choice? He met Sarah Palin once at a meeting. They spoke a second time, last Sunday, when he called her about being vice-president. Then he offered her the position.7

This is information the American people need to see. Please take a moment to forward this email to your friends and family.

We also asked Alaska MoveOn members what the rest of us should know about their governor. The response was striking. Here's a sample:

She is really just a mayor from a small town outside Anchorage who has been a governor for only 1.5 years, and has ZERO national and international experience. I shudder to think that she could be the person taking that 3AM call on the White House hotline, and the one who could potentially be charged with leading the US in the volatile international scene that exists today. —Rose M., Fairbanks, AK

She is VERY, VERY conservative, and far from perfect. She's a hunter and fisherwoman, but votes against the environment again and again. She ran on ethics reform, but is currently under investigation for several charges involving hiring and firing of state officials. She has NO experience beyond Alaska. —Christine B., Denali Park, AK

As an Alaskan and a feminist, I am beyond words at this announcement. Palin is not a feminist, and she is not the reformer she claims to be. —Karen L., Anchorage, AK

Alaskans, collectively, are just as stunned as the rest of the nation. She is doing well running our State, but is totally inexperienced on the national level, and very much unequipped to run the nation, if it came to that. She is as far right as one can get, which has already been communicated on the news. In our office of thirty employees (dems, republicans, and nonpartisans), not one person feels she is ready for the V.P. position.—Sherry C., Anchorage, AK

She's vehemently anti-choice and doesn't care about protecting our natural resources, even though she has worked as a fisherman. McCain chose her to pick up the Hillary voters, but Palin is no Hillary. —Marina L., Juneau, AK

I think she's far too inexperienced to be in this position. I'm all for a woman in the White House, but not one who hasn't done anything to deserve it. There are far many other women who have worked their way up and have much more experience that would have been better choices. This is a patronizing decision on John McCain's part- and insulting to females everywhere that he would assume he'll get our vote by putting "A Woman" in that position.—Jennifer M., Anchorage, AK

So Governor Palin is a staunch anti-choice religious conservative. She's a global warming denier who shares John McCain's commitment to Big Oil. And she's dramatically inexperienced.

In picking Sarah Palin, John McCain has made the religious right very happy. And he's made a very dangerous decision for our country.

In the next few days, many Americans will be wondering what McCain's vice-presidential choice means. Please pass this information along to your friends and family.

Thanks for all you do.

–Ilyse, Noah, Justin, Karin and the rest of the team


1. "Sarah Palin," Wikipedia, Accessed August 29, 2008

2. "McCain Selects Anti-Choice Sarah Palin as Running Mate," NARAL Pro-Choice America, August 29, 2008

3. "Sarah Palin, Buchananite," The Nation, August 29, 2008

4. "'Creation science' enters the race," Anchorage Daily News, October 27, 2006

5. "Palin buys climate denial PR spin—ignores science," Huffington Post, August 29, 2008

6. "McCain VP Pick Completes Shift to Bush Energy Policy," Sierra Club, August 29, 2008

"Choice of Palin Promises Failed Energy Policies of the Past," League of Conservation Voters, August 29, 2008

"Protecting polar bears gets in way of drilling for oil, says governor," The Times of London, May 23, 2008

7 "McCain met Palin once before yesterday," MSNBC, August 29, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Edna Always Could Say It Best

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,--but the best is lost.
The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love, --
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave,
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

-- Edna St. Vincent Millay

I adore this woman. And it's stunning to think of how these are merely her fragments and phrases....

Obama Mama

Passing along a video from a certain midwife friend's blog :)

And in honor of this week's convention... (I can't help it-- I know, as I sit there reading Lies My Teacher Told Me and watching the coverage replay at the same time that most of it is phooey, but this is truly an amazing, historical breakthrough. I really want my daughter to grow up thinking it's totally normal for a black man to be president. And a woman, but that can be next, and hey, it's okay I suppose if she's the first!)

And in honor of Pop, who is doing amazing work for the campaign up in his district...

(And it's pretty cool that the man holding the baby towards the end, right after Whoopie sings "remember me" is our OB who helped me deliver Sophie!)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Many Loves

Family at the beach

We have just sent off our last house guest, Sophie's beloved Auntie M, whose visit immediately followed Nonna and Papa's. There are a million pictures up on Flickr (seriously, Nonna's pics are way back on page 9 or 10 already, and there are many gorgeous ones taken on M's great camera) featuring some fun adventures and our silly girl. Sophie keeps saying Nonna, Papa, Melissa.... altho she understands they went home. She'll then say bye-bye.

The family funny faces

Playing music

Beach day

Through the chimes


Mama and Sophie at Moonlight Beach

Goofing off with Melissa

We took our family along to play groups at the park, walks on the beach, and explorations out our front door. We also got some serious organization and errand running done. Thanks again, Mommy, for not letting me get crushed under the falling garage shelves. And for buying me new shelves.

But now all my teacher stuff is out of my living room at long last! And thanks M for helping me get the supplies for S's new toy shelves. I'll have to take pics of the amazingly clean house and garage I suppose....


Sophie has been on hyperdrive for over a week, tho, playing hard with her many loves. Hopefully she can have some calm time in the next week or two before we head up north . It'll be our first looooong driving trip so I'm hoping for the best!


Well, we continue to be impressed with Sophie's accomplishments. I get to brag here, I guess, to those adoring grandparents and aunties and cousins and etc reading, so here goes...


Sophie knows her colors. She can say the name of a color if you ask her what color something is, and she can find "the green one" for instance. She knows red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, white, black, and brown, altho black and brown we don't hear about too much I'd say.

Mermaid Sophie

She knows the numerals 1 through 10. She can't count to ten, but if you read the counting books and point to the numeral, she can tell you what it is. Today I held up fingers and she could tell me 1 through 7 that way. Her favorite number is still 6! She keeps pretending to count (pointing at a bunch of things in her counting book or buttons on my capris or whatever, and saying Twos twos mumble mumble twos...), and loves it when I hold her finger to point at each item and say the numbers as we count.


She knows pretty much the whole alphabet. She's been calling X K but I'm not sure if she's just saying it backwards (like she still says diaper pa-duh).

Off to school

She can read probably about 30 words, and we really should add more to her little word collection. Whenever we add a word she really loves, she learns it in about two tries and then can tell you what it is whenever she sees it again. Yesterday she read the word "Nonna" in the Mangia Mangia book we were reading. I asked her what it was, and she had not paid any attention to that (last) page before (she was always ready to go get another Boyton book. ((And now she can read whatever, if I write the words for her, a small as on my shopping list. I made her her own little list today at the store with cat, dog, moon, Nonna, Sophie on it. And a picture of surprised eyes, which is her favorite joke right now.))

Got my backpack!

And just now she brought her Scuola book to me that we haven't read in a week or more and said "la la la" in an asking tone, because she likes the page where the little mice are singing with their jaws all dropped.

And today at dinner David asked her out of the blue what we did yesterday (she was getting antsy and we wanted to finish eating before cleaning the copious amounts of pasta off of her) and she immediately said "Ocean, waves" and made a little gesture indicating waves washing around. I was still trying to remember what was yesterday as she did this! We kinda looked at each other, then shrugged. We have to stop being surprised I guess!

Silly girl

She also knows some shapes. She LOVES circles right now. She knows triangles. We're starting to say the names for all the other shapes in her shape sorter, and she totally calls the trapezoid "trap" now, and has enjoyed making stabs at octagon and pentagon and the like. Of course she knows star and moon and heart already. And she will point to the train tracks set up in a long ring and say oval, and she also can ID the diamond in her shape sorter.


She drew with chalk for the first time, and it was so cute as she declared all her work moon and circle. She also drew a T and looked at it, then sort of exclaimed, T! Surprise! Later we said, draw another T and she made two strokes, altho they were not put together as a T. It was cute as she accidentally made her T and discovered it. She kept asking for "moon" and "circle" and "draw" and her little neighbor friend's mom so nicely let us keep one chalk for her to use again right away.


She says on her own probably going on 300 words at this point, as she's always adding more.

Sliding with Madeleine!

Whew! So what else is she up to? She's very good about saying please and thank you, and giving kisses (or asking for them!) if she goes "bonk." She says bonk a lot right now! She is back into riding her pony and bike, and she loves the "new" toys we threw into all those new bins (my old toys from childhood-- she loves the Cabbage Patch doll!). She also loves to say "my turn." Frantically.

Talking to Mama

Her new panda bear from Nonna and Papa

She is working on crawling and climbing, and climbed a couple stairs today. We're in trouble!


She had a menu in her hands today at brunch and immediately said "wind! windy!" which Grandma was doing for her (waving the menu at her to make wind) a month ago at my birthday dinner at Buca. We actually went to that same cafe for brunch on my birthday, so maybe that triggered it. It was funny!

Pretty toddler

Lovin on her horse

Shall we drum?

Happy with her basket and bag!

Dum ditty dum

I'm going to go play with her now. Forgive the shameless, shameless bragging. I have to tell the world how impressed I am with my girl! It's my job as her mommy.

Upside down!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Alfie Kohn

Admittedly, I have a thing for nerds. But I adore Alfie Kohn!

Here's his newly expanded article lambasting the nanny reality shows on TV.

When I've caught a few minutes of these shows, they did indeed seem contrived and silly and terribly "conditional," meaning they enforce the idea that children are only worthy and loved if they do/say what their parents want. I have read about horrible incidents where the nanny encouraged the mom to halt cosleeping all of a sudden, and was okay with the child even vomiting from crying so much over that. She also apparently encouraged immediate weaning of a toddler. Right there I figure I can't trust any dang thing coming out of her mouth. But then again, why would I trust some person when I don't know anything about her credentials except she has nannied (guess what? so have a million other women! I have!) and oh yes has no children of her own.

I will admit, in a country where some parents use explicit shaming, spanking, and complete chaos as parenting strategies, the nanny shows might actually cause some extreme parents to dial it back a bit. Getting down on the child's level and connecting are good things.

But punishment and even praise are not, most of the time!

I have previously read (and reread) Kohn's well-researched parenting book Unconditional Parenting, and it is my favorite parenting book so far. It doesn't offer specific techniques or routines or tricks or anything like that, so it does force you to develop your own and talk to other kindred spirit parents to get tips, but it does this on purpose. It wants to delve into the foundations of how we parents, and look at the big picture, the long term picture. What kind of people do we want our children to be when they are children, when they are older children, when they are teens, when they are adults? And then how do we foster this?

Kohn has done his research, and the research is really clear. Punishments and rewards don't improve things like hard work, caring and empathy, intelligence, or even obedience. And he forces us to question if we really want "obedient" children anyway. I know I want a child that thinks for herself, who critically processes what anyone tells her, be it a teacher, a parent, a doctor, a commercial, an institution.... I would hope that she develop the skills to know when a source may become trusted, but as Buddah said, don't take for granted what anyone tells you, even me! And I want her to want to share and help others not because of what's in it for her (Mommy will praise me; I'll get a sticker; I'll avoid getting yelled at; I'll avoid having my toy taken away) but because she has developed a true understanding of the worth of thinking of others. Avoiding punishment is easy to swallow, but avoiding certain types of praise seems to hit more people as odd. But Kohn goes over all the research showing that when people are offered rewards, they lose interest in the task, and do more poorly, whereas if they are just engaged in a task, they tend to be more interested in continuing it for its own sake, and going further with it.

Personally, I don't like it when I hear parents at the playground saying "good boy!" or "good girl!" because, first of all, it sounds like they are talking to a dog. Just bugs me like that! But also, what is the implication? If the child did NOT do whatever it was, that he is a BAD boy? I don't like how it's a universal, holisitic label. I have slightly less trouble with "good job!" except that I think it's used WAY too much. Most things in life are fun or just life, not jobs. "Good swinging!" I hear on the playground. I don't think a kid needs encouragement to keep HAVING FUN! Also, there is that pesky research that still shows too much praise just withers a child's inherent motivation and interest.

Kohn goes so far as to say that just being more discriminate in praising is not enough; there is always that implication that praise creates: you are only worthy when you act a certain way. And that's conditional parenting. I was really drawn to what he was saying when the idea of what he meant by unconditional parenting clicked in my head with the idea of unconditional love-- the love of family, of parents, and of God. Don't I, in my imperfectness, owe my own child as much unconditional love I can offer, when God gives it to me? Shouldn't THIS, rather than behaviorism and factories (and classrooms inspired by them) and governments and etc be my model for parenting?

Kohn elaborates on his ideology for parenting, expanding on how offering true respect for children's personhood and looking at the big picture for needs being met or not can help with the journey. But I really recommend that everyone read the book. I have done a very poor job touching on a few small parts of it. It's the kind of book I could reread yearly, just to stay in touch with the ideas in it. I think Kohn's writing is intelligent and research-based but still very accessible and dabbled with humor. And, hey! There's also a DVD that's supposed to be wonderful, too, if you/your partner doesn't want to read a whole book! :)

Unconditional Parenting

Alfie Kohn's site

Thursday, August 7, 2008

August Already!

Not great at aiming at ourselves

Whew, at least I don't have to get all bummed out about going back to work on the 18th (!!!) of August like I did when I was teaching. That's too early, man. What happened to Labor Day and then school? Well, we do get a whole week for Thanksgiving, which ROCKS.

And wow, Dashing Daddy taking over "my" laptop for his new business (see: Collector's Neighborhood !!! WOW!! Don't you want to tell your friends and visit it every day and click through and leave comments and get ready for the forums and awesome tools and etc etc etc??? Yeah, I know you do!) ahem, anyway... that has sure impeded my ability to update this blog. I once again have to think of all the things I'd love to post, and then forget them all as the days pass. I will try to give an update on the wonderful girl here, in Cliff's Notes form.

She has been pretty cranky and "fragile" the past two days, although up until then I'd say (and I did, I did say to a few of you!) that she was wonderfully fun and curious and crazy and calm.... I know she is teething up a storm. One new tooth appeared last week and I know the second is coming, which will bring it to eight when it shows.

Crazy face!

She pretty much knows the alphabet. She demands that we sing the ABCs while pointing to each letter and loves her purple electronic book thingy that her (second? once-removed?) cousins Adam and Noah handed down to her. She especially has a fondness for "dough duh doo" (W) and "OOOOO". But really she's mad for letters. I've said it before: she's a tad scary. There were two copies of the alphabet carved into the sides of the tower at the top of the slide on Wednesday, and she insisted on stopping awhile to read them both, darting back and forth between them. Pretty cute. She also can read several more words but we don't spend too much time on that. We are on to reading longer story books now; she is still madly in love with "Saaaahm"/"Blah"/"Greeeeeeeeen" (Green Eggs and Ham) and now also Where the Wild Things Are and a bunch of others.

Hee hee, I have been away from this post for a couple hours, because she dragged me away to read Hippos Go Berserk ("Bazerk? Bazerk!") and then My Granny Went to Market like five times. Did you know there is a panda on page four? And a WATERMELON on page two!!! It was very exciting the third time through when we started such discoveries.

Sophie in the sun!

Moon face

I really enjoy that Sophie and I can have little conversations. Tonight as I was nursing her down, she started chatting in that "I'm processing the day and closing things out and want to snuggle a few more minutes" kind of way, and she started talking about DaDa, and I reminded her he was out with his friends, and she asked about babies (because we go in the car and there are other babies there, at playgroup etc, so she has been saying this nonstop when we get ready to go places) and I said, no, no babies. Daddy's friends. And she said and signed girls? And I said, no, boys. And laughed to myself that he better not be hanging out with any girls (besides other wives of the softball players on this team, and possibly his sister!)

And we have little conversations like that all the time now. I'll say, let's get ready to go to the park and she'll say car, babies, swing! Or I'll say, maybe we'll go to the bookstore, and she'll say, Miles! (her little baby friend we often run into there) and then Choo choo! (the train table at B&N!).

Just relaxing

Today we went swimming at our playgroup mama friend JL's pool and at first Sophie was very anti-pool (it's just a giant bathtub, Mama. You seriously expect me to go for this? She HATES baths right now!) but gradually she got comfortable with it and by the end she was laughing and SO excited to be totally swimming with Mama. (It was our second time swimming and it's been a while.) But it's nice that she can communicate with me, so I can ask if she wants to try out the pool and she can say splash if she wants to just stick her hand in, and no and all done if she wants to stay out or get out. She's also REALLY good about asking for help! help! with the sign when she gets stuck with a toy or can't reach it or something.

She's not been very excited about sitting and eating like she was a week ago, but is content to sit on my lap and pick up pieces of whatever I'm eating, so I have spent a lot of today sitting at the computer and eating token frozen peas and corn, and holding her in my lap while I eat a burrito and she eats the beans. She eats pretty darn well out and about at the park, though. Wednesday she ate a ton at playgroup!

Sunny disposition

Ah what else, what else.... she loves to tickle tickle. She's REALLY into giving kisses, so get ready for that if you come near her! She is also great about giving a kiss if she is rough with someone/something (sometimes a preemptive kiss before throwing a doll on the floor, lol. But what can you expect a kid to learn with the government setting that example these days?) She has been saying sorry a LOT mostly when she is startled, I think b/c I say it when I startle her. She'll figure out the use eventually, but for now it is sweetly pathetic. "It's okay, baby, you don't have to say sorry!" Aw!

She knows her colors pretty much. She was in love with orange for a few days but today it was green! all day long. I think because she was finally figuring those two out. Now she is also obsessed with circles, and points to everything and says circle and waits for me to say yes or no. She has known triangle for ages and ages so we'll see if she gets circle soon or later.

She loves counting and will go get her other counting books one after another if you read one of them. She recognizes the numerals for one and sometimes two and five and six and maybe ten. She loves to say six! I think because she thought we were saying sick/s, which she remembers from The Foot Book and mama's dreadful week of disgusting sickness. She totally digs having Mama hold her finger and help her count all the animals in her counting safari book.

She also loves to tell me that she pooped and have me lay her across my lap and check and say, "There's NO poop in this diaper!" I don't know if she loves the cuddles or the sly joke!

Sassy Sophie

We are gradually moving bedtime a bit earlier by trying to get naptime earlier. It's working pretty well already. Dashing Daddy and I even got to watch a bit of recorded TV and a few netflix movies this week!

I am off to do the dishes before I have to move my laundry and start another load. Yeah, it's ten PM, what? We have some lovely downtime this Friday/weekend, then we parents and also spouses will celebrate our sixth (six! sicks!) wedding anniversary (ten years together this October!) and even go out to dinner sans Sophie (for the very first time ever ever ever away from her together!), and then the train of house guests start (YAY! I am so looking forward to everyone getting time with the awesome kid and her getting to give you all kisses... she LOVES looking at all our pictures and naming you all!). It'll be nonstop but fun for the rest of the month, and even a bit beyond!

MMMM kissing a picture