Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Better Birth Story

This is the best birth story because it doesn't involve dilation or needles or any of the unpleasant part -- basically, any of the business that happens while one is half-naked. You all know that that happens in birth, and we don't need another retelling of it.

This is the best birth story because that stuff is left out. Instead, this is the story of my last day as a mother of three. Would it shock you to know I didn't pass it in an orderly fashion?

I was 37 weeks and 6 days in gestation, and I lay down next to my husband (mysteriously there were no children between us) and told him, you know what dear? I've decided I'm not ready to have a baby. I have too much going on right now. Maybe in six months, we'll have this baby. But definitely not now.

That should have been the first sign.

The next day I decided to do all of the laundry. There was plenty, since I appear to have gone on something of a laundry strike during the last three months of pregnancy. My husband had run out of socks, so I bought more. This was an intense desire not to do laundry that I had been nurturing. So I decided to wash every fabric item in our house -- probably some ten loads -- on this particular Sunday.

Sunday is my slow cooking day. Because I am, well, a touch flaky, I try to set up my life so that it requires as little planning as possible. One way I do this is by cooking the same way every week -- chicken on Tuesday, etc.

I can become very upset if I don't cook chicken on Tuesday.

On Sundays I slow-cook. Not using a slow cooker though, because I've never figured out how to use those without turning the contents to brown mush. I decided to make a complicated sauce for the first time -- coda alla vaccinara. Of course, it required a myriad of substitutions, since oxtail cannot be had kosher in most of the world, and pancetta is never kosher.

From first thing in the morning I was having contractions. I didn't, of course, take this as a sign to stop doing laundry. But I had a vague intention to pack my baby bag.

The last three times I had given birth, I'd neglected to bring spare underwear. They're very stingy with the disposable underwear at the hospital where I give birth. I'm not sure why I can use up some half million dollars of medical technology and expertise and they're going to start nickel-and-diming me over ten cents worth of pretend underwear, but they do. They also don't allow the purchase of pacifiers, which must be sneaked in. So every half hour or so I'd move haphazardly in the direction of my baby things (I keep them under the bed).

They don't allow pacifiers because the nurses believe that pacifiers interfere with successful breastfeeding. Silly hospital! I have no problem with breastfeeding. It's weaning I'm terrible at.

Around noon a friend called and asked whether our kids and her kids wanted a playdate. She had to be at an event, so she'd leave two of her children with three of my children. I thought this sounded like a great idea.

At some point around about now, my husband pulled a muscle in his back and landed himself flat on his back for the rest of the day.

Mysteriously, five kids was easier than three kids, because they formed some sort of child-critical-mass and became a completely independent entity relying on me only for snacks.

By evening I was starting to get somewhat uncomfortable. I decided to call my mother to get a ride to the hospital. I elected, apparently, to just ask for a ride -- without specifying that I wanted to go to the hospital, or that I was in labour. Then I stood on the porch wondering why my mother was being so goshdarn pokey. My mother was probably wondering why I didn't just drive myself wherever I wanted to go. When I'm not in labour, I do actually manage to drive.

A few hours later I had a baby girl. She's cute. We call her Lollipop. She's five weeks old.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Teaching my daughter to read was about as much fun as stabbing myself to death with a spoon.

I'm surprised she survived it. I'm also surprised I survived it. And we still speak to each other. Amazing. Now that I don't need to teach her to read anymore, life seems a lot less like a Saw movie. She's still working towards reading Hebrew, but for some reason, this is not a hideous life-ruining ordeal for either of us.

Genome is now learning to read -- or rather, learning his alphabet mostly. It is much easier than teaching his sister was. If you are ever given a choice of teaching my daughter to read, or teaching my son to read, you should choose my son. For starters, he kind of wants to do it. My daughter's disinterest in academics is so powerful, you can feel it at a hundred paces. Her disinterest could be a lethal weapon. It's that strong. That's how much she Does Not Care. Or did not care. Now that she can do it, it has some appeal. She also thinks Judaics has appeal.

So, do you have an early reader, and you want them to read things, but you have noticed that everyone's definition of "early" or "easy" or "emerging" is completely different? I found a nifty little tool. Lexile measurements are measurements of reading ease used for standardized testing and such. They maintain a large book database at First, find your child's Lexile score by looking up a book or two that they read with relative ease. Then search for similar books by Lexile score. There are about a billion categories as well.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

After the Fact

Well it's the middle of October, but I finally took the time to write out what we're actually doing for home schooling. I actually have a second child going, kind of, now.

I am not going to post it. The only purpose of posting the books you use is to help other people feel superior. I do that enough when I go out of my house, so I feel that I've done my part here.

I use 1-2-3 Magic with the children. This is a way of counting to three, and if the child lets you get to three, they're in for it. Firefly thinks that I am trying to teach him how to count. Or that I don't know what comes after two, and I'm asking him about it. I'm not quite sure how to deal with this.

I had to retrieve a son from the front porch, where he was naked-below-the-waist and threatening his brother with a pretend-machine gun that was actually a bottle of vodka (Grey Goose). Someone stole my regular life and dumped me in Honey Boo Boo, but without the television crew.

Genome keeps walking smack into my stomach, bouncing backwards, and then asking, "how you get so fat?" PREGNANT, child. Not fat. Pregnant. Never, ever call a lady fat. How are we going to marry him off at this rate?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Please Be Sleeping

To add to my "things I say all the time to my child," a friend suggested, "crying won't make it any better." So, consider it added. Also, my daughter always asks, when told to do something, "do I have to?" So I spend a lot of time saying "I have never in your life told you to do something that you don't have to do." I say this so often that she can fill in the rest of the phrase after "I have never in your life . . . "

I'm at that stage of pregnancy when I spend most of the day going back and forth to the bathroom. Liquids run through me immediately, similar to that Baby-Wets-Itself type of doll we used to have back in the early nineties. It would really be more efficient if I consumed 100% of my liquids while standing at the bathroom sink.

Strangely, Firefly seems to think that I can't possibly use the bathroom without his supervision. I'm not sure what he thinks is going to happen. Am I going to fall in? Escape out the window? It's not just that he wants to spend time with me. If he's playing, or sleeping (PLEASE BE SLEEPING) and he hears the bathroom light flick on (which he always does) he's off like a shot to station himself a foot away from me and stare. Also, I can't get out a tiny bathroom window. I'm too huge right now.

The boys love home schooling. Not being home schooled. They love that I am home schooling their sister. Firefly prefers to stay within his one-foot bathroom radius and assertively Miss the Point. For example, if Munchkin is reading her history book, he sits down next to her and shoves it out of the way, replacing it with a storybook he'd prefer she read. If she's using cuisinaire rods, he takes the ones she's using to place them in an elaborate block-pattern. Because she's amazingly good-tempered compared to me, none of this first-level distraction phases her.

It was slightly harder to brush off when he found a pair of cymbals.

Genome generally uses this time to disappear to another room and engage in the type of creative destruction that he correctly ascertains I would halt were I present. Sure, he wanders in every once in awhile, crawling over me like I'm so much furniture. But mainly he sees this as a great time to do that which he isn't, technically, allowed to do. Such as eat cereal from the box in front of the living room.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Just Don't Do It

The Atlantic Monthly printed an article of a type that is becoming fairly common. The author bemoaned that having children did not make her happy, that one shouldn't expect people to have children, and that many women are miserable raising children. To that effect, she provided a few quotes from some website or another. The gist of the quotes was that these women had expected to be fulfilled by being SAHMs and were actually deeply unhappy.

The comments, though, seemed to reveal that people who empathised with this article had a very particular view of motherhood. They had extremely high standards for themselves. One commenter said that, of course, mothers of toddlers had no time to read.

I have time to read, and I do read, a lot. As I thought this, I looked up and caught sight of my toddler. He was chewing on a piece of balsa wood that I think belonged to his brother's kite. He looked up at me thoughtfully, as if to say, beg your pardon? Don't mind me; I just thought I'd take a break from gnawing at your electrical cords as if I were a rodent.

He does not actually gnaw at electrical cords.

In sum, I have time to read because of my very low standards. If there was one thing that would have made these commenters happier, it was some low standards of their own. Plus, not only do low standards give you time to read, but you can get a very special glow from knowing that you are making other parents feel better about themselves. When I venture outside with my little circus, all sorts of mothers see me, and immediately they feel more competent. Sure, they may have missed the school play, but 100% of their children are wearing pants right now. Meanwhile, I'm having to remind Firefly that he isn't allow to chew on his own shoe.

My daughter kept waking up tonight. She'd periodically pop up with some comment, until finally I told her that it was unnerving to hear her at one a.m., and she ought to go to sleep. She asked if "one a.m." meant that it was morning now, and her father answered yes. She said, "Yay, I'm nocturnal!" Apparently this and losing her front teeth are now her proudest achievements to date. I am still not pleased that she keeps waking up, but I can't help but applaud her on her usage of vocabulary. The night before, she responded to mild verbal chastisement by telling her father that "this is not acceptable!" One doesn't know whether to laugh, or to send her to time out.

Genome is extremely interested in Pending. He particularly wants to feed Pending chocolate chip cookies. He says that were he to wish on a star, he would wish for a dinosaur, and a chocolate chip cookie for the new baby. I said, "you'd wish for a cookie for the new baby?" He said "yes, and a dinosaur." 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

My toddler is still awake.

In fact, he is in good spirits. He is wearing a polo shirt, a diaper, cowboy boots, and three strings of Mardi Gras beads. He's alternating his attention between eating scrambled egg and playing with three toy dragons. He is babbling to his teddy bear as he plays. It would all be idiosyncratic and adorable if he were someone else's child, or if it were not quite so close to midnight.

I have discerned something critical about my children. It is that they are trying to starve me to death. I don't know why I didn't cotton on before now. In utero, they make me vomit everything. Once born, whenever I sit down with some food they want to eat it out of my dish.

Toddler recently ate everything on my plate but was still hungry. His plate was untouched and thus full of food. He tipped his plate out onto my plate, then ate the food. I think this may be some sort of monkey/gorilla/reptile brain way of making sure that I don't want him to starve.

Last night, I had a vivid nightmare. I heard thunder getting ever-closer to our house. I saw the figure of a person at the window in our bedroom, trying to get in. I was experiencing sleep paralysis and couldn't move. I started screaming, "Husband, help me, help me." Owing, I suppose, to the sleep paralysis, this apparently came out as "aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!" Either way, he ran in. The three children had piled on top of him and caused him to retreat to one of their beds.

He was very good natured about the entire business: First he is exiled to the land of Spiderman sheets, and then he is dragged back because his wife "had a bad dream."

At this point, Munchkin poked up her curly head from where she was sleeping at the end of the master bed and started crying. She said she was upset that no one ever called for _her_ when they had had a bad dream.

Genome woke up for perhaps ten seconds, raised one eyebrow at me, and went back to sleep. Apparently mummy crying out in the middle of the night is not the kind of thing that my sons consider worthy of investigation.

The next day, I asked Munchkin about something an adult had said to her. She said, "I don't know. I wasn't listening. Everyone thought I was listening, but I wasn't really. Really, I was singing a song silently in my head, and I was listening to that."

This actually explains a great deal.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Me: Captain, she reads! Munchkin reads! Proper books and everything!

Captain: Good. I'm relieved I won't have to hear about it anymore.

Me: Say something more positive.

Captain: I'm very glad that Munchkin won't have to put up with your my-child-will-never-read angst any more. With any luck, she'll forget this entire episode and won't need therapy for it.

It's not like I'm the only jump-the-gun angsty parent around these days. Munchkin started cello lessons. She's the oldest child there. She's six. The teacher overheard that I had a four-year-old and asked if he were taking music lessons as well. Are you kidding me? The only things Genome is interest in these days are plastic and shaped like dinosaurs (or soldiers, or pirates).

Of course, the four-year-olds at her music class don't seem particularly interested either. But while I'm willing to do a certain amount of angsting over literacy, I just can't quite get that same deep-felt panic at the thought that my daughter may never be a proficient strings player. And since (like all lawyers) I'm an adrenaline junky, I can only take action when I'm panicking. Luckily I'm neurotic so I panic a lot.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Pending is a fetus. Pending lives in my uterus and expands, as far as I can tell, entirely inwardly. Because I don't look all that pregnant, but I clearly have no space for a bladder or lungs in there. I am seven months gone. If Pending were a wart, he would be a plantar's wart.

Do mummies who compare their babies to plantar's warts go to hell? Or do they go to Purgatory, along with the mummies who watch documentaries about crazy Norwegian punk rockers instead of doing the weekly shopping?

I keep planning to teach my children appropriate songs at some point, and not put them to sleep singing whatever comes to mind. Munchkin is six and I still haven't fixed this. Instead I have kids who beg for God Bless the Grass and Hard Times Come Again No More, and I should just be thankful they don't want the Internationale.

I have a theory that being pregnant is a lot like getting old. Every day or so, something stops working correctly. Today you wear a ditch between your bedroom at the bathroom. Tomorrow you find yourself unable to sleep past first light. Heartburn. Forgetfulness. It's like an AARP advertisement around this place.

In keeping with the above, a doctor suggested that I should add supplemental fibre to my diet. I responded that that might be a tough sell, given that I am one of those nine-months-of-barfing pregnant people. He said, it's just water. Would you throw up water?

Oh, isn't he cute?

You dissolve the fabulous powder in your drink, and you won't even know it's there.

Who do you think put it in there? I'm not that forgetful, you know.

On the way home I stopped by a slightly hippy-dippy grocery store with a health section, to pick up my magic invisible fibre powder. The lovely lady with long dreadlocks directed me to a bag of what appeared to be law clippings. I definitely recognised dandelions. I am never, ever, ever going to pay someone for dandelions. This did not appear to be the kind of magic fibre that dissolves in a glass and one can't tell that it's there.

I went to a Big Chain Pharmacy and got my chemical powder. I stirred it into a glass of water, drank the glass of water, and threw the glass of water up.

Nevertheless, I feel accomplished.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Okay. Home schooling is going somewhat better than the last time I updated. Somehow my mother managed to convince Munchkin that if she kept whining her mummy would eventually lose it and decamp for Mexico, or something. I don't know. There's less whining. I'm happy.

Also, I feel that we're over the hump because we're past page 100 of Hay-Wingo. It's 120 pages. She reads words, such as "decide" and "Jupiter" and "papoose." Also "squaw." That one is maybe not ideal. I recognise that it can't be all that easy to think of words to demonstrate a certain vowel sound, but surely "squaw" should not make the cut if "straw" does not. It's still better than Webster's Speller ("smut," "slut," etc.).

I do not like reading home schooling blogs. The mothers are always doing crafts. Really horrible crafts, like paper mache. I don't even like paste. We don't even _own_ paste!

In fact, home schooling blogs seem to fall into three broad groups:
1. People who do lots of projects and crafts and crafts and projects and probably use Pinterest a lot.
2. People who live charmingly picturesque lives, unschool, and post pictures of their children with perfect lighting gathering eggs and learning About Life before they all gather together around the fire to listen to Charlotte's Web.
3. People who are home schooling because of religious (generally) or philosophical (less common) reasons but are completely overwhelmed. Anyone else would have cried uncle, but since their primary purpose is to avoid institutional schooling, these bloggers instead justify that their kids are at least not getting shot, and they're sure they're learning many important things somewhere in-between the thousands of crises affecting the family.

I never do crafts. We don't own chickens, and if we did, my children would be less likely to lovingly gather their eggs than to chase them around until they caught one and then try to kiss it. That only leaves the unenviable #3 category, except I'm not _that_ religious or principled.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Clever Children

Tonight I determined that either Munchkin and I can finish working through the Hay Wingo Primer by the end of this month, or one or the other of us is going to need to relocate to the Arctic Circle. I'm flexible on the options, really. I'll even volunteer to be the one to relocate. It looks quiet up there.

I read an article that said that parents must not tell their children that their children are so terribly smart, as this makes the children insecure and thus depresses the children's performance. It is fortunate that I am rarely spurred to tell my children how clever they are when we are doing school work. In fact, my most-said phrases do not concern cleverness at all:
  1. If you don't do this page properly, we'll go back and review and this entire episode will take longer.
  2. Yes, of course you have to do it. In your entire life, I have never told you to do something that you do not have to do. Why would this be the first time?
  3.  If you hadn't spent so much time whining, you'd be done by now.
Oh, life with me is such fun.

Today, Munchkin practiced page 83 (adding -ing), 87 (r-controlled verbs), and 89 (adding -er). Then, I put everyone to bed. Then, I threw up. 

I also looked up other copies of the Hay Wingo Primer. The 1954 edition has a frightening clown on the cover. I am envious. I have two copies and a teacher's edition, and the cover is just maroon.

When I was in school, we were using the Ginn 720 Basal Readers. I kind of want a copy of a few of these, but I think they might bring back trauma. Later I learned that I am a poor speller because of these readers. My mother would object, and say that any child who in second grade is still spelling "of," "uv" is a congenitally poor speller. I prefer to blame the Ginn 720s. They were awful and deserve disrepute.

The Ginn 720s were published in the late seventies and early eighties (and thus quite out of date by the time I attended school). I have no idea why children reading in 1990 were using a reader published in 1976. Yes, I'm teaching my daughter with a primer published for the first time in 1948 and reprinted in 1967. But in my defence, basal readers and primers produced before 1948 were often pretty good. They were generally collections of actual stories, the type someone might read for their own interest. By 1976, the field was pretty much a wasteland. If anything in Helicopters and Gingerbread was an actual story marketed at actual readers, then both the readers and the writer should be summarily shot. The only excuse for stories so poor is the misplaced notion that they might be in some way educational.

The Ginn 720s were not nearly cool enough to feature a freaky, nightmare-inducing clown on the cover.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Irresponsible People

Yesterday, I had to go to the bank. The reason why is not important. I ended up taking Firefly (2). As I took him out of his car seat, he said, "pee, pee!" and wet himself. He's honest if nothing else.

I'm not about to carry around a stinking toddler, and I didn't have a spare pair of pants. I hauled out my umbrella stroller. You need to visualise this stroller. Do you remember those really cheap fold-down ones we had in the eighties, the kind that, folded up, would make a medium-weight weapon with which to beat an intruder? They are hard to find now, owing to almost certainly being a death trap. I got this particular umbrella stroller for $9, in the Rite Aid, in the United States, six years ago. I'm not sure what its market value now would be. Negative, probably. It is so Un-Parents-Magazine-approved that I'm pretty sure it's made entirely of asbestos held together with arsenic assembled by Chinese slave-babies. It lives in my car, takes up almost no space, and enables me to transport a two-year-old without touching him.

He also didn't have shoes. Also, we don't cut our boys' hair before their third birthday. Because Firefly's hair is very curly and a bit orange, it's at a length that says less "I have long hair" and more "I desperately need a haircut but I smoked a joint instead." Also, he insists on wearing his brother's old clothing. His clothes look like the stuff that the Salvation Army turns down. And he had no shoes on. And his feet were really dirty.

As I pushed him along, he was in fine spirits. It was a hot day, and our movement created a breeze. The wet shorts were pleasantly cooled. He waved jauntily to the passersby, the well-kept babies in their safety-rated strollers, coordinated outfits, and accessories. Hello! How are you! The babies stared.

The mothers stared too, but they looked mostly at me. I have just become Visibly Pregnant. I look young, even when I'm not pushing along a filthy toddler in death-stroller. I knew what they were thinking.

"It's always the irresponsible people who have a pile of kids."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The History of Man, SJ style

I have become convinced that my children, and all children in a way, are replaying the development of man. Or at least, what I've remembered from seventh grade history of it.

Firefly, prehistoric man: Writes on the walls. Forages for food, with mixed success. Rarely wears appropriate clothing. Grunts. Okay, we don't actually know whether cave people grunted, but in movies they do. Finds things and makes ineffective weapons out of them. Quarrelous and grumpy with other members of humanity.Very mixed success at keeping himself alive. Short. Likes dogs.

Genome, bronze age: Writing exists, but he doesn't know for what purpose. Counts things. Eats only substances designated as food. Finds things and makes much better weapons out of them. Willing to form strategic alliances with other members of humanity to suit his particular purpose. Somewhat better at keeping himself alive. Less short. Likes dogs.

Munchkin, early history: Groping towards literacy. Has numeracy and some geometry. Wries on paper. Eats selectively of substances designated as food. Specialises -- lets other people (Genome and Firefly) fight her battles with her. Part of a highly complicated society, all members of which are small girls who cry a lot. Reasonably good at keeping herself alive, although spotty on details of modern medicine and must be reminded to brush teeth. Still pretty short, but what are you going to do. Likes dogs.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ever Felt That You're Making a Spectacle of Yourself?

At some point between one child and three, I changed over from a moderately odd person to a traveling circus.

Today I took my mother to an appointment. The horde came along. The horde's supplies came along. This includes a backpack of worksheets and one baby doll (Munchkin), two plastic dinosaurs (Genome), and the world's noisiest and most attention-grabbing toy car (Firefly). I also had a ten-dollar umbrella stroller.

After a good hour of the children hanging out aggravating the various blind and vision-addled people, I decided to take them for a walk around the neighbourhood. Firefly eschewed his traditional afternoon nap in favour of pushing his own stroller around, with me desperately redirecting him so he didn't barge into people. That stroller has questionable steering even when used by a qualified adult, and I don't like to think that I spent my day irritating the blind.

Munchkin pushed the stroller. Firefly rode in the stroller. Munchkin's doll rode on Firefly's lap, along with the World's Loudest Toy Car. Genome . . . raised my bloog pressure, I guess?

There must be some sort of conference in town, because the streets were filled with women in yoga gear pushing their single, well-dressed, quiet infants in jogging strollers. No one was jogging. I'm not sure what the exercise gear was for. Maybe they stopped jogging to stare.

I need a sign for the stroller that says, THIS COULD BE YOUR LIFE.

When I got back to the vision appointment to pick up my mother, she reminded me that I was a bit of a spectacle even when I only had one child. This is true, but I don't want to pass up the chance to frighten organised women who would never, ever be out in public depending on a six-year-old to push a stroller.

I made to attempts to leave behind the toy car, but Firefly caught me both times.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My Underpants are Out in the Yard

All right, I just got them. But they _were_ in the yard.

Foolishly, this morning, I ventured outside.

I know. Jews do not belong outside.

I wanted to water the pants.

A bee went up my skirt and into my underpants. Feeling rustling in my skirt, I sensibly smacked at it. It stung me. This makes perfect sense in retrospect, but I'm not sure how one calmly and maturely deals with the distinct feeling that _something_ is in one's underpants, buzzing around. I, still channeling my most mature self, started jumping around. After all, now my butt really hurt. I also didn't know whether this was a bee or a wasp -- was i going to sting me again? So I drop my underpants. There's still something in there. I dropped my skirt.

I was wearing an apron. But remember: Out in the yard. Man, I'm a classy neighbour.

Do many exhibitionists  strip while jumping up and down and going "WASP! WASP!"?

I'm not sure who I thought I was notifying.

Eventually I figured out I'd better just hobble inside so I could divest myself of all clothes, remove the stinger, and call my mother. What do you mean, call my mother? Well what would you do in this situation? I had to call my mother so she could remind me whether or not I'm allergic to bee stings (I'm not) and what one does with a bee sting (put ice on it and take an anti-histimine).

See? Now you know and you won't need to call your own mother.

She also gave me a helpful lecture on bee sting prevention. Wear pants, carry insect spray, so on, so forth, thanks mom. I think I'll just stick with being inside for the next 18 months.

That said, I did eventually go out to retrieve my underwear. If my neighbours call the police, at least there won't be any evidence.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Please Don't Knit for Charity

Back in the dark days before Ravelry, there were a few lists for knitters, and that was how we informed each other about vital wool-related developments. The problem with this format, as any veteran Internet user knows, is that information that was useful or interesting to even a fraction of the several thousand subscribers was often swamped by the stream-of-consciousness of every over-sharing knitter in the English-speaking world.
One of the more common useless questions came up when someone posted some form of "My [blank] doesn't like handknits. What can I knit for him/her?" You get bonus points for extra-impossible requirements: I want to do it all with half a skein of worsted yarn, her birthday is tomorrow, she's allergic to every known fiber and refuses to hand-wash, I don't know how to purl yet.

There's a crucial mistake the aspiring giver is making. When one gives a gift, the gift should be _for the recipient_. It's not about what I _want_ to give. It's about what my recipient _wants_. Giving him or her a gift that I knit, just because I enjoy knitting, is missing something very crucial. I engaged in my hobby for you! How ridiculous is that? I might as well get a card that says, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM. I went skiing!"

This same error in thinking resurfaces in charitable donations. People give donations based on what makes the giver feel good and not based on what the recipient needs. Since people receiving charity are people with pressing needs, it's a bit more important a mistake than giving your brother a pair of mittens he hates.

Let us review three things that almost no one needs:

1. Hand knits. Especially people in hot climates. Most homemade clothing is of poorer quality than what is available for a lower price, premade. People in Afghanistan have many needs, but knit hats is not in the top ten. This is a very inefficient way of getting hats on the heads of babies.

2. Short term visitors to their country or area performing manual labour. Unless you have some highly valuable skill (i.e. you are a doctor), visiting a foreign country is always something you do for you, not the residents. That's fine -- might as well make yourself useful if you're going to travel -- but if your object is to get orphanages built, use your airfare to hire local labour. This goes double and triple if your purpose in traveling is to blog for charity.

3. Awareness. Yes, yes, I know. White people like it. But with relatively few exceptions, people are already "aware" of whatever it is that is causing them misery.

When I was growing up, my mother was overwhelmed sometimes raising an autistic son. I could think of forty things that would have been useful to her, none of which involved knit hats. Do you want to be of direct service? DON'T KNIT. Mind someone's child. Cook food. Clean their house. Walk kids to school. Walk kids home from school. Change diapers. Give money, and not to anyone whose purpose is "promoting awareness."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Minor Cosmetic Flaws

The worst part about growing older is realising that those character flaws I had at six are permanent. Recently some people happened to suggest that perhaps I've been, ahem, difficult, because I've had difficult times since my father died. While there is absolutely nothing good to be said for losing one's father young, the types of things people complain about me for now are exactly the same things that showed up on my kindergarten report card.

This has caused me to dwell on the many character flaws that I have never overcome. It's easy to assume that when the child arrives one is going to become a responsible, functional person, but it doesn't work that way. Here's a partial list:

- I still stay up too late. I trust the time stamp on this entry makes that obvious.

- I'm still bad with paperwork and appointments.

- I couldn't find a clean pair of pantyhose the other day, despite the fact that I wear the same type of hose every day and have 15 pairs (Old Navy black tights).

- I go out with a scarf over my hair all the time rather than wear a sheitel as a mature Orthodox Jewess would do.

- I buy useful educational books that should teach me things, such as how to teach my child to be less of a basket case, and spend months crawling through them one chapter at a time, even though I am a fast reader and digest collections of political or social essays over night. I just shrink from reading that could teach me anything useful.

- I hate using the telephone.

- I have absolutely no will to enforce standards with anyone else, including my husband, and so I have the only three-year-old in town who's seen all of the Jurassic Park movies.

- I listen to ridiculous music with bad politics and then teach it to the children, who become the only Jewish children in the world familiar with, say, Green Grow the Rushes O. Although they sing it as Green Grow the Russians O. I don't know why my daughter can learn a rather esoteric song such as this, but can't for the life of her remember that "au" and "aw" are ways of writing the same sound. Maybe I just do it for the pleasure of seeing her remember something.

- I still don't engage the brain-to-mouth filter. I'm kind of like the opposite of what you want someone to be when that person is running for president.

Rather than alleviating these difficulties and turning me, basically, into my own mother (who was very organised and read lots of useful books as well as several intellectual magazines), children are making me worse. Now I never sleep properly. I have more things I ought to be reading books about and less time to read them. I have phone calls and paperwork and appointments for four people instead of one.

Two weeks ago, I lost my wallet. Twice. In one week. The first time I dropped it on the street. The second time I left it in my mother's car when I dropped her car off for repairs. Both times it was returned to me with the twenty dollars and change still in there. This is a city of two million people, and the nice fellow at the pet store acted as if he really had nothing better to do on his way home than to deliver my wallet.

I had thought that it was my husband coming home and allowed my preschool aged son to answer the door in nothing but Spiderman underpants.

This is why homeschooling is ideal. If you homeschool, no one cares that you wore your pajamas all day. No one cares if you don't get out of bed until nine a.m. No one cares that you couldn't find your baby's boots all week and put him instead in the pink fuzzy ones his sister had worn.

Well actually, my husband cares about that last one. He'd rather I not put the baby in fuzzy pink pompomed boots. But I haven't exactly seen him deciding to spend his night tearing apart the house in search of the other gender neutral one, either.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Not long ago, my daughter declared that Firefly had prevented her from sleeping well. She said, "I didn't get my beauty sleep."

Her younger brother, not to be outdone, replied, "Well I didn't get my Spiderman sleep!"

They say that brands seek to hook children as early as possible, because if you are a Heinz Ketchup buyer at five, you will be a Heinz Ketchup forever. This has not held true in my life. I think my parents bought off-brand ketchup, and I find ketchup oddly repulsive in an at-home setting and never buy it. Any ketchup purchased is my husband's doing. Ketchup in restaurants doesn't bother me at all.

If brands do hook children forever, it is safe to assume that Genome will be wearing Spiderman underpants well into his middle age. Or he will do as Husband does, and have a son to purchase Spiderman underpants for instead.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


The 1 < 4 type, not the Occupy Wall Street Kind.

"Now Munchkin, does the alligator choose three cookies, or two cookies?"
"Three cookies."
"Does the alligator choose two cookies, or one cookie?"
"One cookie."
"Does he choose three cookies, or five cookies?"
"He has to choose one."
"Okay, he chooses one cookie."
"No, he has to choose one number."
"Okay, he chooses eleventy-billion cookies."
"No, which is bigger, three, or five?"
"How is three bigger than five?"
"Because you drew a bigger three there, and that's kind of a little five."
"No, which represents the larger quantity of cookies?"
"Can I have a cookie?"
"If you do this page of arithmetic I will give you a cookie."
"Can I have five cookies?"

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

It occurred to me some time ago that many of my female friends and I seem to have essentially the same complaints about our husbands. Not that I complain about my husband often. He's really astonishingly tolerant. I'm not just saying this. People I barely know tell him so. I'm widely known as a lunatic.

So, on to the complaint. Husbands often don't seem to understand the highly time-sensitive nature of household tasks. Let me given an example. In my husband's work, he might have to write a letter. There's a deadline, let's make it Friday. So any time between now and Friday, he writes the letter. And when the letter is written, it's done. It doesn't unwrite itself and need to be rewritten tomorrow. And it doesn't particularly matter whether he writes it Monday or Wednesday.

Dishes are not like this. If he agrees to clear the dishes, this is not a single endeavor, a ceremonial Clearing of the Table after which the table will be ever and always cleared. In fact, the table is at most temporarily cleared, until such a time as we need it again, about eight hours from now. So when I ask what happened to the table some twelve hours after we ate dinner and accuse him of failing to clear it, his defence of "I haven't failed to clear the table. I just haven't cleared the table _yet_." doesn't really accomplish my objectives.

My objectives are to keep the knives away from Firefly and not to feel like my mother is looking down on us, judging.

My mother is also a very nice person who would not actually stare judgmentally, but worse, try to demonstrate how a helpful schedule-oriented system would prevent my house from looking like a frat house from an eighties Revenge of the Nerds movie, only with a wider selection of alcohol than just beer. Even though she's known me my whole life, my mother has never quite accepted that I'm a total loss on the domestic front.

So I had more or less decided that this must be a genetic defect that travels on the Y chromosome when a woman I know related that she had the same problem with her girlfriend who, as far as I know, does not have a Y chromosome.

Now I'm left thinking that perhaps I just make friends with people who are neurotic (as I am) and WASPishly uncommunicative (guilty), and that's why they can't make their life partner understand that if we don't change the children's close occasionally, the other mothers will talk.

Actually, if my husband were in charge of the dishes, he'd convert the whole house to paper plates and plastic cutlery by nightfall. I have stronger feelings against disposable tableware than I do about most of what shows up on Amnesty International, including a to-the-wall fight over the appropriateness of a plastic table cover for a formal occasion. I am against plastic cutlery. I am not quite sure why I am so against it. It's not just because of assiduous pro-environmental brain-washing as a child, because I feel very little uneasiness, say, tossing recyclables, and I never reuse scrap paper. I think it has to do with that imaginary-mother-judgement issue again.