Monthly Archives: February 2009

Hanging up on Oprah

I just hung up on Oprah.

Okay, so it wasn't Oprah. It was an associate producer of the Oprah show–of which there are probably dozens, I don't know, I've never watched it.

One of my blog posts has come to her attention and she this and she that and won't I consider—click

Uh . . .Hello?


I did take the battery out of my phone, count to thirty, replace it, and call her back. She was very gracious. 

So much for first impressions.


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Anyone who really knows me understands why I had to poach this picture from FD:



Freedom and Compassion in America

The story of Nadya Suleman bothers me on so many levels that I despair of addressing it in any coherent manner, but it has been on heavy duty agitation for some time now and must be hung out to dry.

At its core, the story seems archetypical of all that is right and wrong in America today. So many issues, so much clamor.

The issue of unmarried women who cannot even support themselves choosing motherhood—a role that demands incomprehensible resources of physical, moral, and emotional strength.

The double standard that allows a man who willingly provides viable genetic material to a single, disabled woman off the hook; even sympathizes with him. Maybe he didn’t actively choose fatherhood—but no matter how you look at it, he fathered these fourteen children.

Abortion. Six attempts implanting six embryos each; only the last experience made headlines—because not only did all six embryos take, but two spontaneously divided–and the mother didn’t choose abortion. If she had, there would be no uproar. Nobody would know or care who Nadya Suleman is.

You champion the right to choose while criticizing her choice. Damning it, even. She chose life. You and I might have made other choices, including the choice to implant fewer or even no embryos at all. But in this country of free speech and freedom to choose, she chose.

Which brings us to how that choice affects you and me and everyone else in America.

Here’s the thing. It all comes down to money, doesn’t it? If a long-lashed, Oscar winning actress ended up with octuplets, I’m willing to bet there would not be this uproar. It would be all giggles and grins—because she can afford to pay for her kids, and probably a nanny for each one, too.

Don’t hide behind noble-sounding sentiments about quality of life for those poor eight, or even fourteen children—that was my initial reaction, too, but don’t—what really bothers us is that our tax dollars will be put to work paying for this woman’s choices.

Taxpayer dollars! That’s the real ticket! You hear about those quite a bit lately, don’t you? Taxpayer dollars going to line the pockets of rich men who tanked on Wall Street. Paying to bail out greedy lenders and borrowers and foolish average citizens. Mismanaged tax dollars, everywhere you look. Eighty-eight point six million taxpayer dollars allocated to build new schools in the shrivelling Milwaukee School District where 15 schools are sitting vacant, while all over the country districts like mine are busting out at the seams—I think we have more children in trailers than in classrooms. Lunch hours are obscene. There aren’t enough teachers or busses or materials. And now you want me to pay for the choices of this crazy woman in Bellflower, California?   

I have yet to read a full length article about Nadya Suleman that does not, in some way or another, descry the cost of the births and the fact that she’s on food stamps and receiving disability payments.  It’s about the money, folks. Not about right to life or right to choose or even how many minutes a day is enough to hold an infant. It’s about the money.

But guess what?

We live in a country rife with both freedom to choose and social programs that insulate us against the consequences of our choices. It may not be possible to have one without the other.

Because we also live in a country rife with compassion. We pay for healthcare and education and basic food items if you can’t, no matter what your immigration status; we heat our prisons, and pay tuition costs for lower income folk. Because for every citizen that takes advantage of the system, or even if for every ten that take advantage there is one—one who is struggling and deserving and needy, even one who will take that college education or that two pound bag of pinto beans or the rehab sessions, and with that step up take even one step closer to self-sufficiency and respect—if there is even one, then we feel that the outlay of our funds is justified.

We cannot take away freedom or compassion in America.

I believe that we could reform the system. I believe that welfare could be more local and personable and accountable. I believe that if I pay for a struggling student’s tuition out of my own pocket I am then personally invested in that student’s success. I believe that student will feel more accountable for their own success if there is a face—mine, whom presumably they know and respect on some level—attached to that tuition check. If it were my neighbors or extended family pooling together to feed my children during a time of unemployment, rather than a faceless government entity, I think I’d be more inclined to make that food stretch, more inclined to find employment, less inclined to wallow in despair. Welfare on principles of local and personal compassion could function more like a hand up and less like a hand-out.

The problem is that there are more hungry people than abundant pockets in one neighborhood, and no hungry or suffering in another. Government steps in and tries to even out the distribution of wealth. Inevitably, in the gargantuan task of ensuring that no truly needy soul slips through the cracks, wealth slips through instead. Greed, carelessness, misplaced ideas of entitlement take hold and instead of supporting a young mother while she goes through college, my tax dollars are paying for a convicted felon to drink espresso in his air-conditioned cell.  It happens.

But still, I wouldn’t take away freedom or compassion in America.

We are surrounded by men and women of all ages making choices we don’t understand and possibly don’t agree with. Choices. Good ones. Questionable ones. I’ve probably made some of those, and so have you. Almost without exception, I have been treated with compassion. The exceptions. Well. I don’t know—has blanket criticism from strangers ever motivated you to greater heights?

Who among us hasn’t  made choices  that didn’t turn out exactly like we expected? That maybe brought sorrow or hardship into the lives of the people we love?  

So how should I feel toward Nadya Suleman? Were she my neighbor to whom I could take a loaf—or five loaves—of bread, or rock a colicky infant—or two—or if she is a woman I’ll never meet, but talk about over the phone lines and internet blog sites, whose support may or may not come in some way from my tax dollars, I think . . . today, in America, even with our faulty system and precarious times . . . I choose compassion.  I cannot stop the wildfires in Austrailia, the twisters in Oklahoma, or greed on Wall Street. But I can still the indignant voices within my own soul. I can choose compassion.  I have the freedom to do that. And maybe the courage.

Do you?


Two Five Year Olds

Let me hold it; I won't break it, I swear.

Ohhh! Swearing is bad!

What is swearing?

I don't know. But it's bad.

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Last night I was helping my children make their valentines. I understand that my generation is a little scarred from having six Jennifers and three Johns in every class, growing up–but Jahcylyn? Some are just bizzarre spellings of traditional names, many are probably ethnic, but all are unique. A sampling:

Jahcylyn. Sopriana. Midori. Allstar. Aleks. Rheese. Boriacian. Joshikia. Solonica. SoHap. Quinton (okay, that one's my fault) Winslow (also mine) Jaeger (mine, but I also have a Meg and a Joseph, so back off). Mercedes. Bridger–several of these, actually, plus two Hunters. Mikkel. Willem. Noe. Kyler. Nasaadia. Willow Tree. (I kid you not) Bowser. Keston. Ed.

And those are the ones I remember how to spell. Not one Jennifer, Michael or John. 

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Twelve men go spy out the promised land, and boy oh boy is it everything they dreamed it would be!

Twelve men return to Moses and extol the virtues of the land God has promised them. Two start packing.

Ten say no way! The men that live there are really tall. There must be some mistake. We can't conquer giants.

Ten men who have seen the Nile turned to blood and had their first-born children miraculously spared. Ten who have walked, dry shod, through the Red Sea and eaten manna from Heaven. Intimidated by some seriously tall strangers in whose sight they felt like grasshoppers.

That's so me.

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Den of Iniquity

I think I'm going to change the name of my childcare.

Den of Iniquity has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

The thing is, I'm tired of the charade.

What you see is what you get. You child is probably going to steal someone else's binky and suck on it. I don't disinfect the legos every day. My pancakes may be whole wheat, but I serve syrup with sugar in it. Unless your child is certifiably allergic to beef, I'm not going to freak out if they steal a piece of hamburger off another kid's plate and eat it. I probably won't even notice. And unless that mad cow epidemic you're worried about is breaking out, right now, you probably won't either. I don't have television; your children are going to actually play. They are going to get dirty. Your shoulder might get dirty if you arrive early and pick them up before I've hosed them off. They might eat some glue or taste the markers. They will use scissors. Other children will probably teach them to say things like Stupid and Retard. If you're lucky. I do my best to supervise things, but if they really want to be naughty, they are going to be naughty.

You have to realize we operate out of one big room. This is as supervised as it gets–there are no rooms or closets or nooks tucked away out of my sight. When they want to play hide and seek we have to turn off all the lights and shut the drapes because there aren't really any hiding places. I see almost everything that goes on. Almost.

So the other day, these two kids are being ultra sneaky.

I can tell they are watching me. They duck behind the curtains and I call them out. They try to sneak into the bathroom together when I turn to stir the eggs. I call, without even looking up."Only one at a time in the bathroom."

They hide behind the playpen together but the mesh sides aren't very concealing. And I keep looking at them.

They stand behind the rocking chair. Now here's a degree of privacy. As long as we can get the rest of the kids to leave us alone. So he tells his brother, hey, you want to play my DS? He offers everything. Reminds me of when my kids were little and I'd give them anything they wanted and more if they'd just let me have a two minute phone conversation in private.

Six and five. Boy, girl. I know what's going on. I think it's weird, because I don't remember liking boys at this age, and my kids haven't seemed to notice the opposite sex yet, but I'm pretty sure I know what they're doing.

What I should do is put them in time out, right now, I think. But they haven't actually done anything but be really chummy yet. Which is a nice change, actually, because usually he's teasing her to tears. So I'm standing there, thinking, does it really matter, really, if he gets her to kiss him? Besides, then I can put them in a good solid, deserved time out, right?

We have this rule that you only kiss people in your family, here. I don't care what you do at your house; in my house, you only kiss your parent or your siblings. On the cheek.

They know this. So if he does weasel a kiss out of her, what's the worst that can happen? I must admit, I'm a little amused by the whole thing.

The problem is, nobody will leave them alone. Brother keeps asking, how do I do this? Can I get to level nine if I do that? The sneaky pair keep dodging my raised eyebrow as I conveniently and frequently walk past. They know I'm on to them. It's become a challenge. I've laid down the gauntlet. We have to outwit daycare lady. Honestly, I think they'd been trying this for a couple of days, and never succeeded.

When I start pouring the pancake batter onto the griddle, they duck behind the chair. The door opens. Which is right beside the chair. In walks highstrung single mother of the year.

She comes directly to me. Did you know you have naked children behind the chair?


I come over. Sure enough, the five year old has taken her shirt off.

Mother of the Year scoops up her two year old from her chair at the table and hightails it out of this den of sin. Hired a private nanny, that night. Couldn't find any child care facilities with transparent furniture, I guess.  I know kids will be curious, she says, but those kids are old enough to know better. My baby is just too vulnerable to be around children like that. 

I have a six year old sex offender on the loose people! Take your kids and run! 

Not that I wouldn't have been horrified maybe, if my only child were here, either. I don't know. 

Here's what bothers me. That thought I had, way back there, when they were being sneaky, and I was pretty sure I knew what they were up to. Should I, at that point, have separated them?  Innocent until proven guilty maybe doesn't apply to preschoolers. I probably should have distracted them with some other activity, right then and headed it off. Maybe I shouldn't have been watching out of the corner of my eye, amused, as the drama unfolded. Granted, I was thinking he was after more of a kiss on the cheek or something; I never dreamed it would occur to anyone to start disrobing.

I wouldn't have had to talk to parents. Mother of the Year would still be happy as a clam to bring her daughter here. Of course . . . then I'd still be filling out daily reports of what she ate and drank and did and read and didn't deposit in the toilet to keep maternal anxiety at bay.

Hmmmmm. Maybe I did the right thing, after all.   


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I Love You, Back

Kimbuh, where's the scissors?


Can you get them for me?


Why not?

    Why do you think?

Because I cut my hair with them.

    That would be why.

But I won't this time.


Why not?

    You know what? Supper's almost ready, and then your mom will be here. How about we clean up all this paper, okay?

Not unless you give me the scissors.

    Okay. I guess I'll have to do it myself.  

    She knows how I clean up, so she grabs her project out of the pile of things I'm sweeping into the trash.

If you don't let me have the scissors, I'm gonna say bad words.


I'll punch you in the eye.

    I offer her my eye socket. Really? Let's see how that turns out for you.

She glares at me. Turns around backward in her chair to watch me make supper.

    If you sit like that, you might fall over and hurt your legs.

I'm not turning around until you give me the scissors.

    Might be hard to reach your plate sitting backwards.



Minutes pass. Everyone else gets up for dinner.



I love you.

    You do? That's nice.

How come you don't say I love you back? You're supposed to say I love you back or you might hurt thems feelings.   

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My Goatee

Kimber, can I have a graham cracker?



You just threw your banana, your sandwhich, your carrots, and your cheese in the garbage.

But I was full.

Then why do you want a cracker?

Hmmmm.  Can I have some juice?

Why don't you drink your milk?

I dumped it in the sink.

Huh. No kidding?

So can I have some juice?

What do you think?



You're mean.


But I really want some.

I really want a goatee.

My own children have heard so many conversations that end this way, they are actually talking about getting me a goatee for my birthday. I'll let you know how that turns out in a week or so.  


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We've been through this a millllllllion times. You get a drink. You potty. You go outside. You stay outside. When you come in, you stay in. Every time you go out, it makes the babies cry to go out too.

Okay, I promise, promise, promise, I won't run in and out.

Leave the bark on the ground?

I promise.

Use nice words?

I promise.

Only climb the slide toy?

I promise, promise, promise.

Jack, you too?

Pinky swear. We'll use our inside voices and we won't throw bark.

And you'll keep your feet on the ground unless you're going to slide?

Promise. Pleeeeeease, can we go out. We promise. 

Two minutes later, they are both standing on the roof of the play house, throwing bark at passing cars.

Get down.

They grin at me. One of them eyes the porch roof, which is now within reach.

In the house. Now.

We go through the whole thing of promise promise promise, this time I really promise, and I'm standing my ground. No. We're not going back outside. You've had your chance.

But this time I really promise.




[whispers to Jack] Sometimes if you cry really hard, they change their mind.

Double no.

Wah, boo hoo, screaming crying. Why not? 

You know why not.

But I promise this time. You can have my promise. Give me another chance.

Chances are all gone.


You used all your chances. 

No I didn't! Him did!   

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