All The Things

We did everything on vacation. Well, everything there was to do in Erie, anyway. And then some.

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While Dan and I were at my reunion Friday, my parents took the children to the beach (formally known as Presque Isle) where M promptly fell in the lake.

Saturday, we went to the Erie Children’s Museum, which while teeny, is still fun.

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Sunday we spent the day in a friend’s pool and had a lovely dinner at the Yacht Club. I got to catch up with my all-time BFFs, which made the whole trip worth it.

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Monday, we went to the Erie Zoo.

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Tuesday, we did the beach again. This time M fell in the lake on purpose, over and over again.

Wednesday, it rained. We went to The Tom Ridge Environmental Center. When the weather cleared up, we went to Findley Lake in New York for fried fish and live music.

Thursday, we were originally scheduled to travel home. But it was a beautiful day, and the kids had been clamoring to go to Waldameer. So we moved back our departure time to the evening, and went to the amusement park.

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Friday, we woke up in our own house. Dan and I worked out, then I ran errands. The children missed Nonna and Pap-pap. They are a lot more fun than mom and Dad.

Saturday, my SIL picked up the children,  and Dan and I hit the road again for a wedding in Eastern Pennsylvania. They had a candy table!

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Sunday, we got back to Pittsburgh in time for Dan to see AC Milan lose to Manchester City at Heinz Field. And I took a nap and went to the Jack White show. It was awesome.

Family vacations should all be so action packed. We had a great week.

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The Best So Far

I love my children.

This is not snark. This isn’t going to be a long parenting rant that starts, I love my children but.

I love my children and I especially love them on vacation right now.

My children are the perfect ages. At 9, 7 and 3, they are just right. No diapers, no pack’n’play, no special food. Independent enough to get up by themselves. Old enough to play board games (M has to be on someone’s team until he loses interest and goes back to playing with his toys by himself). Able to swim (again, someone has to stay close to hand for M). Aside from a little extra supervision, the heavy lifting of early parenthood is over.

Do you know what I did today?

I slept in until 9 a.m.
After coffee, my children threw a party.
We played a family board game (Sort It Out).
Then we had it a parade. Led by Kate, of course.
Then we went to The Ridge Environmental Center. M fell asleep in the movie.
Then we went out to Findley Lake to visit friends of my parents. The children immediately made friends and occupied themselves.

It was pretty easy and great.

The whole week has been like this. It helps that we’re staying with my parents, of course, but even so. The kids require less work than ever before, and are more fun as a direct result.

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Even the 3-year-old.

Random Thoughts: The Absence Edition

I haven’t blogged this week, primarily because I am going on vacation and I will be away from work for an entire six days, which means I have All The Deadlines.

And of course since I am going on vacation for more than a week, with the family, it’s unlikely that I will be blogging much over the next few days.

A couple of things to leave here:

• A working mother in South Carolina was thrown in jail, and her 9-year-old child was made a ward of the state… because she (the daughter) was at a playground alone (with a cell phone) while her mother worked at a near-by McDonalds. Complicating this outrage is the fact that the mother is single, working poor, and African American. I think it’s horrible that a busybody called the police when they realized the girl was there without a parent hovering nearby. I also think if the mother and child were white, jail and CPS wouldn’t have been the outcome. Maybe a stern warning. But not jail. (This article on fundamental attribution error and how it applies to this case was interesting, IMO.)

• A nanny wrote about five things that parents are doing wrong. This is pretty spot on. Parents, if you see yourself in this list, take a step back and reevaluate. I especially like the first one. A good mantra to learn, and we use it in our house, is, “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.”

• 2014 is shaping up to be a solid year for good music. Or at least music I really like. If you’re looking for some new stuff, may I humbly suggest:
1. KONGOS, Lunatic
2. The Black Keys, Turn Blue
3. Little Daylight, Hello Memory
4. Afghan Whigs, Do To The Beast (This album, guys. This album Does Things to me.)
5. First Aid Kit, Stay Gold

Have a great weekend, everybody. I hope I will have some nice vacation pictures to throw up on the site while I’m out.

Lake Erie at Sunrise

Lake Erie at Sunrise

Listen To Your Mother

(I know. I know. I shared this on Twitter. I shared this on Facebook. I am in awe of my friend. In. Awe. Also: I have thoughts. I have feelings. I want to respond, at length.)

Kim Z. Dale, fabulous in blue

Kim Z. Dale, fabulous in blue

I have a lot of admiration for my friend Kim. She participated in the Chicago presentation of Listen to Your Mother. Along with being a professional and a mother, she is a playwright. In this verbal essay, she says a lot of things that, in my experience, work-outside-the-home moms hesitate to admit.

I have said this before, but in this context it bears repeating. I don’t just work to earn money. I work so that I leave my house. I work so that I am not at home, spending all my time with my children. I *love* my children, and I love being around them (most of the time). But I also feel like my work life makes me appreciate my home life more.

What Kim has to say is poignant and honest, and oh, when she reaches the end of her piece. Oh. My heart for her. (Aside to Kim: did you know that was going to happen?)

Please go watch it before you finish reading this.

Back? Okay.

I, too, like being good at what I do. It’s one of the (many many) reasons I work. I haven’t been called the nanny’s name (my children are a little older than Kim’s, though), but there have been moments, often in the evening or on a Saturday, where I get a look from them. A mumbled comment when I tell them to clean their room, or that we won’t make it to the pool today because we have to do XYZ. “I wish Miss Nanny were here.” The implication being because Miss Nanny is more fun.

Miss Nanny is, sometimes, often, more fun. I get that, and I envy her that time that she has to be more fun with my children.

But. And but. I, too, am fun. And a parent. I have to do hard things. Set limits. Enforce consequences. Teach responsibility. Give baths and enforce bedtimes. Make sure homework gets done and soccer practice is attended.

Miss Nanny, for all the fabulous work she does do (she has to enforce chores every day, which ain’t easy) isn’t raising my children. She’s taking care of them during the hours that I go earn a paycheck. It’s definitely a trade-off. One that works well for my family.

I’m really happy that Kim got the laughs she got.

Anyway, I also have to say here that I would love to find a way to bring Listen To Your Mother to Pittsburgh. Stay tuned. And in the meantime, check out the other Chicago performances.

Bring tissues.

Like a Girl

Flora can tread water for two minutes.

Kate can eat five tacos.

Flora is the fastest runner on her soccer team.

Kate helps her little brother with his chores.

Flora knows more about birds than most adults.

Kate is a wonderful baker.

Flora can jump rope for five minutes.

Kate rides her bike so fast, she leaves the ground when she hits a dip in the driveway. She has more bruises than any 7-year-old I know.

I know it’s a commercial — and for things that only girls will need — but they’ve got a point.

Let’s stop saying “like a girl” like it’s a bad thing. I never heard “like a girl” growing up. I heard about how smart I was, how strong I was, how I could do or be anything I wanted.

My girls are fast, strong, smart, immensely talented, not to mention beautiful. They can conquer the world. Dan and I will do our very best to set them and keep them on a path to success, one that nurtures their strengths and grows their talents.

The world is just going to have to stay out of their way.

What can the girls in your world do?

Bodily Autonomy

I am so angry, I doubt this is going to be a coherent post.

Suffice to say, that once more, SCOTUS has decided that a woman’s decisions about her body and her healthcare take a back seat to someone else’s right. Friday it was free speech (and a unanimous court), today it’s religious freedom — and a sharply divided court.

This is what I don’t get, and what I do not accept: these decisions place undue burdens on women. Now I have to worry about how to plan my family; now I have to figure out where to get my healthcare; now I have to worry about whether or not my boss is a Christian who is going to impede my right to take care of my business.

I have two daughters. They are 7 and 9. I make a lot of decisions for them right now: where they have to go to school; what constitutes meals and healthy snacks; what healthcare they receive; what extracurricular activities they participate in. I make them wear sunscreen and weather-appropriate clothing.

This is my job as a parent.

It is also my job as a parent to teach them to make good decisions. To make clear that someday in the not-to-distant future they will be autonomous creatures and will be making those decisions — what to eat, what to wear, how to treat their bodies — for themselves.

And yet.

The following comes from my friend Gina, who said it better than I can right now:

This pisses me off.

And I refuse to defend my position using the “other uses of birth control” argument, because those other uses are not the only reason that birth control should be equally accessible for everyone. We need to stop moralizing sex. If a woman needs birth control because of a medical condition, fine. But if a woman WANTS birth control because she wants/enjoys sex, and thus wants to prevent contraception — ALSO FINE.

The perpetuation of the attitude that sex is bad (which, as we all know, is aimed primarily at women), is the perpetuation of the patriarchal society that continues to contribute to the inequality of women in every aspect of life, as well as the rape culture which places the responsibility of the sexual behavior of the male race on the female.

We need to stop punishing women/girls for the things we celebrate in men/boys. Birth control needs to be treated as any other medication.

The double standard about sex, and healthcare, and privacy, and bodies is well in effect. It’s just got to stop. These rulings are about abortion and women’s healthcare. And I don’t think speech and religion get to trump my daughters’ rights about what they get to do with their bodies. I just don’t. I promise to raise them to make good decisions. Don’t take that ability away from them.

Your Freedom to Swing Your Arm Ends at My Nose

I’ve been stewing over yesterday’s Supreme Court decision in McCullen v. Coakley. Even though I am a 1st Amendment purist, and the decision was unanimous, it just doesn’t sit right with me.

First of all, there’s the fact that while this decision, ideally, will apply very narrowly to people outside of women’s clinics who just want to talk quietly, I cannot see how protesters will not take it as permission to get up in the faces of women to call them names and otherwise harass them. First Amendment rights, bitch!

Second of all — and this is really what I cannot wrap my head around — the Court is basically valuing another person’s First Amendment right over a woman’s right to privacy and healthcare. And I just can’t accept that.

Here is someone who said it much better than I:

“The issue is not mainly, … the maintenance of public safety. Most abortion protesters are not violent, and police will be present to protect the visitors to the clinic. The issue is the privacy, anxiety, and embarrassment of the abortion clinic’s patients—interests that outweigh, in my judgment anyway, the negligible contribution that abortion protesters make to the marketplace of ideas and opinions.”

Richard Posner, source here

Never mind embarrassment. Women should not be embarrassed to seek and receive healthcare and medical procedures.

Imagine being a college-aged woman who is discovering sexual intercourse for the first time. Imagine deciding, somewhat nervously, that you want to avail yourself of a gynecological screening and possibly discuss birth control options. You know there’s a Planned Parenthood a bus ride away, so you decide that’s where you’re going to go.

Imagine getting off the bus and having no choice but to walk through a gauntlet of pro-life men and women with signs. You just want to keep your head down, fine. You aren’t getting an abortion; these people have nothing to do with you.

Now imagine that one of these women, a grandmotherly type with a sweet smile, comes directly up to you. She says, kindly, “What are you here for today, dearie?”

I would want to push her away from me. It is NONE OF HER FUCKING BUSINESS why I am at Planned Parenthood. I could be getting an abortion, sure; I’m not ignorant, I know they do them there. I could be picking up condoms, getting a pap smear, or meeting my friend who had an abortion to get her home safely. I could be bringing coffee to my hypothetical boyfriend, who maybe works as an escort.

But I don’t have to tell this woman any of that. It’s none of her business.

So I say, “I don’t want to talk to you. I don’t have to tell you why I’m here.”

How many self-possessed 20-year-olds do you know, who will stand their ground and tell an older woman to mind her own beeswax?

So, now, how does this SCOTUS decision play out? Do we think Granny smiles kindly again and steps away? Or do we think she insists on talking about abortion? Do we think another pro-life protester, noticing this college-age woman trying to shut Granny down, is going to stand passively by? Or do we think it’s more likely that he’s going to start yelling epithets because he has first Amendment rights, dammit, and no cheeky co-ed is going to stop him from sharing his opinion?

I mean, we see the problem here, don’t we? Pro-life or pro-choice, we see the conflict between privacy and free speech? Or are Richard Posner and I lone voices in the wilderness? (I did not follow the case closely enough to know if this was part of oral arguments.)

Women have a right to healthcare, even cheeky college co-eds.

One of the reasons I am for freedom of speech in almost every case is because, generally, there is a measure of control over what I choose to consume. I don’t have to watch a show hosted by someone who has expressed racist or sexist views I find abhorrent. I don’t have to buy Hustler magazine, or otherwise let it into my home.

I also favor free speech because of the slippery slope argument: If we let government decide who gets to talk when, it’s just a matter of time before it decides to censor speech we agree with. This is why, as distasteful as I find the views of Westboro Church, I understand the Supreme Court ruling in favor of them being allowed to have their say. Same thing with my city and country music: the fans may leave a mess (and we do have to solve this problem), but the city can’t say country music can’t play here anymore.

But if I want to avail myself of healthcare, and I don’t have a car, and I don’t have a lot of money, and don’t have employer-provided healthcare… what are my options? What do I get to choose? I want to be proactive, and prevent disease, prevent an unwanted pregnancy — prevent an abortion. Do I get harassed no matter my intentions? Sure, it’s easy enough to say, I’m not here for that.

But even if I were, it’s none of their business, First Amendment or not.

What do you think? First Amendment trumps all? That seems to be the Court’s feeling these days.