Ducks, Cows, Bikes, and Gender Roles

June 27, 2009 at 8:47 am | Posted in All Consuming, Raves & Rants | 9 Comments

P’ito and I were reading on of our old favorites this morning – David Shannon’s Duck on a Bike – and as I read it, I started to get a queasy feeling in my stomach.  For those who are not familiar with the story, a duck (male) sees a bike, climbs on it, and rides around the farmyard, interacting with various animals as he goes.  When a bunch of kids come by on bikes and then leave them outside, the whole farmyard gets to join in, pedalling around with great glee and then putting the bikes back so that “no one knew that on that afternoon, there had been a cow, a sheep, a dog, a cat, a chicken, a goat, two pigs, a mouse, and a duck on a bike.”

Seems harmless, no? But let’s look at the gender of the animals and the way they react to Duck riding the bike:

Animal Gender “What she/he thought was…” Reaction Category
Cow Female “A duck on a bike? That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever seen!” Critical
Sheep Female “He’s going to hurt himself if he’s not careful” Critical/Cautious
Dog Male “That is a mighty neat trick Active/enthusiastic
Cat Female “I wouldn’t waste my time riding a bike Critical/Passive
Horse Male “You’re still not as fast as me, Duck! Critical/Active
Chicken Female “Watch where you’re going, Duck!” Critical/Cautious
Goat Male “I’d like to eat that bike!” Active
Pig and Pig Undefined (they) “Duck is such a show-off Critical
Mouse Male “I wish I could ride a bike just like Duck.” Active

When you see it laid out like this, what does this book tell you about the differences between boys and girls? And is that the message you want your kid to be learning?

I still read it to P’ito – because it’s a fun book and he loves it. I’ve just started swapping the genders around. But it’s a reminder to me of how unconsciously these messages slip in…

Captive Audience

June 17, 2009 at 9:04 am | Posted in Political Animal, Raves & Rants | 6 Comments

Dear Mr. President,

You know there’s no way in hell I am going to vote for a Republican, so you think you can take my vote for granted?

Throw the gays a bone – say that you’re going to extend federal benefits to partners – but oh, DOMA says you can’t offer them health or retirement benefits.

And the justice dept doesn’t have a problem with the constitutionality of DOMA?

Eff you, and your little dog too.

xo Art

Dear Accountant, now with bodily fluids

June 4, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Posted in Bringing Home the Bacon, Raves & Rants | 1 Comment

Because I cannot complain about this at work and my skull is about to explode.

Your boss has asked you to handle grant $ in a specific way.

Yes, it is makes more work for you.

I understand that you think it is totally unnecessary and “I haven’t seen an auditor in 30 years of doing this work and 100K is nothing to the feds.”

Times change. The new buzzword is accountability.

Her ass, and my ass, are on the line for what happens with this money.

Please just do your fucking job and stop whining. If you spent half the time you are spending bitching about this situation on solving it, you’d be done already and I would not have a hole in my tongue from biting it.

Off to go actually DO my job, while I’ve still got it…

p.s. You are the only male in the building.  Therefore when I enter the bathroom and the light is on, the toilet seat is up, AND there are fresh dribbles on the floor… it is pretty clear who did it.

p.p.s. I do not want to do your job.  I simply want YOU to do it WELL.  Had you bothered to look at the forms I had filled out previously, you would have seen that the totals are cumulative.  The correct response to “Hey, Chuck*, I’m sorry, but these forms aren’t filled out correctly” is not “Okay, you do them then,” it’s “Okay, what do I need to change?”

* Obviously, not his real name.

Fact Check, Please?

February 21, 2009 at 3:25 pm | Posted in Raves & Rants, The Sweet Life | 8 Comments

I should know better than to expect scientifically accurate journalism from any mainstream news outlet.  But somehow it always pisses me off more when the NY Times blows it.  I don’t know why I expect better from them – paper of record? – but I do. Whenever they publish a breathless article about the cure being right around the corner at least fifteen family members forward it to me, much to my irritation.

I cringed when their front page article on IVF and the octuplets referred to “implanting” embryos 11 times (!) even after quoting the ASRM guidelines that refer to transferring embryos.  For those of you scratching your heads, in IVF, embryos are transferred to the woman’s uterus, where they subsequently do or do not implant.  Implantation is the first move towards pregnancy – if they don’t implant, they aren’t doing anything.  If reproductive endocrinologists could actually implant embryos, the world of IVF would be very very different.  

But I really wanted to cancel my subscription after reading this gem of an article about young people without health insurance.  

When Robert Voris last had health insurance, in 2007, he stockpiled insulin pumps, which are inserted under the skin to constantly monitor blood-sugar levels and administer the drug accordingly. He said the tubing for the pump costs $900 a month, so lately he has instead been injecting insulin with a syringe. But Mr. Voris, 27, a journalism student at the City University of New York who works at a restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn, is constantly worried about diabetes-induced seizures like the one that sent him to the hospital last summer. (Because it happened at work, his boss covered the ambulance and other bills.)

He “stockpiled insulin pumps”? Which “are inserted under the skin to constantly monitor blood-sugar levels and administer the drug accordingly?”


I understand that diabetes wasn’t the focus of the article, but could you please, please, do some rudimentary fact-checking before you publish shite? Grrrrrr.

Vote Mother? Vote, Mother!

June 13, 2008 at 12:44 am | Posted in Raves & Rants | 4 Comments

Since P’ito came home, I’ve gotten pickier about my reading material. I have to – it’s a matter of fitting my blog reading in survival in between work, chores, friends and family.  The measure of a really good book for me is when I turn to Pili and poke her and say, YOU, YOU HAVE GOT TO READ THIS RIGHT NOW and I do not care what vital activity of yours I am interrupting.  Even sleep.

I encountered quite a few of those “must read” moments in paging through Shari Macdonald Strong’s collection of essays, The Maternal is Political.  The forty-four short essays in the book cover a lot of ground, from Kathy Bricetti’s moving account of how personal and political intersected when they came “to court for a rare event in 1993: a woman adopting a baby boy in order to up his number of legal mothers to two,” to Jennifer Graf Groneberg’s breath-taking account of being moved to political action in order to protect her right to home-school her son with Down syndrome.  Okay, you have to read this.  She writes:

I’m not a political person by nature. I’m a peacemaker, a smoother-over, a find-the-middle- ground kind of woman.  But reading the language of SB291, particularly section 8, part 3, which stated that any child with developmental delays must be educated in a classroom, caused something within me to shift.  I recalled the Constitution, which until now seemed like nothing more than a dusty old document I’d read in a history book, and it’s guarantees in the preamble to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”  The words came alive for me: I was a citizen; I had rights – and if I didn’t exercise them, my sons would pay for my apathy.

The idea that holds all these diverse essays together is, as Macdonald Strong writes in her introduction, that “there is no more politically powerful act than mothering.”  Our children motivate us to make differences in the world, small and large.  I was fascinated by the range of ideas on exactly how mothering makes a difference in the world, by authors from Cindy Sheehan and Benazir Bhutto to Anne Lamott and Susie Bright.

Other reviewers have already written about my main quibble with the book, which is the lack of political diversity in the essays.  Macdonald Strong envisions a world “when the most active political groups in the world are not those obsessed with winning a war, but those determined to win the peace.”  She assumes that this will occur when “the driving force behind politics in my country [and elsewhere, I presume?] is not power or money, but maternal love.”  I am sure that maternal love motivates some of the people who believe that we are fighting a just war in Iraq.  I am sure that maternal love motivates people who believe we should abolish reproductive choice.  I’m not so sure that a mothers’ movement = a progressive political movement, as much as I’d like to believe that.  A few of the essays cross over the line of political and verge into preachy self-rightousness.

But then, just as I turn that pessimistic corner, I reread the closing essay, Valerie Weaver-Zercher’s fabulous “Peace March Sans Children,” and recognize myself.  “I’m also learning, she writes,

That social movements will go on, even if nursing mothers or parents of toddlers have to drop out for awhile. We will be back, someday, maybe when the youngest turns two or whenever we can afford to dream like activists rather than work like dogs… And when we do rejoin the movement, it is possible that we will agitate and march and advocate from a deeper place within ourselves than we had known existed.  It is possible that we will act from that cavity our children have hollowed out of us, that place where breath begins.

I can’t finish without mentioning the essays that first stopped me in my tracks, and made me wake Pili up to read them.  One was Barbara Kingsolver’s essay, “A Letter to My Daughter at Thirteen,” which described my experience of new motherhood so exactly, precisely perfectly, that it gave me goosebumps.  And I can’t leave out fellow adoptive mom Violeta Garcia-Mendoza’s beautiful discussion of the complexities of international adoption.  I can’t choose one section to quote so instead, I poke you.  Hey you – you there reading this blog – go read it. NOW.

In which our narrator beats the evil health insurance bastards

June 9, 2008 at 1:05 pm | Posted in Raves & Rants, The Other D (Better Living Through Chemistry) | 9 Comments

So I recently refilled my mail order pharmacy supply of happy pills… I get the name brand b/c the generic is uncoated and sticks in my throat every single time.  It’s a slightly higher copay, but it’s worth it.

My previous copay for this was $80 for a 90 day supply.

I get my credit card bill and realize I’ve been charged $492!!!

I call and am told that on 4/3/08 (huh? random date?) a MAC penalty was added to that drug, meaning that if you take the name brand instead of the generic, you get penalized big time.  I was never notified of this – obviously, I’d have refilled the script before 4/3 if I knew that was going to happen!

MAC PENALTY? Do I get a happy meal with that?

A few forceful “I was not notifieds” and “may I speak to your supervisor PLEASE”s and I’m put on hold for 10 minutes.  When the woman comes back, she says that she has been authorized to give me a one-time exception, and I will be getting a refund for the amount I was overcharged.  In the future, I can have my doctor’s office fill out an “exception request form” if I need the name brand drug.

Thing I always wonder after encounters like this.  What if I wasn’t…

– educated & literate enough to read my insurance plan documents
– a native speaker of English
– privileged enough to believe I deserve better treatment
– privileged enough to have a job where I can make personal phone calls during work hours (because these folks are 9-5, baby)

I’d be screwed out of $400.  And more.

Does Anyone Have “Clean Little Secrets”?

April 22, 2008 at 11:13 pm | Posted in Raves & Rants | 16 Comments

I’ve always wondered about that.

When MotherTalk offered up the chance to review Tricia Ashworth and Amy Nobile’s new book Dirty Little Secrets from Otherwise Perfect Moms, I jumped.

I envisioned Dirty Little Secrets as a “break glass in case of emergency” stash of those moments that remind you that you are not the worst mom in the world – or at least that the world is full of equally awful moms.

Along those lines, I will always treasure the memory of the time that the Good Mom at Daycare – y’know the one whose kid is never in the late room with P’ito and the other sniffling snuffling why-don’t-my-parents-love-me-enough-to-pick- me-up-on-time kids – confessed that she didn’t care if her son’s teeth rotted: his bedtime bottle of milk put him to sleep. Speaking of which… any tips for eliminating said bottle of milk and/or brushing the teeth of an almost 18 month old with FANGS would be much appreciated

And is there a parent alive who hasn’t seen a child howling in the supermarket and thought: “Thank g-d that’s not my kid.” Or: Oh shit. That IS my kid. (grab bagel from bakery section and shove in kid’s mouth. Endure look of scorn on cashier’s face as she rings up a sixpack of beer a gallon of milk, a package of wipes, a frozen pizza, and a well-masticated whole wheat bagel. Hey, it’s whole wheat…)

I think of the time that my colleague confessed that she sent her daughter to daycare on days when she didn’t have to go into work just to have time to catch up on stuff at home. And how she still feels a mixture of guilt and relief about having done that: SEVENTEEN YEARS LATER. And inside me a little window opened, a little breeze blew through me – it’s not just me.

In this book, Ashworth and Nobile set out to recapture that sensation of relief for moms everywhere. They write:

“Our goal is to puncture the overblown expectations we all have of ourselves to be “perfect,” and in the process make our generation of mothers feel less guilty, less burdened, more unified, and less alone.”

The book consists of pithy confessions from Real Live Moms – one per page. They range from the amusing – “We were in the grocery store and when we hit the wine aisle, she screamed, ‘That’s Mommy’s juice!'” – to the heart-wrenching “Sometimes I think my nanny does a better job than I do.” There were plenty of confessions that had me nodding my head in agreement and a few that had me shaking my head with irritation – the more dishes my husband does, the more likely he is to “get some” later? What does that have to do with making us feel less guilty or less burdened as moms? I hate the way my husband chews? Ditto, ditto, ditto.

Some of MotherTalk’s other reviewers think this book would be too scary for first time moms. As one, I beg to differ – I think that this is exactly when you need a book like this, because you will be utterly sleep deprived and a book like this, with just a sentence or two on each page, is the perfect antidote to the 16 partially read and utterly contradictory baby books on your nightstand. Plus, early motherhood is exactly when you need to know that

a) There is No Such Thing as the Perfect Mom,
b) It’s okay not to love your child every moment of every day, and um,
c) A bedtime bottle of milk at 18 months will not rot your child’s teeth out and if it does, they’re just baby teeth, righhhht?

And that’s why I will be passing this book along at a baby shower in a few weeks. If you’d like to win a copy for yourself – or an amazon gift card – check out the contest that MotherTalk is hosting.

p.s. On the subject of secrets dirty and clean. I have not done one of the following things. Can you guess which one it is?

  • Ignored stench of post-breakfast po-po in order to get out of the house and get child to daycare. Lied and told teacher that he went in the car on the way to school…
  • Served the same thing for breakfast (waffles and banana) four days in a row because a) he’ll eat it, and b) it doesn’t make (too much of a) mess when thrown on the floor
  • Ignored the fact that he is eating an apple dropped on the ground at the playground. By someone else.
  • Told my partner: “Don’t smile at him, he’s evil.”

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