Archive for August, 2007

Penguin controversy

August 30, 2007

51mnxjnkbfl_aa240_ The children’s book “And Tango Makes Three”, just won a dubious honor: it is the book that the American Library Association ranks as getting the most complaints in 2006 from parents and others (not exactly clear who these others are).

OK, I haven’t read it, so I’m going on the news reports. (But if I had kids at the picture book stage I’d definitely check it out). It’s based on a true story about two Central Park Zoo male penguins that raised a baby penguin. It apparently is well-written and illustrated, it won book awards.

And given how popular penguins are these days, the book is probably jumping off the shelves. And, apparently, freaking out some parents for, supposedly, “advocating homosexuality.”

Guess what folks, you can’t “advocate homosexuality” to a penguin. And I learned years ago taking a Valentine’s Day Sex tour at the San Francisco Zoo that some penguins are gay. And zookeepers do give same-sex penguins eggs to foster so they don’t get left out of whole breeding thing (and reportedly, the male pairs do the nicest jobs decorating their nests. (Let’s not do the “well, San Francisco” joke in the comments, folks, it’s been done.) So why not write a book about it? Heck, make it into a movie, it’d be a lot more kid-appropriate than Disney movies that start by bumping off a parent.

Potty training insanity

August 29, 2007

Man, am I’m glad I’m not doing the first baby thing right now. Back 15 (OMG it’s been a long time) years ago I just had to decide between cloth or disposable, and that wasn’t easy (tried cloth for a month, decided that I couldn’t take all the diaper blowouts and clothes-washing, and went to disposable happily ever after. Yeah, I know that makes me a bad person, go ahead and flame me). Now the really cool parents don’t use diapers at all.

Excuse me? Do we really need to look for ways to make the first years more difficult?  The Time Mag article that described this movement described parents rushing to trees and holding peeing babies over sinks. It said it really makes parents really tuned in to their kids, because they have to look for signals that kid is about to poop or pee and rush to take action. And that this is what parents in Africa do

because they can’t afford diapers.

Uh, excuse me, aren’t those African babies naked? That’s a different proposition altogether.

I hated when my kids decided to abandon diapers. (And make no
mistake, it was their decision, I was in no rush whatsoever). I’m an
out-and-about kind of mom (that would be an OAAM), which meant
abandoning grocery carts in line to run to the bathroom, nasty
portapotties at street fairs, missing the best part of a play for a
bathroom break, and yeah, occasionally resorting to the nearest tree
(and finding out that girls pretty much pee on their feet when you try
that). That window between giving up diapers to the muscle maturity to
“just hold it 20 minutes until we get home” was not what I would call
one of the highlights of parenthood.

Some of the inventions of modern life really do make a mom’s job easier.

NJ Food

August 25, 2007

Part of the appeal of our NJ shore vacation every summer is the food. The giant ultrathin perfectly greasy and salty pizza slices that fill up two overlapping paper plates and still fall over the edges. The cheesesteaks with extra peppers and onions. The Italian sausage sandwiches, ditto. We don’t do funnel cakes, though they seem to be sold everywhere. (Though we loved the “Last funnel cakes before the Parkway” sign we spotted.) We do do steamed lobster, sometimes cook the crabs we catch (and sometimes just throw them all back and go out for dinner), and grab clams straight off the grill to drown in butter. We do NJ breakfasts (egg and cheese on a poppyseed hard roll with lots of butter, grilled pork roll optional). And we think we’re the only ones that know that, for a Californian, NJ food is special.

    Then we hop on the shuttle to the airport, and the driver asks us where we’re from. California, we say.

    “Can’t get good pizza there I hear.”

    “You’re right, we’ve been eating lots of pizza.”

    He talked about hotdogs (in NJ, we eat Sabrett’s with sauerkraut; he prefers Philly style garbage dogs with French Fries on the bottom). And he told us about when he was living in Italy and tried to order penne with vodka sauce in a restaurant, a classic Italian dish if you are ordering Italian food in NJ; my daughter had it just three nights earlier. He said the waiter told him, “Hey, this ain’t Hoboken!”

    So even in Italy waiters know about those marinara sauce-lots of grease-vaguely Italian-NJ delicacies that they definitely don’t sell at Whole Foods. And I’m going through serious NJ-food withdrawal.

The soul-sucking DMV

August 24, 2007

Dmvlogo_round The last time I set foot in the DMV was 9 ½ years ago. Back in 1998 my driver’s license renewal forms evaporated in the mail and I unwittingly let my license expire. When I tried to get a Palo Alto library card months later, the librarian pointed out that I had handed her an expired license. Completely freaked out that I’d been driving illegally for months, I hauled my six-year-old, my two-year-old, and my 7-months pregnant belly to the DMV, where I stood in line far longer than any of us were happy about (and some of us were more vocal than others). The DMV doesn’t cut anybody a break, even sweaty pregnant moms. I’ve been on top of license and registration renewals ever since; I really didn’t want to have to go back there.

    So my plan yesterday, when I needed to take my now-15-year-old to the DMV to get his driver’s permit, was to get him positioned in line and retreat to the car, where I had a thermos cup full of ice tea (no eating or drinking in the DMV), my cell phone and a list of calls to return (no cell phone chatting allowed inside the DMV) and a stack of unread newspapers. But the minute we walked inside I knew I couldn’t leave my child so easily. Yes, he needs to get through this process on his own; if he’s old enough to drive he’s old enough to stand in line and do some paperwork. But leaving him alone in that cold concrete tomb would have been like abandoning him to the Dementors; he would have eventually staggered out, but at what cost? Compared to this, kindergarten drop-off seemed like a walk in the park.

    Sometimes a mom’s job is to just be there, so I plunked myself into one of the completely nonergonomic body-hostile molded-plastic chairs, where he could spot me from most anywhere, and tried to think happy thoughts. Alex had an appointment at 3 pm; it was a few minutes before three; it couldn’t take long.

    Alex went to stand in line number one; the line to get a number to get in line. That was quick, maybe five minutes. Then the wait to be called to get in the line at window four, the line for people with appointments; a long 20 or 30 minutes. (Not having an appointment consigned you to a several hour wait.) I watched him move from the line at window four, where he paid the money, to the line at window 17, where he got his picture taken, to another line at an unmarked desk, where he picked up his test. Taking the test only took a moment, then back in the line at window 17 to turn it in and, finally, pick up his permit. I glanced over the paperwork they gave him to make sure it seemed complete (no way did I want to go back), and we fled the building.

    Alex was wiped out. “I wasn’t nervous at all about the test until I got inside that building. Man, that’d be an awful place to work.” He told me about the guy in the line 4 next to him who had been sent away for incomplete paperwork and had unleashed a pornographic diatribe directed at everyone in sight; but mostly what had gotten to him was the sheer depression of everyone around. I was glad I had stayed ing sight.

    We survived the DMV Dementors. Later this week, the driver’s ed car arrives for lesson one. Next comes 50 hours behind the wheel with a parent in the car. Happy thoughts, I’ll just keep thinking happy thoughts…..

There will be no rescue

August 23, 2007

Lifeguardchair A couple of days into the beach part of our family vacation my watch band broke. OK, my DH broke my watch band, having borrowed my watch because his broke just before vacation. Anyway, I was not going to spend my vacation time hunting down a new watch band, so I shoved it into a drawer, figuring this was probably a good thing, letting go of time and all that.

    However, if I really let go of time it meant I wouldn’t leave the beach and feed the kids until well after sunset, which would have meant extremely cranky kids and cranky parents. (I tried that one day, it wasn’t pretty.) So I relied on the end-of-day beach closing announcements (5 pm on weekdays, 5:30 on weekends) to send me back to the rental house. (The beach doesn’t really close; oceans run 24 hours, and so do shore parking meters. Beach closing just means the lifeguards leave, and will no longer blow whistles if you go out too far or take a surfboard into a non-surfing zone.)

    And listening to beach closing announcements became one of the highlights of summer vacation. (If it involves the beach, I’m easy to please.) Because the lifeguard doing the announcements turned it into a daily dramatic reading.

    The water was a little rough the first day I listened. “The beaches are now closed. The lifeguards are leaving. Please stay out of the water; if you get in trouble (Pregnant Pause) no help will come.”

    The next day the waves were seriously churning and the tide was sucking lost shovels out to sea. “The beaches are now closed. The lifeguards are leaving the beach. Parents, please keep your children out of the water, there will be no rescue. There will be NO RESCUE. The ocean is dangerous. Take your kids for a walk on the boardwalk, get them something to eat, do not let them go in the water.” My kids ran up onto the sand. This guy was serious. I wanted to take him home with me; perhaps he could record an announcement I could play whenever my soon-to-be-permitted teen gets behind the wheel of the car: “Please turn off your cell phone. Do not even think of turning on the radio. Pay attention, do not go even one mile over the speed limit. Watch out for bikers and pedestrians and never ever take your eyes off the road. Cars are dangerous. There will be no rescue.”

    The faceless voice on the PA system (we think it belonged to the head lifeguard who occasionally cruised the beach on a dune buggy) became something mysterious and magical, our own omniscient Oz. One afternoon, having now lost her watch, one of my cousins said to no one in particular, “I wonder what time it is?”

    “The time is 3:30 pm, that’s 3:30 pm,” came the voice from the loudspeakers. We all jumped, he never had called out time checks before; we were sure he had heard her.

    One day beach closing came ahead of schedule. After a cloudy morning with a few rain showers, my cousin convinced me the break in the clouds and shafts of sunshine meant a perfect beach afternoon was beginning. So I loaded up kids, chairs, umbrellas, boogie boards, blankets, towels, lemonade, books, sand toys, and large shovels and shlepped to the beach. Said cousin had arrived five minutes earlier and had just finished setting up her family’s chairs and toys. And suddenly the sun disappeared, hail pelted down as the kids grabbed their boogie boards and ducked under them for shelter, and I was looking out at the opening scene of Wizard of Oz: the sky turned black, and a group of particularly ominous clouds began circling, faster and faster and tighter and tighter. My cousin and I looked at each other, “What the… that a tornado?”

    “Clear the beach! Clear the beach and take shelter! The beach is closed!” came the announcement. The tornado, thankfully moving out to the horizon, turned into a water spout that we watched in fascination as we backed off the beach. Tornadoes in New Jersey, wow…

    And finally a spectacular calm day, gently lapping waves, a light ocean breeze; the kids didn’t get out of the water for more than ten minutes all day. “Please clear the water. The beaches are now closed. (Rattled off at high speed) Ifyougetintroubletherewillbenohelp. (Pause) Wasn’t today just a glorious beach day!!!! And indeed it was.