Thursday, April 26, 2007

Vote For My Sister!

My sister Danielle is in an "American Idol" type contest to win a chance to host her own public radio show. I'm so proud of her and all she's doing, so please support her!

Vote for Dani!

Since When is Breastfeeding Indecent?

A Florida mom was recently kicked out of a restaurant for breastfeeding her 5-month-old - while completely covered by a blanket!

And, as this press report points out, Florida law even goes so far as to
specifically state that a mother may breastfeed "irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother's breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breastfeeding."

So it's okay for ads to feature models with breasts hanging out all over and for teenagers to wear pants that show off their barely-there thongs, but get rid of that woman nursing her baby!


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Beauty in the Unexpected Places

The Washington Post recently sponsored an experiment with Joshua Bell, the most talented classical violinist in the world. When I was 14 or 15, I got to see Joshua Bell in concert back when he was still a teenager, too.

It's a though-provoking piece. How many of us, in our harried day-to-day lives, can really appreciate what's around us? How many of us take the time to look at the world? Pay attention to the other people around us?

I do agree that art, in all forms, is enhanced by its context - physical, historical, geographical, etc. But there are some fundamentals that stand out as beautiful outside of any context.

As a former violinist, I would hope I would have been one of the passers-by who recognized Bell's genius in the incongrous context. But even more, I would hope I'd recognize the genius simply by being human. He's so good that it's really hard to miss.

But in the context, would even I have missed it? It's disturbing that I can't say for certain.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

It's still overwhelming sometimes

Overall, I think I'm handling Dad's death reasonably well. I miss him terribly, but life has a way of moving forward even if you think it shouldn't - especially when you have small children to take care of. I no longer break down every time I walk past Dad's picture at the end of the hall. Now, I can smile fondly and remember how much he continues to positively influence me even in his absence.

But there are still tough days. Like yesterday. In going through a box of old receipts, I found a check my Dad wrote me in December that I thought I'd lost. He gave me a replacement, so I won't cash this one. I should, in fact, shred it. But I can't bring myself to do that - it's his handwriting, his signature. I'm not sure I saved anything else with his handwriting on it. Just like my mom can't bring herself to replace Dad's voice on their answering machine.

Then, last night, Mom's house (Mom and Dad's house, actually) officially went on the market. She sent me the web site where it's listed. I scrolled through all the pictures, to see the results of all the hard work she's put in over the last couple months to get it ready. And it looks nice. But seeing the house listed for sale threw me over the emotional edge again - I'm very happy Mom is moving up here to be near me and my family, but I hate that she's moving by herself. So it was a rough night - compounded by a lot of stress I'm putting on myself lately (how to fit in time to work, making decisions about my older son's school, hosting 3 birthday parties by Monday, insomnia...).

I'd say "Calgon, take me away!" except that I'd spend all the time in the bath worrying about everything else I *wasn't* doing.


A Mom I Can Relate To

We Protect Kids From Everything But Fear
With hand sanitizer and long-sleeved swimsuits, we're teaching our children a dangerous lesson.
By Paula Spencer

April 2, 2007 issue - Four 11- and 12-year-old girls stood in front of my open pantry, mouths gaping wide. "Look! Fruit Roll-Ups!" "Oh, my God! Chocolate-chip cookies!" "You have regular potato chips? We only get the soy kind!"

After 14 years and four kids, I thought I'd feel comfortable as a mother. Instead, I'm increasingly aware of a prickly new sensation: that I'm some kind of renegade. Who knew that buying potato chips would become a radical act? Or that letting my daughters walk home from school alone would require administration approval? How did I, a middle-of-the-road mom, become a social deviant?

Fear is the new fuel of the American mom. If it's not fear of her child becoming obese, it's the fear of falling behind, missing out on a sports scholarship or winding up with a thin college-rejection envelope.

Apparently I'm not nervous enough. Last summer while I was loafing in front of the TV with my kids, the most benign things morphed into menaces. For example, the sun: long-sleeved, UV-protective swimsuits were all the rage at my neighborhood pool, while I could barely remember to bring the year-old sunscreen. The water wasn't safe either: at the beach I saw tots dressed in flotation belts and water wings—for shelling along the shore. And goodbye, cotton candy and hot dogs! At a major-league game I saw moms and dads nix the stuff as if they'd never eaten the occasional ballpark treat. As if their children would balloon into juvenile-diabetes statistics if a single swig of sugary soda passed their lips.

Half my kids' friends—who already make A's and B's—had summer tutors in order to "keep it fresh." I thought vacation was for relaxing and recharging. What would our pioneer foremoms think? (You want something to worry about, let me show you frostbite, typhoid and bears!) Heck, what must our own mothers think? (Snap out of it! Go worry about something truly scary, like how you're going to pay for retirement!)

I thought that once the kids were back in school, things would calm down. Instead, a fresh seasonal crop of anxiety sprouted, this time over corruptive candy fund-raisers and insufficient use of hand sanitizer. I know one mom who wants to change her son's schedule because he doesn't know anyone in his classes; she's worried he'll be "socially traumatized" all year. Another is afraid of a learning disability she just read about, though her child seems bright and charming to me.

And then there's playground panic. I had to laugh when an Australian study recently found that playground injuries continue to rise despite safety improvements. One of the suspected reasons: the safe new play structures are so boring that kids are taking more risks in order to have fun.

The fears are as irrational as they are rampant. Recently my children's elementary school failed to meet adequate yearly progress goals for a particular minority's reading progress under the No Child Left Behind Act and was placed on a warning list. This meant parents might gain the right to transfer their children to another school in the district. Never mind that this very same school sent more kids to the district's gifted program than any other, or that this entire district has the highest SAT scores in the state. The day the news broke, six different moms (none in the affected minority) asked me if I was planning to transfer my kids. From neighborhood pride and joy to threat to child's future overnight.

It's not that I think parents shouldn't worry about anything. I'm personally petrified of SUV drivers on cell phones. I fret as much as the next mom about how to pay for college. I pray my kids won't wander onto MySpace and post something dumb.

But you can't go around afraid of everything. It's too exhausting! No matter how careful you are, bad stuff happens (diaper rash, stitches, all your friends assigned to another class). And it's seldom the end of the world.

Watching my daughter's friends ogle my pantry, I realized there's one big, legitimate fear that I haven't heard anybody mention: what's the effect of our collective paranoia on the kids? Yes, these very kids we want to be so self-sufficient, responsible, confident, happy and creative (not to mention not food-obsessed). They're growing up thinking these weirdly weenie views are healthy and normal.

Walking out my front door that day, each girl happily clutched a plastic baggie stuffed with the exotic kid snacks that my daughter had doled out in pity. I may be a rebel mom, but at least I'm not afraid of a chocolate-chip cookie.

Spencer lives in Chapel Hill, N. C.


© 2007