Thursday, August 28, 2008

My evangelical friend

Nope, this isn't some joke. I met someone who I really like - she has a similar personality and a lot of the same interests. Her approach to parenting is very similar to mine. She doesn't suffer fools gladly and has a wry sense of humor. And the other day we were chatting, and she mentioned that she wouldn't ever go to a church that allowed women to be pastors, because it's unbiblical. Needless to say, my jaw dropped. Luckily it was a phone conversation.

The thing that allows us to remain friends (at least so far) is that she makes such judgments about her own life, allowing others to make their own decisions without harassment. She also knows that I'm an atheist, and does not seem fazed. There has been only one reference to this between us. We work in a volunteer organization and wanted to use space at a church for meetings. She wanted my opinion, as a non-Christian, of the proposal letter for this, to be careful she wasn't tainting our secular organization with sectarian bias.

In short, she is cool.

Do I, when I reflect upon it, think it's kind of weird that my down-to-earth, sensible buddy believes in a magical sky spirit that doesn't want women to preach? Of course. No doubt she's a little concerned that such a nice person as I may be unsaved and condemned to hell. But weirdly, it hasn't wrecked our relationship, because we seem to agree to interact on this temporal plane and leave the supernatural out of our interactions.

I wish more people (on both sides) could be like this.

Friday, August 22, 2008

No Possum Zone Exposed as Hypocrisy Zone

Normally I wouldn't share personal information about people they might find embarrassing. However, there are exceptions when said people boast of their alleged holiness, AND publicly accuse others of impropriety.

So here's the scoop: Tom and Nancy have been smugly accusing PMomma of perversion, immorality, and general sinfulness, while constantly citing their own moral superiority.

But it turns out that they're not so pure after all. Never mind that they had premarital sex, with the baby being born about four months after their wedding. Most of us in the reality-based community don't find that distasteful, though it does expose some hypocrisy. What is troubling is that evidently Nancy has at least once called the police because Tom was violent toward her, (and with her talk of submission one wonders how often he could beat her without her calling for help). They have also apparently been evading paying taxes. Yes, clearly they are a model of Christian morality. (N.B. these tidbits are care of Nancy's sister, erstwhile friend of PMomma, circa 2001. Tom admits to fornication, and implicitly admits the other actions by saying he has been forgiven "about those things.")

But really, there's something else that bothers me. They were pointed to PMomma by an old friend of hers who turned on her and clearly has been stalking her blog looking for revenge. This friend had once been very close and had access to private documents of PMomma's. She betrayed this trust and shared these documents with Tom and Nancy, and they happily complied in the betrayal and splashed private information on the web in an attempt to "get" PMomma. They are so contemptible.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ezzo - Feeding Philosophies

Miss Scarlet: Why?!
Wadsworth: To create confusion!
Mrs. Peacock: It worked.

- Clue

Earlier we saw that Babywise attempts to reduce the large array of real parenting options to two polar opposites: Babywise, or anything-goes. As Ezzo embarks on a discussion of feeding babies, he switches to the opposite approach. He flails around wildly in an attempt to make feeding babies seem ridiculously complex and confusing. He works hard to manufacture bewilderment among readers, so the author can then offer a seemingly sensible, clear solution.

"Demand-feeding. Hyperscheduling. Cry feeding. Breastfeeding and bottle. . . . why all the confusion? One reason might be the overabundance of parenting theories. With so many options it is no wonder parents get confused."

It goes on like that, with Ezzo reaching for odd, academic-sounding terms and italicizing them to emphasize their strangeness: demand-feed, demand schedule, self-regulating schedule, natural feeding, hyperscheduling, rigid feeding, cry feeding, responsive feeding, bottle-feeding. Seriously, he italicizes "bottle-feeding" like it's an exotic foreign term. He wraps up the obfuscation triumphantly: "Who can decipher all the terms and techniques?" No one, when you describe them Gary.

I Googled these supposed terms of art. The results were not surprising. "Demand feeding" and "Cue feeding" are treated as synonyms - they are two ways to refer to the same practice. A search for "rigid feeding" turned up some articles about whether to demand feed or feed by a schedule, but the term "rigid feeding" as a separate philosophical approach did not appear. All the other terms failed to return any references to them as feeding philosophies, except in articles quoting Ezzo himself.

Here's the bottom line: the first choice in infant feeding is whether you will nurse exclusively or use formula. The second choice is whether you will feed on demand (looking for baby's hunger cues and responding), or feed the baby on an imposed schedule. And that's pretty much it for choosing between feeding philosophies. Everything else is a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. And I trust you remember who tells a tale like that.

So why the huge effort to create confusion? It’s simple – the smoke and mirrors are meant to create the illusion that Ezzo’s approach is a sane middle ground. In reality, Babywise is well known as the most rigid, schedule-driven advice around. To dodge this criticism, Ezzo must create a fantasy landscape of crazy, diverse feeding philosophies in which to situate his approach as a sensible compromise.

It seems I’ve written at least a post’s worth on the very first page of this chapter. I think I’ll save the rest for another post. There’s an awful lot of trickery to unpack in this chapter!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Ominous signs

Hmm. Last night I dreamed that one of the kids got some new sneakers, and I came slowly to realize that they were evil, and were allowing the devil to possess us. Or something - you know how dream logic works. The weird thing was I started as my normal skeptical self, and got enough evidence to change my worldview on the whole supernatural issue. In the dream I was not only scared because, yanno, The Devil, but freaked out because my universe had been turned upside down. It was really nice to wake up to the real world!

Then today as I returned home from the grocery store, about eight huge crows took flight from my front yard. Is eight an evil number? It might have been more, but it was definitely less than 666.

I'm lucky I'm a rational person. I got a laugh out of this stuff. I know of people who would have taken such events as deadly serious signs of haunting, psychic powers, or demonic possession.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Ezzo Chapter One, Redux

OK, having dealt with the obvious flawed premises, logical fallacies, and internal contradictions, I promised to unpack the subtext of this chapter as well. Let me start by simply laying out relevant quotes, and see if you follow these to the same conclusion I did.

"The husband-wife union is not just a good first step toward child-rearing. It is a necessary one. Too often, parents lose sight of this fact, getting lost in a parenting wonderland of photos, footsteps, and first words."

"Marriage is unique - totally without parallel. It transcends all other relationships."

"Where the marriage is intact, keeping this relationship a priority is your starting point for successful parenting."

"Too often when a child enters a family, parents leave their first love: each other. The spotlight shifts to illuminate the children, and the marriage gets lost in space."

"Date your spouse. . . . Continue those loving gestures you enjoyed before the baby came along."

See where I'm going with this? And don't for a minute think that Ezzo is concerned equally with each spouse's happiness. It seems very clear to me that these are exhortations to a new mother not to focus too much attention on her new baby, but to make sure she keeps her husband satisfied. See: (emphasis added in all quotes below)

"With child-centered or mother-centered parenting, parents intensely pursue the child's happiness." Seriously, he just throws "mother-centered" parenting in as an equivalent of child-centered parenting, without explanation.

"When you become a mother, you do not stop being a daughter, a sister, a friend, or a wife. Those relationships, which were important before the baby, still must be maintained."

"Date your spouse . . . The baby will not suffer separation anxiety from one night without mom."

"If you buy a special something for baby, select a little gift for your mate as well." Who generally buys items for the baby? Yeah, Mom. Or maybe I should call her Wife.

Oh, and I almost forgot this bizarre statement: "Since infants are entirely dependent on parental care, their dependency creates for new parents a heightened gratification." What the hell? I can only guess, but this seems to be another jab at mothers being "overly involved" with baby care (i.e., taking appropriate care of a newborn), as though properly responding to an infant indicates some pathological need on the part of the mother. If someone can explain this non sequitur, please enlighten me.

I'll just quote here the marginal notes I made when I twigged to all this: "OMG! This is written by a man who feared/resented having his boobies/mother figure taken away. What a weak, fearful, grasping man."

Really. This book seems to have been written by a man so insecure, immature, and petty that he is jealous when his wife buys a present for their baby. So sad. And sadder still that he has conned thousands of people into following his, "NO, I want to be the baby!!!" philosophy, under the guise of responsible parenting.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Am I alone on this fence about PZ Myers?

In case you haven't heard the howling, PZ Myers has created the greatest stir of his career by soliciting a consecrated host to desecrate.

Now, I agree with every criticism of the Catholic church he makes in that post. I sympathize with his combined puzzlement and contempt for a group of people who somehow believe that the all-powerful creator of the universe becomes a wafer and can thereby be hurt by a puny human being. And by the way, the wafer is literally and truly the body of Christ, semi-human flesh, but it has no features of human flesh. They just know that it is, because, well, it just is.

To anyone outside the fold, this is patent insanity. Even to this confirmed Catholic (I suppose they still count me among their rolls, in fact), looking at it with fresh eyes, it is loopy beyond description. Furthermore, the history of pogroms inspired by fabricated cases of host desecration shows that this is not a silly benign belief, but can easily become full-on homicidal insanity. As do the death threats Myers has received.

So yes, let us skewer these stupid, benighted, harmful, ridiculous beliefs. Let us laugh at the overly earnest "defenders" of Christ's vulnerable flesh. Let us challenge the assertions made by these people and vociferously point out that their claims are contradicted by all evidence.

But, I do think that stealing a consecrated communion wafer is, well, dickish. And probably technically illegal. It seems to me overly inflammatory, and therefore counterproductive. Most people who are cheering PZ on are already on his side in this. People who might be convinceable that Catholicism is crazy bunk, but are not yet convinced, are more likely to be put off by something so intentionally rude. And as we've seen, believers are driven batshit crazy by it.

Actually, though, that brings me back to thinking maybe this was a good thing in that it exposed how dangerously out of their minds many true believers are.


By the bye, many critics called PZ out for not targeting the Koran. They imply he is a coward to spit in the eye of the relatively peaceful (i.e., only threatening death, rather than following through) Catholics, while carefully giving Muslims a free pass.

Now PZ himself was not involved, but I'd like to point out that when the Danish Mohammed cartoon debacle occurred, one of the very few publications to reprint the offending cartoons was Free Inquiry, a secular humanist magazine. When it comes to boldly facing up to would-be theocratic thugs, atheists are one of your best bets. Probably because, as PZ points out, we don't request a general "hands off" rule regarding beliefs in order to shelter our own. When you submit your own beliefs to rigorous criticism, you become free to stand up against the faulty beliefs of others.

So, here I am on my fence. Part of me says, "Yeah, go PZ!" and part of me cringes, and part of me raises her eyebrows and says, "Well regardless, the reaction is very illuminating," and I just can't come down anywhere solid. Am I the only person not successfully polarized by this scenario?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Babywise, Chapter One: Your Baby Needs a Family

First, let me note that Ezzo uses two "examples" of children raised in different ways. I put examples in quotes because they are not real children, just made up characters crafted to support Ezzo's views. Chelsea has the perfect parents according to Ezzo - married, committed, and bound and determined to be her authority figures, not her friends. Marisa, meanwhile, is apparently the daughter of unmarried lesbian democrats who crave her constant approval and dare not thwart her. Got it? Let's proceed.

Ezzo starts by painting all other parenting approaches as ineffectual, naive, and downright stupid: "You think [these parents] are too sweet. Too kind. They all have the best of intentions. If wishes and dreams were bright lights and lollipops, every day would be bliss. But there's much more to parenting than just high hopes."

He then goes on to lay down the prerequisite to parenthood: good old Judeo-Christian marriage. "The husband-wife union is not just a good first step towards child-rearing. It is a necessary one." OK, pretty clear - traditional marriage is absolutely indispensable to good parenting. Except two sentences later, when he tells single parents they can use his method too. OK - marriage is completely vital, except it's not really. I didn't expect things to go off the rails this quickly.

Credit where credit is due, I can see a lot of wisdom in promoting a solid pair-bond in parents to make kids feel secure and prevent excessive anxiety. A stable home is important to kids - not the most profound revelation, but at least he's getting that part right.

Then he says, "To be a good mom or dad, all you need is to continue as before." Seems like he is echoing a sentiment that seems prevalent in our culture - having a baby shouldn't cause even a ripple in your life. Anything a baby does to disrupt your sleep, your schedule, or your leisure time is a problem to be fixed. This is confirmed when he trots "Marisa" out as a bad example. He describes her parents making room for her needs in their lives (not going out for a few months because she doesn't do well with sitters, and not force-feeding her a food she rejects) summing up with, "Welcome to the circus." Yes, these parents have done two things to accommodate their baby - mass chaos will surely ensue!

I'm coming to see that Gary Ezzo is extremely fond of the False Dilemma fallacy. In fact, it appears to be the foundation of all his parenting advice. Follow Babywise, and your child will be secure, cooperative, kind, good, charitable, honest, honorable and respectful. She will be "a joy to have around." Fail to follow Babywise, and instead follow your instincts or "the La Leche League attachment-parenting style" and your parenting will be "disabling . . . emotionally crippling . . . devastating." You will be catering to your child's every whim, making her totally self-centered and selfish for the rest of her life.

Clearly Ezzo is unfamiliar with the actual tenets of attachment parenting, which emphasizes loving guidance, including using authority and behavior modification techniques. Surely there are parents out there who ascribe to a passive, lazy approach, or who consider their little darling a creative genius not to be squelched with the slightest redirection. But these have nothing to do with attachment parenting. More to the point, wherever attachment parenting falls on the continuum, it is patently true that there is a continuum of parenting choices ranging from the very permissive to the very authoritarian. There are a lot of points on the continuum between Ezzo and utter permissiveness, but he refuses to acknowledge them.

All in all, this first chapter paints a picture of an author terrified of losing control. The implication is that one must keep utter mastery of children, from the moment of their birth, or all will be lost and the child will be unruly, selfish, and miserable forever. To him, placing an infant at the center of attention and care in a family, even for a few weeks or months, is a recipe for disaster, never mind how utterly dependent newborns are.

There is another subtext to this chapter, but I'll leave it for a separate post, as this is quite long enough already.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Ezzo ahoy!

I've obtained a copy of Babywise at the consignment store, and I'm reading the Preface. So far I'm seeing two themes. First, the focus is on results, results, results. And for them "results" means the baby sleeping all night long without any parental intervention, and the mother being well rested. No mention so far of meeting baby's needs, fostering empathy and closeness, or listening to one's mothering instincts. The other focus is on how they are right and everyone else is wrong. La Leche League gets called out specifically, and the tone seems to be, "Go ahead, look at what those other methods get you" - any mother who is stressed or tired, and any child that has any behavioral hiccup must be the result of inferior baby training methods.

For me, the biggest problem will probably be differences in basic assumptions. They assume that babies should sleep all night without any intervention, and that tired parents are the greatest problem to be avoided. I assume that babies are primates who are wired to need parental intervention quite often when young, and that this intervention brings benefits. It also becomes less frequent, on average, as the baby matures, and the key at the beginning is finding strategies to deal with the need for intervention, rather than trying to extinguish the baby's calls for help.

We'll see - I imagine that there will be a substantial amount of advice that I find perfectly reasonable (for instance, I believe the Ezzos promote a pattern of sleep-wake-eat rather than eat-sleep-wake, which coincidentally seems to serve my baby well). But in a way that may make the poor advice more dangerous.

Chapter 1 will be dissected soon . . .

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A housekeeping joke

I've decided to Do The Right Thing and read Babywise before commenting on it. It'll be painful, but I'd like to be able to address it head on, not simply based on excerpts and accounts of failure to thrive cases.

So, for today, I have a joke.

Q: How dirty does a toilet have to be for a man to clean it?
A: Dirty enough that a woman tells him to clean it.

Seriously, this was inspired by my own experience, which was echoed again and again in the comments at Ask Moxie regarding the splitting of household chores. Most people seem able to divide the tangible tasks fairly equitably. However, several women mentioned that they hate having to be the one to coordinate everything. I call it being the general of the household. A poster there called it having to be the Great Oz.

The point is, lots of women wind up de facto coordinator of all household tasks, from diapering the baby to planning the finances. In our house, my husband is willing to do pretty much any task I ask him to do. However, I have to ask him to do it right then - saying, "Can you do X by the end of the month" gets decidedly mixed results. And if I don't ask, it doesn't matter how filthy the house is, he will drift into the study and play computer games until he is summoned to do an assigned task. The other problem I have is that he will do it, but he often makes it very clear that he's not happy that I asked him to do it, sighing or rolling his eyes like a damned teenager. In his view, this is acceptable, as long as he complies with the request, since I couldn't possibly expect him to like doing it. Suffice it to say, I disagree.

So what's the answer? Can we great and powerful wizards of the home at least delegate some of the task delegation? Is is possible to say, "Honey, from now on, you're in charge of noticing when the bathroom needs cleaning"? I don't know. Maybe I'll try it and let you know how it works out.

(For the record, my husband does have regular chores that are all his, like doing our laundry every Sunday, and he's pretty good about doing it without reminding.)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cry-It-Out Parenting

Darling Eliza brings to mind this issue. She is even more high-needs than her older sister, and life with her right now is really tough. It reminds me of the t-shirts I've seen that say, "You can't scare me - I'm a mom!" Sleep deprivation, extremely limited ability to get anything done during the day, and either remaining housebound (well, neighborhood-bound) or enduring screaming for the duration of any car trip. It really sucks in many ways. Luckily, I know from personal experience that it ends, and that fussy babies can become lovely little girls. It's just a question of battening down the hatches and doing what it takes to survive these few months, while respecting baby's needs and still allowing the parents some opportunity to catch their breath. In my opinion, having a securely attached child who can trust me and know all her needs will be met (NB: that's not to say in the future all her wants will be met) is well worth the trial by fire at the beginning.

However, many people disagree with this. The mainstream idea in our culture seems to be that babies should not inconvenience their parents too much, that their crying is not vital communication but obnoxious noise pollution to be stamped out, and that babies must be pushed toward independence as soon as possible. Thus, the cry it out advice. And in an exhausted state, many parents latch onto the advice as the holy grail of infant parenting - a way to get some sleep, some chores done, and some peace and quiet. It's understandable why people choose to do this. And it does "work" with many average babies - they give up trying to communicate their needs, or get exhausted, and go to sleep. I just can't bring myself to adhere to this technique when I consider the baby's point of view. Imagine being unable to move out of bed on your own, unable to take care of even your most basic needs, and in a scary, unfamiliar place. You call for your caregiver again and again, with increasing panic. No one comes. Eventually you become exhausted and fall into sleep. I just couldn't do that to my child.

Add in that high-needs/fussy/spirited/intense babies don't stop and fall asleep. They tend to cycle up and up and up, making themselves and everyone around them miserable. And mothers are wired to ache at their babies' crying like that, to intervene and make things better. It's almost as cruel to a mother to tell her she must not respond as it is to the baby. Message board postings about CIO attempts abound with phrases like, "my husband forced me to stay out of the room," "my husband had to hold me down," and of course, "we both cried for an hour."

In addition to all that, there are indications that practicing attachment parenting actually promotes healthier independence in older children, whereas babies left to cry and pushed to grow up tend more toward clinginess. Given that, and that the tough infant times last less than a year in most cases, why would anyone practice "detachment parenting?"

Next post: Ezzo parenting

Friday, June 6, 2008

Gay Marriage

PMomma reminded me about California's groundbreaking move, and it inspired me to write a little about the subject. First of all, yay, California! In practical terms, I'm all for gay marriage. I don't see how anyone could look at anti-miscegenation laws and the case law striking them down, and then argue that gay marriage can be banned. Just fifty years ago, people were panicking over mixing of the races, and claiming that the definition of marriage meant two people of the same race. Sound familiar?

However, I have to say that I think the government should get out of the marriage game altogether. Those "civil unions" that some fence-sitters advocate? The government should indeed provide civil unions - to everyone! Part of the hysteria over gay marriage is that "marriage" is steeped in religious history. Since it seems impossible to disentangle the word from religious trappings, shouldn't the government keep its hands off entirely? Two people who want to get hitched should be able to go to a government entity and get certified as a couple, in order to ease financial and legal issues. If they also want to get "married," they can do so in the house of worship of their choice. There, now everyone's equal under the law, the government isn't entangled with religion, and the homophobes get to keep their sacred vocab word.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Nice humanist sentiment from Augustana's frontman

On Weekend Edition last week, I caught part of an interview with Dan Layus, singer/songwriter for the band Augustana. You may know them for their song, Boston, featured on Scrubs.

It turns out the guys in the band went to a private Christian college, and Layus studied Christian music. He has some pretty negative things to say about his sheltered and indoctrinated upbringing. But what really made my heart glow was when host Ari Shapiro asked whether Layus's music retained a "spiritual" element, even though he'd left his Christian education behind.

Now, I detest the word spiritual. I think it's a mush-brained weasel word that basically means someone has rejected organized religion, but is too scared or lazy to examine their fuzzier irrational beliefs, so they slap a positive-sounding label on their mishmash of unfounded suppositions about the supernatural.

Well, here's what Layus said in response: "I have a more positive and realistic place to put it now," Layus says, "which is my wife and my daughter and our music. And writing songs and being able to love my family like that, is more than enough for me."

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Pseudonyms for the kids

I've decided to give the children blognames. So for those wishing to keep track, Kitty is the older girl, about to start kindergarten. Eliza is the younger, only three months old. And why yes, I do like Pride and Prejudice, why do you ask?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Medical Professionals and Breastfeeding Ignorance

A couple of personal experiences recently that underline why breastfeeding rates in our country are so poor.

First, my husband's aunt came to visit us when our baby was about two months old. About an hour after I'd nursed the baby, she started fussing, and I said, "She's probably hungry." Auntie cried in astonishment, "ALREADY????!!!!" She was also generally uncooperative about handing the baby over to be fed during her whole stay. Guess what Auntie does for a living? She's a labor and delivery nurse.

Second, a PA at our family practice prescribed some medication for me last week. "Since you're nursing, I'll give you a topical treatment, rather than oral medication," she said. The week was not going well - the baby was fussing, and needed me seemingly all the time, but also wouldn't latch on for long. I started to feel my depression coming back with a sudden vengeance - I had quickly lost the ability to take pleasure in anything, and suddenly everything in life seemed overwhelming and unfixable.

Well, when I started having a separate issue with my medication, I looked at the package insert and did some internet research, only to find: a.) blood levels with the topical drug are the same as if you take it orally; b.) it transfers readily into breastmilk; c.) it makes breastmilk TASTE BAD; d.) it can cause depression. Needless to say, I stopped taking it and called the doctor's office. From now on, I'll have to advocate for myself more, and call upon the doctors and pharmacists to look out for these issues.

But imagine, if someone like me, who is very educated and is trained as a breastfeeding counselor, has difficulties along these lines, how devastating this ignorance and lack of support can be to women who are trying to breastfeed, but don't have a lot of knowledge about the subject!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Women as Creduloids

First, let me give credit to, er, someone at the Straight Dope Message Board for introducing me to the term "creduloid." Brilliant, brilliant word. As you may have gathered, it refers to a person who believes in pseudoscience, magic, psychics, alien abductions, or anything of that stripe.

In my experience, women seem more likely to be creduloids than men. As a group, I find men to tend toward practicality - while they may not all be razor-minded skeptics, they often don't bother with supernatural/paranormal garbage because it doesn't do anything appreciable for them. Women seem to be more likely to be searching for something ethereal to latch onto. Of course these are major generalizations - plenty of women are skeptics, plenty of men are devotees of woo. I'm just talking about average trends.

This phenomenon makes participation in woman-centered groups trying at times. My cloth-diapering message board strays into vaccination hysteria and off-topic stories of hauntings. My breastfeeding group discusses the latest studies and their scientific worth at one moment, then people advocate homeopathy and cranio-sacral therapy the next. Discussions of pregnancy inevitably incorporate talk of astrology and old wives' tales for determining gender.

Then of course there is the issue of religion. While churches are often patriarchal in official structure, I'd say it's often the mothers and wives in the congregations who make sure their families attend and participate in church functions. On the flip side, there is a notorious dearth of female atheists, much to the chagrin of single male unbelievers.

So what's up with this? Are my observations horribly flawed? I'm open to that possibility! Do women tend to be wired for belief more than men? Is it linked somehow to our different approaches to social interaction? I don't pretend to have the answers. All I have is a lot of frustration and embarrassment when I see so many women happily embrace all manner of claptrap.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

More preschool theology

Since the Kid started to talk a lot more about praying to God and Jesus in school, I felt the need to step in a bit and tell her "a big secret" that she's not allowed to tell the teachers or other kids, but I wanted her to know about - that Mommy thinks Jesus and God are just pretend, like Cinderella.

Last week, we were talking about remembering things, and she told me she remembered the secret I'd told her, and she hadn't told anybody. Then she mused out loud about the nature of Jesus and God, and concluded that they are real, but live "on the other side of our planet,"* and that there's a giant gate so we can't go there (the pearly gates maybe?). She also recounted some of the Easter story, though she was most focused on the "the lady and her sweet little daughters" who approached the tomb, and the fact that Jesus was alive after all (no mention of actual resurrection).

In other news, she went to play at the neighbor's, and afterward told me that one of their dogs had gone on an airplane. At first I thought she meant they'd taken him on a family trip. But then she elaborated that he was up on a plane, and would be flying around forever, and couldn't ever come home. Now, I haven't asked them, but I'm guessing that they told her that the dog is "up in heaven," and she parsed that using her materialistic context. She is still sad though, that the dog can never come home - and that's the upshot of death, isn't it?

*That's also where the dinosaurs live, per other conversations.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Interesting art incorporating breastfeeding

Sadly I can't find a very good image of the photograph, but Kate Kelly just won an award for a photo riffing on the madonna and child motif, called All Things To All People. She says it was party inspired by obnoxious comments against breastfeeding in public.

It looks to me like the subject is wearing a business suit, and has a sexy black lace bra showing, which also happens to be a nursing bra. So I guess a woman is expected to earn a degree and get a high powered job, look gorgeous and sexually enticing, and be the perfect mother, all at the same time.

Interesting . . . I can't see a wedding ring on her finger. Kathy Dettwyler has observed that ads in parenting magazines regularly show bottle-feeding women wearing rings, and breastfeeding women without them.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Nursing "discreetly"

This is one of those concepts that seems on its face to be supportive of breastfeeding, but in reality smuggles in a lot of negativity, much like "Breast is best."

I must admit, I'm a bit torn on this subject. Many women feel very uncomfortable nursing in public, and worry a lot that someone will see their breasts. And I don't want to discourage these women from nursing in public in whatever way makes it possible. If someone feels she needs a shawl or other cover to go over the baby and her breast, I don't want to tell her she shouldn't use one. Especially since being unable to nurse in public is very likely to lead to early weaning or supplementation with formula, since mothers in our culture definitely need to do a lot of running around: errands, shopping, school activities for older children, and so on.

However, I think I may safely target those who offer advice to women along these lines: "Of course you should breastfeed! And if you need to do it in public, there are ways to do it discreetly." Or, "You're going to nurse? Great! You'll need lots of nursing tops, and this nursing wrap, and a pump and bottles so you can use a bottle when you're out." The surface message is that you should breastfeed your baby, but the subtext is that nursing is dirty, shameful, and abnormal, and must be hidden.

In addition, sending the message that one needs to buy lots of paraphernalia to nurse puts impediments in the way of nursing. You know what you need to nurse? A baby and a boob. Even one will do! Now of course it's nice to have some nursing gear (and a pump and bottles are very important if employed mothers want to exclusively use breastmilk), but it is not necessary, and it should not be pushed as a way to hide what you're doing!

Nursing is normal. It is not sexual. It is feeding a baby, and there is no need to push women to hide that they are feeding their babies.

So I say, if you are bold, if you are not shy, please go out and nurse indiscreetly! The more of us who do so, the more likely our daughters will live in a society that accepts breastfeeding as normal, and looks on nursing shawls and scurrying to the restroom to nurse as quaint artifacts of the olden days.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Horton Gets Expelled?

(See Expelled for a treatment of this really dumb creationist movie.)

So we went to see Horton Hears a Who, and it was surprisingly good. The Kid and I enjoyed it, and it was some nice time away from the Interloper - er, baby for my daughter.

There was one point when I was a little worried about the underlying message, however. I'm all for "a person's a person, no matter how small," and the idea that every person can make a difference. Very humanistic ideas, those. But I squirmed a bit when the arrogant, controlling kangaroo insisted that Horton not teach his students about his idea that there was an invisible world on his speck, inhabited by undetectable (to anyone but him) people. The kangaroo haughtily insisted that without evidence, Horton could not teach the existence of Whos, and pursued the issue to the point of using main force to prevent him from doing so, and indeed of trying to destroy the touchstone of his wild theory. I think you'll see where I'm going here.

I doubt the writers had any intention of presenting a creationism parable here. We all know that Horton is indeed correct, and in the end he is able to prove the existence of the Whos, even to a contrite kangaroo. But it's still troubling that from The X-Files to kids' movies, our culture tends to paint skeptics and scientists as the bad guys, while dreamers and believers are always seen as heroes.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Hmm, maybe Someone is upset with me

Though I think it's more likely to be Eris, Loki, or Anansi than Yahweh, given that the events are annoying and stressful, yet decidedly lacking in murder, rape, and grievous bodily harm.

The baby seems to have colic - an odious and stupid diagnosis which means simply, "Your baby cries all the time and we doctors don't know why." On Sunday the Kid came down with a cold. Not a proper, lying on the couch with no energy watching cartoons cold, but a snotty nose that makes taking her to daycare unethical, while still allowing her to bounce around the room saying, "MOM, watch this!" ten thousand times an hour.

Then yesterday I went into the garage and wondered idly why my car's windshield was wet, when it was raining, you know, outside. Then I remembered those shingles that blew off the roof last week. The upshot - thank goodness it didn't leak into the house proper, but the garage ceiling may be toast, and the roofer can't work on the leak this week because it's supposed to rain every day. This, during a severe drought. You see why I suspect a trickster god, don't you?

So later that day I was surfing the web and my computer locked up. Turns out my hard drive is toast, the partition didn't work and everything is corrupted, and thank goodness I have an awesome and intelligent husband who has managed to resurrect most of my data, but I am currently using the Kid's computer to post while he works on things.

I better wrap this up so I can go sacrifice a chicken to whoever.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A pop culture hymn

So the kidlet has been in YMCA preschool since September, and just as in daycare, they have taught them Christian stuff. However, without the background and support of a Christian household, it is interesting how this knowledge gets integrated into her experience. I think she thinks Jesus is either a regular person, or a character in a story, and that's all. She was telling me a story the other day about a friend taking someone's balloon and giving it to Jesus, and how that wasn't nice, and you shouldn't give other people's things away.

They also say grace before snack time every day, but the teacher tries to make it "fun," for instance by using the Superman theme song tune:

Thank you God, for giving us food
Thank you God, for giving us food
And we praise you
And we praise you
For giving us food

(She's not much of a poet, IMHO)

Last week, the Kid laid this one on me, as a bedtime song:

Thank you God, for giving us food
Thank you God . . .
Barbie, Barbie, Barbie, Barbie!
Ninja Warrior, Ninja Warrior,
Aww-man, Aww-man

And to think, I was worried she would be indoctrinated!

Monday, March 17, 2008

OK I'm back!

We have our new baby, she occasionally sleeps, and I reckon it's time to post some new stuff here. Of course she's waking up right now, so I think I'll have to wait to post actual content.

But yes, I'm still alive, and so is the blog!