DwB Mailbag

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I love getting email from you guys and I try my best to respond to every message I receive. At my friends' wedding this weekend, I was talking about some of the best, funniest, and most random messages I have received and realized you guys might like to hear some of them too. Don't worry I won't embarrass anybody or refer to anybody who ever emails me by name!
  • What is a "devi"? Are all Indian women "devis?"
My response: It's a great question. Technically a "devi" is a goddess but, really?, I think of it as a lifestyle? Heh, kidding--check out this post that provides simple questions to address whether you are a devi with a baby...!
  • I notice you added a picture of yourself! Do you always wear party hats or were you celebrating something?
My response: I wear party hats as often as possible and, as anybody who knows me would attest, I also insist on bringing them to birthday parties of 30-something-year-olds and forcing people to wear them as they smile graciously and wonder why they ever befriended me.
My response: Sorry, Lisa is one of a kind...!
I know, I know--stay tuned, it's coming and it's gonna be spectacular...! Haha.
  • Why don't you mention your kids by name or show us photos?
My response: Obviously I am worried you will judge them based on their horrific appearance and horns. Plus: I signed up for this blogging business...they didn't.
  • Do you really think the world needs another mommy blog?
My response: Yes I do. I did not want to write a blog at all but I came to the conclusion that it was my civic duty to establish another mommy blog. Thank you for noting and asking.
  • I loved it when you had shopping posts--write more of those!
My response: Okay...
  • I hate the shopping posts, you should get rid of them.
My response: Okay...
  • Are you really a lawyer?
My response: No. No I am not. Please don't tell Latham. Or Watkins.

It's a cool and crazy thing to open up your life, to some extent, to an audience via blog. Over the past months I have tried to write posts now and again, like this one, or this one, that attempt to add a little flavor or context to who this random "devi with baby" is. Now I just opened my inbox to you for the same goal...I hope you'll keep writing, all!

Monday Musings: Wedding Presence

Monday, March 30, 2009

Just got back from a whirlwind 24 hour trip to New Orleans--my good friends were getting married and even though it was a "no kids" wedding I couldn't imagine missing it, so I left my husband at home with the three kids, took my breast pump along as my "plus 1" and headed to the bayou for one night.

Amongst the many "highlights":

-Pumping milk in a dirty bathroom stall in Las Vegas. Feeling oh so "lucky"';

-Enduring stares from confused, baffled, annoyed passengers on the plane after I emerged from my periodic 10 minute bathroom pumping sessions;

-Sitting in front of Flavor Flav, not knowing who he was, wondering if he was trying to be "ironic" by wearing a big white clock around his neck;

-Squirming into industrial strength Spanx to trick my six-week-post-partum body into looking vaguely presentable;

-Travelling from the wedding to the reception with a full-on police escort--apparently this is what is "done" in New Orleans for weddings?;

-Learning that there are special pillows made for mothers nursing twins. Thanking God I don't have to nurse twins;

-Walking through the French Quarter, entirely lit by candlelight because of a power outage;

-Seeing Brad and Angie's house, complete with retina-scanner...!;

-Eating beignets at Cafe du Monde at 1 in the morning;

-Eating beignets at Cafe du Monde at 1 in the morning;

-Eating beignets at Cafe du Monde at 1 in the morning...!;

-Getting to watch my two close friends start their married life together...

With all the logistics our lives involve these days, and with so many weddings under our belts, it's easy to forget how awesome a wedding really is--the moment when two people declare to all the people who love them that they're a team in the world. I will always remember the people who were at my wedding. Not in any disparaging way to people who couldn't make it, and not to do a disservice to friends I've made after. But it is just this sort of moment in time that becomes a reference point. There are lots of ways to divide the world. The way you did things pre-kid versus post-kid; people who like Peeps and people who don't...! People who were at your wedding, people who weren't. For me, those people are bonded to my history--they will always be part of one of the most important days of my life.

Which is why I endured the various affronts to my vanity (I am talking industrial strength Spanx!), need for sleep (going on about 1 hour right now), and nursing routine in order to be at the wedding. I wanted to be a present for the magnanimous moment in my friends' lives. I wanted to bear witness. I wanted to see my friends as they made vows and promises to take care of and love each other forever--words we all know are not guarantees but that still level me in their candor and pure, raw hopefulness. I wanted to live the mantra I always say but don't always live by: Sometimes the best thing you can do for people is just show up.

If I also got to drink champagne with the reckless abandon of a nursing mom on furlough and eat absurd about of beignets, well that was just an added bonus...!

Brown Girls: A Mother's Love

Friday, March 27, 2009

Will You Be Visiting "The Motherhood"?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Just got a sneak peek at the new ABC show that debuts tonight: "In the Motherhood." Have you heard all the buzz about this show? There is an admittedly great lineup--Cheryl Hines (of" Curb Your Enthusiasm" fame); Megan Mullally (Karen is back! Where's my cocktail!); and Jessica St. Clair (don't know her, but I heard she is famous...!) star as three moms with different styles of parenting and different backdrops. The topics are near and dear to all of our hearts--juggling work and family; raising kids properly; laughing and crying at the intensity of it all. But, regardless of the star power and the resonance of the subject-matter, my first thought (before seeing the two episodes ABC released pre-debut) was: Why should I watch this, I live it! It's the same thought I have about many novels that are based upon mom characters ("The Other Mother," "Babyville," "The Ten Year Nap"). Sometimes you want your entertainment to be an escape, not resemble you're everyday.

That being said, the episodes I saw were funny and I am going to give the show a shot. It works better when it sticks to the relationships between the characters and the comedy of everyday motherhood (e.g., when one of the characters decides to raise her children without lying and tells him that there is not Santa, which leads to disasterous results at preschool), and less on sitcom-y schtick (one of the episodes centers arond unionizing local nannies). The greatest strength of the best chick-lit (and make no mistake--this is most definitely chick-lit...for tv...) is the way it makes bells ring in our minds--the way it humorously reveal those thoughts or embarrassing little secrets that so many of us have not admitted to ourselves, let alone others. And this show has those moments. I worry that, as it continues, there will be less of those and more generic, LCD jokes--but I laughed out loud a few times and that's enough for me to check out at least another episode.

If you're interested, ABC wants your stories and it promises that "your stories could end up on TV!" Despite the fact that, um, shouldn't ABC have writers?--there is some appeal at seeing some of the really hilarious things our kids do on network television, no? For more info, check out the ABC site.

Where There's A Will...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I know none of us needs any more depressing or "downer" material in our lives right now. But the tragic and unexpected death of Natasha Richardson reminded me of something my husband and I have meant to do since we had our first child, but that somehow never climbed up the (constantly growing) to-do list: Make a will.

When you think of a will, you probably think about the divvying up of assets, and scenes in movies when the do-gooder magically gets the entire estate and the smarmy guy makes a smarmy face. And it's true, a will does set forth where your stuff would go. But much more importantly: A will is the only document that allows you to designate a guardian for your children, should anything unexpected happen to you. Clearly, figuring out who to designate in this role isn't the most pleasant conversation to have with your spouse. Wouldn't plan a hot date-night around it. But it's obviously an important decision to make.

We should all also look into a living will and a health care proxy. A living will is simple: It tells your medical care provider whether you want life support. The companion document, the health care proxy, designates somebody to make your medical decisions for you if you are not capable of making them yourself. The requirements for these documents are pretty simple, but do vary by state.

Of course if you have complicated assets or other exceptional circumstances, you should consult a lawyer to draft these documents but, for the majority of people, there are simple tools that allow you to memorialize your wishes yourself. Willmaker is a great program to create a simple will, and you can consult Agingwithdignity.org for more information on living wills and health care proxies.

Tomorrow, I promise, I will write about shopping, or puppies, or candy...!

Rihanna, Race, Real Life

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

As has been much discussed, a staggering 46 percent of a survey of Boston teenagers believed Rihanna was "responsible" for being attacked by her boyfriend, Chris Brown. Of the 200 teenagers surveyed, every single one had heard of the incident, which made me think about celebrity. I wondered how the survey would have turned out had Rihanna and Chris Brown been regular people and not icons to the 12-19 year olds surveyed.

Apparently other people had the same thought. Dosomething.org created this educational video that is a "re-enactment," featuring two non-celebrities, about what supposedly happened between Rihanna and Brown. In detail that is blood-chilling even if you already know the specifics from the police report, a young male repeatedly punches a young female in the face, chokes her, generally assaults her while a dead-pan narrator explains the scene. Seeing it played out without the gloss of US Magazine or the backdrop of an MTV soundtrack truly magnifies exactly what is at stake, exactly what the case against Brown is.

But I am likely preaching to the choir. Amongst every single adult I know, the immediate reaction to the entire Rihanna-situation is outrage and pity. Do you know one person who is entertaining thoughts that Rihanna "deserved" to be abused? Even Oprah has weighed in! Which is, of course, the most disturbing aspect of the Boston survey. How did the lessons we teach our kids--"use your words" and "don't hit" come to mind--translate to an acceptance of violence and, even more mind-boggling, a re-calibration of responsibility and blame?

In law school there was this entire jurisprudence that I called "starfu&%ing"--situations in which it seemed that the bench was treating people differently because they were famous. Sometimes it seems like we are harsher on celebrities because they are in the spotlight--think: ostracizing Mischa Barton or that girl from Party of Five for tiny bits of cellulite. Other times, I suppose, we give celebrities more leeway. Is that what's at play in the Boston survey?

And I wonder: How much of the issue has to do with race, if at all? What were the races of the teens surveyed? Does it matter? In talking about the whole thing with friends, I have repeatedly heard amongst some black friends clear overtones of disappointment that such young African Americans in the public eye are perpetuating old African American stereotypes. One friend, in defending Puff Daddy (or is he P Diddy now? Or Puff Daddy Redux? You know who I'm talking about) for lending the teenage couple his estate for a supposed reconciliation said, "Man, he was trying to do damage control for an entire race."

True? What do you think? What would you think if the story involved two South Asians? Anything different? What would the Boston teens in the survey have said if it involved two South Asians?

Obviously...I have no answers. My kids are little and I don't have to worry yet about the potent interaction between celebrities, race, icons, impressionable teenagers. But, especially just having had a girl, the idea of a world in which 46 percent of kids think a woman deserved to be hit? Horrifying. Absolutely horrifying. Hopefully one of you guys can figure out what we should do about this sometime in the next, oh, 14 years or so...

Monday Musings: What's It to You?

Monday, March 23, 2009
I was talking with my friend this weekend about how difficult it is to get our kids to (1) eat food; (2) sit still; (3) do our housework. You know, the usual. Half way through our conversation, she told me that she and her partner are seriously considering the second baby. We made jokes about how masochistic we are ("we" being the ever-growing club of people who, despite our jokes and eye-rolls, decide to have more than one child), referred to the recent news about the baby boom (there goes Harvard!), reminisced about our pre-baby days when we would have been hung over at the exact same time we were having a debate about strained pears...called it a conversation, said our i love yous, hung up.

I thought about my friend for the rest of the day. Thought about everything she and her partner have been through in their lives. Thought about how, without the science that gets maligned by people like Octo-mom, she would never have gotten the chance to be a biological parent, since she is gay.

I wish every single person who is opposed to gay marriage, or gay parenting, could see my friends, how strong their marriage is, what an amazing son they are raising. Every child should be so lucky to have such parents. As moms, we have insight into the inner-sanctum of many of our friends' parenting styles and all of us have our secret skeletons. Mine are not so secret (hello, I am writing a blog) and include such things as feeding my son Cheez-it(s), letting my 3 year old continue to drink out of a bottle, etc etc. My friend? The one I was talking with today? She's kind of perfect. Like, perfect in that way that her 2 year old son speaks Spanish, can spell, gives his toys to other people at the playground, likes asparagus, gives the best hugs in the world, slept through the night at 2 weeks. Just off the top of my head. And the clincher is that my friend--as much as the odds dictate otherwise, considering her son just spontaneously started speaking Chinese one day...heh...--is not Aggro Mom. She is laid-back, quick to laugh, okay with messes, prone to drinking wine at 4:59 p.m... like somebody else I know very, very, very well...!

Bottom line she is one of the best parents I know. She has an amazing marriage. And every day she has to fight just to be in a situation where she is allowed to be so good at what she is doing.

Some things are not fair. Like, that I can't remember the last time I had an uninterrupted night of sleep, and like that I cannot own these shoes. Other things are truly truly unjust. That's where I put the fact that large swaths of our country refuse to recognize my friend's right to be married to the person with whom she has chosen to live her life, raise her children, grow old.

Who are these people who would take away my friend's beautiful marriage from her; who would make it so that her lovely son does not have married parents? Why do they care so, so much about something that does not affect them in the least. Do they know that have caused poor Portia de Rossi to issue a network television "apology" for marrying Ellen?!? (Watch and feel very, very sorry for the poor innocent "gay" dog...!):

As we all know, parenthood is so, so amazing, but so, so difficult. Nobody should have to add nationwide scrutiny about his or her marriage and right to have children in the first place to all of the judgment and other social mores we already juggle...

Weekend Links

Friday, March 20, 2009
Is it just me or is it sort of odd that Naomi Campbell is heading a relief effort for the victims of the Bombay bombings? Obviously the cause is good--but why Naomi?

And: I will never really understand why, sometimes, the death of a celebrity affects us as if we knew the person personally--but sometimes that's how it feels. Like many people, I was deeply shocked by the death of actress, wife, and mother Natasha Richardson. The idea that you could fall down, get up, laugh about the fall--and then pass away 24 hours later is just bone-chilling. Note to us all: Yes, savor the moment, remember how precious life is, hug your kids...but also wear helmets.

Brown Girls: Top Tier Tumbling

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Food for Thought

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

If you haven't heard--Hanna Rosin's "The Case Against Breastfeeding" has every sort of mommy brigade in some sort of a tizzy. I have very little new to add to the raging debate elsewhere (is breastfeeding the new vacuum cleaner?), but the whole panic and uproar fed into something else I think about all the time: Feeding our kids.

With nursing you are the sole food source for your little guy which obviously leads to some of the pressure moms feel about the whole thing. Like Rosin points out, it is impossible to have an "equal marriage" when one of you is the only person capable of feeding your kid (and yes the author knows that you can pump and feed from a bottle but what couple do you know who does or did that in an equal way so that the father knows just as much about the baby's schedule and how much the baby eats as the mother?)

As our kids grow up though, it's obviously different. Which means there is ample opportunity for both the mother and the father to feel stress and mess up our kids. Ah equality.

I don't know one set of parents who has not thought about the sort of "eater" they want to raise (I am not sure I knew "eater" was a noun before kids). Even Top Chefs wring their hands over their kids' eating habits. Which is why this article gave me so much pause. In a nutshell, a growing number of specialists believe that we are raising a generation of children to have a "moralistic, restrictive and unhappy relationship with eating," which is "making kids nutty [and] sucking the life out of our relationship with food.” Apparently, our well-intentioned desires to have our kids eat organic and know their high-fructose corn syrup from their agave nectar are causing kids to be hyper-aware of food and--maybe--causing an unhealthy obsession with related body issues. The message? Calm down already.

The article has trainwreck stories about 8 year olds worrying about sodium intake and a girl whose mother would not let her eat white rice. But overall it seems a little over the top--instilling healthy eating habits in our kids is probably not going to make them anorexic, as the article dubiously seems to imply by way of anecdote. It would be like saying that raising them with a tolerance for all religions is going to make them close-minded zealots, right?

That being said: I know I obsess about my kids' eating and aspire for them to be "healthy eaters" (aka like my husband with his kale chips and not like me with my carb-laden diet and proclivity towards foods with misspellings--think Cheez It). It doesn't matter how many times I read or am told that "children will not starve themselves"--my heart hurts when I see my kid lethargic and sullen because he won't put some good food in his mouth. But it does resonate on an intrinsic, basic level that obsessing about things is not ideal for children...

So what's a mother to do, aside from hooking her kids up to IVs of spinach and calling it a day (and banishing the "bad foods" from her Midwestern upbringing from her home--sigh...!)? How should we somehow teach our kids to eat well without being overly serious and focused on eating at the same time? According to this study, to combat picky eaters, we should try to call healthy foods "cool names." Sounds retarded right? Well, file it under one of the many things you never thought you would do, but you do for your kids. With our sugar-loving toddler we are ready to try anything. Bring on the "Dinosaur Trees" (broccoli) with "rocket fuel" (tomatoes) please.

Talent Show

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I am guilty of buying my son toys that I think will "make him smarter." The "computer" that ostensibly teaches kids to read. The board books with words in three languages. The "we're not really flashcards" flashcards. Shockingly, he has opted out of engaging with these materials I so lovingly provide him. He has instead spent many an hour playing with my necklaces, paper bags and, on one notable occasion, an extremely disgusting bathroom plunger (good times).

D's teacher often says (in a voice so calm it borders on meditation--how a person whose job consists of watching 25 toddlers day in and day out maintains such calm is beyond me): "Children like to work with real things." (Yes "work": The sometimes wonderful and sometimes slightly bizarre jargon of Montessori schools). I always nodded my head in agreement but only recently have come to see this as true.

Case in point: D has become obsessed with my camera. Obsessed as in he wears it around his neck all the time and threw a tantrum because I wouldn't let him keep it on in the bath. He can spend hours taking shots and then looking through them. And, in my obviously objective and unbiased opinion, I think he is a budding ARTISTE. Here are some of his many, many masterpieces-- don't worry about calling Annie Liebowitz, I've already left a couple messages...!:

The word that comes to mind? GENIUS! Heh.

It makes sense right? That kids will eschew the force-feeding "educational tools" for the stuff that can foster more organic creativity? I consistently learn that kids are smarter than most adults give them credit for. Who wouldn't want to play with a real phone versus some Crayola-colored fake monstrosity? A real camera versus one that coos and makes other really annoying sounds that can only approximate the cool experience of taking a photo? It makes sense.

Plus: Any excuse to forego the Toys R Us scene is good by me.

Monday Musings: Constructive Criticism

Monday, March 16, 2009

Last week I wrote about the Elle magazine article "Die Mommy Die" , which deals with the issue of the culture of incessant child-based chatter, especially at the workplace. I was amazed at the amount of discussion and commentary the post brought on, both on the blog and off, including correspondence from people at Elle who were, actually, of two sides on the topic...

Apropos to this blog, one comment in particular got people talking. A poster who signed off as "Jack" said: "...I would dare say the poor children are better off in the care of a stranger at daycare, or dumped in the woods to be raised by wild dogs than with a resentful, selfish "mommy."

Whoa there man, who are you talking about? Oh wait. You're talking about me...!

Well, in response, I received a plethora of personal messages along the variety of" F#@$ Jack." Not going to lie, it felt great to get the (electronic) support so thanks for everyone who wrote!
But, in all honesty, when I first read "Jack's" comment, all I did was laugh and forward it along to two friends with the message "Wowza, glad I have acquired a thick skin." Truly, I wasn't fazed and I thought about my husband telling me that "once you have haters on your blog you know you've made it." So maybe I should start planning my "I made it" party (note to planners: I want cake...lots of cake).

As recently as two years ago, the situation would have been completely different. When I first had D, I would live in fear of hushed words or sidelong glances at playgrounds or anywhere else--signals that I must be doing something wrong. Like many moms, I was unsure of myself constantly and the idea that I was somehow not raising my child properly could level me. I had many nights of wondering how, how, how am I going to do this because, frankly, I felt like there was this little guy counting on me and I had no clue what to do to be his mom.

So what happened between now and then (besides being too tired to worry about what other people think)? I suppose I have climbed the mommy learning curve...but it's more than that. For better or worse; and whether true or not: I have developed the belief that I am a good mother. This is in the face of much damning empirical evidence to the contrary: My eldest subsists on air and water alone; my second-born wears clothing that bares his brother's name and I would be hard-pressed to find one item I have actually procured solely for him; tonight I rocked my youngest to sleep to my version of "Cause I Got High" ("I was gonna learn a lullaby, but then I got high...") And that's just the tip of the you-so-crazy-mommy iceberg...

But it's true. I feel like I'm good at this thing. And I feel as if my kids are lucky to have me. Isn't that egotistical? ("Jack" please don't answer that, it was rhetorical). Here's why: I enjoy them day to day, and I think they enjoy me. I can vividly remember when D was about 18 months old and when I was still getting the hang of the whole "motherhood" thing. The days that I felt I had "done good" were pegged with some activity that I could hang my hat on: Today I took D to the museum, or today D and I did 8 puzzles. It was how I knew to mark time and mark progression: Through accomplishment. These days it is different and that is how I know that I am different. How I feel as a mom is not based on where I took the kids on a particular day but rather what sorts of moments we shared, and--alert: cheesiness to follow--how they, especially my eldest who obviously is the most cognizant, look at me at the end of the day. Today we didn't leave the house. We didn't go to the park; we didn't do any crafts; and D did not learn how to do calculus (damn him!). At the end of the day, when I tucked D into bed, he looked me in the eyes and said "Mommy can I have a hug, I am a very lucky boy." I of course died. He went on: "Thank you so much for laughing with me today we are so funny."

I mean: COME ON...!

Don't get me wrong. Some criticism still burns me to the bone. When my husband tells me something he thinks I am doing wrong with our kids (and when, after days of pretending I disagree with him, I realize that he is right...) I feel a sort of disappointment with myself that is actually physically jarring. Same with my sister; same with my parents; same with the people I am lucky to call my friends.

But the lesson that has come from being able to process, filter, and move on from much of the criticism that motherhood intrinsically invites into your psyche? Being able to shrug off the stranger telling you your child looks jaundiced (yes that happened); the old lady whispering to you that your son shouldn't be out in the 80 degree Berkeley weather in "just that shirt"; the waitress attesting that "nursing 2 years is really the only way to go"?

"Wowza"--myriad thanks to my children. Liberation is mine.

Weekend Links

Friday, March 13, 2009
Yea yea yea, I hear you, Anoop, Anoop, Anoop. I get it, he's the great brown hope. But let's not forget about the people blazing his trail, okay? AKA the former "great brown hopes"...! Shout out for Aziz (and yes, I know, there is a certain irony to being labeled a forefather of sorts at the ripe old age of, oh, 23 or so).

Aziz Ansari is going to be on the new NBC show "Parks and Recreation" with Amy Poehler, debuting in April. Check out the trailers here. And also check out some of the stuff that Aziz thinks is funny which I hope to god he will try to incorporate into his new show. Including this video--because what could be funnier than a grown man stealing ice cream from a child, you answer me that...

Brown Girls: Piyush's Symbolism Club

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Die Mommy Die?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A couple people have forwarded me this article from this month's Elle. Called "Die Mommy Die," the article has been much-maligned for being particularly harsh to moms who discuss their children at work.

In a nutshell: The article is the author's anti-Valentine to motherhood. Her black heart haiku. Sure she loves her child, she says. But she does not understand, and she resents, this new baby-love culture that mandates constant conversation about said baby, especially in the workplace. It especially irks her when she is repeatedly asked whether having a baby is "the best thing she has ever done" and she chafes at viewing motherhood as an "accomplishment."

Some of the sentiments the author voices are ones I thought I believed. They are certainly things I have said, especially when I pretend (as I often do) that I am the "same person" I was before children. When the author--a mother herself--grits her teeth as a co-worker and fellow-mom wants to discuss the minutia of toddlers instead of the latest trends in their industry--I find myself nodding my head in agreement. I have returned to work twice after maternity leaves and plan to return again after this one. I am dreading having to once again navigate from the mommy-ghetto back to the realm of the regular work-force. I have distinct memories of former supervisors who previously would ask me my opinion on strategy giving me busy-work and asking me "what cute things is D. doing these days." It's infuriating.

But--at the same time--is it that bad for people to ask us about our kids? And, is it so wrong for us to want to discuss our kids with our co-workers? The author of this piece paints the picture of mothers on the job who discuss their children as some sort of blathering idiots, shells of their former selves reduced to bromide and cliche. I can remember many conversations with co-workers about a new handbag pre-children. As best as I can tell, a new child merits as much discussion as a new accessory (or a sports game, or the newest CW show for that matter--both prime subjects of office conversation everywhere).

With these tart words, the author of the Elle piece began to lose me:
Why do so many accomplished women, even in the most rarefied professional environments, feel compelled to treat their children as something to be celebrated publicly in minute, often embarrassingly scatological, detail? Why do they assume that tales of their offspring’s quotidian doings will envelop everyone else in a cloak of bliss?
Her harshness only gets deeper as the article goes on--and my sympathy continued to dwindle. Fine, she doesn't want to discuss her children at work. Sure, she doesn't want to discuss other peoples' either. But what skin is it off her back if others choose differently? We are all adults. If you don't like the conversation, choose new conversation partners.

Which is not to say I haven't had my moments of wondering whywhywhy so much discussion--at work and outside of work--has come to revolve around children. What did we talk about before and aren't those subjects still around? But I can also recognize that--whether or not I view motherhood as an "accomplishment"-- having my children is the most important thing I have done in my life. Who doesn't want to discuss the most important thing in life? Moreover, the "Die Mommy Die" author seems to be advocating a sort of false reality in which mothers in the workplace shed parts of their identity. It wreaks of so many horrible things: "Don't ask don't tell" and "passing" come to mind. Aren't we beyond that?

I feel badly for the author of the piece. When people rub me the wrong way in the way they ask about my kids or when people talk about their own children in ways I find comical, I look forwarding to calling or emailing one of a number of friends to have a quick laugh. I wonder if this author has the same outlet.

Plus, the title? "Die Mommy Die"? You would think the author of a piece condemning the magnification and hyperbole of modern day motherhood could have come up with a title a little bit less...hyperbolic.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009
By mere virtue of the fact that I write this blog, I get to hear about really amazing programs and initiatives. Here are two that are truly inspirational--hope you will get involved:


Featured in this month's India Currents, I-MAK--Initiatives for Medicine, Access and Knowledge--works to provide health care and medicine to the poor, in the face of pharmaceutical monopolies and weak patent systems. The brainchild of Priti Radhakrishnan and her husband, Tahir Amin, I-MAK's focus is two-fold. On the one hand, the organization gives a voice to the poor by highlighting the fact that effective drugs are made inaccessible to whole swaths of the population; and enfranchising these segments of the population within the courts.

In a more institutional vein, I-MAK looks for high-priced, effective drugs that could be made more widely accessible by coming into the generic market, and it examines the patents companies have on such drugs with the goal of poking holes in frivolous patents and dismantling patent monopolies. I-MAK understands that innovation is important in the field of medicine--as such, while its main goal is increased accessibiltiy, I-MAK's team of attorneys and scientists work with governments, researches, procurers, and supliers to strengthen patent systems and encourage innovation while challenging non-meritorious patents that drive up costs.

I-MAK focues on developed nations and developing nations alike--there are issues to be addressed in both. One staggering statistic: According to the World Health Organization, 10 million lives could be saved each year if access to medicines and medical care were improved.

I-MAK is the sort of non-profit that everyone claims to want to find and be a part of: One with a sound structural mission that accompanies its broad idealism. Learn more at the I-MAK website.

InSPIRE-- India Service Program Inspiring Reflective Exploration--offers opportunities for South Asian Americans to explore, understand, and serve India. With the core belief that travel shoud be inspiring and enriching, InSPIRE looks to strengthen ties between participants and India, while simultaneously promoting service-based tourism. The experiences that these programs afford are vast--recent groups have witnessed and taken part in a sanitation rally in a Gujarati village; the building of proper sanitation in Indian slums; outreach to residents of half-destroyed settlements on the banks of the Narmada River in Madhya Pradesh; a meeting of a people’s movement that advocates for tribal rights; a heated debate on development with Delhi youth at the beautiful Lodhi Gardens. To name a few.

InSPIRE currently has three programs: One for college students, one for young professionals, and one for families. This year's trips for young professionals center around visiting NGO's in the fields of water and micro-finance. In a new move, InSPIRE is testing a "pay what it's worth" technique this year with the "young professional" program; instead of charging participants, InSpire provides a detailed break-down of what it costs to run the program, and it asks participants to decide how much to give.

So many of us talk about ways to show our children "where they came from"; so many of us wax profound about working in India "one day." Here's our chance. And, because the family program is a 2 week journey, it can be worked in around school schedules, ballet lessons, work schedules...and all sorts of other logistics that often serve as stumbling blocks to doing what we want to do.

Learn more here and here--there is still room for the trips that are planned for this summer. Applications for the young professional and family programs are due March 30.

Monday Musings: My Alternate Career Paths

Monday, March 9, 2009

Let me add my echo to the pile: This economy is just horrific. Every day, the newspaper seems to get more and more depressing, and friends in previously "safe" jobs have horror stories about stealth lay-offs and other office bloodbaths.

While I was nursing for the nineteenth time yesterday (this by 10 a.m.), I started coming up with my marketable skills. Luckily I still have my job, but it's good to know how to sell yourself these days, no? Plus, I have developed so many new strengths and abilities since the last time I had to write a resume. If anybody is reading this who has an interest in a real go-getter with an ability to nurse while typing, please feel free to email me. Here are some of my other highly sought-after talents:

-I have the ability to make a zombie look presentable with the right mix of concealer and industrial strength silicone. Just ask my husband (aka the only person who is allowed to see me without this potent combo). Hollywood: Give me a call, I bet I can even cheat those new high-def cameras.

-I have a severe and nearly obsessive skill in coveting and craving clothing, shoes and handbags that are completely impractical for my lifestyle. Take these boots. I can imagine the life that goes with them. It doesn't involve nursing on demand or tricking certain children into eating kale by calling it "rocket ship fuel." I like to call this skill my ability to be aspirational and see nine steps ahead. I'm not saying I'm a "visionary" or anything. Okay, actually, maybe I am.

-I can turn theme songs from 80s shows into lullabies. "You take a good you take a bad you take em both and there you have the shhhhh shhhh shhhh...the shhhh shhhh shhhh". This, potential employers, is what those in "the biz" (what biz you ask? I have no idea...) call creativity.

-I can read a magazine through page 104..before realizing I've already read it. This exemplifies my ability to see things afresh.

-Have you ever nursed while giving a 3 year old a bath? I have. This must be useful in some capacity?

-I am the queen of turning DIY projects into $1000 expenses including an army of support staff, carpenters, engineers, and the like. I call this my economic stimulus plan. And I hear Geithner's got nobody.

-I can put children to sleep in multivarious devices. The pack-n-play, the crib, the bouncer, sure. But also the drawer, the laundry basket, the little space in between the bed and the chair in a cheap-o hotel. This, my friends, is "thinking outside the box."

Seriously? I am just so qualified for so many things these days, I don't even know how to market myself. So please "circle back" interested parties..."touch base" with me...we can create some "synergy"...really "knock one out of the park"...!

Weekend Links

Friday, March 6, 2009
Are you like Rushdie? Do you have issues with Slumdog? Are people looking at you differently in this post-Slumdog world? If so, check this out, commiserate:

Have a great weekend!

Brown Girls: Mothering the Menfolk

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Two Dollar Date

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I heard a piece on NPR last week about how to keep your marriage alive post-children--obviously a topic near and dear to any parent's heart (like we need more evidence of that after some of the comments during "Man Week").

On this particular radio segment, one caller called in to discuss the much-ridiculed "date night" and he credited it for saving his marriage. One of the "experts"--rather scornfully--said, "good for you," and then posed a challenge of sorts that seems particularly appropriate in the current economy: Could the caller do a date night on $2.00.

$2.00. Total. The best I could come up with at first was to to buy a bottle of Two Buck Chuck, drink up, call it a night! But then I got to thinking more, and I let myself go to about $5 (flush with cash!). Some ideas are below but I know you can do better than me--what do you think??
  • Get a recipe from a famous restaurant off the Web--check out copykate.com, or recipegoldmine.com for inspiration--and make your own version.
  • Play Twister (with 2 buck chuck...)

  • Go to a karaoke bar, have a drink, embarrass yourselves.
  • Give each other massages.
  • Make a picnic in your living room. Scavenger your own kitchen; pack a basket; lay out a table-cloth on the ground; ; dust off the candles. Bugs optional.
  • For a little bit more money: Grab dinner at a bar during happy hour--even the most high-end establishments are offering amazing drink and appetizer specials these days.
  • Find out when the museums in your city offer "pay what you wish" nights and check out all the places you always say you will go, but never do. Laugh at pretentious people together and come up with your own commentary for what all the art means.
  • Grab some snacks and head to a playground--long after the kids are all tucked in. Re-claim YOUR inner child when you can romp around and go on the jungle gym without worrying about bodily injury to or by your own kids.
  • Go back to one of the places you used to hang out before you had kids. I would wager to bet that, more often than not, the places that were the most significant to your relationship were not the most expensive. A spot in the park; a particular beach; a corner of San Francisco. Have a moment (or nine) of completely cheesy nostalgia.
Do you do "date night"? Could you do it on $2? $5? Would you want to?

When Is The Right Time For Crazy?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

As you know by now, I currently have 3 kids running around like wild animals under my watch. The oldest is 3 and 1 month old. So, with some advanced math you can discern that my husband and I had 3 kids in 4 years. New year new kid! We obviously were on the FastTrak approach to creating a family--once we had our first, we came to the conclusion that we wanted to have kids that were close to each other in age. Both of our sisters are less than 2 years younger than us, so that likely influenced things--so many times, it seems, we try to replicate our own childhood and adolescence in our children no?

I got to thinking about all of this when a friend of mine asked me how we knew it was "the right time" to have our second kid. My first reaction (read: quip) was "there is no right time," and though I was joking my retort was laced with seriousness--there is always going to be something that gets sidetracked when you have a child, whether it's career, nest-egg building, social life, vacations, etc. As I thought about it more, I realized I didn't have a real answer for my friend. I'm not sure why we decided to have our second when we did. There were no long discussions, pro/con lists, Excel spreadsheets (I know a couple who uses Excel spreadsheets for every major decision in their life. And the not so major ones too. S and I are probably the anti-Excel-spreadsheet couple. Not because we are "better" than that. But because one of doesn't really know how to use Excel and the other one of us would probably make the spreadhseet and forget where he put it.) We just sort of talked about it and (no joke) wham, bam, second kid...that's just sort of how my husband and I work I guess...

I'm curious: What do you guys think about the "right time" to have a second kid? Are you considering only one child? What is the process with your partner like in this regard?

Monday Musings: Creative License

Monday, March 2, 2009

When I was eight months pregnant with my now-2-week-old, my husband and I were out to dinner and I was in a funk. Truth be told, I had been in a funk for a few days (Decoder Ring: Days=Weeks), and I hadn't been able to put my finger on what exactly was wrong. Yes, my back hurt; yes I was apprehensive about having a third child; yes my eldest had whined for 23 hours straight the day before. But it was none of that. It was this prevailing sense of malaise. This nagging sensation that time was passing without notice. This nebulous feeling that I was letting my life happen to me, as opposed to charting it myself.

"What do you want to do?" My husband asked, sincerity oozing from his pores. The poor guy, I think I rolled my eyes at him--because if I knew the answer to that question we wouldn't have been having that conversation in the first place.

"Seriously," he said, "what do you want to make sure you do in your life?"

The first thing that came to my mind has been the elephant in that dark, scary room of my mind for the last 4 years: Before I die I want to make sure I finish my book.

By way of background: A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, I was lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time, which led to a benevolently misguided publisher taking a chance on me and giving me--an unknown writer with wide-eyes in lieu of any established rep--an advance to write a book. It was, at the risk of sounding trite, a dream come true, a gift that landed in my lap. I took 4 months off from my job and wrote a first draft. A few months later, I received comments on the draft and--could it be?--the editors did not laugh me out of their offices. They actually liked it. I turned in a second draft and all that was left to do was complete one more round of changes.

Fast forward to today: The manuscript sits untouched, somewhere in the deep bowels of Microsoft Word. (How decidedly un-poetic. A manuscript should sit untouched in a creaky old drawer of a Louis XIV-era armoire. Not in some computer program. I was born a generation too late...)

When I look at it, as I force myself to do every so often, I don't recognize the voice and it truly is as if I am reading something somebody else wrote.

I don't know how to tell that story anymore.

Between the second draft and now, 4 years have passed, during which I have gotten pregnant and given birth 3 times. In a move of epic originality, we accordingly moved from San Francisco to Berkeley. I am currently on my third maternity leave from my ridiculously generous job. Days spent letting my mind wander have been replaced with many days in which I state as a goal to keep my mind sane. Simultaneously, I have found a happiness I never could have imagined; my world has become so much bigger, but so much smaller at the same time.

I am the same person who wrote those first two drafts and in a way that book feels like a child I have yet to bring into this world. My friend Lisa, who you met last week, says her first baby was not her 2 1/2 year old--it was her store, Iniam. We have talked about it so much it sometimes loses meaning but--we were all doing so many things before we had children. We had so many goals and ambitions; hopes and dreams and impossible schemes. And we of course make decisions to give up some things for others. Many of us were happy to leave jobs that were unsatisfying in order to stay at home and raise kids. In fact, when I had my first child, I gave myself the opportunity to let the wave of stay-at-home-mom-ness wash over me--I wanted to let myself have it if it so called. But...

It did not so call.

I know myself so much better after three kids that I sometimes wonder if I knew myself before at all. There is so much I want now. And I can talk about it without feeling embarrassed, self-important, presumptuous. I have certainly felt like I am a failure for--well--failing to finish my book. I have felt like I have something to prove. But I don't feel like that anymore. I'm too tired to prove anything to anybody! If I want to prove anything to anybody, it is myself. But more than proving a point, I want to be the full person I imagine myself being...and that is for my kids.

On top of the list of things I want to do is finish this book.

So I wonder: How many of you guys have struggled to fit creative endeavors into your post-motherhood lives? On the one hand, time at home with young children is a great time to find pockets for our own creative exploration--naps and early bedtimes afford blocks of time for ourselves, if we choose to allocate it as such. On the other hand, the fatigue I sometimes feel these days, in between the nursing and the taking care of two other little ones, is beyond crippling. Just today, as I was mid-way through writing this, I took a "break" to nurse the littlest one. Watching the clock tick by, staring down at the objectively gorgeous little face of my little girl (!)--I could feel my world retract. All these thoughts? This navigation of what it means to want post-children, of what it means to counterbalance motherhood with other aspirations? Out the window. The only thing I could focus on was my daughter's eating, and was she getting enough, and why was she slowing down, and it has only been 9 minutes is she really already done? Afterwards I was exhausted in that way that can only be analogized to a parasite-host dynamic. How could I possibly finish my book if I couldn't even finish a blog post about finishing my book?

But, on the other hand, I seem to work better with more obligations. When I started writing this blog, I was about to return to work after my second maternity leave and I was pregnant with my third child. It probably was not an "ideal" time to start a new venture. And yet: Here we are, five months later, and writing these little blurbs every day is as much a part of my life as tucking in my kids at the end the night. It does not feel like a burden and, in fact, more often than not, it feels like a privilege.

I force myself to remember: One of the main reasons I started writing on a blog was to give myself a kick in the ass for not having been able to finish my book. I was angry at myself. I am angry at myself. Who squanders such an amazing opportunity? In my mind, I had absolved myself by making the worlds largest pile of excuses for my negligence. But the book still lived and still lives, back in that silly room where the elephant resides. And it remains there now.

You learn to trust the signs life gives to you. Like that "gut feeling" that your child's fever means something more serious than the doctor is saying. The hangnail-like thought poking your consciousness, telling you to Do Something. I have been ignoring the poking for years now. I have told myself that it's okay to leave the book undone because--look at my life--it's an embarrassment of riches. But that poking, that hangnail, that nagging voice in the back of my head--it remains, it taunts me, it tells me: "Me thinks thou dost protest too much"...or whatever the correct Shakespeare quote is...

So, with all of you as my witness: (Me thinks) I am hereby establishing as a goal that, one day, before I die, I will finish this book...or some book. I will re-claim my voice and I will complete what I started. I will do it because I want to. Because it will make me happy. Because nothing is worse than looking back on a period of your life--even a supremely happy one--with anything that could be labeled "regret."