Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

JT set off for school this morning with his Indian costume carefully tucked in his book bag. At noon, the 1st grade put on their costumes and Mama came down with some war paint for her little brave. The parade around the big Elm tree on campus is just the start of the festivities, but it is the highlight of my day.

With a smile like that, it's hard to believe that anyone is going to get scalped.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Sugar (cookie) Mama

Last night JT and I made sugar cookies for the 1st grade Halloween party. We'll decorate the cookies tonight and bring them to the festivities tomorrow. JT was excited to help with the baking ---- that boy can crack an egg with the best of them ---- and as he was stealing yet another taste of cookie dough he said, "Everybody loves the cookies I bring, Mama. You always make me cookies." It made my heart sing.

I have this colossal fear that since I'm now the only parent responsible for the day-to-day, I will become stodgy and boring, while Lisa gets to be Captain Fun ---- the 5 hour a week parent. I try my best to make sure that JT and I have fun every day, but some days that's a challenge. There's laundry to wash and homework to get done; supper to be made; trash to take out and any number of the daily chores that make up my life as a single mama. Sometimes it's hard to find the fun.

But last night, up to our elbows in flour, I realized that JT looks to me for everything: stability, rules, responsibility, and, yes, fun. And he knows that I am always going to be here for him. He knows that I'll tuck him into bed each night and be there with clean clothes and a full lunchbox in the morning. And from me he will learn that loving is more than just the fun, it's the whole package of caring for someone else. I may not be Captain Fun but I'm the cookie Mama and a whole lot more.

I'll take it.

Update: A picture of the finished product.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

No, no, no stories

The post over at Sunday Scribblings this week is bedtime stories. Who doesn't love a bedtime story? Without a doubt, bedtime story hour is the best moment of the day for me. The ingredients can't be beat: a warm, clean, sweet-smelling boy wearing pajamas and tucked in with his blankies and me in my pajamas. One reason that JT has a big bed is so that we can be there together for story hour. I picked out warm, soft bedding to make his bed a welcoming place. Each night, we lie in his bed and read and talk and compare notes on our world. Sometimes I tell him a story from when I was a little girl – he loves that. Then the lights go out and the bedtime lullabies are turned on. JT asks to have his back scratched and, as he snuggles under the quilt, I gently pat his head and watch my boy fall asleep.

This has been the bedtime routine for JT since he was first born. When he was very little and regarded sleeping as an unnecessary distraction, he would say "No, no, no stories" when bedtime was announced. But then I would sit in his bed with a copy of "Good Night Moon" and he couldn't resist.

He's learning to read these days and I know that my bedtime story days are numbered. I'll be sad to let those moments go, though the thought of him tucked into his bed reading a book to himself is also pretty satisfying. And maybe one day JT will have a little boy of his own eager to hear a story read to him. And then my son will pass on the tradition, feathering his child's nest, cuddling up with a book and perhaps even talk about the stories his Mama once read to him.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Same Sex Marriage: October Surprise?

In the aftermath of the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling instructing the state legislature to make arrangements to allow same-sex couples to have the rights of marriage (if not the name), there have been some politicians eager to exploit the moment.

Mostly this is Republicans, hoping to use the issue of same-sex marriage to motivate the base to turn out and vote. Turn out is always a concern for both parties and in a year when their president has an approval rating in the dumper, and anti-Republican sentiment is on the rise, the GOP wants to get all of their supporters to the polls. Putting on a big scare about same-sex marriage might help to make that happen.

So as we head into the final 10 days, I'd like to profile a few of the key races where the NJ ruling might have the effect of helping out Republican candidates.

In the very competitive Tennessee Senate race, both candidates oppose gay marriage. Republican Bob Corker and Democrat Harold Ford both say that they will vote in favor of a proposed amendment to the Tennessee constitution that bans same sex marriage. Corker has had the lead in most polls of this race, but usually that lead is razor-slim and within the margin of error. In the last two weeks, Ford closed that lead. If the NJ ruling motivates the Republican base, they will turn out in Tennessee and cast ballots for Bob Corker. Tennessee allows early voting so folks are hitting the polls right now in the Volunteer state. Will this issue bring a few more Corker supporters to the polls?

In New Jersey, there has been relatively little backlash on the same-sex marriage front. Democrat Robert Menendez and Republican Tom Kean, Jr. both say civil unions for same-sex couples are fine with them. But the ruling could motivate the most conservative Republicans in the state (and yes there are a few) to come out and cast a ballot for Kean as the lesser-of-two-evils candidate. This is a tight race to begin with and Menendez is barely holding on to the seat right now. Will the NJ ruling, just 13 days before the election, seal the deal in Kean's favor?

In Iowa 03, in the House race between incumbent Democrat Leonard Boswell, and Republican state Senate President Jeff Lombardi, same-sex marriage is on the table. For starters, there is currently a lawsuit seeking same-sex marriage in the Iowa. Same sex marriage is not real popular with Iowa voters and though both Boswell and Lombardi oppose it, the concern here is about getting hard-core conservatives to the polls on election day. Though he hasn't been all that popular on the campaign trail this fall, President Bush was out for Lombardi on Thursday, the day after the NJ ruling. And in his appearance Bush called on Iowans to support Lombardi because he will help to oppose same-sex marriage and liberal courts. Boswell is one of the few House Democrats in trouble this fall and the NJ ruling could hurt him.

On Saturday, President Bush hit the stump in Indiana 09, hoping to help out incumbent Republican Mike Sodrel, who is facing a challenge by Democrat Baron Hill, a former congressman who is making a comeback bid. As was the case in Iowa, Bush invoked the NJ ruling, asking voters to return Sodrel to Congress to help protect marriage. Hill had opened a very slight lead over Sodrel in the past two weeks. But Bush was there to shore-up the conservative base. Will the base turn out and support Sodrel?

The good news here is that there aren't that many races likely to be effected by the ruling in New Jersey. But the margins in the House and Senate are slim and if the Democrats want to take control, every race counts. So when the Democrats look for the six pick-ups they need to take control in the Senate and the fifteen seats they need to take the House, these races might matter.

My prediction is that Corker will win in Tennessee and I think that Kean will also score an upset in New Jersey. Boswell will hold on in Iowa, but it will be close. Hill will win in Indiana, because he's run an excellent campaign and hasn't slipped up.

10/31 update: Menendez has just started a serious ad blitz in NJ and Kean has yet to respond. If Kean doesn't get on the air soon, Menendez will win this race.

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Proud Parenting Moment

JT has always relaxed after school by drawing pictures. Lately, he's also been writing words on his pictures. That's good news because he could use the writing practice and it means that he's working on spelling words himself, albeit in a creative fashion.

The bad news is that he now has yet another venue to discuss farting, as this picture illustrates.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Toss-Up

It's not clear to me who is better looking: Tiger or JT.

I do know that neither is quiet.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Real Life Conversations, Part X

Mama: Good morning muffin, it's time to get up for school.

JT: No. School is for suckers.

Okay then. Sounds like the first grade may be a tad rough today.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


I have always been a fan of innovative GOTV efforts and this one by www.one.org is pretty darned impressive. It was on television and the web last night and makes a good point about what we all have in common.

Republic of Imagination

Tonight I went with some friends from my book group to see Azar Nafisi speak. Nafisi is the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, one of the most terrific books that I have read in the past year. If you haven't read the book, do so right away. And if you haven't heard Nafisi speak, track her down. She was terrific.

Her talk was not about writing but was instead about reading and the things that can be accomplished when we read and have that shock of recognition that other people are just like us. She said that reading helps us to realize that "we are all capable of the best and the worst." She said that when we read we are all a part of the "republic of imagination." She made a pitch for reading and talking about books as the path to the sort of subversion that brings change.

I love that idea. I still remember how much my life changed when I could first read to myself. It was like a whole world was suddenly open to me. Now I could be anyone and go anywhere; I could do anything. Books became my world; at times I have felt that they are my very purpose for being. My whole life I have kept lists of the books I want to read and of the books I want to share with others. Books are a refuge from the world, my very own republic of imagination.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Today's prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is "good." Easy and to the point, a simple prompt, I thought when I read it. But good isn't as simple as it might seem and sometimes it's damned hard to find. Finally I decided to sit down and make list of the first five good things that came to my mind.

- My boy, with his wonderful laugh and the smile that lights his face. And the sound of his voice each morning; the way he says "mama." Most days I can't hear that enough. That's all really, really good.
- My kittens when they curl up on my lap to sleep and make little grumbly kittenish sounds as they sleep.
- My friends, new ones and old ones, the ones who have been here for the hard stuff and who keep coming back. They make me laugh and ensure that I don't feel alone. They'll be here at the drop of a hat and they never let me forget that.
- Molasses cookies fresh from the oven with a warm cup of tea.
- The smell of fall in the air.

And as it turns out, it wasn't hard at all to find five good things and I could have easily found five more. And it's own way, given my life these days, that's the best part of all.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Ten Yards Away and a World Apart

JT had his first soccer game of the season last Saturday morning. We woke to a beautiful fall day and when we got to the soccer field, Lisa was there. So there we three were: JT and the people he loves best in the world. There were three of us. But there was no 'we'.

Lisa stood 10 yards from me to watch the game, following JT on the field and studiously avoiding any contact with me, the woman who grew that boy in her belly 7 years ago. JT played the game with enthusiasm and during the breaks went back and forth to talk with us both.

Honestly, I spent most of the game overwhelmed by the experience. Lisa has spent the last 4 months telling me and anyone else who asks that this arrangement, JT's broken family, is better for all of us. Last Saturday, I wanted to ask Lisa just what she means by better. But she doesn't have the answer for that and instead I would hear silence, the sound of her pretending that what is better for her is okay for the rest of us. For the last two years of our relationship, I've felt that our values were profoundly different. Lisa tried to deny that was the case, but her actions speak louder than her words.

This week, I came to soccer by myself and I watched with pride as my boy played the game. The two of us are our own 'we' now. And day by day I am learning just how powerful that can be. There are even moments when I feel sorry for Lisa. Because anyone who believes that it's okay to walk out on her family and daily life with a child who loves her just doesn't understand what better really is.

Friday, October 20, 2006

That's Ms. Oedipus to You

The scene: JT and his buddy B coming home for a playdate after school. They are talking smack in the back of the car, talking about boys in the first grade who like girls.

JT: D likes O.

B: D and O sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g.

JT: First comes love, then comes marriage....

B: And then comes a baby in a baby carriage.

Both boys laugh like this is the funniest thing ever. I am generally amused that the song is still around, let alone being sung by a boy with two moms. And then I ask if either of the boys likes someone in the class. JT's response was sure and steady:

JT: We only like our moms.

B: Yeah, we only like our moms.

Good lord, between that announcement and the velvet shirt I've got years of therapy bills ahead of me.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Life Lessons, Tiger and Lucy Style

Each morning, JT awakens excited to see his kittens. He's a very responsible pet owner, checking their food and water and setting out their toys so that they won't miss us when we go to school. He folds a blanket in the morning so that they have a comfy place to rest. He speaks to them in a gentle voice, petting them with a soft hand.

When Lisa left, I worried that JT would internalize her message that it's okay to cut and run when the going gets hard. But it would seem that he heard my message instead: loving others is one part joy and one part responsibility, each important in their own way. He's learning how to care for his creatures and to take pleasure in doing so. He's making his mama proud.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Paging Dr. Freud

I wore this velvet shirt for a presentation on Monday and JT just couldn't get enough of it. He ran his hands all over me, stroking the plush fabric and telling me how much he liked how it felt. He asked me to get him a shirt just like it. Last night he asked if he could sleep with my velvet shirt.

I think that this is exactly what the religious right is concerned about.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Block Party

My neighborhood has a block party twice a year, for the 4th of July and in the fall for Oktoberfest. Yesterday was the Oktoberfest party and JT and I joined in the fun (he did not have a beer). We brought two things I never would have made if Lisa had been in the mix: baked brie and olive crostini. The food was a hit and I was happy to be able to make what I please.

So there.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

If I Could Stop Time

The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings this week is "what would you do if you could stop time?" It's a perfect prompt for me because I think of this quite often. And I know exactly what I would do if I could stop time.

Last night JT had a nightmare and so in the middle of the night my big, long boy joined me in my bed. The child is a heat-generating machine and was a most pleasant addition under the quilts on a cold fall night. He slept in my bed when he was an infant because we were – gasp – advocates of the family bed. Some of my best memories of baby JT's infancy are those early mornings when all three of us would come awake at the same time, together and whole, a complete and happy family.

He's been sleeping alone for years now and other things have changed as well. But through the years I have often wished that I could hit the rewind button and re-live some of the moments of my son's life.

I'd like to hold his baby self again for the very first time. I still recall the feelings which overwhelmed me at that moment, how much I instantly loved him. I vividly recall the things I told him on his first day of life, when I held him and smelled him and looked into his big dark eyes and promised him that I would always love him and that he would have a happy, happy life. Things felt so sure and so true on that day and I'd like to be there again.

I'd like to re-live his first Mother's Day, when fresh out of his bath, lying on our bed wrapped in his yellow towel, he laughed for the first time. It was a big belly laugh and Lisa and I just stood there amazed at this tiny miracle that we had in our lives. We laughed with him that day.

I'd watch again as my grandmother held her 5 month old grandson for the first time. I took a picture of that moment, never imagining that it would be the last week that I would see her alive.

I'd like to stand in the hallway in my house in Nebraska and re-live that moment when I heard my 11 month old son say his first word....."toothbrush, toothbrush, toothbrush" he chanted as he walked around the house on his unsturdy legs.

I'd re-live every Christmas morning since my boy was old enough to truly understand and appreciate the concept of Santa Claus. I'd watch his eyes grow wide with joy and wonder as he came downstairs to see what Santa had left for him. I'd enjoy the happiness of that moment.

And I think that I'd like to re-live a moment that happened just yesterday. It was a rough day - more on that later - and we were heading into Target when JT looked at me and saw tears on my cheeks. He took hold of my hand and gently said to me, "It's going to be okay, Mama." And with his warm hand holding mine I really believed that it might be okay someday.

There are so many more moments that I would re-live. But until I get that magical rewind button, memories will have to suffice.

And they do.

Go Tigers!

Friday night JT attended his first college football game. And while his usual pattern is to root for whatever team is winning, this time he cheered for the Princeton Tigers the whole time. It was a Tiger loyalty thing.

Miss A taught him the rules of the game. Miss T endured a whole lot of taunting (and teased right back). Both of them spoiled the boy rotten......and my does he love that foam Tiger paw.

And of course it must be noted a happy boy means a happy Mama.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Trouble with Prep School

In the middle of my free period, I walk down the hall to get a drink of water. There are four kids in the hall, hanging out by the lockers. All four of them are working on schoolwork. They are diligent and quiet. So quiet that we can all hear my shoes squeak as I walk by.

If these kids were normal, they'd be bad and rebellious in the halls and no one would hear the embarrassing squeak of brown suede.

The Cosmos Whacks Me on the Noggin

I am teaching Buddhism to freshman this week.

I'll give y'all time to digest that fact.

So there I am, giving them the down low on Siddartha and his revelations, when I find myself writing the 4 Noble Truths of Buddhism on the chalkboard. To whit:

1. Sorrow (or suffering) is part of life.
2. People suffer because they are constantly wanting and trying to get things they cannot have.
3. The way to escape suffering is to overcome these frustrating desires and reach a stage of "not wanting."
4. Finally, the Buddha pointed out the steps on the path to enlightenment, or nirvana.....this is the Eightfold Path.

Okay, that explains why I've hit a rough-patch: wanting and trying to get what I cannot have. The challenge is finding a way toward not wanting............and that ain't so easy.

We take up with the Eightfold Path to Enlightenment later this week. Maybe that will help.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Things You Wait a Lifetime to Hear

I'm explaining to my therapist how difficult it is for me to believe that my departed partner was faking affection for me over the last two years (this, not to be confused with the seven years prior to that when she didn't love me). So I catalog some of the events in that period, including my 38th birthday, where she went out of her way to make me feel well-loved (the tea party, the diamond earrings in the gazebo) but now claims that she was faking it.

And my therapist says: "wow, that's just creepy."

So there you have it. A clinical diagnosis. She's creepy.

Not to mention out of her freakin' mind.


Setting the scene: It's 3rd period American Government and the class is the recipient of a tasty discussion of federalism.

Me: So we're going to talk about devolution today.

Anonymous Student #1: Is that the process whereby people turn back into monkeys? Laughter ensues.

Me: Yes, indeed it is. And I can see that many of you in this class have already completed that process.

Monday, October 09, 2006


I basically work from the belief that people are rational creatures, driven by their self-interest and acting accordingly. That needn't be a bad thing. For example, it could be that Mother Theresa served her self-interest by helping the poor. That made her happy, made her feel good, and so that's what she did. If I were an economist, I would speak of this in terms of maximizing my utility. But I am not an economist, so I just call it self-interest.

And let me say again that I believe everybody does this. It provides structure to the world, the fact that you can count on people to be rational and self-interested. It is a basic human assumption that people want to live. That's why terrorism is so scary: terrorists don't care if they live and thus are willing to take action that the rest of us will not undertake. And now I am starting to wonder whether Kim Jung-Il of North Korea is rational in the traditional sense. Because if he's not we've got ourselves some serious, serious trouble.

I like to assume that elected government officials are actually worrying about this as well. But I sometimes fear that assumption is irrational.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Wisdom of Willie Stark

There's a line in All the King's Men that I really love. Speaking about change and trying to improve regular people's lives, Willie says that politicians always promise that it will happen sometime, but, he says, "sometime ain't never now."

I so feel that way these days. As I continue to raise JT and navigate single mama-hood, I think a lot about what our future should look like. I think about what happiness and joy will feel like for the two of us. I think about how I can be sure that we both get what we need out of our life together. Things are better now, certainly less vividly painful than they were when Lisa first broke camp. But I still miss and mourn for my old life. And there are still moments when I am unbelievably angry with Lisa for doing this to us. There isn't a day that passes without some reminder of what JT and I have lost, and sometimes (not always, but sometimes) it brings on the tears that I am just so tired of crying.

Everybody tells me that it will continue to get better; that sometime I will wake up to great happiness, even joy. But at this moment sometime ain't never now.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Jersey Boy

Last night at supper, JT said a word Jersey-style. I was so shocked to discover that my son cannot pronounce "-ton" properly that the resulting PTSD blocked the word he (mis) pronounced right out of my head.

Clearly, intervention is in order or soon he will be waiting on line, going food shopping, and heading to the shore for weekends.

Saturday morning update: JT has just asked to watch Martin Mystery......but he completely skipped the 't' in pronouncing Martin.....as in Mar'in. Where have I gone wrong?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Cat in Heat

I am not speaking here of my kitten Lucy, nor of myself. I am speaking here of the neighbor's cat who is in heat and began squalling at 5 am this morning. I woke up suddenly and my first thought was that an infant had been abandoned outside. But no, this was feline lust advertising for companionship.

No question now that my cats are getting fixed.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Introducing Tiger and Lucy

Yesterday, JT and I set off to bring two kittens to our home. It was an exciting adventure. The intrepid E joined us (and had enough self-discipline to avoid adopting every stray in the place....though Wilbur the pig caught her eye).

Lucy (on the right in the photo with JT) took a nerve-wracking turn in the basement when we first got home yesterday, so the catlets are staying in the study for now. Lucy likes to hide behind the bookshelves. Her brother Tiger is braver, staking out the eliptical trainer for himself and boldly taking a turn in the living room. And Tiger happily smiled for the camera with his new boy. Lucy fears the paparazzi.

JT picked out Tiger and I picked out Lucy. They are brother and sister (twins, as JT points out) and they have added some real excitement to my boy's world. He went to bed last night talking about our kittens and he was up early this morning to check on them. He suggested that we skip school today to look after them (selfless, that boy). It's nice to see him so excited and so pleased to be in charge of the kittens, checking on their food and water and worrying that they will be lonely without us.

It's a most happy thing to have Tiger and Lucy in our world.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings this week is skin. Now I'll not lie, my first thought was about such a prompt was that I could write some deeply inappropriate things.

But 38 years have taught me not to give in to my first impulse. And so I let the idea of skin percolate and what kept coming to the surface of my thoughts was the idea of being comfortable in my skin. To me, that's the idea that I know who I am and I like myself, feel okay with my quirks and foibles, and am pretty well ready to face the world with my blemishes, my beauty and everything in between.

It's taken me a long time to get to this point; to be okay with my vulnerabilities and weaknesses and to see my own strengths. I'm not always as easy on myself as I could be. But in my son I see myself mirrored back at me. And for him, I have learned to be more patient and more careful. As much as possible, I want him to be inoculated against the pain of not loving himself enough. He's self-possessed and contained, with an ability to care for others that is sometimes surprising in a 6 year old. Right now, he's comfortable in his skin. I'd like him to always be that way.