Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
There must have been something in the air today, though, because let's just say the penguins were a bit more amorous than usual. Before I even had a chance to focus, I heard Sam say, "Look, Mommy, that penguin is on top of the other one and they are fighting." He seemed concerned at first. But all of the teenagers and couples around us started cackling and laughing and making jokes so Sam and Jack began to howl with laughter. I was amused, too. But for slightly different reasons.
First of all, the male had to chase the female for a good long while, trying to knock her over before he was able to, uh, get lucky. And then, during their little tryst, she looked about as interested as a kid learning the periodic table of elements. I swear, if there was one of those little thinking bubbles over her head, you would see her thinking, "Hmmm, let's see. What should I make the chicks for dinner tonight? Ohh, fish. Yes. That's it. I'll make fish. Oh darn, but first I have to go to the store. And I guess while I'm there I should pick up some ice. Yes, ice and fish. Oh, and I am snack mom for snowball races tomorrow. I should pick up some treats while I am at the market." Meanwhile, the dude is having the time of his life.
The interlude lasted all of about 2 minutes. Mr. Penguin finished up, collapsed down next to Ms. Penguin, and lay there for a minute or two. I could swear that I actually heard him ask for a cigarette. After a moment, Ms. Penguin got up, collected herself, and waddled away.
I would like to clarify that I have never in my life had a personal experience anything remotely similar to Ms Penguin. And my mind has certainly never wandered at such an intimate moment. Absolutely not. I mention this whole penguin porn episode only because it is in such stark contrast to the human male:female mating ritual. I didn't recognize anything about it AT ALL.
Back to my kids though. I should note that I leaned over to the teenagers next to me and told them I would pay them to keep their mouths shut about what was really happening. And the whole way home I got to hear my innocent little guys talk about how cool it was to see the penguins chasing each other and fighting and then falling asleep.
Monday, March 17, 2008
I read an article today on CNN.com that actually caused my blood to boil. I could feel it percolating under my skin. The author suggested that the US should boycott the Olympics, being held this summer in Beijing, and not send our athletes to the games.
Let me be clear that my disdain for the Chinese government is deep. But to suggest that Americans have some sort of moral authority and can use that authority to make a statement by boycotting the games is absurd. Aren't we the country of waterboarding and Abu Ghraib and holding prisoners illegally at Guantanamo? Aren't we the country that invaded Iraq illegally according to the UN Charter? Who are we to hold ourselves as superior to the Chinese? The United States lost any moral authority long, long ago.
What saddens me is that the World Community (is there such a thing?) selected China to hold the games to begin with. Does the world not care that China is one of the biggest sellers of weapons to the Sudanese government, these weapons used in turn to inflict unspeakable crimes against humanity in Darfur? Even our own State Department references China's "extrajudicial killings, torture and mistreatment" of Tibetans. Are we really so in love with cheap crap that we aren't willing to risk alienating the Chinese government?
In 1996 I was lucky enough to spend 2 amazing months with Tibetan refuges in Dharamsala, India. It is impossible for me to describe the beauty and courage of the Tibetans. In order to practice their religion openly, they must escape their home city of Lhasa in the middle of the night and make a treacherous trek through mountains and snow, avoiding police checkpoints and hypothermia. Those that make it travel for two weeks before arriving in Dharamsala, a region of India granted to exiled Tibetans by the Indian Prime Minister in 1960. They make this trip so that they can practice their religion openly and in peace, led by their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
I spent my nights in Dharamsala at Drepung Loseling Monastery. I arrived after a 16 hour bus ride from Delhi. When I walked into the main receiving area, I was greeted by 3 young monks, enjoying the best known American export - Baywatch. They showed my friend and I to our room where we had our own shower and our own private monkey "forest" hanging around outside our window. It doesn't take long in Dharamsala to get your bearings. We quickly found The Tibetan Children's Village (http://www.tcv.org.in/home.shtml) and Yongling School, where we taught English to eager students.
I have heard that Dharamsala has changed in the 10+ years since I have been there, but when I was there, all I saw was beauty. The children and the adults and the shopkeepers and the teachers and the monks and the nuns struck me as such pure souls, eager to tell their stories and ask for help for their people. I had to leave midway through my stay to return to the States for my brother's wedding and a crowd of students and nuns and monks escorted me to my bus, placing prayer scarves around my neck, wishing me a safe journey and "namaste" (travel in peace).
Sadly, what has not changed is China's continued oppression of the Tibetan people. Tibet fell to Communist China's control in the 1950s and since that time the people have had their government taken from them, been forbidden from practicing their religion, and been forbidden from speaking their native language, among many, many other infractions. Between 1950 and 1984, over 200,000 Tibetans were killed by genocide, in prison and in labor camps. At least 80 peaceful demonstrators have been killed in the past week alone as Tibetans continue to non-violently protest their oppression by the Chinese government.
So, no, I am not in favor or a US boycott of the Olympic games. But what can concerned individuals do, particularly now that all eyes are watching Beijing for this summer's Olympics? Here are three ideas:
- Boycott the Olympics yourself. Don't buy into the televised hype of the new, modern, clean Beijing.
- Boycott Chinese goods - a personal way of opposing the Chinese occupation of Tibet and showing solidarity with the Tibetan people.
- Write to your legislators. Urge them to remove China's Most Favored Nation (MFN) status, due to human rights abuses in Tibet and elsewhere. Follow this link to find your representative: http://support.savetibet.org/site/PageServer?pagename=find_legislators
Thursday, March 13, 2008
About two hours later, at the museum, one of the other moms pulled me over. "Do you know you have on two different shoes?" she whispered.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Friday, March 7, 2008
We happened to arrive shortly after the local middle school was let out for the day (half days for parent-teacher conferences), so the place was mobbed with 4th-8th graders who walked there for lunch. I was struck by several things:
1) No parents in sight.
2) The girls have the cutest clothes. No doubt their wardrobes are nicer than mine. There was an abundance of Ugg boots, trendy bags, tight tanks. The guys were decked out in izod, pumas, and riding high-end looking skate boards.
3) Several of the kids used credit cards to pay for their lunch. The others paid with $10s or $20s. An average lunch at LuLu's is probably $9.
4) Lots of swearing, trash talking, and heavy flirting.
After lunch, we went across the street to Starbucks which was also packed with middle schoolers. The girl in front of me (I'd guess in a bout 7th grade) paid with a Starbucks card. She didn't have enough to cover her drink, so she took out a credit card and loaded her starbucks card with $50. I took a look around and all of the kids had huge foofy frappucino drinks. Those things cost serious coin.
Can we all just say a collective WTF?
Perhaps I am being hypocritical, because obviously I had to be at these establishments to notice this, but going out to eat is a real treat for my kids and me. Certainly not a daily, or even weekly indulgence. And as for my daily starbucks, I figure my $2.35 for a tall latte is ultimately a huge savings over being admitted to the loony bin. And I am 38 years old. I have worked really hard for a really long time to enjoy that $2.35.
Growing up, money was a sensitive issue in our house. We always had the necessities covered, but there certainly wasn't extra cash for designer jeans or regular meals out. I remember saving for a looooooong time to buy my first pair of Guess jeans IN COLLEGE.
As a result of that, at least in part, I really learned to be careful and respectful with the money I did earn. I had to make choices and prioritize the things I wanted.
But I digress. This isn't about me. (Or is it?)
Getting back to the kids - my first thought is, seriously, what in the world is wrong with their parents? All of these kids are under 13, so I think it's a pretty safe bet that they are not working for this money. And I don't think they are using credit cards with cash coming from their checking accounts.
But then I realize, this is my 'hood. Fast forward a few short years and it's going to be my kids who are this age. Just say, for the sake of argument, that $10-15 lunches (lunch + a large vanilla bean frappucino) every day and the coolest clothes and toys for my kids are affordable for my family. Then what? Is it a reasonable thing to share our abundance with our children? If you can live in a nice house and save for college and retirement and give money to those who are less fortunate, and there is still plenty left over, why not let your kids enjoy what you have? Or does that deny them the opportunity to feel the proper respect for money, and particularly for those who may not be so financially privileged? Will they ever learn to separate their happiness and self worth from the things they HAVE? And then, take the opposite scenario - what if we don't enough money to give our children all of the toys and things their friends have? What if expensive lunches and decadent drinks aren't in the budget? How do you handle that when when you live in a community where many families do have seemingly unlimited resources? How will we teach our children that being happy doesn't come from things you can buy? How do you help them feel ok when the majority of their peers have everything they want?
Here is the part of the blog where I am supposed to come up with a pithy and catchy conclusion but I don't have one. I don't know the answers. All I know is that I am really glad my kids are still young enough that a 25 cent gumball is still the ultimate extravagance.
Six married men will be dropped on an island with one car and 3 kids each for six weeks.
Each kid will play two sports and either take music or dance classes. There is no fast food. Each man must take care of his 3 kids; keep his assigned house clean, correct all homework, complete science projects, cook, do laundry, and pay a list of 'pretend' bills with not enough money.
In addition, each man will have to budget in money for groceries each week.
Each man must remember the birthdays of all their friends and relatives, and send cards out on time.
Each man must also take each child to a doctor's appointment, a dentist appointment and a haircut appointment . He must make one unscheduled and inconvenient visit per child to the Urgent Care (weekend, evening, on a holiday or right when they're about to leave for vacation).
He must also make cookies or cupcakes for a social function. Each man will be responsible for decorating his own assigned house, planting flowers outside and keeping it presentable at all times.
The men will only have access to television when the kids are asleep and all chores are done.
Each father will be required to know all of the words to every stupid song that comes on TV and the name of each and every character on cartoons. Each man will have to make an Indian hut model with six toothpicks, a tortilla and one marker; and get a 4 year old to eat a serving of peas.
Each man must adorn himself with jewelry, wear uncomfortable yet stylish shoes, keep their nails polished and eyebrows groomed. The men must try to get through each day without snot, spit-up or barf on their clothing.
During one of the six weeks, the men will have to endure severe abdominal cramps, back aches, and have extreme, unexplained mood swings but never once complain or slow down from other duties. They must try to explain what a tampon is for when the 6-yr old boy finds it in the purse.
They must attend weekly school meetings, church, and find time at least once to spend the afternoon at the park or a similar setting. He will need to read a book to the children each night without falling asleep, and then feed them, dress them, brush their teeth and comb their hair each morning by 7:00. They must leave the home with no food on their face or clothes.
A test will be given at the end of the six weeks, and each father will be required to know all of the following information: each child's birthday, height, weight, shoe size, clothes size and doctor's name. Also the child's weight at birth, length, time of birth, and length of labor, each child's favorite color, middle name, favorite snack, favorite song, favorit e drink, favorite toy, biggest fear and what they want to be when they grow up.
They must clean up after their sick children at 2:00 a.m. And then spend the remainder of the day tending to that child and waiting on them hand and foot until they are better. They must have a loving, age appropriate reply to, 'You're not the boss of me'.
The kids vote them off the island based on performance.
The last man wins only if...he still has enough energy to be intimate with his spouse at a moment's notice.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Saturday, March 1, 2008
I am thinking I should start a whole different blog section called "Today's Humiliation" and share with you the comedy of my workouts with DBT. Here is today's story.
About half way through our hour workout, DBT gets out the ol' step aerobics bench. You remember it from the early 90s, right? It looks like this:
I start feeling pretty confident because mine is the generation that grew up on Jane Fonda so I know my way around a step aerobics bench.
Next thing I know, he has four of the little purple risers on each side of the bench and I think he is going to make me jump up onto it. But you all remember, don't you? DBT never stops at level one of hell.
He instructs me to straddle the bench and plunge into a deep squat. So when I squat, I am almost sitting on the bench, one leg on either side. But my bum is not allowed to touch. OK. Now, I am to jump up from the sides of the bench, onto the bench, and dip down into another squat on top of it.
I do my 20 reps, with my ass and thighs shaking with exhaustion. "Land lightly," he says. "On your toes. Softly. Like a ballerina."
You have been reading my blog long enough now that you know what I want to say back, right? But I don't. I just close my eyes and try to survive.
Next thing I know, he's got a 10 lb medicine ball in his hands. Oh good, I think. We're done with these squats. But. Alas, we are not done with the squats. We are moving on to Advanced Hell.
While I am jumping from the floor onto the bench, he is going to throw the ball at me. I am not to catch it, I am to toss it back to him - kind of just push it back. Honest to God, people. I could not make this up.
I cannot even describe how hard this is for me. It takes coordination that I am quite sure I do not possess. Not to mention muscles which I know I do not possess.
The absurdity of the situation does not stop here, though. Because out of the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of a face I recognize. Let me tell you that the last thing you want to do with a 10 lb medicine ball coming at your face is get distracted, but that is exactly what happens to me. Because the face I recognize is Steve Young, famous 49ers quarterback, whom I have heard (and now can confirm) works out at this gym.
And so, it is with Steve Young watching that I end up with a 10 lb medicine ball whacking me straight in the nose, causing me to stumble backwards off the bench, because for one brief second I stop paying attention to my Squats from Hell.
DBT is kind and compassionate and concerned, although he still makes me finish the set.
As I am driving home, nursing my sore nose and my pride, the only thing that makes me feel a little better is that while Steve Young was stretching on the floor, I saw his underwear. He saw me get whacked in the nose, I saw his underwear. It's even now, wouldn't you say?