Monthly Archives: November 2008

Another blessing to count

            We stepped off the escalator a couple of blocks from City Hall.  None of us had used L.A.’s Metro before, but it was pretty clear which direction we should go.  We followed the people with the protest signs.

            I don’t have much use for large crowds, and I usually set to work breaking them down into individuals, a task best accomplished by chatting with total strangers. As much as anonymous crowds overwhelm me, the chance to get to know new people sets me at ease.  In this case, I was with a group of people I did not know well, having tagged along with Wanda and her friends. 

            Wanda and I were friends in college, and although we lost touch for over a decade, we fell right back into the rhythm when my family moved to L.A. last spring.  She comes to dinner at our house regularly, both boys made a point to invite her to their birthday parties, and she was the person I called when I went into labor.  She qualifies as a damned good friend.  Her group of friends, however, were somewhere between acquaintances and strangers.

            Normally, I do well with this size group: five or so people to learn about, stories to elicit.  J hates small gatherings because he feels obliged to talk to people.  That’s what I like best.  A group of five to ten is neatly contained.

            Unless, of course, that group is moving towards a slightly larger group.  Say 10,000 people gathered to demonstrate for same-sex marriage.

            The crowd wasn’t too bad when we arrived.  Most of the participants were on Gay Standard Time and hadn’t arrived yet.  Our group, being straight, was early, so the crush of bodies had not begun. 

            We stopped under a large tree, figuring shade would be good on a 90 degree day, especially for the eight-week old I was wearing.  I was relieved; we were in the back and in the shade without me having to make an issue of it. 

            But, then someone else arrived who wanted to be closer to the front, and we played follow the leader.  There was shade here, too, but it was hotter and getting much more crowded.  From my point of view, a much less pleasant place to stand for several hours.

            I could feel it as it happened.  The switch flicked.  The High Maintenance switch.  The I-want-to-be-with-other-people-but-I-want-them-to-do-everything-my-way switch.  The very switch that gets thrown inside my eldest child, causing him to destroy the play dates he has begged me for.  We are both People Persons who get easily annoyed by Other People.

            In this case, I could probably have forced them to go back, given the rather delicate accessory I was wearing.  But it wasn’t their choice to travel with a baby.  I was tagging along with them.  And I did not want to put Wanda in an awkward situation.

            Somewhere deep inside me, a force rumbled.  It slowly reached out a finger on tapped that switch back into place.  I told Wanda that I was headed back to where we had been before, that she should stay with the group, and that we’d meet up later at the same tree if she wanted to.  Then I fought through the rapidly growing crowd of couples in bridal gowns and protestors waving signs to the shady area in the back.  Where, incidentally, all the other families with young kids or dogs were hanging out.

            I called Wanda, told her how pleasant it was there, not so that she would join me but so that if the group was uncomfortable, they would know their options. 

            It had not been easy, finding my maturity like that.  What I wanted was for everyone to cater to my needs, but the fact was that my needs differed from theirs.  I could have stayed up front, miserable, so as not to be left out; or I could have insisted everyone come with me, much as Zachary insisted his little friend needed to play Hide-and-Seek in our backyard on Friday.  Neither one of those options would have been very grown-up of me.  So, I settled in at the back alone and began to breastfeed.  Incidentally, a gay marriage rally is very breastfeeding-friendly.

            A half an hour later, Wanda showed up, somewhat out of breath.  “How did you get through that crowd?” she panted.

            I did not ask her why she came back to the Dogs, Old Married Couples, and Children section because I had a pretty good understanding of exactly what her reason had been.  She hadn’t wanted to leave me all alone, so she had left the group she came with and come to keep me company as I changed diapers.

            At the end of the rally, as we found the rest of the group and made our way to the subway, I decided maybe Zachary would be OK.  It may take him thirty years, but I think someday he is going to learn how to control that little switch that makes him insist to his playmates, “You’re not doing it the right way!”  And I hope he has a friend who cares enough to make sure he’s never left all alone.

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Photos of a rally

I am a straight Californian, and this is how I define a family:

(I even threw in a picture of me with Lilah…)

Our uncivil union

            I don’t believe in God, which I know probably makes a good number of you worry for my eternal soul.  Yet, for reasons never quite clear to me, a significant portion of my friends, online and off, are practicing Christians.  We disagree about something pretty enormous, but we somehow manage to like one another.  I suspect this is because we have two things in common: we acknowledge we don’t know everything and we are respectful of other people’s voices.

            That explains why we were able to have a productive discussion around here on Monday.  A discussion in which people, you know, listened to others with differing points of view.

            Religion is about truth.  A person who is committed to a particular sect must believe that her faith is the vessel of truth.  American civic life, however, is composed of truths in the plural.  It must encompass every belief set, giving space for a multitude of viewpoints.  This is why church and state work better kept far away from one another, because the state needs to leave room for many churches, not to mention us heathens.

            There is one glaring area in which church and state are hopelessly intertwined.  One area where my rabbi can execute a binding legal contract.  One area where it is impossible to separate the legal and the religious definition of the word.  The M-word.

            So, maybe it is time for the state to get out of the marriage business.  Instead of legally marrying people, maybe the government just needs to only offer civil unions to all couples.  If people want a religiously-defined marriage in addition, go for it.  But leave it to the religions to define their truths about marriage, while the legal contract is kept completely separate.

            That would lead to a much more civil union.

The birds sing words and the flowers croon

This one’s for Joel.

            The Disney skyline is dominated by the big attractions: the three Mountains – Space, Thunder, and Splash, the monorail, and that obnoxiously perfect yet functionless wonder, Cinderella’s Castle.  But, for those who are not fooled by the glitter and not taken in by the hype, for those who are not hoodwinked by the newest and most glamorous, for those who can appreciate truly winsome imagination, there is a refuge tucked away from the maddening crowds.

            Rumor has it that the Enchanted Tiki Room was Walt’s favorite attraction, and it is easy to understand why.  It is a place where weary park-goers can rest their ever-widening bottoms, breathe in the air conditioning, and be charmed for something like eleven straight minutes.  There never seem to be lines, not that Walt had to stand in them if there were.  It has excellent line economy, a term I use to denote my highly scientific calculation of the ratio of wait time to ride length.  Only It’s a Small World can compete, which is closed for renovations to accommodate Americans’ ever-increasing hiney size.

            I have long been smitten with the quaint animatronics and corny humor of the Tiki Birds.  So, when we got season passes to Disneyland, there was no doubt in my mind that we would need to introduce our children to Pierre, Fritz, and their gang.  I worried the thunder might frighten the boys.  Not so much.

            One morning in early summer, as we drove down for perhaps our fourth visit to the Land of Princesses and Flying Elephants, Benjamin said something from the backseat.  While his enunciation is usually pretty good, he was not yet quite two, and sometimes we weren’t always clear on what he was trying to tell us.  So, it took a few minutes for us to deduce that he was making a request.

            “Tiki birds.”  Sweeter words were never spoken.

            The Enchanted Tiki Room is now a fixture of our Disney mornings.  When we have had it with the hyperstimulation of Toontown, we head on over to Adventureland for a little quiet time with the Glee Club. 

            When Lilah was 3 weeks old, we took her along with her brothers for her very first Disney adventure, most of which she experienced with her head buried in my bosom.  I fed her on the train around the park and in line for the Jungle Cruise.  But, by far the best place to breastfeed in Disneyland?

            Surely you don’t need me to tell you.            

Right down the middle of his forehead

            “He’s really coming out of his shell,” one of the teachers told me during our parent conference.  “We were thrilled to see him being naughty for once; he’s usually so good.”  At this point, I probably needn’t tell you which child’s teachers I was talking to.  No one accuses Benjamin of being too good.  And he damned sure doesn’t have a shell of any kind.

            In fact, Benjamin’s teachers get to see him being naughty on a very regular basis, a privilege for which they do not seem especially grateful.  They adore his sense of humor, his verve, and his easy affection; it’s the pushing and hitting they could do without.

            He mostly focuses his efforts on one little boy, a rather aggressive child who has been known to practice violence himself now and again.  He does not hit Benjamin much, of course.  He is far too busy trying to ingratiate himself to my son.  If only he understood that crowding into whatever corner Benjamin is playing in and stealing his toys is not the way to become BFFs.

            “No, Randy!” Benjamin will shout, but Randy just cannot help himself.  So, Benjamin wallops him.  And, although I appreciate that he has tired of using his words only to be ignored, I must say that my son’s shortcut of simply jumping straight to violence every time he encounters Randy is not winning him any gold stars.  Nor is Randy always the sole recipient of Benjamin’s brute force.  There are seven other two-year-olds in the class, after all, and just after Lilah was born, Ben took a taste of a few other classmates.

            Lately, however, the teachers are noticing a change.  Growth and maturation, to be precise.  His playfulness and cuddles are punctuated less frequently by bops and bumps.  He is checking his aggression in favor of cooperative play.  And, every now and then, he actually obeys.

            It goes without saying that he still does not allow anyone to sit in the spot he has decided belongs only to him at the lunch table.  He is still two, after all.

First love

            Girlfriend, you have not been an easy baby.  There were the bilirubins that inexorably rose, there was the colic-that-turned-out-to-be-reflux, and there were the six weeks during which a three-hour stretch of sleep seemed like a gift from the gods.  Even as I write this, I need to pause to go pick you up because this morning has been a series of five-minute nursing sessions punctuated by naps from which you awaken within twenty minutes of putting you down.

            No, you have not been an easy baby, and it has been sort of hard to tell whether you are even a cute baby, since most of the first five weeks you were either yellow with jaundice or purple with screaming.

            But, then, on Saturday, when I pulled you in to nurse, looking down and smiling at you because, despite it all I seem to adore you, you looked me right in the eye, and you smiled back.  Your smile very clearly said, “Hi, there, Mommy.  I think you are wicked awesome.”  Which is good, because I think you are wicked awesome, too.

            And then you turned to suck another layer of skin off of my nipple.  

And happy Monday to you

            I have been trying to figure out why I am so devastated by the passage of Proposition 8.  I am – and this may come as a shock to some of you – not gay.  I have no openly gay relatives.  Sure, I have gay friends, but this amendment does not affect me personally.  I can sympathize with my friends, but I am still legally married, after all.  Yet, for some reason, the fact that a majority of my fellow Californians decided to take away a basic right from a group of people has me waking up at night.

            Actually, the baby has me waking up at night, but I am thinking about Proposition 8 while I am feeding her.

            Then I reread an old post of mine, and it hit me.  This amendment is about hate.  My fellow Californians have voted to amend the state constitution to include hate. 

            I may fear another Holocaust, but until this passed, I hadn’t really realized that people need hate.  It is just as human an emotion as love.  Now, I get it.  We simply cannot evolve ourselves or educate ourselves out of hating one another.  It makes us feel better for someone else to be lesser.  And, if hate is a basic human emotion, it means I have it, and it means my kids have it.  It means love cannot conquer all, or even very much.

Please sign the guest book

            I love blogging.  I love reading your blogs and knowing you read mine.  But, it has come to my attention lately that there are way too many blogs in my reader.  Like WAY too many.  I want to keep reading all of them or they wouldn’t be there in the first place.  But, I cannot, not with three kids and a cat (OK, there is no cat, but my husband reads this blog and I thought I would try to slip that in there).  And, the only fair way I can think of to cut them down is to read those who are here reading me.  So that we’re in, you know, a conversation.  Even if we don’t always comment.

            There are certain posts I write that I know will bring a comment from Chani.  She rarely comments, but I know she always reads, and that makes me very happy.  So, I am not asking you all to comment regularly, or even at all.

            All I am asking is that if you want me to add your blog to my Reader or to keep it in, please leave me a comment on this post or send me an email.  Pretty please?

I wonder what Lilah will call them

            According to Benjamin’s former toddler group teacher, children who know the proper anatomical terms for their private parts are less likely to become victims of molestation.  Knowledge gives them power, if the adage is true.

            Well, then my kids are pretty darned safe.  Not only do they know the proper terms, but they are quite happy to use them in all situations.  Hence, Zachary, when using the bathroom alongside a new acquaintance, has been known to inform her, “This is my p-nis.”  I am sure her mother appreciated show-and-tell.

            Zach did have a hard time learning the proper word for the dark pointy things at the ends of my breasts, however.  When he was just two, he would often see me breastfeeding Benjamin, so he requested the necessary vocabulary for processing the experience.  Unfortunately, he kept confusing his nipples (and mine) with the bendy part in the middle of the arm.

            I was feeding his brother out of my elbows.

            Benjamin, now two, also wants to be sure to embarrass me whenever possible, so he has long since asked for the word for those little circles on his chest.  He, too, has confused the word “nipple” with another body part, which explains the conversation we had the other day.

           “What are these things in there, Mommy?” he asked, picking up the round, cotton pads.

           “They are my breast pads.”

           “Ooooh, I like them for your pimples.”

           Maybe “nipples” is a really hard word to pronounce.

Party pooper

            I am writing this shortly after the polls have closed here in California.  Across the country, my friends are rejoicing.  Facebook is a veritable confetti-fest of Obamalove.  With all the celebrating going on, I will not be surprised if there is a baby boom about nine months from now.

            And, yet, I want to cry.  Yes, I am relieved that the Reign of Terror is over.  I am pleased Sarah Palin will not be a (weak) heartbeat from the Oval Office.  I am hopeful that my next President will help save the planet for the little girl I am holding to my breast.

            But, as I type with my one free hand, I know she is not safe from bigotry and restriction.  I hope that, should she ever be in the awful position of needing an abortion, she will feel safe telling me.  And if she doesn’t, since it seems Prop 4 will pass here, she is going to have to tell me, anyway.  Of course, by that time, who knows how many more restrictions there will be on her right to choose?

            If she turns out to be a lesbian, she’s pretty screwed, too, since it looks like Prop 8 will pass, amending the state constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman.  (I guess she’s also in trouble if she turns out to have a tendency towards polygamy.)  On the bright side, if she is a lesbian, she does greatly lessen her chances of an unwanted pregnancy.

            Americans voted for Obama because they are afraid, as well they should be.  I just wish their votes were a signal that they have put their bigotry behind them.

Addendum: I may have jumped the gun here.  Prop 4 may fail.  Fingers crossed.