March, 2004

I always suspected the RIAA was trying to pass the buck when they blamed file sharing for their declining sales. A study concludes, unsurprisingly, that people who consume a lot of online music also buy a lot of music. [Link courtesy of Shasticon].

A truly fascinating tour through the devasted area of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. [Link courtesy of Shasticon].

From the guardian, this story that pursues what U.S. media has not found newsworthy, how Captain James Yee was once a traitor who needed to be executed, but now is released with just a wrist slap.[Link courtesy of Shasticon].

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26 Mar 2004, by

Earlier this week Sophia noticed that she doesn’t say “oatmeal” correctly. She has always called it “opieomie”. I have always thought this was incredibly cute, and as per all the child rearing literature, we rarely if ever correct her grammar or pronunciation (supposedly over-correcting your child’s pronunciation is one of the causes of stuttering). Kurt asked her if she wanted oatmeal, and she paused before she answered “Yes! Oatmeopie.” She pronounced each syllable slowly, listening to herself, and frowning when she realized that even though she’d adjusted her pronunciation she wasn’t saying the same thing Daddy was.

Soon she’ll be saying it exactly right. Just like when she stopped calling herself “Sophis” and quit talking about her “banglet”, it makes me somber and dejected, for reasons I cannot understand.

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25 Mar 2004, by

I’ve been mad busy lately. All my Thursday time (and any
other pocket of time I happen to have) has gone into trying to get the house really truly straightened up as it should be before the baby gets here. If I’m going to be at home eight weeks with little sleep and a crying infant, I need to be able to see order around me or I’ll break down and go postal. So all the long list of things that needed doing with the house are very slowly getting done. The termite infested tree was cut out of the yard, the kitchen’s been completely organized and my rolltop desk is now usable there (it used to be a convenient holding place for junk, because you could hide it by rolling the top shut. There’s now a place not the kitchen table for incoming mail and another place (also not the kitchen table) for outgoing mail. Order. Peace of mind. Progress is being made, but there’s still so much to be done, and I’m not sure that I’ll be able to get to it before the baby comes. I’ve got about 5 weeks (give or take, of course) left and my energy is really dwindling. I get home every day after work pretty much beat, with aching feet and a desire to fall into bed above all else. Needless to say I make myself do the things that need doing instead, but that doesn’t last long. I become useless pretty quickly as I get tireder and my body starts rewarding me with aches and pains for pushing it. Hope that explains my sporadic appearance on the blog a bit. Apologies to those who would like more regular updates about
how my pregnancy is going (overall fine), or those who long
for the lovely little stories about all the things Sophia is
doing these days.

Which brings me to this. Sophia is truly a wonderful,
amazing child. I’m sure this is a thing all parents say, and I’m sure that all children are intrinsically amazing in some way or another. I have been watching her so closely lately, partly because we’re trying to get some things accomplished with her (like potty training. It is time!) and partly because she’s changing and growing so quickly and partly because I have some concerns that I won’t have the freedom to soak her in the way I can now when there’s two of them and she gets more independent and private. At any rate, she’s really incredible in so many ways. It’s hard for me to distinguish, sometimes, what is just a developmental stage for her – something that all children do
and go through – and what things are just parts of her personality beginning to shine through.

So, given my penchant for making lists, I thought that today I’d make a list of all the things I cherish about Sophia. Not all the things I like about her are necessarily positive or permanent. Some of them will be phases of the almost three child that she is. Still, I want to know, and remember, and be conscious of what they are, if only for today.

And so, things about Sophia that rock my world:

  • How independent she is. I know that some people thought we coddled her too much as an infant. We held her constantly, we gave her lots and lots of attention and physical affection and closeness. I let her nurse for longer than I had anticipated I would, for example. And sometimes we worried that we were creating a child that would be clingy and needy. She walked late (still within the normal range, of course, but towards the latter part of that) and she often demanded help for things we felt sure she could do on her own, and we gave it. It seemed counterintuitive sometimes but we stuck to giving her aid
    whenever she asked or acted like she needed it, as much of the literature recommends. The theory goes that by showing your kid that she can count on you, you actually foster a stronger sense of self and independence. And whether because the theory has merit or by luck or accident or despite our overflow of assistance and attention, she is now an almost maddeningly independent child. She is unafraid of the world, and loves to explore. She wants to do everything “all by myself”. We encourage her and cheer her on, and are ridiculously proud of her ability to put on her own socks, climb into and out of her own car seat, bring her own dishes to the table for meals and then clear them away when she’s done, pick up her own toys, wipe her own nose, brush her own teeth, feed the cats, and a million other little tasks that seem trivial but are a lot of work for someone not quite three.

  • How she invents songs. I noticed this about two weeks ago, maybe three, but Sophia is actually making up her own songs now. Usually wordless little ditties, you can hear her singing to herself as she plays, with nonsense syllables like “deedeedee” or “dallydally” . She likes to sing songs she knows, as well, of course, like all children, but it’s most charming when she just makes things up. It makes me think that there are songs blooming in her head, just waiting to come out and be expressed. I have asked other people if their children do this, and several have told me that they do not, so I think this might not be a universal quality, which makes me cherish it in her all the more. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying she’s a prodigy or a musical genius or anything like that. Clearly, she’s not,
    but I relish her interest in music and her inventiveness

  • How much she enjoys animals. She’s not only crazy about our pets, but also about fishes and birds and bugs of every shape and size. I find it so fascinating that she’s always preferred stuffed animals to human dolls of any type. She cuddles her tiger and her moose constantly, and often doesn’t want to go anywhere without “one of my animals” but the only baby doll she has lies forgotten in the closet for weeks at a time, until she takes it out for 10 minutes, feeds it a bottle, then forgets it again. “Look, mama, it’s a bird! It’s flying to its nestes!” or “Look mama, it’s a squirrel!”. She watches the world of living things around her with complete fascination. When I come to the house in the afternoon and Sergei comes running to greet me, she
    says “It’s your best friend, Sergei!”. When she has imaginary phone conversations, she updates the invisible listener on all the pets: their names, colors, and locations. We tell her our pets are part of the family, and I think she senses that this is a special and treasured relationship. She’s crazy about the fish at the Natural Science Museum, spent 20 minutes or more in front of the otter tank at the New Orleans aquarium when we went there last year, is willing to touch worms and frogs and horses with equal delight. I very much want her to feel she is part and parcel of the natural world, and I think she does. This makes me very happy indeed. I find very few things make me more content than to sit on the couch and watch her and our dog chase each other around the living room, her laughing continuously and he looking just slightly puzzled but playing along, with his tail waving high like a flag.

  • How sweet natured she is. She is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a perfect child, and thank goodness for that, for how unsuited would we be as completely imperfect parents if she were? However, she is a very good child and really does want to please, to fit in, to participate and enjoy life. She can be so completely enthusiastic about the most commonplace activities that it’s infectious and refreshing. How would she like to go for a walk? “That’s a terrific idea!” she exclaims, jumping up and down with excitement and an eager light in her eyes. “I like raisins,” she’ll say with a gracious smile when I offer her a box. I’ll thank her for being still while I’ve combed her hair and she’ll make the “You’re welcome” sign and shout “You’re welcome!” like she’s genuinely pleased to have
    accomodated me. If I ask her to say hello to someone she almost always does so, even if she’s feeling a bit shy and can only manage to wave at them instead of saying anything. She may throw tantrums and cry and get upset, like all children sometimes do, but she can also come up to you, hug you and say “I love you,” completely unprompted. On the whole, she’d much rather be cheerful and happy, and she’d much rather you be cheerful and happy as well. Nine times out of ten her report from daycare has the word “happy” circled next to her disposition for that day. On a day two weeks ago when she was having a (very unusual) terrible day and actually spit (yes, spit! we were horrified!) at one of her teachers the teacher found the behavior so unlike her that she took her temperature to make sure she wasn’t sick.
    People are constantly telling us how sweet she is, how easy to get along with, how pleasant and tractable. To me, these
    qualities are worth more than 100 IQ points and all the child prodigy abilities in the universe. As far as I’m concerned, having a good nature will take her much farther in the world and in a generally more pleasant way than any amount of smarts or unique talents.

  • How much she loves books. Whether it’s library books or
    her own, she truly is infatuated with books. This, of course, is something I’ve tried very hard to foster, and was very important to me. Sometimes the things we want for our kids are destined not to be. Knowing this, I feel especially lucky witnessing her love for books which rivals mine and my husband’s. She loves to be read to, but she also loves to look at books on her own. We have found ways to spark her interest about topics and ways to follow her existing interests through books. She amazes and surprises me with her preferences. Often at the library I pick four books, thinking to myself: ok, this is a hit, this is a maybe, this probably won’t do anything for her and I need a letter or number or colors book. Often I am right in my
    prediction of which book she’ll enjoy the most (she is my
    daughter after all, I do know a thing or two about
    her) but more astonishing, I’m often completely off base about her favorites. It’s like an ongoing revelation of her
    interests, her dislikes and her preferences – a tiny window
    into her psyche. It’s also delightful to watch her reacquaint herself with books she hasn’t seen or read in a while. Recently, we’ve gone back to the book Aunt Kelly had given her about the Orsay museum. You can tell she remembers this book from our numerous previous readings, even though she hasn’t seen it in months. When we rediscovered Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb a few weeks ago she went around reciting it for days. It’s fun, too, to start reading and stop before dialog or other critical phrases and let her fill them in. For the last week she has asked my husband to read her night time story. This has been something that I have almost always done, and it’s both sweet and heartbreaking to have her say she’d rather her Daddy read it to her than me. In some ways, it will probably make things easier when the baby is here if he does it, but it was also a special time that we used to share that may now be mostly over. And yet, I get to watch her sit with him and go through the routine with me as an observer instead of a participant, and that too has its own joy. She’s all about being the page turner now, and you have to tell her when you’re done so that she can turn the page. Sometimes, she’ll look at you and say “Did you read the whole fing?” to make sure she’s not missing out. For a while she would say “Talk to the book” meaning read it, which was kind of cute, but she’s mostly stopped doing that lately. But yes, I think we have successfully instilled a love for books that with any luck will last a lifetime and will nourish her through many phases of her existence. We are so pleased by that.

  • Her growing sense of empathy. If you tell her you’ve been hurt she wants to kiss it and make it better. If you say something makes you sad, she frowns and tells you “You don’t have to be sad. You can be happy!” If you tell her you are happy she jumps and exclaims “Hooray!”. If you tell her you like something she’ll say “I like it, too!” although only if she actually does like said thing. I know this is an important developmental stage that all children go through, but sometimes in my every day adult life I wonder whether people forget how to have empathy with others. When I see Sophia putting herself in other people’s shoes, thinking about their feelings and expressing concern for those around her, it makes me pleased and proud of her, not just as my child, but more importantly, as a human being.

  • How she loves to color and paint and play with playdoh. This is another one of those things that I’ve asked other people about and doesn’t seem to apply equally to all children, but Sophia loves to draw and color and paint. She can sit for 20 or 30 minutes with a paper and some paints. She gets a kick out of playdoh. She likes to draw on herself and on her papers. Watching her with paints is like watching someone at the beach for the first time. She squeezes the paint between her fingers, mixes the colors together with intense concentration, sometimes announcing the result, “It’s brown!” and alternately piles the paint on in thick globs and smooths it out into tiny swirls of flattened color. Sometimes when she paints I know I’ll get a half hour to do my own thing and I try to get tasks done like fixing dinner or sorting the mail or paying the bills. Often I just sit there and watch her, though. I can’t help but wonder how many children in the world would take the same fierce delight in painting but for whatever reason may never get the opportunity to try it, whether it be for lack of funds and resources to paint with, or because it never occurs to their parents to try this with their children or because the children are in circumstances where painting is just not feasible or allowable. Then I wonder what other things Sophia would enjoy just as much as this if I were to provide her the opportunity to engage in them but am not currently doing so because I’m not thinking about these other unnamed and unthought activities as something that might interest her or be appropriate to her age. At the same time, with the same breath, I wonder whether she knows how lucky she is, how many opportunites we do provide her, out of love and interest and a desire to see her fulfill herself as a human being, that other children just as lovely and deserving as she is will never

  • How verbal she is. She speaks more clearly and with a
    greater number of words than almost every other child her age that we know. She hasn’t memorized any dictionaries, but we are nonetheless very pleased with how much she can talk. She uses almost every part of speech, and almost every part of speech correctly. She describes things with adjectives, colors her speech with interjections, names things and people, and tells me what is happening to them, with them or about them. I don’t know if the time we spent signing with her is responsible for this, or whether our constant use of words to describe everything we did around her before she could utter a syllable accounts for it or if it’s just luck or genetics. I’m a highly verbal person and communication is something vital to me. I have tried to give Sophia all the words she needs to tell us about her wishes, her desires, her discomforts and her needs. I’m delighted when she asks me to go away so she can play by
    herself, and not just for the alone time it grants us both, but because she is able to state her needs clearly to me. She can tell me what she prefers to eat, whether she wants to wear the pink jacket or the yellow one, what she doesn’t like, when to hug and hold her and when to leave her alone. If I ask a question, she can usually answer it. And she volunteers so much about herself and the world around her. It’s so much easier to help her and so much more fun to hang out with her now that we can have conversations. Although most of our talk still falls in the realm of knowledge based information, identifying things and talking about their qualities, there’s still moments of free-thinking and speculation, when I ask her why she thinks something happens, or ask her to predict what she thinks will happen, or ask her to imagine what might happen. We talk, for example, about what show might be showing on television
    when we get to daycare. She might say “I think it’s gonna be Aristocats!” and I say that it may be that, or it might be something else. It’s so much fun to see her draw parallels between relationships. “Look at all those cars,” she observes as we pull into busy traffic. Yes, where do you think all those people are going in all those cars? “To their houses!” or “To the grocery store!”. One of these days she may say “To the moon!” and I’ll reply, “Maybe so.” And smile.

  • How strong her sense of order and patterns is. She is, at heart, a neat child. She likes to pick up and put things away where they belong. She likes to group similar objects and lay them out in patterns or together. This innate desire for order seems to me a very positive thing, like a sign of an ordered mind. Some theories of childrearing say that all kids have this natural sense of order, and that they flourish in an environment where they are allowed to express this aspect of themselves. I don’t know about other kids, and it is true that Sophia often delights in making messes and disorders, but by far her sense of peace when things are placed where they belong and her confidence at being able to find things when they are put away and her willingness to clean up after herself predominate over the occasional desires on her part to make a huge mess. Even
    though we often have to do a great deal of picking up after her, it still makes our lives easier that she prefers order and that she is so willing to help.

She’s everything we ever could have hoped for in a child. We are beyond fortunate to have her be a part of our life. And surely, even her most diehard fan cannot complain now that I’ve written such a long entry all about her.

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24 Mar 2004, by

As I told Kurt this past weekend, the first thing I want to do after I’ve had this baby is to get a gigantic Sausage and Cheese Plate from Red, Hot and Blue. Takeout. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.

While I’m on the subject of food, I’d just like to say that I’ve been reading in a number of sources that what you eat during pregnancy affects your child’s tastebuds in early life. If this is true, here is my predicted list of the foods my baby will like because I have been eating quite a lot of them:

  • Cereal (mostly raisin bran) and milk
  • Chocolate (duh!)
  • Pancakes
  • Apple Cinnamon Muffins
  • Edamame
  • Miso Soup
  • Chicken Pot Pie
  • Naan
  • Cinnamon Raisin Bread
  • Peanut Butter on Nilla Wafers
  • Tangerines, Oranges and all things citrusy
  • Popcorn
  • Quesadillas
  • Rice
  • Pasta

I’m giving some creedence to what I’ve been reading in this regard because when I was pregnant with Sophia I went to Argentina and ate tons and tons of meat, and I have never seen such a carnivorous child as she. She’ll eat any kind of meat except bacon, and including game. She likes duck, goose, venison, ham, pork chops, pork loin, ground beef, steak, chicken, turkey. She’s basically never met a piece of dead animal tissue she didn’t like, unless it was for reasons of sauce or spice.

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24 Mar 2004, by

I’m working on a couple of longish posts, but they languish and progress on them is intermittent. Things are well. My feet hurt a lot, most of the time. Some people have expressed concern over my declaration on Sophia’s Webpage that I’m going to have all her hair cut off. Yes, it’s true, the next time I take her for a haircut to Ms. Lynn (“Ms. Lynn gives me a purple sucker!”) I’m going to have as much of her hair cut off as I can without making her look too much like a boy. She refuses to ever have it pulled back or tied back, it’s constantly in her way and I’m tired of trying to get paint, maple syrup, leaves, knots of unidentified goo and so forth out of it. Yes, her hair is fine and lovely and a good length. No, I cannot manage it right now. Have some faith, though, Lynn is excellent at her job and will doubtless make her look cute as a button. Possibly even cuter than a button. There is so much left to do before the baby arrives, so little time. We haven’t decided on names yet, though Kurt suggested something fairly promising this morning. Allergy season is starting up. When I was pregnant with Sophia at this time of year I ultimately had to resort to taking Claritin, which I remember feeling uneasy and unsure about it, though my ob-gyn assured me it would be ok. I don’t know whether I’ll be able to hold out this time or not. Short staccato notes that are completely unrelated to one another. All I have time for at the moment, but possibly serving to prove that I am still alive and kicking (or being kicked, is this baby ever active!).

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The Wage Slave Journal: George W. Bush Scorecard of Evil

I love that the evil levels are measured in terms of little black hearts.

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Sometimes something happens that is so far outside your normal everyday experiences that it sharply realigns your sense of perspective. This past weekend was one of idyllic weather where I live. It was warm and lovely and bug free outside. The sun shone brightly all weekend. As a result, we went on several long walks with Sophia riding in the wagon and Sergei on the leash. This is how we start, with simple joys and enjoyment of the fullness of life in the spring unfolding around us. Flowers in our yard are blooming.

Across the street from us new neighbors have just moved in. We saw them look at the house when it was for sale, saw them there with the home inspector and then, two weekends ago, saw the U-haul full of their things. They seemed like nice, regular people. We were pleased. Their girls rode their bicycles around the driveway tentatively the weekend before last. Life in our little not quite suburb not quite city neighborhood carries on. The new neighbors are African American. Unfortunately, this information plays a part in the story that follows.

We had not introduced ourselves, so on Saturday, when we stepped out with dog and daughter and wagon we noticed the man of the household going about in his yard and we pulled up into his driveway to greet him. We told him we lived across the street, pointed to our house and gave him our names. Kurt shook his hand. He told us his name and the name of his wife. I asked about his children. He beamed and said he had two daughters, with a parent’s pride that all other parents would recognize. I said I’d seen them riding their bicycles. We had the standard normal conversation, full of smiles and pleasantry, that any two neighbors meeting for the firs time might have anywhere in America. Indeed, anywhere in the world, probably. And then, he smiled and said, “You know, it’s good to know there’s people like you in the neighborhood. Thank you for coming across to talk to us. Because you will not believe what I found in my mailbox this morning.”

Now, some of you may know where this is going. I have to tell you that, at this point in the conversation, I was truly completely without a guess as to what I was going to be shown next. Perhaps I am naive, or just stupid, or just not conscious of the sorts of things that can happen to people who aren’t just like me.

What was it? we asked.

He scratched his head, smiled a little ruefully and said, “A bullet.”

I think the next possible sound was probably my jaw hitting the floor. Standing there in the gentle sun in our quiet neighborhood gave me no comfort at all. The safety of the place was no more than illusion, all the crueler for the trappings of friendliness and routine. My husband followed our neighbor over to the mailbox. The man opened the mailbox and my husband peered in. And there it was. A bullet. I was aghast and appalled. I couldn’t believe that someone would do such a thing. Even as a joke, what a horrible, menacing, tasteless sort of joke is that? I felt an acute wave of sympathy…when you go somewhere and are threatened in this sort of craven, hidden way, who can you trust? I felt ashamed to be part of a race of people that would act this way. I felt sick. I wanted to apologize, profusely, for being white. I think I said something like “How horrible.” I certainly felt that way. My husband suggested that he call the police. I agreed, but sadly, I don’t think he ever did. At least I never saw a squad car or anything in front of his house. Maybe they can’t trust the police. I don’t know if this sort of vague generalized threat is a part of their every day life. He seemed to be surprised and shocked, as we were, though certainly not to the extent that we were. I can hope, and do hope, that these unpleasant episodes are just the scary sort of thing that happens sometimes but doesn’t escalate into anything and ultimately doesn’t interfere with their life. Still, I can’t get the rid of the sick, disgusted feeling that a person would do something so cowardly and awful. Probably a person I smile and wave at when I see them, because they are my neighbors.

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