A "good enough" mom muses about alpha moms, adoption, computers, the State Of The World, Internet quirkiness, and the Kosmik All
Truth and consequences
By now all the blogging world knows the phrase "to be dooced". It means "being canned by your boss because of what you wrote on your blog". Many bloggers keep mum about details of their workplaces or their personal lives. Oh, you get the story and the first name, or an alias, but the link to reality is at least hazy. If you care, and you follow a particular blog, you can get some ideas as to the where, and sometimes the who, but it seems to be general netiquette to keep it on the down-low and not be too nosy. I have my alias, OmegaMom. I cloak my whereabouts in at least a desultory fashion, striving to be sure I don't use placenames. I don't use the dotter's name, nor OmegaDad's, and various relatives are just mentioned by first name and relationship. Even so, many of my readers know what town I live in--mainly because I visit their blogs and leave comments and they, too, have Sitemeter or a similar tracking service. Check a comment by a person against a tracking hit, and, unless they are with AOHell you've got a fairly good idea of their locale. (AOHell's IP addresses all are linked to some mysterious spot smack dab in the middle of the United States, quite useless for pinning someone down.) I'm not too worried about it. Pretty much what you see here is what you get: a staid plumpish middle-aged mom who is kinda gooey about her dotter and husband. Not much there to get anyone riled up (except when I start yammering on about religion and agnosticism). I rarely write about my work, and, since I generally like most of my cohorts there, I don't have any pithy things to say about them, which keeps the boss booting me because of the blog low on my list of worries. Which is not to say that I let it all hang out. There are a few items I don't like to write about on a public venue because I'm paranoid about some numbskull deciding to get all judgmental about our suitability as adoptive parents and adoptive parents-to-be, which seems to happen with dismal regularity. This kind of puts a damper on things on occasion--for instance, a very recent rumor about a possible change in China's requirements means the Omega Parental Units will be sunk, lost, totally screwed vis-a-vis adopting from China again. For which reason, I will admit, OmegaDad and I are distinctly thinking about Vietnam as a possibility for adoption. Long waits we can deal with--it took 2 years and some change for us to go from signing the adoption contract to actually meeting the dotter. Sudden changes in adoption qualifications after having a dossier actually sent to China--which seems to be happening these days--that's another matter. We could lie; this is always an option. But, for whatever reason, I personally find it ethically dubious to shove something under the rug for selfish gain; I would hate to be confronted by an angry adolescent who scornfully waves The Evidence under the parents' noses and says, "How could you?!" And, besides, as OmegaDad will tell you, I am almost pathologically honest and find lying incredibly difficult. My face gets red. I get tangled up in the details. My palms sweat. I get stomachaches. It just doesn't work out well. But letting it all hang out here--nope. Not going to do it. Maybe some day, after the fact, when everything's all legal and we have Dotter Secunda in our greedy adoptive parent grasps. Back to the judgmental commenters. Typically, the judgmental ones like to leave their comments as "anonymous" or using cutesy aliases, which just gravels me. If you're going to say something like, "I'm terrified for any child you adopt", have the guts to sign your name. I'm lucky in that I have a couple of venues that I consider safe, with people who I've hung with for years now, to gripe, to kvetch, complain, bitch, moan. I had them when I was going through the worst of the oh-my-god-I'm-never-going-to-get-pregnant- why-do-those-preggos-do-that-smug-rubbing-of-their-bellies-in-my-face angst. So, while I vented, it was private, and among a bunch of folks who had been there all along with me, and no-one felt like I was dissing them or psychotic or a danger to any child I wanted to adopt. All of which, frankly, a lot of women in that stage of the IF-to-adoption road could be accused of. Some bloggers don't have that safe venue; they use their blogs as a place to vent. Some do it with humor and style, some with raw emotion, some with both approaches. And sometimes that venting hits the wrong people the wrong way. Goodness knows why anyone who was rubbed the wrong way would want to pursue the sandpaper--for instance, my one recent visit to a White Supremacist forum where people were spouting vile rubbish about transracial adoptions was a one-time thing; I ain't goin' back there again. I guess, though, there are people out there who can't resist rubbernecking, who like being made to feel uncomfortable. But for cryin' out loud, to follow someone's blog for a long, long time, secretly knowing that you're working with this person, leaving anonymous comments, and then coming out a mere few weeks before that person is about to receive her referral and posting a rantish comment all about how her blog makes you feel nasty...And to do it all anonymously...but then say, "Oh, by the way, I work with you!"... Folks, that is low. Just low. Oh, I know, it's a risk bloggers take. But it's still damned low. Be a mensch if you've got a gripe with a fellow blogger. Comment using your own name, or at least with your blogging nom de plume. If you know the blogger, let them know you know, early on. Be strong in yourself and your convictions. Don't hide behind the mask. (For those who are wondering, no, I don't think she was "dooced". [I certainly hope not!] But I do think that her safety net was yanked at a time when she really needs it, and I do think someone posting snarky comments to a blogger then saying they work with said blogger could do a real head job on anyone.)
posted by Kate @ 5/30/2006 10:35:00 PM   9 comments

Lead by example
The dotter's first foray with a bike was fun, exciting, and a wee tad scary. You see, we have these little itty bitty hills in the blocks around our house--nothing like the Big Hills down to the bottom of Hippy Dippy Enclave in the Woods, but enough to put the fear of hills into the dotter. She went down them, the bike started going faster, she didn't have the automatic-braking thing in her autonomous muscular memory yet, and she kind of panicked. She hasn't been out on the bike much since. So, in an effort to "lead by example", I had OmegaDad rummage through the garage and lift my bike off the hook in the rafters. It has been hanging there for an ungodly length of time. Six years?? OmegaDad had to haul out the can of FixAFlat, too. So after some repairs, I climbed onto that bright shiny blue monster, and pedaled. "Riding a bike" in this instance means slowly pedaling about 100 yards, stopping the bike, getting off it, and waiting for OmegaDotter to catch up. Lather, rinse, repeat. But we pedaled around the neighborhood on Sunday. I talked a lot: "Now, what's that?" (pointing to a stop sign). "Oops!" sayeth dotter, grinning, coming to a stop next to mom. "Now, we ease forward and look left. Are you looking left?" OmegaMom gently grabs the dotter's head and turns it left. "Now we look right. Are cars coming?" "No!" sayeth dotter, who is still looking left. Sigh. "Now we turn and go through the intersection fast so...Dotter! Don't stop in the middle of the road! Come on!" Dotter gamely pedals onward. The end result: OmegaDotter got practice looking out for stop signs, pedaling down hills (very very slowly, putting on her brakes again and again so that now it's almost second nature, with lots of "thumbs up" signs from mom), looking both ways at stop signs, and learning to keep her eyes on the road, rather than on the dogs barking at her from this house, or the kitty cat coming out to greet us from that house, or the kids playing on the swings at the other house. Mommy got a sore butt. We did another neighborhood tour this morning. OmegaDotter got more practice. OmegaMom got more of a sore butt. By the end of today's biking, I was able to bike all the way down to the bottom of the incline and wait, instead of stopping two times on the way down. Dotter's confidence is rising. But, dayum, my butt is sore!
posted by Kate @ 5/29/2006 07:26:00 PM   2 comments

Birth of a blog and other stuff
OmegaGranny hath a blog. Stop by and say "Hi!". She's been threatening to start one up for quite a while (OmegaMom sits and taps her fingers and says to herself, "What's taking her so long?!"). First there was trying to figure out how to use OmegaGramp's antiquated digicam. Then there was trying to figure out how to work Blogspot. But now she's up and running.
"Tutling", according to the author, who very graciously responded to my forlorn definition-seeking email, was a made up word based on "tutoring", which makes sense in the context. So, I would suppose it's pronounced "toot-el-ing", rather than "tut-ling", as I was mentally hearing it. He says he was reading Mrs. Byrne's Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words at the time he was writing the book.
OmegaDad took the dotter off to try to catch tadpoles yesterday. They ended up going to a fish hatchery and then to Extremely Trendy South western Tourist Town instead, where the dotter became enamored of the 16-foot-tall, $75,000 bronze horse sculpture. We did not, needless to say, become owners of said sculpture, though it is quite grand.



OmegaMom sent them off on their own because she had been seized with the Urge To Clean. This is quite rare. When the Urge To Clean arises, OmegaMom must grasp it with both hands. This time, the UTC included getting out the Suck Machine. What, you ask, is the Suck Machine? It's a Hoover SteamVac. Very handy when there are grotesque spills on the carpet--if you catch them in time. Alas, we often don't. Anyway, yeah, after much neatening, straightening of piles, sorting through piles, dishwashing, clotheswashing, tossing things out, and vacuuming, I took it that one step further. For about, oh, 150 square feet of our 576-square-foot living room. (Don't get jealous--none of the other rooms in the house come even close to that size, but it's a very nice big room.) Anyway, while the Suck Machine has its virtues, it has one drawback: it cleans carpets in rectangles. And if the brush isn't quite fluffed properly, those rectangles are actually kind of stripes. So now we have 150 feet of the living room carpet that are striped--one stripe clean, the one next to it not so clean. Sigh. Sometimes it's just better if I don't give in to the Urge To Clean, because I often get minor disasters like this happening as a result. Merry Maids and a professional carpet cleaner with a BIG Suck Machine with round rotating brushes would do a much better job.
posted by Kate @ 5/28/2006 01:36:00 PM   0 comments

Oooh, that's purty!
Got this from Pharyngula. It's a graph of the OmegaMom blog. (I suspect it's showing me that there's some bad HTML in the template, sigh, which would cause those extra skinny lines linking a few of the cute little flowerbursts to each other.) Not only is it a purty picture, but it's a neat use of graph theory, a neat visualization of HTML parsing, blah, blah, blah. And it's damned fun to watch being created. Go here. Pop in a website URL. Watch a thousand flowers bloom.
blue: for links (the A tag) red: for tables (TABLE, TR and TD tags) green: for the DIV tag violet: for images (the IMG tag) yellow: for forms (FORM, INPUT, TEXTAREA, SELECT and OPTION tags) orange: for linebreaks and blockquotes (BR, P, and BLOCKQUOTE tags) black: the HTML tag, the root node gray: all other tags
posted by Kate @ 5/27/2006 10:43:00 AM   2 comments

Mz. Language Person: Pop Quiz

Quick! What do the following words mean?

bellipotent allochroous brontophilia (the link is for the opposite) tutling allicient barbelate barratrous cacophrenic borachio ecdysiast covinous antelucan acherontic

Give up? (Hint: click on the links.)

To my mind, they are evidence that either David Brin was out of his ever-lovin' gourd when writing a part of his book "The Uplift War", or his editor was. OmegaMom (aka Mz. Language Person) encountered these words in the space of 32 pages in that book; she actually had to revert to the college mindset and haul out the highlighter to mark each word. Now, admittedly, I do know one of them (ecdysiast), and a bunch of them I could figure out because, due solely to my upbringing and an eight-year stint with first-year French, I have an awesome grasp of Latin roots. (For instance: Cacophrenic--think of "cacophonous", discordant/ugly music, and "phrenology", the "science" of studying the shape of the skull. From those two words, I get cacophrenic equals a damned ugly skull, and, given the context of that word, it fits.) But four of them I couldn't even find on my handy-dandy link to Dictionary.com WHY??? Why on earth would any writer use words like these? Why would any editor let them pass by, when they jar the reader out of the rhythm of the work, into a cold, cruel world where the Oxford English Dictionary is not a delightful luxury, but a dire necessity? This slew of odd words puzzles me, because I've been reading Brin's books lately, and none of the other ones had this infusion of erudition. In fact, they pop up in only one chapter, and a few other chapters here and there. It's so damned out-of-place that it makes me wonder if two people were writing this book, or if Brin just dropped them in as a joke. (On a little googling research, I discover that Brin had a "classical education", so perhaps to him these words weren't jarring.) (If any of you knows what "tutling" means, please let me know.)
posted by Kate @ 5/26/2006 05:28:00 PM   17 comments

O brave new world!
While there are times that our world of technological marvels can be terrifying--global thermonuclear war plays as prominent a part of my nightmares as do tornadoes--I have to admit I like living in a world where we have indoor plumbing, central heating, LASIK surgery (da Bomb, I'm tellin' ya!), the internet, blow-dryers and Blues Clues videos. Without indoor plumbing, the Omegas would have to trek out to a cooold, dark hut to do our business. Without central heating, the Omegas would have to rouse at a ghastly hour to stoke the wood stove. Without LASIK surgery, OmegaMom would still have an ongoing, unhealing sore behind her left ear and a permanent red mark on her nose, resulting from the weight of her coke-bottle-bottom glasses (even when the lenses were made of so-called "lightweight" plastic!). Without blow-dryers, OmegaMom's hair would never, ever be fluffy, but would always be a dank dark helmet. Without Blues Clues, OmegaMom would be at a loss sometimes for something to distract OmegaDotter. The internet, of course, is both a blessing (Google! Travelocity! Amazon! USGS map downloads! Fifty kazillion free coloring pages!) and a curse (do you know how much time one can waste on the internet? Of course you do; otherwise, you wouldn't be reading this screed.). This week is full of interesting technology news. First, there's a week-long series on the technology and ethics of pushing the aging envelope on MSNBC. What are the downsides to people living a long and healthy life to, say, age 140? The Honor Harrington series, which I've discussed before, examines some of the social and ethical questions related to significantly extending human lifespans, and it's interesting to see that some of the same questions show up in these MSNBC articles. One of the main questions explored is what happens when the aging extension technology is concentrated in the hands of the "haves"...what happens to the "have nots"? In addition, there's the question of the balance between those with age and experience (and perhaps a tendency to stick to the tried-and-true) moving on and out to provide a place for the starry-eyed young things who are willing to try out new ideas. Next on my list is...oh, wow, wait for it!...The Invisibility Cloak! Yes, folks, it seems as if the technology to provide a cloaking device ("Keptin! There's a Romulan uncloaking in front of us!") is actually right around the corner. The folks who are working on it have come up with some ideas that just never occurred to me, in particular the rather nice thought of being able to "cloak" a refinery or some other unsightly physical intrusion, so that people who live on the other side of it can still have a good view of the bay, or whatever else is on the other side. You'd need a lighting code, I'd think, like that used for radio towers, so that no-one accidentally smashed into the side of one of the cloaked buildings... The reality is that this technology is being pushed by the military; but one has to admit that the most immediate response to such a device is, "What a handy thing to have if you want to spy on The Enemy!" This, of course, has its downside--I imagine the more forward-thinking gangster types are just foaming at the mouth to get hold of a cloak. Hmmm...the mafia with cloaking devices. Hmmm...Jealous wives following their spouses to rendezvous (how do you pluralize that?!)...Hmmm... Then, we've got Honda, demonstrating the use of brainwaves to control a robot. Kewl! My dreamed-of human-brain interface is coming closer and closer! Of course, right now, those brain waves are "collected" by using an MRI. I don't think we can all lug around an entire MRI with us, hyuck, hyuck. (The scientists who are working on the system envision a headcap that would monitor the brainwaves.) Currently, the majority of the brain-computer interfaces extent use electrodes implanted in the test subject's brain or on his/her head, to directly interface with the electronic impulses between neurons, so this is a step in a different direction. This device is being used to control robots; but one immediate application that leaps to mind is accessibility for people who have physical handicaps. All I want is to be able to think at the computer, "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party," and have it automagically appear on the screen...Or think at the lights as I walk into a room to have them turn on.
Stay tuned for another episode of Mz. Language Person denouncing the Use of Big Words. (I've got this book, see, one of a series by a particular science fiction writer, and I'm puzzled, at sea, baffled, balled up, beaten, bewildered, bollixed, clueless, flummoxed, foggy, lost, mixed up, mucked up, mussed up, mystified, nonplussed, perplexed, stumped, thrown by this writer's use of particularly odd words.)
posted by Kate @ 5/25/2006 07:41:00 PM   2 comments

Blogstorm a-blowin'!
In today's highly technological, interconnected world, there are stories that blow up overnight, take over the Technorati "most-searched" list, and become news on their own to the blognoscenti. Sometimes, it happens because it's a funny or odd story, or a viral video, but the most intense blogstorms erupt when a large number of people's sense of justice is outraged. I was alerted to today's blogstorm by an RSS feed from one of my favorites, Miss Snark. Miss Snark is a literary agent writing under a nom de plume, who has an enviable ability to skewer nitwits and snarklings; offers good advice on query letters, writing, publishing deals; and has a poodle named Killer Yapp and a propensity for pointy stiletto-heeled shoes, vodka, and George Clooney. I am not a writer of the kind who seeks to be published, so her blog is not a needed resource for me, as it is for others. But Miss Snark's snarkiliciousness is just so...so...snarky that I keep coming back for more. It seems that Miss Snark is an aficianado of a writers' website called "Absolute Write". It seems that AW had published a list compiled by the Science Fiction Writers of America called The 20 Worst Agents, based on number of complaints. It seems that one of the agents, a person name of Barbara Bauer, called up the ISP for Absolute Write, threatened them with a lawsuit and the DMCA (the copyright law). It seems that the ISP owner caved and yanked the site on one hours' notice. Oops. Bad mistake. Now Barbara Bauer is the third search term on Technorati for the day. Every single one of the posts linked is rehashing the affair, one way or another. Check out Miss Snark is Damn Mad and Hey, Barbara Bauer! Put Up or Shut Up! for details on the story. Yeah, yeah, now I'm a member of the Digital Lynch Mob. But I despise people who use threats to get their way. It's far too much like a toddler; it's something that you're supposed to grow out of when you're, say, five. Okay, six.
posted by Kate @ 5/25/2006 12:26:00 PM   1 comments

Teach your children well
And it's still possible they'll go to hell in a handbasket. Sometimes, thank heavens, it's temporary; other times, it's permanent. There are no guarantees in life, and the child-to-adult transition is just one example. That cute gap-toothed kid in first grade who brings home hand-woven potholders and pictures that say "I heart Mom and Dad!" can turn into the adolescent or grown-up who gives you heartache, instead. OmegaMom's family history is full of kids who go off on wild tears, some of whom then continued on to settle down to a nice staid adult life, others who didn't. I don't speak much of Eldest Brother (now deceased), but he was a "one who didn't". He didn't do drugs or much drinking (that I know of)--his drug of choice was Dr Pepper. But his adult life was typified by a "me-first" attitude; he would be the first to call the police if someone else was impinging on his life, but be loudly and indignantly angry if someone else thought he should have the police called on him. In my twenties, I amused friends and coworkers with tales of his exploits which left them gasping with awe, saying, "No! He didn't!" Well, yes, he did. This was the brother who scandalized one elderly auntie at my grandfather's funeral by regaling her with the tale of how he took potshots at rats from his taxicab while waiting for a fare at the Evanston El station. Then he complained about how the police impounded the weapon and arrested him and how unfair it all was. The elderly auntie, to her credit, fell back on her upbringing, and upheld her end of the conversation with poise and flair. He was raised by the same mother as OmegaBro, a fuddy duddy in biology who planned out his life at age 14 and followed that path steadfastly for decades. Same mom, different results. I have a dear friend who was a mess in her teens. Sent to drug rehab at age 13. Miserable with a move to Colorado, she ran away from home at 16. She dropped out of high school, and led a wandering existence for a few years. All of this, I'm sure, helped her mom's hair go grey. At 27, tired of the direction her life was going, she got her GED, returned to college to get a degree in creative writing, and proceeded to get a 4.0 GPA. In her last year, due to a personal encounter with people in the medical profession, she switched majors from creative writing to pre-med, maintained her perfect GPA, and is now, years later, a successful doctor. Her mother never would have imagined that end result during those turbulent teen years. A family member raised as an only child by doting parents Met A Boy at age 15...the boy was 19. The parents, figuring "better the Devil you know", allowed the relationship, while other family members gave it the hairy eyeball. (OmegaDad and OmegaBro were amusingly parallel in their varied cynical commentary.) When she turned 18, she promptly married him. They promptly had a child. When she turned 19, she filed for divorce. I don't know how her parents viewed the whole affair, but they must have had some of those nights that parents have, the kind where both of you are lying on your back in bed, staring into the darkness, and saying, "So...what do we do about this?!" A cousin of mine ran away from home at age 16; he and his girlfriend disappeared, then resurfaced months later after having lived together in Texas. I remember him climbing the steps of our front porch and shouting out, "HOWDY, y'all!" when he returned...it seemed very romantic to me at the time (age 9), but I know his mother had six months of nightly miseries, wondering where he was, whether he was doing okay, whether he was even alive or not. Now he's a stout, greying bureaucrat working for the state, happily married with a grown child of his own. Even I, mousy and quiet as I was (a Good Girl), probably gave my parents some of those moments of angst in the middle of the night, the wondering "what on earth is she doing??". There are, as I said, no guarantees. An internet friend, sweet and kind and thoughtful, is dealing with her eldest daughter entering adulthood and making some big mistakes, causing her severe heartache. All we can do is recount our own mistakes and those of other on-the-verge-of-adulthood people we know or knew, and try to reassure her. My own sweet dotter with her twinkling toes who peeps around the door jamb and dissolves into giggles when I chase after her with the Tickle Hands--who knows what adolescence and adulthood will bring? I think of C., of my aunt, of my friend's mom, of my dad, and I know that, on the whole, (cliché alert!) kids ride out the stormy transition to adulthood and come out the other side older and wiser. But during that wild ride, the parents are left to stand back, to let go, to let the kids make their own mistakes, to hope like hell the end result is good, and to pop Tums and pad the house in their slippers and robes in the middle of the night, with a lump in their stomach and the knowledge that "I can't fix it for them". Here's to all the parents in the middle of that stage right now. I have a very small inkling now of how hard it must be.
posted by Kate @ 5/24/2006 03:41:00 AM   3 comments

Sisyphus
I haven't posted anything about our quest for DotterSecunda because...well...there hasn't been anything to post. I will not grumble/bitch/moan/complain about OmegaDad sitting on his butt about a particular document we need before we really rev up. (YES! "BEFORE we really rev up"!) I will not grumble/bitch/moan/complain about how our lovely social worker, a wonderful, thoughtful, empathetic, fun woman who we have been working with for OMG six years now deciding to up and move to the East Coast to be with her family, specifically her elderly, ailing mother. How dare she?!?! Doesn't she know the world revolves around us?? I will, however, grumble/bitch/moan/complain about how the wait between dossier log-in date in China and referral is stretching out...and stretching out...and stretching out. When we happily told all & sundry in our family that we were going back for dotter number two, that wait was six months. Nowadays, agencies are telling their new clients to expect a wait of 18 months. EIGHTEEN MONTHS?!?! In the meantime, there are a whole slew of people who happily marched into the China adoption process fully expecting a wait of six months, who are now going on their 12th month. This metaphorical slamming-on of the brakes is just killing them. People like Karen, and Mary Mia, American Family, Johnny, The Rumor Queen, and many more who are posting sadly on The Big List and other lists, just wishing for some idea of when they'll get to meet their babies. There are others, like Chew, who have already switched to other countries as a result, and now have their referrals. Today, the Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs noted on their website that they've spent three/four weeks putting together referrals for 10 days of dossiers, through those logged in on June 15, 2005. Congrats on all the new referrals! But, still...those people who were expecting referrals for last Christmas are waiting... As for us, our update is a big, fat, nothing.
posted by Kate @ 5/23/2006 06:56:00 AM   3 comments

Shining parenting moment
So last night I called OmegaDotter a "selfish little pill". Normally, I try very hard to say something like, "You are behaving like x, y, or z". The idea being that phrasing it like that makes it so she doesn't think she is the embodiment of x, y, or z, and emphasizes that she can change her behavior. But last night, all nicey-nice phrasing went out the window, with my temper. She wanted Daddy. At 1:30 a.m. So daddy went. She wouldn't lie still, so daddy left. She wanted Daddy. So daddy went. She wouldn't lie still, so daddy left. She wanted Daddy...etc. Finally, at 2:30 a.m., Daddy had had it. He informed her, very sternly, that if she wanted him to lie down with her, she had to let him sleep. But that otherwise, she was stuck in bed by herself. She howled. Daddy stayed in bed with me. She proceeded to travel the house, shrieking angrily like a little tin whistle, the kind of shriek that makes your ears ring. This was not "scared" shrieking, it was "how dare you leave me when I want you here RIGHT NOW" type shrieking. It was extremely loud. Finally, I had had it, scooped her up off the floor outside our bedroom, carried her into her bedroom, plopped her on her bed... And called her a "selfish little pill". At which, I got an indignant and soggy, "I...am...NOT...a...pill!" with sobs in-between as a response. And, "We...don't...call...people...PILLS!" I explained to her (angrily) that mommy and daddy needed their sleep. If she wanted to cry and wail and carry on, she could do it in her bedroom. That she was not all alone, because we were in the bedroom, or in the living room, or in the office, and we were always there. And that we always love her, no matter what, but that behavior like that was just selfish. Then followed a long time of cuddling a small, hiccuping child in my arms. But then this evening, we did dinner at the Mexican restaurant, just the two of us, and I shared my churros with her and she shared her soupy ice cream with me, and she selected a stretchy plastic monkey from the pirate's treasure chest, and everything was all better.
posted by Kate @ 5/22/2006 08:12:00 PM   1 comments

Oh, those wacky, amoral atheists!
Another rabbi pontificates (hmm. That's a bad word in this context; rabbis shouldn't "pontificate", by definition) about how utterly dreadful atheism is, and how glorious belief in a Higher Being is. As always, all that's keeping human beings from slavering at the mouth as they go on murderous rampages is the Fear of God. Oy! I'll just point my readers to PZ Myers' excellent rebuttal. He mentions the fun fact that only .2% of the population of U.S. prisons identify themselves as atheists, agnostics or "nonreligious". The same source he used for that shows that some 14% of the general U.S. population self-identifies in the same manner. Surely, if religion were the great panacea against slavering marauding human beings that the apologists claim, the number of self-identifiers in prison would be much higher than in the general populace? A long-time internet friend (who also happens to be an ordained minister!) was talking with friends about the cliché SF question, "If you could go back in time and murder/assassinate one person, who would you choose?" In the midst of the standard "Hitler"/"Pol Pot"/"Stalin" responses was one person who said, "Abraham". Now that is a very interesting response. I'm sure, though, that some other religious belief would have taken the place of the Judeo-Christian-Islam family in terms of how widespread and popular it ended up being. Still, it's an interesting thought. Before my more religious readers get their knickers in a knot, let me just say that I have nothing against religion in the abstract (even though PZ would beat me about the head for saying that). What I am against is the use of and belief in religion as (a) a moral crutch and (b) an intrinsic sign of moral superiority.
No doubt, a highly religious person would not have passed on PAGent's YouTube music video diving. As I am not highly religious, I did; lo and behold, both Kent Newsome and bh were snared in the evil net. Har. My work here on earth is done.
OmegaMom exits stage left, waving her arms and muttering about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.
posted by Kate @ 5/21/2006 09:08:00 AM   2 comments

Musical memories
PAGent, while truly a gentleman, has an evil side, which he indulged on Thursday night by posting a quartet of music videos from the '80s. That night, as a result, rather than work on Serious Stuff like, say, blogging, I spent two and a half friggin' hours on YouTube wallowing in a serious bout of musical reminiscence. Styx, "Mr. Roboto". Yes, "Owner of a Lonely Heart". Queen/David Bowie, "Under Pressure". Phil Collins, "In the Air Tonight". Midnight Oil, "Beds Are Burning". Frankie Goes to Hollywood, "Relax". (OMG. I hadn't seen that music video. Um. Let's make sure the kiddos aren't anywhere nearby when playing that music video again. Like maybe when they're, oh, say, 25?) Stevie Nicks, "On the Edge of Seventeen". Taco, "Puttin' on the Ritz". Kate Bush, "Running Up That Hill". I was mesmerized. I was also emotionally swept back to my 20s (you do the math), a time of OmegaMom-On-Her-Own-In-The-Big-City. A time when me and my buds would "do" Rush Street in the wee hours of the night, bopping from bar to bar. A time of sex and drinks and rock-and-roll. (A few drugs, but I was always wary of anything stronger than a few tokes of weed, so we go with "drinks" in the place of "drugs" here.) A time when my overwhelming emotional meme was...um...romantic angst. While searching for "In the Air Tonight", I came across a clip from the premiere of Miami Vice. For those who look at it now, it may be hard to envision, but at the time it was edgy. It was très cool. It was hooked into that romantic angst I'm discussing: a glimpse into the life of a hard but idealistic policeman who lived On The Edge, and was always being lured (but never captured) by the Dark Side. I look at it now, and it seems so dated; the styles and cars and talk and what-not that were stylin' then seem somehow quaint now. All that music acted like a timewarp for me. I immediately felt that passionate rush of being a twenty-something, looking for love, looking for Meaning, having late-night gab sessions about philosophy that lasted until dawn, riding the El and the Broadway bus at 2 a.m., watching my reflection in the window, dancing in the clubs, checking out the hot dudes at the beach and at Taste of Chicago. And always, always, the key emotional memory for me is romantic depression, a kind of anomie that followed me around, or that I followed, during that period. It was, in a weird way, addictive and alluring. Scents are usually the key to emotional memory, but music also acts as a door to the limbic system. I tend to have a song that is related to specific relationships or memories; one guy was Heart's "Magic Man", another was "Lady in Red", another was the theme from Star Wars (okay, that's dorky, but there it is; it has to do with us playing cards and saying "May the fours be with you!"). These days, OmegaMom is a staid plumpish late-40s mom, whose emotional meme is trying to make it through another week with a four-year-old. I've been with OmegaDad for (gasp!) twelve and a half years. My musical themes for OmegaDad are multiple; there are Marc Cohn's "True Companion" and "Perfect Love", and there is also the Indigo Girls' "The Power of Two". (You'll note that those are songs from the '90s, and that they are (a) much mellower and (b) not about tragic or weird love, but about pretty solid and fulfilling love.) Anyway, PAGent is thinking of posting four music videos per week from the '80s. I may have to avoid his blog on those days.
posted by Kate @ 5/20/2006 05:33:00 PM   5 comments

"This is taking too long!"
Most parents get "Are we there yet?" We get "This is taking too long!" Well, we also get the "there yet" question, but "taking too long" is the statement-du-jour. Folks, I am in awe of single moms. I was a single mom, temporarily, for seven days. Before any single moms out there go off on me about how I wasn't really a single mom, and people whose spouses are on travel for a long time always have someone to talk to and lean on, and trade off parental duties, etc., trust me, I know. I'm on your side. I be-leeeeeve. I was able to speak with OmegaDad every night and whine about how I wanted him to come home and how busy work has been and how OmegaDotter missed him. But fuzzy long-distance cell-phone calls just don't cut it. (Digression: Indiana is flat. It's the midwest. Shouldn't it have awesome cell-phone reception? Shouldn't grown adult-type human beings be able to make cell-phone calls without climbing to the top of the jungle gym in the middle of the night, in the rain?) Anyway, something had to give, and what gave was OmegaMom updating the blog. Sorry. Dealing with the dotter on my own for an entire week made me hit the wall Wednesday night. Back to "taking too long"...it was uttered as we were waiting for our food at Wendy's last night. It was uttered as we drove to the FCC picnic/meeting. It was uttered as we drove down to the Big City (before OmegaDotter conked out). And it was uttered over and over and over again as we endlessly circled around the terminal at the airport, trying to spot OmegaDad. We will not be picking OmegaDad up at the airport again. He will have to find a way to Some Other Place to be picked up. Like, say, taking the shuttle to the airport hotel we stayed at. Because I simply do not want to have more opportunities open up for the dotter to pronounce, "This is taking too long." OmegaDad is back. Woohoo! The dotter and I spent two hours in the pool in the sunshine this morning. We went off, en famille, to the Chinese Cultural Center and ate dim sum and shopped at the 99 Ranch market. Ahhhh. The Omega household is now stocked with an assortment of frozen dim sum for easy dinner making and weird fruit drinks and black noodles and green noodles and two POUNDS of soba noodles. And I have at least three blog entries noodling around (har) my brain, which I hope to get to today and/or tomorrow. In the meantime: "This is taking too long!"
posted by Kate @ 5/20/2006 04:57:00 PM   0 comments

Quick note
Things have been very busy for OmegaMom, both at work and at home. Don't look for a meaty post of any type until Saturday evening or Sunday!
posted by Kate @ 5/18/2006 04:39:00 PM   0 comments

Hold onto your tinfoil hats, folks
So the Pentagon released the video of Flight 77 crashing into the Pentagon today, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from Judicial Watch. Of course, the conspiracy-think folk are all over it; you should see the Technorati hits on the search term "Pentagon video". Let's see: An airplane with its wingspread couldn't have fit into the resulting hole in the Pentagon. The object in the video wasn't big enough to be a passenger airplane; it must have been a missile. Why didn't the Pentagon have a better video? Why was it only one frame every 5 seconds when the convenience store down my street has video monitoring 24/7? How did electrical cable and windows survive the impact? Why did the Pentagon release it now? It was the (take your choice): Illuminati/military/BushCo that did it to seize power. I haven't got enough patience to do justice to this. My biggest objection is: Folks, this is YOUR USA GOVERNMENT we're talking about here. This is the same government that gave us botched rescue missions. This is the same government that gave us space shuttles that blow up because of fear of bothering higher-up bureaucrats. This is the same government that gave us a war in Iraq that still drags on three years after Our Fearless Leader stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier and declared "Mission Accomplished!". This is the same government that can't keep dissatisfied former staffers from blabbing any and everything about the current administration that they can. Why on earth anyone would think that our government is capable--in the "able" sense of the term, rather than the "wanting to" sense of the term--of doing something like this is beyond me. Furthermore, how anyone can think that the number of people required of such a conspiracy could keep their mouths shut... For pair of excellent roundups on some of the questions, I highly recommend this excellent post about the Pentagon hit and this excellent story from Popular Mechanics (the latter, of course, is the target of scorn of conspiracy theorists around the world [you'll be happy to know that PM is a CIA front!], and I suspect the former is, too). I'm more than happy to indulge in potshots at and general all-around dislike of the current administration, and I do love me a good conspiracy theory, but the whole "9/11 Was A Big Conspiracy" meme strains the limits of my credulity something fierce.
posted by Kate @ 5/16/2006 06:40:00 PM   3 comments

Looking on the bright side
One nice thing about having OmegaDad gone for a week is that I get to experiment with new and spicy foodstuffs. [Digression: OmegaDotter is "powdering her nose" before bathtime. I am requested to leave while the "powdering" goes on. I tell her to holler for me when it's time. She hollers just as I'm finishing the above paragraph. I go to the bathroom, where I see...OmegaDotter sitting on the toilet with her shorts on her head, like some medieval headgear, giggling madly. Now. I ask you. How can one help snorting with laughter? If OmegaDotter ever finds this website when she is a teen, I am sunk. Sunk. Totally beneath reproach. But, dayum, it was funny!] Back to foodstuffs. After looking at pictures of me and OmegaDotter cavorting at various beaches, parks, and fiestas, I have come to the conclusion that I am in dire need of some caloric restriction. In addition, I love, love, love beans. And chili. And stuff like that. OmegaDad does not love, love, love beans. And chili. And stuff like that. And he pays lipserve to the idea of lowering our calorie intake, but...um...well, let's just say that the man hasn't met a fattening carbohydrate he doesn't love. So having a yearning for a basic beans-corn-rice-chili meal, which I figure will be (a) vegetarian and (b) somewhat low on the calorie scale, I took this black bean chili recipe and adjusted it for what we had in the house. What I came up with: One big dollop of olive oil 5 nice fat scallions, chunked up A spoonful of pre-minced garlic (I know purists hate the stuff, but it is ever so much better than [ew yuck] garlic powder) 2 tsp. chili powder 1 sorta tsp. ground coriander A bunch of shakes of a container of red pepper flakes (No cayenne in the house. How did this happen? I am appalled.) 1 sorta tsp. paprika A sparse handful of dried oregano, crunched in the hand first 1 sorta tsp. cumin 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped 2 15-oz. cans of diced tomatoes (no flavorings, please!) 1/4 cup molasses 1 can of black beans A bunch of frozen corn Some salt Cooked rice Heat the oil, dump in the scallion chunks, sauté. Add the garlic and spices and stir a bunch. Be sure to keep your head averted when the garlic and onions start popping! (I didn't. I got a flying whack of hot spicy oil smack dab in my eyeball. I thought I was blinded for life. I wasn't. But it wasn't fun.) Add the tomatoes, molasses, beans, and bell pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer a long time. Start the rice. Halfway through the rice cooking, toss the corn into the chili mix. Serve the chili mix over the rice. Dayum. That was good! The kiddo, not an aficianado of strange looking concoctions, got plain rice and nuked frozen chicken nuggets. I figure after she sees me eating the strange concoction a bunch of times, she'll take me up on my continued offers of a taste. I think my next foray will be pseudo-samosas with mint sauce. Real samosas, which are deep-fried, are not low in calories...but I found some recipes that are baked instead, so...Ahhhh. Samosas. Yum.
posted by Kate @ 5/15/2006 08:41:00 PM   0 comments

Search patterns
When most people use the phrase "search pattern", I'm sure they mean the kind of search pattern the wilderness Search & Rescue teams use. On the other hand, OmegaBro, an ecologist by trade, talks about "search patterns" in a different way, as in a human's ability to sort through a slew of visual (or audio) cues and zero in on the item of interest quickly, almost instinctively. OmegaBro, for instance, can spot willows following a waterbed from hundreds of yards away as he is speeding down a highway in the Southwest. When he gets about 20 feet away from the willows, he can spot saw-fly galls on the branches. I, on the other hand, have to be led to the willow by the bro, have a branch pulled down in front of my face, and have the gall pointed to by Bro's forefinger. There! There's a gall! Ahah! People who are adoptive parents or adoptive parents to be of Asian children have a search pattern: they can spot the Caucasian couple with an Asian child from across a crowded room, a la "Some Enchanted Evening". OmegaDad, a soil scientist, can spot distinct soil types and rock outcroppings without thinking about it. Birders are amazing at being able to spot rare birds or birds for their life lists. My current search pattern is for dead or dying pine trees. This is, I admit, a little bit morbid. But, there it is: As I cruise down the highway, at 75MPH, keeping an eye out for stunt drivers who want to pull out from behind a slow truck right as I am coming up on them--even if there's a huge gap in traffic directly behind me...Even then, my eyeballs are scanning the pine trees and I can pick them out. There's one, the top has a tuft of white needles; there's another up on the hillside; there's yet another down in the side canyon. Sometimes, when passing a hill with a great big blotch of rust-red dead and dying pines, it's mighty darned easy. Other times, it's one or two diseased tufts that catch my eye, and I mentally mark it in my book to check on it the next time I drive by and see how much the dismal disease has progressed. Like I said, morbid. (It looks like this year is going to be a bad year, sigh.) OmegaGranny's search pattern is for wildflowers. "Oooh! Phacelia!" "Yum! A good patch of red penstemon over there!" If she's got a cooperative driver with her, this results in the car being pulled off the road and the wildflowers in question being examined in detail, and maybe pictures being taken. The dotter's search pattern is, of course, horses. Example: We go into a store the likes of, say, Pier One, cluttered and filled to the brim with interesting stuff. Visual cacophony. Mom and Dad pause inside the store getting their bearings. Dotter, on the other hand, immediately zeroes in on..."Horsie! Mom, look, a horsie!" And she darts off towards the object of her obsession while Mom and Dad are staring stupidly around, trying to locate the equine in the midst of the pillows, glassware, Papasan chairs, African masks, and candles. Somewhere, we are sure, there is, indeed, a horsie. What we have to do is follow the dotter; a child will lead us. Har. I have adapted the dotter's search pattern while driving (the cluttered store/horse search just doesn't work for me, I am too visually overwhelmed). So now, while I am mentally counting dead pine trees, I am also on the lookout for horsies to point out to the dotter. Sometimes...sometimes I beat her. It is a particularly lovely feeling to have the dotter say, happily, "Ooooooh. Thank you, Mommy!" in response to one of my rare attempts to point out unnoticed horses to her. Driving up and down the hill to OmegaGranny's for our Mother's Day picnic, I was able to do this two or three times. It was a good day for live horsies. On the other hand, the dotter located all the horsies in Great Grandma's extended living center's lobby within seconds, while my eyes were still adjusting to the dimness after being blasted by sunlight outside. So, while I am gaining points with the au-naturel horse scanning process, my indoor horse recognition still just doesn't cut it. I'm working on it.
posted by Kate @ 5/14/2006 09:20:00 PM   3 comments

Mother's day
The Omega family is doing "Mother's Day" next weekend. OmegaDad just called from the Indianapolis airport, saying he'd made it there. OmegaDotter is snuggled up in bed with a new stuffed bunny. I'm sitting here trying to sort out my feelings about the holiday. Even in the depths of infertility angst, it was mostly just an itchy scratch to me, not the major depressing blot on the calendar that it is to many infertile women. Perhaps it's because, growing up, I was in a family that celebrated three holidays: Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving. The rest were fun (Fourth of July, in particular), but not a big deal. I frankly can't remember if I ever did anything for my mom for Mother's Day before I left home. These days, we do the obligatory flowers for all the family moms. I do the obligatory lunch/brunch with OmegaGranny and Great Grandma. In the midst of the IF blues, I wanted not to have just one day set aside. I wanted the whole shebang, the day-in, day-out reality of the thing. Oh, yes, it was sweet that first Mother's Day, when OmegaDad woke me up with a kiss on my nose and whispered, "Happy Mother's Day, MOM!" It was like the final little "i" was dotted, the last "t" was crossed, akin to the first time I said, "My husband" in public when talking about OmegaDad after we got married. A little jolt to the system that said, "Hunh! It's really real, after all!" But, y'see, it's the reality of the thing that is important--just like the marriage itself is much more important than the day of the wedding. When, on the day of my brother's graduation, I spent most of the drive from Chicago to DeKalb with my head in my mom's lap sobbing over the tragic end to my (then) One And Only True Love Affair--that was "mother's day". When OmegaGranny spent the night at my apartment drunk as a skunk after imbibing lots of cute little demi-tasse cups of creme de menthe at Dodie W's home, and told me, "You're a good kid! Did I ever tell you that? You're a damned good kid!" and then conked out on my sofa--that was "mother's day". When I spent three days and nights in the hospital, sleeping on the fold-out chair next to OmegaDotter's crib with her snuggled in my arms, IV lines draped around us, one month after we arrived back from China--each day was "mother's day". When OmegaGranny took me to see the Nutcracker, or to the symphony, or to the opera, complete with a special dinner out, just the two of us--each of those was "mother's day". When I spend a hot summer's day with OmegaDotter at the local pool, then go out for icecream at Baskin Robbins afterwards, and we arrive home hot and tired and sundrenched--that's "mother's day". The official day--Mother's Day--is just another day in a complex life tapestry. I love my mother. She knows that. My daughter loves me. I know that. Happy mothers' days. Each and every one of them. Because all of them are precious, whether they're crowned with a Hallmark card or not.
posted by Kate @ 5/13/2006 10:10:00 PM   5 comments

Performance
On weekend mornings, OmegaDotter and I often share a shower. Imagine having a wiggly octopus in the shower stall with you, one that jumps up, turns around, reaches around you with a cup to collect water, tells you that your butt is in her face, and screeches when having water from the shower hit her in the face. Normally, it's a very exhausting experience. But it is infinitesimally more efficient than mom taking a shower, then giving dotter a bath. Just a smidge. A hair. A tad. Enough so that giving up my luxurious, looooong Saturday morning shower is grudgingly given up. This morning, however, we chanced upon something that made it all go much more quickly and smoothly. We sang. Two voices, ringing in the shower stall, as loudly as possible. And--miracle of miracles--both of us in tune. Do-Re-Mi... The ants go marching...(Anyone who has seen one of the Sesame Street videos with the military lady singing this one, I actually got her tone of voice on the "And they ALL go MARCHING. DOWN! To the GROUND! To get OUT of the RAIN!" I wuz proud.) Father Abraham..., complete with hand and arm movements. The other day I met a bear... Now, this one troubles me. I obviously learned a variant, because the one I learned started: "I went for a walk...In the woods one day...And on the way...I met a bear." Did any one else learn it that way?? I googled it, and didn't find it. Sigh. Baby bumblebee... This one troubles me, also. This song teaches kids to squish baby bumblebees! Ack! But it's a damned cute song. Anyway, I'm sure the neighbors got an earful. Then the dotter started making up songs, which I wish I could remember. One, in particular, featured a frog that got into the refrigerator and ate up all our food. Wish me luck. OmegaDad is out of town for the week for his fellowship. Then next week, he's out of town for field work. Some time soon, I hope to actually see the man. Y'know, the one I married? For better, for worse?
posted by Kate @ 5/13/2006 11:26:00 AM   1 comments

Loude sing cuckoo
(Yes, I know the title is about summer. But go with me here.) Spring is a frustrating season for growers here at the Omega household. We have bulbs--tulips, snowdrops, grape hyacinths, crocuses (croci?). Those work nicely. Every year, reliable as clockwork, up spring our bulbs, and we have a semi-show that lets us realize that, indeed, the Frost Giants are retreating. We have various flowering trees, bushes, and shrubs--crabapples, lilacs, pekin cherries, gooseberries, elderberries. They, alas, don't work so nicely. Each year, reliable as clockwork, they pop out with buds like crazy, and then...then the Frost Giants come tromping through our garden, and we are left with shriveled, blackened, frost-nipped buds aplenty, and few to no flowers. Definitely no fruits. Fruits? Hah! The Omega household scoffs at the concept. Now, down the hill, just a mile away, there are people who regularly get flowers and fruits. The Frost Giant steps from little mesa to little mesa, right over the folks "at the bottom". Am I envious? Noooooo. Each year, OmegaDad goes on a frenzied hunt at the local nurseries, purchasing baby tomato plants, baby oregano, baby broccolis and brussels sprouts. Then he plants them. He does this before June 1. He should learn. Because all those baby plants become slaughterhouses, charnel gardens, black, limp leaves drooping in the gleam of a hard frost within a week or two of planting, and OmegaDad finds himself back at the nursery, buying yet more plants. Every year. Like clockwork. This year... Well, we didn't get lilacs. Sigh. I miss lilacs so much; it was so wonderful to walk down the streets of Rogers Park and Lincoln Park in Chicago in the springtime; the decades-old lilac bushes in front of neighborhood bungalows would tower over the sidewalk filled with fragrant blossoms. At times, on spectacularly crystal-clear and balmy spring days, I would be overcome, and stop on my neighborhood walks to just push my face into a lilac bush and breathe until I was giddy with lilac scent and mesmerized by the humming of the bees, drunk with springtime. But. This year our crabapples have escaped the wrath of the Frost Giants. This year, our white crabapple is in full bloom, and our red crabapple seems soon to follow suit. We probably still won't get fruit--I am far too cynical and accustomed to dashed hopes to even let that faint wistfulness grow any further. Oh, it is so lovely. I can see it from the kitchen window, in full riotous bloom, white and pink and dainty. When I go out in the side yard, the air around the crabapples resonates with the bees humming. The fragrance washes over me. The hummingbirds are back, too, and the open windows allow me to hear the trills of their wings as they dive and dart around. Hummingbirds, while they are adorable and beautiful and a harbinger of spring, are unfortunately vicious little buggers who are extremely territorial. So we get lots of that diving and darting around as they fight with each other over who gets which yummy source of nectar. The skunks have also arrived, but the less said about them the better. I'm just happy that Dawg learned his lesson the one time, and has never again attacked a skunk full-on, but contents himself with hysterical barking anytime one gets too near the house. The ones who nest under the front porch are given passes--they're known enemies, and so long as they don't get up on the porch, Dawg ignores their existance. We leave them alone, they leave us alone, Dawg leaves them alone--and they don't spray. It's the "strays" who venture into the yard who leave us calling cards of--oog!--skunk aroma wafting in the windows at night. Later in the year, we'll have a different brand of hummingbird, beautiful bronze bombers who glow like polished copper kettles in the sun. They don't have the distinctive trill of the springtime hummers, though; they must be content with their beauty instead. And orioles...and mountain bluebirds... Ahhh. Spring is sprung.
posted by Kate @ 5/12/2006 05:57:00 PM   0 comments

A little bit unclear on the concept
OmegaDotter darted into the office to show me her bubblegum (oh joy), saw the picture of Mrs. Figby and Apples here, and asked: "Is that my birthmom?" Um, no, kiddo, she looks nothing like your birthmom, believe me! Once again, I hasten to assure my readers that the dotter is not being submerged in adoptive parent guilt, battered by constant references to her birthmother, the loss of her original heritage in China, or anything like that. In fact, while reading up on the current subject of motherhood on Adoption Parenting, I was feeling distinctly guilty about not having discussed her birthmother with her more often. It's the week before Mother's Day, and daycare is full of mother-mother-mother. The kids are doing crafts and cards and gifties. I'm pretty sure that none of the cute little education-school attendees who are the teachers at her daycare are pushing the concept of "birthmother" on her, either. So, for those of you who think that adoptees thinking of their birthmothers is something brought on by verbalized existential adoptive parent angst (VEAPA), I can safely say that, no, it seems to pop up on its own on a semi-regular basis. I haven't spoken the word "birthmother" or "birthmom" to her since her last foray into the subject, two months ago, when we were talking about Willie the whale having a baby (it turns out that the whale that gives birth is not Willie, but his girlfriend. Silly me.). All I did was to make sure from the start that I was comfy with using the word, and made sure that the dotter got a dose of her story--birth, abandonment (not using that word), adoption, and all--on a semi-regular basis. Sad to say, we haven't even done that in a long, long while. Right now, she's on a kick for the book "Georgie Goes West", or an incessant demand for stories about Ariel or Buzz Lightyear or Simba or some other Disney waif. The subject just pops up from the dotter now and again, and I try to use that opportunity to say things like "I think your birthmother probably looks like you", or "We don't know where she is, but she's probably somewhere near Guilin", and "No, your birthmother doesn't look one bit like Mrs. Figby." The idea is to keep the lines of communication open, so that she feels comfortable talking about her birthmother and adoption, and I feel comfortable doing the same. Often, the latter has a great deal of impact on the former, if you get my drift. If I were anxious and upset about the subject whenever it came up, you can bet your bottom dollar the dotter would pretty soon catch on, and stop bringing it up. Hey. It's a start.
posted by Kate @ 5/10/2006 06:06:00 PM   2 comments

Hukt on fonix
Right now, OmegaMom is looking at the question of reading; specifically, learning to read. Many moons ago, when OmegaMom was young, "Fun With Dick and Jane" was the flavor du jour of the school system. Bland stories, bland illustrations, bland words--all in one or two syllables. A scintillating sample: "Oh, see. Oh, see Jane. Funny, funny Jane." Oh, barf. FWD&J was based on the premise of teaching kids to identify short words by sight, and magically, somehow, they would learn to "read". Lured onward by the exciting adventures of Dick, Jane, Spot, and Puff, the kids would be overjoyed by the beauty and wonder of the written word, and become literate. Har. Luckily, shortly before OmegaMom was born, Dr. Seuss came out. OmegaGranny thought Dr. Seuss was Da Bomb, the way he played with rhythms and words and whimsy. OmegaGranny also--thankfully--thought that phonics was (were?) a pretty practical approach to reading, and she also thought that kids were not only likely to enjoy interesting words more, but were entitled to learn how to use and enjoy and read multisyllabic words. So, while at school, OmegaMom got Dick and Jane, but while at home, OmegaMom got all the Dr. Seuss books, a slew of classics such as Bambi, The Little Princess, Heidi, The Five Little Peppers, Charlotte's Web, and a slew of more obscure kids' books from the early 20th century that relied on adventure and intrigue. But even after a few generations of people learning to read from such literary gems as "Fun With Dick and Jane", we still have controversy about the question of phonics versus whole word reading as a pedagogical approach to learning to read. Right now, there seems to be a certain lip-service being paid to the idea of "balanced literacy" in teaching kids to read, an amount of hand-waving at the idea of phonics mixed with sight-reading, "good literature" mixed with "teach the phonetic basics". Woohoo! Way to go! Unfortunately, though, some of what I'm hearing from some parents with kids in the early grades seems to indicate that the idea of balance is tilted more towards the sight-reading approach, leaving the basic skills floundering. It seems that many teachers (and many parents) think (or are taught) that "phonics" is synonymous with drill-and-kill. So you either have see-and-say Dick and Jane boredom on the one hand or you have drill-and-kill boredom on the other hand, and the end result is a lot of kids who think that reading just isn't interesting or fun. I come squarely down in the middle of things, thinking phonics is a Great Idea, thinking that using phonics to read excerpts from interesting stories, or lots of kewl kids' books with fun stories and kicky illustrations, is the best way to go. Why can't you mix the two? Why can't you have phonics instruction--teaching the basic phonemes that the letters represent--and also have the fun and interesting stories? Why does it seem that it's all one or the other, but never an amalgam of the two? I read the websites on "balanced literacy", and it seems like just what I'm talking about--so why are some parents complaining that their kids still aren't learning to read? Interestingly enough, some international adoptees manifest learning disabilities when they switch from verbal/receptive language skills, as in speaking, to the language skills needed for decoding reading; it has to do with the interruption in the natural flow of language learning that happens when a child is moved from being immersed in one language (say, Chinese) to another (say, English) at a particular point in infant/toddler development. So, while OmegaDad and I think OmegaDotter is exceptionally bright (and cute and sweet and charming and beautiful and all those things), there is a possibility that this type of language problem will emerge once she enters official school. In the meantime, however, we just muddle along, with me snuggling into bed with the dotter, reading her fun stories such as "If You Give A Moose a Muffin", and occasionally doing a stint of sounding out the letters for her. I'd like to think that simply being a kid in a house where there are 3000+ books, with parents who read obsessively and play with words on a regular basis, and being read to consistently, will help just via osmosis. There she is, a tabula rasa, a sponge, soaking up Joy Of Reading just by living with us. One hopes. On the other hand, there are days I fear that the wrong teacher early on, or the wrong approach early on, will sour her on the whole idea. There's such a wide world of fun and interesting things written on paper (or displayed on computer screens)--I'd hate for her--and other kids--to miss out on it all.
posted by Kate @ 5/09/2006 10:16:00 PM   2 comments

Cause for (minor) celebration
Today, OmegaMom passed ten thousand hits on the ol' bloggeroo:

This calls for the dancing banana. I'm glad (and always somewhat surprised) that so many folks like to stop over here on a regular basis. I'll try to keep things entertaining enough so that you keep on feeling like that! Now to go look for some cake...
posted by Kate @ 5/08/2006 10:24:00 PM   2 comments

For less than the cost of a tank full of gas
...I purchased OmegaDotter her very first bike at lunchtime at The Evil Empire (WalMart). Y'see, we had been out-and-about this weekend, including hauling the tricycle out of the bedroom, and going for walks. The problem is that the dotter has grown an awful lot since last fall (we are now on our third size of bluejeans since September!). So there she was, on her tricycle, and her knees were hitting the handlebars, when they weren't up around her ears. This bike is purple and pink and aqua. Oh-so-girly. Sigh. You can either get a very girly-girl bike, or a very boy-boy bike, but nothing that's in between. I stashed the bike in the back of the Little Green Car. There was no way on earth that OmegaDotter was going to miss it...But I told her, when I picked her up at daycare, that I had "a surprise" for her. Har! She was so fixated on the idea of "a surprise" being something small that she didn't even look in the back of the car! So I was able to grab the camera and record the event for posterity (and the blog and the scrapbook): A surprise? For me?

Ooooh! A bike!

After a wobbly start, she was going...going...gone:



As requested by a friend--"hair blowing in the wind":

And the very happy OmegaDotter, admiring her new bike:

For those who worry--Yes, she now has a helmet. Yes, she has various padded devices to keep the knobby parts safe. But. The helmet is too big. The various padded devices are too big. We're going to have to work on this, I think. Her tiny hiney is matched by other tiny parts, even though she's grown tall enough to actually fit into size 4, so long as it's an adjustable-waist size 4. The dotter is not very used to the idea of pushing back on the pedals to stop. And the bike, when going down small hills, Goes Too Fast. Just one more step on the "my little baby is growing up" sob story.
posted by Kate @ 5/08/2006 06:42:00 PM   7 comments

Lies, lies, damned lies
I like to peruse Bloglines Top Links for the day; I find a great deal of interesting news, fun gadgets, and way-cool videos this way. Today, I came across an interview with a U.K. hacker whom the U.S. is seeking to deport. It's quite entertaining; he claims that he was hacking with a higher moral motive, that being that he wanted to find unretouched photos of UFOs squirreled away in U.S. military computers. All well and good--I'm as enchanted with conspiracy theories as the rest of the world, and, being an SF fan well-acquainted with the arguments for and against the likelihood of alien life in our galaxy, love talk about UFOs. But good lordy. The computer geekette in me rises high and shouts with derision at some of the things he's saying. Not at the basic premise of how he hacked the computers. He claims he used a script that checked a wide variety of gummint computers for blank passwords. This, alas, is a reality. You would think that computer gurus in the ITS departments across the U.S. government would know better than to leave, say, MS SQL Server installs with their default system administrator password blank, but...well...we're talking the government here. Besides, even outside of government, you will find plenty of MS SQL Server installs out there totally unsecured. While Microsoft is the Evil Empire, and it's mighty irritating that they designed the (prior) installs of SQL Server to even allow people to install without changing the SA password, it doesn't give people installing it a pass to ignore basic security procedures. Grr. But, I digress. The first doubts this guy's interview roused in me occurred when he claimed that he was discovered in his hacking by a government network engineer (okay), and then had a conversation with this engineer using WordPad. Ooookay. Yah, right. Then he claims that he couldn't grab a copy of one of the pictures he saw on the government computers, using a lot of obfuscatory hand-waving. So, this guy is using MS Windows. (He had this conversation using WordPad above, right?) An accomplished hacker using (ack, gag) MS Windows doesn't know how to hit CTRL-PrtSc, open up Paint, and paste the picture in--the classic "I need to grab a copy of this screen" trick in Windows? (This trick works even if you're using Remote Control Desktop, BTW.) Furthermore, if you're downloading something from someone else's computer, it's stored somewhere on your own computer as a temporary file--no matter whether you're using Windows, Linux, OS-X, or some other type of operating system. Then...then the "you really are a big fat liar, aren't you?" moment occurred. This hacker said, in the interview, that this particular download was disconnected at the source (the other computer), and he knew it because--are you ready??--he "saw the guy's hand move across" to disconnect him. Oh, yeah. Riiiight. I'm a hacker, I've hacked into a U.S. gummint computer hundreds or thousands of miles away, I'm viewing a surreptitious grab of a graphics file from that other computer, and somehow or other, I'm able to see that other person's hand???? Tell me another one, Gary McKinnon. (SlashDot has an amusing thread of commentary on this very same story. There are some possible explanations--like the Remote Desktop, as I noted above--but the consensus is GMcK is either a nutcase or is lying.)
posted by Kate @ 5/07/2006 09:10:00 AM   1 comments

Cinco de Mayo
The Omegas went to the Cinco de Mayo parade, fiesta and carnival this morning. The dotter actually rode the rides--woohoo! So, herewith a veritable cornucopia of pics. First, planes, trains, and automobiles (okay, so it's a truck. So sue me.), :



Mom on a leash (it's supposed to be a headband, and it's supposed to be on dotter's head. Hah.):

OmegaDad:

Watching the parade (note how the headband has migrated to my head):



Some of the parade:




A grand time was had by all. Adding some gratuitous dotter shots:

If you will note the unearthly glow of whiteness on OmegaMom's skin, and look at how sunny it was, you will completely understand why OmegaMom is suffering from a rather vivid sunburn this evening...
posted by Kate @ 5/06/2006 07:02:00 PM   3 comments

Flashdance
Among the joys of perimenopause and early official menopause, OmegaMom has found, is the Hot Flash. Picture this: OmegaMom is happily ensconsed in bed with Mr. OmegaMom, snuggled up in the spoon position. Both are snoozing happily (Mr. OmegaMom snoring very loudly--but, since OmegaMom has [hopefully] fallen asleep before him, the snoring is no problem). Suddenly, OmegaMom rouses from her oh-so-restful sleep. There's a feeling, described in all the medical literature as an "aura", and OmegaMom, drowsy and resentful, knows that It is coming. What happens next is hard to describe--sort of a "gathering" inside the body--and then, WHAMMO BLAMMO, the heat sweeps across the body, up the torso, to the head, and it feels like OmegaMom's body has turned into a marvelously efficient furnace and the top of her head into a Roman candle. Flop--OmegaMom retracts from the spoon position to lie on her back. Flap--Off go the covers. Smoosh--Up go the long sleeves (if there are any). Whoosh--If it's a real doozy, off goes the pajama top. After this little dance, OmegaMom lies there radiating heat like a sun going nova. At this point, OmegaMom is no longer drowsy, but wide awake and most irritated. Then comes the second part of the dance, wherein the hot flash retreats and one is left shivering and cold. (Takes about five minutes.) Whip--Back on comes the top, or down go the sleeves. Flap--Back come the covers. Flip--OmegaMom twists back into the spoon position. Lather, rinse, repeat. On a bad night, this happens once an hour (I have checked the clock on this one.) The result is sleep deprivation. Oh, yeah, and in the summer, when it's hot, you get this lovely addition of sweat pouring off your body. All over. Leaving the sheets and pajamas nastily damp and chill. Bleah. Interestingly enough, I don't suffer too badly from daytime hot flashes. Perhaps it's simply the relative alertness factor: During the daytime, you're wide awake, you feel it coming on, you quick shuck a layer (such as a blazer), deal with the heat, then quick put the layer back on. Also, when you're awake, your body temperature is more varying anyway, as you switch from sitting at a desk (low temp) to walking down a hall (high temp) to reaching to grab reference books (medium temp). So, unlike other women, daytime hot flashes are a minor inconvenience for me--I don't worry about bright red face and deep pit stains while in the midst of board meetings (har, I'm not paid enough to do board meetings, thank heavens!). Women's response to menopause varies wildly. Some women (lucky bitches!) don't have hot flashes at all. OmegaGranny, for instance, doesn't recall hot flashes, so I'm assuming she didn't have to deal with them; she, instead, dealt with lower back cramps. It's also well-known that women in Asian countries don't suffer too much from hot flashes (though it seems that coming to the U.S. can change this pattern, which is why some folks think a diet high in soy or soy supplements can help). Other women are on the high end, like oh-so-lucky OmegaMom, and have them "up to 10 times per day" or "up to once per hour". Medicos have lots of theories about what causes hot flashes, ranging from dropping estrogen levels to norepinephrine receptor issues in the brain, and researchers are seeking ways of relief for us poor hot-flash-prone wimminfolk. Bless their pointy heads! (And their greedy pocketbooks.) The one reassuring thing that my quick googling of hot flash mechanism brought to my attention was this study, which notes that women who suffer from hot flashes have less of a cognitive decline during menopause. Hah! Take that, you lucky, hot-flash-free bitches! OmegaMom leaves the room, muttering a snotty "Neener, neener, neener!" under her breath.
posted by Kate @ 5/05/2006 06:30:00 PM   4 comments

Three things
Kent, over at Newsome.org, has tagged me with the "Three Things" meme. The three things are supposed to be things that you would like to see occur in your lifetime--serious or silly or sentimental. So, here goes (leaving out, as Kent did, Peace In Our Lifetime, Cure for Cancer, all the standard stuff): 1. The Space Elevator concept becomes a reality. It's a really cool idea, with a great deal of potential, and a staple of modern science fiction. 2. A viable third party in U.S. politics, for those of us who aren't satisfied with either of the current ones. 3. A unified brain-computer interface. At that point, we would be verging on Vernor Vinge's Singularity. But, whether we're verging on the Singularity or not, currently there are some very interesting advances in human-computer interfaces, the most appealing of which are related to prosthetics--visual and limb, security, and cursor control. Of course, with every other technological advance, there are possibilities for misuse...but it's still very intriguing to me. I'm just waiting for the retina-cam, so when the Dotter does something cute, we can snap a picture of it as soon as possible. There's something close, and, of course, the potential for misuse of it has already been demonstrated with what some people do with cell-phone cams. (Honest-to-goodness: check out some of those links, especially the ones under the brain-computer interface. There are some really interesting things being done these days!) Now. Who to tag? Who to tag? Hmmm. I'm going for: Johnny Figlet Jozet
posted by Kate @ 5/04/2006 09:50:00 PM   2 comments

Turn around
Before OmegaMom met Soon-To-Be-Mr.-OmegaMom, she had very little exposure to such musical genres as country and western and rockabilly and folkabilly. However, Mr. OmegaMom, very much a product of the region where he grew up, loved "Southern Rock", country of a very particular type, and folkabilly. So, within days of us moving in together, he introduced me to Nanci Griffith. The power of repeated exposure has turned me from someone who winces at any tinge of country or hillbilly in my music into someone who really, truly loves Nanci Griffith, and would be willing to go to one of her concerts all on my own. This evening, to avoid the Scourge Of My Little Pony videos at dinnertime, OmegaMom and OmegaDad refused to turn on a second video when the first Blues Clues ended. And when he served dinner, Mr. OmegaMom turned on the stereo--a mix of The Band, Bob Dylan (live), Fleetwood Mac, and his darling, Nanci Griffith. After we were mostly done with dinner, one of my favorites came on, entitled "Turn Around": Where are you goin' my little one, little one? Where are you goin' my baby my own? Turn around and you're two Turn around and you're four Turn around and you're a young girl Going out of the door I started singing along, as did OmegaDotter, and I began to weep. "Are you sad, Mommy?" quoth the child. "I'm happy-sad, sweetie-pie," I responded. "Why?" "Because this song is all about a mommy watching her little baby grow up, and it seems like just yesterday that you were just an itty-bitty baby, and now you're so big..." "It's a beautiful song, Mommy..." "Yes, it is. Beautiful." Good golly. Right in the midst of the Most Horrid Two Week Stint Ever, where OmegaDotter has been pitching hissy fits left and right, and being whiny and snotty and, alas, a typical four-year-old, she turns around, and is beautiful and sweet and lovey-snuggly. And I can imagine her as a teen, and as an adult, and I realize just how quickly the time passes. Turn around and you're tiny Turn around and you're grown Turn around and you're a young wife With babes of your own 'Scuse me while I go bawl my head off...Goopy sentimentalism is reigning supreme today.
Our Nanci Griffith CDs are cursed, and this CD has abruptly ended my sentimental mood: Every Nanci Griffith CD we have ends up having a bad skipping/repeating problem. Grrr. Time to break down and find a way to hook the Zen up into our sound system so we skip the skipping problem.
posted by Kate @ 5/03/2006 08:05:00 PM   4 comments

Just say "no"
OmegaMom has a fatal flaw: she finds it hard to say, "No." "No, I can't squeeze in that request of yours to build a dynamic logging site right now; I'm swamped with the transition from Financial System to SuperDuper Facility Maintenance System." "No, I can't wait until next month for that report; I need it now." "No, you may not have CheetOhs, you may have cheese or an apple or carrot sticks instead." Well, that last one I am becoming much more adept at. Having a preschooler in the house teaches you that saying "No" is sometimes much easier and quicker than you previously thought, and is, besides, a necessity or else you will end up having a three-foot-tall despot in the house. So there's this septic tank we've got, and it needs pumping. (Cute plumber dude, remember? The one who told me three times that "You need to get that tank pumped Real Soon Now.") So, as soon as CPD left the Omega Homestead, I popped on the phone and called a couple of septic tank pumping services and located one that said they could squeeze us in yesterday afternoon. If not then, then this morning. Yesterday afternoon came and went. OmegaDad and I held an early morning strategic meeting in which it was decided that he would stay home this morning to be here to show where the pump out was and to hand over a check when the deed was done. This morning came and went. OmegaDad called me at work and said he had to go to work himself. I gritted my teeth (not at him!), thinking of cancelling the pumping, planning to reschedule, and perhaps having time slip away until one morning we would wake up, awash in sewage, floating (odiferously) out to the highway. Bleah. So I pop my head in to my boss's office, announce that I am heading home to babysit the pumping operation, and leave. I get home. I wait. The phone rings. Pumping service dispatcher says, "Aw, Jeez, Ms. Omega, I don't know what happened, your work order got lost in the shuffle, and we're all scheduled up--can we reschedule your pumping for tomorrow?" OmegaMom, that paragon of indecisiveness, Wimp Extraordinaire, sat on the phone for a minute, speechless. I was envisioning rescheduling for tomorrow, and having the same thing happen again. And, almost without willing it, this is what emerged from my mouth: "No." There. That wasn't hard, now, was it? "Well! That came through loud and clear!" says the pumping service dispatcher. I ran through the I-was-home-yesterday, my-husband-was-home-this-morning, I-came-home-to-be-here routine, and explained that we could not reschedule. Woohoo. The pumpers have been and gone. We were not charged for labor due to the "inconvenience". I am an oak, standing strong against the wind. I am firm. Hear me roar. Just say "No."
posted by Kate @ 5/02/2006 01:49:00 PM   1 comments

Anti-septic (tank, that is)
Rapid fire post, in which our heroine Has Fun With Dotter In Water, encounters washing machine back-uppage into showers, meets a cute plumber, deals with No Cable, and the Hair Drama resurfaces: Saturday, since OmegaDad has a final paper due for his class, and it was a lovely weekend, the dotter and I forayed down the hill to OmegaGranny's home. The morning of, OG and I had exchanged emails, in which I had said we would be down there around 4 "or thereabouts, but do expect us for dinner". Amazingly enough, we were early. We haul butts up the stairs to OG's front door, to discover it wide open. We pop our heads in and holler to announce our presence. No response. We wander through the house. No OmegaGranny. We wander through the forested yard. No OmegaGranny. Being the calm, almost zen-like creature that I am... I panicked. I called GreatGrandma's extended living center, picturing ambulances, OmegaGranny receiving frantic phone calls, and darting out the door, forgetting to close it in her haste. Nope, no problems there. I called OmegaDad, thinking OG had alerted him to Some Dire Thing. No OmegaDad. We wait. I panic some more: OG passed out in the bushes somewhere where we didn't see her? OG having gone on a walk, then being hit by a Mack Truck? I dither, and dilly-dally, dramatic scenes playing in my head, and finally get OmegaDotter to put shoes and socks back on, as we are going to chat with the neighbors to see what's up. The shoes and socks take ten minutes. As we're about to gallop down the stairs, who should appear at the bottom but... OmegaGranny. Seems she had gone for a walk, leaving the door closed, and the wind blew it open. Whew. We spent the night, then went off to Governor Lake. We rent a paddle boat. OmegaDotter and OmegaMom spend an hour paddling about. OmegaDotter gives the boating high praise, but wants a canoe, instead (they were skittering about like water bugs, whereas our paddle boat, paddled by one person, sort of wallowed). We arrive back home. OmegaDad starts a load of laundry, and dinner. All is going well, until OmegaDad goes into the bathroom, for bathroomy type duties, and notices that the laundry water had backed up into the bathtub. Ugh. So I stayed home, called the plumber, and met the cute plumber dude, who informed me, in no uncertain terms, after he had dug out the septic tank cleanout and used the deadly-looking metal pokey device to clear out the clog, that we should have the tank pumped ASAP. To my shame and dismay, I couldn't remember when we had it pumped last. He reiterated that we needed to have it pumped at least three times. Okay, okay, I get it! And, after he had left, and I was able to do laundry, I took the time to make the pumping appointment. ($200 per thousand gallons pumped. Eeek!) During all of this hoo-rah, the cable company subcontractors arrived. Y'see, since they paved our roads last fall, we have had a conundrum: the cable cable has been sitting in our drainage ditch, free and open, and our cable box has been a mess. We have called them. We have talked to cable guys we flagged down as they were driving by. We have talked to cable guys out to check out why our cable keeps dropping out. Each and every one of these people has said that the cable company would be getting a contractor out Real Soon Now to bury the cable and fix the box. Har. But the last cable guy who came by seems to have the magic touch. First, though, the county came by, marked up our pavement, lawn, and driveway, and left a stake through the heart of our drainage ditch with an ominous bright pink notice attached to it, talking about "encroachment on easement" and leaving a contact number. I tried numerous times last week to contact the mysterious person at the other end of that phone number. I did not succeed. We kept having visions of the county summarily removing our unsightly unburied cable. This morning a bevy of vehicles arrived. The contractors, confronted with a harried woman whose hair was looking strikingly like a mohawk, comforted me: the stakes and marks had been meant for them, not us. They were about to dig up our lawn (oh, goodie), but, the supervisor assured me, they'd do their very best to leave OmegaDad's cute little flower bed alone by boring beneath it. Lo and behold, they did leave the flower bed alone. All was dug, all has been filled in, but... But... We still have this unsightly cable cable in the ditch. Um? So has it been done or not? I am clueless. And I was cableless for most of the day. Which led to great amounts of housework being done. About the Hair Drama...the less said the better. The gist is that by the time OmegaDad and OmegaDotter left this morning, I was ready to Run Far Far Away. Or divorce the man. Or something. Things are better this evening. The clog is gone, we can do laundry, the cable dudes have been and gone, the dotter was Quite Well Behaved, because we had a note from school and OmegaDad gave her A Talking To and forbade any videos (o horror!). Does this post have a point? I don't think so, just blathering.
posted by Kate @ 5/01/2006 08:34:00 PM   2 comments

About Me
Name: OmegaMom
Home: Southwest
About Me: Middle-aged mom of a 4-year-old adopted from China. Love science, debate, good SF and fantasy, hiking, music of almost every style. Lousy housekeeper. "Good enough" mom.
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