Saturday, December 31, 2005

ChanukJul on the Great Plains

We just flew in from Wyoming, and boy are our arms...oh, never mind.

Actually, it was one of the more restful and wonderful vacations I've ever had. Because it was just about a week with NOTHING TO DO. Which at this point is my idea of a really, really good time.

Here is more or less how our days went:

7:45: Mermaid Girl, having promised the night before that she'd play quietly and let me sleep in the morning, wakes me up by bouncing on my bed and pushing the newest gift from MorMor (RW's mom) into my face and demanding "What is this?? Can I play with it? Can you open it for me?? Now??? Please????" (On our first day there, MorMor told an astonished MG that she would be putting a new present into MG's stocking every night, for our girl to find first thing in the morning. And bless her, MorMor delivered.)

8:45: I let MG out of the room so she can go "thank" MorMor. ("Thank" in this case = tiptoe into her office/bedroom and convince her to watch whatever DVD Mermaid Girl has an interest in or received as a present the night before.)

9:15: I make breakfast of toast with cream cheese and a satsuma orange on the side for myself and MG, hers to be delivered to the side table where she's still watching TV with (or, in the case of The Incredibles, which was judged too violent for adult viewing, without) MorMor.

9:30-10:30: I shower, dress, mess with MorMor's computer and/or read whatever novel I'm in the middle of. (I finished four books during the trip! And one of them was 500 pages long!)

10:30: Renaissance Woman wakes up and staggers out of MorMor's kitchen/living room, where she's been sleeping as the bedroom aggravates her allergies (and MG's early morning hours threaten to aggravate HER). I continue reading, often in front of the fire thoughtfully laid by Oldemor, MorMor's 90-year-old mother, who lives in the other half of the house.

10:40: RW eats what's left of MG's breakfast, i.e. two-thirds of a piece of cream cheese toast and seven slices of satsuma orange.

10:43: MG asks winningly if she can have a piece of candy.

11:30: Everyone agrees that we are hungry. After some pottering around in Oldemor's kitchen, an astonishing feast is laid out upon Oldemor's groaning table. Oldemor, MorMor, RW, and I all proceed to tuck in to bread, hardboiled eggs, herring, smelly cheese, leftover meatloaf, leftover salad, pickled beets, leftover red cabbage, liver pate, and whatever else happens to be sitting around, all topped off with various tastebud-blowing Danish sauces. RW's Uncle P, who is a vegan, whips up some tofu and rice and picks at the salad. Mermaid Girl consents to eat a piece of cheddar cheese or perhaps a slice of corned beef.

11:48: MG asks winningly if she can have a piece of candy.

12:30: I attempt to wash dishes, and am shooed away by Oldemor, who threatens to hit me. She is a tough old lady.

1:00: Exhausted by my labors, I lie down for a nap, while RW takes the Girl out to play in the snow.

4:00: I wake up. Everyone is gathered in Oldemor's living room in front of the fire, reading or discussing politics, the fate of the world, and the evils of W and Resident Bad Guy Dick Cheney. In Danish. I continue reading.

MG asks winningly if she can have a piece of candy.

6:00: Dinner time! Same as lunchtime, with the addition of leftover turkey, as well as wine for the grownups and sparkling cider for MG.

6:18: MG asks winningly if she can have dessert.

6:30: MG and I light Chanukah candles on the charmingly homemade (and conveniently portable) menorah that MG painted at religious school, while RW smiles on and everyone else watches, bemused by this display of retrograde organized religion but willing to be supportive nonetheless.

6:37: MG tears into her nightly present, amid cries of delight.

6:48: MG asks winningly if she can have a piece of Chanukah gelt.

7:00: I once again attempt to wash dishes, and once again am repulsed with bodily blows. I slouch off to read and nurse my bruises.

7:15: The tree is lit with real candles, occasioning much ooh-ing and aah-ing before everyone goes back to reading and discussing the fate of the Earth.

8:00: RW and I arm-wrestle to decide who will shepherd MG through the Bedtime Process.

10:00: Worn out by the stresses and strains of the day, I collapse into bed. Just as I'm drifting off, MG pipes up from across the room, asking winningly if I'll sing her "The Sisters of Mercy," which she has decided is "About God. Or angels. Or spirits." I say I'll sing to her if she'll promise to play quietly and let me sleep in in the morning.

Of course, this is just a composite picture. You'll have to imagine variations for Danish Jul on the night of the 24th, and the Great Chopped Liver and Latke Cooking Marathon on the 27th (in which I discovered once again, while attempting to make latkes, that: 1) the pan really does make all the difference, and 2) I NEED a cast-iron pan like the one Oldemor finally produced, rescuing me from the depths of my latke-induced panic). And then halfway through our visit my Doctor Cousin and his 8-year-old daughter arrived for a short ski vacation, causing MG to go into paroxysms of glee at finally having another kid around.

Oh and we went inner-tubing! And my inner tube almost got caught up in the workings of the machine that pulls you up the hill, but I was valiantly rescued by the bored-looking teenage staffers! And we went on a sleigh ride, and we saw elk, really close up! And I got the almond in my rice pudding on Jul and won a big tin of chocolates! And MG's cousin made the World's Smallest Snowman!

My only regret is that I didn't get to go see "Brokeback Mountain;" I really wanted to watch it in Wyoming. But somehow there was never time, what with all that strenuous reading and napping.

Now to unpack. That's the catch: all vacations, however lovely, always end with Unpacking.

But at least we have memories. And digital photos. And MG has a whole extra suitcase's worth of loot.

And tonight, we stay up as late as we want! Of course, for RW and me, that means about 12:17. It's anyone's guess what it means for MG. Last time we tried this, we had to scrape her off the flooor at 2 AM.

Whoo-hoo! Happy 2006!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Squid Sighting!

I met Squid today!

It's a funny thing, when you meet people you know from blogs. I always feel slightly formal, like it's an occasion of state and all the reporters and photographers are watching. Also like I've been reading this person's diary and I'm not sure if they know how much I know about them. Or whether they've read mine, and how much they know about me.

All of which is true, more or less.

And most of us are different in person. Like, from Squid's blog I had this image of a whip-smart, take-no-prisoners, wisecracking funny formidable Personage. Then all of a sudden there in the coffeehouse was this totally smart, funny, warm, NICE mom-person, who is I'm sure quite capable of taking no prisoners when the occasion warrants but was incredibly gracious and unflappable, despite being on vacation at her in-laws' with three kids and several other relatives, and having just found her way to a coffeehouse in a strange city.

I, on the other hand, was stricken with a fit of shyness at meeting someone so cool and famous, and was alternately tongue-tied or embarrassingly blurt-y. So if we ever meet up, you and I, O Blog Reader, I guess I should warn you that I'm sort of a dorky introvert and have few social skills. Well. Now you know.

Mermaid Girl and Iz and Iz's cousin Mimi, who was along for the ride, were under no such compunctions, and were soon exchanging vital information like who is in what grade and who has vacation for how long and who celebrates what holidays and who has how many grandparents. And the inestimably cute and cheerful Baby Mali babbled indiscrimately at everyone, kindly let me hold her, and had no noticeable inhibitions at all.

All shyness was tossed to the wind anyway when we ditched the coffeehouse and went to the Troll for climbing and photo ops of the girls. And here they are, with Squid's permission, for your viewing pleasure:

Not much, just chillin'.

Checking for troll boogers as per Squid's suggestion.

Circa 2020: punk rock band The Pseudonyms, on the cover of their smash hit debut album, "2106".

Critics will scratch their heads and debate what the album title can possibly mean. We wonder, too. Only the graffiti artist knows.

"The baby was the cutest but the big girl was the nicest," MG said on the way home.

"Say 'stinky underwear!'" (How come I never thought of that?)

Now we're off to Wyyoming at 4 in the morning; see you when next I run into Internet access. And a very stinky underwear happy holiday to all!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Bah, Humbug.

Robin's post about mixed-holiday traditions has made me think about the stuff that came home in the Mermaid Girl's backpack on the last day of school last Friday. Somehow I thought that because we live in a big(-gish) liberal tolerant city, and she is going to public school, they would lay off the Christmas. What with all that Church-State separation, and all. Her preschool certainly did, on account of their fervent commitment to anti-bias education (not to mention the longstanding pagan on the staff), and they were private and could've done whatever they wanted.

I guess I was generalizing from my own elementary-school experience, which took place in a New Jersey suburb I loathed at the time but think fondly of now as "Central Park West with lawns, " a town where probably the plurality of the white kids were Jewish. We didn't have school on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, everyone made the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Circuit during 8th grade, and the December holidays were kept strictly out of the curriculum.

Technically, I guess they kept things pretty nonsectarian at MG's school. Renaissance Woman justly pointed out that it could have been much, much worse. Still, I was kind of taken aback when I rifled through all the papers stuffed in the backpack and found a big, red-and-green handprint-painted wreath, complete with ribbon, with a winsome picture of MG in the middle. I mean, awwww, cute, but...sort of Christmassy, maybe, a little?

And then there were the counting worksheets festooned with reindeer and Santa hats and candy canes. And the reindeer handprint-cutout thingy. I didn't mind the gingerbread-house project, because, hey, basically when you get down to it, it's just candy. But the cumulative effect of it all gave me pause. Yeah, we're an interfaith family, and MG does in fact celebrate Jul. But that's our business, and it's at home. She also celebrates Chanukah and identifies as Jewish, and I bridle at her having even more Christmas pushed down her throat at school.

I asked if they talked about Chanukah at all at school, and MG responded with an emphatic N-O. The teacher did ask her to bring in her homemade menorah and talk about it, but that was it. To be fair, MG also reported N-O explicit discussion of (or songs of) Christmas, except that it and Chanukah are occasions for people to give presents. So maybe I'm being oversensitive about the whole thing. But it left me feeling weird.

I'm not sure if it's just this teacher (whom I think I've mentioned we all love, and who I really don't want to give a hard time), or the school as a whole, or what. And in any case it's OVER now, and will be ancient history when school starts up in January. I'm not sure what I could do about it--write a letter to the prinicpal? Or an email to the teacher? And if I do, what should those emails say? "Snowmen are okay, but ixnay on the Santa imagery"? "White and sparkley projects are fine, but please refrain from combining the colors red and green in school during the month of December"? Or should I wait till next November, and write a proactive email of some kind to her 1st grade teacher, throwing in an offer to come do a presentation about Chanukah?

I already feel like something of a troublemaker for having written a(n extremely polite and diplomatic) letter to the principal and PTA complaining that the Fall Festival was held during Yom Kippur. They were very apologetic and nice about it, but maybe one complaint a year is enough?

Those of you with kids in public school (whether or not you and/or you kids are Jewish): what December-holiday-related stuff do your kids do in school? And if you do follow a minority religious tradition, what do you do about it? Do you go in and give a presentation? Do you protest? Do you just figure that you'll make up for it at home?

I'm honestly stumped.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Help! Send scotch tape! And 3x5 glossies!

Hey, hi! Hope everyone's okay out there. I am buried in wrapping paper and holiday cards.

Lesson for the week: No matter how many school pictures you think you need, you should order more. I thought we had dozens of wallet-sized and enough other-sized photos of the Mermaid Girl...well, we did have dozens, but apparently that wasn't enough. I was blithely sending them out and only just in time realized that I was about to leave RW without any for her relatives.

And then just now I remembered that I didn't send a card to a really good friend from college who's been great about keeping in touch (I've been sucky). I have no brainpower with which to come up with actual CONTENT, heaven forfend I should be able to come up with something interesting to write on a Chranukkah card. I always figure if I can't write anything meaningful or amusing, at least I can send a photo, and now I can do neither. Humph.

Hey! I think I have inadvertently created a Wednesday Whine!

Somehow, that thought is very cheering.

As is the schadenfreudish thought that at least I'm not having to deal with a transit strike (of course, that's just because we have no transit to speak of out here in the Wild (Pacific North)West).

Okay. Back to the trenches.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Is this the party to whom I am speaking?

Sorry to have disappeared. More coming soon. For now: A small Mermaid Girl snippet because all the holiday fun! fun! fun! has ensured that I don't have the focus to take on any of the bigger topics swirling around my brain:

MG has become the Official Phone Answerer of the House. So much so that she takes great offense if anyone else tries to answer the phone when she's in hearing range. As our phone only rings four times before switching over to voicemail, this ensures a great flurry of excitement whenever the first ring is heard, as our girl sprints across the house, over furniture, etc. to grab it in time.

She usually remembers to say "Hello?" but she's a little fuzzy on the rest of the protcol.

Here's about what it usually sounds like:

"Hello?" [a little tentative and wobbly]

"Yes, this is Mermaid Girl." [modestly proud]

"Which mom would you like?" [My favorite phone line EVER.]

"Yes. May I ask her who's...may I tell you who's...may you ask her who's calling?"

*silently hands the phone to one of us and scurries off to change her outfit yet again*

Who's Your Daddy? Revised

Note: If this looks familiar, that's because it's an old post. I've cut a few things and revised it a little and am re-posting it as my entry in the December Blogging for Books competition, graciously hosted by Joshilyn Jackson.

The assignment: "Write about someone you've chosen to be a part of your family (biological, spiritual, vocational, etc.) and what that person has brought to your life." I couldn't resist entering with the below, despite its vintage. I can't think of anyone in my life who embodies the concept of chosen family more than Skaterboy.

In the beginning, the very very beginning, when Mermaid Girl was but a fetus, we refused to answer That Question. And people asked! You'd be surprised how many people we didn't even know that well asked, or hinted. Or maybe you wouldn't. We came up with stock answers. My favorite was, "Well, it's not David Crosby." My partner, the Renaissance Woman, preferred to counter the query "Where'd you get that baby?" with a wide-eyed, "Heaven."

The truth is, it was Uncle Skaterboy. He's not Mermaid Girl's uncle; he's her bio-dad, and one of Renaissance Woman's oldest friends. I've noticed most people use the term "donor," but we started with "bio-dad" when MG was a wee thing; it seems to describe their relationship better. And Mermaid Girl likes it; we've overheard her, when some other kid comments that MG doesn't have a dad, retorting, "I have a bio-dad." It seems to work for her.

The second-parent adoption went through when Mermaid Girl was six weeks old, and after that we started to relax a little. Not that we'd ever worried that he, or his parents, would rush in with a custody claim, but somehow being legally declared a family took some of the pressure off. After a few months we told Skaterboy he could tell his parents. And were they ever thrilled. They have a few grandchildren, but they never thought they'd get one out of Skaterboy (Actually, back when he and RW were in high school, his mom used to worry that Skaterboy was going to get RW knocked up...I guess she was right after all).

We also told our parents, who had all guessed already, not being complete idiots. But we still had the foolish idea that we weren't going to tell Mermaid Girl until she was older, three or so. I think we had this vision of sitting her down and having A Little Talk with her, wherein we would unveil the secrets of her genetic heritage, and she would gape in silent amazement, never having thought to wonder about it before.

Hah! Is all I can say. What on earth did we think we were going to do until then? Punt? Because Mermaid Girl has always been hyper-aware of family and social structures, including but not limited to her own family. And as she used to say proudly about herself, "No miss trick."

And the resemblances between Skaterboy and Mermaid Girl were obvious right from the start. For one thing? The guy never sleeps. He's the only person I know who's a morning person and a night person. When Mermaid Girl was a tiny baby, it became apparent that the truism about newborns dropping off anywhere they need to was just not true for her: the girl hated to miss a party, and would force herself to stay up if there was a chance of anything exciting going on, even at the cost of terrible meltdowns later. After a few weeks of this, RW called Skaterboy and said "This is all your fault!" We'd talked about his health history but had forgotten about his sleep history. Also, he's a dancer, and Mermaid Girl showed early gymnastic ability, which she certainly didn't get from RW or from any environmental factors, both of us being complete slugs.

So one day when Mermaid Girl was about a year old and not really talking yet, she and RW were hanging out, nursing, and Mermaid Girl was flailing her legs around and hooking her feet over her shoulders and doing all this baby-gymnast stuff that she was wont to do. RW was used to talking to Mermaid Girl as if she couldn't really understand anything (a mistake, as will soon be apparent), and murmured something like, "Well, it's a good thing you got your athletic ability from your daddy and not from me."

Mermaid Girl stopped nursing, stared at RW, and said, "Dada?!?!"

"Uhhhh, yes," said RW, totally busted. "Uncle Skaterboy is your daddy. Sort of. Yup. Uh-huh."

We filled in the details a little later, after she could talk more and after we got a book from the library about all kinds of families (with pages about the nuclear family, the big extended farm family, the single-mom family, the single-dad family, the family where the dad's in jail, the adoptive family, etc. etc.).

We talked about how there are the parents you are born from, and the parents who take care of you, and sometimes those are different people, and they're special to their kid in different ways. And how even though Uncle Skaterboy didn't want to be a parent who took care of a kid all the time, he helped Mama to make Mermaid Girl, because she and I wanted to have a child together, and then after she was born I adopted her and now she had a mommy and a mama. "So, Uncle Skaterboy used to be my dad, but now he isn't?" she asked, at two or so; not sad, just working it out.

Sort of, we said.

Once, before library story time, I was telling the friendly librarian that Mermaid Girl had a mommy and a mama. "And an Uncle Skaterboy!" my girl chimed in proudly. The librarian twinkled at the cuteness of the child with the favorite uncle, and I silently gave thanks for the innocuous title "Uncle." Around here it's not unheard-of for a kid to have two moms, but two parents--not three, or two-and-a-half-- is still the norm, and anything else takes more explaining than I had the energy for that day.

She went through a period for a while where she used to ask RW to draw pictures of herself, RW, and Uncle Skaterboy and say that was her family. Sometimes, when pressed, she would put me (and Uncle Skaterboy's partner) in the corners. Once she told us the sad story about how she and Mama would go live with Uncle Skaterboy, and I would be alone in the house, calling "Everyone come have dinner now!" and no one would come, I'd just be alone with the food.

I just couldn't take it personally, because it had nothing to do with our actual daily life, with brushing teeth and picking up toys and reading stories and walking to the park. It was her working out the structure of things. And I knew that while Uncle Skaterboy loved, and loves, Mermaid Girl, loves having her picture on his fridge and showing her off to his friends in the West End and buying her clothes and teaching her to ride a scooter, he doesn't want to be a full-time or even a part-time parent. And I do.

These days, Mermaid Girl can reel off the whole story, for us or anyone else she feels like telling: the speck Uncle Skaterboy gave Mama; the adoption; etc. etc. She loves to go up to Vancouver to see him, partly because he's so glamorous and energetic and kid-friendly, and partly because she knows he's so special to her. And while she sometimes seems a little sad that Uncle Skaterboy isn't her "real" day-to-day dad, we've heard much more flack about our stubborn refusal to provide her with a little sibling (which is a story for another time).

By now, I've regained center-stage in her family pictures. But Uncle Skaterboy has a unique place in her life. I'm more grateful to him than I can ever say. Not only for making her existence possible, but for making that place for her in his life, too. They are lucky to have each other; I've seen how happy she makes him, and as she gets older, he's going to be able to help her in ways that RW and I can't. Her heart is big enough, and our family is big enough, to fit all of us.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Shopping list: Basketballs. Icing. Cash. World Peace.

Apparently, the children in El Saalvador never smile. Or laugh. They are sad all the time. This according to Mermaid Girl, after she viewed a slide show at school promoting the school's Siister Schools program. "We have to buy them paper," she declared. "And balls. Do we have any balls around the house that we could send them?"

Well, no, we have no balls around the house. (I will refrain from overtly making a crude joke at this juncture but will point out that the only male member of our household, Shy Kitty, was spayed at a tender age.) When I sorted through the voluminous papers in her (pink!) backpack and found the Siister Schools flyer, I found that they prefer new materials anyway. And, indeed, school supplies and sports equipment are high on the wish list.

Also, we are signed up for not one but two Giving Tree stars at MG's after-school program. One is for a 7-year-old girl who wants Baarbie, Hello Kittty, or "anything pink." We figured we can't really get away with buying her a Baarbie when we won't get one for MG, but we're down with the kitty and the pink stuff.

The other star is for another 7-year-old girl, who wants "reading books, math books, a globe or a dictionary." !! How could we resist? Even MG was charmed. "Let's get her a globe!" she begged. We left the star up on the bulletin board for a while-- we had Kitty Girl's star already and didn't want to be greedy--but as of this evening, almost all the stars had been picked except that one. Have people no souls?! Who could deny this child her dictionary while grabbing up stars for all those kids who want action figures and video games?

So, now we have two. And we're supposed to put in money for the aftercare teachers' bonus, cash preferred but too bad as we have almost no hassle-free opportunity to access cash these days since our favorite bank machines went fee-based. Checks, credit cards, we got it, but cash we ain't got. So the hapless volunteer parent will be getting a check from us.

Oh, and MG's class is making gingerbread houses, and everyone's supposed to bring in a box each of graham crackers and a can of frosting, plus whatever else to decorate them.

And Kindergarten Fun Night is next Wednesday, and everyone's supposed to bring in god knows what for that, too.

Which is all by way of saying that, even though we went to Trader Joe's the other day and are well-stocked for groceries, MG and RW are out shopping this evening, for all the aforementioned items. They left over an hour ago. MG's bedtime was fourteen minutes ago, and they're not back yet.

Okay, I'm glad she cares about the kids in El Salvador and the kids across town and I'm glad the aftercare teachers are so good and they totally, totally deserve a bonus, and I'm glad the class is making gingerbread houses, and though I'm dubious about the true fun quotient to be experienced during Kindergarten Fun Night, I'm sure it's a fine idea.

My question is: why is this so much more complex than it was last year?

I know why, actually: last year she was in full-time childcare, this year she's in School. And day care. So, more places to be, more information to process, more papers to bring home, more stuff to do. Plus, School is more plugged in to the world, and that's a good thing. Also, there's a base of stay-at-home or part-time-working parents that's being assumed at MG's school. No one at the preschool was hocking us to send basketballs to kids in Latin America, because we were all two-working-parent families with little kids and getting through the day, plus occasionally writing a check, and pitching in during the odd weekend Work Party, was about all anyone could expect of us.

But...we're the same family we were last year. Our kid is older, but only a little bit older. We're not working any less. There have been no new hours magically added to the day. So all these expectations, even though they're a Good Thing, are sort of knocking us for a loop.

And I haven't even gotten into the Homework issue.

Parents of the world! Treasure your child's four-year-old year; it's as easy as things will get for quite a while!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Treehouse Closed

Jay and Kim, of The Zero Boss and Catawampus, respectively, have both shut down their blogs. They've closed comments on their recent posts, so this thank-you-and-farewell is going here instead.

Jay was the first total stranger to comment on this site, almost a year and a half ago, and it was through his Blogging for Books contest that I found online friends Anna and Suzanne and started to truly feel like part of a community rather than like the proverbial tree typing in a forest.

At around the same time, Kim responded to a comment I left on her site by writing a two-part essay on educational philosophy and the importance of respecting children as individuals. Not only was I wowed by her ideas--I still think back to those posts when I need to remind myself of what's important in my job--but I was totally, utterly flattered that she took my comment so seriously.

Jay and Kim invited me to my first blogger meetup party and got me to sing karaoke for the first time. They've graciously welcomed me, RW, and Mermaid Girl over for dinner, and gave my daughter a taste of life in a big family (she still remembers that visit and talks dreamily about Neve, the Nice Big Girl, every once in a while).

I've seen them do the same for other bloggers: draw them in, make them feel like part of something. There are periodic online discussions about "community" in the blogosphere, and to my mind no one has embodied that concept better than these two. I'm indebted to them personally and as a blogger, and I know I'm not alone.

In addition to all this community-building, Kim and Jay are both kickass writers; I'll miss reading their trenchant social observations and the funny stories about Neve, Jaxon, Veda and Luka. Recently, they've both gotten well-deserved paying blogging gigs, and it sounds like that's one reason they don't have time for their personal blogs any more.

It sounds like they're doing the best thing for themselves and their family, but I have to admit to a totally selfish disappointment when I read their recent announcements. It feels like the Bloggers' Treehouse Secret Club Hideout is closed.

All the best, Kim and Jay. Take care of yourselves.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Linda Hirshman-a-Rama

*With updates! See the end of the post.

I have been reading and reading and reading and reading many of the vehement and articulate online responses to this article in the American Prospect. It all makes me slightly jumpy and itchy and like I haven't used the theorizing part of my brain in far too long, because while the article bugs me greatly, for reasons many others have articulated, when I try on my own terms to think about what's the matter with it I don't get much further than:

But what about me?

I took the liberal-arts path, dilly-dallied around in low-paying jobs for years, and now have a highly traditional girly-type fulfilling but relatively low-paying professional job. Never aspired to the corridors of power, never going to. However, I was the stable wage-earner in my family forthe first three years of MG's life. The "dad," if you will.

Now RW works full-time too, in another fulfilling low-paying girly professional job. So, we're a two-income family, but we're hampered in our spending power and autonomy by both having girl-level incomes. That's one reason--though by no means the only reason--that we have only one child.

By contrast, MG's three best friends' parents have all followed a pattern similar to that laid out in Hirshman's article: dads with well-paying jobs (sometimes in fields they wouldn't have chosen if it weren't for the need to make family-supporting-level incomes), and moms who quit their professional jobs to stay home for the forseeable future and raise 2 kids each. They all feel that they made their own choices freely, but it's hard not to see a pattern in it. It's hard, too, for us to not feel sometimes resentful that they have both more time and more money than we do. But didn't we freely make the choices that led to that situation?

So: Did RW and I make anti-feminist choices because we took the liberal-arts route? Or do we get a pass for being lesbians?

And what about my brother, who put off choosing a career for years partly so my sister-in-law could prioritize her academic career? Wherefore his implicitly feminist choice, despite his gender? Is it because we both happened to be raised in a family where we were encouraged to prioritize happiness and fulfillment at work rather than (and possibly at the expense of) income level? Or is it because, as one relative of mine bluntly suggested, children of divorce tend to underachieve as adults? Does my brother's choice undercut Hirshman's argument about women being socialized to choose low-paying liberal-artsy careers, and by extension legitimize my own choices?

Hirshman's focus seems so narrow. I understand her point that these personal "choices" don't happen in a social or economic vacuum. But castigating individual women for their choices-- to stay home, to work in traditionally female careers, to shun power and money in exchange for work (in the home or out of it) that they enjoy, or not to do any of those things--seems to me to be counterproductive and misses the point.

This is not a very coherent response to that article; just random and disjointed reactions. I have noticed in some of the comments on other posts about it that many women who are home with their kids feel personally attacked by the article, and I can't help feeling a bit that way myself, as most of this post probably demonstrates. I do think there's something going on beyond that, though. If only I could put my finger on it.

Updated to add: Susan at Crunchy Granola has just posted a terrific reflection on this piece. I was especially happy/relieved to read her take on Hirshman's-- and many commenters' -- definition of feminism.

Updated again to add: and you have to read Phantom Scribbler's incisive and hysterically--if mordantly--funny take on this whole thing! I've been occasionally reading Phantom but now I think I'll have to stop by more often. She makes a great comparison of this whole brouhaha, and the way it's popular to bash women for making "anti-feminist" choices, with the way most people happily say they're environmentalists while making many life choices that are bad for the earth, without getting slammed in the same way. Oh I'm not explaining it well. Go read what she says about it! It's so good!