Where real moms tell it like it is.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Mother's Body

I remember back in the day, when my breasts would “stand at attention” without any help and you could bounce a quarter off my ass. How times have changed…

As I got out of the shower this morning, I did what few dare to do sober and without being “double dog” dared: I stood in front of a full length mirror, naked. Yuck! Granted, I am no longer 23…I’m 36, and the mother of two and BOY!! Do children change your body!!

First: The face. What’s with the sun-spots?? But apparently, almost 25 percent of women have a change in their skin pigmentation, due to hormones while they're pregnant.

Second: The boobs. Back when I was 23, I weighed MUCH less than I do now, but had bigger, perkier boobs. Now, the girls look sad… But, going down in bra size is thought to be caused by a change in the makeup of the breast. When you get pregnant, the ducts, lobules, and other glandular matter inside spring to life and push aside some of the fatty tissue, according to Natalie Angier, author of Woman: An Intimate Geography.

Third: The belly. I remember always loving my stomach! I had the flattest stomach, and sometimes, depending on the way I moved, you could almost see the faint lines of a six pack. Now? More the results of six packs of beer… Apparently, according to Sylvia Brown, coauthor of The Post-Pregnancy Handbook abdominal muscles stretch up to 50 percent during pregnancy. After such extreme stretching, the muscles will never again be as strong, she says. This means that it will be next to impossible to have a stomach as toned and flat as it was when your baby was just a glimmer in your eye. Sad…

Head to toe, these changes in my body can be devastating and a blow to the ego. The price I’ve paid for being a mom is steep, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world…

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Recipe for Sex

I've been casting around for something newsworthy to blog about, but these few days between Christmas and New Year's are like the Bermuda Triangle. People go missing. News goes missing. The days are surreal and sluggish, and my first day back at work seemed like trivial typing in a vast, empty office. So let's talk sex.

My hubby turned me on to a new site, I puttered about the site a bit, checking out the goods. They have a section that features interviews with a variety of authors, many of whom I didn't recognize, but were interesting reads nonetheless. I saw Susie Bright on the menu and perked right up. What would a saucy sex advocate/educator/thinker have to say about stoking the libido after motherhood?

Her advice was gratifyingly rooted in reality:

Forget figuring out the "romantic" part. The part where your child is with someone else -- and you can do any fucking thing you want to do, including stare out the window like a tree frog -- that's the romantic part! You have to CALENDAR time for yourself even if you have no idea what you're going to do with it.

I think women need to realize that they would be much better moms if they were well-rested, sexually satisfied, and had some interests going outside their childrearing. To even have that INTENT is fabulous.

Sounds good to me! Especially staring out the window like a tree frog.

I know people want to hear about some gizmo that will fire them up, but there is nothing like a good night's sleep, a home cooked meal (made by someone else) and some creative free time to make you feel HORNY.

That's right, Daddy!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Bizness of Believing

You gotta love Americans for their entrepreneurial spirit--even when it verges on INSANE. There's a burgeoning cottage industry of Phone-a Santas, the modern replacement of the mall Santa. Moms needn't shlepp their kids to the mall to sit on some strange man's lap. Now they can just dial in to the North Pole from the comfort of their den.

These Santas working the phone banks are slick:

Parents who order phone calls from Santa usually fill out in advance a questionnaire about their child's habits and achievements and other personal details. "A lot of kids test you," said Marcella Corp, who directs the North Pole Calling program... "They're on the edge of believing or not believing. And then you pull out something specific to them, and then they believe again."

This is some serious holiday psy-ops. The cost of your child believing in Santa for another few months? Priceless. Well, actually, anywhere from $10 to $40. But that should go down once they outsource the call centers to India.

BTW, family trips to mall Santas are on the wane, thanks in no small part to Billy Bob Thornton's movie The Bad Santa, which apparently has also spurred Bad Santa copycats.

Update on Breast IS Best

To anyone I may have offended with the "Media Elite" term, I apologize for generalizing. I, too, am one of those latte-sipping media elite types as I have a degree in journalism and have worked as a journalist and hated receiving similar hate mail. Without the name-calling -- sorry, I am sick and a bit emotional -- I do want to hash out one of my pet peeves about the formula versus breast-feeding debate, Salon constantly loves to mention in its broadsheet section. I strongly recommend people to scroll down to the entry "This Bad Mom Trusts the Bottle" and click through its hyperlinks and the discussion, which I think is pretty balanced.

In this most recent entry, reporter Tish Durkin of the NY Observer decries the "nutcases" who wrote in response to her column bragging at how she has chosen not to nurse her baby for no particular reason. She simply doesn't want to. Which is fine and I agree with her that La Leche League's religious followers should just leave her alone. (But it's interesting to me that she used her megaphone to write this column and then seemed shocked to receive feedback for it.)

One of the hyperlinks leads to another entry called "Baby we were born to Breastfeed?" -- and this is the source of my ire. Rebecca Straister is perturbed to learn that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has put up billboards endorsing breastfeeding as if it were some slam on women who can't breastfeed. No. That's like me driving by a billboard that reads "Human mouths were meant to consume lots of fruits and veggies." Yes, there are people alergic to certain fruits and vegetables and Lord knows we hate eating them. But I don't think public health organizations should keep this information from the public because it may offend people. It's science!

Again, I want to emphasize that women who cannot or do not want to breastfeed should not be guilted about their decision. As a mother who received a lot of unsolicited advice from complete strangers at the supermarket, I am a fan of the "mind your own business" mantra. But should the government and other health organizations let women know that breastmilk is better than formula for a newborn baby's health? Why shouldn't they? They are expected to do so for the well-being of adults whenever there are new studies on people's eating habits and good health.

Having gone into breastfeeding with determination to follow through, I am surprised at how few resources -- such as a lactation expert -- were available to me despite medical wisdom surrounding nursing. Also, as some of Salon's letter writers will point out, there is still taboo surrounding public nursing and misinformation that formula is just as good as breastmilk. (Again, I ran into that mindset when I nursed.) I don't think Salon or any other publication should decry health officials from informing the public for fear of pissing off people like Straister or Durkin.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

To Media Elite: Breast IS Best

I love Salon online, especially for its snarky, in-depth political articles. But my pet peeve about it and other media committing the same crime, is the elitist and condescending tone some of its columnists take on breastfeeding.

Most recently, Salon included in its "broadsheet," an item about Massachusetts regulators mulling over a ban of free formula at hospitals. If the measure passes, Massachusetts would become the first state in the country to prohibit hospitals from giving new mothers free cans of formula -- usually supplied by the formula company as a marketing ploy. Following the advice of every top pediatrician and scientist in the world, the state would like to condone breastfeeding instead.

Like the Boston Herald, Salon is whining how the measure would deny poor women free milk and the option to bottle-feed because, they reason, formula is just as good as breastmilk. But both these publications are playing loose with the facts. From the American Academy of Pediatrics to the World Health Organization, breastmilk has scientifically been proven to be a superior food for babies than formula, giving them stronger immune systems and making them less susceptible to illnesses than formula-fed babies. Now, I am not saying that mothers who choose to formula-feed are bad parents. And, yes, there are instances when women can't nurse in the case of adoptive mothers or children with facial deformities. But, the fact -- even if you don't want to hear it -- is that breastfeeding is better. Shouldn't we condone the best for our children?

As for the argument that a single can of formula will provide adequate nutrition for the children of poor mothers, Salon needs a reality check. A can of formula, which lasts maybe a week, costs $30. Breastfeeding, which is nutrionally better anyway, is FREE. Hell, a $200 breast pump -- yes, you can still bottle-feed with breastmilk -- is a better investment for a poor parent than purchasing formula every week for a year ($30 X 52 = $1,560).

A friend of mine, who used to work as a maternity ward nurse, said the hospital pushed nursing on its youngest and poorest mothers because it found that these girls would "water-down" the formula to make it last longer. Pop quiz: Which babies were healthier? The ones who were breastfed or the ones living on watered-down formula? Exactly.

Yes, nursing can be a pain in the ass. I had a hard time getting my son to latch onto my breast and, initially, (wrongfully) worried he wasn't receiving enough nourishment. But once he learned to suck on breast and his pediatrician confirmed he was in the 90th percentile in weight, nursing became second nature to me. It's a normal part of life and has been long before the formula companies started pushing their (overpriced) products. Being a nursing mother never stopped me from going out and I nursed all the time in public -- to the chagrin of the latte-sipping, media elitist types. Rather than thumb your noses at my nursing, don't look. Also, stop misleading poor mothers about the facts on breastfeeding.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Intelligent Designers Bitchslapped

A federal judge – a Bush appointee I might add – ruled today that it is unconstitutional to force teachers to present Intelligent Design as an alternative explanation to evolution because it amounts to establishing religion in public schools.

Intelligent Design is a lovely idea. Really. My son, for instance, seems like a revelation, as does the foliage of a Japanese maple, the taste of a mango. Surely these things sprung from an inspired Godhead, a master auteur, even if it took millenia of adaptation and random mutations to reach such perfection!

Of course, these sentiments spring from faith, (or maybe wishful thinking), which is a very different beast from science. When I studied the theory of evolution in college, it did not threaten any spiritual beliefs I harbored; in fact, I approached it as though I was learning how god works.

This ruling doesn't prevent teachers from talking about it. It just says that it's not science, so science teachers can't be required to teach it as if it were.

(Judge Jones) emphasized that the ruling "does not prohibit public school students from learning about intelligent design or other religious theories in appropriate social studies courses, such as a course in world religions."

I wouldn't be averse to a science teacher bringing up ID within the context of a brief, current events tangent or a historical aside regarding the tension between science and religion. Just no trying to ram religion down schoolchildren's throats, okay? Thanks.

Hunky Santa

The other day, after a particularly hard day at work, and an equally challenging treck to gymnastics practice for both my kids, I sat down with a dirty martini and watched my tivo'd programs. Ellen in particular. Ellen has this segment where she shows how traumatic pictures with Santa can be for children. The pictures she shows are VERY funny and almost sad. The kids looked SO terrified.

Anyway, I was just now surfing the net for new and exciting things to do this holiday season. And I came across this "Hunky Santa" they have at the Beverly Center, a mall in Beverly Hills.

Dorothy, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore...

Looks like I'm going to have to sit on Santa's lap...

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Wealthier, The Stingier

Not to further persecute the uber-rich crowd who, simply, don't want their hard-earned dollars pissed away on welfare, the New York Times ran a study showing that Americans who made more than $10 million a year were less likely to give money to charity than working-age people who earned $50,000 to $100,000 a year.

The study, conducted by a philanthropic research organization, analyzed 180,000 tax returns from workers aged 35 and younger and found that the more money taxpayers made, the less they gave to charity. For example, on average, those taxpayers earning less than $200,000 gave 1.87 percent of their assets to charity. That number fell to 0.5 percent for taxpayers making $200,000 to $10 million a year, and to 0.4 percent for those workers earning more than $10 million a year.

Charities estimate that Americans gave $180.6 billion of their money to them in 2003. It's interesting, though, that the crowd, which benefited most from President George W. Bush's tax cuts, also took $148.4 billion in deductions for charitable giving in 2003.

Note to the stingy crowd: We won't force you to give your hard-earned money to charity or lazy, stupid people. But please do us a favor and stop whining about how much you pay in taxes. Really, you are going to be okay.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

What is it with Principals??

Don't get me wrong. I think that the people who dedicate their lives to enriching the lives of our children are one step away from Sainthood. Especially, with how grossly underpaid teachers are. But I really am sick of hearing about these Principals who self-appoint themselves to do things that are wrong and clearly none of their business. First, I read about that Principal who suspended a student for speaking Spanish, and if you read my earlier post, you CLEARLY know how I feel about that!

Then I hear about this Principal, who happens to be in my neck of the woods; Garden Grove, California.

Apparantly, Charlene Nguon, a 17-year-old student, got "outed" to her mother by her Principal, for being affectionate with her girlfriend. Exactly what business is it of the Principal anyway?? I'm sure that if Charlene was affectionate with a "boyfriend" the call would have never been made.

Charlene Nguon is now suing the school district for violating her privacy. I say, GOOD FOR HER!! If I were her mother, I would be SO proud of my lesbian daughter!!!

Friday, December 16, 2005

The War on Christmas: An Obscenity-Laced Rant

I can't stand it! It's I hate! So humorless, so lacking in context and perspective, so hypocritical, so "us against them," so let's-find-a-new-enemy! You stupid fucking people propagating and buying into Bill O'Reilly's War Against Christmas. (...which should really be the title of a comedy album, released in time for the holidays!)

Do you really think that baby Jesus would GIVE a SHIT whether Wal-Mart's holiday signage and greeters said "Christmas"?
Do you really think that you're modeling a great democracy where people of different faiths live harmoniously side-by-side, unlike Iraq? Jesus was about PEACE and HOPE and "Do unto others," and care for the poor and sick. Be humble, be servants.
Review your text, Christians! Focus, focus! Jesus could teach you quite a bit about what real persecution looks like.

I could go on and on. I'm so pissed off by this manufactured, divisive stuff. This is the first Christmas that my son is old enough to notice and participate, and we're going all out: the tree is fancy and fragrant, lights and candles glow in the night, Elvis croons his Christmas hits from the stereo. It's such a magical time: all this beauty and spectacle at the darkest time of the year. I even love the Christmas story, with its earthiness and mysticism. The star! The child! The dream of peace!

It's a crying shame that this is the same year that the bullies and blowhards decided to launch their ridiculous campaign.
By the way, who are these "secular humanists" who are running amok like evil elves?

The Best Teacher Gifts

A recent letter writer to Berkeley Parents Network asked for advice on what to give her child's preschool teacher as a holiday gift. She did not feel comfortable giving money.

But, fortunately, readers "got it" in terms of acknowledging that teachers are extremeley underpaid -- especially new teachers -- and would not be offended if she forked over cash. They also gave other great gift ideas for teachers such as gift cards to local coffee shops and grocery stores, bookstores, and even clothing stores if it is known where he or she likes to shop. One teacher even wrote in to say "personal pampering" items such as "manicures, pedicures, restaurant
certificates, movie vouchers, book certificates and so on are great for almost everyone." These items, accompanied by a hand-made card and/or picture of the child, were her favorite presents, she added.

Teachers greatly influenced and inspired me. Let's spread some cheer to some of the most valuable and underpaid members of our society!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Does this diaper make my butt look big???

It's been almost 11 months since I gave birth to my beautiful daughter.

My tummy is relatively flat and most of the baby weight has come off. Still, lately I have been beating myself up over those last 10 pounds I would like to lose. Every week brings a newfound vow to hit the gym with regularity, only to dissipate into another round of self-flagellation when life gets in the way once again.

And now that the holidays are here? Oy.

But today I read about this study which states the obvious: a mother's attitude toward her body will affect her children's body image and approach to dieting.

This passage prompted yet another fresh dose of Mommy guilt:

Overall, one-third of girls and 8 percent of boys said they “thought frequently about wanting to be thinner.” Girls who thought their mothers wanted them to be thin were two to three times more likely to worry about getting thinner. A similar trend was seen among boys.

Moreover, teenagers who thought their weight was important to their mothers were more likely than their peers to repeatedly diet.

I have spent way too many years since I was a teenager being unhappy about my body. I tried crazy diets and endured many half-hearted attempts at getting fit before losing 40 pounds for good about five years ago. What finally worked: doing it for me, and basking in the sense of control and limitless energy that only regular exercise can bring. I finally stopped obsessing about every thing I ate, exercised as often as I could, and life was good.

But now I find myself back on that slippery slope to self-hatred. And that is bad-- for me and my daughter.

Here's the thing: my daughter is chubby, and I revel in her chub. I take pride in every one of her rolls and cherish every ounce of her. The thought of her growing up to be self-conscious or critical of her body just breaks my heart.

I know from experience that it can be a vicious cycle, but it's one I'm determined to break by getting some perspective.

An hour on the treadmill for a firmer butt, or an hour crawling after my baby and giggling until my sides ache?

No contest.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Wal-Mart and the Working Mom

Rosa Brooks confesses a big bad love for big box stores a la Wal-Mart in the LA Times opinion pages.

For frantic women who juggle careers and children, what's not to love about stores that sell practically everything under one roof? One of my female friends, a union labor lawyer who wouldn't be caught dead in a Wal-Mart, nonetheless confesses a penchant for Target. "I get a perverse thrill whenever I'm there," she admits.

Interesting lens through which to view the evolution of big box stores: to see them as having co-evolved symbiotically with working mothers who haven't got time to bop by a string of mom-and-pop shops for individual consumer products.

"How did women live before the advent of the superstore?" Brooks asks. "They generally didn't work, which was just as well because they had to spend a couple of days a week meandering from butcher shop to green-grocer to baker, not to speak of all those trips to the drugstore, the shoe store and so on."

So maybe Wal-Mart is good for working women after all, unless of course you're a working woman who works at Wal-Mart. Now say that three times really fast!

Abortion vs. Miscarriage

In an odd match-up, researchers from Norway compared the post-event mental and emotional stress of miscarriage to that of abortion. They checked in on their subjects at various intervals: 10 days later, 6 months later, two years and five years down the road. Predictably, pro-life and pro-choice contingents seized on the research like junkyard dogs.
Sez one:
"The emotional suffering can be massive."

Sez the other:
(T)here was no evidence abortion directly caused psychological trauma.

Come on, ladies! Of course abortion gives some women complex feelings of anxiety, shame, and relief. And the 25% of women who are haunted by their decision to abort do not constitute a majority. Nor does this study reflect the degree to which these women are plagued by guilt. Can we stake out some middle ground, please?

This study tells me a whole lot of nothin'. What's the point of comparing miscarriage to abortion? More useful might be a study which compares the emotional result of terminating an unwanted pregnancy to carrying to full term a child you do not wish to have. The emotions that accompany pregnancy and childbirth are so mercurial, unpredictable, and hormonally charged, it's hard for me to imagine research that could quantify that ride.

I know we want these things simple for political reasons, but they just ain't.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Thanks Be To Santa Or Not

Christmas used to be such an uncomplicated time of year in my childhood home in Miami. My Cuban Catholic family would attend midnight mass on Noche Buena -- or Christmas Eve -- and I would stand in the pew, fantasizing about what Santi Clos would bring me the next morning. Not a single gift would appear underneath the tree before the morning of the 25th. My father made sure of it, pulling an all-nighter on the 24th, wrapping well-hidden gifts so that Santa Claus would remain real to me until the 1st grade -- when a classmate spilled the beans.

Yes, I was sad to learn that Santa wasn't real. But as an adult who fondly looks back at her childhood Christmases and is forever grateful to her poor father who got no sleep or thanks for the gifts, I find myself perturbed by people like my husband and letter writers to BabyCenter and Berkeley Parents Network who question whether it is harmful to allow kids to believe in Santa. Here is an excerpt of a letter on BabyCenter by a mom who wishes to let her child believe in Santa even though it conflicts with her husband's beliefs:

Josie says, "My child's dad is refusing to let our 1-year-old believe in Santa Claus. He says it's wrong for us to 'lie' to him and that 'lying' about Santa could traumatize him. I just want our son to have the normal childhood memories of sitting on Santa's lap, waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve, and writing him a Christmas list. Help!"

I understand we live in an ethnically-diverse society -- especially here in Berkeley -- and that not every religion believes in Santa. Questioning the gross commercialism this time a year is also a legitimate concern. But children are already forced to grow up quickly because of our media saturated airwaves and other peer pressure. What's wrong with a little make believe? Where did the child in all of us go?

Friday, December 09, 2005

America The Beautiful??

Now, I don’t understand racism, especially in this country. Unless you’re Native American, saying that you’re American inevitably means that you’re ancestors are from another country. Perhaps Mexico? Germany? Africa? I consider the most beautiful thing in being a racially diverse country, is the ability to bring your flavor. We can still be proud that we’re American, but we should also be allowed to embrace our heritage, by way of tradition, or speaking our native tongue.

This morning, I read an article from the Washington Post that goes against everything American stands for, entitled “Spanish at school translates to suspension”.

In it, 16-year-old Zach Rubio, who attends Endeavor Alternative School, in Kansas City, got suspended for speaking Spanish. Not in the classroom. No, no! He got suspended for speaking Spanish with another classmate in the hallway!!

“It was, like, totally not in the classroom," the high school junior said, recalling the infraction. "We were in the, like, hall or whatever, on restroom break. This kid I know, he's like, 'Me prestas un dolar?' ['Will you lend me a dollar?'] Well, he asked in Spanish; it just seemed natural to answer that way. So I'm like, 'No problema.'

Since then, the issue of speaking Spanish in the hall has not been raised at the school, Zach said. "I know it would be, like, disruptive if I answered in Spanish in the classroom. I totally don't do that. But outside of class now, the teachers are like, 'Whatever.' ""

Said Rubio: "I'm mainly doing this for other Mexican families, where the legal status is kind of shaky and they are afraid to speak up. Punished for speaking Spanish? Somebody has to stand up and say: This is wrong."

Or, as I would say, “Esto es incorrecto”!!!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Pee & Poo Toys??? What??!?!

So, I couldn't sleep. I get up to surf the internet and hope to find new and interesting gift ideas for Christmas. Then, I come across this gift suggestion:

"Straight out of a toilet and into your bed . The new Pee & Poo toys are cute, cuddly and a little controversial. Designer Emma Megitt launched her unique friends at the Future Designer Days Expo this year. The first batch of Pee & Poo toys hit Sweden and where sold out quicker than you can say Abba. The controversy surrounding a line of toys representing human waste has created great publicity for Megitt and has launched her name into the designer world spotlight. Originally sold separately Pee & Poo now come in a duo pack. So you get both bodily functions covered in the one box."

Now, I'm sorry. I don't know if it's just me or what, but I don't find these toys cute, interesting OR necessary. Just plain disgusting.

Monday, December 05, 2005

June Cleaver Redux

Salon writer Rebecca Traister flips through the new magazine Total 180! – a publication for professional women who have "opted out" of their careers to be stay-at-home moms – and comes away shaken:

Whatever studies tell us about whether privileged women are or aren't opting out, this magazine, produced by women who have, suggests that some stay-at-home moms are in a dark, dark place.. I was left petrified by Total 180! and its vivid depiction of the inequities of domestic life that I -- apparently naively -- had assumed were a thing of the past in a post-feminist world.

Her disquietude was nothing compared with the shocks she would endure interviewing one of the magazine's three co-founders, Debbie Klett. Here's a choice bit of dialogue:

Klett: Look what's happened by not putting the family first.
Traister: What's happened?
Klett: It seems like there's a lot more weird stuff going on in society than there used to be.
T: Are you blaming the weird stuff on the feminist movement?
K: No, not really. But you've got a lot of moms who tried to have it all and you're seeing the results of that in that children were not getting as much dedicated attention as they were before when you had June Cleavers. I heard on TV recently that kids in grade school were giving oral sex to people for a dollar. I don't know if that went on in the 1950s but I sure didn't hear about it. I wasn't around in the '50s but you know what I mean. Why is that happening now?

Zowie! Klett presents a disjointed, uncomfortable blend: one minute idealizing an era that was oppressive as hell for women, and the next minute advocating for flextime and on-site daycare. "I think that somewhere between the 1950s and now, that's the happy medium we're trying to get to now. If we could have the liberation but still put family first."

To me, feminism, boiled down to its essence, is about self-determination. You want to stay at home? You want to work? You want both? Do what suits you. It's about saying YES to what you want, and just as importantly, saying NO to what you don't want. What I don't get is this new wave of women who revert to being slaves, martyrs, and doormats. You can surely "put family first" without pulling this thankless retro act. Equality–even when your roles have become specialized with one parent working outside the home–is still possible.

What's in a Name?

As evidence that this country is growing more conservative and male-dominated, more women are choosing to take their husbands' last name, according to recent research by a University of Florida professor.

The study, written by UF linguistics professor Diana Boxer, found that "adopting a husband’s last name remains an entrenched tradition that is on the upswing, despite a temporary blip in the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s."

For her research, Boxer's team interviewed 134 married women in their 20s and 70s who live in different parts of the country. Boxer found that only 24 of the women -- or 18 percent of the participants -- kept their own surnames, compared to 107 women -- or 77 percent -- who took their husband's name. The rest of the study's participants -- or three of the women -- used hyphenated or other last names.

Most of the women cited family unity -- "for the kids" -- as the reason they took their husband's name. But Boxer listed examples that suggest otherwise. For example, divorced women who kept their married name to share with their children, did not hesitate to adopt a new husband’s name at remarriage, even though it meant their name differed from their children's.

As a woman who proudly kept her last name and even gave her son a long-ass, hyphenated-last name, this study struck a deep nerve with me:

Understanding naming traditions is important because they give clues about underlying social patterns and shifts in attitudes about expected roles for women, said Boxer, who presented some of the findings at the International Association of Applied Linguistics meeting in Madison, Wis., in July. “People say ‘It’s only a name, what’s in a name?’ Well, we think there’s a lot in a name,” she said. “Linguistic symbols tell us how people are treated in society.”

The practice of women automatically taking their husband’s surnames was first challenged in the mid-19th century by abolitionist Lucy Stone, Boxer said. From then on, women who retained their birth names after marriage came to be called “Lucy Stoners,” with negative connotations, she said.

“In a 1997 study of more than 10,000 Midwesterners, men thought women who kept their surnames were more likely to work outside the home, less likely to enjoy cooking, less likely to attend church and -- this is the clincher -- less likely to make good wives,” she said.

My family -- except for my father! -- and my husband's family have given me grief for my decision not to change my last name. It's amazing that after 5 years of marriage I still receive holiday cards from well-meaning family members and friends who assume I have taken my husband's surname. This should not be happening in an egalitarian society.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Horror

So I'm laying in bed on a Friday night with my husband. The kid is sleeping peacefully down the hall. Do we pillow talk? Stare deeply into each other's eyes? Share about our day?

No. We watch every one of these atrocious karaoke videos made by mothers who harbor rock-n-roll fantasies and enjoy the fresh scent of Snuggle fabric softener.

"Thanks to all of the talented moms who entered the 'Snuggle Be a Singing Scentsation' contest -- they've really showed us how the fabulous scents in Snuggle liquid fabric softeners and dryer sheets make them want to sing," says Helayna Minsk, Snuggle marketing director.

I mostly feel neutral about advertising mascots. But that Snuggle bear makes me want to rip out its stuffing and light it on fire. My video would get voted off fast, due to violent content.

Apparently, fabric softener makes these moms wanna ROCK! Like, doesn't laundry make you wanna ROCK? I remember reading an article where all these female rockstars were asked, "When do you most feel like a woman?" Chrissy Hynde of the Pretenders deadpanned, "When I'm doing the dishes."

What Type of Mother Are You??

Well, I just finished taking this fun little quiz called "What Type Of Mother Are You", and found that I am an "Encouraging Mom"!!

My kids will be so pleased when they find out!!

What kind of mother are you? Take the quiz and find out!!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Book Review: Jesus Land

Julia Scheeres and I first met when we worked as reporters for Wired News. In 2001 she reported on a devastating earthquake in El Salvador and I, a Latina, was amazed that this stringy-blond-haired, midwestern girl could conduct an entire interview in impeccable Spanish.

"Where did you learn to speak Spanish?" I marveled. "Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic," she answered nonchalantly.

My initial reaction was "ah, okay." But over the years, I have had the privilege to get to know Julia and listen to her engrossing tales about Christian fundamentalism, and yes, good reasons I would never want to go to Christian reform school. She captures her experiences there and other timely, hot button issues in her first memoir Jesus Land (Counterpoint, October 2005).

Set in the 1980s in rural Indiana and, later on, the Dominican Republic, Jesus Land is a true story about a white fundamentalist Christian family who adopts two orphaned black boys. (It's what Jesus would do, her parents reason.) This painful memoir, which is peppered with laugh out-loud anecdotes about "commies" and Rapture, is Julia's earliest memories of her black brother, David, who is the same age as Julia, and how their relationship is strained by racism in their Indiana town. (Julia admits to ignoring David, the only black kid in school, so that she can fit in with her white peers.)

However, they end up sticking together to overcome the extreme dogma and punishing tactics of "Escuela Caribe" in the Dominican Republic. Sitting down without asking for permission or humming a secular tune are grounds for punishment at Escuela Caribe, literally meaning "Caribbean School" in Spanish. The severest punishments meted out include a teacher putting on boxing gloves and beating a student while quoting biblical passages.

David, who received his fair share of beatings at home and at school, is a sympathetic figure. All he wants is a family like the Brady Brunch. Instead, Julia's parents make him and his brother Jerome sleep in the basement apart from the rest of the family. Their father beats them. Their mother tells the boys to "turn the other cheek" in the face of racist bullying in school.

The aloofness and cold detachment of the parents will shock and make readers shake their heads at the hypocrisy of the Christian right. Julia's mother never expresses love for Julia or her brothers. Yet, she displays an insatiable appetite to convert loin-clothed Africans to her church and help elect Christians like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush to the White House.

Warning: The end of the story is a real downer. Nonetheless, this is a memorable and chilling profile of the Christian right.

Dr. Cruise?

Is Tom Cruise officially crazy? Let's look at the evidence: First, jumping on Oprah's sofa's, then fighting with both Brooke Shields and Matt Lauer about the evils of psychiatry and anti-depressants. Now, he has bought a sonogram machine to monitor the progress of Katie, (or, as he now calls her "Kate") Holmes pregnancy.

"Add the American College of Radiology and the Food and Drug Administration to the growing list of medical organizations who are taking issue with Tom Cruise. In a statement obtained by E! Online, the chair of the ACR Ultrasound Commission, Dr. Carol M. Rumack, claims that "untrained people" such as Cruise should not be allowed to purchase such medical devices, and that "there are many abnormalities that may be missed by the untrained eye."

The statement goes on to claim that "if it is not medically necessary, the use of ultrasound raises unnecessary physical risk to the fetus."

Run, Katie! Run!!!