Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Any Questions?

When a 17-month-old answers a question, are they responding to the content, or to the questioning tone of voice? Does anybody know?

I think Raisin must really understand some of our more complicated questions. I mean, she's been responding to things like "Do you want more?" for months -- she recognizes the key word "more" at the end, and makes the corresponding sign. But recently she's started saying "yeah" when I ask "Did you have a good day?" "Are you ready to go to school?" "Do you need a clean diaper?"

But if I ask an unfamiliar question, she usually doesn't respond -- so she must be really listening to me, right? Of course right.

Friday, September 23, 2005

In Which I Reveal My Geeky Historical/Theological Tendencies

Do you ever have those weeks that seem to have a theme? Like every encounter you have is linked to the same basic idea? I am having such a week, and it always makes me wonder if there's something I'm supposed to learn from the experience.

First, I am trying to renew a habit I used to have of reading from my "One Year Bible" every morning during my bus ride. (The editors of this particular version have arranged an Old Testament reading, a New Testament reading, a Psalm, and some Proverbs for each day, and if you stay current you can read the whole Bible in a year. It's not so much that I want to read the whole Bible -- I skip over the begats pretty darn quickly! -- it's just that I used to be more faithful about reading, and this gives me a little more structure and helps me keep up with it more.) Anyway, having just started I am still in Genesis in the Old Testament readings, and my readings this week included Genesis 16 and Genesis 21, which include the births of Abraham's two sons, Ishmael and Isaac.

Now, excuse me for a moment while I wax historical. If you're already familiar with all this, my apologies. Although God promises to "make nations" out of both boys, in the Hebrew Bible Isaac is obviously the favored son. His mother is Sarah, Abraham's wife, while Ishmael's mother is an Egyptian slave woman named Hagar. Ishmael is prophesied to be "a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers."

God does also promise to bless Ishmael, but it is with Isaac that he will "establish his covenant." Ishmael is the father of many Arab/Islamic nations. Isaac's descendants formed ancient Israel.

OK, so I'm reading these stories, and as always, I ponder how much of our current Jewish/Christian/Muslim animosity has its roots in things that happened so long ago. Then, while browsing, I came across this item. There's lots of food for thought, but what jumped out at me was the story about God asking Abraham to sacrifice Ishmael, then sparing him at the last minute.

As Snopes points out, this is the exact story the Hebrew Bible tells about Isaac. Hmmm. I didn't know that. So I wonder, what was Abraham's relationship with his sons really like? Is it possible that, aside from the normal sibling rivalry, things were actually pretty peaceful in those tents? I think there are scholars now who think that tensions were high between the Israelites and their neighbors by the time Moses started writing down the first books of the Old Testament. Did that climate lead him to exaggerate some of the stories about Isaac and Ishmael? Did he (intentionally or unintentionally) make it sound like their children were predestined to hate each other, when really that's not what God wanted? Did he fan into an inferno a fire that was just struggling to start? (I am not familiar enough with the Koran to speak to its origins, but maybe something similar happened there?) And if so, what consequences are we still suffering today because for thousands of years, we have all accepted as incontrovertible fact the premise that we were born to be enemies?

With all these ramblings going on in the back of my brain, I boarded the bus this morning, and took a seat near the back next to a Muslim woman wearing a head scarf. I opened my Bible and began to read, then I glanced aside and noticed that she was reading the Koran.

So, Isaac, Ishmael, today on a number 17 bus bound for downtown Minneapolis, two inheritors of your history sat side by side and read from the texts we each hold holy. We didn't speak, we didn't fight, we didn't even really make eye contact. I'm not sure what it means, or if it means anything at all, but I came away feeling hopeful anyway.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Ranty Wednesday

I read a news item today. That was my first mistake, as I am almost guaranteed to find something in the news to be upset about.

I make it a general rule not to watch the personal makeover shows. From what little I have seen, it seems like the producers/personalities involved find some way to revisit every awful, tormented moment in the victim's (I mean, lucky winner's!) life. Then they reinforce that vic-winner's conviction that none of those bad memories would exist if they weren't so darn ugly. Helpful.

So, yes, I have issues with Extreme Makeover and all the other myriad variations on the same theme. And yes, this woman's story is especially sad, since she didn't even get the promised makeover, and is now dealing with the tragic loss of her sister on top of it all. But can I just send a quick GOOD MORNING!! to the people who keep signing up for these things?

ABC (or whoever) is not in this for you. They are only interested in your story as it affects their ratings. They are not doing you any favors by making you relive each embarrassing/sad/hurtful day you've lived. They are not helping you overcome those days by telling you it's because you're not one of the pretty people. And, finally, becoming one of the pretty people (as defined, of course, by ABC) is no guarantee that you will no longer suffer embarrassment, sadness, or hurt.

By all means, change the way you look if it will help you feel better about yourself. Heck, let ABC pay for it -- more power to ya! Just, please, don't let them tell you who you are or who you should be in the process. Thanks.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Kicked to the Curb

Yesterday, I swear Raisin clung to me for a solid hour and a half. She cried and could not be comforted; it was terrible. But she needed me that whole time. Honest. Plus, at home she climbs voluntarily into my lap to snuggle and read stories. All the time. Really.

If I tried to tell this to the teachers at day care, they would laugh pityingly behind my back. When I dropped her off today, she held my hand for about ten seconds, then ran off to the book corner and climbed on the miniaturized couch. I came along behind her, dutifully following the parenting-book suggestion that my presence helps her make the transition from home to day care.

Me: Raisin, are you going to read a book?
Raisin: Bye-bye!
Me (putting on a brave face in front of day care staff): Um, OK, bye! Can I have a kiss?
Raisin (waving more forcefully): BYE-BYE!!! (One can only imagine what she would've said if her vocabulary included more than 10 words.)

Hmph. Transition, my left foot. At least I know she'll need me to feed her, clothe her, and drive her around for the next 15 years or so.

And I took my kiss by force.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Mystery and Intrigue in the Nursery

NB, the toddler formerly known as the Hobbit will henceforward be known as Raisin. She's not really very hobbit-like anymore. She's not much like a sun-dried grape, either, but she's my mini-me, so it's the closest I could get.

So last night I snuck into Raisin's room to check on her and cover her up. The covering up is an exercise in futility, but I am seriously physically unable to leave the room without straightening the covers over her. I know she will kick them off 30 seconds later, but I just can't help myself. Anyway. Totally not the point of the story.

Last night when I went in, not only was she uncovered, but she was diaperless! (The last couple of nights we've put her to bed in just a t-shirt and a diaper, because it's been warm in the evenings. Then, later at night we (try to) cover her up as it gets colder.) After I called DH in to witness this new phenomenon, we had the following sotto voce conversation:

Me: You've got to come see this!
DH: What?
Me (patting her bare behind): She's not wearing a diaper!
DH: She's not? Did you forget to put one on!?
Me: No, I didn't forget!
DH: Well, where is it?
(both of us search around the crib in the dark, trying not to wake up Raisin)
DH: Are you SURE you put one on her?

At this point, I started to wonder if I was, in fact, crazy enough to have read her a story, said goodnight to her entire room a la Goodnight Moon, and put her in her crib without noticing that she was half unclad. Just then, she shifted in her sleep and the missing diaper was revealed under her head (I know, ew -- fortunately she must've shed it early on, because it wasn't wet).

I managed to re-diaper without waking her, but she had squirmed out of it again by this morning. Tonight she's wearing PJ pants no matter what. Good thing the weather's getting cooler; I don't have that many spare crib sheets!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Toddler Cuteness

The Hobbit (no longer really an appropriate nickname, really -- will have to think of something else) is learning animal sounds. When prompted, she will quack, moo, baa, or woof, although sometimes every animal quacks, since ducks are still her favorite.

She could stand to improve her diction a bit, though. Her "quack" sounds exactly like Fozzie Bear, "wokka, wokka, wokka!"

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A Different Kind of Tragedy

I feel compelled to make a list of things I've done or will do to help the victims of Katrina. But, then, I am ashamed of that impulse. It seems designed just to strategically place some fig leaves over my own guilt -- selfish. So, instead, I will just add a prayer for forgiveness to my prayers for the victims, and move on to other topics.

In my current state of mind, however, I don't feel up to the funny side of my crazy family vacation stories. Once again, o wise internet dwellers, I would love your opinion on something.

My cousin and his wife have two children. The boy (C1) is 10, and the girl (C2) is 2. C1 was born before his parents were married. While neither pregnancy was planned or particularly welcome, C1 was undoubtedly less planned and less welcome. It shows even more now that his sister is on the scene. (Perhaps relevant, perhaps not: my cousin's childhood was far from ideal. His alcoholic, violent father divorced my aunt when my cousin was very young. My aunt was always very bitter, and it showed in the way she raised my cousin. His marriage and his relationship with C1 very clearly show this same pattern.)

These are both good kids, and both act as expected for their age. C1, however, can do nothing right in his parents' eyes, and C2 can do nothing wrong. C1 also bears all the responsibility for his sister and younger cousins -- his parents punish him for every rule they break.

C1 rarely attracts any positive attention from either parent. There are too many illustrative stories to share, so I will just relate the most recent. On Thursday, C1 was supposed to start 5th grade. Supposed to, but his parents didn't know that it was the first day until they happened to drive by the school, where they saw the other kids on the playground. Did he go on Friday? No, he already had a doctor's appointment on that day, so they didn't send him at all.

This is not his first year in this school.

My question is, what's my responsibility here? When the extended family is together, everyone makes an effort to encourage this boy. We all see the inequity. But we are only together once every couple of months. How do we combat the daily negative input of his parents?

**Updated to note that I have turned on the word-verification feature for comments. I got my first spam today, and I am crabby. Let me know if it's too annoying. Thanks!**

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Big Easy

I am back from vacation, and it was wonderful. And, yes, my family is crazy. More to come on that later.

Right now, I would just like to formally retract every complaint I made about the tree that fell on my house. What seemed like a small disaster to me at the time I now see was actually nothing. My family is completely unscathed, my house is still standing, it is NOT standing in 20 feet of water, and we didn't have to go a single second without anything essential. Hell, we didn't even have to live without luxuries like showers, and it's hard to feel bad about the temporary loss of my own bed when I spent those nights on my parents' pillow-top mattress.

I am feeling simultaneously blessed and unbelievably selfish. For anyone who was affected by this storm, please know that I am praying, I did at least make a donation to the Red Cross, and if I knew what else to do, I'd do it.