Friday, February 29, 2008

wanna play?

My kids spend endless hours playing outside. Some of their favorites are playing house, fort, school, library, cheerleading camp, village, and even "homeless village." For their younger years, we bucked the mainstream trend of signing our kids up for organized activities. No soccer mom, I. I don't like soccer, for starters. But I do like sports and there are plenty of alternative organized sports for kids starting at the preschool age.

Somewhere along the way, I remember learning that unstructured, imaginative free play is vital to helping kids develop the kinds of skills that make for a more successful, happy child. And that too many structured activities interfere with the development of these skills. Impulse control being one.

Another thing I have noticed: kids don't seem to get together on their own and play pick-up games much anymore. If there isn't an adult blowing a whistle, telling them when and how to play, they aren't playing, apparently. I've come to believe that the overreliance on kid activities governed by adults leads to kids who can't seem to break out of their shell and play on their own. Kids playing by themselves helps develop leadership and conflict resolution skills, for example. It isn't just organized sports, by the way. Its "mommy and me" music, swimming, gym class... the list goes on.

This week there has been a series on National Public Radio discussing the merits of unstructured free play. Its worth checking out. Especially if you are the parent of a preschooler and are staring at a sign up sheet wondering if this is really how you want your little Maggie to spend her free time (and yours), check it out here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

will texas vote this clinton to the white house?

With primaries held in March, Texas doesn't often get a chance to help decide presidential contenders. The last time the democratic primaries reached Texas was 1992 when it was the other Clinton who won the most delegates on his way to the White House. But as Austin's Ruth Pennebaker tells us, Texas is Back! And Ohio. And Pennsylvania. Its great to see the democratic process play out in states besides Iowa and New Hampshire (whose entire state population is nearly half that of Houston). Another little known factoid, Texas Democrats get to vote twice in the primaries. Once at the regular primaries and again as a caucus vote. Texas state senate districts that had more overall votes for the last Democratic contender (last election it was John Kerry) get more delegates than districts who, for example, cast more delegate votes for a Republican. So Clinton and Obama are lobbying hard for districts who came out heavily in support of Democrats in recent elections.
But forget Texas for a minute. What's the most exciting thing happening in these primaries is witnessing the hard push for the votes of women, blacks and hispanics. No matter if Clinton or Obama wins, its the minorites who will have played such a big role in getting them there. The minority vote is a force to be reckoned with!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

fat rats

I keep hearing there's a study out there which suggests diet drinks make us fat. Since I'm so excited about crossing off yet another pleasure food from my ever shrinking list, I went looking for the study. It was conducted at Purdue University by two diet soda addicts, I presume: Susan Swithers and Terry Davidson. Rats were fed Dannon yogurt (my favorite brand!) that was sweetened with either sugar or saccharin. Swithers and Davidson concluded that rats who received artificial sweetner consumed more calories and gained more weight (and yes, body fat) than the rats who received sugar. Their study also found that the diet food rats showed "blunted thermic responses to sweet-tasting diets." So the dieting rats' metabolic processes under responded to the saccharin making them eat more of the real calories later. So there it is. Saccharin is not my friend. Body fat wins yet again. Argh! You can read it and weep for yourself, here.

Friday, February 15, 2008

12 reasons

12 Reasons Same-Sex Marriage will Ruin Society

Homosexuality is not natural, much like eyeglasses, polyester, and birth control are not natural.

Heterosexual marriages are valid because they produce children. Infertile couples and old people cannot get legally married because the world needs more children.

Obviously gay parents will raise gay children because straight parents only raise straight children.

Straight marriage will be less meaningful, since Britney Spears's 55-hour just-for-fun marriage was meaningful.

Heterosexual marriage has been around for a long time, and it hasn't changed at all: women are property, blacks can't marry whites, and divorce is illegal.

Gay marriage should be decided by the people, not the courts, because the majority-elected legislatures, not courts, have historically protected the rights of minorities.

Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are always imposed on the entire country. That's why we only have one religion in America.

Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people makes you tall.

Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage license.

Children can never succeed without both male and female role models at home. That's why single parents are forbidden to raise children.

Gay marriage will change the foundation of society. Heterosexual marriage has been around for a long time, and we could never adapt to new social norms because we haven't adapted to cars or longer lifespans.

Civil unions, providing most of the same benefits as marriage with a different name are better, because a "separate but equal" institution is always constitutional. Separate schools for African-Americans worked just as well as separate marriages will for gays & lesbians.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

fear of flying?

Today I received an email from yet another feminst friend of mine who is an Obama supporter. Someone whose opinion I value. Someone who I was counting on to vote for Hillary. What is going on? Do some Obamers suffer from a fear of flying? Fear of supporting Hillary Clinton, the woman, argueably the single most qualified candidate in the presidential race? Fear that the conjurers of the right wing spin are right? Fear that she can't possibly win because the Hillary Haters will come out in force on election day but will stay home if Obama is on the ballot? I have considered jumping to the Obama camp for this reason. But if everyone voted out of this kind of fear, we'd continually be nominating not the best qualified candidate, but the least likely to lose. Is that who we want in the highest office?

Maybe Obamers fear that Hillary has drifted too far to the center, strayed from her liberal roots. But center-drift is the necessary evil of building bipartisanshp and a successful career in Washington. It doesn't mean she isn't still striving for significant, progressive change. She's just going about it in the slower, conventional way.

More often, though, I think Obamers are riding on the prospect that this promising and largely untested young senator will catapult above the political fray and be the champion of sweeping changes. I have considered this arguement too. And maybe. I hope so too. But I really doubt it. The same was hoped for Jimmy Carter, newcomer to Washington, and look how his four years turned out. Maybe that's why Obama has so many young supporters. They don't remember Carter's humiliating defeats. They only remember Hillary's humiliating defeats, when the young Clintons-Came-To-Washington and bungled health care reform.

So when I learn that another of my feminist friends are supporting the largely untested, albeit inspiring Obama, I'm first shocked, then disappointed, then sad. Come on! This is Hillary! The no-cookie-baking-no-stand-by-her-man-no-retreat-to-humiliated-oblivion-after-bimbo-chasing-husband-humiliates-me Hillary. Yeah, Obama can make moving speeches, but he hasn't DONE much to earn our trust. Ok, he didn't vote FOR the war in Iraq, but how could he? He wasn't there. He wasn't under the gun. He didn't see the (cherry-picked) intelligence. He and Hillary have voted similarly on Iraq related votes since. He has abstained from tough votes, such as the Iranian-Revolutionary-Guard-as-Terrorist vote, only to later criticize Hillary for hers. Do I smell a weasel?
Back to the feminist vote. Yesterday I read bestselling contemporary author and acclaimed feminist, Erica Jong's opinion piece in the Washington Post supporting Hillary Clinton (read it here). Giant relief. Vindication. Joy! Her finishing arguement tells me this feminist has no fear of flying:

"I understand my hopeful friends who think an Obama button will change America. But I'm sticking with Hillary. I trust her because all her life, her pro bono work has been for mothers and children. And mothers and children -- of all colors -- are the most oppressed group in our country. I trust her to speak for our children and grandchildren -- and for us. She always has. "

Right on, Ms. Jong, and Halleh-zipless-fuck-ing-lulia!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

stay at home depression

Years ago, when I found out I would have three children under the age of three, I decided to resign from my agency job, stay home with my kids and gradually transition to private practice. I was nervous but excited. I was going to be a stay at home mom, something I had never planned on. I savored the idea of devoting myself to my kids, free from the distractions of working outside the home, at least for a while. Living on one income, we had to scale back on discretionary expenses. We fired our cleaning lady and ate fewer meals out. One day, knee deep in dirty diapers and even dirtier high chair trays, I had a depressing thought: As a sahm I felt like a glorified maid. Yes, I was home raising my kids but I was spending most of my time doing laundry, cleaning house, washing bottles, and preparing food. How tedious it was to dice grapes for three kids! And how I dreaded cleaning those dried up and crusted over high chair trays! I loved the time with my kids and I'm glad I had that time with them, but I found that the joys were often outweighed by the burden of the daily chores. I had never liked house cleaning and the more kids I had to clean up after, the less I liked it. When potty training was in full swing? I found I had sunk to an all new energy low. I was clinically depressed and reached for help. Now, years later, back to work in a hectic but thriving practice, I've never felt better. I still find cleaning up after my kids unpleasant but now I have the satisfaction of a work life to add balance.

These sahm years came rushing back, in a rather tongue in cheek backward glance, when I read the summary of a recent study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. You can also read a summary here. This survey looked at rates of depression among various occupations. Major depression was reported most frequently in the following four types of jobs: Personal Care and Service, Food Prep and Serving, Social Services, and Health Care. Yep, that about covered it.

This isn't to say, of course, that there aren't plenty of moms (and dads) who feel great being a sah parent. More power to them. But for me, it wasn't a good fit. I was happier working and I believe my kids are better for it, too.