My Naivete is Probably Showing

Here’s the thing.

I’ve read and watched a lot about this rally Glenn Beck had last Saturday, mostly because I’m curious. People are fascinated by Beck (or repulsed by him, take your pick). As with so many figures in public life today, he seems to be incredibly polarizing.

My FIL loves Beck. He watches him religiously. We talked briefly about the “Restoring Honor” rally that took place over the weekend.

“He’s the real deal,” my FIL said.

“But the real deal of what?” I asked. “He’s really a successful TV and radio commentator. He’s good at his job. Beyond that, I don’t know what his motivations are.” And I didn’t say it to be argumentative. Beck, much like conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, has a fanatical following — which is fine. Each to their own and all.

Beck has said himself that he’s in entertainment, not politics. The tenor of the Restoring Honor rally seems to back that up.

The point of the rally seems to be that Glenn Beck wants to bring religion “back” to this country.

Theoretically, I have no problem with this. In practice though, I don’t know 1) that religion needs to be brought back to this country and 2) what that looks like.

Let’s take, for example, prayer in schools, which one of the attendees mentions in this video from the rally. (Some people seem pretty reasonable here, and some scare the poop out of me, but, again, to each his own.)

Okay, so we all decide we want “prayer back in school.” Well, most of us want that. A vocal minority of parents of children in public schools do not want prayer in public schools because they themselves are atheists or agnostics or — I don’t know — Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons (like Glenn Beck!).

Since I like the idea of prayer in school, I have actually elected to send my girls to a private, Catholic school, so they can learn about our religion alongside of computer, science, English, math, and Spanish. I don’t know how we reconcile prayer in public school. I think kids who want to pray or have a Bible club/class should have that option. (I find it hard to believe that kids raised in religious households don’t say some silent prayers before pop quizzes or lunch periods they share with bullies, public school or no.) It’s true, though, that I don’t think prayer should be imposed on anyone. I have distinct memories of the one or two non-Catholic students in my high school being excused from school masses without any fuss on anyone’s part (as far as I knew).

Also, the idea that we have to “get this country back to the principles on which it was founded”? Good in theory, maybe not so much in practice. Our country was founded by landed white men, many of whom owned slaves and didn’t think women should have rights outside of the home, and they were very particular about separating church from state — primarily because they didn’t want the STATE to suppress the practice of RELIGION. Freedom OF religion is what’s in the Constitution, not freedom FROM religion. That’s been quite taken out of context lately — I don’t really know when that started, taking prayer out of public school or the realm of government in general, but this brings me back to the fact that I have the choice to send my children to a school where they are not only free to practice the religion I am raising them in, but encouraged to do so. And beyond that I can vote for whom I choose and practice whatever religion I choose. Those two things are not in any way contingent upon each other.

Finally, America rebelled against England because they protested the idea of “taxation without representation”. Well, for good or ill, we have representation out the wa-hoo now. Every year brings us some type of election or another, from local school boards to state governorships to our national leaders in Congress and the White House.

I don’t know where I’m going with this, I truly don’t. But it’s been making my  head hurt for the better part of two days now, thinking about it. My FIL doesn’t like the direction in which this country is moving, and I read and see a lot of fear about America becoming a “socialist” country, and of course, there are people who STILL think Obama is a Muslim — and they are not just backwater racist people; guys, there is a higher percentage of independent voters who now believe Obama is a Muslim than when he was running in 2008. (He’s not, by the way. Has everyone forgotten the brou-haha over Rev. Jeremiah White?) And don’t get me started on the Islamic center in Manhattan, which will have a mosque in it. Just don’t.

I voted for Barack Obama, and I am not sorry I did. I think he’s doing the best he can with what he has. He’s inherited a mess, and he’s trying to get this country out of it. It’s true that it’s not going so well so far, and on top of he economic crisis he was handed, he’s had an environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico that is siphoning a lot of resources away from his administration. He’s gotten combat troops out of Iraq, and he’s still working on the war in Afghanistan. He knows that al-Queda — not Islam — is the enemy. I still have the highest respect for him because I think he is smart and because I think he wants the best for ALL of America.

People truly believe he and his administration are ruining this country ON PURPOSE. And I don’t get that at all. I don’t understand the Tea Party and Mama Grizzlies, or for that matter, liberals who don’t think Obama’s doing enough. What more do you want him to do? Really? He’s not a super hero; he’s just a really smart guy who’s (again) doing the best with what he’s got.

See? No idea where I’m going. I don’t understand political discourse in this country any more. Or what passes for “discourse”. I don’t know how to fix what’s broken; that is why I vote for the leaders I do. That’s their job. I truly pick the people I think can do the best job. We don’t have a great political system, but we have the best political system in the world. I wish it weren’t two-party because I think that truly limits “we the people” and our voices.

Anyway, I’m going to publish this in all its incoherent glory. If you have something to say, go for it.

Random Thoughts: Follow Up

Week 26: We had an ultrasound this morning to check on Le Bud’s growth and fluid levels, and everything is looking most excellent. Plenty of fluid, and he is measuring 26 weeks and 3 days, which is right on for where we are. His estimated weight is already more than 2 pounds, which I am impressed by at this point. Flora and Kate were both little babies (6 lb. 2 oz. and 5 lb. 10 oz., respectively). We’ll probably take another look in, oh, say six weeks to make sure things continue on course.

Peeking at him in there was fun. I think he is going to have Dan’s nose.


My Twitter pal @mattieflap (who also blogs over here) had a good point in her comment to my “Bad Mommy Moment” post, that kids need to know the limits. I didn’t demonstrate it in the best way that Friday night, but now we all have a reference point.

And I agree that limits and boundaries are important for children. I think it makes them feel safe (I could probably find some kind of study to back that up, but I’m too lazy to look right now). As @mattieflap puts it in her comment, talking about her grandparents with stricter limits: “I always knew where I stood, where the line was, and what was and was not appropriate. Therefore, I could have fun within those boundaries.”

My parents had definite boundaries for us, too, with solid consequences for going over them. I wouldn’t say my parents were super-strict (although I may have said that as a teen), and I think the three of us kids turned out the better for it. (Though they could have been stricter with Dr. Sis, IMO.) (Kidding, dad. Kinda.)


My BIL-IL did stop by and commented about the LPS Wii game, and he made a good point, too, that we parents have to correct the cultural tendency to espouse irresponsibility (and/or FUN! with no consequences). Video games and TV shows are entertainment. I guess my rant or worry is more about the fact that I wonder what my children are internalizing. That is what I want to know and/or counteract if I have to. I don’t want Flora acting like Candace from Phineas and Ferb when she’s around a boy she likes. I don’t want Kate thinking that the purpose of money is to spend it. (The purpose of money is to pay bills!) So that’s the position I’m coming from.

I wish I’d never even started this book! Believe me, when it comes to marketing to children, ignorance is bliss. As a girl, I was not as relentlessly targeted as children are now. I don’t mean to sound like a fuddy-duddy, but it’s true. We had Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, and the Electric Company, and gender roles were pretty much relegated to grown-up media. Not any more; now we have Sprout, Nick Jr., and the Disney channel and all kinds of shows with all kinds of messaging (subtle or overt) about being a “real” boy or girl. It’s exhausting to keep up with!

Back to School 2010

Flora started kindergarten today.

I know sometimes parents talk about wanting their children to “stay little”, but I have to confess: I love that my girls are growing up. I love their independence and curiosity and outgoingness.

I’m not sad they are not little anymore. Maybe being pregnant is a part of that; maybe not. All I know is I’m excited for Flora, and I hope her love of learning and her excitement about kindergarten is sustained throughout all her school days.

The Mysteries of Facebook

I don’t spend much time on Facebook — even when I first set up my profile there, I didn’t visit much. (If you are a Facebook friend of mine, I hope you don’t take this personally.) They are always changing things up over there, those crazy kids, and the endless way my e-mail inbox fills up when I leave the occasional comment makes me insane. I just visit now and again to update my privacy settings.

My first love has always been Twitter, and hells bells, I have a blog if you really need to know what I’m up to. But Facebook has been good for 1) writing on my sister’s wall 2) seeing how my high school graduating class is holding up (very well, thankyouverymuch), and 3) seeing family photos (because they are HI-larious).

Uncle Crappy talked about the Facebook application, My Friend Secrets, and has compiled a list of questions (not necessarily from My Friend Secrets). (Like Uncle Crappy, I am not on Facebook to play games.) And just for the hell of it, because I’ve been a little busy lately, I decided to lift this post and use it for my own. I don’t think he’ll mind.

Do you think that Red Pen Mama:
…likes British accents? Australian ones are better. Scottish burrs and Irish brogues actually cause melting.

…likes blue eyes? Have you met my husband?

… is part of the Mile-High Club? Not unless this refers to changing diapers on a plane.

…can cook? Hells, yeah!

…has ever failed a class? No, but I got a D in Calculus once.

…is a good driver? Unless I’m tailgating you on the highway because you’re not passing in the left lane, you probably think I’m a good driver.

…has good taste? I don’t even know if I have good taste. I go with what I like.

…recycles dirty underwear? While this would vastly cut down on the amount of laundry that I do, NO. Plus, I throw out underpants if Kate has a poopy accident (yeah, still happening). I’m over it.

…will do anything to get what she wants? I would be curious to see Dan’s answer to this question.

…should pass on the chocolate cake? No way. Have you seen how skinny I am (when I’m not rocking the pregnant belly)? That baby needs some calories! Give me that cake, and put some vanilla ice cream right next to it.

…is hot? I think I left hot behind at 25, but I also often think I am still 25, so mileage may vary.

…thinks shopping at Walmart is classy? If you know me at all, you know I don’t even shop at Walmart.

…has ever slapped anyone? I’m sure people think I have done this (and I’m not referring to my children, whom I have never).

…spends more than an hour on Facebook every day? Now you sure don’t.

…has ever skinny dipped? Those who know the true answer to this are few.

…has ever eaten a booger? No.

…is a jerk? I wouldn’t think that people would think this about me, but Dan will tell you I am not the most socially sensitive gal on the playground.

…has ever stolen money from friends? No.

…has ever cheated on a test? No.

…was a dork in high school? I am sure there are people who totally thought I was a dork in high school. I occasionally think I was a dork in high school. But I had lots of friends, and everyone knew who I was (I was managing editor of the school paper, editor of the literary magazine, and on yearbook, plus I stood up and yelled at my principal when she announced my alma mater was going co-ed) and I didn’t really care what people think/did think.

…has ever lied to avoid a date? Um, yes. For women this is a survival tactic. I plan on teaching my girls how to do it with grace.

…is fun to be around? Mileage varies, I am sure.

…is cute? *Shrug* That is not a word I would use to describe myself.

What do you think?

Random Thoughts: The Exciting Edition

Actually, since my blowout on Friday night, I have very little excitement to report.

Very little that is personally, to me, exciting, maybe I should add.

My sister got a gorgeous square-cut peridot engagement ring, so that’s pretty exciting for her.

On Saturday, I came in on budget with my back-to-school shopping for the girls. Which while not exciting, is not trivial either, at least to me, Dan, or our budget. And the girls were THRILLED to pick out new shoes, backpacks, and even crayons for school. Thank goodness we’re not into clothes yet.

Flora, frankly, is so excited for kindergarten, which starts on Friday, I’m a little worried it’s not going to meet her expectations.

The most exciting things to happen to me are: 1) I found out that I get the DVD set of Mad Men Season 3 from my library for three weeks because it’s a box set, and 2) I received an e-mail from Amazon that told me Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins shipped today.

Hm. Those two things are going to cancel each other out. I guess it depends how much laundry I have to fold.

Which means Mad Men is going to win this week, probably.


I know that on occasion my BIL-IL stops by here, and possibly my SIL (Dan’s sister), so I want to issue this disclaimer: I am about to bitch a little bit about the LPS Wii game, but I’m not criticizing my ILs for owning it; I’m criticizing the makers of the game.

Okay? Okay.

Here’s the thing: Wii offers a plethora of games, and Mario Kart is right at the top of our to-buy Wii game list. (There’s some dance game out there, too, that is supposed to be awesome.) As a treat for my niece, the Littlest Pet Shop game was purchased, and it was cracked out yesterday.

And I don’t like it. Because the essential message of the game is: be cute (and those LPS animals are adorable), play games to earn “Kibble Kash”, and go shopping.

Am I over-reacting? (Yes is an acceptable answer.) I don’t want my girls to play shopping video games; I want them to play sports-themed games, or driving games, or adventure games. And, maybe, the occasional shopping game, don’t get me wrong. It just seems that the LPS game could have been more about cute pets playing cute games and way less about “Kibble Kash” and purchasing the right accessories.

/end rant


Of course, to my own discredit, I let my girls watch too much Phineas and Ferb, where the main girl characters are either a) obsessed with busting her little brother (a role model that does not bode well for Le Bud) b) “in love” with one of the boy characters and playing coy about it and/or c) exist to be in the service of the boy characters (i.e. the Fireside Girls). So, yeah. I’m gonna have some ‘splaining to do down the line.


The girls and I have kissed and hugged and made up.

We’ve forgiven each other. I hope we’ve all learned from last night. I hope some good comes of it. Kate even apologized for calling me mean. I told her I forgave her, and I hoped she would forgive me for yelling so much and not giving hugs.

The real “test” I suppose will be bedtime. Dear Lord, help us all.

Bad Mommy Moment

I just flipped the hell out on my children.

I am so tired of the bedtime shenanigans and misbehavior. I have tried everything — short of moving them back into their own rooms — to get them to settle down and listen to me at bedtime, and to go to sleep.

I have left night lights on so they don’t have nightmares.

We have a routine, and we follow it.

I have withheld night time treats and night time shows.

I have pleaded and cajoled.

I have separated them.

Tonight. I.just.flipped.

Screamed and banged the wall. Yelled until I was hoarse and they were both crying.

And I did not give them hugs.

It ended with Kate calling me a mean mommy and saying she didn’t like me.

And me saying, Yeah I am, and I don’t like you either.

They may be sleeping now. I don’t even know.

This has not been my proudest mommy moment. It’s not even been a good adult moment. And I don’t know how we’re going to move on from this. How long is kids’ memories?

I’ll bet, probably, not as long as mine.

What I am Good At

(Not coming up with titles for my posts, obviously.)

The lovely and talented jayesel (@jayesel on Twitter) blogged yesterday about “Imposter Syndrome” and the practice of downplaying our talents in public. Go, read (if you haven’t already).

And then she challenged her fellow readers and bloggers to find seven things about themselves they liked and to brag about it.

And I thought, I can do that.

Then I struggled to find seven things to brag about! I kept falling into the trap of thinking of things I stink at (like math). I don’t know why, because if you’ve ever met me, I’m not the most modest or humble of people. Plus, I know how to take a compliment (say, “Thank you” and move on — something I am teaching my girls). Ultimately, this is my list of seven.

1. I am a good writer. Writing is the one thing, the very one talent, I feel I can claim and celebrate without hesitation. It’s what I do and who I am. I am a writer.

2. I am a good mother. I know that I am a human mother (i.e. not even close to perfect) and I’m okay with that. But I love and care for and enjoy my children and I love being their mom. It really has made me my best person.

3. I am good at being myself. Which is to say: What you see is what you get. I don’t play games; I don’t put on airs; I don’t pretend.

4. I am good at finding facts. Now I say this as someone who came out in support of health care reform, and as someone now who supports the building of the Cordoba Center in New York City. I looked into a lot of things that were being said about these politically charged issues, and decided where I stood based on facts — not spin or out-and-out lies. But I also say it as someone willing to do her homework (usually at about that aspartame e-mail making the rounds.

5. I’m funny. Sometimes I mean to be, sometimes not. But even if I am only cracking up my husband and my kids, that’s all that matters. And I don’t mean I’m a funny writer or a stand-up comedienne. I’m not a jokester. But I see the humor in a lot of situations, and (I think) I help people see the humor, too.

6. Apparently, I’m a good dresser. I say this on a day that I have gotten numerous compliments on my outfit, which can be challenging when you’re dressing your 24-week-pregnant self. And here’s a strategy I’m employing this time around: I’m not wearing a lot of maternity clothes. I’m just wearing regular clothes in bigger sizes and pairing them in interesting ways (and with the proper accessories). (Obviously, pants are an exception to this. I have to wear maternity pants and jeans — the trick there is to wear comfortable ones.) Today, I have on a pair of maternity jeans and an off-white cami under a brightly patterned summer dress I bought at Costco (label: Forbidden , size: L), gold earrings and bracelets, and cute $20 sandals from Target.

7. I’m a good Catholic. Again: perfect? No. Practicing? Yes. Proselytizing? I’m trying. My faith is another part of my identity I will claim and proclaim and celebrate. It is, without question, a large part of who I am.

The Things We Do For Kids

I pulled Flora’s loose tooth out the other night.

Even when Dan and I started having children, pulling out a tooth is not something I ever imagined myself doing.

It’s not something I particularly wanted to do, either. But she’s had this loose tooth for weeks now. It was her second. She wiggled it all the time.

Sunday night, we were watching The Princess and The Frog. Flora sat on one end of the couch, watching and wiggling.

And suddenly she was wailing.

At first, I couldn’t really tell what was wrong.

There was some blood. And the wailing. Some hand flapping too, but that may have been me.

Her tooth had gotten stuck, sticking straight out from her gum.

I did not want to touch it. I did not want to be dealing with this right at the end of my husband-free weekend. I honestly wondered if I could call my in-laws to come over and deal with it. Or anyone else, really.

But I got myself calmed down, got some tissues (yes, tissues. If you think I was going to put my bare hand into her mouth and pull that tooth, you are delusional), got a grip of the tooth. And pulled.

Flora cried out. I pulled again, and the tooth came out.

Flora was very unhappy. “That huuuuuuuurt!” she wailed. “Waaaaaahhhhh.”

Her gum was still bleeding, so I got her to rinse out her mouth and then gave her an ice cube.

Five minutes later, she was fine.

I was still a little queasy.

The things I have done and said since having children have floored me. And I’m only five and a half years into this active parenting thing. So far, pulling Flora’s tooth is far and away the most unexpected experience I have had. I can only assume I’m in for more.

What is the weirdest thing to date you’ve had to do or say to your kids? Did you ever picture yourself saying or doing it, or did it come as a total shock?


When I told my husband about pulling Flora’s tooth out with my hands, he snorted and shook his head.

“That’s not how you do it,” he said.

And then he told me this story:

“When I was 10 years old, my cousins and I took a bus trip to visit my Uncle T in Columbus. I had a loose tooth. Uncle T decided to pull it.

“He tied a string to my tooth. Then he ran the string down the stairs, wrapped it around the finial at the bottom of the staircase, and tied it to his dog. He picked up a squeaky toy, opened the door, and threw the toy out the door. The dog took off and pulled my tooth out.”

His point being: I should have used distraction (rather than my fingers) to pull Flora’s tooth.

My response: “We don’t have a dog.”

“You tie it to something else.”

“Like what? The mouse in our kitchen?” (Kidding. We don’t have any mice. Right now.)

“Oh!” I exclaimed, “I know! I could have tied it to Kate!”

Meatless Monday: Must-Trys

If you find yourself with a bunch of garden fresh, home-grown, or farm fresh tomatoes, you have to try this recipe from the Smitten Kitchen.

For the record, 2 1/2 pounds of tomatoes is about nine medium tomatoes. For the bread, I didn’t cube it; I just cut it open and tore out chunks that were about an inch big. I had Flora feed the crusts to the birds. Also, I forgot the basil — which, I still can’t believe I did that. I put garlic and basil in nearly everything with tomatoes in it. I attribute it to “pregmantia” (thanks to @mattieflap for that lovely term) and, possibly, being really hungry when I was making this dish. Besides, you can always garnish with basil. It’s just as good.


On Sunday, Kate declared we just HAD to make Dora cupcakes.

Never mind that I am not a baker — I am certainly not a cupcake decorator. And I had nothing like “dark-chocolate melting wafers”, prepared frosting, or brown and red paste food coloring to hand. Oh, AND I had no car — Dan’s car broke down on Friday night (in Pittsburgh, thank goodness; water pump — BAH!) and he had taken mine on Saturday for his Ohio trip.

Nonetheless, while Dora cupcakes were not feasible, some kind of cupcake could be in order. We were on hour 30 of my no-relief weekend, and I had to find something for us to do. (Cleaning and television were only holding the girls’ attention for so long.)

I immediately ran into another problem: lack of a cupcake recipe. Of all the cookbooks I own, none of them is especially focused on baking. (Shocking, I know.)

But, hey, this is why the Internet was invented.

I found this straightforward recipe, and I had all the ingredients, except the vanilla. Fortunately, this is why neighbors were invented, and my MIL had a bunch of extracts to choose from — I stuck with vanilla, but I have scoped out caramel and lemon as possibilities for the future.

Oh, and I had to wait for the butter, which I used instead of shortening, to soften. I must have planned to bake at some point in the past (possibly Christmas), because I had both salted and unsalted butter in my freezer. Unopened. (Yes, I used unsalted.) Because I do like muffins, and have made them successfully, I had paper cups and the proper baking pan for this recipe. Sometimes, I get lucky.

I take absolutely no credit when things turn out good — I really don’t. I attribute any and all successes to the recipe and my ability to read and follow directions.

The cupcakes were lovely — perfect little cakes (the recipe make about 18). And they smelled heavenly. Tell me true: people just bake to make their houses smell good, don’t they? While they cooled, the girls had “quiet” time, which I had to interrupt to make Kate run around the house five times. That girl had more energy than either I or or her sister this weekend. And yet, I couldn’t drive them outside to play for some reason. Well, with the exception of sprinkler time for a bit on Saturday.

Then I used this frosting recipe, the cocoa variation. Who knew that whipping up buttercream frosting was so easy? Besides everyone but me, probably.

We had two casualties, one right out of the pan (I made the girls share it), and one of the ones Kate was “frosting”. I let the girls lick the beater thingies — seriously, what are those called? The extensions? The mixers? — and the butter knives they were frosting with when they were done. I think Flora did four, Kate did two including the one she dropped (clever Kate), and I did the rest, and the girls added sprinkles (I have pictures, honest).

I was so buoyed by my success in the cupcake baking endeavor, that I may just get crazy enough to try it again. I may make lemon cupcakes with citrus frosting. Or caramel cupcakes with the cocoa frosting again. If I’m correct (and I know I may not be) I could just swap out the vanilla extract for another flavor, yes?

Anyhoo, we all survived the weekend, even stranded at home as we were. And my house was not a disaster area, all the cooking and baking aside. I even got the girls to clean up after themselves! (Along with the tomato gratin and cupcakes, I also made eggplant parmesan, for which I don’t even need a recipe. It was a weekend of good eating at Casa di RPM! Too bad Dan missed it!)