Moving Target

I love Halloween — for my kids. I think it’s a kid’s holiday: pretend, dress-up, candy, and fun after dark. I have always enjoyed my children’s excitement about Halloween.

But this year, it’s been a giant pain in my butt. Halloween, that is, not my children’s excitement.

First, I had every intention of constructing my kids’ costumes. I was going to use clothes and crafts materials to build Pokemon costumes for them, Dewott for Flora and Pikachu for Kate. I even got everything I needed — except for time. I mostly blame the bathroom renovation for this. It caused a lot of upheaval in different ways (primarily, of course, by completely disrupting our ability to bathe at home). I have to say, the girls took the news that I wouldn’t be able to make them Pokemon for Halloween extremely well.

Primarily because my husband brought home super hero costumes for them.

Second, actual Trick or Treat has been an issue this year. For the eight years I have lived in my community (and for some years before to my understanding), ToT has been the Thursday before Halloween.

I was totally ready for ToT to be the Thursday before Halloween. I’m so glad I thought to double check the township web site. Because this year they decided Trick or Treat would be on Halloween! Whheeee!

Now, the Thursday before Halloween? October 25? Was gorgeous. About 65 degrees, clear skies, no wind.

Actual Halloween? Long story short: the weather was going to be so inclement because of Superstorm Sandy, they postponed ToT until Saturday. Which, while it will be cold, at least should be dry.

Now, the girls have had Halloween events: the Boo Bash at the school Saturday the 27th, and classroom parties on Halloween, so they will get plenty of wear out of their costumes. As of today, they feel like ToT is never going to be here.

Don’t worry, my super girls. It’ll get here.

The Top 5 Reasons I’m Voting For Obama Again

1. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

2. The Economy: I know the opposition says that Obama hasn’t done anything, and there are people don’t like what he has done. I think Obama and the laws and programs he has enacted stopped the economy from going off a cliff and bursting into flames. It’s hard to argue about this conclusively; there’s no way to tell what would’ve happened if McCain had won the election. I suspect nothing good (which is why I voted for Obama last time).

The economy is recovering from the worst recession ever. Ever, period. It’s a slow recovery, but it’s been steady. We’ve gained jobs over the last 30 months (325,000 added since 2009). Unemployment is finally down below 8%. The stimulus worked (it did), but in fairness to the opposition who simultaneously loathed it and used it, it wasn’t big enough to work miracles. I found this interview very illuminating, although I haven’t read the book yet.

Obama wants to get people back to work, and he wants to continue to grow the middle class. He’s outlined his plan to do so (if people don’t know that, they’re not paying attention). He’s also been opposed at nearly every turn by Congress.

He couldn’t fix in four years what took nearly a decade to destroy. I’m going to give him another four to keep at it.

For an overview of Obama’s economic numbers, I like this graphic and article from They look at a lot of different things. Overall, I see more pros than cons.

3. Foreign policy: He ended the war in Iraq, and he’s responsible for Osama bin Laden’s death. I saw a bunch of retweets the other day that said in effect, “Obama didn’t kill bin Laden, Navy SEALs did.” If you really, really believe that (and judging by the number of times it was RT’ed in my timeline, a number of people do) YOU ARE MISSING THE POINT. I suspect, in fact, that people who RT’ed it are being willfully obtuse. He is called the Commander in Chief, after all.

4. Women’s rights. The way the Republican party is willing to publicly talk about women is appalling. They simply don’t care about us, girls. They don’t care about equal pay ; they don’t care about equal rights; they don’t care about your body (unless they get to tell you what to do with it); and they don’t care about your family. Nothing in their political agenda or platform is going to benefit you, unless you are rich and/or you are married to a rich white dude.

They don’t think discrimination exists for real.
They don’t think most rapes are legitimate.
They don’t think if you get pregnant from rape, it’s insult to injury. They think it’s a blessing, and that you’ll agree once you have your rapist’s child. (Think legislators who keep talking about rape in stupid ways are outliers? Think again.)
They don’t think that contraceptive access is either an economic benefit or a health care issue.
They don’t think you should be able to make choices about when to start your family.
They don’t think you should have information about how to make choices about when to start your family.

I am anti-abortion. I am pro sex education, pro contraceptive access, and pro economic benefits for women who want to work to support their families.

5. The Social Safety Net. Unemployment, college loans, welfare, Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid. I have used two of these benefits in my life (unemployment and federal college loans). I know that SS and Medicare need to be restructured — personally, I wouldn’t mind raising the age of retirement for my generation to 70 — but the GOP ticket doesn’t want you to have this safety net. They don’t care about poor people (a large number of whom are women and children), and they don’t think the government should help poor people.

Obama wants to make sure our most vulnerable populations aren’t further at risk. He’s not fostering dependency. He’s showing faith in the American people. That with help, they will succeed. (And, yes, many people, without help from the government, will succeed too. The government doesn’t need to help everyone! But I would argue that I’d rather know help from the government was an option if all else failed.)

PS: Gay rights. The continuing opposition in this country for civil rights for every person baffles me. The continuing hatred toward people who live or love differently than others — the minority in the majority — sickens me. I’m glad DADT is over; I’m glad it looks like DOMA will be viewed as unconstitutional. Live and let live, people. Better: live and let love.

Memory Lane: The Name Game

In honor of all the soon-to-be Twitter parents I know who are picking a name for their first or second or fourth babies.

Picking a name for a child is fraught with the possibilities of familial conflict. I must say that Dan and I were (are) pretty lucky. Although my MIL had names for all her grandchildren picked out, she knew full well that her children and children-in-law were going to name their kids.

(To wit, here are the names my MIL picked out: boy names were John Phillip and… ah! I can’t remember; girl names, Savannah and Philadelphia (yeah, IDK). Then she met my grandmother, and decided either I or my SIL had to have twin girls that we would name Olivia and Olympia.)

Obviously, none of these names came to pass. If my own parents had strong opinions about what we should name the children, they never told us.

When I was pregnant with Gabriel, Dan and I did not find out the sex of the baby. (I suspected he was a boy from the get-go, though.) When we talked names, I said if L’il Bean was a girl, I wanted to name her Flora Marie or Maria. Flora was his grandmother’s name, and Marie is the middle name of all the first-born girls in my family. I don’t remember any of the boy names we talked about; we didn’t pick Gabriel until we were in the hospital.

So: Flora became Flora. We went to Dan’s father when we found out she was a girl and asked for his blessing. Flora was his mother’s name; she died when he was 5 years old. We didn’t want using the name to be a source of pain. Of course, he was honored that we asked him, and said, “Of course.” (Looking back, I suspect that if I knew using the name would’ve caused a problem, I would’ve avoided it.)

When I was pregnant with Kate, and we found out she was a girl, I told Dan I wanted to use my father’s mother’s name (Kathryn). I said using it as a middle name would be fine.

But we couldn’t decide on a first name. I wanted to steer clear of very Italian sounding names because we already had one of those. I would’ve loved a Colleen or Irene (or Noreen or Maureen), but it was too rhymey with our last name. We briefly discussed Aubrey and Audrey, Gianna, Siobhan, Giada, and more.

Then suddenly, we realized that we were facing (another) induction, I distinctly remember turning to Dan and saying, “We need to pick a name!” I don’t remember who thought Kathryn would be a great first name, but we agreed on that point almost instantly. I think I proposed another family name (passed from his maternal grandmother down to his sister) that sounded perfect with Kathryn, plus we’d be keeping up with another naming tradition.

(My mother at first was not very fond of this choice. “That’s not a name!” she said when we told her.)

Also, Kathryn became Kate within about an hour of her birth.

And then our pregnancy with Le Bud. One of the reasons I was so happy he was a boy was because I didn’t think I could come up with another girl name. (Mentally, I put Danielle and Gabriella on the list.) When we first talked about names, I thought Michael was too “common”. I wanted Nathaniel, but we both thought that was too long (again, I don’t know). My brother and SIL (who have four boys) had taken up a lot of boy names! Dan’s other top pick was David, which I didn’t like for our son at all. (Again, don’t ask me why. M’s got two Uncle Daves, so it’s not like I dislike the name in general.)

Obviously, in the end, I came around to Michael. It was my Pap-pap’s middle name; Dan has an uncle and a cousin who are named Michael, so it straddled both families. We used my dad’s (and my brother’s) first name as a middle name.

In contrast to Kate, Dan and I continue to call him Michael, although we recognize that others do (and will) call him Mike. People call Kate “Katie” too. I mean, what are you going to do? Protip: Think of possible nicknames and initials before you name the babies! Poor Flora doesn’t get a nickname, although my brother is working hard to get Flo to stick.

During the process of all these name games, I think Dan’s favorite thing to do was to read baby name books. He had a blast sitting in the midwife’s waiting room reading out names and their meanings. We also loved watching sports (football and hockey, mostly), and trying out some of the more outrageous names with our last name. Ultimately, though, we never really fought about what to name our kids, and, as I said, our families never appeared horrified with our choices.

How did you/are you picking names for your offspring? Traditional, family, saints or sports?

The Annual PodCamp Dilemma

Monday Update: As much as I feel the change of focus and session topics will benefit me, I will have to wait until next year to attend PodCamp. Something else came up that makes it pretty much impossible for me to go. The scales tipped in favor of the kids, and I’m cool with that. I hope that PodCamp moves back to September. The move to October (because of a venue conflict) had me — obviously — feeling like I was shoehorning it in.

Also, my mom’s comment made me LOL. Thanks, Mom, mostly for calling me a young person.


This year’s PodCamp Pittsburgh (#pcpgh7) is next weekend.

PodCamp is always a dilemma for me. I’ve been to two of them, and they are super enjoyable and educational. I meet new people (or meet people IRL for the first time). Last year, I even presented, and it was awesome.

PodCamp is moving from a personal-type event toward a business/professional type event this year (the topics, I should say). Sessions are about social media marketing, blogging for business, social media for non-profits, entrepreneur-ship (and I would like you to know I spelled ‘entrepreneur’ right on the first try, BOOM), and so on.

And I would desperately like to go. I am having a real “what do I want to be when I grow up” phase in my life right now, and social media and social media marketing are part of that. (Incidentally, this has been going on since I attended my first PodCamp in 2009.)

I registered (General Rockstar) about a week ago. I’ve been dithering ever since and here’s why:

1. Logistics, logistics, logistics. I can’t get a babysitter for all day Saturday. I could probably go to the afternoon sessions, and maybe a couple on Sunday.

2. Sunday would require bribing my husband substantially. It is his only day off every week, and for me to decamp to what he views as a social event (leaving him with the three children) verges on traitorous.

3. I see PodCamp as an immersive event, and I just can’t be immersive this year. So is it worth it to go? I probably can’t network much. I probably can’t stay to socialize after the sessions are over. (Okay, maybe one drink.)

4. Since it’s changing focus, I may not know that many people going this year. I know more personal bloggers than professional social media marketing people. That’s neither a pro nor con, but see #3. (And I’m shy.)

5. All the other stuff going on in my life right now. I am planning two birthday events (Flora’s classroom party, and the kids’ party — I’m doing ONE family party for all three children); the holidays are fast approaching; THE BATHROOM IS BEING REMODELED, which if you can’t tell from me yelling, is a big huge deal/nightmare; three kids to manage.

What is pulling at me to attend at all is the fact that I want to move toward being a professional in social media. (Gawd, does that sound naive or pretentious? I can’t decide.) And I don’t mean I want to be a Justin Kownacki or Chris Brogan. I would kind of enjoy, however, being Dana Sheehan. (I don’t know if Dana knows that, or if she even remembers meeting me.)

So. Should I go, even though I can probably only do about 5 hours/sesssions total? I really need to decide this weekend. It’s a free event, technically speaking, but it still costs me a lot (energy, points with Dan, time, time with my children). I’m still trying to figure out if it’s worth it.

What say you?

Random Thoughts: After the Hiatus Edition

Oh em gee, you guys. I’m not really sure where to start. This is why I should try to post more than once a week.

1. If I have any advice (or assvice, depending on your POV) for any married (or otherwise partnered) couple with children: TAKE A DAY. Maybe two. Drive somewhere without your kids, stay over night in a hotel room, and do things that you did when you were a childfree couple. For Dan and me, that means: late nights, lots of drinks, lots of laughs, and, uh, yeah. That. Lots. And sleep, too.

2. While you are on hiatus, find a place that does a pedicure and ask if they do a hot stone massage as part of it. Then sit your butt down and submit to the man (or woman). Heaven on earth.

3. Also while you are on hiatus, find an Irish bar with an Irish singer, and make him sing “The Unicorn Song”. He will hate you so much, he will make people come on stage and do obscene gestures during the song, and you will laugh your ass off. I promise.

4. The next night, go back to the Irish bar, but leave the singer alone, unless he wants to talk about the ‘Burgh. He’s been here, I promise. (He thinks Primantis is overrated.) Also: Take the singer’s recommendation to download some Saw Doctors. Great band.

5. On the car ride back, Spotify is your friend. Dan and I traded our favorite Rolling Stones songs (who knew we had them?), listened to R.E.M. and 10,000 Maniacs, decided the best version of “Because the Night” was definitively done by Patty Smith, discovered Spotify has no Led Zeppelin (which, WTF?), and coasted into town on Little Richard. Good times, people.

6. At this point, I should have realized that reentry was going to be tough. I had scheduled a Vacation Recovery Day for Monday, but Kate woke up with a sore throat and a slight temperature. So VRD was more of a stay-home-with-sick-child day, where said child refused to act very sick. Still, I managed to clean a little, gather the dirty laundry, and Costco shop. It just all took a lot longer than I had planned, and instead of getting caught up on Parenthood episodes, I let Kate watch Lady & the Tramp and Ice Age.

7. Taking hiatus throws off routine. I think I should be able to get back into the groove tonight — I talked about it with the girls last night, as we had pierogies, veg sausage, apples, and cheese for dinner. Of course, having a sick child does, too, and Kate *insists* she is sick. “My froat hurts, my head hurts. my ears hurt. My eyes hurt!” *buries herself under blanket* (She’s not running a temperature today.)

8. Upcoming: flu shots, Halloween (and costume construction), bathroom remodeling (HOLD ME), parties, holidays, general winter time madness. I, too, would like to bury myself under a blanket until spring.


Aside: One dad and one guy on the last post. Two dads weighed in on Twitter (kinda). Do dads not talk to their kids about sex? Why not?

Tell me something good.

Sex Talk

I was listening to a podcast, and the women on it started talking about a father who left a note for his son when he discovered the son’s Internet porn stash (as it were). Toward the end of the discussion, they started talking about how they were going to talk to their children about sex (and/or porn).

The tone of the commentary was one of fear. One of the women even said, “I’m terrified about talking to my children about this stuff.” There was also some discussion about *who* would talk to kids about sex — mom, dad, both, school — and when? One of the moms said that she had already started, even when her kids were young (pre-school age), and just kept talking about it even though it felt so awkward. I admired her for that.

I was kind of curious about this among my peers. I posed the question on Twitter: “Who’s going to talk to your kids about sex? And when are you going to start?”

Now, in the interest of full disclosure: I’ve already started talking to my kids about sex (kind of). Really, it’s more about their bodies. Genitals are like any other part of the body at this point. They have no sexual context for the children yet — even though touching them feels good, that good feeling doesn’t mean “SEX”; it means something more like COMFORT. Even knowing where babies come from (and how they are made) is more about functionality at this point than sexuality.

Is it easy to talk to my kids about this? No, not really. I am (to my husband’s chagrin) much too forthcoming with basic information. My semi-coherent idea about this is that if I can answer my kids’ questions about their bodies now, and be open and honest (and refrain from giggling like a 12-year-old), as they grow in understanding and in sexuality, then they will come to trust me to deal with these issues matter-of-factly.

Responses on Twitter echoed those of the podcast. A lot of “GAH!” and “La la la, I can’t hear you.” It made me smile, because I totally understand that instinct. It’s terrifying to think about our children discovering porn and having sex (maybe this stops once they get married?). Dan has no intention of talking about sex with the girls — he’s the one who coined the term “lady business” (we also use “boy business” for M, obviously). When Flora asked him what being romantic meant, he answered, “Sitting alone and reading books.” To which I responded: *facepalm*.

I think part of the other reason I answer these questions (like I answer all my children’s questions to the best of my ability) is because I don’t want to sit down some day with my children when they are on the edge of puberty and try to give them the whole spiel at once. I don’t want to have a big, long “birds and bees” talk. I think that can be overwhelming — even when they’re on the verge of puberty. I’d rather give them discrete and age-appropriate bits of information.

I think it will become tricky when the moral component needs to be included in these discussions. The beginning and end of sex and sexuality talk in my home growing up was, “Don’t have sex until you get married.” This was radically unsatisfying to me (and I imagine it will be unsatisfying to my children as well). My Catholic school was pretty comprehensive when it came to sex education, but boiled down the message was: “Don’t have sex until you get married because you will ruin your life and/or die a horrible and awful death.” Even religion class didn’t address the WHY of the question. WHY was virginity so important to God? WHY should I wait until I get married to “do it”?

And honestly I’m still not 100 percent clear on how I’m going to express this to my own children. What I’m going to tell them is that our bodies, our sexuality, and sex are gifts from God. And like any gifts from God, we need to use them wisely and carefully — not to pleasure ourselves only, but to give glory to God. Sex is special, not something to be shared with a lot of people. Sex is to be part of the intimate bond of a committed couple, to bring them and keep them close.

Will this work? Will it keep my children virgins until they are married? I have no idea. Will I be called out for my own hypocrisy (I was not a virgin when I got married, not even close)? Possibly. I’m still working on that part of the discussion. Will I forbid discussion of birth control medication, condoms and other barrier methods, Planned Parenthood, and/or abortion? No, I will not. That seems futile. But to talk about those issues and still be able to say (without terrifying them), but this is why you still should wait until marriage — that’s what I’m aiming for. And also to do it in such a way that if they decide differently, I can deal with that with them too.

What’s your plan for teaching your kids (or the children in your life) about their bodies and sex? And what are you waiting for?

Meatless Monday: Quick Update on the Schedule

Here’s the update: if you feel stressed out by daily dinner making during the week, I cannot endorse making a weekly routine strongly enough.

Making a plan, like I did, simplifies things magnificently. Plus it puts a structure in place for me on the weekends when it comes to cooking ahead.

The only thing I haven’t nailed down so far is the Saturday night pizza. I guess part of that is the fact that on Saturdays I have a lot of CSA vegetables that need to be used. (My pick up is on Thursday.) So Saturday is a bit of a crapshoot depending on how busy the day is, what’s in the freezer, and how much time I have. This Saturday, for example, I didn’t cook dinner at all; we went out because we needed to run errands in the evening. Having a night like this, on a weekend, doesn’t stress me out very much at all. It’s kind of nice to not be locked into something.

Sunday I cooked (for the most part), three meals: Sauce for Monday night (broccoli cream pesto that I can’t wait to try); a vegetarian Irish stew in the slow cooker for Tuesday; and Sunday dinner (which was raviolis, salad, and Quorn nuggets).

Monday morning, I made the pasta for Monday night.
I’ll make a loaf of Irish soda bread (from a prepared mix) either Monday night or Tuesday morning.
Wednesday morning, I’ll probably cook the mini corn dogs for that night.

It’s all very structured and comforting to me. I get the sense from the kids that they like it too. Part of it is probably the routine (kids like routine, trust me on that) and part of it is that stressed out Mommy’s not driving home saying, “So what should we have for dinner tonight??”

Anyway, if you find yourself at sea when dinner time rolls around, especially during the week, I would suggest putting together a plan like this. It really is awesome.

What works for you and your family when meal time hits?

Thinking Aloud: Preaching Politics

At church this Sunday, the priest used his homily to talk about voting pro-life. I’m not comfortable when politicking comes from the pulpit, but it happens regularly (and not just every four years). I’m not really crazy about singing “God Bless America” in church, but that happens regularly too. Heck, not two weeks ago, there was a voter registration drive outside the church I attended!

I’m not sure the priest would’ve summed up his homily the way I just did, and I can’t give you a run down of every thing he said, because I was in a very crowded cry room that was, as per advertised, very loud with teh cries.

But what I gleaned from what I did manage to hear was this: Voting pro-life (i.e. against abortion and euthanasia) was the single most important thing that you should do as a Catholic.

The priest did not specifically mention any candidate by name, nor did he explicitly endorse any candidate (which is something that is apparently happening in some Protestant churches this Sunday).

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a single-issue voter, hence I don’t vote on abortion. If you were to put my vote in one of two piles (pro-choice or pro-life), it would end up in the pro-choice pile. And I’m resigned to that, if not wholly comfortable with it.

I think it’s easy for the Catholic church to take a pro-life stance that is consistent. The church has a variety of programs and initiatives in place that (in my opinion) make it a very pro-life organization. The church encourages and participates in social services, social justice, ministry to the poor, and stands against war, the death penalty, euthanasia, and abortion.

On the other hand, it’s hard for me to take the GOP seriously on the pro-life/family values platform they want to put forth. The Romney/Ryan budget is not, in my view, very friendly to anyone who is not rich, white, and/or male. Which, if those are your economic issues, that’s cool. Or if you do vote on abortion, gay marriage, or other social issues that are based on your religion, well have at it. The GOP may be more to your liking.

My economic interests include more than just me. I think the Democrat’s platform is more inclusive, and does more to help lift people up.

Additionally, most of the hatred that I see spewed regarding social issues seems to come from the right. I’m not saying that everyone who is conservative is hateful, and I don’t hate conservatives or Republicans. But, when the language turns negative — hateful, misogynist, racist, and so on — I’ve seen that more from the right than from liberals or Democrats. (If I’m off-base here, you can correct me.)

As a Catholic, I believe that God is love. I believe that our purpose here is to love one another — from the richest to the poorest, to a man, to a woman, to a child. Even if you don’t agree with me, I should show you love.

That’s what Jesus would do. That’s the answer to the question. Love one another.

I’ve gotten far afield here, but I think the message the priest was preaching was simplistic. My conscience leads me to vote like Catholics for Obama. If that’s not the type of pro-life Catholic my priest wants me to be, then I guess I’m doing it wrong. But it doesn’t feel like it to me.