Probed by Tulip...

Brought to you live from Marriott Downtown Hotel in Louisville from The Conference. So much more blogging on THAT in next few days, you are likely to gag. (HBM and Bub roll in tomorrow...I am getting my beauty rest after this so I can receive them appropriately....)

(and yes, this post was just an opportunity to play on word "probe")

I asked Mama Tulip to interview me earlier this week (she did offer. to anyone) Here are her questions and my mangled answers.

1. When you moved abroad, what was the most difficult transition for you to make?
Well I was 21 when I moved to Michigan. At the time the most difficult transition was having to wear midwestern down-filled winter outwear and sensible snow shoes. I was in a hot pants and platform shoes phase, you understand. Bulky clothing was an anathema. I also sorely missed British Telly and thought Seinfeld was dead boring. Yes. I was an idiot.

2. Do you have a British accent? Do you say things like 'mumsy' and 'jolly' and 'righty-o, then' and 'innit'?
I still sound quite Cor Blimey, most certainly. I say "bloody hell" and "shite" and call my husband "love." But I've adjusted my tongue. You say tomayto and I say....tomayto. Mainly because I got a bit sick of being asked to "just say Tom-ah-to one more time, pur-leaaaze." (how I have suffered, Mama T....) To 'mericans I sound like a right old Eliza Doolittle. The folks at home inform me that there's a perceptible shift which is gone within two seconds of a phone call to me Old Mum. I can also really creep out my friends in the States by slipping into a passable midwestern accent from time to time. Oh, and my four year old has a bit of British diction now and then, but has recently taken to informing me that it's not "Cah-stle" it's "Casstle" and not "Ahse" but "Ass" etc., etc. No, I do not say "mumsy," "jolly," or "righty-oh." That's for posh twats from Chelsea, innit?

3. Do you fart in front of your husband?
Did so on our second date. We were engaged within two weeks.

4. What has been the most difficult part of being a mother of two for you?
It's the typical issue of feeling like you are not as "present" for your second as you were with the first. Every milestone with our first was recorded for prosperity; we obsessed over him; we lavished him with attention. With the baby, we (his Dad and I) both have pangs of guilt because he feels like part of the scenery in some ways.

To be honest, though, (and give me time on this--he is in the 4 month relatively mobile and easy stage, after all) it's not anywhere near as tough as we thought it would be. There's something to be said for the four year age gap in that regard. (and of course, as I sit here in my hotel room with a wine buzz and my husband deals with the offspring solo for the long weekend at home, it's easy for me to pontificate on how eeeeeeeasy it is. [Loveyoumeanit, love!])

5. What's your all-time favourite movie?
Waiting for Guffman. ("Those people are Bastard People")

Want to be probed by me? Go on. I dare you. (just say the word...)

Oh--and if you want to know more about the British Language and also want to see House (Hugh Laurie) as I have always known him, see:


2007 Odyssey. One baby, a Four Year Old, Three Adults and an Eight Hour Road Trip.

This morning our oldest staggered into our room at 7:30am and asked "How did it get to be morning so quickly?" How indeed.

This weekend we hooked up with our old friend, Jen (and her delicious minivan) and embarked on an 8 hour trek to celebrate our friend Jill's 40th and her PhD graduation. Old friends descended on St. Louis from Michigan, California, Oregon, North Carolina, Tennessee, fricking everywhere, just so we could be there for her and although I feel like the walking dead today, it was well worth it. I think I'm still hungover though. And yes. there is nothing that says "responsible adult" better than getting trashed on Saturday night because you've got a babysitter at the hotel, godamnit, and who has time to eat anyway with all these old friends to catch up with??! Yes. yesterday's looooong journey back with an infant and a bored 4 year old in the back of the van--it was delightful. And completely self-inflicted, so I could not even play the sympathy vote. We rolled back into town at 10pm. Exhausted.

And let me tell anyone who turns up their nose at the minivan concept has not travelled for 8 hours in the beauteousness that is a Honda Odyssey. I've never been shy about declaring my love and wont for a minivan (we're a Toyota Matrix family right now) but this was the clincher. I could wander up and down between the two boys imparting pacifiers, new DVDs, and corporeal punishment at my complete leisure. Aside from reconnecting with old friends and the balmy 75 degree weather, that fricking minivan was the highlight of my trip. Serious. And actually, I was pretty lucky in my delicate state yesterday, as my boys were both rather angelic for the whole trip. (Well, apart from Friday night at the hotel, when Big Boy reenacted The Exorcist for us by hurling all over the room. Poor wee thing). I attribute this exemplary behaviour completely to the van experience. No doubt about it. That and the "Spare Adult." We decided as a group that the Spare Adult was something that no family should do without. I'd even consider going Mormon--at least for vacations.

(p.s. this was meant to be a deep and meaningful post about the value of long-term friendship, and blah blah blah, but I am too knackered. For now I will mark this experience by fetishizing the minivan. For now.)

(p.p.s. I am hopping on a plane for The Conference this Thursday to meet old and new friends. At this very moment, the very thought makes me want to curl up in the fetal position. But I put that down to the rotgut and bad living. If I am quiet or absent from your place for a while, just picture me feverishly pulling together a powerpoint slideshow with lots of animation and sound effects;-)


Musical Meme (Or, God. I Am Old)

I am finally getting back the Fairly Odd Mother's tag, spurred on by some of the fine ladies (and chap) in last night's AI open thread at MamaPop. (If you are an AI fan, this thread seriously enriches the entire experience. It's like being in a room of slighty tispy snarks. It's delightful. Do Not Enter if you are a Sanjaya fan though. Or if you do, prepare to be politely ridiculed).

list seven songs you are into right now. No matter what they are. They must be songs you are presently enjoying. Then tag seven other people to see what they’re listening to.

1. Lilly Allen, "Everything's Just Wonderful." The thing about Lilly Allen is she makes me feel Old. I also feel like she would be one of those rough girls down the bus stop who would have hassled me shitless as an adolescent. My husband thinks it's a persona, but I am not so sure. She intimidates me, but I think this add to the certain frisson when I listen to curiously banal lyrics like:

"Oh Jesus Christ almighty, Do I feel alright?
No not slightly,
I wanna get a flat I know I can't afford it,
It's just the bureaucrats who won't give me a mortgage,
Well it's very funny cos I got your fucking money,
And I'm never gonna get it just because of my bad credit
Oh well I guess I mustn't grumble,
I suppose that's just the way the cookie crumbles.

2. I often rely on my pal sweetney to inform me as to what the Hipster Parent about town is listening to. There's only so much ColdPlay a girl can listen to after all. Her Spring Mix was crammed with arteeestes I had no clue about. This also made me feel old. And then I listened.... and my Hipster Parent Image was duly returned. I particularly enjoy Postcards from Italy by Beirut.

Who is Beirut? Fucked if I know. But they can play a mean ukelele? Banjo? Harpsichord? I dunno, but it's a bit like Rufus Wainright meets Surfjan Stevens (yes. I know. I should be writing for Rolling Stone).

3. The car I tend to drive to work has a radio only. It is normally tuned to NPR. (Can I put down NPR? Don't think so). If I am driving it, it is also sometimes tuned to the Student Radio station here. It's my way to stay in touch with the masses (and also have a good yell at the DJ when she refers to SOOOFRA-GETTE City..... Lord!).

I have been listening to two songs at Full Radio Volume: Shake that Ass On the Dance Floor by Vicious Vicious. (audio sucks on this--sorry) This is the most ponderous remonstration for one to "shake one's ass" I have ever heard, but I like it all the better for it.

4. And also: Grace Kelly by Mika. It makes me nearly as buoyant as Scissor Sister's I Don't Feel Like Dancing.

5. Badly Drawn Boy: Easy Love on One Plus One is One. I like all things Badly Drawn. All things.

6. ...running out of steam.... At work I listen to Magnatune.com, and particularly enjoy a bit of Bach at my desk while I'm pulling my hair out over multimedia specs. (Happy Birthday Bach!!!) Antonio Meneses, Bach Cello Suites. Totally stops me from going postal. Also pleasant music to pump by.

7. Ok. Coldplay. The ubiquitous ColdPlay. When I am feeling particularly melancholic or overly dramatic I like to wallow in the lyrics of "Fix You." Much as I like to pretend I am Clare from Six Feet Under when I listen to "Breathe Me" By Sia on a quick run to the grocery (in the Good Car with CD player).

Tagging! Well, I tag Sweetney, but she actually beat me to posting this meme (she did this officially tagless, sad whore). Here it is, along with some quite reprehensible references to my dark colonial past.

Who else?
Oh the Joys, Mama Tulip, Flutter, Birchsprite, GunFighter and One Weird Mother.


It's Not Just About the Cha-Cha-Cha, Y'Know... (edited with epiphany!!!)

Edited to add: OK. Tina C asks in the comments why people bash this show as the worst form of entertainment. GOOD QUESTION. On one level this does seem the "lowest common demoninator" form of entertainment--totally glitzy, girls in skimpy costumes, cheesy jokes by the host, lounge acts at half time. But the reason why this show is a superior talent/reality show in my opinion is that despite the personalities and the glitz, etc., this show is *not* about self. In fact, to do what they do requires not only an amazing amount of discipline, it requires a good degree of self effacement. The unique talent or personality of an individual does not come into play, instead he or she must entertain by a strict set of rules. Very strict. One aspect of the enjoyment here is watching how well people allow themselves to be taught, how well they give themselves over almost entirely to something totally difficult and new. Now I realize this I LOVE IT MORE!!!

OK. That might be a tad over the top, but you get my general drift.

I was in a stink yesterday. In fact, all weekend. Boob Douche aside (and the magical cure for the itch? Monsistat. Fucking Monistat) it's been like Typhoid Mary around our place lately. I am sick of listening to myself complain about various ailments, but suffice it to say that our walls have resonated with the sounds of hacking coughs, raspy voices, and throwing up. It's been pretty rank, really. But now I think we are all on the mend.

So last night I was prepared to let my mood grow even fouler by complaining about the dearth that is Monday night television (and no we don't Tivo. We just don't. And yes. Television is My Life).

And lo and behold, I discover a new season of Dancing with the Stars is on and I become a new woman. DWS stands out as a reality show for me, because it's nice. It is seriously just some good, clean fun. No backbiting or voting off because of personality (although Tucker Carlson was the first to be voted off last season, which pleases). Just a bunch of D-list celebrities who can't dance for shit actually learning to dance rather well. And not just dance, but dance traditional ballroom, which requires a whole new level of discipline and honest hard work, and so garners my respect for these D-Listers all the more.

For instance, Billy Ray Sirus--who "demulleted" his partner in a playful dance move last night (genius!)--was compared by the judges to a Bear staggering in the swamp. And yes there was something tragically lumbering and buffoonish about his performance. Will Billy pull through and astound us all? It can happen. (but not for Master P, it seemed)

Joey Fatone from 'N Sync--What a goofball! I love him. I didn't know it before, but I am a mega Joey fan! I have never seen anyone have such gleeful fun while dancing the Cha-Cha-Cha, or anything for that matter. It warmed the cockles of my heart. Watch Joey and I challenge you not to smile.

Laila Ali. Boxer. (Daughter of Muhammed). Brick. House. Lady's got an arse on her (which I can respect) and let me tell you she carries it with grace and dexterity. She is also probably the only non-vapid (or criminally insane) female contestant this year.

John Ratzenburger. Cliff from Cheers. Came into the competition two weeks after everyone else (replacing Uncle Pussy from the Sopranos--a loss sorely felt in these here parts)Looked like it could be a clusterfuck in the making. But no sirree. He was lithe, playful, and totally pulled off the fancy footwork. Fabulous! He was even--dare I say it--a teensy bit sexy. (Yes. These miracles occur on DWT). Last season's show made me a believer in Jerry Springer (what a great attitude) and this year I am hoping Ratzenburger can prove to the world he is so so so much more than Cliff from Cheers and the voice of all those Pixar creatures.

Shandi Finnessey. Former Miss USA. Seems nice enough. Had the tremendous misfortune of being paired up with this guy. If you think he looks alarming here, you should see him in live action. Makes your jaw hurt.

Heather Mills (formerly McCartney). Was referred to as "Celebrity Charity Worker" all night (as opposed to Paul's psychotic? ex-wife). I was impressed by how much the show downplayed the fact she has a prosthetic leg. NOT!!!!! (cue video clip of her bandying about her various prosthetics five million times). Her appearance marred the evening for me, not least because it made my BeatleManic husband veritably froth at the mouth. When she was awarded the scores of 6, 6, and 6 he started ranting about Satan's Spawn and "the sign, the SIGN." (you think I'm kidding). I found her attempt to join in the good clean fun rather strained. Anyone would think it's a publicity stunt to curry good favor among the plebs or something.


Insomnia Not Required (Review of Breus's Good Night)

There's a bitter irony to the fact that as I wrote this post (a particularly desperate rant about baby-induced sleep-deprivation) there nestled gently on my nightstand was this book, Good Night: The Sleep Doctor's Four Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health.

Read more of my review over here...


"Real Mothers" Meme Spawn

For BlogWhore and Mama Tulip

Real Mothers...

Find themselves googling search strings such as:
"nipples + itchy + searing pain + wimp" and (on a weekend) "thrush + homeopathic remedies"

Real Mothers closely examine the gruesome gallery of thrush nipple pictures available online and thereby stand for long periods in front of the bathroom mirror in vein attempt at visual self-diagnosis.

Real Mothers find themselves ransacking the cupboards for White Vinegar "they fucking knew they had..." for homeopathic remedy.

Real Mothers begin to fantasize about mystical healing powers of White Vinegar Boob Douche on a Sunday afternoon.

Real Mothers piss and moan about Nipple Itch and White Vinegar shortage to such excess that Male Partners are left with no choice but to go in search of Great White Vinegar, taking offspring along for the hunt.

Real Mothers, blogging about boob douches because, like, they haven't got anything better to do..

Part of the Real Mothers meme spawned by the evil Kristen at The Mom Trap--see the rules here and then break them, like me.
(I am supposed to include a picture. Uhm. I think I'll spare you...)

I tag:
HBM, Miscelleaneous Mum, Tere, Amanda, Slouching Mom


Big Fat Caveat (edited with another smaller caveat from Mad)

Before the Fat Caveat, I need to thank everyone who has commented here or at blogrhet. Thank you also to those have written posts on the topic (even by coincidence) and shared your links--I intend to create a list of these to share and reference. HBM and I have also enjoyed some spirited emails with a few folks. Debate has ensued. And it's been great. My head has been spinning, my brain ticking, ticking, ticking. And I'll confess to being a touch overwhelmed with it all, sorting through responses and figuring out what it all means (or trying to). (Does anyone else go to bed with a blogging blogging brain???) Once we get closer to this "what does it all mean?" question, we'll be sharing our views--views that have been shaped and informed by your contributions. A working example of what we intend to argue about these networks being knowledge-making communities.

But before we get there, I needed to write this post and more directly address one of the central critical issues several of you have raised.

When we ask "Who are we?" we also need to pay close attention to Who We Are Not. In other words, who does not get to be included in this "feel the love" community so many of us are describing. Exclusions that may not be deliberate, but are certainly there.

The staggering response to the Today Show's vilification of mothers who (gasp) have a drink while their children play was without doubt a community-strengthening moment. Bloggers--especially mommybloggers--wrote insightful (and I would argue, feminist) critiques of the piece, and argued that it participated in a larger culture where double standards for mothers are the norm. Over here I was rubbing my hands in glee as the community went into action in a way that so perfectly fit into the arguments we were forming for our research.

But check out this lone comment on the issue over at Izzy's place (from the Lovely Mrs Davis):

"I totally agree that the sub-text of the segment was that mothers are unable to think critically and that they need to be told how to parent. But I also think that there is more to this. There's a qualifier there that isn't being said out loud by anyone, yet seems to exist. I think when we (moms/bloggers) say that this is okay for moms to do, we only mean it's okay for "moms like us" to do — middle class (or higher), educated moms who are married, with seemingly stable lives. I don't think we would all respond so positively if the mom in the Today Show hot seat was a single/divorced mom who works nights and lives in a crappy apartment complex. Would we trust her judgment as well as we trust our own?"

Would we?

That unspoken qualifier, that it's okay for "moms like us," reveals a great deal about the boundaries of this community and reminds me uncomfortably that we are in many ways a blogging elite. As I noted last week, mommyblogging is a largely white, privileged enterprise. In this way, it is directly reflective of a broader digital divide--both socially and globally. Though my experience is that the bloggers in these networks are largely liberal and embracing in their perspective (and we've certainly heard stories of exceptions to this) the fact of the matter is that we are largely straight white women with enough education and income to be at this "technological cutting edge."

This of course means that any democratizing or liberatory claims about "blogging" (whether in this context or in others) need to be seriously scrutinized. Who's getting freed here? (And, more to the point, at whose expense?)

If we're attaching this argument to women, and specifically mothers, what version of womanhood or motherhood is being redefined in this equation? I am sharply reminded that to refer to "motherhood" as some sort of universal that can be "transformed" has a leveling effect that can be deeply problematic. And over at blogrhet, Aurelia at Mama Scribes has applauded the project but cautions,

"I just wonder if this transformation of motherhood will systematically leave out groups of women who have been historically left out of these discussions. Also, if motherhood can indeed be transformed through blogging, how would it alter the realities of motherhood for mothers outside of the blogosphere and how long would it take, I wonder."

In the 1980s, "feminism" came under attack by women of color and lesbian feminists who were marginalized by "mainstream" white, heterosexual feminism. It became clear that recognition of "women's oppression" also required attention to historical and social specificities because, in the words of Michele Barrett, "how useful is it to collapse widow-burning in India with 'the coercion of privacy' in Western Europe, into a concept of such generality?.

As several of you have pointed out, the transformative and political claims of this panel might well repeat that act of leveling and therefore exclusion. Not good.

But does this mean that the panel should shift its focus and examine these other marginalized communities? I would say no (for now). Does it mean we have to be very explicit about the specific context for this analysis? Absolutely. Any claims for transformation need to be tempered. Always. Analyses such as these need to be considered as groundwork for other much-needed analyses of other marginalized communities, part of a broader conversation that must take place as we move into an increasingly wired social world.

And am I arguing that mothers and women--even white women--are marginalized or subordinated? Yes I am. As a feminist, my fundamental belief is that we have not achieved gender equality in society. I believe the digital divide takes place along lines of race, class and gender. (As I sit here in my largely white, male workspace at an academic computing center and take lunch orders for an upcoming meeting)

This is important work, and I think something very interesting is happening socially. It's our charge to articulate what that is, and ask ourselves hard questions about how "radical" such changes actually are, but at the same time not lose sight of what positives are emerging--in specific contexts--that can potentially make a change to that uneven field many of us are playing on right now.

Let me hand over to Mad, who has framed this change far more eloquently than I could hope to...

Mothers (gasp!!) have taken back their authority to mother from the experts; the parenting books are now being read simply as supplements, not gospels. Yes, blogging mothers have recreated much of the support network that has always been
a vital part of parenting. They have gained confidence in their roles as mothers and have crafted a sense of agency to think and act as women integrated in the various mantles they are forced to adopt (employee, mother, wife, intellectual, activist...). In short, they have created a whole new set of operating instructions for what it means to be a mother.

[Edited to Add: Mad has rightly emphasized in the comments that this quote is from a paragraph in her original post where she is using the term "mother" is a very situated and context-specific way, to refer to mothers who are experiencing a sense of transformation through blogging. In light of the overall topic of my post here, this is a point worth emphasizing!] (Thanks Mad)


Hot Blog on Blog Action (Or "When Academic Blogging Chicks Go Wild")

Last summer, when I was on some sort of second trimester “I am a fricking machine right now, keep the estrogen a-comin'” buzz, I wrote this impossibly long post. My brain was utterly on overdrive as I thought about this whole blogging thing, what it meant to me personally and also what I was beginning to think about it all from an academic perspective. In it I yak on about dominant theories of social networking, such as Barabasi’s, which argue that a site’s power status is acquired through the volume of linkages to it (linkages that are largely not returned). This is why “linky lurve” posts, like my last two, are a “nice thing to do.” Such gestures say “I think you’re special, and you deserve a higher technorati rating darnit.”

But comments don’t count in this measurement at all (and not in technorati ratings either). And I think is a big problem if you are going to do a qualitative analysis of the (largely) women’s community we have right here (hey ladies! And gent! How are ya?). Because commenting is a fundamental attribute to how these here communities (smaller, technically lower "ranked" blogs like this one that make up the “long tail” of the blogosphere) are developed and maintained.

That’s all I’ll say on this for now, but if you are remotely interested, stay tuned for another post on the role of commenting (or not commenting) for us all. (And I so would like your ideas on this one) Anyway. In the beast-post (and apparently I am writing another one right now) I threatened to start researching and thinking about these issues in more depth. Her Bad Mother offered to join me for the ride (and who can say no to such a purdy companion? And her technorati ratings are way higher than mine, so my association can only bring me power and glory, of course. That and the fact that the woman can think up a storm and I love her.)

The first thing we did was send out a panel proposal to the Gender Studies sessions for this communications conference (along with another very sharp blogger who shall remain nameless until I know she does not have a problem with being outed, and then also joining us is one of my b.f.f.s, Paula, who does not blog—what’s up with that?—but who is a supersmart theorist and teacher of writing in online environments). And in order to share ideas and prepare for the panel, we decided to (you guessed it) get ourselves a blog. And it’s right here.
http://blogrhet.blogspot.com/. And our panel summary is here.

Some of you have stumbled on it already and made “uh, I am not sure if I am mean to be here, but here’s what I think..” types of comments. We LOVE visitors! (Otherwise, why make it open?) but we’re also slightly paranoid that we’ll bore the tits off you by inflicting the arsy-academic speak, which is probably stupid because one of our main contentions is that women’s blogs (especially so-called mommyblogs) are knowledge-making communities. (As opposed to a bunch of "creepy" or "mindless" women blogging about all the mundane and trivial details of their private lives and stupidly putting their kids out there in the process, which seems to be popular public perception many of us our familiar with).

Anyhoo. Drop on by. There's not much there now, but we're hoping to change that and even do some cross posting here and at HBM's. My friend, Paula, has a distance from this community that is actually pretty useful (God. I hope she is not going to find the rest of us hideously tedious by day two when we're still banging on about who's been blogging who here, and what this blogger blogged there). Her distance is important in that she can actually ask us questions that force us to define what this community "is," and more specifically the understood conventions and community-building practices of so-called "mommyblogs" (I know my community is made up of more than mommybloggers, and that "mommyblogging" itself is a loaded term, but for the purposes of the panel we're sticking to that focus, even while we're complicating simplistic notions of what mommybloggers actually do).

Most of us intuit how we work our blogs and our communities, and write with presumed knowledge to one another about it, but sitting down and describing how we do this thing we do to an outsider so can be another matter. So Paula's posed a few questions for me, and you can see my initial brainstorm responses below. And, you guessed it, we would love your feedback, criticism, suggestions. If for no other reason than to prove in practice what we're arguing in theory--that we are a deeply interactive, knowledge-making community (and not a bunch of scribbling women with no sense of private boundaries).

Here's a summary of the questions for you:

1. Who are we? (Who is writing these "mommy" blogs?)
2. Who are we writing to? Who is our audience?
3. Why are we writing? What is our purpose?
4. What is the context for our writing? What are we saying? What is our message?
5. How does the medium of blogging affect all this?

And here is my first stab at answering them:

Who are we? (Who is writing these blogs?)
I can only answer this one based on my own experience, and we need to do a wider quantitative survey here--but I would say it’s largely North American women. Mainly white, college degreed, and in the great scheme of things relatively privileged (there are certainly exceptions--do they prove the rule?) Age range is wide, but I would say mainly in the 30 something range, and mainly women with young children (but this might be the bloggers I gravitate to, being a thirtysomething myself). Again, there are exceptions to prove the rule here. There are a lot of women who are educated, have or have had careers, and who took up a blog when they became mothers.

Many SAHMs who use blogging as a means to combat isolation but also women who work—and in this space “mommy wars” between SAHMs and working mothers do not seem to exist—even though the topic is debated widely. I find this very interesting (and I was just talking to someone about this, but can't remember who, so please forgive that I am not crediting you on this!)

Who are we writing to? Who is our audience?
I'd say that those of us who occupy this "long tail" of the blogosphere are mainly writing for one another--it's a means of communication and interaction. This is certainly not to say that higher ranked bloggers are not communicating and interacting, but participating in the community in a reciprocal way would be impossible for bloggers with thousands of readers (and it often feels impossible to those of us with considerably few--hence comment fatigue for many of us).
However, these bloggers (dooce, sweetney, amalah) become dense "nodes" through which other bloggers meet up and connect.

Interestingly, and I've just been chatting to HBM about this, it seems comments are often proportionally much higher in these "community-centered" blogs in relation to visits (you there, lurker;-)). It seems as traffic (and rank) goes up or is perceived to be of high status (and what cues us in that a blog is a "biggy"? That's worth thinking on some more, certainly) comments diminish (dooce is the one glaring exception to this, methinks--proving the rule, perhaps?).

We think this reveals a lot about the way in which audience perceives the blogger, who perhaps shifts from “friend” or “peer” to “writer/author” perhaps? (what do you think, dear reader-slash-friend? Clearly, there’s a lot to say on this alone, but the distinction seems to be one of peer-writer/community vs. author/audience. Not that this is cut and dry by any means—we can all find ourselves vacillating between the two, for sure. (I think. Yes?). (I know I write for an audience as well as for the community--but more on this in another post. That and the fact that I am closet exhibitionist who can be a little more obsessive about her stats and comments than she would like).

I think it would be very easy (and interesting) to do a content analysis of our blogs to show that we are presuming a shared knowledge among our readers (related to kids, breastfeeding, sex, etc). This will reveal a great deal about our perceived sense of audience and also our community.

Why are we writing? What is our purpose?
I know this only anecdotally and experientally: Many women start blogs so they can share photos and stories with friends and families. Others start them because of a sense of isolation (especially SAHMs). Dooce and Sweetney have both written extensively on this. I think other reasons include the wish to write and express one's self. I have written, and so has Mom 101 and many others, on how the blog starts as a means to "be" a writer, but that it becomes about relationships. The community becomes a central reason and motivator to continue writing. (I've been chatting with Slouching Mom about this one via email). Significantly, it can also become a central reason people quit--it can feel overwhelming at times (again--worthy of another post).

Along with community--and I am not sure if this is the same--is the addiction of knowing you have readers via comments and webstats. This becomes another incentive to keep writing. The sense of validation it gives us.

What is the context for our writing? What are we saying? What is our message?
Everything. Certainly the recounting of personal experiences is most common. The sharing of experiences concerning kids, relationships, life as a mother. The sharing goes on in the form of posts, comments and interlinking. One person might write a post on breastfeeding, citing news events, and then another person posts on the same topic, linking to the original--continuing the conversation, and so forth. It would make a very interesting network map. Networks and conversations emerge around specific topics (the cocktails on playdates debacle and its overwhelming response in blogland is an excellent example, as is the response to the infamous Time article on "hipster parenting").

To a point, it is good form to always mention the original post and link to it--this builds trust and a sense of good faith (stealing ideas and posting links to news articles or such as if you found it yourself is considered bad form).

How does the medium of blogging affect all this?
Well, obviously, the linkages I mention above could not take place. Neither could the comments. The blog as a medium is critical because knowledge and ideas emerge as a result of conversation and interaction. You can track how a topic is discussed, how the community interprets it, and the consensus (or lack thereof) about what it all means. There are many other significant ways in which we bloggers adapt our blogs to signify belonging to a particular community (and I myself an exception in this, because Oranges don't signify nothin' relevant here, which was actually one reason I chose them).

These include:
1. Using "Mom" "mommy" or "mother" or even "Mrs" in the blog's title. (and/or using a child's name "Keira's Mom"; "Bub and Pie" etc.)
2. Developing graphical banners that ironically play on notions of "perfect" motherhood--often through nostalgic visual references to "wholesome" 1950s mom and/or Pulp fiction iconography: http://mom101.blogspot.com/

Or alcohol (to signal--'let's have a drink together, relax, have a chat"): http://www.mothergoosemouse.com/

The visual rhetoric of our blogs is worthy of a book alone, not to mention the role of photo-sharing. I would argue, along with Her Bad Mother, that photo-sharing is a critical means by which the community comes together and establishes trust and a sense of intimacy, though this issue is highly contentious and debates also center on the issue of children's privacy and potential risk factors that come with this activity (you'll have noticed that I do not share pics, and mainly because my husband is on the other side of the fence on this issue and as I respect his views and wishes--and want my dinner cooked for me when I get home--I don't post pics--but you should know, my boys are freaking gorgeous).


Tell me. What I am missing? What am I getting wrong?

OK. I am going to stop here. Too much already. But as you can probably tell, I am very excited by all this because I think it's important to talk about what we're doing here. And do it ourselves as opposed to let others do the talking and theorizing for us. What we are doing by blogging our lives is in many ways pretty radical (remember finslippy--mommyblogging is a radical act? yes. yes it is). The next challenge is to keep articulating just exactly how it is radical.

So. if you have the time, let me know your thoughts. If you are not a commenter, then do consider emailing me (gingajoy at gmail dot com). I'd really like to know your reasoning for not commenting (or you can just tell me to mind my own business). No judgements whatsover--jeebus, most of the people reading this post will not feel the need to pontificate on it openly, and that might be the wiser gesture! (I am a self-confessed Attention Whore, but thankfully, not everyone else rolls that way that way) But if you have anything to say, I'm all ears, people. Talk to me (to us)!

No need to worry about Junior knocking back the Purell

That's if you were worried about Junior knocking back the Purell, which I'm not. (But check back when he's 15, and I might be singing a different tune)....[read more]

My inaugural review for the Parent Blogger's Network has hit the presses, and you can check it over here at GingaJoy Assesses

(that's "AssesSES")



I Blog, Therefore I Think.

Last week, Oh The Joy's gave me a Thinking Blog Award (last week I could think, y'see). Anyway, this is one of those pay it forward things.

I would like to bequeath a Thinking Blog Award to the following folks who normally get this old brain matter a-churning.

Toyfoto for Changing of the Gardisil. If you want a balanced discussion of why this whole Gardisil business is a tricky one for many of us, I highly recommend this post. I'd also like to tack on award for "most generous commenter" (apart from Ozma and Doow, who also need a prize from me on this one).

JenEx for A Really Long Post About Infertility and Pregnancy and Adoption. Jen's story may be familiar if you read Amalah's Daily Dose at all, and it's a fascinating one, but if you've not gone over there, check out this post and also her Greatest Hits list on the right of her blog. The story of Li's adoption had me waste many a work leisure hour, I can tell you. Since reading this, I've been a frequent visitor over there--the lady can write up a storm.

i-obsess for Sticking it Out. Lots of us experience darker and more ambivalent moments in this whole blogging thing. Some of us write about it. And some of us write about it with a rawness that can be both disarming and deeply recognizable. i-obsess is a writer who can always touch the nerve, and sometimes make us see ourselves through that glass darkly. (and if you don't read her, you should, and also know that she's funny as hell much of the time).

Dad Gone Mad for It Ain't No Sin To Be Glad You're Alive. There's a whole lot more going on over there than amusing anecdotes about slacker parenthood . He's one of those writers who can shift from recounting the utterly asinine (themes on a fart) to moments where he truly has you reflecting on the meaning of it all. (life, death, children, love...) Oh. And he now has Hot Wife T-Shirts, and who doesn't need one of those???

Blog Whore for The Cat is Sick. Don't be fooled by the slutty nomenclature. This post about her spiritual life (and not her cat) is written with spare but lyrical introspection. It was when I read this post that I realized there's a whole lot more to BW than I had presumed (and I apologize for that, J).

Edited to add: so apparently there's some kind of telepathic lovefest going on between me, toyfoto, and i-obsess. i-obsess, already recipient of the award via Binky, tossed that burning chunk of love over to Toyfoto, who tossed it to me. So each of us now has at least two of these shiny things on our mantle. Consider us the Martin Scorceses of this here chunk of burning love blog-sphere. YA!

Thank You, Village People (And did Joy get any sleep last night??? Tune In Here.)

There is nothing quite like hitting "Publish" on an angst-ridden post like yesterday's and within a few minutes receiving comments that make you feel unbelievably better. I can't convey in adequate terms how much your words and support means to me. And last night as we began our nightly rituals I felt bolstered and newly confident.

Even if it was to be a tough night, I worked to remember that "This too shall pass." That if all else fails a glass of wine and escaping to the basement or the front porch can do wonders. That perhaps I am misremembering the transformation of Sunshine Boy as "overnight" through the glossy veneer of hindsight, and that while it takes time, the benefits are well worth it. That we consistently find ways to beat ourselves up, and that we should definitely get over the guilt thing--even if it seems to be what we do best. That this parenting thing is about survival (and whoever makes us feel guilty can suck it.)

Most of all I found that even if we have differing opinion on what each of us would do, and despite stupid claims about Mommy Wars, the ability of this community to buoy you up without judgement is pretty unbelievable and very real.


(yes. I am still a little verklempt and overwrought. but it's not completely about the sleep thing--you guys made me all 'motional--and for an update on what happened last night, read on)

(and if I have not included you in the linky-lurve fest above, please forgive. shit. linky-lurve is labor intensive when you lurve as much as I do).

Ok. Enough pontificating, Joy. We are the wind beneath your wings. We get it. Let's move on.

What happened last night?

Weeeeelll. While I am very much stating up front "who knows what tomorrow brings?" last night, after my husband set up white noise in his room...

(thank you Dysfunctional Housewife and Elizabeth for that suggestion--have to say, my Husband was two steps ahead of us on this one and already assembling machinery when I got home. In fact, Big Boy was, and still is, a white noise junkie. As are we, for that matter. I think our house must sound like a small landing strip in the wee hours)

....Anyway. Baby Boy slept solidly from 6:30 til 1:30. (Score!) Ate at the Breastaurant (Jozet wins a prize for that term). Cried a bit an hour later and then slept until 5pm when he supped again. He was then awake at 6am, to which I said "he must think it's morning!" and swiftly brought him into bed for a nice hour or so of snuggling and snoozing. Of course, after the 5am feeding, I laid there awake for flippin' ages. But at least I did not lay there listening to his cries.

So. While I am not exactly "refreshed" my eyes are not hanging on stalks like they were yesterday. And if someone asks me how I am, I am not liable to burst into tears and give them waaaay too much information about the minutiae of my night.

So that's good.

I am pleased to report that Husband and I have resumed being nice to one another as opposed to 2am bitch sessions over who's snoring, who's freaking the fuck out, who's got to get a grip, etc etc. (fyi. I only snore very delicately. I am more of a drooler than a snorer)(slurp).

Like I say. It's not like it's all over and we've got a well-adjusted sleeper on our hands now, but at least when it happens again I know I can cope. We've all been there, done that, and got the T-Shirt. So thanks for being my Village, People. Thank You.


Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child: Living the Dream...

Those of you who read my "highly subjective diatribe against Dr. Sears" many moons ago might be surprised to learn that for the last four months we've been pretty much co-sleeping with the new Baby. (although, I will add that my rant was not against the actual practices of attachment parenting so much as the way in which ideological perspective is masked as the "natural" and therefore "morally correct" way to parent. And "don't we have enough to guilt-trip ourselves with, already?" etc., etc..)

From the moment he was born, Baby Boy proved himself to be mellow, smiling, and (treasured above all) a champion sleeper. I have smugly taken credit for this latter quality, making sure this time to not make any of the same mistakes I am pretty sure we committed with Big Brother. For instance, we put him down in the crib awake, and he nestles his head into his carefully selected "lovey" (a fleece blanket) and drifts off unassisted. We are attentive to his need to nap, and never let him stay awake for more than 2 hours. We lay him to sleep before he becomes worked up and tired, and he dutifully smiles up from his swaddle before taking that nap. We have avoided all motion assisted devices to aid sleep such as swings and car-rides, lest we have a complete motion junkie on our hands

(in other words, not as we were: boing-boinging the living daylights out of a bouncy seat as our swaddled First Born drifted off very, very much assisted, only to wake up and protest when we stopped).

When I started bring him into bed with me after that first nightly feeding, it felt completely right. It was a La Leche League success story in the making. He got to feed on demand from about midnight til 6am, and I only had to wake partially to gently bring him to my welcoming bosom. I was positively smug about the fact that I was the mother of a newborn and "No. I'm not sleep deprived actually...Thank You. I feel great" He was sleeping for a good portion of the night in his crib, so we did not need to worry on that score, obviously. Eventually we'd transition him in there once he was waking less in the night. For now we were enjoying the intimacy of the family bed, and my guilt pangs over being away all day were assuaged. Maybe that Sears was on to something....

Needless to say, it hasn't lasted. Nope. For the last few nights, while Baby Boy has been as good as ever about putting himself to sleep and taking naps, the night times are now much less than lovely. Now he is awakening at least every hour; and though not completely waking up he is twitching and kicking like a crazy thing. All the old tricks--swaddling, pacifier, boob in face--are beginning to come up short. It's like being in bed with a small grunting, flailing monkey. Who scratches his face and mummy's boob. So no one is getting any sleep. Not me. Not Daddy. Not him. And we're all pretty foul the next day as a result.

So co-sleeping is not working. Time to put him back in his crib. He likes his crib. He's a self soother. No problem.

Think again.... Even more crying and protest than in our bed. Of course.

If you've been reading this blog for a while or know me, you'll know that I am fundamentally cynical about the plethora of publications put out by "experts" on parenting, pregnancy, and all that other "helpful" information we use to mindfuck ourselves with. I'm definitively of the "whatever works" school of thought when it comes to parenting, as are most of you, I know. However, experience with our first son who was colicky and then deeply sleep-deprived for the first 5 months of his life has made Sleep Nazis out of his father and me. And I've got an extremely dog-eared copy of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child to prove it.

I know from our experiences with Big Boy that while listening to your child cry is extremely difficult, this is quickly outweighed when you reap the benefits of a well-rested child and well-rested parents. The transformation of our son was so dramatic that it made stalwart believers of us. And now, 4 years later, even if my son fights us tooth and nail about teeth-cleaning and eating his broccoli, he does go to bed at a reasonable time and can put himself to sleep quite happily. (Pre-Weissbluth, he was either in our arms or being bounced, and pretty much miserable all the time. He slept for half hour increments, and it was deadly. Post-Weissbluth he slept for 12-14 hours a night and took several 2-3 hour naps a day. He was transformed literally overnight into Sunshine Boy)

Last night I fell back into that old and familiar ritual of gripping my dog-eared copy of Weissbluth, and reading passages over and over again as our Baby began to cry on his first waking (one hour after being fed). Reassuring myself that by letting our Baby cry instead of going to him each time he awakes we are Doing The Right Thing. That he needs to learn to sleep through arousals, and to unlearn that Mummy's obliging boob will be there each time he wakes. That this is for his own good.

I keep telling and telling and telling myself this, as I fight back tears of exhaustion and guilt. I keep telling and telling and telling myself this as I lay in my own bed and cover my head with the covers to muffle the cries. I keep telling and telling and telling myself this while each one of those cries tightens my chest even more. But in the end, all I can say is "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry" and join in his tears.....


So. Uhm. That's where I'm at right now. Sleep deprived and writing posts with overwrought endings as a direct result (I would revise to tone it down, but who has the energy?). The fact of the matter is that our mellow boy surprised us last night with just how much stamina he had for wailing--on and off for one hour at one stage. And this pretty much punctuated the whole night. It was awful. Please, if you have any similar stories or words of wisdom, do share. I could use a boost. I need the village.

(But if you are angling to reprimand me or call me names, please would you mind waiting until the Baby's sleeping through the night. I'm too exhausted to debate anyone right now...)

(not that I don't respect people if they have differing opinions on this...)

(agh. never mind)


Godless Blonde At Large in Korea (Guest Post by Actual Relative)

Introducing...my cousin, Ele. Four years ago Ele stopped at Michigan as she made her way around the world. We were her last port of call. We came after Vienna, Bangkok, Sidney, and LA. But I am sure you will agree that Lansing, Michigan must have been the absolute pinnacle of her tour.

She was eighteen.

And actually, we had a blast. And I got to reconnect with the young woman whom I had not seen since she was twelve, when she was forced to wear puff sleeves as my bridesmaid (another story--but the sleeves were not my choice). Ele is a kindred spirit, I discovered. And I am hoping to lure her here again soon.

Now, at the ripe old age of twenty-two, she is living in Korea for a year teaching English (before starting grad school). Her emails updating the whole extended family on her experiences are pure gold--the Korean family she drank many many beers with (she managed to impress the men there, let me tell you); the ruler she was handed for "disciplining" her students; her Christmas With Chopsticks in Vietnam(I've a good mind to post that one as it is).

I keep telling her to Get a Travel Blog Already. But she demurs (something about "blogs-being-for-egomanics-not-you-though-but-you-know-what-I-mean").

So I persuaded her to tell a story here:

After living in Asia for six months, I've noticed that Korean habits which at first seemed totally strange and crazy, almost stupid, I have now adopted into my cultural habits. Road crossings here (to cross the eight-lane in-town roads) taunt pedestrians with the little green light for only a minute, but pedestrians have to wait a full few minutes to get this green light; a few minutes which at first seemed bearable but now seems like a lifetime. At first I watched with eyes like saucers whilst people would come running from fifty metres away to make the green light, whilst children sprinted across the road to make sure they get to the safety of the far pavement. Weren't we all told "don't run across the road or you will die"?

There is a madness of road-crossing here which goes so dramatically against the green cross code I didn't know what to do with myself; I comically laughed at the crazy people running across the road, knowing in my western-logic-safety that it was far more sensible to miss one green light if I couldn't make it without walking, and wait for the next one. Simple, no? Weeeeeell.... I'll now be seen running with the best of them. Four shopping bags and a handbag streaming behind me as I race, pushing old women and children out of my way to get to the other side before the light turns red, running towards the crossing from afar to 'just make the light, please make the light'. Whilst in Rome, eh?

Obviously living abroad I can talk with annoying superiority about the "amazing cultural differences" around me. After only six months here things still impact me: I stop in appreciation, sometimes, and anger, at others. The strange movements, scenery, fashions, foods that are all around me are enough to keep every day interesting. Seeing grown women wearing Mickey mouse jumpers (he is inexplicably fashionable here, but Joy tells me it's much the same in Michigan, where Pooh is the character of choice) and six year old boys with permed, highlighted hair. Seriously. Watching all the old women walking with bow legs, and hunched backs - all of them, carrying vegetables and never fruit. Why?

Everything is constantly strange around me, so much so that sometimes it's hard to remember that the strangest, most different thing here, is, well, me. Korea is an extremely homogeneous society; 'mixed race' here means men and women running the track. There are a handful of whiteys, all recruited to teach English, and occasionally an Indian or Russian person will pop their head up. But for the most part walking round in Korea is like walking round in a non-pc children's story: there are different ages and different outfits but everybody has an eerie resemblance. The same shade of skin, the same colour eyes, and the exact same hair colour.

So walking round as a blonde, I blend in nicely with the enormous advertising photos of westerners pasted on walls, but stick out like a sore thumb on the street. Occasionally a child will poke it's head out from behind his or her Mum, and an arm will emerge and point up at me. I'll smile, or 'hello!', and with gained confidence the child will say 'Pishing! Pishing!' Eh? I think... what's this little bugger up to? It took a couple of times before it dawned on me: piercing. Eyebrow piercing. Ahh, I see now.

Facial piercings aren't the done thing here, especially not the done thing by respectable young women, so kids comment, and like to have a bit of a stare. I don't mind, I loved staring when I was little, having a good old look at things that aren't quite normal, taking it in. When adults are the ones to speak to me here, their intentions aren't quite as innocent. An innocent 'hello' usually means either 'I want to practice speaking English' or 'hello, I'm a dirty old man and want to talk to you'. Both of which I try to avoid.

But what I dread is "Hello. Have you heard of the holy mother?" Oh bugger. They've found me. The evangelicals. I thought I'd left the faithful behind when I departed from the (rather apathetic) Christian UK. But believers here are as frickin' devout as they come; and part of their spiritual plan is to recruit the unholy. People like me. This includes knocking on doors, standing on the street, and (my particular favourite) playing an electric keyboard at the street crossings so you're forced to listen to Christian music whilst waiting for the little green man. It's one of the few things I'll be glad glad glad to leave in Korea when I go back to the UK.

I will, however, miss the *practically free* alcohol when I return to the UK (though my liver might thank me for leaving it behind) and I will definitely mourn over leaving behind the cheap as chips eating-out-experience. I will indignantly resent paying anything over $10 for a meal. And I'm sure I will miss the men that hack up their lungs on the street, and the mothers that hold their children up on the pavement to wee into the road, and the little old women who are allowed to push in front of me in queues just because they're old; I will miss them all in their own way.

So I'd better make the most of Korea for the next six months!

So there you go. A testament to how even a blonde girl from Buckinghamshire can be transformed into an object of intense cultural curiosity. I would not like to use the word "freak" but... (she *is* unholy and she *does* have metal in her face).

And that kids peeing in the street thing? Sounds rather convenient to me, have to say.


Joining the Gang Bang. Uh. I Mean the Bang Gang

Because I'm a joiner you see. Yep. I'm blogging the bangs. Or "fringe" as the Enger-lish would say (and here is where I also see how much a yank I have become--it's taken 15 years, but I can refer to my "bangs" now with a complete lack of irony or snorting fit).
There's the "My Mummy cuts my fringe. And puts me in polyester" Bangs. (Circa 1974).
(And yes. This was just an opportunity for you to view a picture of me where, let's face it, I LOOK IMPOSSIBLY CUTE!)

There's "My Mummy does my Home Perm" Bangs.
(Circa 1986)

There's "Gollum Ate my Baby" Scraped Back Bangs.
Circa 1995
(And yes. This was just an opportunity for you to view a picture of me, where, let's face it, I LOOK IMPOSSIBLY, IMPOSSIBLY...[your word choice here]).

Finally. "If I take my own picture with this digital camera I can suck in my cheeks to feign bone structure and tilt head to feign lack of several chins" Bangs.
Circa 2007.