Three Is a Magic Number?

Ever since my son, my third child, was born almost nine months ago, I've been asking myself if my husband and I will have any more children together.  For me, the answer has been "maybe"... and yes, that is crazy, but I'll explain.

I can think of a hundred excellent reasons why we shouldn't have more children.  In no particular order, some of them are:

1. We don't have the money, and our bank accounts aren't expected to grow anytime soon.
2. We have a small house with only three bedrooms... and that house needs repairs that we can't afford.
3. We have a sedan with only five seats... and that car will need to be replaced with something fuel-efficient.
4. My husband will be 48 years old next month, and has no desire to raise young kids during his retirement.
5. We'd love to go to England for the first time to visit family, and a bigger family means more travel costs.
6. More babies are bad for the environment!  If we care about the earth, we should stop having kids.
7. Both my husband and I have little free time or "we" time, and more kids means even less of that for us.
8. We would have to have fewer outside commitments (church, volunteer work) and less time with friends. 
9. We have committed ourselves to adopting at least one child, but more bio-kids lessens that possibility.
10. Our families would kill us, I think, if we had another one.  I think they're shocked that we have three between us, plus two other biological children (including my adult stepson).
11. Perhaps most importantly, more children means that our attention is divided between them, so they each would get less time with us.

So as you can see, having another baby would be pretty much ludicrous right now.  Plus, if we were to do it, we wouldn't do the sensible thing and wait a few years until the babies were older, because of my husband's age, so that would mean having perhaps three children ages three and under.  (Go ahead and laugh.)  Could I handle another child to diaper, to breastfeed, to potty train, to homeschool?  I've been stingy with my baby clothes and baby toys, waiting for another baby to be born, secretly hoping for one.  I am half-worried that my friends would disown me if I had another one... they've already been so good about me dragging my brood of three around.  There is a line from "Parenthood," one of my all-time favorite comedies, where one of the dads - whose wife is pregnant with their fourth child - is asking his dad for advice, and the dad shakes his head and says, "I never should have had four."

I had a talk with a close friend last week and she gave me her honest opinion (which I asked for) about having more kids.  She knows that it's as crazy as I think it is.  After our conversation, I half-considered going home and packing up the rest of the baby clothes for good, and donating them to someone who actually needed them, as many generous people have done for us.  That would be just one more step towards our Journey Towards Vasectomy.  Yes, my husband is perfectly willing to get sterilized, and I've been begging him to do it without telling me.  I don't know if I could take the anticipation.  (For the record, my husband agrees that we shouldn't have more babies, but doesn't seem very committal in his answer.)

So why even consider having more kids?

After my son's recent baptism... can you see my "oversmile"?

Another "oversmile" with my first daughter, almost five years ago.
Because kids are freaking amazing.  Because my gut tells me everything will be fine.  Because all I've wanted to do in my life is have a big, happy family.  Because, dammit, I want to do it before I can't.

My husband and I have happy, healthy, lovely children and a happy, healthy, strong marriage.  We have an involved extended family and we live in a great community.  We talked about having a big family - 10 kids was our original number, haha - since we were first dating.  Obviously, I am not trying to compete with the Duggars or even the Gosselins, but four young children seems like a great number.  We could stop there, right?  Four is perfect, right?  Or is this baby-fever taking over and making me think irrational thoughts?



More than bonnets, patent leather, and pastel collars...
More than bright bulletins and collection plate dollars...
More than ham, potatoes, rolls, and greens,
More than chocolate bunnies, more than jelly beans...
More than all the metaphors mean...
More than arguing over God's existence...
More than just political resistence...
The rebirth, the resurrection, the truth, the life...
The starting over. 
The speak.

"...I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born...."
-from "Easter, 1916" by William Butler Yeats


Random Thoughts

Here we go:

1. My mother-in-law is coming into town today, and my house no longer looks like it was raided by candy-hyper, cyclonic gremlins.  Score!

2. I am not sure which is more disappointing: an arrogant religious person or an arrogant atheist.  Maybe arrogance is the real problem. 

3. Why are babies so deliciously addictive?  I mean, I should know better than to want another one!

4. I watched a biography of the late televangelist Tammy Faye, and it showed her in such a sympathetic light that I wanted to be more like her.  Is that bizarre?

5. I am terrible at writing thank-you notes, and even worse at calling people.  I need to stop making excuses.

6. I really miss being on Facebook.  Unfortunately, being off has not had the desired effect - that is, giving me more time with my family - because I have replaced Facebook with other distractions. 

7. "We Are the World" is still a kick-butt song.  I love it.  However, I realized just how old I'd gotten when I recognized all of the artists from the 1985 version, but only about 2/3rds of the ones from the 2010 remake: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Glny4jSciVI&NR=1&feature=fvwp

8. It is April 2011 already?  Wow.  Life is pretty darn good right now.

The Joy of Siblings

One of the wonderful things about having more than one child is that I get to see how my children interact with each other, teach each other, and enrich each other's lives.  (Yes, this is despite the "Ow, she pushed me" moments, of which I am well aware.)  
Lolly reading to Toot-Toot

It is a proud and happy thing to see one child teach another. 

Toot-Toot "reading" to Ola

I was raised, in a sense, as an only child.  My brother was born when I was twelve years old (after my parents had remarried each other), and I didn't meet my older half-sister until after our brother's birth. However, for those first twelve years, I was the only child and grandchild in my family.  Spoiled doesn't even begin to describe me, I am sure.  My mother had lost two siblings in accidents before they reached adulthood, and I think that their early deaths led my family to be extra-protective of me. (Though I won't blame anyone but myself for my neuroticism.)

A rare reunion, two years ago

Oh, how I wanted a brother or sister so badly!  I used to pray for one, against all odds.  But when my little brother (who is now almost 6'8" tall) was born, I was so much older than him that I felt more like an aunt than a sister.  But no matter... I will always have a brother and a sister, even though we are not as close as I wish we were.  Amazing now to think that my little brother is a parent himself and my big sister is going to be a grandmother.  Wow.

Of course, there are perks to being an only child.  My early school years were probably helped greatly by the fact that I had the attention of many adult relatives.  I didn't have to share my toys, or anything else, very often.  (Side note: at one point shortly after my parents divorced for the first time, my father briefly remarried, and I instantly had two older stepsiblings.  I remember little about my stepsister, April, but I do still have one item from her: a card that she made for me.  It says, "I love you, even though you are selfish.")

There are also perks to having only one child.  I speak with some of my girlfriends who have one child and I notice that they are able to not only have more one-on-one time with the child, but also more free time for themselves.  There are fewer decisions and compromises to make, I would imagine.

However, I feel so blessed to have three little ones (and an adult stepson) who can love and support each other long after my husband and I are gone.  Plus, there are some practical benefits, including the fact that siblings usually entertain each other.  If I am too exhausted to finish another round of fingerplays and nursery rhymes, I ask Lolly to do them for Toot-Toot and Ola, and she is only too happy to help!  They play games with each other, feed each other, comfort each other, and teach each other.  When it works, it's magical.


God, Kids, Husband. In that order.

"Cranky" is going to be crankier than usual today with this blog.  Please forgive my strong opinions on this one, and bear with my hypothetical reasoning.

Several times this week, I've heard stories about people putting their spouses before their children in terms of priority. 

On one of the "Real Housewives" reality shows, the wife often talks about how, in a Christian marriage, God comes first, spouse comes second, and children come third: http://alexis-bellino.com/tag/god-first/ 

Then I read about an author couple in which the wife is seen to be almost obsessive in her love for her husband, and much less effusive about her children: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayelet_Waldman#Controversial_essay_about_marriage

Finally, I saw this over-the-top post from an English husband regarding his family: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1376681/I-resent-children-stealing-wifes-love.html

I realize that I am far from the first person to respond to this issue, and I also realize that this is merely a theoretical construct, but I still feel it's worthy of attention.

First, let me make this clear: I love my husband to death.  He is my best friend, and in some ways, my hero.  He's a brilliant, sweet, supportive, affectionate, funny, deeply spiritual, responsible, and honest man... not to mention, a fabulous dad.  We have stumbled upon a kind of Ozzie-and-Harriet relationship these days in that my husband is the sole breadwinner and I stay home with the kids.  However, the man is a feminist who still manages to bring me coffee every single morning and roses for no reason.  He wrote me poetry and even served as my "doula" when I was a surrogate.  He baptizes our babies, reads stories in silly voices, spends his weekends doing chores, and has never said an unkind or untrue word to me (or to anyone, if memory serves).  He doesn't have a jealous or spiteful bone in his body.  My family adores him.  There is not much more that anyone could ask for in someone, in my opinion.  You could say I am rather fond of him.  I realize how fortunate I am.  (I even have amazingly awesome in-laws, as a bonus!)

But would I put my children before my husband?  Absolutely, and I'll tell you why.

1. Children are vulnerable, and they must be protected.  My husband is a grown man who can, in most aspects, take care of himself.  My children need help, like any other children, and so tending to their needs trumps tending any non-vulnerable adult's needs.  That's a no-brainer. 
2. Children didn't ask to be born.  My husband and I, as their parents, had control over that, and therefore we have an additional duty (again, a no-brainer) to be responsible for them.  However, my husband and I chose to be together and to commit ourselves to each other; in the extremely unlikely event that we'd ever change our minds, that decision is also within our control.

Sure, I understand what my critics are probably saying: a happy, strong marriage makes a happy, strong family.  It's important to tend to one's marriage/partnership for the sake of the family, and that bodes well for the kids.  In most cases, I'd agree wholeheartedly to this.  I do believe that the kind of love that my husband and I model with each other, as well as the way we model our cooperation, conflicts, affection, and so forth, are really important.  I also think that it helps that we are a united front when it comes to family values, discipline, and the like.  (That doesn't mean we always agree, of course, but we back each other up on the important stuff.)

But the idea that kids are at the bottom of the list really churns my stomach.  They are kids!  (Should I underline that for emphasis?)  One real-life, tragic example is of a relative who stood by her husband even when her children were being abused by him, and who claimed that it was the biblical thing to do.  If, God forbid, something happened and I had to choose between the lives of my children and the lives of my husband, I would choose my children's lives... after all, I'd choose their lives over mine anyday.  Children are precious, no matter to whom they were born.  Case closed.

But what about the "God" part?  My many loved ones who would consider themselves agnostic or atheist might wonder about this.  To explain... I think of God as my highest ideals, the source of love and the ultimate.  I would put God first - or honestly, I would hope to, but reality says I often fall short - because God, for me, equals life and all of humanity.  Life itself is more important than even one precious family, even though, of course, every family is an indivisible part of that big picture.  (Clear as mud?)  But love conquers all, and it isn't party-loyal to kith and kin, as they say.

One final postscript: the Dailymail piece is from someone who would be writing for the Reluctant Dad website.  The site has got to be a joke, right?  http://www.reluctantdad.com/  Some people really shouldn't have kids.   http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/04/books/04masl.html

Do these children ever make it to adulthood without hating their fathers or becoming misanthropes?  I hope not.  What do you think?


My Ultra-Critical, Tongue-in-Cheek Review of the Worst Children's Movie

Hello, friends!   I've been swamped this past month.  Even with no Facebook (*sniff*), I find that my time is readily filled with all kinds of projects, appointments, playdates, parties, homeschool planning, and assorted obligations.  Yet my house still looks like a wreck.  I am wondering why scientists haven't figured out a way to eradicate sleep... I mean, who needs it, really?

Anyway, life is great, if hectic, and I am excited to finally be able to write this blog and post it, even if it's in the wee hours of the morning and I have to get up in five hours.  What could be so important, I hear you cry?

I am here to tell you that "All Dogs Go to Heaven 2" is the worst children's movie that I've seen in recent years... or possibly ever.  Allow me to explain.

First of all, the original movie of "All Dogs Go to Heaven" is pretty good, as non-Disney animated films go.  As I remember, despite flaws in the script, children appreciated the storyline.  (All is redeemed when you find out that Burt Reynolds and Dom Deluise, two of the voice actors, actually ad-libbed most of their lines.)  I mean, the film wasn't perfect, and it has some of the same issues as the sequel does, but I can't deny that it was a popular film when I was a kid, especially after it came out on video.  Don Bluth generally directed terrific animated movies; who doesn't love the truly classic "An American Tail" or "The Land Before Time"?  So I can definitely see the appeal.  The movie was fine on its own.  It didn't need or merit a sequel, but the studio did it, anyway, without Don Bluth as the director. 

I had the opportunity to watch the sequel when a child at my house selected the movie on Hulu.  [Warning: spoiler alert.]  The basic, thin-as-paper premise is that two tough-but-good dogs (Charlie and Itchy), who live in heaven, are sent back to earth when "Gabriel's Horn" falls through the clouds.  Heaven doesn't want the horn to fall into evil hands on earth, so it's imperative that Charlie and Itchy find it and bring it back.  Along the way, the dogs meet other earthly dog friends (such as Sasha Le Fleur) and a scrappy little boy (David, with the requisite 1996 haircut) who ran away from home, and they help each other, et cetera.  Adventures ensue and all is right in the end: the dogs find the horn and return to heaven, the bad guys (like villains Red and Carface) get their comeuppance, the little boy goes home, and all of the protagonists live happily ever after.  

So what's so bad about that, I hear you ask?  Well, I have a list.

1. Sexist and Sexy

The female dog characters are either angels (literally, like the top angel Annabelle) or dogs of ill repute (namely, Sasha Le Fleur).  This is the old "Madonna-whore" dichotomy: there are good girls and bad girls, and that's it. 

In particular, Sasha Le Fleur is an out-of-place character.  She is like Jessica Rabbit (or perhaps Lucy from "Avenue Q"), except that this is a children's cartoon.  The male dogs act like, well, dogs around her: they salivate, fight, float, swallow their cigars, spin on their chairs, throw their girlfriend's flowers, et cetera.  I almost expected one of the dogs to stick a dollar bill in her collar.  At the end of one scene, after Sasha rejects Charlie's advances, Charlie says his friend's name ("Itch") in such a way that I had to listen to it again to make sure that it wasn't another word.  But maybe that's just me.

There was also a line about how Sasha thought that "breeding" would be a good quality for a partner to have, and Charlie responds that he would be good at that.  That's no surprise, I guess, since Charlie is voiced by none other than Charlie Sheen.  Sasha sings: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOywt8FGurQ

Note that it's not that I have a problem with romance or sexy characters in movies, but I thought that the character was way over the top for a children's movie.  In my research, I found a disturbing number of "sexy animated dog" videos that suggest that people have way too much time on their hands.  (Like me, I guess, but I don't count.)

2. Cheap shots

In one scene, Gabriel's Horn lands in San Francisco, and the dogs exchange comments about how it's going to be a particular challenge (as San Francisco is the city of sin, of course, har har).  In another scene, they need to get the cops out of the police station in order to obtain the confiscated horn, so someone yells that doughnuts are available, which sends the cops running outside in a frenzy to get the doughnuts.

These situations would be stock gags in an adult movie, but why put them in a children's movie?  They were not there for my enjoyment, and the references would go over children's heads and serve to reinforce stereotypes.  I can just picture my kids saying, "San Francisco must be where bad guys live."  It's just unnecessary, that's all.

3. Scary as hell

It's hard to put into words how inappropriate some of the scenes would be for small children, even as the other references would completely miss them.  It's pretty scary. 

At the end of the film, the evil Red character - who uses former angel Carface as an accomplice and drags him down with him - goes beyond just being greedy.  After Red obtains Gabriel's Horn, Red bends the gates of heaven and puts the angel dogs into cages on earth.  Then he grows into a monstrous, powerful, merciless, Satanic figure and threatens not only the lives of the protagonists, but indeed the fate of all dogs.  Take the Ursula water scene from the end of "The Little Mermaid" and combine it with Tim Curry's character in "Legend" and see what I mean.

Imagine that you're 4 or 5 years old, watching this scene:

4. Bad theology

This is probably what I like the least about this movie.  This reminds me of all of the oversimplistic plots that reinforce this idiotic idea that good guys go to heaven, bad guys go to hell, and yet heaven is a place where no cool guy really wants to be.  Because being good is boring, as everyone knows.

None of these movies ever mention "God" in heaven - instead, they focus on harps, wings, clouds, white robes, and characters being really polite.  They take out the spirituality part of it.  To put it another way, it's like seeing the mock Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas.

But what sets this film apart is that the villain really is like Satan.  He's a fallen angel who wants the power of heaven.  He even looks like what we'd imagine Satan would look like.  Pretty heavy stuff for a children's film, if you ask me.  We also find out that all dogs DON'T go to heaven.  Some of the dogs are actually shown going to doggie hell!  I mean, what is the point of the movie?  Perhaps it should be called "Good Dogs Go to Heaven, Which Is Boring as Hell"... even though Charlie gets another pass at life on earth.

Plus, I am a Universalist, so I believe that everyone goes to heaven.  It's just not my kind of plot device.

5. Shoddy production

There were many inconsistencies in the animation, but that's one thing.  Now, my favorite thing: at the very end of the film, when the boy David is reunited with his father and pregnant stepmother, the stepmother clearly says to David: "Having this baby doesn't mean I love you."

Hahahaha!!!  Exactly.

Watch the mistake here, at 2:20: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChEcbn4Vfcc

Watch the "All Dogs Go to Heaven 2" trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhC1xldem-U

Wiki article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Dogs_Go_to_Heaven_2

***[By the way, not to bring in something irreparably sad, but I felt I had to mention this.  Judith Barsi, the child who voiced the main character "Anne-Marie" in the first "All Dogs Go to Heaven" also voiced the memorable "Ducky" character from "The Land Before Time" movie.  Tragically, Judith was abused by her father for years, and she was murdered by him at the age of ten.  It is for this reason that I can't bring myself to criticize the first movie as harshly... just doesn't seem right, somehow.  I had no idea before I wrote this blog who Judith Barsi was, but now that I know, I am profoundly sad.  I would recommend to you the documentary or tributes about her life, but honestly, I don't know if I have the strength to watch them again myself.  But if you're interested, Google her name to read her story.  Good Lord.]


April Fools Joke? U(terus) Decide.

I miss working for the Legislature so much.  Unfortunately, me being at home means that I don't keep up with the daily floor debates like I used to do.  The debates were sometimes passionate and emotional, sometimes dry and boring, and occasionally humorous.  I was reading the political blogs tonight when I discovered this jaw-dropping gem.


Basically, during a debate about union dues, one of the Democratic legislators from the House used a flippant line that mentioned his wife's uterus.  The Republican leadership chastised him on the floor for using that language, especially considering that the pages and messengers were present in the room, and some young members of the public could have been present in the gallery.  Apparently, the Speaker found the language to be in violation of decorum.

Seriously, folks, it doesn't matter what your background, your party affiliation, or religious morals are.  If you find the word "uterus" offensive to children, I am stunned.  He said uterus!  You know, the place where babies grow.  He could have said any number of five-letter "P" words or other words that, I admit, could have run the gamut from distasteful to offensive, especially according to the standards of decorum on the House floor.  But uterus?  Seriously - uterus?  Was this chastisement an early April Fools joke?

I can only think of the following possible explanations to this:

1. In the recent past, when abortion was being explicitly debated or discussed on the floor, House leadership (who overwhelmingly identify as pro-life) advised young members of the gallery, as well as the pages and messengers, to be leave the room during the debate because of the subject matter.

To my knowledge, stories told about violent crime episodes haven't historically received the same kind of sensitive treatment during House debates, but I could be wrong.

2. Perhaps House leadership was caught off-guard about the comparison to abortion, and didn't like it, and thus wanted to teach Rep. Randolph a lesson by taking him to task in public.

3. Perhaps some in the House believed that the phrase "if my wife's uterus was incorporated" is really a dirty, liberal slang term for sex.

I cannot otherwise believe that the House would seriously consider the word "uterus" to be for adults only.  If these kids don't (or shouldn't) know what a uterus is, then our state is in bigger trouble than I thought. 

I guess when my kids begin to study human anatomy, I will have to use the euphemism "womb" instead, so as not to offend them.  (The Democratic Underground's website beat me to a list of anatomical euphemisms, but they are too offensive to link here, haha.)

Or perhaps their idea comes from this: 
from Aretaeus the Cappadocian
Hippocratic writer of the second century CE
In the middle of the flanks of women lies the womb, a female viscus, closely resembling an animal; for it is moved of itself hither and thither in the flanks, also upwards in a direct line to below the cartilage of the thorax and also obliquely to the right or to the left, either to the liver or spleen; and it likewise is subject to falling downwards, and, in a word, it is altogether erratic. It delights, also, in fragrant smells, and advances towards them; and it has an aversion to fetid smells, and flees from them; and on the whole the womb is like an animal within an animal.”

Yeah, I'd be scared of them uteruses, too, if I subscribed to this thought.