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Saturday, August 27, 2005

Boycott ideas, end-of-summer reading & upcoming events

I was walking this morning with my friend Elizabeth, a constant source of inspiration, and we were talking, as usual, about how little time and ability we have to do so many things that would make our hearts glad -- like going to Crawford and joining Cindy Sheehan. "What could we do short of going there?" she asked. So in a sudden gift of a free weekend hour, after one son got asked on a playdate and the other went off with my spouse to do errands, I logged on to the Meet With Cindy website, and also checked out the sites of two of her major supporters, Code Pink and Move On , to explore the options. We could send messages to President Bush. (Sigh.) We could join a rally in Washington, DC, Sept. 24-6. (Taking our kids out of school?) We could hold our own vigils where we are. We could send money. Or we could put a sign (downloadable at the Meet With Cindy website) in our window, in black and white, saying "America Stands With Cindy." So far, I like the sign the best, in terms of maximizing visibility at minimum cost for the position that it's simply time for more accountability about Iraq. And I hope the rally succeeds. I just wish there were something more powerful that could be done -- like calling on all moms to not spend a dime on a certain day. Or not to buy gas? American mothers, as household economic managers, have tremendous clout. Or at least the potential for it.

On a completely unrelated subject, and even though it's summer's end, I have a great summer reading suggestion. It's a year-old book by a former colleague, Neely Tucker, called Love in the Driest Season. I found it serendipitously in the library as I was searching for chapter books on CDs to pacify my kids on a three-hour trip to a lake district north of Yosemite. We played it all the way up and all the way back, and everyone, including my soon-to-be 7-year-old son, was enthralled. Tucker tells the story of how he adopted his daughter, Chipo, an orphan of the African AIDs epidemic, while working in Zimbabwe. It is beautifully written and suspenseful, and brilliantly expresses Tucker's transformation to parenthood, a transition from an observer to someone passionately engaged in his own life. I wish I had interviewed him when I was writing my chapter on dads and adoptive parents, because he so eloquently spoke for both. But at least I can recommend his book here.

Finally, just to let you know, I will be part of a panel of keynote speakers in Sacramento on November 15, for a conference of the Professional Businesswomen of California. I'll be talking about Mommy Brains, and hope to meet some readers there.

The school season starts again Monday here, so wish us luck, and I'll wish it back to you....

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

on discipline

I have read what feels like a gazillion parenting books, but the best lesson I ever got in being an effective mom was watching Shamu, the killer whale, at Sea World last year. Shamu did the most amazing jumps, slides and whirls, and every single time he did something, his trainers shoved buckets of fish into his mouth. I find with my own two willful boys that all the yelling, screaming, threatening and promising I can muster never holds up to instant rewards when they do something good. We've known since Pavlov that the brain can associate information, like a ringing bell, with rewards. I'm working on getting my boys to start drooling when I say, "Do the dishes!"

And speaking of varieties of tough love, does anyone out there not agree that Cindy Sheehan, described in this recent NY Times story, deserves an award? I look at pictures of her, alone in her t-shirt and jeans and sunburn and grief, outside Pres. Bush's vacation compound, and am in grateful awe.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

another rat tale

More research now confirms the breakthrough 1998 discovery by Virginia neuroscientists Kelly Lambert and Craig Kinsley, who found that motherhood improves learning and memory. Check out Liisa Galea's new paper for the abstract of a recent paper by three Canadian researchers who have found, again, that rats who have given birth make fewer errors in learning and memory skills than rodent bachelorettes. One potentially disturbing note in this report (disturbing at least for doting moms such as myself) is that mothers who spend less time licking and nursing offspring had fewer memory errors. I wonder if that also applies to lunch-packing and cleaning-up-rooming....