Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cold, Bright and Quiet

This is Danny. Cute, huh? He was born in August -- but this is the story of why he's my Christmas baby. I hope you enjoy it :)

A year ago today, I woke up sure I was not pregnant.

It’s not like I thought about it specifically – I was just in that general state of not-pregnancy, the state in which I’d spent all of my previous life, minus Henry’s 38 weeks and 5 days.

Around lunchtime I did a little math, as women do … and then I re-checked that math … and then I asked Tim if maybe I should go get a test, just to ease my mind. At that point I thought about it specifically. I thought, I am obviously paranoid, not pregnant.

On my way to Safeway I made a nice excuse for myself. We were about to head out to visit family, and I didn’t want to be fretting about an imaginary pregnancy when I should be stuffing myself with cookies and pie. I might end up asking my mom to drive me to Walmart to buy a pregnancy test. (No one on earth wants to ask her mom to go with her to buy a pregnancy test.) So why wait? Know now.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


The fastest way for me to drive Tim bananas during the Christmas season is to start looking to buy a Nativity scene. I’ve never found one that meets all my criteria—not too cheesy, not too dull, not too breakable. That, plus my insistence that Jesus and family must not be white dudes (because they weren’t), rules out pretty much everything at the mall.

Tim insists that I’m getting a little cynical, and I suppose he’s right. I can enjoy and appreciate plenty of Nativities that don’t follow any of my rules. My mom’s is delicate and ornate and takes up an entire table, but I love how it emphasizes the beauty and majesty of the Christmas scene. And I do appreciate that Nativities tend to reflect the cultures in which they’re made—even if that culture turns Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus into friendly emperor penguins. (A little sacrilegious? Mayyybe, but there’s sweetness in it.)

Even when I find one that’s just about right—like this one my dad won from Hallmark last year (my parents are really good at winning raffles)—I don’t get it. I’ve decided it’s because I love the Nativity of my imagination too much.

It started when I was a teenager and first learned that Mary was probably a young teenager too, and that added a layer of fear to the scene. But the more I read the Bible stories of Mary’s responses to the angel who told her what was happening and to her relatives when she told them the news, I saw her strength and courage, her resistance to a culture that said she should be rejected, humiliated, maybe even stoned to death for being an unmarried pregnant woman (and a crazy one at that, with all that God-conceived-this-baby business).

Then, when I became a mother, Mary became something even more. All those beatific, skinny Marys in the crèche scenes? No way. Woman just had a baby! She was exhausted, exhilarated, and crazy hungry. And while she recognized the divinity of her child, surely she was enveloped in his humanity then. My Mary isn’t kneeling and praying by the manger in my scene—she’s curled over that manger with Jesus’ little hand wrapped around her finger. (And she’s wondering when Joseph’s going to get her a sandwich. Or whatever the equivalent of a sandwich was back then.)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Big, Blue Button

Here it is:

Recently I went to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Medicaid website in search of a phone number. It should have been easy to find – the 800 number for the processing center that deals with most Medicaid inquiries in the state – but that important number was tricky to track down.

You know what wasn’t hard to find, though? The giant blue button with big, bold “Report Public Assistance Fraud.” 

That button was right there on every page. As I saw it, and saw it, and saw it, I realized something.

That big, blue button was more prominent than any of the links to learn about how to apply for Medicaid, for food stamps, for emergency assistance. It’s easier to find than the information—like that phone number—that would help people currently using public assistance make sure they are communicating clearly with the state.

To me, that blue button is saying that the state of Idaho thinks I’m more likely to commit fraud than seek to use the public programs my family benefits from the way they are intended to be used.

I’m not saying fraud isn’t a problem, or it shouldn’t be reported (though Idaho apparently doesn’t have such a concern about legislators committing tax evasion, but whatevs).

The issue also isn’t whether Medicaid or other forms of public assistance should exist, or whether they’re the most efficient and effective ways to help those in need. The fact is, at this point in time, they’re the best way for families to receive help.

And the issue here is how we treat people who ask for help.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


I spent a while last night writing a blog post that -- for now -- you don't get to read.

It may or may not be an awesome blog post. Right now it's actually like the Schroedinger's Cat of blog posts -- simultaneously awesome and not awesome because it is not yet observed. Ooooh.

To extend (and slightly mangle) the S-Cat metaphor -- I'm reluctant about posting this blog because it could potentially set off dangerous material.

What do I mean? A story:

About 2 1/2 years ago, I got ticked off about a newspaper columnist's lament about the loss of personal responsibility, including a reference to people on public assistance as being "on the dole." So I -- who worked at said newspaper and wrote a blog about saving money -- wrote a post about being on Medicaid for the birth of my older son, and my mixed feelings of thankfulness and guilt about needing to ask for help to pay my medical bills.

I'd link to that post, but it's lost in the mists of the Internet. And frankly, I'm kind of relieved. That post was the most well-read thing I've ever written, and certainly the most responded to. But for all the nice back-pats that congratulated me for my honesty, there was a flood of negative responses. It was brutal. Some of the people who disagreed with me did so thoughtfully, with well-articulated arguments presenting their perspective.

But most most people didn't. Posters called me lazy and irresponsible, insulted my husband, even questioned whether I was fit to be a mother. Some made some pretty sweeping judgments about my financial situation,  suggesting that I was a fraud and should pay back any money I had received. (Seriously people, do you know how much small-town journalists earn?)

Monday, December 5, 2011

What's in a name?

So now that I'm a blogger, I'm supposed to come up with cute nicknames for my family members, right? Uh-huh. I know plenty of bloggers who do this well, (my favorites are over at Parenting, Illustrated With Crappy Pictures), but the whole thing reeks a bit to me of the Mommy website message board habits of calling your children **DSS9mosheartheartheartheart**  (dear sweet son, 9 months old, heart heart heart heart). Yeah, no.

But we'll try it, if only to give my poor kids a little privacy. For all this blog's lofty purposes, it's also bound to include some adventures and anecdotes of the tiny people (and their minions) with whom I hang out all day -- and surely some of them will be the type of anecdotes that, once they're aware enough to realize it, my kids might be embarrassed that I'm releasing into the blogosphere.

Tim gets to just stay Tim. It's the only name that fits him. My parents can be Grampa and Gramma, obviously. The boys ... for simplicity's sake, let's say Big and Little.

This works because I find myself calling them Big Brother and Little Brother a lot of the day anyway. It's just so much easier than sifting through the pile of names in my brain. Every parent does that, I know. It gets a little worse in our house because somehow we managed to give both kids and the dog (who we shall call Pig!) names with the same number of syllables and major consonant. They just naturally flow together.

But then the other day I did this:

Me, to Little, who is practicing his magic art of Fussing As Soon As Mommmy Starts Eating: "Dog nghhh Cat gahhh BABY!"

To which Tim replies: "That sounds like the name of a very disturbing TV show."

Sunday, December 4, 2011

On Time

My husband, Tim, suggested a few weeks back that I start a blog, so here we go.

I keep starting and re-starting this post. That's not a good sign, is it?

And I'm starting it much later than I'd intended to. My goal -- because I have to set goals and deadlines if this blog is ever going to live beyond this opening post -- was to write a short introduction by 9 p.m. tonight.

It's 10:07, and I've spent the past two hours organizing the upstairs closet. I don't normally dig housework so much, but I figure I'd better clean when the mood strikes, because it's always worth it. The closet doors shut now, my older son has a place for his art supplies and puzzles, there are three big boxes of things to give away sitting in the basement, and I found a Christmas guitar book and three Frisbees that Tim has been searching for. Pretty good stuff.

While I cleaned I thought about my missed deadline, then thought some more about how I spend my time.

Tim's suggestion for this blog came during a conversation about how we should be spending our time -- in particular how I should spend my time now that I've decided to put my master's degree on hold and stay home with our two sons. The boys take up the majority of my time and energy, sure, but I've got plenty left over.

I want to use my time being part of things -- communities, conversations, movements, projects. Things that require my effort and intelligence. Things that require me to give my time for the good of others and the purpose of God.

Things that will make me feel connected, active, and engaged in the way I've always feared I'd lose if I wasn't always "doing something" -- work, school, whatever.

Tim thought a blog would play well into this, especially for the hours the boys are asleep and I am alone and I tend to get sucked into hours of Facebook and TV and looking at funny pictures online -- which fun as they are don't really fit the bill for good uses of time.

I don't know yet what this blog will contain. Leave ideas in the comments, if you want. But I picked the name "Tarababble" (as suggested by an old friend) because it had a nice tone of self-deprecating silliness to take the edge off my bigger purposes.

And it's because I ramble. I'm totally rambling right now. I hope you stick around to ramble with me ...

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