Sunday, April 29, 2012

I'm Still Here!

Greetings, Babblists!

Just dropping this quick note to say that Tarababble still exists, though posts have been rare lately. I've been busy keeping up with other projects, playing outside with Henry and Little Dan, and resting my carpal-tunnel-tastic wrist while watching endless episodes of "Bones" and "Parks and Recreation." (Educational TV, you know.)

But here's what you have to look forward to in the coming weeks when I can squish in some blog time:

- The promised followup to the parental leave post about benefits for stay-at-home parents. In light of the popularity of the parental leave topic -- and the importance of it -- it will likely come up more in general.

- Some pictures and stories from the awesome visit we just had from a old friend -- from Switzerland!

- A little Friday Flashback reminiscing about events five years ago, when I graduated from college and embarked on my brief daily newspaper career.

- Some thoughts on hope (been writing this one in my head and will type it someday!)

- And, if you ask nicely enough, more terrible poetry ...

Thanks for sticking with me, folks! Now get off your computer and go play in the sun.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Flashback: Bowlerama

Today on Friday Flashback, we zip alllll the way back to Tuesday, upon which I experienced one of the triumphs of my adult life: finally winning Mystery Oldie of the Day on the radio.

With my mongoose-like reflexes I dialed in and correctly identified -- with merely a two-second clip ("for-ev-eerrrrr") to guide me -- "Truly, Madly, Deeply," by Savage Garden.

Which is an oldie now, apparently. It's a song that carries for me a truckload of emotional baggage, as it was released 15 years ago, when I was in the seventh grade. Every time I hear it I feel a little nauseated and sweaty and have flashbacks to junior high dances. And no, I don't remember all the words. But Tim does :) .

Anyway -- the prize for being the Mystery Oldie Super Sleuth was a gift certificate for the local bowling alley. Which brings us to: a flashback to yesterday, and Henry's Very First Bowling Trip.

It was awesome.

So have a truly, madly, deeply good weekend, Babblists.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Mother of a Problem

As much as I am a news junkie, my brain just doesn't have the capacity for too much of the national chatter lately. But last week's Ann Romney vs. Hilary Rosen smackdown over stay-at-home motherhood caught my attention.

Mom and the bosses
I'm not particularly interested in discussing the nuances of stay-at-home parenting work vs. at-the-office work. It's an old debate. But every time the subject of motherhood enters the news, I listen, especially when we're talking about valuing motherhood (and fatherhood) as an important part of our society.

I always hope the conversation trickles toward a topic that is pathetically neglected in the United States: the support we as a nation offer new parents.

Let's play a game: You're a grocery store clerk. You're married to a construction worker. You don't make a ton of money, but you're not desperate economically. You find out you're pregnant. As you prepare for the birth, your plans include what you will do for maternity leave when the baby comes.

If you live in Sweden, your government guarantees 480 days of leave -- that's one year, four-ish months. Two months of it is guaranteed for your husband. You'll receive 80 percent of your regular pay for the first 390 days of your leave, then a flat rate. You start imagining a world of playdates and snuggling, of being there to see your baby smile and crawl and walk, without a thought of how you're going to pay for it.

But Sweden's the usual suspect, right? You pay taxes out the nose for benefits like this, which Americans don't stomach well. But how about a country that's a little closer cousin to the USA?

If you live in the U.K., your employer must offer you up to one year of leave. Your employer will give you 90 percent of your regular pay for the first six weeks and a flat rate for weeks 7-39 (and it doesn't matter that you work for a small business, because public money will reimburse them for most of it). Weeks 40-52 are unpaid, but available. You're relieved to know you're guaranteed a few weeks to recover physically and emotionally from your birth. You and your husband decide you can afford an additional four months off -- enough time to establish breastfeeding, get in some form of sleep routine, and relax with your new little critter before you head back to work.

Doesn't sound too bad, but Britain is still a pretty wealthy country. It can't be so good everywhere, right?

In Serbia you'll get a year off, 100 percent paid by the government, as long as Baby is your first or second kid.

In Poland you get five months, 100 percent paid. In Kazahkstan you'll get a little more than four months, 100 percent paid. In Indonesia you'll get three months, 100 percent paid. In Venezuela you get 18 weeks, 100 percent paid. In Algeria you'll get 14 weeks, 100 percent paid.

In Somalia you get up to 14 weeks at 50 percent of your pay.

In Afghanistan you get 90 days at 100 percent of your pay.

And what about here at home?

In the United States, your employer must give you up to 12 weeks off under the Family and Medical Leave Act*. They can pay you but don't have to, and most don't. The government, federally and in the vast majority of states, offers you nothing.

You save up some vacation time, but it's tricky -- you only have two weeks to work with. You have one week of sick leave and you use it up on morning sickness and doctor's appointments. You scrimp and save, but the birth itself is going to cost so much -- a few thousand dollars, even with your insurance, and you make just enough not to qualify for Medicaid. Your husband can pick up some overtime, but you want him at home to help you navigate new motherhood and bond with his child. Your parents would love to help, but they're not rolling in the dough either.

Your baby is due in just a month, and you still haven't figured out how to get more than four weeks off. What if you have a C-section and have to recover? What if the baby's colicky and you never sleep? Your boss is sweet and supportive, but reminds you that you need your FMLA paperwork in, and soon, so you have to decide.

So what do you do? (Going in the bathroom and crying is an option, but it won't get you far.)

And what do we as Americans do about this? It seems we're pretty content. I can't believe we are.

This isn't a question of taxes or state's rights or big government or whatever. It's a question of what we really value.

We say we value families, that healthy children are the path to a healthy future, that good parenting is the bedrock of our society. The vast majority of people do consider parenthood a job, whether one performed full-time or in conjunction with others.

So if we consider parenting so important -- as Ann Romney said, good ol' Mitt often told her that her job was more important than his -- why are we content to have one of the poorest family leave policies on the planet?

I lean toward supporting a federal  program. For better or worse, the government is the existing system able to pay for and administer policies like family leave. (And yes, I'm saying I'd pay more in taxes to support a federal program. Happily.)

Most countries listed above go the federal route, though some (like Somalia and Afghanistan) put the burden on employers -- which I can't imagine would fly well in our land of small businesses. Heck, if you're really against the government getting involved, we could always create a network of nonprofits that help people afford to stay home with their children.

And if you're  against improving our parental leave policies, tell me why. Let's get this debate started -- because the rest of the world is laughing at us for failing to.


* - as pointed out by astute reader cadylee, this only applies if you work for a company big enough to have to abide by FMLA at all.
Facts and figures in this blog come from the incredible interactive NPR map found here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Blessed are the Candymakers

Easter is over but the story continues --

This is from Jim LaPage's Word series, which is awesome.
Check it out by clicking here
It's one that's really meant to be told again and again, and in the past few weeks we told it before bedtime, in the bathtub, at the dinner table, in the car, because Henry asked, again and again.

We stumbled through it at first -- how to tell a story so intense and cosmic and weird to a little boy, how to give him some shred of understanding. What do you want a 3-year-old to get from the story of Easter? What do you want anyone to get?

Birth, life, teaching, death, resurrection. A narrative -- but to what end? The answer found me before I could overthink it -- the answer Jesus gave an expert in the Mosaic law when he asked for the greatest commandment: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind," and "Love your neighbor as yourself."

And so we told him, again and again: Jesus taught us to love God and to love other people. The whole story is about that.

I hope he spends some time on those ideas as he grows up, keeps them at the heart of the Easter story, wrestles with their meaning and their execution.

It's fascinating, though, to see how he processes it now, to see how that intense, cosmic, weird story comes out in the preschooler mind. He loves supervillains: What were the names of those guys who didn't like Jesus? He adores his friends: What did Jesus and his friends play together?

And this:

Me: "... and so he went around the land talking to people and teaching them and helping them."
Henry: "He helped them? What'd he do?"
Me: "If they were sick, he healed them. If they were hungry, he gave them food. If they were thirsty, he gave them something to drink."
Henry: "If there was time for dessert, he gave them some candy."


Happy (perpetual) Easter.

Check out the rest of the series: Good Egg Hunting, Euaggelion, 49 Years of Easter Awesomeness, Ode to a Marshmallow Peep  

Friday, April 6, 2012

Friday Flashback: Good Egg Hunting

About 23 Years Ago: 

This is me, age 3ish. You may wonder why I'm dressed in a jacket so puffy I look like a cone of strawberry soft-serve. I am hunting Easter eggs.

In Idaho, this is something we often do in the snow, sleet, rain, or extreme cold. We are the postal service of egg hunting. This year, I'm hoping  for sunny skies for hunting tomorrow and Sunday. And though we did have two inches of snow on the ground yesterday morning, that means nothing. It could be 80 tomorrow. Then it could hail. You just never know.

This particular picture was taken at the official Best Easter Egg Hunt Ever: the Laclede community egg hunt.

Laclede is my tiny little hometown, where my mom (and her mom and her mom and her mom) is from. It's a good town in a lot of ways, but the egg hunt is a crowning achievement.

It takes place in lovely Riley Creek Park, which offers a decent beach, some crowded camping, and a couple acres full of amazing places to hide candy and eggs.

I don't have any distinct memories of the hunt from my childhood, but I do remember it well from teenage years on. The hunt had gone dormant for a few years, and Mom decided to bring it back. For a few weeks every spring, my house became Candy Wonderland.

Monday, April 2, 2012


I stand next to my Bible study leader, clutching a stack of glossy fliers, smiling one of those smiles that’s all teeth and no brain.

We hover a moment over the frat boy working on his laptop in the Student Union. The Bible study leader begins her spiel: “We just want to invite you …” And I dutifully hand over the flier.

We’re spreading the word about the movie “The Passion of the Christ.” Spreading the Word. Evangelizing, because that’s what good evangelical Christians do.

I am excited. Aren't I? I’ve been in this big campus Christian group since I started college, and this is the first time I’ve ever been asked to do anything other than show up to meetings.

Part of me feels hopeful as I hand out the fliers – maybe this is my step toward the magical inner circle, the group of clean-cut cool kids who are “on fire for Christ” and are so good. Isn’t that what I want? And isn’t this what I have to do to get there?

But most of me feels awful. I’m never going to watch “Passion of the Christ.” The whole deal makes me uncomfortable – the staggering stylized violence, Mel Gibson’s vicious anti-Semitic remarks, this idea that getting people to watch a movie is somehow miraculously going to “turn our nation to God” or “start a revival” or whatever the catchphrase is.

This idea that a completely fake college freshman and her Bible study leader handing out fliers is going to show anyone any sort of love, or hope, or anything.

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