We’re about to leave for a trip to visit the grandparents in Florida and I realized that we need to add an item to our leaving-the-house walk-through checklist: make sure all the toilets are flushed.
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A lot of my electronic friends started answering personal questions from anonymous strangers on this formspring thing recently and I swore to myself that I would not start. The last thing I need is yet another time-suck. And why would I open myself up to prying minds that way? But I succumbed, just like with Facebook and Twitter. Now, I think Facebook is the most awesome app of the decade, and I’ve found a way to live with Twitter and get what I want from it without spending much time on it. Maybe formspring will be fun, too.
Besides, it gives me an easy blog post, which I really need right now. I am still so freaking busy that I’m feeling anxious just writing this intro, so without any further ado, here is some Q&A, brought to you by me via formspring. (Just click that last link if you want to ask me a question of your own.)
How did you discover Objectivism?
My mom gave me a copy of The Fountainhead when I was 16. I knew immediately that this was the way I wanted my life to be.
It took a while for me to read Atlas Shrugged, though, because the first few pages are so depressing. I was concerned that AS would not live up to TF, and if it didn’t, it would have tainted TF for me. But a few months later my curiosity finally got me to plow through until I met and fell in love with Dagny. I had been disappointed enough by people at 16 that finding that Ayn Rand was consistent was a profound experience.
I would say that I became an Objectivist immediately, mostly based on a sense of life reaction, but also based on my teenager’s understanding of reason, independence, and even freedom. Of course, my understanding has grown immensely since then, but there was never a transition for me.
How did you meet your husband?
Adam and I met in New York at the Ayn Rand Institute’s auction and banquet celebrating the 50th (60th?)anniversary of the publication of Anthem. Adam lived in NY at the time and was volunteering at the event. I lived in Los Angeles but was in NY on business and so was lucky enough to attend. There’s more to the story but you’ll have to ask me if you want more!
Would you rather be skinny with an ugly face or fat with a pretty face?
Oh, come on, really? Anyone else?
Who’s the most overrated musician?
My daughter, for sure.
What would be the best workplace perk?
Coffee, but I think they’ve already figured that one out.
I know I said I wasn’t going to do any more Sam Updates, but now that six months have gone by, I feel the urge again. Maybe half-year installments are more appropriate now that she doesn’t change so quickly.
But in six months – wow – how much she has changed! I guess the two big things are the potty training and her big-girl bed, both of which I’ve written about before. Recently we had a breakthrough that relates to both of them. Sam woke up from her nap, used the bathroom, then went back to sleep! This bodes well for getting rid of the nighttime diaper, but I’m not going to push it. I tried taking away the little pot kind of potties since she was using the regular toilets most of the time, but as soon as I did, she regressed and now I’m dealing with 4-5 accidents each day again.
Of course, Sammy’s communication skills have improved a lot since September. She can talk on the phone a little bit, although even her dad isn’t able to understand what she’s saying. But she’s starting to understand that she needs to speak up, and that the person on the other side can hear her but not see her. She likes to talk to strangers. She tells them about whatever is on her mind – a little bit of the Snow White story, how she scraped her toe when she ran outside barefoot, or how her dog got an ear infection. She uses complete sentences much of the time, although she still has the persistent pronoun problem at times.
It’s hard to tell what progress she is making in school. She seems to like polishing and cleaning and coloring the best, but I know she does other things, too. I am a little bit concerned because her teacher just told me that Sammy seems to feel it necessary to ask if she can do something instead of just doing it. If you aren’t familiar with Montessori’s prepared environment, the classroom is set up so that the children (as young as 3) can walk around the room and choose what they want to work on independently. Most of the materials have built-in feedback so that a teacher doesn’t need to tell the child if she did it right or wrong, so there is minimal adult involvement. But Sammy apparently asks before choosing anything. She is such a strange mix of independent and needy. I can see both aspects of it at home, now that I’ve heard it from the teacher, but I don’t know if it is a problem and if so, what I could do about it. It’s something to keep my eye on.
She has just learned to count. It seems like she should have known how to do this long ago, but up until now, it’s all been just mimicking sounds. “One, two, three…” was just a series of words for her. She recited numbers up to twenty a long time ago (if you ignore The Number Which Must Not Be Named – fifteen), but she could not count objects past two. She either didn’t understand the concept, or she just couldn’t coordinate pointing at things in succession and counting them. Now, all of a sudden, she is counting everything. I’m not sure how high she can get reliably, but with a little help (around the mid-teens), she counted 24 Goldfish crackers the other day. Since I’m more of a math person, this is fun for me!
Sammy’s self-awareness amazes me. She needs to work on distinguishing emotions like frustration, disappointment, or excitement, but she understands and can identify happy, sad, and angry very well. When she is angry, sometimes she will “zip her lip” (to stop herself from yelling at us) and go up to her room on her own to calm down. Sometimes she’ll say, I NEED TO GO BE BY MYSELF RIGHT NOW! and she’ll do just that. I guess she’s had a lot of practice, since she seems to have been perpetually angry for the past six months. I’m sure that’s not accurate, but it feels that way. I guess this is part of what being three years old is all about.
Since we’ve been struggling with the potty we’ve been having more conflicts, and I’ve gotten back into a bad habit of nagging her to use the potty. I mean, I know when she needs to go. It’s perfectly obvious. And once the accidents started I tried to head them off by reminding her to go. The other day we went out for a walk and after 5 minutes she just stopped and stood still and wouldn’t move. She was holding in an impending bowel movement. I asked if she needed to use the potty and she said, NO, which she says every time. I got frustrated and said we needed to go home and she threw a fit. I had to threaten to carry her home and abandon her scooter before she would walk with me, and even then, it was a rough walk home.
Later that afternoon, when we were just snuggling on the sofa and I had totally forgotten the incident, she said to me (and I got this down verbatim):
I’M NOT FEELING VERY HAPPY RIGHT NOW.
YOU KEEP TELLING ME TO GO TO THE POTTY AND THAT MAKES ME ANGRY.
She said it calmly and with such assurance. It was like I was talking to an adult! God, that girl is amazing! I immediately apologized for nagging her all the time, and I told her that I would stop. She agreed to try harder to use the potty. (It’s too early to know if there will be any positive results, but I do know that she was entirely right in her complaint.)
Despite all of the good, this is the first period where I can’t say that this parenting thing just keeps getting better and better. It’s been a rough six months. Most of it is just the nature of her age, but also, I can see aspects of Sam’s personality that I don’t particularly like. She’s a hot-head like her mom and dad, and she converts all negative emotions into anger. I can’t force her to change, but have to somehow help her see, in an age-appropriate way, how she can better identify those emotions and then think about how to solve the problem. I think she is doing extremely well for her age, but I do get tired of being yelled at all day. And, of course, overall, I find her developing personality fascinating and wonderful. I wonder what she’ll be like in six more months.
WordPress (my blogging software) gives me all kinds of statistics on who is accessing my blog, and besides the obsessive checking of hits per day, I also often check the traffic that arrives via search engine terms. (That means people who Googled something and ended up finding me.) Rational Jenn has reported some of the crazy ways that people find her blog, so I thought I’d jump in and share some of mine.
- The search that lands people on my blog the most often is, by far, “Al Sears quack” or some variation thereof. I mentioned this guy one time (and called him a quack), and I still get a hit or two every day from people who apparently agree with me or are wondering what to think. I’ve received at least 550 visitors from that one line I wrote a year ago. I should make a list of obscure controversial issues and blog about them just to get new readers. Or not.
- Aside from my name, “Short desk” has gotten me the next highest amount of traffic. I’m not surprised because when I was designing the office space in my living room, the biggest obstacle to comfort was the fact that the standard desk height is way too tall for my 5’3″ self. I, myself, Googled “short desk” and found lots of good advice before I built the workspace and then wrote about it.
- I love that someone found my blog by searching, “stack of harry potter books,” even though I’ve only mentioned the saga twice.
- Lots of people find my blog by sitting down at a computer and seeking electronic advice for a serious problem: “People call me stupid.” I don’t think my blog can help them. At least, I hope not.
- Apparently, I talk about poop often enough to draw people looking for “nervous pooer,” “changing poop diaper,” “morning nappy change,” and even the creatively spelled “diaper poopi.”
- Somebody found me by searching for “Samantha is gross.” I hope it wasn’t somebody I know.
- “Things spit is used for” must bring up so many interesting results – I can’t imagine why they clicked over to me on that one.
- “Huge pregnant belly journal.” What do you think was in that person’s head?
- And finally, “man grows long nail.” Sometimes Google just doesn’t work.
Oh, my! Is it really Thursday? I think Sammy is way overdue for a bath.
Oh, yeah, and there is that Objectivist Round Up thing today, hosted by Kelly at Reepicheep’s Coracle. (Someday I’ll be able to spell that without double-checking three times.) Will someone please read it for me this week? I’m booked. Seriously, go!
- MOMMY, I WAS JUST OUTSIDE WITH MY BOY, MY BOY, MY BOY, MY BOYFRIEND.
- What happy things are you going to think about when you are going to sleep tonight, Sammy?
- I’M GOING TO THINK ABOUT PARALLELOGRAM, RHOMBUS, AND PANDA BEAR BUTTS.
- I’m sorry, Sammy, I was wrong about that.
- I made a mistake.
- JUST LIKE DADDY.
I have the kind of child with whom going to the dentist is just another fun, new experience. (And she has clean teeth, too.)
I think I may have finally resolved one of the major issues in my life: how to keep my house clean enough to enjoy it without undue stress.
Solution: I hired a housecleaning service to come just once a month.
Even with our improved financial situation, I still can’t bring myself to hire someone to do the whole job for me. It’s an enormous expense, and I really don’t mind the actual cleaning, so it seems like a waste. But I found a service that will do a decent job for $100. That is a major bargain here in pork-city (DC). And that $100 is definitely worth it, because the problem with doing it myself is not really the time it takes, but the stress that it causes.
I have never, ever had a regular housecleaning routine. I tried really hard a couple of year ago, using a checklist and allowing myself reasonable time frames. But I still couldn’t work up the motivation to keep it up. Really, I’ve always just cleaned something when it was dirty enough to bug me. But that leaves me in the state of always being annoyed at the dirtiness of some part my house, and always feeling like I should be doing more. It has been a constant source of stress for as long as I can remember.
Now, a bargain once-a-month job is not going to keep my house in a state that doesn’t bug me. We have a child, a dog, and a cat, and you can see the increase in dirtiness on a daily basis around here! But what that once-a-month cleaning gives me is the knowledge that I’ll have a reboot. If I just can’t find the time or motivation to vacuum for that entire month, I know it will be resolved by the maids. If I just clean the bathrooms for that month because that’s what bugs me, I know that I won’t also have to squeeze in mopping and dusting and all the rest. And if I don’t touch a thing for the entire month, I won’t be left with an even bigger cleaning job. I’ll just have suffered a dirty house for a while, but then I’ll get to start over. This knowledge is all I need to feel totally relaxed about the whole process.
Hopefully I won’t raise my cleanliness standards and start getting stressed out again. I admit that that is a real possibility. But, for now, this seems to be working. Hallelujah!
I haven’t written much about Sammy’s progress with reading because she hasn’t been making much progress. She learned her letters and letter sounds very early but then she plateaued.
She seemed to be stuck on the isolation of the sounds in words. She was able to identify the first letter of any particular word back in the fall, but moving on to the last sound or the middle sound has been a challenge. She’d occasionally spell a word, but it was never consistent. One word she has spelled quite a few times is “red.” I was never sure why.
I actually haven’t been working on it much with her; she has been doing a lot of work with letters and sounds at school to keep up what she already knows, and if she wasn’t ready to move on, I wasn’t going to push it. Her brain probably just couldn’t isolate those sound yet, or maybe she was just adjusting to the way they teach her in school. Her progress stopped right around that same time. None of this ever concerned me – it’s just something I noted.
She’s recently started making progress again. She has started telling me the first letters of words more often and without prompting, so I know her interest is high again. (No matter how many times I correct her, she likes to tell me B STARTS WITH BALL and C STARTS WITH CAT.) When we play our games (from Montessori Read and Write: A Parent’s Guide to Literacy for Children
by Lynn Lawrence), she now seems to be able to identify more of the sounds. She might get them in the wrong order, and she still needs a lot of help, but I can see that she is able to recognize that there are multiple sounds in words. She has also become very excited to learn that double-e says “eeeee” as in pee, and double-o says “ooooo” as in poo.
Sidewalk chalk has always been a great way for us to sound out words. I’ll pick a word and she’ll tell me what letters to write. Yesterday, she spelled “grass” (G-R-A-S) and “green” (spelled correctly) and “shoe” (S-H-O-O). I picked the words with the double e’s and o’s on purpose since she likes them so much.
I felt so good about this phonetic approach when I found today, in Sammy’s school folder, her moveable alphabet book (the teacher writes out the words that the child spells with wood cut-out letters) containing:
It’s pretty funny because the colors were some of her first spoken words, and now they are becoming some of her first read/written words. I swear, this kid already has a hierarchy of values and she acts on it!
Ayn Rand says:
I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows.
This—the supremacy of reason—was, is and will be the primary concern of my work, and the essence of Objectivism.
“Brief Summary,” The Objectivist, Sept. 1971, 1.
If you would like to know more about Ayn Rand and her philosophy, the best resource is Ayn Rand herself. Read her fiction – it’s thrilling! But if you’d like just a taste of what Objectivism is all about, try reading some of the posts below, or browse the excellent web site of The Ayn Rand Institute.
And now, on with the Round Up!
Jared Rhoads presents Reversing the takeover posted at The Lucidicus Project, saying, “Krugman is right about one thing: this takeover is the culmination of decades of government intervention in healthcare.”
Rachel Miner presents Thyroid Latest: Reverse T3 posted at The Playful Spirit, saying, “I wrote an update on my thyroid issues for those collecting data points on this concern being experienced by so many.”
Rachel Miner presents Autism Follow Up, Sensory Integration Dysfunction posted at The Playful Spirit, saying, “I answer a question explaining more fully the sensory issues which can be combined with autism, but may be exhibited alone. I think the book recommendation I include is useful for any child because every kid, by their very nature, is learning to integrate sensory data.”
Sandi Trixx presents World Malaria Day – Blame Environmentalists for 3 Million Deaths a Year posted at Sandi Trixx, saying, “The left, without admitting their wrongdoing, have decided to have a warm and fuzzy World Malaria Day so they can feel all good inside.”
Jared Rhoads presents Hold a sign, speak out posted at The Lucidicus Project, saying, “Washington officials are saying that this could be the last week in the healthcare debate. So get out and be heard!”
Trey Givens presents Who Pays on Guy-Guy Dates? posted at Trey Givens, saying, “This week, I’m submitting some lighter fare for the carnival. As I understand it, heterosexuals don’t even have consistent rules of conduct about this and homosexuals are not struck dumb and blind at their first thoughts of sodomy, but, still the question comes up with surprising frequency. That and “Who leads when you slow dance?” That question will have to wait for another day. But here you have a rather definitive guide to figuring out who will pay on guy-guy dates to apply in your own lives. ENJOY!”
John Drake presents Mind mapping software posted at Try Reason!, saying, “I give a quick overview of a tool for that is said to support the Getting Things Done personal productivity framework. Mind mapping might be a really useful to for getting ideas organized.”
Rational Jenn presents Interesting TED Talk on Motivation posted at Rational Jenn, saying, “In many ways, the Mommy job is very similar to other people management jobs I’ve had in the past. A TED Talk about motivating employees got me thinking again about the issue of motivating children.”
Jason Stotts presents Relationships: A Continuum of Permissiveness posted at Erosophia, saying, “In this essay, I want to explore the concept of permissiveness and exclusivity as they relate to relationships. I want to explore the idea that relationships exist along a continuum of permissiveness with a completely jealous relationship at one extreme and an open relationship at the other, with exclusive relationships and swinging relationships in between.”
Adam Reed presents Healthy Weight posted at Born to Identify, saying, “The ideal dragoon, and therefore the ideal Prussian conscript, had to be light enough to ride all day without exhausting the horse. If one accepts the Prussian pseudo-standard, 68% of Americans are overweight or obese.”
Rory presents In which Rory pursues knowledge for the sake of knowledge – Part One posted at Mind To Matter, saying, “”Coupled with a healthy recognition of the value of knowledge to one’s life, it is good to pursue knowledge for its own sake – that is to say, because one finds satisfying one’s curiosity to be valuable and enjoyable – without necessarily knowing the concrete practical ends which that knowledge might or might not achieve.”"
Mike Zemack presents The Wreckage of the “Climate Consensus” posted at Principled Perspectives, saying, “For the second time in my lifetime – 1970s global cooling and today’s global warming – an climate catastrophe movement is unraveling.”
Diana Hsieh presents Welcome to Modern Paleo! posted at Modern Paleo, saying, “I’ve just launched my latest project: Modern Paleo. It offers writings and other resources by Objectivists on the principles and practices of nutrition, fitness, and health most conducive to human flourishing.”
C.W. presents Fed and the Money Supply: Details posted at Krazy Economy, saying, “Understanding exactly how our money supply expands is important both for intellectual combat and making personal decisions. This post should complete the discussion of the Fed.”
That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of the Objectivist Round Up using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.
Last week in the car on the way to the zoo, Sammy said “Are we there yet?” for the very first time. I’m going to enjoy it now, while it’s still cute.
This past weekend I accomplished something I’ve been trying to do for many months: I started an Objectivist discussion group!
I started thinking about this project when I realized that the most important thing I get from my friends is intellectual stimulation. I noticed that when Adam and I have friends over – friends who share our philosophical views and take ideas seriously – the conversations we have make me feel great for days. Sometimes I learn something new from the content of the discussion, but more often than not, the important thing is that the exercise of my mind refuels me and puts me into a more active-minded mode than I would normally be in. After these visits, I feel charged up, energetic, and on my game. Everything I do is more intense, and I enjoy my routine much more.
I like lots of different people for lots of different reasons – this is not the only value of friendship for me. However, this particular value is something that I need in a deep and serious way, since my day-job, although challenging in many ways, is not really an intellectual endeavor. I mean, I use my mind as a parent. My god, I use my mind in ways that I never knew that I could! But the truth is, parenting is full of a lot of mind-numbingly boring tasks (cooking, running errands, wiping bottoms, telling Little Bear stories, etc.). Happily, I actually enjoy most of these things. But the sheer volume of minutia involved in full-time parenting makes me long to fly up high and see the forest instead of the trees. It’s funny, because I noted long ago that Adam, whose career is intellectual, feels a strong need for hobbies that are physical and/or give instant gratification. When we had a nice yard in Michigan, he took up yard work, and got a great deal of satisfaction from something as ordinary as pulling weeds or mowing the lawn. I think most people would like to have both kinds of activities in their lives.
So anyway, I decided I wanted to start an Objectivist club, but it took me a long time to nail down exactly what kind of club it would be. I’m pretty sure most of my readers know what Objectivism is, but if not, you can check out The Ayn Rand Institute’s web site. People have been forming Objectivist clubs for decades, and most clubs fall into one of three main categories:
- Study clubs. The most common type of Objectivist club, these groups devote serious effort to understanding Ayn Rand’s ideas. Most college campus clubs fall into this category. These clubs can have anywhere from just a few members, to dozens. Usually, there are some formal requirements for membership and, if the club is large enough, there are elected positions such as secretary, treasurer, etc. Many of these clubs also organize speaker events which are open to the public. I founded a study club at Michigan State University while I was there, although I did a terrible job with it and it appears to be dead now. I wish I had OCN back then to help me!
- Social clubs. These are a way to network with local Objectivists and hopefully make some friends amongst like-minded people. Many clubs organize activities that have nothing to do with Objectivism – the idea is just to get everyone together and have fun.
- Activist clubs. I’ve never had any experience with an Objectivist club dedicated to activism, but they do exist.
Well, I spent many months being very confused about what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted a study club, but my experience at MSU made me realize that I didn’t want a typical one. Most of these clubs seem to have a second, implicit purpose of promoting Objectivism to the local community, which is not something I want to do. Most are more formal than what I was looking for, and involve more time than I’m willing to put in. Finally, I was tied up in knots about who to invite to join my club. With campus clubs, the idea is always to get as many members as possible. I know a lot of Objectivists in the DC area whom I like and would like to spend more time with. But the kind of conversations that I want and need have always happened with a small group of people.
In the end, I decided to start a very small group, and to keep the structure of it to a minimum. There are 6 of us, and we meet monthly. We don’t have a statement of purpose or anything formal like that, but I made it clear that I want to focus on what I call “applied Objectivism.” I’m not interested in philosophy as such, but how to live my life better, which, of course, is the purpose of philosophy.
I determined the subject of our first discussion just to get us started. I suggested some reading and a few questions to consider. At our first meeting on Sunday, we started with that, but just let the conversation flow in whatever direction it would. (I’m not going to report on the content of our discussions here.) We stayed mostly on-point, but it was done naturally, without the need for moderation. During our discussion, we all became interested in another subject, and agreed that we would make that our topic for next month. Another member will take the lead for that discussion, and we’ll probably trade off that “lead” role going forward. This loose structure seemed to work very well, but we might change it if necessary.
I am really happy with this group, and I feel very proud that I met the challenge of doing it selfishly.
Last night we discovered a new value of Sammy’s: tap dancing.
I’ve watched tons of videos of dancing with her: ballet, hip-hop, swing, you name it. She always enjoys it. But after a walk in the rain yesterday, Adam was inspired to play a video of Gene Kelly’s Singing in the Rain:
Sammy had her “observation face” on the whole time. She didn’t smile or react much in any way – but she was watching intently. So Adam searched for more tap dancing videos and he played Fred Astaire’s Puttin’ on the Ritz for her:
In the middle of this video, Sammy must have accumulated enough data, because her calm broke and she screamed: I CAN DO THAT! I’M GOING TO PUT ON MY WATER SHOES AND I CAN DO THAT! She ran to her shoe basket, put on her Crocs, and came back and started stomping her feet and swinging her arms. She combined the “tap dancing” with her usual spinning and some clear mimicry of the video. We could see the joy of discovery in her face. She was enraptured! (I took a video, but she’s naked except for the shoes, so I can’t share it, which is a bummer. I’ll have to learn how to edit those pesky videos someday.)
She combined the clapper with the dancing in the Crocs and we had a tap dancer in the house! How smart is that! It’s all about values.
I’ve been looking for some kind of physical activity for Sam to do on a regular basis. She’s just not that physical of a kid, and I think she’s ready for something where she can learn to control her body and exercise her gross motor skills. I’m signing her up for tap this summer for sure!
This level of perceptiveness is what all adults should aspire to, and I gave Sammy due credit for the observation:
LOOK, MOMMY! A PENIS!
That’s not a penis, it’s your vagina. Boys have penises, girls have vaginas, remember?
BUT MOMMY, LOOK! LOOK HERE. IT’S A PENIS.
Oh, I see. That’s called your clitoris. It’s not a penis. It’s part of your vagina and it’s called a clitoris.
IT’S A PENIS.
No, it’s really not.
IT’S A PRETEND PENIS.