Archive for the 'parenthood' Category


Disney now marketing to newborns

Yes, that’s right. NEWBORNS. As in “just been born and still in the hospital.” This brings a whole new level of literalness to the concept of “cradle to grave” marketing.

You can read the New York Times article about it here.

You can read the Consumerist take on it here. The comments are pretty good. Some choice ones:

  • “It’s not a new practice for companies to give baby products to new parents, but to have a rep actually visit the hospital room is incredibly tacky and invasive. The mother is still exhausted and this is a time for her to recover and for family to visit, not to be subjected to a sales pitch.”
  • “‘To get that mom thinking about her family’s first park experience before her baby is even born is a home run.’ I’ll bet that smarmy bastard said those words without an ounce of guilt or shame. While it’s no surprise that Disney would sink low enough to want to manipulate children’s minds before they can even have HALF of a choice, it’s still disgusting.”
  • Well hell, maybe we should inject a Disney rep right into the Cervix for a cheery “Hello!” to the ABOUT to be born bambino.
  • Wow, I never realized the severe level of neglect taking place right here in the US. The possibility of children spending a good 4 years of their life not “consuming” Disney products? It’s the kind of thing I thought only happened in movies…

If you’re feeling unhappy about this news and feel like doing something, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood site is a great place to start, and they’ve already got a campaign up and running on this subject.


Vermont: Flora and fauna

p8132818chipmunkftf.jpgWe saw lots of interesting animals on our hikes and bike rides, but I was never quick enough with the camera then (or camera-less entirely). But there was plenty to see close to home, too.

On the deck behind our cottage is a huge wooden bird feeder. It’s more like a trough, really, and we keep it filled with sunflower seeds. (The cottage owners make sure to keep the place stocked with a large bag of seeds.)

p8132835chipmunkcheeksftf.jpgThe feeder is visited by plenty of birds, but it also gets a fair number of chipmunk visitors, who brazenly climb in and sit inside while stuffing their cheeks full of seeds. (Click on the picture of the feeder, and you’ll see what I mean.)

Here’s one little guy, just after he visited the bird feeder. It almost seemed as though he stopped to pose for this photo, the little ham!

p8132827hummingbirdftf.jpgThere were two hummingbird feeders out there, too. And they were both very popular! I’d never been this close to hummingbirds before—they were literally a foot away from me at time. The buzzing of their wings sounds a lot like bees.

p8122458berriesftf.jpgDuring our outing to the beaver pond, we spotted lots of blackberry bushes with not-quite-ripe berries. “D’oh!” we thought. “We’re a week early!” And then, on our way back to the cottage, Jan spotted a likely blackberry patch. Ka-ching! We hit the mother lode. Wild blackberries have plenty of thorns, but if you’re willing to put up with a few scratches here and there (well, okay—maybe a lot of scratches), you end up with one of the best-tasting things in the world.

p8132756grasshopperftf.jpgThis year, Sylvia had two firsts in the animal-catching department. She caught her first frog, and she caught her first grasshopper. In both cases, she was absolutely tickled pink with her accomplishment—and extremely gentle with the animals, both of which she released. She held the grasshopper (pictured here) for a few seconds. And then, with no prompting from Jan and me, she said, “It’s time to let the grasshopper go,” opened her hands, and watched it hop away.

img_0260smokeysmall0809.jpgAnd of course you can’t have a proper vacation without at least one encounter with a pantless Smokey the Bear, right?


God, explained

As an academic, I’ve examined religion through a scholarly lens. In my undergraduate studies, the most memorable excursions into this territory were various anthropology classes and a course in Greek and Roman classical mythology; religion–specifically, the author’s Catholicism, was also at the forefront in discussions of Un noeud de vipères (Vipers’ Tangle), by François Mauriac, in my 20th-century French literature course. In graduate school, I took an anthropology course dedicated to religion, wrote about ecofeminism in my master’s thesis, taught about the intersection of art and religion in Bali, and read and wrote about religion in various other places.

In my personal life, too, I’ve done a lot of thinking about religion. I was raised Catholic but became apathetic about it during high school and completely disillusioned with it during college. After dipping my toes into the water of atheism, agnosticism, Quakerism, and Buddhism, I eventually found my way to Unitarian Universalism. That doesn’t mean I’ve found any answers: UUs themselves like to joke that theirs is an “anything goes” religion. (Although UU congregations vary widely–some are Christian, some are neopagan, some shun any mention of the word “god” within their walls, etc.–they are united by an adherence to the seven principles, often referred to as “the bookmark princlples” because they figure prominently on the “about UU” bookmark available on the literature table in most church lobbies. These principles more or less boil down to “be nice to everyone else and to the planet, too.”)

After all of those wanderings, though, it was only parenthood that enabled me to truly understand the nature of god. My two-year-old daughter is heavily into a “Why?” phase now, and my husband and I do our best to answer her questions as best as we can. Sometimes we reach “I don’t know” before she tires of the question chain. And sometimes, when we do make it to “I don’t know,” she still isn’t satisfied.

A few days ago, a post-dinner conversation (during a thunderstorm) reached this point. And at that moment, I had a religious epiphany.

Sylvia: I’m not scared of thunder.

Me: Great! And don’t forget that when there’s thunder, that usually means rain is coming, so the trees and plants and flowers will get a good drink.

Sylvia: Why?

Jan: When the Sun warms the water on the ground, it causes a phase change, which converts some of the liquid water molecules to gas, and they rise up into the air and form clouds.

Sylvia: Why?

Jan: Water vapor in the air condenses around dust particles, forming liquid again that falls to the earth as rain.

Sylvia: Why?

Jan: I don’t know why it rains.

Sylvia: Why?

Jan: It’s just something I don’t know.

Sylvia: Why?

Me: Now I understand why humans developed the concept of a god: in order to have the ultimate “because”-type answer to these sorts of questions from two-year-olds.

(P.S. Ever since David Byrne’s fabulous album Uh-Oh came out in 1992, it always pops into my mind whenever I start thinking about god. Take a peek at the cover and you’ll see why.)