Archive | Children

In which i get my feet wet

The first time I did NaBloPoMo was the first time we visited Abu Dhabi, in November 2010. We’d told our kids—who at the time seemed so grown up but now, looking back, seem way too young for us to have hauled them around the world—that we were going “just for vacation” and to “see where Daddy had been working.” We didn’t tell them that plans were already afoot for a move the following year.

And now, eight years later, what had been our year-long Big Adventure is just our life; the ten year old is leaving for college next year, the jolly first-grader is now a taciturn 9th grade Marxist.

There seems not to be an official National Blog Posting Month any more, but I’m in need of the exercise, so I’m dipping my feet into the waters of this November challenge to see what happens. And as if to remind me of my first NaBloPoMo, you know what arrived in the mail the other day from my sister in New Jersey? Flat fucking Stanley. On that first trip to Abu Dhabi, we’d not only had the joy of bringing the stuffed crocodile that belonged to Younger Son’s first grade class but also his Flat Stanley. Every outing on that trip meant remembering the crocodile and the paper doll.

Here’s the deal with Flat Stanley: it started as a story, but now kids mail their own Stanley to friends or relatives so that Stan can have adventures that get written up in a little booklet and returned to the kid, who shares the story with her class.  I’m the farthest flung relative, so this Stanley is my second hosting gig. I always feel like this entire enterprise could be kind of a bummer for any kid who doesn’t have a way to get Stanley to somewhere far from home.

And so we’re taking Stanley out: he’s been to the grocery store, thus far, for some portraits near the honey from Yemen and the olive oil from Palestine; he’s going to the beach tomorrow. Not sure if I can arrange a camel sighting, but I will take Stanley to the Mary Mother of Jesus Mosque, which was renamed two years ago, and sits on the same street as St. George Episcopal church, the Evangelical Christian Church, and a few kilometers from the Mormon temple. I will not be bringing Stanley to Ladies Night at my favorite restaurant, where the pink wine is always 50% off.

Welcome to Abu Dhabi, Stan; and hello world of NaBloPoMo. It’s nice to see you all again.

Continue Reading · 0 on November 4, 2018 in Abu Dhab, Children

Traveling with Toddlers

The first time I traveled from the US overseas with a four-year old, I packed cans of soup.

Yes, soup.

That’s what he ate. He was three, wildly underweight for his age, and he was my first kid. I happily paid the baggage surcharge in exchange for knowing that I’d be able to feed my child. (Second child had to more or less fend for himself, but that’s another story.)

Yes, my bag was ridiculously heavy (although it was lighter on the return), and yes, I realized after we arrived in London that Campbell’s chicken-noodle soup is available in most major grocery stores.

And yes, the toddler grew out of it.

But apparently, TrumpyTrump hasn’t. Check this story from The Guardian about Trump’s travel plans for his “big foreign trip,” which include making sure that steak-and-ketchup are served at each formal dinner.

When we went to London, the toddler (mine, not the one that belongs to the United States) also talked about his “big trip” and he carefully packed a little bag to bring on the plane: two Star Wars figures, his blankie, a small beanbag teddy bear, and a glow-stick necklace.

My inflight bag contained sticker books, lollipops, a lift-the-flap counting book, several small “surprises” to unwrap (mostly Hotwheels cars), and assorted crayons and paper.

In this picture of The Big Toddler and his nanny wife, it doesn’t look like Melania is carrying a bag–or even has a pocket (or could even sit down in that skirt, which is about two shades off from the toddlers “tan”).

 

photo from The Guardian

I’m hoping she’s got supplies stashed on the plane: jumbo bottles of ketchup, a few sticker books, perhaps a match-the-foreign-leader-name-to-the-face coloring book, maybe a connect-the-dots map of the world? Otherwise it’s gonna be a long flight–and it’s no fun trying to deal with a toddler’s temper tantrums when you’re 38,000 feet in the air and seven hours from landing.

Bon voyage, kids. Have fun. I’m pretty sure they sell ketchup in Riyadh.

Continue Reading · on May 20, 2017 in Children, expat, Kids, Politics, Travel

Vanity Fair, Elon Musk, AI, and Frankenstein’s (unexpected) Monster

Vanity Fair magazine recently ran a profile of Elon Musk that focused on the ways that Musk is at odds with other tech gurus about the relative merits of artificial intelligence (AI). Musk, who thinks that A.I. is humanity’s biggest threat, is quoted as saying “sometimes what will happen is a scientist will get so engrossed in their work that they don’t really realize the ramifications of what they’re doing.”  Musk doesn’t reference it directly, but his fears about a scientist who gets carried away with his work, with disastrous results, perfectly describe Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Victor Frankenstein’s ambition to “penetrate the recesses of nature” leads him to create a human being, which he thinks will become a new species that will “bless him” as the creator. Victor’s creature, as we all know, does not turn out the way Victor expects, and when the creature comes to life one November evening, Victor flees in horror, leaving his creature defenseless and alone—and outside of Victor’s control. Eventually, after the creature learns to read and think, he confronts Victor and demands that Victor make him a female companion. The creature plans to flee with the female to South America, where they will live on nuts and berries and exist in complete harmony with nature. Victor initially agrees to this plan and then changes his mind, fearful that the female creature “might refuse to comply” with the plan. He destroys the female creature, which sends his first creation into a vengeful rage. The final chapters of the novel focus on the battle between man and creation, each trying to destroy the other.

The novel is about the dangers of ambition, yes, and about not realizing the full ramifications of your actions, but ultimately, “Frankenstein’s monster” is not the problem.

At the heart of the novel is what happens when women are neglected and their experiences denied by male ambition. Frankenstein wants to create life all by himself, without women; he cannot bear the thought that the female creature might not “comply” with what men want her to do; and when the creature kills Frankenstein’s bride on their wedding night, it’s because Frankenstein never thought that the monster would bother with anyone else other than him.

Maureen Dowd, who wrote this article, also interviewed a number of other players in the tech world as a way to map the spectrum of attitudes about AI developments.

Here is the infographic that accompanied the article:

 

Notice anything? It’s like Frankenstein talking to himself: apparently only men have opinions about AI, which I guess explains why Dowd’s article only contains interviews with men. Musk talks about other male entrepreneurs, who then talk about Musk, themselves, and each other. It’s a giant reflecting mirror of men talking about their accomplishments—past, present, and future.

And yet, as Heather Roff pointed out in a recent issue of Foreign Policy, as developments in AI continue, no one seems to be asking key questions: “Are there abuses of power? What is the value happening here? Why are we doing this? Who is subordinate? And who is in charge?” Questions like these are embedded in feminist theories but I’m going to bet that none of the guys on that infographic are very well versed in the writings of Donna Haraway or bell hooks.

The men in Dowd’s article are terrifically accomplished, there’s no doubt, but they (and we) should take a lesson from Mary Shelley and her nineteenth-century nightmare: when you leave women out of the equation(s), the results are disastrous.

 

 

 

Infographic credit

 

Continue Reading · on April 28, 2017 in Children, Education, Feminism, Gender, Politics, tech life

At Home (or not) In the World

In July 2004, when I was about five thousand weeks pregnant, I told my midwife that I was about to fly to Northern Michigan for summer vacation. She looked at me and shook her head at my delusional self. Slowly, as if to a not-too-bright-child, she explained that after one preemie and one miscarriage, there was no way in hell that my high-risk belly was going on an airplane ride (followed by a six-hour car ride).  “Stay close to home,” she said. “Really close.”

Super-pregnant and just a tad emotional, I waddled through the steamy stinky streets of New York wondering how I was going to survive until I birthed this small elephant inside me. A friend suggested a nearby escape hatch: Long Beach Island, in New Jersey. “Down the shore,” to be exact.

My response was something along the lines of “euuuuwww, New Jersey?”  But the twin engines of time (less than a two hour drive) and money (nowhere near as much as it would cost to spend even an hour in the Hamptons) made LBI seem like a reasonable thing to do, a friend had a brother-in-law with a house for rent, and before you could say Snooki, there we were, on the shores of LBI.

LBI Beach

LBI Beach

Reader? I loved it. Loved its flipflop-and-shorts sensibility, loved its not-Hamptons aesthetic, loved the twisted beach pines and loved the old lighthouse at the norther tip.

We’ve been coming back ever since, so much so that the baby who was born shortly after our vacation ended, now considers LBI to be “our family place.” And even though we don’t own a place down here, we’ve been lucky enough to rent the same house now for a bunch of years in a row; it’s an anchor point in our summer and as much as I would like to do more exploring of the US itself, every summer, when I crest the dune for the first time I think, “nah, why go anywhere else?”

Every four years, however, we have to turn a blind eye to the politics of the place. Last year I saw a “Coulter/Palin 2016” bumper sticker, and it was clearly aspirational, not ironic. This year… Trump.

We’ve been keeping count and our utterly unscientific poll shows Trump leading Hilary by a slight margin. That’s what I wrote about in last week’s National: the two visions of the world that are at stake in this year’s election. I love LBI … but I want HRC’s cosmopolitan vision to carry the day.

Continue Reading · on August 6, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, Children, expat, family, Politics

How do we raise “global citizens” ?

“Global citizen” is a phrase I’m hearing a lot lately. That’s what we’re all supposed to be aiming towards–at least, those of us who didn’t vote for “Brexit” or aren’t in favor of the Trumpian wall.  It’s what is supposed to happen when you move to another country and raise your kids outside their “own” culture (whatever that means); it’s supposed to be what happens to the so-called “third culture kids.”

I have my doubts, sometimes, about whether this global citizenship thing is really possible. That’s what I’m writing out this week in the World Moms Network and you can check it out here. Let me know what you think: is global citizenship possible? And if so, how do we create that mindset?

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Continue Reading · on July 6, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, Children, Education, growing up, Kids, World Moms Blog

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