more on cooking

As I've noted, I am trying really hard to cook more actual, sit down meals for the fam. I cannot cook because my mother never taught me. So I am trying to teach myself and soon, I will try harder to better involve kids in cooking.

I thought I had the worst cooking skills on the planet until I married J.H. I now know that my beloved, who has MANY other wonderful and important skills, is, in fact, the least skilled cook on the planet ;-)

The very act of being asked to turn on the oven appears to frighten him. But he is very sweet about trying.

COOKING TRIUMPH OF THE WEEK: I made a sausage and potato casserole that was pretty tasty.

Tonight I am attempting a simple, roasted pork tenderloin with some grilled pearl onions and asparagus. DRAT - just realized I have no lemon juice at home...

lots of game theory on youtube

Wow! I found a treasure trove of Game Theory (videos, concert footage) on You Tube RIGHT HERE

This makes me wildly nostalgic for being 19 years old again. I had me some serious fun in college...

the abstinence outlet

Via FEMINISTING, I stumbled onto this ONLINE STORE that excluively carries abstinence-promoting, this one:


elizabeth edwards

I am a big John Edwards fan. I hope he runs for president in '08 - and I think he will. He's exactly what the country is ready for right now.

I will definitely buy and read his very cool wife ELIZABETH'S NEW BOOK


liberals aren't having enough babies

According to a number of sources, and most recently, THIS ARTICLE IN USAToday, we progressive types aren't reproducing fast enough, while the Republicans and particularly the Republican Mormons continue to go forth and multiply like crazy.

At least I'm doing my part to keep up our liberal ranks... In fact, my whole family is. We're a rare breed of fertile, highly procreative, southern liberalistas.

Answers from the Author of "The Complete Organic Pregnancy"

A week or two ago, I asked readers to submit questions for the author of THIS NEW BOOK. It's called "The Complete Organic Pregnancy" and it's a comprehensive guide to avoiding toxins while pregnant and breastfeeding.

One of the authors, Deirdre Dolan (the other author is Alexandra Zissu), took some time to answer your questions and here are her answers.

(And I have the books ready to go out to the folks who sent in questions, so look for them next week some time!)


BLOG READER QUESTION: What is the tone of the book? Will reading it make me feel like my already-born children are irreparably damaged because I did not know
to avoid all this stuff? Will it make me feel like a bad mother if I can't successfully avoid it in subsequent pregnancy?

DEIRDRE REPLIES: We didn’t know a fraction of what we now do about organics before we started researching our book, so we think the tone is more helpful than doctrinaire. We say over and over that it would be pretty hard to do everything we recommend, so people should do whatever percent they can – be that 5% or 95%. From our friends who are second-time moms who want to get on the organics bandwagon, we’re hearing an “A-ha!” response to a lot of what we point out. As in: “That makes sense, and now I know why and what to do.” We assume that how ambitious you decide to be about the information in our book will directly correspond with how much it resonates with you. If it resonates strongly and you don’t decide to make changes, perhaps you’ll feel bad. But it’s more likely that you’ll do what makes sense to you, and feel comfortable ignoring the rest. We’ve never read a pregnancy book (before ours of course) that we followed every word of, and so we wrote this one with that in mind. Of course we’d love it if you go more organic than not, but ultimately it’s up to you to pick and choose what works for your life.

BLOG READER QUESTION: What gets top priority for the pregnant momma? There are organic cotton diapers, and organic chocolate, along with organic-fed chickens
and grass-fed beef. And of course fruits and veggies. What is most critical?

DEIRDRE REPLIES: Here are five great steps we think worth taking to protect your baby during the childbearing year:

1. Buy non-toxic cleaning products because basically everything conventional is bad. This will help your indoor air pollution considerably. (You can make your own cleaning products for a fraction of the cost with a combination of liquid soap, baking soda, water and white vinegar.)
2. Chicken, fruits, veggies, and chocolate fall into the same category for us. Eat organic and whole foods – unprocessed foods as close to the form they were grown in as possible.
3. Have your house and water tested for lead, particularly if your house was built before 1987.
4. Read the ingredients in your beauty products. Can you pronounce, let alone recognize, what’s listed? Our government doesn’t (yet) regulate cosmetics as organic which means any producer can claim to be organic. Choose products with fewer and more natural ingredients. We have trustworthy brand suggestions in the book.
5. Don’t renovate while pregnant. If you need to make basic changes, especially where the pregnant mother or baby will be sleeping, use zero-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint, and nontoxic wood and glue.

BLOG READER QUESTION: Is there ever a time in your opinion that the price of organic
foods and household products is not worth the cost? In other words, as
a pregnant woman, what non-organic foods and products (if any) can I
feel safe and confident about?

DEIRDRE REPLIES: The Environmental Working Group ( has investigated and determined which are the most and least pesticide-laden conventional fruits and vegetables. We urge you to eat organically but if you’d like to still buy conventional, check our their least-contaminated vegetable list which includes: sweet corn, avocado, cauliflower, asparagus, onions, peas and broccoli. The five conventional fruits least likely to have pesticide residues on them are pineapples, mangoes, bananas, kiwi and papaya. (The vegetables MOST likely to expose consumers to pesticides are spinach, celery, potatoes, and sweet bell pepper. The most contaminated fruits are peaches, strawberries, apples, nectarines, pears, cherries, red raspberries, and imported grapes.)

As we mentioned above, we also advise eating whole foods, which doesn’t have to mean organic, but food that is unprocessed and unrefined, or at least processed and refined as little as possible before being consumed. Whole foods retain more of their nutrients than processed food. A potato is good for you (even with the pesticides), certainly better than potato chips. There are a number of processed and packaged “organic” foods now on the market, too. Just because they’re organic doesn’t mean they’re better for you than whole foods.

We go into more depth about specific products in the book, but be wary about buying expensive cosmetics or other products that claim to be organic. Like we said, there is no such thing as certified organic beauty products (for the moment, the government is working on standards) or paint or laundry detergent, so before you lay out the cash, make sure the manufacturer is the real deal.

Another thing to keep in mind when paying a bit extra for organics is that you’re not only buying for you. If you buy the organic potato, you’re helping a farmer (and his or her family) not have to breathe in toxic pesticides, you’re keeping insecticides out of the very earth and the groundwater your baby is inheriting.


Thanks blog readers and thanks Deirdre (and Andi!).

Now run on out and buy the book!

black-sounding names and white-sounding names

The always obnoxious John Stossel is apparently doing a report on 20/20 this week looking at discrimination against "black sounding names" like Shamiqua and Jamal. Here's his LIST OF THE WHITEST AND BLACKEST SOUNDING NAMES.

I will admit that I do love the old Anglo classics (my children are named Henry, Jane and Elliot ;-)), but if I were a black mama, I would have serious reservations about naming my child something that has a history associated with slave ownership only a couple of generations ago. You know?

Black Americans were given names like "Elizabeth" and "Robert" (and Henry, Jane and Elliot ) when they were forcibly brought to English speaking countries. But those weren't their real names. This practice of assigning an Anglo name to a black slave was actually sort of similar to Jews being tatooed by the Nazis. These Anglo names were attached to black Africans brought to the U.S. and other English countries because it stripped them of their real names and made them easier for their oppressors to identify.

So black parents today face a bit of a naming dilemma. Because so many don't have access to their actual family histories, they don't have much to draw on in terms of giving their children meaningful, family names. So they've created a new type of name for their kids. And now John Stossel says little girls named Tanishia and boys named Terique will eventually be at an immediate disadvantage in the job market. They are more likely to lose out on jobs and promotions to the kids with names like William and and John and Molly. So basically, black parents are screwed either way you slice it. They can either give their "white" names that have an ugly association for them, or they are messing up their kids' chances for success.

I suspect that this bias will change in only another generation or two. There was a time when a name that sounded "too Irish," like Bridget, could put a kid at risk for discrimination. And Jewish Americans have a long history of changing their names to sound less Jewish. That rarely happens these days because Jewish and Irish-sounding names are no longer an obvious disadvantage.

As more Condoleezas make their way into our national consciousness, "black-sounding" names will become less and less of a disadvantage or even an issue.

I hope.

the rich really ARE different...

As evidenced by this INCREDIBLY BIZARRO STORY about a faux marriage between a billionaire and his adult daughter.

This story gave me creepy nightmares.

good parenting days/bad parenting days

When my children were little - particularly with the first two - if I had a day or two where everything went wrong and children were whining and I felt like throwing myself into bed at 7pm, I wondered if I was failing as a parent.

Now that they are older (14, 11 and 8), I am resigned to the fact that part of the natural flow of family life is that there will be good days and bad days as a parent. And often, I cannot figure out why some days go better than other days.

Yesterday I was tired. I woke up in a rather inexplicable bad mood and didn't really shake it all day. Harold Ford, Jr was supposed to appear on the talk show I produce and a scheduling problem on their end left me without a guest and seriously irritated.

The children, when I finally got them home at 7:15 pm, were all in weird moods. Henry was hyper and picking at his sibs. Elliot whined and was lazy. Jane wanted to stay in her room most of the evening. And I didn't deal with it that well. I felt overwhelmed by the mounting pile of clean laundry now piled on the dining room floor. I felt overwhelmed by all the stuff we need to get done to the house. Basically, I just felt crummy.

But nowadays, I know that this too shall pass. I breathe through the bad parenting days way better than I did in the past, when I would feel the need to cajole and convince the children to improve their moods. Now I mostly ignore them when they act like this.

And then this morning, almost magically, they all seemed to wake up in a fine mood. We had to leave for school early today and no one complained. No one was late. We all had interesting, pleasant discussions in the car. Jane happily loaned Henry the iPod earphones he asked for. He thanked her politely. Elliot asked clever questions about what we were listening to about Iraq on NPR. We talked politics some. Jane asked whether God would be a Republican or Democrat and that led to some back and forth on Buddha and Jesus and the nature of the afterlife. Henry shared his views on astral projection (!!!).

So today has started better. But I know that could change later today, like the weather. But mostly I just don't sweat it any more and instead try to be actively conscious of how nice the fun, pleasant parenting moments are.


currently reading

A birthday gift from my brother in law, Joe, who is with LEMURIA BOOKS, a very cool bookstore. My copy is signed, too.

Thanks Joe & Wendy :-)

jane & sloane

This is Jane on "Can-Do" (barn name: "Sloane"). Her trainer bought Sloane recently and is allowing Jane to school him and bring him along in hopes that he will become a nice large pony for her to show. Once again, Susan has stepped up to the plate to help Jane continue to progress in her riding far beyond my financial ability to do so. She's so good to us and I love her for it.

Sloane is VERY green and so far, has thrown Jane off just about every time she's gotten on him, including not long after this photo was taken. But he's really sweet and a nice mover and cute. Jane is thrilled to get to ride him.


syd and jane get silly with sloane


sloan gives jane a kiss


me, circa age 39 - at my bday supper


dr. neighbor and henry play guitar


mabel loooooves jon


elliot loves his bongos


birthday party

Jon, me, kids and our niece and nephew at my birthday supper t'other night:



more news from the anti-birth control movement

I am baffled BY THESE FOLKS.

Absolutely baffled.

They need to get more familiar with this VERY FASCINATING EVANGELICAL PREACHER who goes all over the country preaching that conservative Christian couples should be having hotter sex.

I assume he thinks birth control is part of that picture.


mudflap man


favorite meal?

Just curious: what is your family's favorite meal? Not the fanciest and most elaborate, but the one you fix pretty often that they always really like a lot.

Details, please ;-)

being a working parent

Working Mother magazine has just released their annual list of the TOP 100 COMPANIES FOR WORKING MOTHERS.

My company isn't on it, but I have to say that overall, they are really great at accomodating my mothering. Still, the thing that's made my life as a work-outside-the-home-mom most improved is Jon. Having another adult in the household to help with everything has just lightened my load beyond belief. And he is VERY helpful.

Another thing that made/makes my life much easier is friends. Especially while I was single and trying to juggle caring for three children, all their activities and keep my job, I had so many friends who regularly stepped up to the plate to help me: my sister Betsy, Suxanne, Katie C., Susan K., Ann C., all the other wonderful mamas at the barn where Jane rides...

But having an understanding employer really makes all the difference.

breastfeeding can break cycle of diabetes


This study also finds a convincing link between lack of breastfeeding and childhood obesity. I have to say, however, that it hardly takes a Harvard study to point out that exclusively breastfed babies - all other factors being equal - are less likely to become fat children.


infertile in a baby-obsessed media culture

This is an interesting essay from Lynn Harris (whom I think I met when we both worked for Oxygen Media)about what it's like to be infertile when the entire media culture seems to have gone COMPLETELY CRAZY OVER CELEBRITY PREGNANCY AND BABIES.

birthday grrl

I am 39 today and life is good.

Over the weekend, Jon and I went to bell Buckle to visit with my grandfather, who is really ill. That's sad for all of us, but I was so glad to get to see him, and to hang out with my fam.

They had a little bday party for me and my bro and sister in law gave me a really cool blue glass bowl that I love. My grandmother gave me an AMAZING antique gold brooch. My mama made me a cake, and it was just nice to see everyone. I especially enjoyed getting to visit with my nieces and nephews:Jones, Anna, Helen and Nicholas, who is so cute I could eat him up.

As we pulled out of Bell Buckle to head back to Knoxville at about 7pm, it began raining really hard. And it rained and rained and rained. It was the most violent rainstorm I've ever been in. Jon could barely see to drive. Finally, when we got to Chattanooga, I suggested we pull over and get a hotel room because I couldn't see us trying to drive another two hours in this pounding rain. So we did. It was a good call, although it felt pretty wasteful to spend money on a room 125 miles from our front door. But this was just a crazy storm.

On Sunday, we picked up the children, who had been with their father for a few days for his wedding. I was really ager to get them home because I missed them a lot. On Sunday night my sister Betsy and fam came over. Betsy made me the vegetarian enchiladas she makes that I love, and Jon's mother made me a delicious birthday cake and Jay brought me chili. The kids played and Jay and Henry played guitar together. Betsy and my Uncle John gave me an awesome present: two tix to see David Sedaris at the Tennessee Theater next month. Can't wait. And Jon gave me the fluffiest, most comfy hot pink bathrobe. It's yummy. I have been wanting a really posh bathrobe like this and now that I have it, I doubt I'll ever want to take it off when I am at home.

I have an embarrassment of birthday riches. Today is my actual birthday but I already feel like I've celebrated quite thoroughly. And Jon has promised me a famous Jon footrub tonight. He excels at this important husbandly skill ;-)

I am happy.

PS: And my superhusband just had beautiful flowers delivered to my office. Swoon.


mom seeks alcoholic stupor

This woman's description of her ATTEMPTS TO GET A GOOD BEER BUZZ ON after the kids go to bed is tres amusing ;-)

the hassle of getting emergency contraception

Read this WOMAN'S ACCOUNT of trying to get emergency BC or the "morning after pill."


More women need to be aware that you can now order the stuff online and they will overnight it to you. No one will hassle you or ask you rude and intrusive questions.

how breastfeeding impacts infant well-being in Africa

This new review of a FIELD STUDY in Africa demonstrates how critical it is that newborns breastfeed as soon as possible after birth - preferably within the first few hours - and how important EXCLUSIVE breastfeeding is for infants. The results are quite dramatic. Well worth a read.


dear mom:

I solemnly swear that I will never, ever BUY YOU ANYTHING FROM THIS WEBSITE.



i need a date

No, no, silly. Not for me. I am happily married, remember?

I need a date for this really amazing guy friend of mine. He lives in Knoxville. No Children. Good job. Adorable. Smart. Kind. He's actually sort of perfect. I love him. And I have decided to find him a perfect girlfriend. I didn't ask him, though, so I can't really say much more about him than this.

E-mail me if you want details...;-)

nathan asher & the infantry

I think I'm gonna go see THIS BAND at THE CORNER LOUNGE TONIGHT.

They sound great. Poptastic.

angelina jolie's really dumb new painting

Angelina Jolie just spent $400,000 on THIS MEDIOCRE, INCREDIBLY OBVIOUS PAINTING. The piece depicts a whitebread, American family enjoying a tasty picnic, while starving black Africans look on.

Ok, I get it! I get it!

Anyway, while I am sure Angelina Jolie gives gazillions to charity and likely does far more than most rich people in terms of sharing her wealth, I really think that if I had $400,000 to drop on a boring, politically shrill painting, I'd take the same $400,000 and set some hardworking singla mama up with a new house, car and job. Or I'd give $400,000 to all the women in one, specific village in Africa. Or I'd donate it to THE HEIFER FUND. Or I'd drop it out of an airplane (if I were Angelina Jolie, I could actually FLY the airplane) over a small, rural community in North Dakota.

I just couldn't bring myself to spend $400,000 on a piece of art that exists solely to make the none-too-subtle point that people are starving while others have plenty. That seems like the ultimate irony to me.

Actually, maybe this is a postmodern performance art set-up altogether, with Jolie as a willing participant. Now THAT would be political art. And clever.


Here's a NYT article on a new book about how sleeping in the same bed impacts relationships (CLICK HERE - may require NYT sign-in/registration).

I think that in general, humans are happier sleeping together. That's why family bedding makes good sense for babies and little kids; adults don't like sleeping alone...why should children?. I can't think of any culture in which people don't sleep together in some configuration or another. People just don't like sleeping alone.

But I suspect that more children than ever before are sleeping alone these days. Many/most children used to share a bed with one or more siblings. I did, and I'll bet lots of you did, too. Now most children have their own bed in their own bedroom, but I'll bet lots of families are like ours and find that siblings often wind up sharing a bed with a parent or brother or sister even when they have their own sleep space.

As for grown-ups sleeping together, I think it's one of the key elements of a healthy love relationship - being able to happily and comfortably share a sleep space at night. It's like recharging time.

I had a boyfriend once who snored so violently that I wondered what I would do if we ever became serious enough to live together and share a bed. It would have been a really serious problem. I simply could not have shared a bed with him every night.


why do overweight mothers quit breastfeeding?

An interesting new study seems to indicate that OVERWEIGHT MOTHERS ARE LESS LIKELY to stick with breastfeeding.

I have my theories on why this is the case; what are yours? Comment below.

what are schools teaching kids about Iraq?

This is an AN INTERESTING ANALYSIS of how the materials that corporate America distributes in our schools may skew the way the war is presented to children.


J. gives E. a haircut

Elliot actually begged Jon to make it even shorter, but we said this was short enough ;-)


soccer season underway for elliot


elliot & mama


finding time to exercise

So those of you with jobs and children and households to run, when do you find time to exercise? I am having a really hard time figuring out how to find time to even walk regularly lately, much less get over to the barn and get on a horse.

I don't seem to do early mornings that productively, and frankly, I don't live in a neighborhood where I can/should be out walking around much at night in the dark...

finding time to exercise

So those of you with jobs and children and households to run, when do you find time to exercise? I am having a really hard time figuring out how to find time to even walk regularly lately, much less get over to the barn and get on a horse.

I don't seem to do early mornings that productively, and frankly, I don't live in a neighborhood where I can/should be out walking around much at night in the dark...


further adventures in church shoppin'

So this Sunday Jon and I went together back for a second week to the church he belongs to - a Presbyterian church. I'm checking it out and deciding if I want to sign on.

This time we took the two youngest Granju offspring (I'm not going to make H go to church with us. He can go if he wants to) and they went to their respective Sunday school classes - for middle schoolers and third graders.

E. seemed to really like his class, especially after he discovered that his friend Eva from school was in the class.

But J. was a bit freaked out by the middle school class...and I am too if she is accurately describing the general "hellfire and damnation" tone and message of the class. I suspect she wasn't exaggerating ho weird it was since when we went to retrieve her, the class was still finishing up, and when I peeked in the window, the teacher and all the other kids except mine were praying with their heads down and one hand waving in the air. J. said the class reminded her of the school in the movie "Saved."

This is Not Good. Not what I want for the kids, and not what they are used to. Jon assures me it's an aberration - that this church is really progressive and not Baptist-y at all, but the whole hand waving praying thing was very viscerally disturbing.

yet another infant formula recall

Read all about it RIGHT HERE

string bikinis for 5 year olds?

I am not a prude.

I'm really not.

But I have to admit that I was really taken aback by THESE PHOTOS of Cindy Crawford's five year old daughter modeling children's bikinis.

Little girls don't need to wear swimsuits modeled on bikinis worn by adults. The purpose of a child's swimsuit should be comfort for swimming and playing, and to look cute in an age-appropriate way. A string bikini for a five year old does neither of these things.

And the photo of this little girl topless with what appears to be a lower back tattoo is just frightening.

What in the world is Cindy Crawford thinking?


some more fave wedding photos :-)






























fiat the dog

My dog Fiat is now 4 years old. He is a Jack Russell mix. When we adopted him from the animal shelter as an 8 week old, he looked very nearly purebred, but now he looks like a Jack Russell who was once a steroid abusing linebacker but has gone all soft and thick in his middle age. He's oversized and barrell shaped while still having the general Jack Russell shape. He has no discernible neck. Frankly, he's a bit odd looking.

I love Fiat, and the kids like him a lot. He and Henry are especially close. But basically, no one else can really deal with him or stand him. He's got pretty much all the classic Jack Russell behaviors and neuroses. He chases bugs only he can see. He is frightened of balls. He is incredibly hyper and never stays still for more than 2 seconds. He steals and eats underwear on a regular basis. Despite completing dog training classes and being crate trained, he still won't come when called reliably and likes to sneak onto the dining room table and lick plates when he thinks no one is looking. He pulls on his leash until he is hoarse when we go for walks. And occasionally he randomly decides to pee in the house, mostly on piles of clothing or pillows. He's a totally useless watchdog because you never know if he's barking at a real person outside or a leaf that fell of a tree upthe street. ANd sometimes he just sleeps right through knocks at the door.

He sounds awful, doesn't he? He reminds me of THIS DOG

So why do I love him? Well, he's funny and sweet. He's great with kids and very, very smart. He kept me excellent company during the sad nights of the first year after my marriage ended when my kids would go spend the weekend away with their father and I thought my heart would fall out of my chest with loneliness. He makes Henry, who is now a supercool teenager, act like a little boy again. I just love him. I just do.

I am sure there are all kinds of things I could do differently or better in training him. God knows I've tried. But I think this is about as good as he's ever gonna get. He's the classic Bad Dog with a heart of gold.


Jon and I plan to have a baby. People ask us whether we want a baby pretty often, which I guess is a normal thing to wonder about two people who just got married and who both like children a lot.

Anyway, when people ask me about it, and I say yes, very often they respond with some variation of "Good Lord! You're so old! What will you do if you can't have a baby?" The other day I had someone ask if we planned to adopt (no).

I will turn 39 this month and until people started telling me how much trouble I am likely to have getting and staying pregnant, it never occurred to me to really worry about it much.

But now I guess I worry. A little. Which is funny for someone who has mostly had to worry about staying UNpregnant.

Other people offer commentary on how hard it will be to:

A.)Have 4 children (I already have 3)
B.)Raise an emotionally healthy child when his/her siblings will be so significantly older
C.)Work full time and mother a baby (this one absolutely does sound challenging)

One of my siblings, whom I love very much and who shall remain nameless, has opined in the past that NO ONE should have a baby after age 35.

Lots of opinions ....


public vs. private schools

There is a MOST EXCELLENT REPORTED ESSAY in this issue of Brain,Child on the dilemma parents face in decising whether to shell out the bucks for private school for their kids.

My kids all go to private schools (Yes. I know I am way lucky and don't take it for granted) and the primary thing I like about this is that I feel like I actually have a say in how things go on a day to day basis. Parents of kids in private schools are paying customers and generally, are treated as such. My impression is that, at public schools, the administration is so bureaucratic and monolithic that parents with concerns are merely gnats to be swatted away.

I know there are many excellent public schools and amazing teachers in public schools. In fact, if we had meaningful public school choice in my district (good magnet schools that offer substantially different programs than the other public schools, or specialized academies or charter schools or a voucher system), my children might have ended up in public schools. Unfortunately, the public schools in Knoxville, TN do not offer these choices. If you want choice, you have to pay for it (And drive for it. Because I don't live in the wealthy area of town, I drive 22 miles each way to take my kids to school because 99% of the private schools are on that side of town).

Anyway, read the essay I linked to above. It's excellent.

(And here is an essay I wrote for Brain,Child on why I'm a liberal who supports SCHOOL VOUCHERS)

spicy jesus roll

THIS INTERVIEW with born-again actor Stephen Baldwin alternately frightens me and makes me laugh my face off.

Favorite quotes:

"What being born-again means for me is that I'm having so much fun in this interview that we're not going to go out and get an 8-ball of blow tonight and go crazy. That's what born again means to me: Inasmuch as I'd like to do that, gosh, I'll just go home and read some scripture with the wife."

"I'd like to give (Tom Cruise) a spicy Jesus roll."

Let's say those poor people in those poor countries are relieved of their debt, but they don't know Jesus. Okay, so their life's more comfortable, but then what happens, according to the Bible? You tell me what the point of that is."

living space

I grew up in big houses, but as an adult, I have never lived in more than about 1450 sq feet with one bathroom. Most of the years as a parent, we lived with three kids in about 1100 sq feet with one bathroom.

We just moved into 3500 or so sq feet with three bathrooms. For the first time, each child has his/her own bedroom.

I am finding that we all get along MUCH better having all this space. But I feel somewhat guilty about this because all over the world, happy families live in very small spaces without any issues. Is there some defect in our family that having this room to spread out seems to have improved everyone's mood and coping skills?

I actually think that it might be less a function of square footage than of needing separate bedrooms and at least two baths. But again, all over the planet people live quite happily without their own bedrooms and baths.


commenting on the blog

ACK! I keep trying to use the word verification thing to prevent spammers from commenting on the blog, but then I get lots of e-mails from folks saying the word verification feature doesn't allow them to comment at all.

So I've turned it back off and hopefully, that should solve the problem for those of you who have wanted to comment but could not.

As for the spam, I'll just have to be diligent about deleting it, I guess.

(grumble, grumble Blogger software, grumble, grumble)


blog reader giveaway

I am going to be interviewing the author of this new book later this month for my blog and her publisher has kindly provided me with three copies of the book to give away to you, fair blog readers.

If you would like to have one of the books, post a comment below with a question you would like me to ask the author, and follow up with an e-mail to me at with your mailing address. I'll mail the books out to the first three readers to respond both on the blog and by e-mail.

the motherhood manifesto

Here's a great interview with one of the authors of THE MOTHERHOOD MANIFESTO. I haven't read the book yet but keep meaning to buy it. This interview makes me want to read it even more.


Jane is running for student council, and last night we were trying to come up with a slogan for her campaign posters.

I suggested: "U.S. Out of Iraq! Vote for Jane," but she wasn't too keen.

Among other ideas, Elliot suggested "I love Jesus! Vote for Jane." and "Elvis is my homeboy! Vote for Jane!"

Henry suggested "Vote for Jane...because she isn't Henry!" (Henry had a bit of a reputation as an obnoxious annoyance to the teachers in the middle school last year)

My favorite came from Elliot's friend Liam, who was eating with us. He's in 2nd grade. In all seriousness, he said she should go with: "Vote for Jane and you might just get a box of donuts." I told him it would be too expensive to buy donuts for everyone in 6th grade and he pointed out that the "might just" language would let her off the hook. At that point, Elliot piped in with a new idea, "Vote for Jane or your cat might disappear." He was dead serious. I explained that you cannot win an election by extortion.

We finally came up with:

Vote for Jane for Class Rep. For a 6th Grade that's:

A- audacious
N - nice
E- excellent

Aunt Betsy printed up some lovely flyers in pink and green (we don't have a color printer) and Jane happily took them to school this morning.


bellies after baby

I find this commentary on KATE HUDSON"S TUMMY irritating.


C'mon people. Most women who have seen the skin on their tummy stretch to six times its normal size because of pregnancy WILL have some saggy bits after the baby arrives. This is true even if said woman then whips herself into perfect shape via expensive Pilates and surfboarding and personal-trainering, as Ms. Hudson clearly has.

what is your religious practice and why?

I grew up Episcopalian, and if I could find a super-super progresssive, medium-sized Episcopal congregation around town, that might be where I would be going. I find a lot to like about Bishop Spong-style, progressive Christianity. But I've yet to find that locally.

My children attend a very chi-chi, upscale Episcopal church with their father, but although there are many individuals at that church whom I love and admire, I've never found my place or sense of real comfort/community there. Too many rich Republicans and not enough rabble rousers.

I also consider myself a Buddhist. But of course, one can be a Buddhist and a Christian (or anything else for that matter). As far as formal Buddhist practice, the only sangha around Knoxville is Tibetan in orientation and that's just not my cup of tea.

Clearly, I should be attending a Unitarian Universalist church regularly. That's pretty obviously where I belong theologically and in terms of community. I actually technically belong to a local Unitarian congregation but I never seem to get there.

Jon is Presbyterian. I'd never been to a Presbyterian church before last Sunday and I went with him. It was pretty much like a low-church Episcopal service. I felt at home and the sermon was terrific. It was clear from the liturgy that this is a church that cares about social justice issues, so maybe we'll end up going there.

What is your religious practice and how did you come to it? How big a part does it play in your life and how?


My family likes to throw parties. We throw big ones and small ones. We eat and drink and make merry pretty much at the drop of the hat.

I always loved it when my parents would have parties when I was little. I liked hanging around and listening to the grown-ups talk and then falling asleep on my father's lap while he tossed back what was likely too much whiskey and chatted everyone up.

When I was a teenager, no matter how busy she was (and she was VERY busy) with her work, my mother always encouraged us to have as many friends over as we liked pretty much whenever we liked.

I've inherited the predilection (sp?), and I like having parties, too.

On Sunday night Jon and I had our first soiree since moving into our new house. It was just a potluck thing, but it was great fun and we had a nice group of people, some of whom were neighbors I hadn't yet met.

baby toupees

This is genius...SHEER GENIUS.

I mean, after all the photos of Baby Suri with her superhuman head o' baby hair, all the hip mamas in L.A. are going to be wanting their infants to sport more hair.

elliot was tuckered out by the end of our wedding



the indefinite war

I work in news nowadays, so I generally try to keep my opinions on most matters political to myself (it isn't easy, I'll tell you right now), but BUT MY HUSBAND DOESN'T.

christabel and the jons, etc

Jon and I went out Friday night to poke around Market Square and see what was happening. We had forgotten that MOVIES ON MARKET SQUARE are now underway, and there was a really large crowd out on the Square, watching "Shrek."  Although Downtown's revitalization is getting to be old news these days, I still get a little thrill every time I see hundreds and hundreds of families (as opposed to the usual crowd of the same 150 hipsters you used to see at every Downtown event) enjoying an event on Market Square. I plan to check the schedule and see what's playing next Friday and take the kids.

Anyway, we were too late to see the movie, so we popped into Oodles, where I hoped to catch up with some friends. Last time I was at Oodles, I had a few drinks and a really good cheese and fruit plate with some sort of soft cheese (maybe camembert) covered in fuit jam. So I tried to order that, because I was really hungry. The extremely friendly waitress told me they no longer offer any sort of cheese appetizer or cheese plate. This was sort of annoying, seeing as how they are a self-described wine bar. One would think cheese would be the kind of thing available to order at a wine bar that serves food. But nope. No cheese of any kind was located, so Jon and I ended up splitting a serving of lasagne. It was okay. Nothing to write home about.

The band setting up to play when we got to Oodles was CHRISTABEL AND THE JONS. They've been getting a lot of buzz locally lately. I wasn't sure what I'd think, since my understanding was that they have a very jazzy sound and I am not a fan of jazz, and jazz vocals in particular. But in fact, they have a more of an old, country-swing sound that I loved. Christa, the lead singer has a stellar, really unique voice. I will definitely go see them again.

Alas, we had to leave Christabel and the Jons to wander down to Preservation Pub to catch some of Angel and the Lovemongers, who had guest musicians from Econopop sitting in. John T. Baker was on guitar and the esteemed Dr. Jim Rivers was playing keyboard. They sounded great, as always.

There was a large, happy crowd at Preservation, including owner Scott West, who was almost unrecognizable with his newly shorn head. I don't know Mr. West personally, but like most of us who enjoy Downtown, I have long been a patron (and fan) of his businesses. I know he will likely be GOING TO PRISON SOON and there was something really poignant about seeing him dancing to the band, accepting hugs and words of support and condolence from friends and barflies. The crimes to which he is pleading guilty speak for themselves; I'm simply saying that it's sad to see another human being on the verge of being locked up for a period of time.

new book

I have an essay in this new book, which will be out in March. Just noticed you can now preorder it on Amazon:

modern love



I've never been good with goodbyes. No matter how much I enjoy someone or love them, I'd rather just slip away without any fanfare when the party or visit is over.

My beloved grandfather will soon be leaving us. He knows this and is ready, or as ready as you can be when you would really rather not go yet. He has tremendous faith in what it will be like on the other side and looks forward to being reunited with people he's missed, particularly our little Ward, who died last year.

Anyway, he's resting at home with my grandmother, enjoying time with all his children and grand children and great grandchildren, most of whom live within a 1 mile radius. I, however, live three hours away and I feel guilty and sad that I can't be with him and my grandmother more so we can spend more of this time together.

He's been so important to me in so many ways and I wish I could explain this to him. I'm going to try, but I do hope he knows, even if we never spoke again. I was the first grandchild and, well, you know how that goes ;-) And my son Henry was the first great grandchild. When Henry was a newborn, I was hospitalized for a few days and my grandparents cared for him. He slept in the little cradle next to their bed and they got up with him and rocked him and fed him and they formed a special bond that remains to this day. I am so grateful that my children have such a close relationship with their great grandparents. I will be sad that the children Jon and I will have likely won't know my grandfather.

Goodbyes are hard.


aunt betsy with baby nicholas


the case against homework

I cannot wait to read these TWO NEW BOOKS revealing how pointless and even damaging homework is for kids.

I hate homework.

I wrote an essay ON THE SAME TOPIC

nicholas edward

My newborn nephew Nicholas was christned the day before our wedding, making for a wonderful family weekend.


Isn't he cute?

He smells really wonderful, too :-)


Nicholas is my little brother Robert's 4th baby in 6 years! They swear they're done now.

Right after this photo was taken, I snatched the baby out of Robert's arms and he proceeded to wake up, which did not make Robert happy with me.


a belly dancer performed at the post-christening party


jones and mclean aren't sure what to make of the dancer


jones and mclean decide they really, really like the bellydancer


even MORE wedding pictures

Our friend Harvey just sent us a bunch more snapshots from our wedding. Here are a few of my favorites.

The girlz sing backup for Sophia

Kate & Jon


Many cute girls


help me pick paint for my dining room

Read all about it RIGHT HERE

current reading

(Recommended by my husband, a huge Jane Austen fan)

my letter to the editor

This is a letter I am sending to a few TN newspapers & horse magazines:


Having grown up in Bedford County, riding and showing natural-shod Tennessee Walking Horses, I have been observing the events surrounding this year's highly controversial Tennessee Walking Horse (TWH) National Celebration with interest.
Unlike some other TWH enthusiasts, I am not dismayed by this year's events, but heartened; perhaps federal officials have finally decided to do what they have failed to do for the last five decades.

The abuse that TWH show horses suffer as a routine part of their "jobs" is one of the saddest stories of the equestrian sports world. I am not referring just to the scarring and soring of the legs and feet that rise to the level of disqualification under federal "scar rule" guidelines. I am pointing to the pain and discomfort these animals suffer as a day-to-day part of their lives.

Tennessee Walking Horses who compete in shows like The Celebration in Shelbyville are forced to wear huge, sharply angled, heavy padding and shoes that force their legs and feet into a grotesque exaggeration of their natural gait. They are forced to train for shows by wearing metal chains hooked around their lower legs that bang against their ankle and cannon bones with every step they take. They are made to wear extremely severe bits that force their heads into extreme, showy positions. Their tailbones are often broken for a showier look, and in many cases, expensive Tennessee Walkers are never allowed to graze free in a pasture.

Tennessee Walking Horses who are not forced to wear these torture devices remain a lovely breed with a special and unique gait and disposition. TWH enthusiasts all over the world enjoy these wonderful horses and manage to show them without hurting them or mangling their legs and feet to produce the bizarre spectacle one sees at The Celebration every year.

In other competitive equestrian sports, such as three day eventing, hunter-jumper shows, and western disciplines, the "training methods" employed to get Tennessee Walkers into the showring are considered cruel and obscene. It's about time that Celebration fans, trainers and officials wake up to the fact that this beautiful breed has become little more than an object of pity and scorn throughout the rest of the horse world.

I look forward to the continuing discussion caused by the recent controversy, and as a TWH fan, I hope it means a better future for one of Tennessee's most unique and important assets.

Katie Allison Granju
Knoxville, TN


Hey Fellow Bloggers! Help Me Out! (please?)

I reallyreallyreally need to sell my house now that Jon and I have gotten hitched and moved into a house of our own. It's an AWESOME house at a great price. I need to get the word out.

Would you please link to this post on your blog or ask me ( ) to send you the photo and HTML to post the info directly on your site? Consider it a blogger-to-blogger wedding gift :-) You will have my eternal gratitude:




Here is my adorable craftsman cottage. It's in the historic OAKWOOD LINCOLN PARK NEIGHBORHOOD of Knoxville.

It is 1468 sq feet and has 3 bedrooms and 1 large bath. Plenty of room to add a second bath upstairs or downstairs.

It also has:

-Hardwood floors throughout, most refinished
-Large sunny kitchen with big windows, pantry and orginial built-ins
-Central heat and air
-Flower garden
-Large, fenced yard with view of Sharp's Ridge
-Original wood windows in most of house
-Original, UNPAINTED wood trim throughout
-Working gas fireplace
-Large, airy, dry, daylight basement with small, soundproofed "music room"
-Many original fixtures
-French doors
-Nearly new hot water heater and nice built-in dishwasher
-Historic neighborhood near downtown with sidewalks and active neighborhood association

This lovely house is in very good shape. Move-in ready! With only minor cosmetic updating, it can be a real showstopper.

Asking price: 99K - HIGHLY NEGOTIABLE! I've bought a new house, so make me an offer.

E-mail me at:

more on risk from elective c-sections

My friend D. wanted to find the actual cite to the CDC study mentioned in the article I linked to below. She found it in this NYT ARTICLE (may require log-in). Or you can go directly to the MEDICAL STUDY.

online safety for kids?

So Jane, who just turned 11, is suddenly really into getting online. I am trying to figure out a good safety filter to put on her computer (she got her own laptop from her grandparents last Christmas)and honestly, it looks to my untrained eye like AOL offers the best parental controls for kids and tweens. But of course, there are so many reasons to despise AOL ;-)

Anyway, I really do want to put some safety measures in place online for Jane and Elliot (who is 8 and also starting to like playing around online). I just know she will soon stumble onto something I ***really** do not want her to see.

Anybody got any great advice on this?

more wedding photos


I've added some more photos from the wedding to our ONLINE PHOTO ALBUM

elective c-sections are dangerous

I am alarmed by the growing number of "elective" c-sections and inductions I see all around me. I am also alrmed by the fact that more and more otherwise competent doctors seem readily willing to do these medical procedures for the "convenience" of mother or doctor, or because the woman is scared to death of giving birth vaginally.

THIS ARTICLE makes a strong case that there's a lot to worry about with these trends, for both babies and women.

C-sections and labor induction are important, major medical procedures that can and do save lives when necessary. But they are rarely necessary and when used willy-nilly, as they increasingly are, they can be dangerous.


lack of breastfeeding = dead babies

According to Ugandan officials, as many as 4,000 Ugandan babies die each and every day because THEY ARE NOT BREASTFED.

major parenting mistake

I am guest blogging at and I wrote there about a MAJOR PARENTING SCREW-UP I made related to our wedding.
katies wedding 043

More photos from the wedding RIGHT HERE


we're married!

I can't begin to explain how perfectly I felt like our wedding - our entire wedding weekend- went. We had so much fun and I think everyone else did too. I was so happy and thankful to have friends from Knoxville drive all the way to Bell Buckle for the event. One of my very favorite moments of the whole evening was when my friend K's little daughter Sophia sang us a Dixie Chicks song while playing guitar. Sophia is always very quiet and contemplative with me; I had NO idea she had such a huge and amazing voice! It was really wonderful.

My cousin Thomas played THE DRUMS at the end of the ceremony and also led all the wedding party and guests across the road to the party .

My brother Robert, who got tapped as a special judge for the day, performed the ceremony. He did an awesome job, even offering up a sweet, little homily mid-ceremony (the whole ceremony took only about 10 minutes). He advised us to simply "be nice" to one another, as well as to always put the other on a pedestal. I plan to take his advice, both because it's great advice and also because he and my sister-in-law have the kind of marriage I want to have. They clearly know ho to do this being married thing.

More later - and I hope that I'll get some photos from folks to share soon. But what a wonderful wedding it was :-)


important article from NYT this week

On the Job, Nursing Mothers Find a 2-Class System
When a new mother returns to Starbucks’ corporate headquarters in Seattle after maternity leave, she learns what is behind the doors mysteriously marked “Lactation Room.”

Whenever she likes, she can slip away from her desk and behind those doors, sit in a plush recliner and behind curtains, and leaf through InStyle magazine as she holds a company-supplied pump to her chest, depositing her breast milk in bottles to be toted home later.

But if the mothers who staff the chain’s counters want to do the same, they must barricade themselves in small restrooms intended for customers, counting the minutes left in their breaks.

“Breast milk is supposed to be the best milk, I read it constantly when I was pregnant,” said Brittany Moore, who works at a Starbucks in Manhattan and feeds her 9-month old daughter formula. “I felt bad, I want the best for my child,” she said. “None of the moms here that I know actually breast-feed.”

Doctors firmly believe that breast milk is something of a magic elixir for babies, sharply reducing the rate of infection, and quite possibly reducing the risk of allergies, obesity, and chronic disease later in life.

But as pressure to breast-feed increases, a two-class system is emerging for working mothers. For those with autonomy in their jobs — generally, well-paid professionals — breast-feeding, and the pumping it requires, is a matter of choice. It is usually an inconvenience, and it may be an embarrassing comedy of manners, involving leaky bottles tucked into briefcases and brown paper bags in the office refrigerator. But for lower-income mothers — including many who work in restaurants, factories, call centers and the military — pumping at work is close to impossible, causing many women to decline to breast-feed at all, and others to quit after a short time.

It is a particularly literal case of how well-being tends to beget further well-being, and disadvantage tends to create disadvantage — passed down in a mother’s milk, or lack thereof.

“I feel like I had to choose between feeding my baby the best food and earning a living,” said Jennifer Munoz, a former cashier at Resorts Atlantic City Casino who said she faced obstacles that included irregular breaks and a refrigerator behind a locked door. She said she often dumped her milk into the toilet, knowing that if she did not pump every few hours, her milk supply would soon dwindle.

The casino denies discouraging Ms. Munoz from pumping. “We have policies and procedures in place to accommodate the needs of all of our employees,” Brian Cahill, a Resorts spokesman, said.

Nearly half of new mothers return to work within the first year of their child’s life. But federal law offers no protection to mothers who express milk on the job — despite the efforts of Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York, who has introduced such legislation. “I can’t understand why this doesn’t move,” she said. “This is pro-family, pro-health, pro-economy.”

Meanwhile, states are stepping in. Twelve states have passed laws protecting pumping mothers — Oklahoma’s law, the newest, will take effect in November. But like Oklahoma’s, which merely states that an employer “may provide reasonable break time” and “may make a reasonable effort” to provide privacy, most are merely symbolic.

Public health authorities, alarmed at the gap between the breast-feeding haves and have-nots, are now trying to convince businesses that supporting the practice is a sound investment. “The Business Case for Breastfeeding,” an upcoming campaign by the Department of Health and Human Services, will emphasize recent findings that breast-feeding reduces absenteeism and pediatrician bills.

In corporate America, lactation support can be a highly touted benefit, consisting of free or subsidized breast pumps, access to lactation consultants, and special rooms with telephones and Internet connections for employees who want to work as they pump, and CD players and reading material for those who do not. According to the nonprofit Families and Work Institute, a third of large corporations have lactation rooms.

Even without these perks, professional women can usually afford a few months of maternity leave during which to breast-feed. When they return, they can generally find an office for the two or three 20-minute sessions per workday typically necessary. Even bathrooms — the pumping spots of last resort — are more inviting at an accounting firm than in a fast-food restaurant.

Wealthier women can spend their way out of work-versus-pumping dilemmas, overnighting milk home from business trips and buying $300 pumps that extract milk quickly, along with gizmos that allow them, in what seems like a parody of maternal multitasking, to pump while driving to and from work.

In contrast, said Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on breast-feeding, her patients cannot afford a basic $50 breast pump — an investment, she said, that “could prevent a lifetime of diseases.” The academy urges women to breast-feed exclusively for six months and to continue until the child turns 1.

Many of her patients learn about breast-feeding through the government nutrition program Women, Infants, and Children, which distributes nursing literature to four million mothers, and also provides classes and lactation consultants.

Because of this and similar efforts, 73 percent of mothers now breast-feed their newborns, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But after six months, the number falls to 53 percent of college graduates, and 29 percent of mothers whose formal education ended with high school. In a study of Oklahoma mothers who declined to breast-feed, nearly a third named work as the primary reason. Others, like Ms. Moore of Starbucks, find the early days of breast-feeding frustrating, and their impending return to work means they have little incentive to continue.

“Sometimes my co-workers will sneak in two or three smoking breaks” before she can steal away to pump, said Laura Kruger Rowe, who works at a Starbucks in Rochester.

The company, known for its generous benefits, has no breast-feeding policy, but will “work with partners to accommodate their needs on a case-by-case basis,” said Valerie O’Neil, a spokeswoman.

As at Starbucks, the gap between working mothers can play out within a single organization. At many law firms, lawyers can pump in their offices, while secretaries use bathroom stalls; in the Army, which also has no policy on the matter, officers are less likely to encounter problems than enlisted soldiers, who have less autonomy and a more complex chain of command.

“They’re scared to death to even talk to their employers,” Dr. Barbara L. Philipp, an associate professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, said of the housekeepers and fast-food servers whose children she treats. They may fear the kind of harassment that Laura Walker, a former server at a Red Lobster restaurant in Evansville, Ind., said she faced.

According to the complaint Ms. Walker filed with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, the restaurant ignored a note she brought from her nurse explaining her need to pump. The managers cut her hours, assigned her to the worst tables and ridiculed her — for instance, jiggling the restaurant’s milk containers and joking that they were for her. Eventually Ms. Walker’s milk ducts clogged, landing her in the hospital with mastitis.

Officials of the restaurant chain said they did assist Ms. Walker.

“We at Red Lobster work with all new mothers to accommodate their needs so they can take care of their child,” said Wendy Spirduso, a spokeswoman. “That occurred multiple times in this case,” she said, declining to go into detail because of a confidential settlement Ms. Walker reached with the company.

Shortly after Marlene Warfield, a dental hygienist in Tacoma, Wash., began pumping on the job, she said her boss wore a Halloween costume consisting of a large silver box — his interpretation of a pump, perhaps — with a cutout labeled “insert breast here.” When he instructed Ms. Warfield to leave her pump at home, she said, she quit her job— and consulted the local human rights commission, which found nothing illegal about the dentist’s actions.

In contrast, higher-paid women can often pump without anyone knowing — or with everyone knowing. Nina Wurster, who works in human resources for the Advisory Board, a consulting group in Washington, conducts phone interviews from the lactation room. “I just say, sorry about the background noise and I keep going,” she said. But breast-feeding is now so accepted in white-collar circles that some women are completely matter-of-fact about it, pumping right in their open cubicles.

“It’s been great,” said Melany Richmond, an electrical engineer at Zilog, a semiconductor company, in Bellevue, Wash. “I put a little sign up — it says ‘Do Not Disturb,’ with a little ‘Moo’ on the bottom.”

Pumping breast milk has one benefit that cannot be quantified: it makes working mothers feel less guilt-ridden about leaving their children. “There is a lot of satisfaction in knowing I am doing right by him,” Ms. Wurster said of her son, James.

Dr. Philipp recalled a small furor about whether Jane Swift, the former governor of Massachusetts who gave birth to twins, would breast-feed after returning to work.

“That’s a great thing to do, but she had her own office and could set her own schedule,” Dr. Philipp said. “The one I want to know about is the lady cleaning her office.”


off to get hitched...

Well, Jon and I are off this weekend to Bell Buckle to get married on Sunday.

Expect blogging silence until our return and then I'll share some photos... :-)

Have a great holiday weekend!