eh, i think i want a do-over. but i don’t get one.

I got to follow a three year old around today while his mama was occupied at a child-unfriendly event.* It was a wonderful and terrible thing. Wonderful because I had my head straight as to what a three year old needs (to run around and be followed, to have questions answered and to have my calm attention. To be taken to a nearby pet store. Quite simple, really!) and it was a joy to enjoy this little one and to help his mother who has no family and rarely gets help at these events that I’ve seen.

Terrible? Why so? Well, I gritted my teeth thinking of how poorly I’d done for my own kids when they were little, and how poorly I’ve done since, I still do, because I can’t shake my residual training and my bad habits. But back then, yeah, I just couldn’t figure out, back when I had babies, that it was my environs that were so often fucked up, making little practical room for what children need and extending very little assistance to carers, usually mothers, who were responsible for all this (Arwyn’s written about this a lot better than I can). I just ate myself up trying to make myself and my kids not inconvenient, I gulped conversation with other moms at the park when the kids would play, I was dying for time out of pressure, which is why I lose the compassion and love people often tell me I have when I hear some weekend dad or non-carer or non-parent complain about moms who take kids to the park and don’t play with them or text or whatever. Like, seriously, playing with kids is awesome, but prescribing it when seeing a beleaguered mama population at one of the few places kids are allowed to run around and make noise? Please directly Go Fuck Yourself, and I mean it in the kindest of ways, I’ll wait for you to get back.

Yeah, my husband used to get pissed we’d go to a film with the young kids and he’d end up taking the squirrelly one out to the lobby and miss some of the movie. He still gets this way sometimes. I understand he’s pissed but I mean, shit that’s what I had to deal with my nine-hour shift out in public day after day after day after day (go into the coffee shop and a person with a laptop sitting at a fourtop who gives us an icy glare and others ignore us, outside at a picnic table and a kiddo runs across the grass and not one person laughs and gently herds young child to safety, but people look up angrily for – ME), and that’s been so much, so many years of my life, my child(ren) unwelcome unless he/she/they were silent and near immobile (I hear it’s not like that everywhere) when he/she/they wanted to ask questions, to talk, to run, to climb, the very things they really should be doing and not just when they’re tiny but I think for many many early years.

And yeah there are situations and people and oases that get that kids are part of the population, and those are lovely. But seriously I mean this event today, apparently people expected a three year old to sit quietly, and no there was nothing at all for the kid to do, no room to play in, nothing (a seven hour event). I am not upset about the event or even thinking about it much, truly, I’m upset about my stupidity when I was a younger mom, about how hard I worked to be “good” and to have “good” kids, and about all the twisted stuff this set up within me and how much I sacrificed and how much less I enjoyed my kids, the most lovely people on this earth to me.

It just fucking kills me.

I dunno, sometimes I think since we all spent a lot of time being kids, maybe some of us should consider regularly putting some time in a grimy parking lot keeping a three year old safe (and actually having a good time with him because he was lovely) so Mama can have thirty minutes to breathe, have a cup of coffee, or take care of her other responsibilities. When we see a child run across the street we can slow down and laugh and wave and say, “Careful!” and smile, or take a few minutes and talk to a child, because who are we to be in such a Big Goddamned Important Hurry we can’t acknowledge some of the most vulnerable and impressionable and inexperienced and (usually) disempowered populations of the human race, the very creatures who decide the fate of the planet and who might stand to grow up free and lovely and well-taught and loved-up instead of – pained and anxious and servile and scared and angry?

Eh, besides other mamas in my life – who were also themselves working so hard – very few people helped me in these generous and level ways when the kids were little, or maybe many did but the intolerance and ignorance of others was way more, or at least loudest in my ears. I can’t change that I internalized all this as being Not Good Enough and I Need To Work Myself Harder and Sit Still and Be QUIET! or we’re GOING  HOME! But I can, as long as I’m able, remember to look out for and be loving to little ones and their carers. I guess if there’s one thing I’ve gained it’s that. It’s that I knew to offer this woman time. It wasn’t much but I didn’t see anyone else volunteering.

And the little guy S. was more excited about a fiddler crab at that pet shop than anything. And you know what, now that I spent a minute checking it out, I discovered a fiddler crab is pretty fucking awesome.

N64 = koala

’cause everyplace I look / I picture him & you

It’s Friday, babies! I’ve got such good links this time around, too!

Bridesmaids: Can Judd Apatow make a funny movie that passes the Bechdel Test? from What Tami Said. I saw Bridesmaids on Tuesday night with Jasmine and I was entertained and thoroughly impressed with this film, which is possibly the most pro-feminist piece of cinema i’ve seen in a very long time. The film is moving, engaging, and many, many times it’s pee-one’s-pants funny. Tami’s review is spot-on, although I’d recommend viewing the film first before reading about it.

Partnership doesn’t mean letting kids do whatever the hell they want! by Lyla Wolf. This post reminds me; I have had many requests to follow up on my non-punitive parenting primer, and I want to do this soon. In the meantime, Wolf’s post is solid.

Beauty May Be In Eye of Beholder But Eyes See What Culture Socializes by Mikhail Lyubansky, in response to a horrid article that was posted, then pulled, from Psychology Today (here’s a bit of coverage on that). (Oh, and if you want to read a condescending and fallacious defense, as well as the typical smoke-and-mirrors miscast of “censorship” , you can sink your teeth into this response). Wednesday one of my (very respected) tweeps Ludovic Blain posed the question: why care about Psychology Today? – and was engaged by Dr. Lyubansky (to good effect, I think). Moral of the story: TWITTER IS FUCKING AWESOME; junk science, race-baiting, and CYA splainin’ decidedly less so.

Planking Becomes The Next Big Asinine Thing To Photograph And Post Online, from JiveTurkey. But surely even as I post there’s sumpin’ new going on.

Anita Sarkeesian posts her latest: “Tropes vs. Women: #4 The Evil Demon Seductress”. As usual, Ms. Sarkeesian does not disappoint. “Evil Demon Seductress” in all forms has always given me a huge pain in the ass; glad to see it taken down point-by-point.

I know you’ve been waiting for results from the 2011 World Beard & Mustache Championships. Here they are.

Mike Rowe addresses Congress:

I haven’t seen all of “Dirty Jobs” but the more I watch the more I love the show – for many reasons – and our whole family is helplessly enamored with Mr. Rowe (of course). In his address here he mentions a period in his life where he gradually became “less interested in how things got made and more interested in how things got bought”. I think a lot of Americans are in that boat. I commend Mr. Rowe for his work.

Women in lower income brackets fearing aging prejudice seek cheap Botox, risk health. h/t friend and reader Jeanne for sharing this through Google Reader. If reading this makes even ONE person stop shaming and mocking women for so-called “vanity” behaviors (including: makeup, cosmetic surgery, body shapers/push-up bras, etc) I will be a happy li’l camper.

My Tweep Jim posted this birthday vid, which made me get teary, and smile, and almost puke, because of TEH AWESOMEZ. Love it.

Make: Taco Truck Chorizo Sopito. Oh you KNOW it’s gonna be good.

Also: basic chicken salad. After a near-lifetime eschewing mayonnaise I finally occasionally use it; gonna give this one a try.

And… I don’t own cutesy magnets, but it’s never too late to start.

Listen to: Damien Jurado: Tiny Desk Concert – or, perhaps, a Queen retrospective.

Geekigami: these ppl fold paper good

Sad news: Grease actor Jeff Conaway in coma after suspected overdose of painkillers. I didn’t much like Grease, but I did like Kenickie and Rizzo. Addiction sucks. It’s painful stuff.

An illuminating passage by Kurt Vonnegut, as showcased on Class Rage Speaks

Tweet of the week, from my seven year old son (yes, we did talk to him about his word choice).

Separated at birth?

N64 = koala

& finally: a taste of some of the goodness from my pending breakup mixtape – and:

a lovely cover of Bon Iver, courtesy of Clara C:

sunshine on my shoulder makes me happy

I woke up to flowers, a beautiful and unique bouquet, and Ralph cooking breakfast for about four kids, only one of which was ours. Last night we had about six extra children running around and about; two stayed the night over. Today we continued to have a houseful while Ralph did some spring cleaning and Phoenix, my mother and I took a trip up to Olympia. As it turned out, we mothers bought gifts for our daughters; my mom treating me to coffee and a little antique fabric book and part of our lunch while I in kind bought doughnuts and comics for my Phoenix as well as her favorite type of toy (“dinosaur skull” and “ocean life” – my kids, especially my daughter, always have adored plastic animals). I’m ready to get started on a new sewing piece and I’m feeling that calm thrill about it all.

At home Ralph cooked up a small feast while I experimented in my sewing room with twin needle and starched linen. He grilled tri-tip steak, roasted baby potatoes, and cooked up a tender cauliflower in olive oil, with a blueberry crumb cake for dessert. Nels helped set the table and serve up everyone, including making a centerpiece from the inexpensive glass “ruby” I found for him in the craft store. My mom joined us for a late late dinner and only now left. I feel oddly exhausted and only write here to chronicle my day. This might have been my oddly busiest Mother’s Day yet; no problem there –

just gotta fall into a hot bath and then a warm, snuggly bed with my lovely bambinos.

Sleep Town, USA; Population: me.

kids at Ocean Crest, Ocean Shores

Non-Punitive Parenting: A Starting Primer

kids at Ocean Crest, Ocean Shores

This piece was written as a participatory exercise for The Great Spank Out. All comments on this post will be heavily moderated. No comments endorsing punitive parenting will be allowed through.

***

I’ve heard every rationalization for punitive parenting in the book, and then some.* I’ve heard that using these strategies doesn’t really hurt nor humiliate a child. I’ve heard Yeah, it hurts/humiliates, that’s the point, and it works well! I’ve heard “I was hit, and I’m fine” (about… a thousand times).

I’ve heard punishing/hitting/grounding/time-outs are necessary and if you don’t do them, you will absolutely end up with “spoiled, entitled brats”. I recently had a friend tell me he thinks something is wrong with my partner and I that we do not spank (hit) our kids as a parenting tool – although he grants my children are the first children he’s ever liked. He envies our family life but holds no hope he could raise children without violence. He explained to me his carers “beat the shit out of him” (his words), but it was for his own good; he lived in a dangerous and crime- and drug-laden neighborhood.

I bring up this anecdote because it is an elegant example at the more extreme end of this (common) worldview: “the world is tough and my kid needs to know about it. I’m going to help him learn early to keep him safe.”

Even adults who admit that “spanking” is just hitting, and that we should not do it, usually still maintaining we should absolutely exploit our power position to “mold” them. These adults hold that spanking is inhumane and/or child abuse, and instead advocate for so-called “gentle discipline” methods cited as time-outs, restriction/grounding, removal of privileges, lectures, etc.

I’m going to get down to brass tacks to state in my opinion there is little difference between the following: hitting (also called “spanking”, “swatting”, “smacking”, or “beating”, depending on your culture/family), yelling at, scolding/lecturing, grounding, removing toys/items as a lesson, and “natural and logical” consequences (crafted and applied at the discretion of the parent/carer in order to groom for desired behavior or eliminate undesired behavior).

On the flip side of the coin, praise and rewards are perfectly complimentary to this type of punitive/manipulative parenting schema – and those “carrot” (as opposed to “stick”) systems are relatively common too. In fact most parents who use time-outs, threats, removal of privileges, scarcity/reward system, rely on a lot of behavioral praise as well.

So I’d imagine some people are reading (if they’re still reading) with their jaws on the floor – or perhaps they’re sporting a sarcastic smirk. To skeptics it would seem I don’t hold there’s any way one is allowed to raise a child. Next you’ll be guessing my house is a loud, craven mess with children shouting at me at the top of their lungs, their mouths set in garish and sticky Kool-aid grimaces, and that these children are the terrors of the town, and I’m in “denial” about it all, and I’m Ruining America.

Well, first of all, let’s banish this “allowed” business.

You’d be surprised what you’re “allowed” to do as a parent. Actually, everything I’ve listed above in what I’d call punitive parenting is fair game and usually encouraged in our country. Indeed, in the United States you are legally sanctioned to hit your child – as long as you don’t use an implement nor leave a mark (adult humans and domesticated animals are protected by at least the letter of the law). As for grounding, restrictions, time-outs and the rest – these are generally thought of as Good Parenting. So let’s stop with this “allowed” business. I have neither the ability, the right, nor the interest to drive around inspecting how each and every household runs their home. If you parent or care for a child you are pretty much free to do as you see fit and nothing I say here can force you one way or another.

Secondly, you should know I do not think parents/carers who employ the above listed strategies are bad people, monsters, stupid, “crazy”, or any other pejorative. If I thought that I’d pretty much think all parents/carers were jerks. I’d also have a hard time forgiving myself for my own monstrous behaviors and missteps, because for reasons I won’t go into detail here and now I have let myself and my children down many times, yes, even against my own better judgment or principles.

Shame and guilt as forces for improving one’s parenting don’t work very well. I am not here to wield a cudgel. Sadly, when it comes to parenting – or mothering, as most finger-wagging diatribes usually concern, implicitly or explicitly – almost any discussion of bad strategies vs. better ones will prod the guilt and shame injuries most parents and carers hold. Mothers especially, are held to account for any real or perceived errors, and missteps. This shame and guilt can sometimes prevent us from openly hearing what we need to. This is a sad thing, but perhaps unavoidable unless we decide not to speak frankly on these matters.

The good news is, I’m here to deliver some hope.

Because what many people are too afraid to hope for, or too convinced otherwise to entertain, is the possibility of raising a happy, healthy child – complete with a compassionate and moral and fierce spirit – without punishing them, or at least while actively resisting punitive methodology throughout their upbrininging. That’s right. No grounding, yelling, lecturing, time-outs, spanking. Yeah, I wouldn’t have believed it either – until I started experiencing it firsthand. It’s been one of the most humbling and exciting and amazing partnerships of my life. And as each year passes, our children prove we made the right choice.

Parenting non-punitively is possible, rewarding, and incredibly freeing in about twenty discrete ways I could probably list (and will do so at some point). Most parents/carers are too scared to try. They intuit, correctly, that if they attempt to give up punitive measures they will have to give up things they want. And they’re right about that. They also believe – incorrectly – that if they give up punitive measures their children will suffer for it, and in effect grow up “bad”.

Here is, as of today, my best thoughts on the sacrifices as I’ve experienced them.

Primarily, we give up the illusion of control. We don’t really have control – we have the illusion of it. We maintain the facade of control as long as our child is not developmentally aware enough to perceive how she is being controlled.

As our child grows, we may maintain this facade if our child lets us win out – because we have made things so unpleasant for her should she assert herself. Some parents are very good at this. In this stage our child begins to hide her nature, opinions, feelings, struggles and/or actions (indeed, duplicity in a child is a first-string symptom of punitive parenting).

We maintain the illusion of control until we observe our child regularly employing self- or other-harm. I am often very sad to hear adults promote narratives where their teenager “suddenly” starts acting “crazy”/sullen/angry/anxious/”like an asshole”. Predicably, many parents and adults put forth junk-science rhetoric regarding the “teenage brain”, pathologizing teens themselves and/or setting down young adult expressions of anxiety, alienation, anger, sadness or severe disassociation to hormones or some kind of temporary innate contrariety, etc. (what’s deeply sad is to witness teens internalize and then repeat this denigration and erasure; I was one of them). I personally think espousing “teen brains aren’t ‘normal'” / “teens are jerks” rhetoric is a last-ditch attempt to avoid admitting the damage many endemic mainstream parenting and teaching practices have inflicted upon our children. It’s too bad, too, because even even in cases of severe teenage behaviors, there is still hope – but not much hope, if the parents, carers, and teachers in stewardship aren’t willing to admit their own faults. I’d like to believe it’s never too late to admit our mistakes, acknowledge our fears, and in doing so improve our treatment of the children in our lives.

What else do we give up, when we decide we will no longer punitively parent?

We give up many accolades and praises from mainstream parenting “gurus”, from our family and friends, and from our micro- or larger culture. Believe me, if your child has a loud emotional display in a store (for instance) you stand to gain approving nods if you come down on the child with a stern and/or loud voice, especially if delivering a threat. If you patiently say “Thank you,” to the clerk, let your child cry, remove your child as soon as you can (with gentleness), you may very well be glared at. Giving up punitive and public parenting strategies, then, means many adults will expect authoritarian displays of you and, when you do not deliver, tsk tsk – or worse.

You may be told to beat your child. You may be encouraged (usually implicitly) to put him down or speak about him in a sarcastic and dismissive manner so he at least knows what a pain in the arse he is. Your family and peers may not support you; this is based in their fear, and has little to do with you. But it can be hard to be so unsupported when what we need, is a community to lift us up.

Fortunately, although it can sting to give up the many surface-level commendations you receive as a demonstrably-“strict” parent, if you can cast off punitive forces or provide better caregivers or environs for your child, you’ll likely soon be receiving genuine expressions of delight regarding your children’s character and behaviors. The funnest part of this is, for me, a state of far less attachment to outcome; e.g. no longer interested in claiming virtue or value as a result of my children’s behaviors. When my children are complimented (as they often are), I can know it is not me in the driver’s seat, but the kids’ own individual qualities emerging. I do not accept compliments regarding my children’s behavior, because I did not engender their good behavior but merely didn’t thwart, suppress, and twist it. My children themselves are allowed to handle those compliments as they see fit (they usually say, “Thank you.” and leave it at that).

I’m wracking my brain to think more about what we give up, but really those two things are about it (although they’re biggies, I grant it). I suppose we give up allowing ourselves episodes of retaliatory anger. Or rather, when we inevitably give in to such displays (as I do, still), we can relatively quickly abandon the premise that this is our right or responsibility, apologize sincerely if we did something asshat, and return to our better selves a lot quicker.

So that, I suppose, is the bad news. (Except you can see it really isn’t. Bad news.)

That’s what we give up.

Now: what do we stand to gain?

For one, we stand to gain the experience of a healthier, happier, braver, more empathetic, more alert, more humorous, and more fair-minded child. We also begin to see how children raised this way are less likely to experience or evidence the following: depression, low impulse control, habitual duplicity, generalized anxiety disorder, eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder, repetitive bullying episodes (either as the bully or the target), self-harming rituals, and susceptibility to peer pressure. Please note I said less likely. Believe me, if I knew of any formula to raise a child safe from all large-scale harms, I’d be tempted to can it and put it up in my pantry.

What do we stand to gain?

More enjoyment of our time together. More knowledge of who our children really are (and who they continue to grow to be). When we trust our children, we really trust them. It’s a wonderful experience. I’ve often been told by other parents, “Wow, I can’t believe you let your kids run a restaurant / ride the transit / pay your bills / use your phone / walk to the library. I couldn’t trust my kids to do that.” At first I thought these parents were talking into their sleeve, essentially chastising me for being me too permissive (and perhaps some of them were). But I began to understand I really do trust my children in a deeper way than many parents trust theirs. This wasn’t necessarily easily won nor is it perfectly accomplished, but is not only my experience: it is regularly remarked upon by others. I am their advocate, I am their mentor and advisor (when they need me), but mostly I am their nurturer as much as I can be.

What do we stand to gain?

Children we want to spend time with, and children who want to spend time with us.

What do we stand to gain? A home that is peaceful, fun, funny, compassionate, fierce, tender – and doesn’t feel scary … to anyone (including the parents… many whom I believe are often very scared indeed, hide it as they may try).

And a final note: although I have met other grownups who agree with principles of non-punitive parenting, I haven’t yet met one who claimed he/she had raised a child to adulthood and never hit, grabbed, yelled, or performed mean-spirited lectures, petty theft, or retaliatory creepitude (many parents/carers have done all the above). In other words, believing in a better way doesn’t automatically make one a saint. I have never represented myself this way and a parent who thinks I am doing so, is too defensive to really listen to what I’m saying.

But believing in a better way is the first step to living a better way.  I have had the honor in helping other parents and carers find this believe. And so far, it has been the most encouraging experience of my life. Not just living this way in our own household, but helping other households to find this path.

***

* Here is a working definition of “punitive parenting”, from a site called the Positive Discipline Resource Center (I have not read nor formed opinions as to the site’s content, but do find this definition to be pretty good):

“Punitive parents assume children have to feel bad in order to learn – though they may not use those words to describe it. When confronted with inappropriate behavior in their children, punitive parents search for a punishment to extinguish the behavior. Punitive tools include: time outs, spanking, lectures, grounding, loss of unrelated privileges or property, physical exercise, and physical discipline such as hot sauce on the tongue. Reward/punishment systems are part of a punitive paradigm.”

different names for the same thing

Today sucked. First? I was up all night – at least up to something marginally entertaining, watching the television show “Justified” on instant video. It was instantly deeply entertaining (Timothy Olyphant FTW), besides being more or less standard very dudely television fare (kiss kiss bang bang, ladies leave the room cuz menfolks is talkin). I eventually fell asleep and had a dream I made out with a local lawyer, non-related to any television viewing or any desire to make out with anyone besides my own actual man, and while the dream itself wasn’t the most unsavory I’ve had, it still to this moment leaves an ick-factor I haven’t entirely brushed off.

After I (eventually) staggered out of bed and washed up and opened blinds and brushed my teeth and got some laundry started, I dragged myself to the computer, cup of coffee in hand, to continue my day in a positive way – but, sadly, I was immediately exposed to something awful on the internet. And you know what? It doesn’t matter much what it was. It involved people I knew (and people I love), and ugly, soul-sucking behaviors, and apologism for the kind of social constructs I find most personally abhorrent, reprehensible, and hurtful. And I don’t know why, reading and doing the work and activism I do, I could stand to say I feel any sense of surprise to see such regressive and destructive attitudes and behaviors and why I haven’t just “evolved” (my mom’s phrase) into where I find these sorts of human behavior just kind of, shake-my-head funny. Or maybe sometimes I can – but not this morning. No, I sure didn’t.

I felt like shit the rest of the day, or most of it anyway. Depressed, overwhelmed, deeply sad. The timbre of the day’s experience felt like the rainy-and-dark depression that can overwhelm me seasonally, which I’d noted had been lifting lately. I took the best remedy I know, which was to go outside – in this case, a walk, joined by my children and later a couple girlfriends (who delivered excellent conversation). This helped, a bit. When Ralph got home he knew I was feeling bad and he did his best to take care of me, including dinner out. It helped. A bit.

Days like today I cannot imagine my life without my family. Yes, living without Ralph and the kids would be entirely different, I know that, enough it is silly to speculate on anything much. But while I have much to be grateful for, and a shared life with many passionate and incredible people who are supportive and loving and inspirational, there is something restorative about family life – and specifically my children – more constant than just about anything else. Even my daily and regular efforts in caring for them bring me to a mindfulness and in-the-moment experience that feels more Me than anything else – yes, even more than my beloved writing and sewing and my social interactions (in fact these three often distract me from my children, my husband, and my practice of mindfulness).

In the final analysis there is nothing that can take the place of the meaning and joy I find in the most simple things, plating up a ham sandwich and apple slices, or brushing hair and washing faces, or cuddling on the couch or simply bundling up and stepping outside for a walk while talking, the kids’ observations, their questions (which I feel honored to be trusted so implicitly with), their worldviews, their laughter. It’s rather confusing because people tend to frame joyful experiences with regard to grand or extravagant events, not those little things we have in our day, every day. As I get older and the more time I have with the children I feel an increasing experience of gratitude. It isn’t just that I like them, and love them, and find them my favorite people on the planet. It’s that I wonder how much passion would have passed me by had I not them in my life, and I feel grateful not to miss out on that passion.

A multi-part healing prescription: sunshine, exercise, friends, family, dinner out with my best friend and husband, and a bit of writing. Yes, I am feeling much better now – after all.

a daughter is a gift of love

My daughter is “only” nine, but she’s becoming a young lady before my eyes. It’s a subtle change, but not imperceptible: those closest to her – namely Ralph, Nels, and my mother – are also noticing. I am, in this time, her confidant, and this pleases me to no end. Yesterday after lunch out with my mom (Happy Teriyaki droooooool) we briefly stopped for a $6 bang-trim at a walk-in salon. Ralph told me later how calm and comfortable our daughter was in what she immediately inferred was a female-oriented space. The stylist asked Phoenix questions about her age and her interests and soon the young woman’s eyes flickered back and forth between my daughter and I. “You’re so cute… you’re just so sweet.” this woman told my daughter. “Thank you,” Phoenix replied levelly – and she thanked her for the hair service as I paid. The other stylists watched too: all eyes on my daughter during the relatively quiet transaction, an occurrence I have come to recognize as it is relatively frequent. Children often get ignored or talked over in public; yet Phoenix has a lot of presence.

Tonight at Ross (I found the most perfect. jeans. ever. for $16) Phoenix found the junior-size dresses and became interested. After asking her father if we had time for her to try them on, she pulled several off the racks. In the dressing room she invited me in and I helped her, holding her slightly tangled locks off the nape of her most-precious neck and tugging on straps and belts, after which she assessed herself. Still a little girl, some cuts of the junior’s size zero fit well enough and she commented on the color and cut and fabric of each. Finally, “I like the striped one and the bright blue one. If you say the striped one is best, that’s good enough for me!” She pulled on her little Dickie’s t-shirt and folded her hoodie across her arm and we checked back out, the $10 soft summer jersey dress in hand, to where her father sat waiting in the aisle.

Earlier today: in the kitchen she pulls her hair back and washes her hands thoroughly and sits up at the kitchen counter, cutting a couple quarts of peaches, carefully holding them in her hand and slicing directly into her own palm, for this week’s restaurant fare. Now while the home-restaurant was of my son’s inception and each week is driven by his insistance, he only helps with a bit of the cooking (today, however, he greeted and talked with customers quite well). Phoenix on the other hand is a genuine and consistent help, a bit to my surprise. She’s learning quite a bit about cooking too, although I maintain my children will know a great deal about food variety, preparation, and competence, just by growing up in our home – no direct instruction particularly required.

Speaking of that, the cake I made to wrap up and take to the hungry at the Mission, we instead sacrificed as a neighbor gift to the new move-ins across the street. For one, I like to do this sort of thing; secondly, the seven year old of the family heckled me mercilessly for a slice last night and I finally figured to give the family the whole dern thing. It was a beautiful and – dare I say it – professional-looking confectionary of chocolately awesomeness. And now I’m left to consider what to cook for the Mission this week. I’m thinking sweet and fragrant cornbread; an anonymous donor gave me a whole lotta canned corn and that’s the best thing I can think to use it in (relatively cheap, too, in cooking and donating to others). I’ll probably be pulling that out of the oven tomorrow when the kids get up; we’ll share breakfast as it cools and wrap it all up and take a bus over to deliver.

For now, for tonight – our resultant peach cobbler:

Southern Peach Cobbler

Everybody’s workin’ for the weekend: Friday links

Today’s Friday links are shorter than usual; I took a media break halfway through the week (this meant, among other things, I would click over to my Google Reader, scan briefly for any of my friends’ blogposts to read – then close my eyes and click “Mark as Read” ON EVERYTHING ELSE while crying). OF COURSE I still got some great stuff for you all – never fear.

At What Tami Said: “Sexism and Saturday Night Live”. “When faced with hard discussions about sexism or racism or homophobia, etc., people are often quick to a) minimize the past and b) celebrate just how “post-ism” we are today.” Yup, you said it.

School: I mentioned this in last weeks’ broadcast: “The Worst Bullying PSA Ever”, a critique by author Rosalind Wiseman. The critique is great, of course, but what I didn’t mention last week and what I wanted to mention this week is an alternative work she cited: “School Bullying: What You Haven’t Heard”.

Regarding school – and was pretty upsetting (but not surprising) to read – from Voice In Recovery “BMI, Education & Extra Credit for Weight Loss”. The phrase “bad idea” cannot be overstated.

On the lighter side: h/t to friend and reader Jasmine, for a Monty Python classic, “Argument Clinic”…

as well as another classic: “Phonetic Punctuation”, by Victor Borge:

But here’s the video I’m hoping many people will watch. Regarding film, television, and media and the critique, analysis, and projects associated: “Geena Davis on the Effects of Gender Inequality on TV and in Movies” at Rice Daddies, featuring a 15 minutes of FANTASTIC as follows:

In the food department: on FB my lady Flo posted a recipe for Bacon Egg Pancake Cups. Let me tell you, I hate breakfast foods Times One Hundred, but the rest of the family loves them. Oh also: I will rock these the very first time I make ’em.

Ending on a transcendent note: friend and reader Medrie wrote “Fear Not”. I’ve mentioned her work many times; she is the blog I read that always has my heart in my throat. I can imagine many mothers and erstwhile children could relate to this piece.

friday lynx

Hey, I just realized I completely and totally used to have far fewer featured items, and more of my chit-chat, in my Friday Links. Welp, not sure what I should do about that, if anything. There’s just TOO MUCH AWESOME SHIT on the internet, you know?

History
“Of Spaces Familiar and Not-So Familiar” at TNC of The Atlantic’s blog. We just had the anniversary of the Challenger disaster. I remember watching this – live – as a third grader. I also remember studying the o-ring failure in some fancy-ass chemistry class at UW.

Tech
“Game Written by a 14-Year-Old Passes ‘Angry Birds’ as Top Free iPhone App” at School-Survival.net

Health
“Dear Self Magazine & Her Campus” from Voice in Recovery. ViR is becoming a much-beloved blog.

“Walmart Plans to Sell Anti-Aging Makeup to Tweens” at Womanist Musings. Yes, this is for real. There’s nothing I need to add to what Renee has said.

“Medical Diagnosis in Pregnancy”. “Obstetric care for pregnant women is indeed focused on seeking out deviant results in an otherwise symptom-free patient. That’s why ‘regular’ care in pregnancy includes this huge battery of tests (well, that and the fact that these tests mean big business for hospitals). This is quite different from any other medical speciality. Generally doctors don’t seek out illnesses, unless they manifest.”

Aussie dust-up re: fat acceptance and health. Try: â€œUgh. Look at how fat that kid is.” by Dr. Samantha Thomas at The Discourse (the comments are good, but Kath’s kills me a little inside), “Let’s Get One Thing Straight”, posted by Elizabeth, and “Introducing Dastardly Donut” by Natalie. Hm, given all this, should I write a UB piece about “The Biggest Loser”, given one of my kids’ friends (who with her mother watches the show regularly) two days ago repeatedly snuck chocolate out of my cupboard (I would have said Yes if she’d just asked), then twice queried my Phoenix about her weight, then when I said, “Well, people’s bodies come in all shapes and sizes, right?” said, “Yeah”, and when I asked, “So is it OK to be fat?” responded, “Yeah. Because then you have to get skinny.” YIKES

Parenting
“House Rules” by Anna Brown. They don’t really work. A piece from consensual living, reminded to me by reader Annie.

“The Magic Word” by Jeff Sabo:

“Traditional parenting often focuses on foundations like church, school, team sports, perseverance, and a host of other ideals that, they hope, will prepare their children to succeed in the real world. These parents believe that they can see the future and build a person who will succeed within it. It’s almost like a 20 year engineering project – meticulously planned, brilliantly executed, but perhaps without either passion or the ability to morph as the future becomes more clear, like building the perfect desktop computer in a world of iPads […] [W]e try control a variety of things – TV, food, sleep times, educational choices, friends and lovers – with generally positive intent, but often negative results.”

Hard to pick, but this (also by Jeff, who took a writing break but is thankfully back) is probably my favorite link this week: “The Beauty of HALO”

“People?” at Every Moment is Right. “[W]hen do we start treating children as people? When they start walking? Talking? Go to school? Leave the house? When we need their help?”

Culture & Pop Culture
“Asian Americans Still Largely Missing From Hollywood” at Colorlines

“Last Meals on Death Row” at howtobearetronaut

Debbie Gibson and Tiffany Singing “Don’t Stop Believin” Together from TheRetroist. Less “rock”, more (dino)CROC, ladies!

Guess what’s guaranteed awesome? Weird Al’s children’s book.

Race and Class
“Where is the Kenyan Crocodile Hunter?” at What Tami Said. OK seriously, points for the first person who names a popular USian nature show with a host who isn’t a white male. I’m racking my brain, but then again my brain isn’t so hot sometimes.

“Let’s Talk About Pendleton” at Native Appropriations. I was just thinking about Pendleton in terms of appropriation the other day. The article is good; the comments are as well.

Make/Craft
“Monster Valentine’s Cards for the Classroom” at makeandtakes; these won’t be as awesome as our Valentines, but they’re still pretty dern good.

Chinese New Year recipes; vegetarian steamed dumpling? 100 to yes.

Updates and News from DIY Life Zine – I highly recommend anything Idzie is working up. (& expect a zine announcement from yours truly soon as well)

Laffs
“17 Images That Will Ruin Your Childhood” from Cracked

The New Terror Alert from TeamCoco. How I fervently WISH this were the case.

Today in 1983: Overdrawn at the Memory Bank premiered on television. Trigger warning for anti-anteater propaganda.

O_o

part of this complete breakfast

I’ve had this song and video stuck in my head all day. Which totally works for me.

In other news, a child over today tore our house apart grabbing blankets and furniture to build forts and then torture-imprisoned many cats in said structures until I (nicely) requested for the child to stop (with the cat thing). After agreeing to Ralph’s request to put a few things back before leaving, the child scuttled out the door and back home having done no such thing and leaving the kids’ room and our bedroom in a total shambles. This child also seems to have a hygiene problem, which I find unappealing and depressing; also a problem with perpetually telling untruths. Yesterday upon seeing a jar of cash and coin in our house I heard the child telling my son it belonged to a friend, hoping to take it home.

I have no idea why today I let this behavior get to me. Actually after having typed it out, it seems reasonable enough I did. I’m proud of myself though that I provide a good home to any child who visits, as long as I’m not distracted by the other stuff going on which is REALLY EASY because I am kind of a busy and frenetic person. I’m not nearly as mellow as some people make me out to be. As for these “badly-behaved children” (usually under-nurtured ones so, hard to pathologize the child itself) my job is to provide a warm, welcoming house – and food, and as much freedom as possible – to the kids in my life (my own and others’). It usually works out great which is probably why a lot of kids like being here.

In this case maybe today I simply preferred the company of my own children and private homelife, a series pf lovely episodes: we’d spent the morning taking baths together and then the kids asked for an unconventional breakfast: popcorn and fresh oranges (we have some really lovely citrus in the house). The popcorn I prepared old-skool, as I don’t own a popper or microwave or anything – just a pot with a lid and a little oil, potholders and stove top. I have many memories of my father (usually shirtless) popping up a huge batch before family movie night – we had an electric element range and sparks would fly off the burners as he banged about. After he’d pour the popcorn into a large paper shopping bag, then swirl butter in the pan to melt; add the butter and some salt to the bag and shake-shake-shake. I do the same, now; except I add parmesan cheese and nutritional yeast. Today as the kids sat happily in their underwear I showed Nels how to section an orange without a mess and how to carefully eat so not to crunch a seed (is it my imagination, or does citrus with seeds taste sweeter than seedless varieties?).

I cleaned up breakfast and the kids ran around snuggling cats and reading and drawing and building Legos. I felt a little blue at today’s wetter and gloomier weather and thus made up a batch each of niter kibbeh and berbere sauce. Dicing chiles and garlic and grinding spices and clarifying butter? Yeah, that worked out fine. My daughter ran around in her little tank top with her hair up in a ponytail singing Pink songs and my heart broke in half at how young-lady-like she’s looking (taking her measurements the other day for sewing I observed her waist and hip measurements have a 6″ difference… yes, growing-growing, they don’t slow down). I’ve gotta remind myself to slow down and enjoy the time I have.

Halfway through Ralph’s evening errands he was stopped by a family man feeling exhausted by family and work life. The guy ended up telling my husband he wanted to talk to him more about our family life. He said, “Your kids are so nice and polite, and smart, and you all seem to get along… I want that.” It’s cool to be noticed and acknowledged, although not for the reason you might think. I really want to help other families find their way into loving family life all the more. It happens; it works, for realz.

I’ve got a bottle of organic wine and fresh-washed bedding and a couple of squeaky-clean bathed kiddos and sleepy cats. It’s all working out OK.

Love the one you’re with

Pristine

I’m a bit disturbed that in my once-yearly visits to Port Townsend I continue to be beset by ugly thoughts and feelings – each time I visit. Yesterday and today, in fact, I experienced the strongest negative feelings and thoughts so far. All my baggage, sure and whatever, and maybe I’ll write some of it out sooner or later, but that’s not my point. The oppressiveness of it all threw me for a loop. It was like my brain had all this static noise.

And I didn’t have much time to process. Within about five minutes of driving into town I was at a party and spent almost every waking second after this around other grownups. I didn’t have time to defrag. I did my best to be present for my friends, who along with their children are deeply precious to me.

The friends, the kids? AWESOME. I felt high as a kite to be around them. That might have been the Stumptown coffee, too.

Darts At The Undertown

After hot chocolates and hot coffee we walked down to the beach. The children played and played and played, showing no boredom and only a total interest in the beach and one another.

A Place of Interest, #3

And they agreed to assemble so I could take a group picture. This is because guess what, tomorrow they will all be about six inches taller and with more or less teeth and telling different stories and doing different things so we wanted to get them, just grab them RIGHT NOW.

Preparing...

Assembling...

Almost There!

El Grupo

El Grupo[grimacing]
At some point some of us had to move onto a warm place with hot food. At this separation, Phoenix cried mightily. But in the way of small kiddos she was very happy only moments later on our way to lunch, stopping for a comically incorrect-sized kiddie ride – one she used to ride on as a tot that is, I suspect, not much longer for this world.

Triumph

The kids sat at their own table and Cynthia, Jodi and I got to catch up. I ate this huge-ass chile relleno. I’d hoped for the Noodle House but that was not in the cards. Maybe next time.

Like The Punchline:

As we ate it got darker, and colder, and darker…

So my daughter and I said goodbye to our friends and to PT and warmed up the car to hit the road.

On the way home, the little girl fell asleep (“Mom, may I take a snooze without interruption?”). We’d sung the entire drive up (Jazmine Sullivan and Justin Bieber, volume at 11) but it was nice to have time to myself on the drive back and I was glad she got some rest. In fact, both drives were very pleasant for me and I usually hate having my ass in a car.

Andrew Bird, and the twisty-dark of Highway 101:

Ode/Speed

On The Way Home, Phoenix

24 hours and there-and-back.

I’m ready to take a hot bath at home and cuddle up to the warm and beloved bodies in my life.

Port Townsend Gloom

Beach
(Small Stone #21*)

Beneath my feet, deathly chill, the shock traveling up through my legs.
Today I don’t mind.
I’m one with the elements.
Cold and fierce.

24 Hours
(Small Stone #22*)

My son puts his arms around my neck and buries his face in my breast.
“You were gone such a long time!”, he sighs.

Small stone project