fridays are not pants optional

Health

I live in Washington state and it’s totally not like this! There are high fevers all the time! & hardly anyone ever does handclaps in music!!!

“Access to Affordable and Nutritious Food: Measuring and Understanding Food Deserts and Their Consequences”; a report from the USDA (pdf). According to this report my family qualifies as a “food desert” family, one we join an estimated two percent of all American families in. Ralph and I have made the deliberate choices to have a fulltime at-home parent (which means reduced income); we also spend about two and a half times the American average income percentage on (what we believe to be) nutritious, from-scratch food. This report (amongst other observations) confirms my experience this can be difficult work! (Bonus points for anyone who reads the entire report!)

“Diet for a baby” by Hathor the Cowgoddess. Yes. Baby diets are real and receiving notice and promotion. And yes. I am terrified.

And on that note – “Sunday Surf” at Authentic Parenting. Some great breastfeeding links; mamapoekie also answers some of my concerns regarding the subject.

Social
“‘No Touching’ at High School? A Student Protests!” at FreeRangeKids. This is a truly sad and nauseating measure; I am inspired (but not surprised) students have launched a petition against it.

“Hugs, Twisty: Pornsick dudes give blamer the screamin’ mimis”; A reader confesses confusion and sadness at anti-women pervasiveness in the media; commenters respond with support.

“Rejecting the notion of ‘Black People Twitter'” at What Tami Said. Whites may be unfamiliar with endemic pressure to be “a credit to their race” (a phrase that will likely always remind me of Hattie McDaniel)… and what does that say?

The other day while being served Chinese-American food by a Korean-American proprietress I remembered these two oldie but goodie entries on stuffwhitepeopledo: “Seek Authenticity” and “Carelessly Exoticize and ‘Other’ Food”. The phrase “authentic” when referring to food makes me laugh pretty hard. If you find yourself looking for “authentic” food or tourist locales, you may want to check yourself for Special Snowflake Syndrome. The story of in the second link of the The Urban Vegan’s recipe for or “Blue Mosque Ayran” reminded me of a recipe site I found when searching for an Eithiopian recipe – apparently if you eat anywhere in Eithiopia you are guaranteed to be served by Iman (yes, I know she is Somali-American).

Parenting
“The Words We Use: Living As If School Doesn’t Exist” by Wendy Priesnitz
“The generic term is “homeschooling.” For the first decade or so of the modern homeschooling movement, that word worked fine, since the few thousand of us living that way shared a general understanding that we were experimenting with something that was as far away from the school model as possible. However, as the movement has grown, the number of approaches used by families has grown too. And now, the word “homeschooling” has come to be identified with the parent-driven, school-at-home end of the spectrum. It no longer accurately describes a curiosity-based, learner-driven, self-managing style of education, which uses life and the world as its resources, and that doesn’t look at all like school. […]

“We are now seeing the next step toward a world without school. Web-based information and the devices to access it have become widely available, allowing learners to bypass schools altogether, even if they don’t consider themselves to be “unschoolers” or “homeschoolers” or have never even heard the terms before. Nevertheless, the concepts of learning and schooling are still synonymous for most people. Most have yet to leave behind the belief that one “gets” (or is given) an education through attendance at school, and that “unschooled” therefore means “uneducated.”

Of every post I submit today, this is the one I most strongly identify with – enough to cite a heavy dose of it – and I endorse every letter on the page.

“Minimalist Parenting” at Authentic Parenting. This post is very sweet but it made me think of the many “minimalist-porn” media images saturating the mainstream. I personally believe these “minimalist” lifestyles we read about in blogs and see in magazines are ones bolstered by a lot of privilege. Nothing wrong with that; I wish more eco-, ethical-, and enviro-minded bloggers and authors would own up to this privilege.

“Motherhood: Electric Boogaloo***” from Navalgazing Bajan
This is a great review, a thought-provoking read, and a wonderful guest-blogging opportunity!

“So you wanna ride in Oregon with your children??? Well…you may want to think twice…” at bikecommuters.com
My observances on “heavily debated topic[s]” that involve kids and carers is the debate is predicated on the shoulders of the following: 1. children don’t deserve the same rights as grownups, full stop; 2. a sarcastic and vitriolic response when people object to measures that make life harder for parents/carers – because “you should have thought of this before you had kids”, and 3. a total and endemic avoidance of the inherent operational and oppressive sexism that results anytime you restrict the movements of kids. Being this is a bike issue in America, this particular piece of legislation also holds that cars are mysterious elven wraiths that have nothing to do with the injuries to and death of cyclists (hey, car worshippers and rape apologists could probably appreciate one another!).

“Two Conversations” by Jeff Sabo (now blogging at Daddy 365)

Pop Culture
“Donkey Kong High-Score Belongs To Hank Chien Again!” at The Retroist

Art
“Beefranck’s Emporium – The Be Nice Project”

I think it’s obvious this Ghostbuster Wedding Cake is ART and food – simultaneously.

Make/Craft
“French Fridays, Uhm, Sunday, with Dorie: Gnocchi a la Parisienne” shared by reader and friend Jeanne
I put the source book on my library holds. I can’t wait to make these although the one time I tried Béchamel sauce my results sucked.

“How to supreme an orange” at freshcatering. If you’re buying oranges here in the PNW, navels and bloods are the way to go.

Plush Mollusk Anatomy at WunderKammer

“DIY Sriracha”: Why would you need to? I dunno, maybe to see if there are additional layers of DELICIOUSNESS to plumb!

Tweet of the Week
Linked to this. Cool beans.

Quotable
“Hatred will not cease by hatred, but by love alone. This is the ancient law.” – Buddha (posted by mamapoekie)

Random Awesomeness
“This is groovy”, from The Stranger and as shared by reader and friend Jeanne

Even my curmudgeony ass-heart got pretty soft for this. A very cool viewing of a very personal yet public event.

you are what you love not what loves you back

Today I was published in the January / February issue of Life Learning Magazine, found my work extensively quoted on HoboMama, and named as “one of the most compassionate persons on Twitter”. I am imbued with a sense of gratitude I am reaching the people who find me helpful. Especially in working with the magazine. Editor Priesnitz is one of those real-life mentors I actually get to work with in, you know, real life. What a world, this inter-netz!

Speaking of Priesnitz her blog entry today, “How to Work (Learn) in a Sausage Factory”, is its usually compassionate, insightful, whip-smart example of acute brevity. Contrasted with the condescension of school officials expressing the importance of teaching high school students the value of “rules” (high school! My kids knew what “rules” meant long before kindergarten age and you probably did too!), she has this to say:

“I would imagine that by high school, kids have either learned most of what they’re ever going to learn about following rules or not (and it’s likely a bit different than what the school folks think they are teaching). What these young people really need is to learn how to make their own decisions, including how to decide which rules are still relevant and which not; how to democratically collaborate with others to change rules and policies; and how to challenge disrespectful people trying to enforce arbitrary or insulting rules – without losing their livelihood.”

Um, yes? Yes! The breathtakingly good news is, many young people are finding their way despite this sort of (endemic and oppressive) business. Writer Idzie Desmarais has collected some wonderful interviews of extraordinary young people who are hitting it out of the park. That collection of interviews is even better than Cute Overload for lifting my spirits.

Ergonomically Positioned

My kids’ weird positions they adopt while on the laptops is very amusing to observe. They are as dextrous lying on their backs with the laptop against their chest as they are sitting up. Nels dances and moves around and stretches and hauls cats while he – guess? – plays Minecraft and studies online tutorials.

I don’t normally say goodnight in this journal but – Goodnight!

Delinquent
(Small Stone #7*)

Fanning air out out the bathroom window
It’s too cold to smoke outside.

Small stone project

America is for Americans

freaky friday

Quotable
Something I wrote last Friday was quoted at both The Life Learning (Unschooling) Happiness Project and Life Learning Magazine. I love it when I’m quoted without an accompanying descriptor, hee. And in the case of Life Learning I mean look who else is quoted there. Come on. Who wouldn’t feel just a teensy bit awesome about that?

Culture & Pop Culture
“A Decade of Fear” from Information is Beautiful
I wonder how many people think of the toll that obsessive fear plays on our own and others’ psyche.

Kanye’s new video got leaked, so they’ll be much this-and-that discussion. Right out of the gate PostBourgie and Ta-Nehisi Coates came forth with pieces I enjoyed.

Refiguring the Passive Girl Toy at SocImages (Yeah, that’s me that made the submission. SocImages has the readers do a lot of their legwork, I think they should work harder on the linky-love, but then what do I know. I have a tiny site with small readership).
The first commenter asserts girls won’t like having their toys chopped up (so I guess this person doesn’t understand the concept of a child owning his/her own toys and getting to make that decision on their own?). Never fear, many readers (several of which who were once, you know, actual girls) chime in with how very much they DID like hacking their toys. Yarp.

Health
The new issue of Squat! is available. If you’d like you can read last summer’s first issue gratis, which features a piece by reader and friend Kat (“Unassisted Birth Story of David Elijah Kirkwood”).

From The Unnecesarean: “Nitrous Oxide for Laboring Women in the United States”. I am truly gobsmacked with what women face in the hospital, this form of low-risk and near instantaneous assistance (which has the additional advantage of being in the mama’s control) is not available.

Some perspective on the obese monsters who are Ruining America (and the concern trolls who love them), brought to us by Idzie’s tumblog and from Fat Heffalump.

Work
“A Plentitude of Work” by WendyPriesnitz: “unjobbing”, not just for SNAGs anymore.

Race
Re: Huckleberry Finn – I read easily a half dozen pieces this week. I enjoyed the summation “Voices: The Huckleberry Finn Controversy” at Racialicious, Renee’s perspective, and The N-word belongs in “Huckleberry Finn”, by Elon James in “This Week in Blackness” at Salon

This isn’t a case of political correctness. This is a case of being racially uncomfortable [ … ] America, in its constant obsession with being seen as “awesome,” will actively try to Photoshop its own historical portrait. (Um… is this last sentence pretty much the best sentence I’ve read about America? Yeah. I think so)

“Nickelodeon Gets Diversity Points, But Still Overlooks Race” at Colorlines

Also from Colorlines: “Two Young Girls Climb U.S./Mexico Border Fence in 18 Seconds”; please do watch both videos.

“Racists Totally Freak Out Over Muslim ‘Batman of Paris'”; this came to me via Ralph. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen (white) fanboys froth at the mouth regarding the God-given imperative to cast white actors in supposedly white-sourced roles. Guess how many mainstream Hollywood films have featured black superheroes as title character? No, guess. (I’d cite non-black poc statistics but I actually don’t know the answer on that one).

Make/Craft
Milk Punch at smittenkitten (h/t Paige). We made a non-booze version and it was delicious; Ralph especially enjoyed it.

The Soul Roll by Emeril. Made this two days ago and? Yeah. Delicious. Do make the sweet cornbread with this meal. It perfectly balances the NOMNOMNOMness.

Environment
“It is the main topic along the border. And the strange thing is it’s very hard to find anyone for it.” Speaking of the U.S./Mexican border fence, as the largest country-dividing construction since the Great Wall of China (h/t reader and friend Jeanne), the levels of suckery are boundless: “The US-Mexico Wall, it’s Borderlands, Wildlife, and People” from triggerpit. Beautiful, amazing photos and a wonderful and informative perspective in the text.

“Nobody disagrees on how this is affecting the environment, the only disagreement is how important the environment is in the overall discussion.” Ana Cordova, Ph, D, Institute for Northern Border Studies. US-Mexico

Tweet Of The Week
Yeah, I totally agree.

Random Awesomeness
America is for Americans

No matter how mean the internet is sometimes, mashups #FTW:

Owning it; opening up

Since the gradual but steady and rather linear movement of my partner and I in exploring different ways of parenting and living together – frankly, radical lifestyles in the context of USian family life, and I take no particular pleasure nor displeasure in that particular label – I have often been reluctant to publicly vocalize in a pointed way how the drama, stress, illness, and disharmony in our household has gone down drastically – something like 400% (that is a real quantitative estimate, as best as I can make one).

Why shy? Well, I think for a while I was afraid things were only temporarily better. Then as it began to dawn on me this was no fluke, I still felt oddly gun-shy; perhaps publicly announcing definitive improvements would jinx them (I am occasionally superstitious like that). There was a third reason, the one I struggle with even today: considering how fraught with ugliness the public conversation on Parenting can be (usually levied most viscously against women and children: examples, the false rhetoric of the “mommy wars”, also contemporary feminist and mainstream science purporting concepts of children and teens as “little sociopaths”, inherently flawed, or less-than-human) it sometimes seems like any personal discussion of success is constrained to being misinterpreted out of the gate. A frank discussion of successful alternatives to dominatorstyle adult strategies runs the real risk of a reader – especially a parent/carer – interpreting my experience as a referendum on their failures, worldviews, or character – this referendum is so agonizing for some their ability to listen is thwarted. I’ve seen many grownups shut down instantly, unable to entertain theories or even digest others’ lived experiences, swallowed up by knee-jerk reactions brought upon by years of accepting the child class’ oppression (not just parents, either).

But there are two compelling reasons to be honest and to not worry about appearing a blowhard or creep or worse. Maybe three reasons. The first is, I have a right to my experience and my online journal has been where I’ve recorded many of my experiences, for years now – and no one is required to read nor endorse. The second is, JEEBUS, I am not selling something and have no sinister agenda in writing boldly in defense of Love. I don’t do much of anything but write, write, write, (often) devoting my heart and guts and brains to helping families and children and grownups. All of this is pretty goddamned brave of me and I know it. Why not be braver still, and claim a victory when I experience one?

Because – and here’s that third aspect – I know how inspirational and helpful my writings have been to so many. Over the years I’ve experienced hundreds of emails, texts, IMs, tweets, phone calls, physical letters, and personal conversations – from all quarters of the world – attesting to this. It has been an honor to be brought into discussion and occasionally claimed as a mentor to others. Thing is: if I didn’t write, I couldn’t help. And reflecting on this I often feel sad for the parent I started out as, because I was not exposed much to dominator- and fear-free models of parenting for several years (and what I was exposed to, I probably missed). I myself could have used a hefty dose of wisdom eschewing the zero-sum game of life with children – long, long before I started a family of my own.

So let me tell you a bit about how it is for us. Let me be clear.

These days our household is such a peaceful one and my children are such strong individuals that the stress involved in parenting is almost entirely reduced to matters of paying bills and affording clothes, food, and the pursuit of creative exploits for the members in our one-income family. These are not necessarily small matters, but the agony and work and tension of life-caring-for-children has plummeted by virtue of what I have left behind. Every day I peel back the culturally-reified illusion of righteous control in their little lives and as a result my ability to be Present, aware, nurturing, and loving is increased all the more. The relief of leaving behind the contemporary small-minded and culturally-prescribed pressures of parenthood is glorious. I’d like to believe every day I heal a little more.

Time slips by quickly as most parents have had reason to observe. Last night while we four sat talking and laughing in the low light of our living room my husband said to my daughter in a voice I’d never heard before, “When did you get so big? It’s breaking my heart.” And I’d just been looking at her thinking the same thing; she’s tall as my shoulder now and she’s tough and tender and whip-smart and brave and scrappy and deeply empathetic and present. She is, in a word, (relatively) Undamaged. I can’t think of a word that fits better. Raising children in a consensual manner is an experience, perhaps like a happy, healthy, and supported drug-free childbirth – that is best experienced for its potential to be fully or partially understood. Today while I gave blood the phlebotomist asked me the ages of my children. It amazed me to reflect and name them as eight and six. Their moral development, their life skills, and their vocabulary and ethics are more fully-endowed than many grownups I know. These children are not experienced as burdens to me (well, not usually) so much as people I thank daily I have the gift of experiencing in my life. They are my favorite people to be with, and besides the deep-experienced protectiveness and crazy-in-love Mama-identifiers I’ve been overcome with many times, these days it seems more and more we are fellow travellers and friends. They inspire me more than anyone else I  know.

My children’s (relative) wholeness is no credit to my partner and I, really, any more than by providing fertile ground, planting a seed, and weeding and watering we could claim it was us, not the earth and lifeforce itself, that brought the green and vibrant vine springing to fruition. Indeed, I often feel aggrieved at my many, many mistakes I’ve made; I don’t get a do-over. I can have the knowledge my mistakes are in large part because I myself was damaged as a child, through many means and measures large and small, and I remain broken still – but it is frustrating to be so limited in my responsibilities as a parent. I sometimes feel so deeply sad because I don’t believe I’ll ever be whole again; I feel sad less for myself, but for what I’ve wreaked on my family. I sometimes think if I’d have known how much I would screw up, I would not have chosen to bear children.

All the same, children are incredibly resilient and thrive despite poor or abusive or anemic circumstances. And make no mistake, despite their wholeness and strength, I do believe our children still need Ralph and I. They need us for food, clothing, support, nurture, and love. The chillingly dismissive child-hate linked to above at least alludes to vital clues about our role in caring for children; there is evidence human brains continue to crucially develop well into our twenties or beyond; if this is true this means so many of us should be helping younger ones instead of hand-wringing, pearl-clutching, and stridently complaining about “bad” kids and their inept (or worse) carers (which usually means blighting under-supported women and alloparents, and the child class).

I hope I’ve been clear that things have improved for us; not that we have attained some kind of perfection impervious to sorrow and anger and suffering. Relative privilege has allowed us the space to heal. And disaster, despair, setbacks, drama – all of it is around the corner, or may be at least. One illness or death or devastating disability; the free will of other human beings who can choose to victimize any one of us, a day or week where the limitations of my partner and I keep us from meeting our still-growing children’s needs, one ugly fight where destructive words are spat out. Parental methods and spiritual concepts aside, I cannot offer immunity for suffering and I don’t try to. I can say suffering has diminished and the daily language and experience of love has swelled in recent years. It strengthens all of us and it makes life even more worth living, more deeply enjoyed; whatever time we have left together is savored like that delicious strawberry on the vine.

with that massive special effects budget you figure they could afford more convincing wigs for the male characters

I like living with little kids. Lots of blankets, warmth, laughter, shared food, good smells, snuggles – and our bandaids have Batman on them.

Tonight I walk into the living room and the kids are on the Minecraft server but they’re also getting ready for a bath. Phoenix and Nels are in an oddly grown-up vignette; she stands with her back to him and her eyes onscreen, her hand holding her slippery golden hair off the nape of her neck, as Nels gently unfastens the buttons at the back of her pinafore-style dress. Tears sting my eyes and I want to swoop them both up into my arms. I have this impulse often and the kids don’t always appreciate it so I do my best to refrain. Ralph and I are particularly incensed that Nels insists we do not pinch his bottom (fair enough) but literally runs around in his tiny little boxer briefs flaunting the most pinchable bottom you’ve ever seen (it’s not just us that thinks so; our friend Jasmine commented on this last night).

What a day we had together. We took our errands out around town and the kids helped wipe the incessant condensation off the car windows (hazardous!) until things were finally warm enough. I was innundated with a barrage of questions and conversation openers. Phoenix asked me about methods of birth control (this began with her query, “Mom I only want to have one kid – how can I do that?”, a question that didn’t seem to strike Nels with any particular implications), which then included a recap on erections/”boners”, ovulation, menstruation, etc; then she asked if there were any side effects to any of the drugs I mentioned (this is her first question regarding pharmaceuticals – yay!), and the differences between miscarriage and abortion. Nels listened in to all this and offered his own summaries and helpful suggestions. Phoenix told us she’d grow up and invent a side-effect-free birth control called The Birth Police Officer (FTW!).

A few minutes later as we sat down to snacks in the Safeway deli table section she and Nels began to innundate me with more questions while stripping off their coats and in between running to wash hands and procure napkins and an Odwalla juice to share. This batch of queries included the likelihood of observing and the cosmic mechanism inherant in a solar eclipse, what B vitamins were, which planet was the largest planet, and speculation on the atmospheric makeup of Neptune. I could have used a smartphone and the internet a few times, because not only do I not have all the answers, sometimes I have a shockingly complete lack of any answers. Fortunately I don’t have to put much faith in me as Knower of All Things when I put entire faith in my children as being enthusiastic and relentless Learners and we can just look it up when convenient.

Tonight on my mother’s suggestion Ralph, Phoenix and I went with her to watch Harry Potter and the Film of Interminable Duration. Nels was quite firm that he doesn’t care for the Harry Potter movies so he stayed home and our friend Laurena and daughter Sophiea came over to sort of house/Nels-sit (for a wee bit of Christmas money to boot). It was a great fourway date for us and my favorite part was leaning over to Ralph during the film and cracking wise and making him laugh, a lot. I’m glad he likes me. (Usually)

friday link-up!

Culture
“Accounting for What Matters” by Wendy Priesnitz:

“Aside from allowing academic and personal freedom, life learning is about living more mindfully – acting altruistically (instead of earning gold stars or the approval of authority figures), respecting individuals for who they are rather than how much money they make or how many degrees they have, overturning discrimination, working cooperatively, and learning about and improving the world by living in and acting on it. The kids who are growing up in that way should be able to solve many problems.”

“The false and harmful rhetoric of family life vs. work life” by yours truly

Cute Overload on the U.S. elections

Craft
How-To: Linoleum Print Cards & Invites at Craft

budgeting for your creative habit” at Scoutie Girl. I have to squint real hard on this one… For one thing, the “budget” and notes thing isn’t how I roll (It’s how Ralph rolls though, and it appears to work okay). Also, those mentioned “cash-eating demons” for some people I know are things like rent and utility bills. And maybe this is why I’ve started thinking a lot more about gifting and donating some of my work – I want to create opportunity for other people to feed their souls. I do, however, wholeheartedly agree wtih this: “When your expenditures don’t line up with your values, you get that icky I-ate-too-much-ice-cream feel in your stomach. And it’s hard to shake.”

calaveras, dia de los muertos – beautifully-done in polymer clay with hand-painted detail.

Viewing/Reading/Listening
New on Masterpiece Theatre – “Sherlock” (can watch online)

Good documentaries (links go to the titles on Netflix instant): Awful Normal, Man On Wire, and I Have Never Forgotten You

Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook (but I will be getting my copy through Jackson Street Books)

“One Kiss Can Lead To Another” – a great mini-anthology!

Quotes
This one comes via Mamapoekie:

When we adults think of children, there is a simple truth which we ignore: childhood is not preparation for life; childhood is life. A child isn’t getting ready to live; a child is living. The child is constantly confronted with the nagging question, “What are you going to be?” Courageous would be the youngster who, looking the adult squarely in the face, would say, “I’m not going to be anything; I already am.” We adults would be shocked by such an insolent remark, for we have forgotten, if indeed we ever knew, that a child is an active participating and contributing member of society from the time he is born. Childhood isn’t a time when he is molded into a human who will then live life; he is a human who is living life. No child will miss the zest and joy of living unless these are denied him by adults who have convinced themselves that childhood is a period of preparation. How much heartache we would save ourselves if we would recognize the child as a partner with adults in the process of living, rather than always viewing him as an apprentice. How much we would teach each other… adults with the experience and children with the freshness. How full both our lives could be. A little child may not lead us, but at least we ought to discuss the trip with him, for after all, life is his and her journey too. – Professor T. Ripaldi

“I used to know it by review tests, and restlessness.” *

Today I received a wonderful query from Formspring:

Q. You often link to a *lot* of fascinating web-content. How do you find/keep up with all of these bloggers/sites/etc? Are you magic?

A. I have a feed reader and two tweetstreams. Anytime I run across a blog or newsite or humor site I enjoy or am challenged by, I add it and it automatically aggregates the stuff. On Twitter I have a personal account (kellyhogaboom) and my… I don’t know, “social justice” account (underbellie). I follow (mostly) friends and/or awesome, funny people at kellyhogaboom and I follow (mostly) other friends or sites or groups in activism, social writing, etc. I use a program where I can see both these tweetstreams (also search terms I am interested in too).

The problem isn’t growing a crop of great information, that’s easy. The problem (for me) is not getting fatigue from it all! Obviously one can OD on too much horrible news about homophobia and bullying and rape of Congolese women and girls, etc. Occasionally I go clear my feed reader without checking some posts. I can also just skim my more intense tweetstream. It depends on what resources I have. In general though, I do read a lot online.

I am currently looking for humor-only or uplifting-only content for those times I need some nice, positive feelings. Problem is even on humor sites there is no escape from the crappy stuff I read all day and the work I am committed to. For instance I remember I was looking at cakewrecks and having a great time laughing. Then there was a cake with a naked woman on it giving birth. You can imagine the negative and horrid comments people were making about women, their bodies, birth, etc. It really killed my “fun”.

So far cuteoverload is doing well as a recharge. Talking to my husband, snuggling with my kids, going running, and having four cats is also helpful. At times cooking takes me out of the reading-funk although I am known to cook and be thinking and reflecting the whole time.

I take some pride in the fact many people find my writing (my own and shared) influential and helpful. It *is* work, in case anyone was wondering!

The query was a good one because it allowed me to take my bearings and once again consider how much reading I do daily – reading that could easily overwhelm me. I’m a passionate person and I use my brain, mind, soul and body to live out my life. I sneer at the concept of “balance” as I know it from all the laydee magazines because they’d have me doing yoga every day in my cute little outfit and making sure to get my “date night with husband” each Friday all tidy and take vitamins first thing in the morning with my balanced breakfast and make sure to have an hour to myself before sleep, [snore]. Now I admire a routine with that kind of regimented “balance”, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not my life today. I work and play and run and rest in fits and starts and it works very well indeed for now.

Here are two inspiring pieces I found today:

The first, an article called 70 Ways Unschoolers Learn to Deal with Frustration at Bonnie’s blog Follow That Dream – a delightful series of work as evidenced by the About Me and Notes On Language pages (the latter of which is so incredible I want to crib it).

This particular post of Bonnie’s (read it. No read it. Do it. DO IT) hits me deeply because compared to most anyone I know, Ralph and I are staggeringly “permissive” parents. We are mindful of their health and safety; in their desires and lifestyles we are helpers, not interference or dictatorial Adults who Know Better. Thus, for examples in how this plays out, our children do not go to school, they are not required (anymore) to do household chores, we do not make them eat some things, we do not limit the consumption of other things. We do not punish them if they do something “wrong” or behave badly. We do not take things away from them to solve problems. We do not manage their friendships and their schedules (although we help them with anything and everything when they want it). All of this is a constant ongoing work and we make mistakes and slip-ups, when our behaviors do not support our ideals. Personally, sometimes I’d love to skip to the part where I’m getting it Perfect. It ain’t gonna happen.

From what I’ve seen, many people tend to read about these strategies and – depending on whether they’ve met us – react quite strongly in opposition. I’ve heard many claim parents who employ such methods and eschew mainstream ones are “permissive”, “neglectful”, “naive”, “irresponsible”, “lazy”, “goofy”, “crazy” – etc (I notice those who’ve met us, when they offer an opinion it’s to compliment our children and express admiration, if a bit of confusion). The list goes on. It’s hard to speak about parenting when you really are doing it differently than lots of other people; one reason it’s hard to encapsulate our non-mainstream parenting strategies and the incorrect assumptions about our life is that the attacks come from all angles (I mentioned at Underbellie how our family choices vis-a-vis television and film could be tasked as overprotective and isolationist or neglectful and far too worldly, depending who’s doing the judging).

So I write about family bliss and I write incident by incident, I guess, although I am always happy to get in a larger-scale conversation with an interested party and I’m honored to be asked for advice by families who live differently (and if you think about it, all families live differently from one another).

Bonnie’s article spoke to me because lately I’ve been thinking about how many people work so very hard to make their kids learn this or that on their (the parents’/carers’/school’s) timeline, or to require them do specific “character-growing” work X or Y (again, according to the adults’ wishes). It’s all done in the name of loving and caring for children, as are many great and not-so-great practices. In addition there’s a lot of fear involved; our parenting culture contains trace elements of the poisonous pedagogy; people really truly believe if they let their kids have freedom during the day their children would do nothing but grubby television-watching and eating terrible food (for. ever.) – and by the way “television” and “junk food” and “video games” and a variety of other Vaguely Defined but Terrible Institutions are feared like the Bogeyman and, by some, regulated like radioactive material.

In my peer group (white, working-to-middle class Americans) many people truly believe the only way to prepare kids for Adulthood involves making them do prescribed housework (called “chores”). Alternatively or additionally, some parents/carers make their children do chores because they themselves have a dread and hate of this work (gee, wonder where that came from?) and believe the only way to manage these bad feelings is to require the children shoulder some of the burden (see previous parenthetical). People truly believe it’s OK to force/make kids do what they want because in their view adults know better, including when and how to entertain the children’s wishes and desires; sure, many adults feel icky about this but figure there’s no way around it. Some adults seek upbeat and stern and loving and “in control” methodologies which convince them they’ll get Good Results however deep-down repugnant the means are at times.

Adults employing these strategies often (but not always) don’t want to hear about ours. Ours make them feel worse about things they already feel kind of bad (and usually helpless) about. Our strategies make them angry because they sound overly- … something (permissive, naive, “hippie”, “thinky” – take your pick). Our strategies leave them confused because even if they could see their strategy isn’t a very good one, they literally have no better ideas to get what they want. They are fearful if they abandon what they know they will only be further lost. They don’t want to let down their kids, even if they know deep down they already are.

Discussion of our strategies often triggers fear, anger, and resentment in many adults, most of whom weren’t treated all that well as kids themselves (either by school, parents/carers, or their community – often all the above). I can often tell when these painful feelings are being triggered: it shows in body language, tone, avoidance, loaded words, “you” statements, thought-talk (instead of feeling talk) and large-scale predictions of imagined failure (ours and other families like us) instead of examination of current lived realities. Examples, “Well YOU have to make kids such-and-such or they will so-and-so.” The friend who studiously ignores ever discussing parenting with me even though he knows it is my deepest passion and an area of decent expertise (no really!). Statements of nostril-flaring shut-down such as, “Well there are lots of different ways to do things” or “Different things work for different families”. I dislike those statements tremendously and here are a few reasons why: first, it is self-evident not only that there are many, many ways to raise children (including destructive ones!), but also that there is no one Whole Grain Jesus pundit, mama, or papa who has All The Answers for Everyone. Secondly, when this is said during discussions of parenting what the speaker often means is, “I am upset/angry/scared and I no longer want to talk about this.” And I wish more people could say that instead. Trust me, it is an amazing stepping stone in self-awareness and a tool to move forward with clarity.

For my sake, I’m grateful I’m not – today – too scared, damaged, or lacking resources to have been unable to listen to other points of views and other strategies. If I had, we wouldn’t be where we are today; and I’m so grateful for where we are today.

Bonnie’s post refutes some of the fears I used to have and gives me gladness at being able to move past them. Because there was a time I did indeed fear “spoiling” my kids by raising them the way we have been (and I’m not past these fears entirely, they crop up now and then – but they have largely subsided). I did believe that unless I required “chores” and school attendance (and “success”) they would become (or remain?) helpless, “backward”, sheltered, “spoiled”. What I see instead are two amazing, capable, richly-happy, well-exercised, well-loved, joyful, passionate, intelligent (oh. my. goodness. for realz), friendly, comfortable, clear-eyed, opinionated, fierce, funny, and courageous little people. What I see in a lot of other children is fear, confusion, despondency, duplicity, fear (yeah, I know I said that one already), restlessness, dullness, repressed anger, “manners”, pack behavior, manipulation for leverage – and fear. If I had to come up with one word endemic of many children I meet today, it would be Suppressed.

Of course, children are incredible and I have not met one whose bright spark has been entirely crushed (we do, tragically, know this happens). It is my unique and much-honored joy to have many children in my life; my own and their friends and the neighbors. It is amazing how well children respond to better treatment, no matter how poorly or carelessly they may be being treated elsewhere. I truly hope, although I don’t think of it very often as I’m usually very busy just, you know, living, that I am a bright spot and a loved and trusted adult in their life. I’m so glad too I got to live long enough to un-learn some of what I learned as a kid, and to experience children without the fear and anger I used to – a fear and anger and resentment that churns inside all-too-many adults.

“Children are not our own art products to be turned out well, but their own life work in continual process.” ~ Jan Fortune Wood

In other wonderfulness, here is a a poem I read today by Mary Oliver:

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measles-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

***

* Taken from a wonderful quote by Lisa Asher, an unschooled teen.

linky mcfuskerson

In a few hours I’m off to the City (not really: Olympia) to watch Ralph and Liights play sweet, sweet music (I will also be giving Flo a squeeze as I haven’t seen her in a while!). I’m also hoping to eat some spicy Thai or Vietnamese cuisine until my mouth explodes in a hedonistic flavor party. While I’m rocking I’ve got some links for you all to bask in the radness therein:

Local:
Mamma Mia! is playing at the 7th Street Theatre tonight and tomorrow. I might go tomorrow. Anyone want to come with me?

Social:
Tami Harris hits it out of the park at psychologytoday: “What’s so wrong with ‘sounding black?'”

Proof that a man can do Feminism right: “Silence, Ines Sainz and Offensive Lines” at postbourgie

Idzie published “Misconceptions About Unschooling” at her blog I’m Unschooled. Yes, I Can Write. It’s a great piece (of course). I get a huge, huge laugh of the people who occasionally come to this 19 year old’s (incredibly well-written) blog and tell her how if you unschool your child he/she won’t learn how to write! NO SERIOUSLY! This happens!

“On Birth Rape, Definitions, and Language Policing” by Cara at thecurvature; some day, I truly hope, we can begin supporting victims instead of re-victimizing them by denying them their lived experience.

Practical:
“Cloth diapers for apartment dwellers” at hobomama. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. You know, I no longer use diapers but I seriously, seriously love how supportive, helpful, and awesome the parents/carers are who write these types of DIY primers!

Krafty:
“Kids Clothes Week Challenge (Fall 2010)” at elsiemarley. What do you think? Should I do it? What should I make?

Humor:
This made me laugh until I had tears in my eyes: “The Inconsiderate Breastfeeding Woman” at citizenofthemonth.

I’m not exactly sure what category this post is in, because it’s funny but apt and brilliant and my favorite of all posted here today: “Kids and wheelchair manners” at badgermama.

***

In other news, last night I received an email that included this passage:

Some days I feel as if I am standing inside a thick, heavy, almost greasy-feeling cloud of frustration, guilt, hopelessness and torment. It actually presses down on my shoulders physically (at least it feels like it). The moments that you share are like one of those industrial strength hurricane fans that they use in the movies. Once I begin reading, the fan begins to blow that cloud away. I can breathe again. I can be happy about something again. By the time I’m finished reading, I’m ready to take on the next challenge.

So… that was pretty wonderful to hear.

re-posting is cheating, but still

This article from Jeff Sabo is a beauty: “I’ve Walked Many Miles In Your Shoes”. Excerpts:

” …I did not just simply read about unschooling and connected parenting one day and suddenly become blindly evangelical about it. I read about it, considered it, discussed it, observed it, tried it, cried about it, had ups and downs, learned more, committed to it, and tried again. I approached the small educational pieces first, then the whole life pieces such as TV and bedtimes. I spent weeks, months, and years agonizing about whether or not I was doing the right thing. I gave my ear to the naysayers of my choice as well as the supporters. Living this way was a careful, deliberate decision made after a substantial amount of reflection, study, and trial.

“However, I do try to keep in mind that my approach to parenting is ‘radical’ when compared to what the vast majority of parents in our society believe. Like the people that I have fired in my career, I have had many years to be at peace with my decision, while they have simply read a few snippets over a few days. Is it any wonder that they disagree and think I’ve lost it? Is it any wonder that they feel the need to educate me on how very wrong I am?

“[…] Somewhat less palatable are the emails and comments I periodically receive that seem to want to ‘teach’ me about why my viewpoints are wrong. These notes would hold much greater weight if the sender had devoted as much time to considering the philosophies behind my views as I had, or even if they had indicated a willingness to learn about them.”

And… it just goes on and on with awesomeness. The whole piece is great.

how many “m”s in “commemorative”?

A while back I got this goofy idea to take “back to school” photos for my kids.* I am now fully aware this is a bit silly of me, but school pictures were a ritual I enjoyed as a child. I asked Phoenix what she’d like me to sew up for a school picture dress and she voted for something vintage and sedate and suggested the photo be taken in a historical setting like the Aberdeen Museum of History (which she’s been asking to visit for some time).

I asked Nels and he said he wanted, well…

So, Phoenix & Nels Hogaboom, “academic year” 2010:

Phoenix & Nels, 2010

General Store

Phoenix’s dress is from Vogue 2448, a pattern about 60 years old. It was so fun to sew up and has many lovely details! I only regret I had to produce such a work of art in such inexpensive, Joanns-sale fabric. I am starting to realize my sewing skills would best be served by higher-end fabrics. That does not make me MORE able to afford them.

Nels’ deer suit was a self-drafted pattern and is complete (incongruously) chenille fawn-spots and bound-buttonhole -removable antlers. I hand-dyed the corduroy to get it a darker color than the camel I purchased (again, a not-so-hot Joann’s buy). I also dyed the chenille to change its brilliant-white to an ivory. Then I washed the whole business in warm on accident and the brown bled into the chenille. This will likely come out. Or it won’t. Nels doesn’t mind at all.  You can see some details of the little corduroy deer in the Flickr tagset.

I had this idea to take sedate and unsmiling photographs of the children, seated at a desk or somewhere stodgy. There were certainly great sitting opportunities at the Museum but it turned out my kids aren’t so into sitting. I have a bunch of very blurry pictures of them smiling really big as they run to a different exhibit. They really enjoyed the Museum (which is as you might expect rather prosaically grownup); I hadn’t been there since I was my daughter’s age and I was pleased to see it is still very much alive with volunteer efforts and grant-writing and such. They’d even edged some Kurt Cobain around the more typical logging fare you see around here; now that can’t have been a decision without controversy (you might be surprised how vitriolic some local residents, especially those older than forty, feel about the man and his music).

Ralph and the kids liked the little theater best (it seats only 21):

Watching

Shadows

Theater Hijinx 1

We hit  the park afterward.

Petticoat

Kiss

Then we got home and I made some tasty Vietnamese cuisine and we had friends over and washed the dishes and – now? It’s suddenly beer-thirty! (Because seriously, my friend J. just told me the health benefits of dark beers like Guinness are “well-documented”. Sounds good to me!)

Today at Flickr: [ link ]

* When I thought it over I became far less interested in this idea but still quite invested in sewing what my children and I had planned. OK well, they gave me their ideas and then I obsessively planned the sewinz. Because I am a Try-Hard.