Miranda Kerr breastfeeding

Supermodel mum told to “put ’em away” – unless she’s showing them to straight grownup males, natch.

Miranda Kerr breastfeeding

On Wednesday Miranda Kerr, Australian model, fashion worker, and partner to actor Orlando Bloom, announced a painkiller-free birth to their new son Flynn and included an at-home photo of her breastfeeding the delightfully-snuggly newborn.

I don’t know this family, but this brief piece was a ray of sunshine in my day. I believe such unselfconscious and straightforward announcements by celebrities in support of birth advocacy and breastfeeding – as well as lovely candid photographs like this – do a great deal to help the many “regular mums” (and dads) at home watching. Anyone who’s made a study of breastfeeding rates knows that family and cultural support – or the lack thereof – is a critical factor in how our babies end up being fed. In the US, a country with dismal breastfeeding rates (and a concomitant endemic lack of support for the practice), pioneering celebrity families can empower otherwise uncertain newbies. This theory is supported by impassioned activists representing populations with even lower rates than the sum population, such as teen mothers and African American mothers.

I also know breastfeeding, with its oft-innate demonstrable power and its female- and child-positive associations, is extremely threatening to many men and women. Images of breastfeeding and discussion of breastfeeding rights are roundly mocked by all quarters including, sadly, many prominent feminists (such as Erica Jong’s recent piece lumping breastfeeding as being part and parcel with modern motherhood’s “prison”, hinting that required breastfeeding may be imminent and other foolishness. Memo to Jong: don’t get it twisted. It’s kyriarchal standards and cultural institutions that “imprison” women, carers, and small children).

Thus, of course, there were many critics responding to Kerr’s photo (which of course, transcending irony to the nth degree, shows so very much less flesh than the Victoria’s Secret work she’s done). Australian health advocate Dr. Samantha Thomas’ post on the responses to Kerr’s photo reveal some of the less uncivil (but still profoundly wrongheaded) commentary. Included are body shaming (yeah, I know – directed at a supermodel), accusations of vulgarity and inappropriateness, and slut-shaming (you can see more examples of misogynistic commentary here). Bizarrely, some commenters criticized Kerr for wearing makeup in the photo while the Daily Mail piece claims she’s wearing none.

I was very fortunate to raise my newborns in a breastfeeding-friendly culture (in fact, sadly, many of the women I knew at the time did not seem to realize how counterproductive and cruel anti-formula-feeding language can be). But when I see negative responses to Kerr I have that oppressive tingle: a near miss. Had my circumstances been different, stories like Kerr’s and responses to them could have had a tremendous effect. As it stood, I had fewer barriers than many when it came to breastfeeding. My body cooperated with me, the babies did well, my practitioners supported us, my family could feed ourselves on my one income which in turn meant I had a partner who was able to do what it took to make things happen (I was a chemical engineer at a paper mill – my husband Ralph brought me our newborn twice a day), and the children and I enjoyed the process. Other families aren’t so fortunate, and many women need more help and more cultural sustenance – including the emphatic support of the public that yes, they have a right to feed their child the way they choose. At least in the US, we are failing miserably in that regard.

So today I’d like to extend, for what it’s worth, my deep appreciation to Kerr and her partner for being brave enough to go public with something they have every reason to celebrate. As one mother to another, I hope she finds friends and supporters to help her and her partner in their new journey.

It looks like things are getting off to a beautiful start.

 
***

Originally published for “SQUAT! Birth Journal” in 2011.
Logical Awesome

wishin’ for a Friday night with the ragtop down

Friday links, better late than never!

Parenting
Furor over the supposed superiority of Chinese mothers! This little WSJ article got people rather fired up. And it should. I first heard mention by Jim Lin on Twitter – entirely pissed at anyone claiming they can “speak for the entire Chinese Am[erican] population”.

Other criticisms and responses followed; here are two I enjoyed:

“Tales of a Chinese daughter: On the superiority or not of Amy Chua’s Chinese mothers” by Elaine Chow. Some sobering realities of pushed-to-perform Chinese adult children.

“I’m Not a Chinese Mother (Obviously!)” at Rational Jenn’s blog. Are “Western” and “Chinese” methods really so different at heart?

Human Rights & Heartbreak
Hm, is this Lego depiction of Stephen Hawkings “wrong”? Or is it a very-well executed likeness (like so many others) of someone who should be not pitied or laughed at for his physicality and existence? TABs, check your shit!

“The Agonizing Last Words of Bill Zeller”. A rape victim speaks out and speaks his last. Deeply devastating to read; trigger-warning, obviously.

Ladyness
“Women Laughing Alone With Salad”
Not since YOGURT has there been something so fucking fan-lady-tastic as virtuous salad-eating!!!!

Informative (Sorta)
“Mass dying of animals plotted on Google map”

Media
The Great Gatsby in 3D. For real? Perhaps. Ta-Nehesi Coates’ take.

“I miss Patrick Swayze”. Me too.

Make/Craft
Felt Hot Pads at The Purl Bee

Men’s shirt sewalong at Male Pattern Boldness, starting February 1st. I have this pattern. Any readers want to join?

Super-Special Adultist Roundup Bonus Edition!
“The Unspeakable, in Its Jammies” by Michael Chabon
A father edits Huck Finn whilst reading aloud to his children and writes about it (in what appears to be a self-congratulatory and patriarchal way but – perhaps I am reading into it) and people puke in their mouths about how awesome a dad he is. Yes, predictably the commentstream is full of glowing praise that may be at least partially (or like, lots) inspired by a darling-status afforded the author by the neo-progressive literati blah-blah.

Make no mistake, and I do realize the previous paragraph represents a slight binge of as-disavowed-during-2011 snark, sharing one’s love (of literature, of the arts, of sport, of fishing, of political history, of engine rebuilds on giant Ford trucks) is an awesome prerogative for parents/carers; we grownups also have the responsibility to protect our children when needed and to share our values with them (although they are not always learning the values we think we’re teaching). I pass no particular referendum on Chabon’s parenting choices as expressed but rather I am disturbed by the response and the template this response furthers. Namely, that of a “progressive” and adultist parent’s agenda: good literature (if it’s so good why do so many think they need to force it on children and tell them what to think? Our efforts are needed in nurturing children so they can choose and ingest from an authentic and whole place), “teaching”, and values lectured into your kids’ faces – because kids aren’t smart or complex enough to form their own opinions AND (this part bugs me most) kids don’t need to be asked for their thoughts, and listened to – before a discussion commences. Notice the rather lengthy lecture directed to a seven and nine year old who apparently sit rapt on daddy’s knee, or if they don’t, at least not one person in the commentstream besides myself suggest value in asking what the children’s perspectives were on race, social order, and class at conversation outset (make no mistake, children have perspectives) because these things are formed top-down (one comment: “Seven year old recognizes “Injun” as offensive but needs an explanation of “nigger”?” Yeah, I wondered about that too.).

Believe it or not, when you ask kids and really listen, and ask a bit more? You can learn a lot. Up to and including some humility and a little less developed role of self-importance.

Quotable
“Children learn how to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directions.” – Alfie Kohn

Random Awesomeness

I’ve been watching more “Reno 911!” (very sad the newer season I’m watching changed actors; now women are significantly less represented on the cast). It’s pretty impossible to pick from all the excellence but I did find a Terry clip I thought I’d share.

Awesome.
Logical Awesome

friday what goes along comes around

Short and sweet today as I’m including a must-listen interview (first link). Today’s links are on the serious/thinky side (a recent trend I guess) as opposed to gratuitous mustache pictures and a citation of my favorite “Mighty Boosh” sketches. I know, I know – it’s hardly fair on a Friday, right?

Super-Special Double-Awesomeness!
“on hold with atchka! and ellyn satter”
This? Should be required listening. For American human beings at least (and probably lots of others). In the same week we hear our First Lady claim childhood obesity is a matter of national security as we’re all so fat we roll around entirely helpless and can’t hold weapons in our sausage-fingers, it’s so wonderful to here the voice of reason, compassion, food enojoyment, rigorous science and analysis, social criticism, trust in and support of children, and health (yeah, remember that concern?)! Do listen to the interview – it’s about thirty six minutes long and it’s phenomenal!

Parenting/Living Together
“5 Ways To Work With Anger” by Tiff at freeplaylife
Tiff’s suggestions aren’t particularly ones that I’ve used or that appeal to me, but I like her concepts around a life lived with children (as opposed to one where most of their waking hours are out-of-home/in school) and I’ve often thought depictions of such lives are too few and far between. I have my own thoughts about anger and its use (maybe I’ll share them soon!) but I agree that the by-rote attempt to avoid or suppress anger is not a workable solution and provides a poor if not toxic environment for children.

Teaching Your Child To Share? at Authentic Parenting
The way grownups deal with “sharing” in young children is often fear-based, illogical, and counterproductive. This article is a great 101. I made a lot of mistakes re: sharing (and of course slip up still) but figured it out early enough. I love, love watching small children negotiate when adults don’t over-interfere.

Current Events
“What the Assange case says about rape in America”, Valenti at The Washington Post
“[T]this means we can’t stop at changing legislation. For true justice, there needs to be a cultural shift in the way Americans think about sex, consent and rape, so that when women come forward – whether they’re accusing a celebrity, a sports star or a neighbor – our immediate reaction isn’t to misconstrue or speculate about their motives, but to listen.”

Here’s some of what Sady Doyle has experienced since she’s been calling out rape apologism and speaking in anti-rape terms; particularly in this case on the response to Assange’s accusers and “progressive” reactions to the scourge of rape and sexual assault (as anyone who gives a damn and has self-educated on violence against women and children, when I say “here’s what so-and-so’s experienced”, you know it’s going to be awful – so, trigger warning for graphic violence threats, rape threats, and rape apologism).

Culture
“Doctors not immune from fat-bashing” from The Sydney Morning Herald
This is a very touching piece and a sober glimpse at how physicians treat one of their own, with, I believe, serious repercussions to the care given at large to patients. Unsubstantiated bias -> poor practices & poor public health. I learned a new word today, unrelated to this story: iatrogenic. Seems apt.

Two great posts from Renee at womanist-musings:

“No going into labour in public”
I don’t know Renee but I’ve read enough of her articles that I’ve established a “tone” of voice in my mind when I read. And that tone seems to often be one of aggravation, like in this article. As I’ve posted before, never has my body been “public property” as much as when I was pregnant. At the time I didn’t know enough of my own heart to protest this treatment. Too bad I don’t get a do-over. I love [snark] the idea that when a woman goes INTO LABOR, her whole consideration should be other people’s feelings – or that some dude standing nearby who doesn’t behave like a dick (and yay for that!), it’s all about him.

No Rules Rules For Jada and Will’s Kids
A discussion on respecting children vis-a-vis a celebrity couple’s public and private life; and what do you know, the commentstream isn’t even a mess of Fail!

Craft/Make
How-To: Stitched Gift Wrap & Tags at CRAFT
This is something even a sew-novice could do with very lovely results.

“A Green Christmas” at Natural Life Magazine
Links listing Christmas activities, if you’d like to buy less or at least attempt to bring the Trampling & Eating Everything You See rollercoaster to a slower clip

Eggnog recipe at Instructables
I made this last night. Yeah it has raw eggs, because I’m a bad-ass motherfucker!

Tweet of the Week
As pertains to cats, from Frank Conniff

Random
The movie was great; the score I downloaded, the soundtrack I need!

Most Extreme Animal Shirts from the archives at scienceblogs.com. They saved the best for last in my opinion.

LADYBUG PLAYS WITH SPRINKLES
I thought maybe I was stoned while watching this, but I watched it again and turns out, IT REALLY HAPPENED!

***

If you feel moved to comment below, please first read the epilogue in this post (and the comments, if you’re confused still). Thanks!

friday links

In the good news, we’re all doing very well thank you and enjoying health and harmony together. In the bad news, Ralph is working through our spending plan as I type and we might not get to have a Christmas (not really, but you probably know what I mean). In the good news, my husband is growing a beard. In the bad news, he’s so anxious about this money thing that ANY LITTLE COMMENT may cause him to shave. Please, if you see him, or Facebook him, say REALLY flattering things about his beard. We shall all reap the benefits as its full-throated red glory is bestowed upon us during our most dreary winter months…

Here’s more good news – for those who are unfortunate enough to be stuck in an office job today, hungover and dyspeptic from yesterday’s feast, or cowering in fear or disdain of Black Friday, or who’ve shopped until they’re wrecked – I bring you the Friday links you so desperately need to sink your teeth into.

Culture
“‘Privilege Denying Dude’ and the Fight for the Right to Snark” at ColorLines
“The Internet has carried over the ‘neutral’ we’ve always seen, meaning that if it’s online, it better appeal to straight white men before and above anyone else. A lot of us hate it. We find humor in other memes, but sometimes we see a misogynist or homophobic joke in the bunch… and we just scroll on past it. It’s disappointing how used to that we are.” [ emphasis mine, because: Oh Yes. ]

Anton Vowl wrote “Breeding hell” in response to Howard Flight’s remarks. Look familiar, USians? The UK terminology referring to the “underclass” may be different from ours but you and I recognize what the author is referencing: “a narrative in which the young and the poor can be dismissed as a mass of animals, as an underclass of scum. They are always set up against the ‘middle-classes’, aka the hardworking taxpaying middle classes, the people who do all the work and pay for all the doleites popping out kids and getting free houses on estates up and down the land […] It’s the dehumanising thing that seems so depressing – dehumanising a whole class of people. It’s the language of hatred. It’s the language of class war.”

“Today in Journalism: The Disabled” at FWD/Feminists with Disabilities
“This contributes to the de-humanization of disabled people. ‘The disabled’ aren’t people, they’re a big collective noun who can’t be reasoned with, can’t be talked to, can’t be considered – they’re just to be placated, and dealt with, and put out of our minds as quickly as possible in case they sue us.”

Family
“The Effects of Video Games: A guide for the science-based parent” at parentingscience.com
The concept that video games are “bad”, or at least anything more than a very occasional play with them is “bad”, is so culturally-supported many journalists will take one study and blow it up to epic conclusions. I often think those loudest about how “bad” video games inherently are, are those who either don’t particularly enjoy nor excel at them; or those who’ve lived a childhood of externally-imposed values/activities which reify this message.

“Jong Got It Wrong” from Wendy Priesnitz
Much of modern-day feminism has failed so many – those with disabilities, those non-white, poor, trans women, those marginalized, those without “careers”, babies and children, and anyone involved in what’s often named as “traditional women’s work” (hi!) but what would be more accurately described as necessary human work (much of it often still performed by women and underpaid, under-respected, etc). Today many modern feminists (along with the maintream) continue to throw children under the proverbial bus as well as those who are responsible for children’s care (usually, other women) and especially those who give a shit about how these things all go down. As usual, Wendy Priesnitz delivers a succinct and apt response to the recent Jong dust-up.

Feminism
“Pre-Photoshopped Playboy Models (Definitely NSFW)”
“…the message is clear: even after a genetic bounty, all-but-certain plastic surgery and dieting, good lighting, a pro-photographer, and dozens of shots, even the fantasy woman is not fantastic enough.” (You can follow links to the original Jezebel post if you want example after example of women’s bodies critiqued, objectified, and dissected).

Subway Flasher Gets More Than He Bargained For
This video deeply upset me. First I couldn’t believe what I was seeing – the courage of this woman. Then I felt sick for the times I’ve been in a similar position and felt too scared to do anything. On second watch I so admired this woman and wish I could find her to say, “Well done!”

Craft
“Rural Roads” by sillyboodilly. Beautiful work; check the rest of her postings as well!

Make
Mushroom tutorial by my friend Kit. Mushrooms are out like you wouldn’t believe! I have a wee parcel of wool felt heading my way to make up these cuties with the kiddos.

Live
“How To Read Articles About Health” by Dr. Alicia White

“18 Practical Habits for Living the Golden Rule” at Zen Habits

Quotable
“The master of the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which; he simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.” – Buddha

Random
How did Alan Thicke land this sweet job, is what I want to know!

And finally:

My favorite tweet of the week.

Won’t spent my time / Waiting to die / Enjoy the life I’m living

When things in my life start to unravel from the relative ease I know, I typically feel shame, fear, anxiety, and low-grade depression. The hardest feeling to disentangle Myself from is the shame, the feeling I am At Fault for scenarios that are embarrassing and public (whether I admit them or not) and proof of my failures and – this is the worst part – Could Have Been Avoided were I smarter, more efficient, had I worked a little harder. The car problems, the cats who have colds (Seriously. How can I blame myself for this? But I do.), the refrigerator cluttered, the table not set artfully for company, the sewing work that remains undone, the emails and messages from readers (and a few others) I have fallen behind on (perhaps not to recover), my unimaginative presence and my lack of beauty and worth, a wretch really. There is almost no point to talk about Failure as it is a fact I have failed on many accounts; and to do so, to be honest about my failure, risks the experience of those who’d rush in with Rescue or Advice. Even more scary at times is the knowledge of those who will step in with bona-fide Help. It is one thing to have someone do something nice for you when things are going well (“Thank you!”); it can feel miserable to have prostrated myself, even though done without goals of personal gain, to have someone hand you up and you know there is no repayment, it was merely a gift, simple and devastating. When I consider this I often just wish I could talk and have no one take action except to listen; but I also know I must allow people to follow their hearts and minds.

Releasing Control in my parenting and family life has brought a happier, healthier home and is nurturing children stronger and more joy-filled and humorous then I would have previously imagined. In the times I am weak I see how strong they are and nothing can take away the joy that re-ignites, wells up, inside of me. And after all, I am weak now but it was not always so and won’t always be so. My hard work, although spilled out and squandered and Done Wrong, has nevertheless reaped spiritual benefits both tender and tough. Within me I feel a deep love, an amusing and abiding love, and an interest in other human beings stronger than I’ve felt before. The table may have not looked lovely, but it was loaded with delicious and simple food I made with my hands. I may have been tired but I was still there. The house may only boast the meager (but beautiful) paper decorations of my children, colored with Walmart markers, and the house have little other ornamentation or beauty, but it is the dwelling of myself and those I deeply love.

Today I had the wonderful and simple experience of taking a walk in the sunshine down to the art gallery where my mother was getting off her gallery shift. I like walking in good weather more than ever; the watery light of the sun and deep draughts of our fall air is so familiar and soul-sustaining to me it seems amazing some day I will no longer experience it. At the gallery, the new pieces displayed and the Halloween accoutrement crafted by one of the artists were soothing and inspiring at once. My mother and I took her dog home and then shared lunch at the Italian restaurant – one of those meals so simple and satisfying. We talked and drank tea and enjoyed one another’s company and I felt an expansiveness, having at least done my work of house-stewardship and a breakfast repast for my (very happy-to-receive) children – homemade cinnamon rolls, bananas, and hardboiled eggs from Hoquiam hens. The mug of hot tea in my hand was a modest delight to my exhausted body.

Later I spent forty-five minutes volunteering at the Theatre (as we’ve been doing for a few years now). The conversations were normal and mundane and perfect; older fellows came through the door and flirted and I didn’t feel offended nor afraid.  I took tickets from two of my girlhood friends’ mothers; I was more happy to see them than they probably knew. I have a great caring dwelling inside me and it probably means very little and is worth hardly anything and maybe even it doesn’t show much because I’m afraid of showing it sometimes due to pride and fear. At times like this it is hard to be so public as I am here where I write. I want at times to be my tiny ugly little self and not be noticed by anyone but my family. They are in the final estimation the only beings I feel wholly safe with, as limited as this makes me.

it’s Friday so that means linkage

Actually that’s not true. I’ve never been one to do any kind of ritual on my online journal with any kind of regularity. But here’s some good stuff.

Trigger warning: the first section of these links discusses bullying and education.

American Culture:
“Why I Think Unschooling Is The Best Option… For Everyone” by Idzie

Today on Twitter Idzie wrote:

People are terrified of a lack of control. Utterly terrified. Of other people giving up control over them, of giving up control over others… Or at least that’s the way it seems to me, from the reactions you get at any suggestion of freedom! … It seems so many ppl have felt excluded & judged in unschooling circles or by other unschoolers… This makes me so sad every time I hear it. & also makes me really hope I haven’t contributed to it myself. I try to be welcoming to all ppl interested in/supportive about/considering unschooling, while still expressing my own opinions honestly & authentically, despite the fact they might upset some people.

I really relate to what she’s written here; and I know I myself I’ve likely caused offense while trying so hard to communicate my own reality as well as ideas and worldviews that have changed our lives in the most amazing fashion.

Yet it must be pointed out that many who react with anger and accusations are reacting to ideas that upset them, oftentimes for reasons they have not yet examined; many were hostile to these ideas from the second they were first exposed but have not taken the steps to unpack that hostility and fear. Given that environs when discussing consensual living, punitive-free parenting, and autodidactic education, I’d like to remind those of us writing (and talking and singing and living) it’s almost impossible for us to not elicit angry reactions.

Do people in life learning/unschooling/attachment parenting groups say exclusionary, insensitive, dogmatic, harmful, ignorant, or incorrect things*? Absolutely! Especially that latter group – at least in my experience. No group or ideology is above committing wrongs. However is is hard for me to engage at length with the words of those who are already hostile to my ideas and have dismissed my body of work and research without their own investigation. If they won’t give me the respect of entertaining my “expertise” (such as it is) they can learn little from me – although I don’t mind learning from them.

Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” It is surprising to me how few people can even entertain my thoughts (which weren’t mine originally, usually), although conversations with those who can – and their individual interpretations, whether supportive or critical or additive – is one of the rich pleasures in my life.

***

“Opinion: Sometimes It’s OK To Let Your Kid Be Bullied” on parentdish
OK, first I’m not even going to get into dissecting the “THAT MOM” trope (overinvolved, controlling, elevating her child to sainthood – mostly just another strawlady), or the chills that ran down my spine at the stalwartly unreflective “we sometimes fight battles that would be better solved on the playground or by the people who are paid and trained to educate our children”, OR to weigh in to claim this parent (mom) did something wrong or went amiss in how she handled her daughter’s scenario.

The article starts to go wrong for me here: “Stepping in to micro-manage every aspect of your kid’s life is a mistake. It robs children of the ability to deal with conflict and rejection. It saps their independence. It labels them, in the eyes of their peers, teachers and administrators, as weak.”

“Micro-manage every aspect of your kid’s life”. In my experience observing parents/carers this is far more rare than pop-psych anecdotal “truthy” pieces would have you believe (this fable usually exists parallel to much pearl-clutching and table-pounding about “helicopter parents” and “useless” “kids today”). Interestingly Life – that “real world” people are always talking about? – is FULL of adversity and hurdles and stumbling blocks. Parenting compassionately means we usually get to watch with joy how our children handle these episodes, knowing we have their trust and they have their self-trust – because we have their back. I can know my children’s lives will be filled with difficulties and limitations, I don’t have to make more of them nor artificially create them (Example, my daughter wants a pony, guess why we can’t get one? No need whatsoever for me to furnish false “natural consequences”, see also some pieces on “sheltering” and “adversity” in numbers #15 – #17 on this list). Helping our children when they’re being fucked-over is not the same at all as “micro-managing” NOR is it done (in my case) based out of a trembling Mama-Bear “hysteria” so many like to snark about (in fact, from reading this author’s self-stated feelings regarding her children’s sufferings, I am in comparison entirely unflappable to my child being “hurt” – because I know she can handle it until she can’t, and gee, how do I know this? Because I know she knows she can get help from me if she needs it).

I could write pages on this, and maybe I will soon.

I recently heard a local parent talking about how there’s a natural “pecking order” on the playground and we adults should stay out of it. I don’t have room or energy to write the many ways I think that sounds like a terrible idea (new reasons occur to me daily in fact). Incidentally this man’s own son – who is often at my house, this summer spending more time with me than his own parents – used to often try to bully my own children (unsuccessfully), occasionally attempts to extort money from them, tells falsehoods when confronted and won’t make eye contact (lying is not so much an inevitable child behavior as could be better described as one most parent/teaching regimes wholly facilitate by their oppressive tactics). He’s reformed quite a bit in our household since he’s realized I’m not about to “punish” him or ream him out, although I can’t allow him at our house if he keeps breaking our chicken eggs purposefully – for example. Outside my kitchen window, when he thinks no adult can hear him, I hear him shouting at other smaller children they are “retards” and they need to “get off [his] property… or [he’s] calling the cops.”

I know many children who behave one way around adults and other ways when they think they are unobserved. It isn’t the children who’ve initiated this regrettable state of affairs, either.

And both for this author and the local parent; really? This “pecking order” is OK or a “natural” and relatively harmless part of social life? I completely disagree. Sadly, this story was just posted regarding a 16 year old boy’s bullycide – a semi-local school, where with sickening familiarity I read: “The school says it never received any complaints about bullying from the boy or his parents.”

Right. Let’s continue to let “kids be kids” on this bullying thing.

***

Two great articles from Australia (but relevant, IMO, to similar discussions in the US) on health, fat, obesity, dieting, and body image: “Talking Fat” by Elizabeth at mymilkspilt and “Health Hysteria: Helpful or Harmful?” by Dr. Samantha Thomas at The Discourse. Great posts and analyses I can add nothing to.

Mamapoekie’s brief post on stalking deserves more than just my comment. The topic is in my thoughts right now – for reasons I can’t divulge in this space, sadly.

Inspiring:
My sister says some of these were so beautiful they made her cry. I feel the same way.

I’m currently reading: Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serrano. This is a pretty amazing book. I’m sad it’s likely under-read as many cisgendered people don’t understand it’s hardly a “fringe” topic or treatment at all, but at the heart of human right questions entirely salient for us today.

“the dangerous spiral of criticism & how to claw your way back out” at Scoutie Girl: “Instead of reaching for big, bigger, biggest, we reach for safe & allowable. Self-consciousness refuses to let you create art. It only allows for ‘nice.’ Ew.”

Shop:
Support an awesome homeschooling mama with some uncertain financial “adventures” ahead of her. Also: handsewn, so you can’t go wrong there!

I want to buy this for Phoenix, so bad. She loves creepy 50s horror comics times ONE MILLION.

Who wants a sexy little rockabilly dress homesewn? Fuck, who doesn’t?

Fun:
Twisted Vintage
Lovely images and weirdness (Ah… this image from The Postman Always Rings Twice, some real sexiful there!), some altered and some as they were; lots of great Halloween content! Um, don’t read the comments. At least the one comment thread I clicked on was full of misogyny, including comments by the post author, and a bit of homophobia, etc. Gross.

Please provide a caption for this picture.

Craftzine is having a Halloween contest. You got the chops for it?

***

* Recent example: an unschooling group brought me an email wherein a member called another person’s daughter an “illiterate, foul-mouthed slut.” This went unchecked by the moderator (as have a few other problematic incidents); I may not stick around this community much longer.

Comments: For any new readers today: I don’t want to hear word-one about “controlling” parents (moms), go anywhere else on the internet and discuss it, you’ll find entirely receptive audiences.

come fill my little world right up

I’ve only been asleep for a couple hours when I sense my son laying next to me and I surface into barely-awake, put my hand on his chest, lean in and kiss him. To my surprise his eyes are open. He smiles at me, a tender smile but a wan one, a delicate shy little smile I used to call “fishtrap” (for almost no credible reason). I move my hand lower and discover he is wet. I feel the bed and it’s dry. “Nels… did you pee?” I ask. “Yes Mama. I’m sorry,” he answers. Then he stands up next to the bed while I swing my legs over and sit up.

I’m tired, slightly disoriented and I survey the job ahead of me. We four sleep in a small bedroom that barely fits the small desk, dresser, and two beds (one king and one twin), both flat on the floor, no headboards. I realize after a few moments that Nels actually wet the other bed, then came and got next to me, himself sleepy and unsure what to do, likely counting on my mother-radar to bring me awake (it works). I turn on the lowest light I can, in the closet. My husband is flat on his back, covers thrown aside and boxer shorts in disarray; our daughter lies in the king-sized bed, a sleeping beauty. It’s no small task ahead of me; the snug-ness of sleeping arrangements and beds means I can’t solve the problem without moving bodies and stripping beds entirely.

I begin the family exodus of the two sleeping Hogabooms who are both nearly wooden. I put Phoenix into the kids’ room (which does have two twin sized mattresses; a loft bed with a foam pad underneath). My daughter asks me to stay with her for a few minutes and I do while my son runs the bath. I stroke and kiss her. Soon she’s back asleep.

For a few minutes I am feeling anxious. Then I realize this is because in my world a mattress is an expense. One bedwetting does not a pallet ruin but hello, we’ve had this one for quite some time and tonight is not my first rodeo, urine-wise. Still, my awareness moves and I realize buying new mattresses, at some point, it’s a part of life. I’ll figure it out when it comes time. My anxiety lessens considerably. I feel glad I did not act on it in any shitty way to my family.

Ralph is up now so I ask for his help. He is merely sleepwalking, though; for instance when I ask him to get a towel so I can scrub the twin mattress I hear him a few minutes later talking to our son who is bathing, quite happy now. Inexplicably he is washing Nels’ hair as Nels chatters along. I relieve Ralph of this task and he starts off to bed again and I (re-)request him to scrub the mattress with a wet towel which he does (sort of and finally), then he amiably cruises the house, first getting himself a snack and then finding cats to slip under the covers between his legs. Ralph Hogaboom is the biggest cat-softie ever, even though he goes through some pains to hide this from the general public.

I dry our son and slip him clean boxers. He is so happy and slides in bed next to me, his arms around me, his long blonde hair, drying now, soft against my shoulder. Mable (kitty) is under the bedcovers with Ralph and Hammy and Josie (more kitties) are at the foot of the bed happily grooming and snoozing. I think our house is one of the loveliest sleep environs I know.

It may sound odd but I think these kinds of parenting experiences have become some of my favorites, simply because it is such a brief and simple opportunity to take care of someone in a gentle way. I don’t find it all that aggravating anymore like I used to. I feel incredibly fortunate to have such an expanse, such a feeling of bounty, yes despite the shabby blankets and mattress worries and all that. It’s so easy to care for my children properly about 90% of the time. I used to muddle through more or less behaving extremely put out by a lot of it. I don’t feel I’ve Arrived or I’m some incredible parent, but I do feel I’ve changed and that incidents like tonight are just another sweet chapter in family life, knitting ours lives and loves together day after day.

It’s almost two hours since I woke and Nels is still up playing (his new obsession) Minecraft. He comes over with the laptop and stands to show me something; his skin is smooth and warm and his voice is lilting and he calls me back to bed.

social butterflies

Today Nels asked to come along on my lunch date with three grown-lady girlfriends; about halfway through our car trip to Montesano he changed his mind because he felt bad and his stomach hurt. The poor little guy – he hasn’t been feeling well. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned he has been sick – his tonsils swollen and infected with white patches, his skin quality poor and his manner listless. He is eating less than usual (and maybe it’s my imagination but he also looks thinner than usual, which is rather thin indeed) and although he has not once complained of throat pain it is clear he is Not Quite Right.

Here is an indicator of my friends’ caliber – instead of awkwardly ignoring his quiet crying in the backseat of the car and/or waiting for it to be over they immediately offered to turn around and bring us home (yes, despite being hungry and On Our Way for a lunch date). I told them we could stick it out and I resolved (internally) to give Nels a lot of TLC while we were at the venue – as he really wanted Me and the comfort I could afford.

Nels asked me to hold him almost the entire time we were at the restaurant (which has delicious fare but is rather slow for service and food delivery). He was mostly a tuft of blonde hair on my shoulder. He was too ill-feeling even to play his laptop – and that tells you something. I ordered for us (out of five people who placed orders, it was mother-with-child – the only kid in the restaurant – who had her order botched thricely. I’m trying not to read into it but… interesting) and after his ham sandwich he felt a bit better. I had a delicious coffee, salad, and sandwich. Soon my son, wan and suppressed a bit, was talking about his favorite subjects, currently including Pink Pamfer and the cool cat’s hijinx. On the car ride back he sat quietly, a far cry from his usual talkative self.

I felt glad for the experience and grateful for my growth as a parent. I thought of the many ways I would have handled his experiences and feelings in the past, including sending him out to the car/removing him to lecture him, apologizing for his behavior to my friends (his “behavior”? Being sick? Yeah.), feeling irritated I couldn’t have a “nice” lunch date (where my child behaved like a grownup or oversized doll and sat with hands in lap), etc. I felt glad for my presence and my ability to be present for both my adult friendships and my son who needed me. I gave myself credit that really, I juggle these kinds of things often, gladly, and with much aplomb.

Not only did I handle the needs of my son well but the entire table was all the more relaxed and civil and enjoyed themselves for it. A far cry from the many times in the past Ralph and I have taken the “mommy/daddy in charge” route which has proved awkward for the other adults at the table (especially non-parents). I suppose most of us are like dogs, smelling fear/anger and responding in kind. I suppose it’s nice to have someone who knows what to do.

I don’t mean to make this a bigger incident than it was – it probably was only a blip on the screen to the other grownups there. Nels was sad and sick, that’s all. I feel sorrowful I’ve at other times in my life had fewer resources and less wisdom to give my kids what they’ve needed… and glad I am in a better place today.

On our trip back my friends (driving us) were sweet enough to readily agree, despite (rare) bad traffic, to swing through Dairy Queen for an ice cream treat which included fresh-frozen strawberries. “This helps,” Nels said, and seemed to cheer up incrementally. My children are rarely ill and when they are it’s like the most fragile but amazing little thing, an oddity, a gift almost in that we can provide care simply be administering small but essential kindnesses.

The whole experience, though not without it”s little fraughts (especially the bad – for Hoquiam – traffic) was a pleasant one indeed.

Home. A bit of writing. A swim date for Phoenix and her girlfriend. A date for Ralph and I. Back to a calm and intimate house, a little guy who needs a little more love. I’ll be happier when he’s mended.

“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.

Flow & Commerce

Even in my days where nothing happens, or it feels like not much, I guess I’m rather busy. Busy doing things I love more than anything. The time flies by.

Today I got up to find a Freecycler had dropped off two sets of bamboo knitting needles in sizes I didn’t have previously: 11s and 13s (I’m looking forward to knitting either some chunky scarves or hats-in-the-flat). I brewed coffee and finished laundry and dishes and sat down and worked on a wee knitting project (which is truly STELLAR; I will be posting pictures soon!). While still in sleepwear with my pillow-hair (very tangly) another friend and Freecycler stopped by with a dress for Phoenix (a lovely little import number) and I gave her my bellydancing practice skirt for her daughter to use for Halloween. Just as this woman left my mother called and asked me out to breakfast. Entirely thrilled with this I made ready and as she got here the kids stumbled out of bed all lovely and sleepy. My mom is always happy to have them along and she coaxed accordingly; Nels came with us while my daughter stayed at home. We went out to breakfast (it was really lunch) and had a long talk while Nels played PvZ and then at the questions of our server did indeed elucidate on the game and strategies (people, do NOT ask Nels about his computer activities unless you really do want to hear his answers!). I paid for lunch which made me feel all awesome. Usually my mother pays.

After my mom dropped Nels and I off at home I asked my daughter along to my errands and to my glad heart she said Yes (I was hoping to have time alone with her). I have the inkling to set up a little display of my sewn pieces in a shop or caf̩ around here so locals know there is a custom / homesewn seamstress around these parts. I have a few ideas about where and how to do this, and I have a few people I want to talk to. On our way to our first stop we talked with the proprietress of the local indie book store Рopening on Saturday!, and by the way, will be the ONLY bookstore in Hoquiam/Aberdeen with a population of 25,000 or so! Рand chatted for a few minutes. Phoenix introduced herself clear as day, stepping forward with her hand extended, her eyes clear and freckles popping.

In our recycled clothing shop I turned in a pair of Old Navy jeans and earned consignment to buy a new (to me) purse. Phoenix selected a lovely fall-color poncho and was very pleased with this. I bought her a burger on the way to picking Ralph up from work; the three of us then headed to the bakery in Aberdeen and I picked up a consignment form, coffee, and a cream puff.

At Thrift City we shopped, primarily with the goal of finding clothes for Ralph (and P.S. good sir, your total aversion to pleats is seriously hampering your choices). He futzed around in the electronics section while I came away with five pair of pants and two longsleeved work shirts for The Man, two trick-or-treat buckets for the kids, a pair of shoes for Phoenix, a few LPs selected by Ralph, and a – yes, a sewing machine, a vintage Wizard heavier than you can imagine. All of this cost $25. Doing laundry later today I reflected I’ve developed quite the system for our clothing, not formally or by design but in ways that make absolute sense for quality and frugality. I wear mens’ jeans and recycled clothing for cheap/sturidiness along with my trusty doc martens (and yeah, a big part of my Plan is to mostly just look a bit shoddy). For the kids, most of their gear is stuff I’ve sewn augmented by the occasional hand-me down and thrift store purchase. Ralph’s digs come from Thrift City as the men’s clothing there is well-made, great brands and in good shape. His socks we buy at Ross, his boxers I sew, his sunglasses he’s always losing and then buying new cheap ones (like we do here in the PNw).

At home Ralph made dinner while I resumed knitting and visited with a friend who dropped by looking for discussion/advice on her children’s schooling. Her preteen daughter sat at our feet and we all caught up together. After they left and I stitched my last on the now-finished project, Ralph and I walked down to my mother’s in the lovely fall inky-black night where I picked up some more yarn from my mother’s stash.

It really was a perfect night for a walk.

And of course, in addition to all this there were emails and tweets and IMs and reading articles and scratching kitties and a few other friends I ran into and wrestling and snuggling with my children while a handful of other kids ran in and out (in the evening Phoenix’s good friend S. came over and my kids went for a walk with her to a neighborhood fort).

If I had to pick, I’d say my favorite moments (so far!) were on my walk with Ralph, or even the moment he invited me – or maybe the hugs I shared with my face in Nels’ warm sunny hair – or maybe the minutes alone with Phoenix in the car. She was heart-achingly “appropriate” in the store; my used jeans had earned me $7.50 and she judiciously looked for pieces that cost under that – no hinting on her part for more, and no need for me to state that requirement (which in this case, I didn’t have). I told her to get what she liked and the knit poncho ($9) was something she was very pleased with. She pulled her hair back into a ponytail and looked at her beauty in the sideview mirror of our car and my heart skipped a beat. I wish when she was younger I’d worried less and felt less stress as a mother. Here she’s practically raising herself and she’s doing an incredible job.

So see there’s usually nothing particularly sublime to my days, or maybe actually everything about most my days really is phenomenal. I don’t know. Days like today are typically the way I spend our time – nothing especially exalted, but exactly the kind of bliss I’m used to regularly experiencing.

I feel very fortunate. It seems like life used to be a lot more work for me a lot more of the time.