tiny dancer

13 Nov

There is no denying that this boy is mine. His preferences are becoming strong and obvious. I do my damnedest to keep my own likes and dislikes, however emphatic, out of the equation, expose him to everything I don’t find strongly objectionable. Bananas, even. That is how committed I am to creating a well-rounded child. I will stomach the handling of bananas, my own personal kryptonite.

We listen to a lot of different music, as his newfound love of dancing is so intense. We’ve always had a few iTunes playlists for different occasions, and we’ve listened to them over and over, like I am wont to do. We listen to the news while we eat breakfast and lunch. But he’s come up with his own sign for music, which involves a little shimmy and half of the ‘more’ sign. Imagine a really uncoordinated, wobbly Bollywood dancer, sitting down. The extended version of this is him actually dancing. And the more enthusiastically he does it, the more he likes the tunes.

Last night, we took George to our friend Amy G.‘s show. It was energetic, slightly awkward and dank. Just the way I want him to come to know basement shows. I am especially thrilled to have a little night owl on occasions like that one. He got to see a woman he likes in real life show off her talents. Sing honestly. Scream a little. And the music was good.

BUT.

This morning, as he has done every morning for the past several weeks, when he woke up, he did his little turn-on-the-tunes wobble and I scanned the radio for something good. I stopped on KUGS but whatever was playing went completely unnoticed. Then, the classical station. Nothing. Also, THANK GOD — no reaction to the (already?! seriously?!) all Christmas station. Finally, we settled on the classic rock station. Roxanne. Both hands in the air, little body swaying, grinning like a goon. Then, Southern Man. Head bobbing, hands waving. Grunts! Neil never got a better review. Classic rock, my (not so) secret love. The music that feels like home, like being young. I’m glad it’s what resonates with him and I hope that doesn’t change so when we roadtrip it down the coast, or when I surprise-pick him up from school for a pizza lunch and movie date, we can turn on the radio and sing along together. Because it’s fun to put on your hipster best, to lament that you forgot your earplugs (again) and shiver the November night away to punkrock in a semi-familiar house/garage/basement. But sometimes, what fits is pajamas in your bedroom with your baby…and America.

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wherein i pretend i know anything about anything

9 Nov

When I’m not listening to the same mix cd that’s been in the car for a year, which I do, which is undoubtedly the source of much frustration for anyone who has to ride in a car with me, I am listening to NPR. Or Coast to Coast AM, no lie. Because I have a soft spot in my heart for crazies and the entertainment of their theories. A few days ago, George and I were on our way to the store when we heard a story on NPR about the global market. The gist of it (because my googling skills are failing and the NPR website isn’t yielding anything pertinent) was that children born now will almost assuredly live and work abroad at some point in their lives if they are successful adults.

Of course, the definition of successful is subjective. Many people (myself included) would judge a life of homesteading, tending land and babies, as a successful one. This, however, is not what they meant and not a luxury everyone — or even most people — can afford, kind of ironically. Living simply is often an expensive course to chart. It takes space to grow and raise your own food. Money to buy that space. Money to cultivate your land, get yourself some animals, house them. If you really wanted to know, I could give you the going rate for any kind of livestock you’ve got your eye on. And what they eat. And how much. And how cute they are. Because I’ve been begging for sheep, goats, ponies, a cow — you name it — for years. But this is not the point of my story (please buy me a pygmy goat for the love of god, anyone).

The report talked about the global community, how it effects the global marketplace and what that means for the future. Trends we can expect. I would’ve found it dreadfully boring if I didn’t happen to have a baby, about whom they were actually (indirectly) talking. He will, if successful, live and work abroad at some point in his lifetime. My first thought: he can’t live across an ocean from me. No way. After that, I began thinking about what that potentiality meant for him and his little friends. Ordinarily, I think about the “global marketplace” with some disdain like they just mean jerks in business class and ill-fitting suits, but this particular piece referenced many occupations that would be borderless in the future: teaching, journalism, even service jobs. And that lead pretty seamlessly into what he would need to be well-equipped in another country. Any other country. And my first thought was his health. Vaccines.

Ughhhghladgnslkngnblfdknb you are so not doing this, are you? Oh, but I am. Because I’m a hippie, totally, sort of. But, still, part of me breathes in Barney’s and wants to do a fraulien Maria hilltop twirl, wishes on eyelashes for a Jaguar despite Consumer Reports’ horrible reviews, eats Velveeta nachos once a year… and vaccinates my child. Against horrible diseases that kill people daily in other parts of the world. Parts of the world where he may, someday, live and work if he is a “successful” adult. Of course, he could get these vaccines later, should he decide to do as NPR suggests he will. But, you know what? I have a friend who lives in Indonesia. And one in Venezuela. And Morocco. I think George would like those people, and they would like him. Should I restrict my travel to places the CDC deems “low risk”? Should I rely on my own assumed immunity and the assumed immunity of those around me? Or should I abide by the adage about those who assume?

Mine is a somewhat unpopular perspective among the people I know with babies and young children. Many friends have opted out of vaccinations completely and some are on an alternative schedule (which I can appreciate, Dr. Sears aficionado as I am). I’ve done plenty of research. I’ve been selective about the manufacturers and combinations and presence of preservatives. We’ve been lucky enough (if statistical unlikelihood = luck) to not have any side effects from shots other than an extra long nap. If that weren’t the case, I may be singing a different tune. But probably not. I’ve had the vaccine debate with lots of people and while travel has entered the discussion, it’s been considered a luxury — a hope for which I’d like to be prepared. Now I have one more talking point. One that doesn’t amount to your child could, basically, kill my child, before he’s old enough to be properly immunized against whatever’s going around the playground (ahem — whooping cough). So, yes. I am a hippie parent and I vaccinate. You know, just in case George doesn’t grow up to be a pygmy goatherd.

radical motherhood

4 Nov

The term radical motherhood seems like such a laughable dichotomy. What could be less radical than the act of bearing and raising children? It’s fundamental, necessary, so commonplace that it’s completely taken for granted that most women will do it. Just typing the two words together brings to mind the time I gave a little workshop in radical homemaking for Ladyfest Bellingham, when a very earnest-looking young woman asked skeptically, after I’d given directions for making your own cleaning products and growing your own food and using some home remedies, “…but what makes this radical?” It was a good question, and I didn’t take offense. We’ve all grown up with the idea that homemaking — the choice to (at least temporarily) forego a paid career — is to squander the advances we’ve made, allowing the small part of the glass ceiling over your own head to grow closed. To say that you are most valuable in the most traditionally female role is equatable with failure, so it seems, to many (if not most) young Feminists. My answer, which I know was rambly, amounted to: I’m not taking part in the traditional consumerism, the laissez-faire approach to childbirth and rearing or the stereotypical household realpolitik. She didn’t seem convinced.

I don’t usually let this kind of skepticism or even the occasional blatant dismissal bother me. I hesitate to put this sort of spin on it, but I’ve been their age and I’ve also been (and remain) a zealot and absolutist about a few things. One mindset I can decreasingly abide, though: the having-babies-is-gross-and-stupid one. It is reaching totally epic plague-like proportions. And it is pissing me off.

In my experience, it started with comments like, “your baby is really cute. But procreating is environmentally irresponsible.” Or “I would never have kids but I plan to adopt older ones, like teenagers.” And “don’t you worry about bringing another person into the world?” All of those, and more, have been said to or asked of me by people I consider friends. Those are (kind of naïve) lead-ins to conversations I’m not interested in having, though I can appreciate that others want or need to have them; the merit of my child’s presence in the world is one thing I don’t care to debate. If you want to hook me, though, you can bring my devotion to Feminism into question. You can snark on other women for wanting to have or having children. Those are the conversations I just can’t pass up.

A self-imposed rule I routinely break is don’t read the comments. Truly, it’s advice to be heeded, but curiosity or morbidity or optimism maybe gets the best of me and I can’t help it. A blog post pops up on my RSS feed about the “controversy” of public breastfeeding and I want all of the comments to be supportive. To agree with me. And more often than not, if the blog isn’t a straightforward crunchy mom-blog, I’m sorely disappointed. Case in point: I won’t even link to it because I don’t want them to reap a single page view from my mention, but a popular Feminist blog recently ran a story on Lily Allen’s second miscarriage which is technically, I believe, late enough in the game to officially be a stillbirth. Any woman — forget that, any decent person — ‘s heart should positively ache for her. Instead, I read comments that blamed her for publicly discussing her personal life, for “putting all her eggs in one basket” when she had stated that she planned to take some time off from music, for even wanting to have children in the first place when she “should” be using her celebrity to advocate for adoption. I was astounded by the sheer heartlessness of these women whose fake names I’ve seen in many, many other comment threads on this particular website. They’re not trolls, they’re just…jerks. Jerks with an apparently common distaste for biological motherhood who see fit to spout nastiness on a website supposedly devoted to Feminist causes, and who do so unchecked.

In my own personal life, I’ve been treated as quaint or lazy, but the most frustrating is when I’m treated as an unwitting tool of the patriarchy. A few brave souls have taken it upon themselves to explain that I’m not living up to my potential or claim that I’m serving as a bad example for my son who will undoubtedly grow up to exploit and demean women at worst, or at best assume they’ll cater to his every whim. These people clearly know nothing of my housekeeping habits or cooking skills. These are women in their early twenties. Childless. Some go to school. Some are even unemployed. But all of them have considered themselves sage enough to dispense advice that boiled down to: DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR LIFE.

To those women, and to the women I’ll never meet who anonymously comment that they don’t want to see me feed my child in public because it’s base, that by not “contributing” I’m reversing the work my foremothers did, that I’m wrecking the environment, that I’m insipid and cliché:
You were once a child. Had someone taken the time to teach you manners, history, reverence, gardening, happy songs and good books, nurtured you into a tolerant and understanding person who is able to relate intellectually and socially to people who make choices that you, yourselves, may someday make (or may not; tolerance shouldn’t rely on commonality), we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But I can tell you this: my son won’t need a degree in gender studies. He won’t need to buy zines about slow foods and herbal remedies. He won’t turn to an insular clique to find community because he will have been raised by radical people with a radical community of their own. My time IS spent wisely, doing valuable work that benefits my world, and, for that matter, yours. It’s unfortunate that you can’t see the value of a good mother (as, equally unfortunately, the results of good mothering are, by nature, less in-your-face and remarkable than the results of bad mothering). I wish my current chosen occupation came with the same hipster quotient as, say… the person that fixes your bicycle. But we’ll just keep on keepin’ on, being radically, uncoolly domestic. And, in the future, you can even reap the benefits; I won’t be stingy.

wordless wednesday: one year ago today

3 Nov

read: mommies at work

1 Nov

I don’t know if this will be a regular thing or not, but I get asked for book recommendations pretty often. While I’m definitely not reading for my own pleasure as much as I used to, I’m reading kids’ books like crazy and I’m always on the lookout for undiscovered gems. There was a pretty amazing era for children’s literature in the 1960s and 1970s — very empowering, equality-focused and inclusive (think Free to be You and Me; thanks, Marlo Thomas, et al.) — and so many wonderful books from that time are out of print after only one run, but can be picked up for less than a dollar a pop if you know what to look for at thrift stores.

One such find, Mommies At Work by Eve Merriam was actually originally written in 1955 — way ahead of its time, if you look at its contemporaries (Harold and the Purple Crayon, Danny and the Dinosaur, Little Bear) — and is still widely available in a revised edition. At Goodwill, I found a paperback 1970s edition with the original illustrations, which I think are much nicer. The earlier the book, in my opinion, the better the pictures. I love the sketchy, somewhat abstract illustrations that were used before things got so cartoony and ugly, back when we used to let kids use their imaginations a little and allowed them to appreciate and identify with something that could be considered art.

Beni Montresor, the illustrator, really nailed these. The pictures don’t distract, but are comfy and sweet and subtly intricate. The words are few but the “story” is clear. I like that.

Lots of different occupations are represented, and the book does a good job of including manual labor (assembly lines, elevator operators — though the latter is kind of a relic, boo hoo) and other jobs that might spark conversation (“atom splitting mommies”!)

The last page is adorable; I dare you not to get a little misty.

Part of the reason I’m so stoked on this book is that I don’t work outside the home and I DO NOT want George to get the impression that mamas who make other choices or have other needs are any more or less important or devoted to their families. The beginning of the book talks about how mommy takes care of you, but can do all these other rad things, as well. Kind of like “Parents are People” in book form (um, that girl at the link is amazing).

…but you don’t have to take MY word for it. da-dum-DUM!

last gasp

29 Oct

This morning, we decided to go to Burlington to try to find some papel picado. I was surprised when our local Mexican grocer not only didn’t have them but didn’t know what I was talking about when I asked after them. I’ve never lived any place where papel picado was not readily available. It kind of punctuates the total lack of multiculturalism in Bellingham, which has been bumming me out lately. On the bright side, however, the local Mexican grocer DID have a rad piñata for $8, perfect for George’s birthday party, and a pack of loteria cards with which I plan to torture our Halloween guests (planned games — sorry, gang). Last night I finally hemmed a Goodwill dress I got a few weeks ago. It was calf-length and, intact, really enhanced my 1970s high school guidance counselor look, but in trying to look presentable and not costumed, I needed to shorten it up a bit.

Pardon my vague disgust.

What happened once we arrived in Burlington was a little bit magical. We discovered that the first Mexican grocer on our list shared a parking lot with a Value Village and a Humane Society charity shop. George fell asleep, and I generously offered to jump out of the car and pop into the thrift stores while Nathan drove the sleeping babe around. I admired the adoptable kitties, found a book of folk songs, a 1970s approximation of Hooked on Phonics but way, way cuter and a red knit turban I imagine was worn by — yes, you guessed it — a high school guidance counselor circa 1972. The boys turned up, as George had roused, and I made my way to the register where there were, behind the counter, not one but TWO packages of pristine papel picado. For a dollar each. !!! I told the checkout lady that we’d come for papel picado and had just decided to look around before we went to the Mexican store. “They’ve never carried these!” She said. So we bought them, called it a day and got some lunch.

As for the outfits, neither mine nor George’s is terribly flattering. George got cold so we had to double layer hoodies, giving him an even fluffier than usual appearance. I have no excuse other than this: I always try to wear belts, because I feel like I should, and I wind up looking like I’m wearing a wench costume. Big boobs, man. They’re a heartbreaker sometimes.

On me:
dress – vintage, Goodwill
tights – Hue, Nordstrom
sweater – American Eagle but from TJ Max, I think
booties – Mi shoes
belt – vintage, thrifted
bag – LAMB

on George:
tights – gap
shorts – Macy’s (in Texas)
visible sweatshirt – Yo Gabba Gabba!
hat – gift from our amazingly talented friend, Nell

“mother wanted me to come out in a kimono…”

26 Oct

It’s only Tuesday and I’m already re-thinking my participation in this week-long fashion post thing. One problem: taking photos is hard/stupid work. Oh, the woes of being a stay at home mother, when one must take pictures of oneself for one’s blog and 95% of said photos wind up being extreme close-ups of one’s white beret.

I’m gonna go ahead and put all of these up in case you needed a chuckle. The camera really doesn’t do justice to this lovely scarf. I stole it from Nathan, to whom it was gifted. The other day, I said, “I’m stealing this because you never wear it.” To which he replied, “I wore it all last Winter!” “You did not,” I said, “because I wore it all last Winter!” So, cousin Michelle, the adept knitter, thanks from both of us!

This is my favorite jacket. Its peak wearability is in Springtime, but with long sleeves or a hoodie underneath it’s usually usable through November. Anoraks, in general, I’ve found, are pretty timeless. I can’t think of a era of my life when I didn’t have one and wear it to death. If I could have any anorak my chilly little heart desired, it would be this one though that’s entirely impractical for the kind of weather we’re in for (hi again, la nina! que onda?).

I look forward to boot weather from May until October. Same deal for scarf weather. I am currently looking into having my pair of black foldover boots re-soled, or having the soles rubberized or something, because the last time I wore them, I fell in the Haggen parking lot not once but twice, smashing my groceries on the ground and breaking a bottle of wine, thus staining my Bayside Montessori shopping bag with red wine (classy). The first time I fell, the guy fetching carts asked if I was okay. The second time, I think he assumed I was drunk. Has anyone had boots fixed for slippage? Does it make the nice thin sole look clunky?

I like to think of George and me as big and little Edie, though who’s who in that equation is debatable. One of us is almost always wearing a weird hat.

On me:
anorak – J Crew
navy cords – old navy (when something fits, i buy multiples whenever possible; note last post.)
boots – Nine West
shirt – American Apparel
scarf – Nathan’s cousin Michelle
hat – H&M

On George:
footy pants – gap
shirt – C&C California
flannel – thrifted, but old navy
hat – homemade

the best costume for the day

23 Oct

Today we went to the pumpkin patch. I had never been to a pumpkin patch, at least not one that I remembered. This one kind of blew my mind: apple pull-aparts with caramel and ice cream, photo-ops a plenty, a rocking horse corral, chickens(!) and a contraption that lead a goat through a path into the air where it stopped to take a nap and your child could ring a bell furiously from a seemingly related station on the ground. What? I know!

The farm was huge and beautiful, with an apple orchard where you could choose an apple and eat it straight from the tree for a mere 25 cents, which is a markup of about ten percent from the grocery store down the street from my house that sells exactly the same apples. If you care about those things. But I don’t! So we did that.

I dearly love dressing George for these sorts of outings. Wondering which jacket, romper, hat or t-shirt will become one of his signature pieces — the kind you look back on in photos and remember wearing — is such great fun. This was no exception, and since I knew we’d be taking lots of pictures of him, his little baby BFFs and us as a family, I made sure his outfit was representative of what he normally wears but still festive. I tried to do the same for myself, but there’s just no competing with a vintage Izod hooded, argyle sweater. Without further ado, here we are, as style-y as we get with any regularity:



I simply can’t bring myself to take a straight-on, posed photo of myself, you guys. Those who do this monthly or weekly, my hat is off to you.

On me:
t-shirt: art in the age of mechanical reproduction
cords: old navy
jacket: Ralph Lauren, from Macy’s
sneakers (almost dead, alas): Jack Purcell, from (I think) Famous Footwear, like 3 years ago
sunglasses: F21

On George:
sweater: vintage IZOD, Value Village
pants: Target
onesie: Carter’s, but probably from Value Village
legwarmers: mama-made, from some ladies’ cashmere socks
shoes: Robeez, hand-me-downs

jam on it

19 Oct

We’re lucky enough to live in a house where, in the far back of the property, blackberry bushes grow undeterred all Summer long. Some might not call this luck. In fact, some might gripe about how they have to get a new weedeater to combat the attempted take-over of the garden and back fence. The same person(s) might be eating some words…and some jam, right about now.

I used a combination of the directions found inside the pectin package and those found here.

I got the no sugar needed type of pectin and sweetened the jam with some really nice raw honey that my mom gave us. It is outrageous. Perfectly sweet and honey-tasty but still a little tart.

George hung out (pun intended, har har) in the sling while I cooked and canned and Nathan photodocumented. He was unimpressed.

We shared a slice of toast with some butter and the last bit of jam left in the pot after I’d filled the jars. This Fall and Winter it will be so good on our oatmeal and kasha (and bread, and by the spoonful).

I didn’t bother with the canning-specific pot you’re “supposed” to have and just used our giant stockpot which seems to have worked; my lid buttons are sucked in and the stuff has set. A tip I read, though, which was heartening when I decided to try jam-making: if it doesn’t set or your lid buttons don’t pop down, you can re-make the same batch or just put the jam in the fridge or freezer and it’ll keep.

The breakdown:
4 cups of berries (harvested throughout the Summer and frozen) = free
1 cup of honey = gift from mom
1/4 cup of sugar = we’ll say .50, just to be generous. It’s organic, but that’s still probably an overestimate.
1 package of no sugar needed pectin = 2.39
mason jars and lids = already had
jam funnel thing = .99
TOTAL = 3.88. For three jars! Awesome! Is my math right? Who cares.

This was way easier than I thought it would be and only took a little over an hour from start to finish. I also got exactly the flavor I wanted and know exactly from where all my ingredients came. I’m stoked to take on my next canning project: green tomato, ginger and vanilla jam. I know, it sounds gross.

ten months

14 Oct

Dear George,

Everywhere we went this past month, people asked how old you were.

Nine months, I would say.

Oh, big boy! they’d reply, almost invariably.

Big boy, indeed. Happy birthday, chicken.

Love,
mama